Archive for May, 2013

Not another bitch session

It’s entirely possible that I have said some of these things before. Therefore, if you wish to search through beau coup essays in an attempt to catch me saying something the opposite of what I’ve said before, fine; screw you, and fair sailing in your research.

As we get older, we are supposed to become more tolerant of others and of what is happening in the world around us. We’re supposed to become wiser and more learned, kinder, and all sorts of crap like that. Unfortunately, I’m going, with some encouragement, I might add, in exactly the opposite direction. Oh, certainly I believe I’m a bit wiser, but I know damn right well, that the amount of knowledge that is out there just for the taking can never be absorbed in this tiny little brain before death overtakes me. I have learned to greet someone in Czech, ask them how they are, and answer politely when the return the query. Frankly, I viewed that as a pretty major accomplishment. I don’t know many people – can you say “one” – from the Czech Republic, but it was always nice to be able to speak to her in her own language each time we met.

As I age I realize just how ill-informed we all are in so many things. We elect people to govern us about whom we know next to nothing. They mouth platitudes, talk about how terrible their opponents are, and we choose to believe or disbelieve the bullshit that they shovel in our collective faces. We’re going through a Senate race in Massachusetts right now. One of the candidates tells us that he’s going to insist on term limits for Congress and that if his colleagues cannot produce a balanced budget, he’ll ensure that they won’t get paid. This naiveté is being countered by his 37-year career politician who has made such outrageous claims that he should be behind a curtain and calling himself the Great Oz. What a choice or perhaps I should say, “What a great non-choice!”

I really wish that we would close our doors to any more immigrants…at least until we can determine which of those who are already here want to do things following the rules that a group of revolutionaries set down 226 years ago. “Oh, but we must learn from diversity.” What horse hockey. If learning from diversity means that this current crop wants to teach us to build bombs, set fires, shoot people, and follow the laws they brought with them, my reaction is the same every time… pack up your crap and get the hell out of my country. We’ve already learned diversity from the Irish, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Italians, the French, the Armenians, the Jews, and several other ethnic groups who came here in peace and melded with those already here. You don’t want to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, get the hell out. You don’t want us to say our prayers in school, but demand that we say yours…get the hell out. You want your laws to supersede the laws that we have lived by for a couple of centuries plus…get the hell out of my life, off our lands, and don’t come back. I don’t want to hear about your little enclaves in this community or that community; in this state or that state; we don’t need you, nor do we want you. We have enough problems of our own without having you create more.

I listen to Americans bitch about our education system while at the same time crying over Johnny or Mary having too much homework; not knowing about American History; behaving unethically in society;  and being obese…oh, but we can’t teach physical education because there are too many other subjects. I listen to the criticism of teachers who are already busting their butts to educate kids without the interference of parents and doing so while making a barely livable wage. You want a good educational system? Pay the teachers what they’re worth; give kids and teachers a two-week vacation every year; bring specialists in on Saturday mornings to teach the kids how to live properly in society. Tell kids the truth about what it’s like to be an American today. Hell, the psychiatrists and psychologists could use the extra work. Oh and when your property taxes become greater than you think you can afford, sell the boat, forget the tennis, gymnastics, and soccer lessons and prioritize your child’s education to the top of your list.

We have an infrastructure in this country that is crumbling. We have a debt that is staggering. We have a bunch of idiots – that’s you, members of the Tea Party – who couldn’t find their assholes with two hands, a flashlight and a Google map. We have a President who has grown weaker with each passing week. We have scandal after scandal after scandal that is only too reminiscent of presidents past and administrations ongoing. And we all just sit back with our thumbs in our bums and our minds in neutral.

Is this just another bitch session? You bet your boots it is. My kids are grown, with kids of their own. Frankly, they don’t give a damn as long as their lives can go along as they wish. I want to know where the people are who truly care about this nation and its future. Please don’t tell me it’s the John Boehners, Erik Cantors, Harry Reids and Nancy Pelosis of this country. They think of themselves as public servants; they aren’t. They are as self-serving as the rest of the political hacks who now populate out nation’s capital.

Where are the thinkers who can put together a plan to utilize convicted criminals to rebuild our roads and bridges? Make criminal sentences a true learning experience for those who are willing to work and learn. For the rest, shoot ‘em! We don’t need them breathing our air. We don’t need to be supporting them to the tune of taxpayer money of $30,000 a year plus. To hell with a three-strike rule! You get one chance in your life to screw up. After that, goodbye. There was a time when I couldn’t have said all of that. I would have been ashamed of myself for writing it. However, as I age, the narrowness of my waist and the broadness of my mind have definitely changed places. My tolerance level for all things dishonest and evil has changed markedly.

I have spent so much time since graduating from high school watching this country getting eaten by parasites of greed and dishonesty. We banded together for four years during WWII; we became one nation for nearly a month after 9/11; we joined hands once more after the Boston Marathon bombing. Are our memories so short and our vision so distorted that we cannot see the necessity of working together every hour, every day, every week, month, and year just to survive? Standing still and fighting each other is not an option. Moving ahead through caring and cooperation is the only way in which this nation can survive.

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The Tsarnaev brothers remind me a great deal of the suicide bombers in the Middle East. Well, maybe that’s not quite true; after all, they didn’t strap symtex or dynamite to their chests, run out and cross the finish line and then blow themselves up. On the other hand, they were vicious, malicious, arrogant, impetuous and ignorant. I’m willing to bet that it was their impetuousness that began an entire series of jihadist efforts to terrorize America. The problem is that they didn’t see the big picture and started too soon.

The big picture consisted of a series of events that would culminate in the July 4th bombing at the Hatch Shell concert on the esplanade in Boston. The first part of the plan, as I see it, called for the railroad accident between Boston and New York. I have no idea how many commuters ride that train each day but you have to admit that it certainly did screw up commuter systems and with that, a certain amount of slowdown in what was going to be accomplished from an economics standpoint.

After closing rail service for a month – which one didn’t work out too well either, did it folks – the next step would be to destroy rail lines between Baltimore and the rest of the southern part of the East Coast. We’re going to have to wait to determine the effectiveness of that bit of sabotage.

Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? The answer to that is an absolute, one hundred percent…yes! There are just too many of these ‘accidents’ taking place where and when they should not. The explosions aboard the barges in Alabama, a convenient bridge collapse on the Interstate 5 Bridge in Washington State, and who knows what other little plans are in the works. Granted, the bridge collapse can be explained by its age but who really knows. Did the truck hit it by accident or did something happen to the steering mechanism. Perhaps that one is too easy to explain, but at the rate things are happening in the US of A, I’m not going to discount anything.

“Next thing you know, you’ll be blaming the tornadoes!” Sadly, these things happen. Towns that happen to be in ‘tornado alley’ or along that route face danger during the changeover from winter to spring and on into summer. Hell, I doubt if the jihadists want to be anywhere near that region.

Every so often, the FBI or Homeland Security will release a report concerning how many plots were foiled during a given time. As a former low-level intelligence analyst, it always makes me wonder just how much isn’t being released; how much Americans are being kept – albeit for their own peace of mind – unaware of the entire number of plots that have been foiled. Transparency, what transparency? There is no such thing as transparency when it comes to the release of intelligence. It can give too much of an edge to those who would see America brought to its knees.

One of these days, someone will have to explain to me what makes America such a horrible nation that it must be destroyed. Is it the fact that we are rich in resources and share those resources with the rest of the world? Is it the fact that for some strange reason we are able to breed the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, or Dean Kamen? Perhaps it’s the television shows we export that show such a distorted view of America where everyone lives “the dream.” Maybe those who would destroy us don’t see or don’t wish to see that we have our own share of poverty and homelessness. Perhaps they are blind to our crumbling infrastructure and a government that is in such a state of disrepair, that we are the laughing stock of the rest of the civilized world. That word is emboldened and italicized because it is the uncivilized who want to take us down. If we should fail as a nation, what do we become? Will we ever reach the depths of the Tsarnaevs of Chechnya, or the sand fleas training in Saudi Arabia and other countries? These are the countries that masquerade as our friends and allies while providing training grounds for those who for some blind reason wish to see America a dead country.

Tiny terrorist attacks will continue long after I’m nothing but gone. Will there ever be another terrorist attack the magnitude of September 11, 2001? Certainly there will be an attempt at one. Whether or not it will succeed will depend entirely on how good our domestic intelligence does its job and how well we are able to analyze the actual threat. We didn’t believe the intelligence the last time; one can only hope that we are wiser when the next shot is fired across our bow.

I’ve heard some people say, “Let’s close our borders to people from ‘those’ Middle Eastern countries.” That’s not a solution; it’s not even a quick fix. It’s exactly the type of aberrant behavior that our enemies would exploit to their advantage. What we don’t want are radical immigrants who wish to subjugate their rules for those that already exist in this country. Whether it’s attempting to institute Sharia law in Minnesota or establishing their own small ‘countries’ in Tennessee and Virginia, these things cannot be allowed. We may be “the land of the free,” but your ‘free’ stops right where mine begins, and if you don’t like that, go home; I was here first and I’m not going anywhere.

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Memorial Day 2013 has come and gone. The parades are over. The flags are put away. Those who could still squeeze into part of their uniforms from Vietnam, Korea, World War ii have put them away, probably until June  when we will celebrate Flag Day – not quite as important to some, but it’s still a holiday. People have gone back to work and kids back to school. It was a great weekend to open the place on the Cape or the cottage on some lake in New Hampshire. Another Memorial Day is over.

Today, another 680 veterans of WWII will die…and they’ll be no great fanfare about it. Monte Basbas died a couple of days before all the hoopla. He was one of those who sacrificed part of his life so that you and I might enjoy today’s freedoms. Monte won the Distinguished Flying Cross, two air medals, and eight battle stars flying P-38 photo recon missions in the Pacific. Is it a big deal? Yeah, it is to me because I never knew his background as a war hero. I knew him as the Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts and the man who signed my application to become a Notary Public. I knew him as “Your Honor,” and later as just plain “Monty.”  But, he’s dead now and I’ll never have the opportunity to ask him about his service. Of course, if you know any WWII veterans, you’ll find that most are still reluctant to talk about what they did during their service time. They don’t want to bring back the nightmares; not anymore than those who served in Korea, Vietnam, or even in the more recent conflicts.

My problem is that now that Memorial Day has come and gone, many people revert to their old ways. They see a van pull into the supermarket parking lot and think, “Oh, shit, the old farts are shopping today. They crowd the aisles and I can hardly get through. Why the hell don’t they shop somewhere else.” These people don’t notice the baseball caps that some of the men are wearing; the ones that have the name of their ship or their particular theater of operations. They just think of them as “old people.”

“Okay, so one day a year we honor these folks. What do you want, an everyday celebration?” If that happens to be what you’re thinking, you’re dead wrong. Just remember this: there could be well over four hundred and five thousand more of those ‘old people’ if they weren’t laying in graves in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, North Africa, Arlington National Cemetery,  and a hundred more places around the world. Wow, how crowded would your friggin’ shopping expedition be then? If it wasn’t for some of those old people, you just might not be shopping today.

Remember this…680 a day are dying. If they’re lucky, they still have families to mourn them. I hadn’t seen Monte Basbas in decades, but when I saw his name in the obituaries – we call it the Irish Sports Page – it brought back fond memories. I wish I’d know that Monte was an airman. Heck, I didn’t even think of him as being a veteran. If I had, I would have been more gracious to him. He was a hero. You don’t earn medals by sitting on your ass. We’d talked in his office and at a few little league games and on the street, but I was ignorant of his exploits…too bad.

Every day is not Memorial Day, not even in the homes of the sons and daughters of WWII veterans, too many of whom shunt Dad off to a nursing home because they really can’t care for him. That’s okay as long as they remember what he did for them over 70 years ago. For those of us who don’t have a dad or a mom who served, if you see one of those baseball caps, don’t be afraid to walk up to the person and say, “thank you for my freedom.” The first time you’ll be embarrassed, but it gets easier after a while. Ask me; I know.

Our freedoms are not the result of some Congress passing some laws. They aren’t the result of our pulling the lever or filling out the paper ballot. We wouldn’t have those freedoms if it wasn’t for those men and women who served during the terrible conflicts in which America has been forced to participate.

No, everyday is not Memorial Day, but every day we lose another 680 of those men and women who served proudly. Find one and thank him or her. You don’t have much time left. Statisticians figure that by 2036, the last of the WWII veterans will be gone. Find one now and say thanks. It’s important to them, but, in reality, it’s more important to you and me.

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Ah, yes, it’s commencement time again…high school seniors spending their last summer at the beach before moving on to college or jobs or the armed services; college graduates searching for that special job so that they can show off just how brilliant they are; and commencement speakers spouting platitudes that are so much bullshit it’s a wonder anyone even listens.

The seniors who already have jobs will soon learn what the real world is all about. Working part-time bears little comparison, for the most part, to working full-time. Maybe you’ve entered a working world where promotions are dependent on hard work and intelligence, or maybe you’ve entered one where no matter how good you are, that’s it…you are where you are and how you break out of that mold is dependent on what you want your life to be. If you’re entering the armed services, thank you. You will probably work harder than you have ever worked in your life, both physically and educationally. You are part of a volunteer force, but if you apply yourself, your training will serve you well when you are discharged.

The seniors who move on to college will find that the pace is a bit quicker. There is no one to scream at you about getting your “homework” – you won’t hear that word at college – done. There will be no one to wash your dirty clothes or even to tell you to pick them up from the side of the bed. Many things will be different. You’ll probably be offered a fake ID to show you’re 21, even though every liquor store owner and club bouncer knows that you’re only 17 or 18 years of age. You may get carded, but the upperclassmen can tell you the places to buy or to drink or to score drugs; hell, that’s usually just one or two dorms or residence halls away.

Let me tell you something about your college education. It will not allow you to walk away from the commencement green or tent or hall or wherever and suddenly become a much-sought-after commodity on the job market. You will not become project manager on the building of the next Hoover Dam or nuclear power plant. You will not become artistic director for the New York Ballet or the Los Angeles Philharmonic. You will not walk in and become vice president for finance at some Wall Street giant or even some smaller organization; well, not unless Dad or Mom already run the place and have been holding a spot for you…oh, dream on dear graduate, dream on.

One of the reasons that you will not become an immediate hit in the world of the Warren Buffets or other giants is because your education sucked. You have not been properly prepared to do anything but the most menial of tasks. You see, a college education gives you basics. Sitting in a classroom is a far cry from sitting in a board room. The decisions you make in class earn you a grade; the decisions you make in a boardroom can cost your organizations hundreds of millions of dollars and end up as a complete failure. You know what the grade is for that? There is none; you’re gone, and you’ll probably have a tough time finding future employment.

Every organization is looking for something different in the people they hire. You may have been an accounting major but where you wind up has a different computer system that you must first learn. You then complain that college didn’t prepare you for this. Well, aren’t you just the unluckiest kid in the world. Yes, “kid, because if you are complaining, you didn’t learn anything in college. The purpose of a college education, unless it is in a professional field, is designed to teach you how to think. Oh, sure, there are the basics along the way that will set you on a course; that will allow you to talk the talk. However, your job is to show your employer that you can also walk the walk. Remember, a college education does not guarantee you a job and upward mobility. I love what President Calvin Coolidge had to say on this subject: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

So you see, everything depends on you…everything! The day you start that job right out of high school is the day you have the opportunity to show your stuff; you can go along and get along and watch the world whiz by because you don’t give a damn or you can kick ass and persist. If you enter the military, you can trudge thought your commitment and get the hell out, or you can demonstrate your leadership qualities as well as your God-given talent and fight your way to the point where they beg you to stay. If you graduate from college, you take that diploma, that license to hunt, and you hunt as though your life depended on it, because, quite frankly, it does.

Recently, a study was released that listed the ten worst colleges and universities in the country. It had nothing to do with the quality of education, more with the quality of the graduates. The measurement was the return on investment (ROI). Where did these graduates stand 30 years after graduation in terms of the salary they were making versus the investment they had made? Let me tell you what I have told hundreds of parents and a few high school seniors along the way: If you’re going to college because it’s the thing to do, don’t. It’s a waste of your time and your parents’ money. If you’re going because you’re highly motivated and know exactly what your life goals are, go…go and throw everything you have into what you want. Don’t sleep in; don’t get drunk; don’t indulge your sexual fantasies just because the opportunity presents itself; don’t do anything that will jump up and bite you in the butt 10 or 15 years from now. Having some fun is a part of the college experience; having it 24/7 is not walking the walk! There is a balance. It’s up to you to find it. It’s up to you, as Coolidge has said, to persist and to be determined.

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“Plan the work and wok the plan.” You’ve probably heard that expression often. The military will tell you that the “plan dissolves upon first meeting with the enemy.” Both statements have validity. The biggest problem is that in both cases you have to deal with the human element. A secondary problem is, that in both cases, failure means that people will die.

No one can effectively plan for catastrophes such as 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing, or the terrorist attacks in countries around the world. You can have a ‘reaction plan,’ but having a plan to actually prevent such devastating events is nearly impossible. In civilized countries we are very, very fortunate to have organizations that do have plans and who actually have prevented many of the terrorist evens from happening. The old saw, “You can’t win ‘em all” is, unfortunately true. While it is impossible to plan for every contingency, it is possible to plan for most of them.

“In the summer of 2004, the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] ran a disaster simulation exercise in which a fictional hurricane named Pam hit the New Orleans area. The purpose of the Pam simulation was to help FEMA and local authorities in hurricane-prone areas to prepare for future disasters.

“In the FEMA simulation, Pam hit New Orleans with sustained winds of 120 mph, dumping up to 20 inches of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana and creating a storm surge that topped levees in the New Orleans area. More than one million residents evacuated and Hurricane Pam destroyed 500,000-600,000 buildings. Emergency officials from 50 parishes, state, federal and volunteer organizations participated in the five-day exercise. “The result of FEMA’s Hurricane Pam simulation was a “plan of action” to prepare for real disasters.”

When Katrina hit the Gulf, the majority of the plan suggested by the Pam exercise had not been implemented. Blame can be cast in many directions for this failure. It is not my intention to castigate any single government – state, federal, or local – in this piece. I will say, however, that there was a plan and it was not ‘worked.’ Officials had plenty of warning that Katrina was going to make landfall and plenty of warning about where and when that landfall would take place. The disaster, while probably not totally preventable, could have been lessened if the lessons from hypothetical “Hurricane Pam” had been followed.

Floridians, Georgians, South and North Carolinians and so forth up the East Coast recognize that when hurricane season is rolling around, it’s time to bring in the lawn furniture and board up the windows. If the word is that it’s going to be severe, they get the hell out of Dodge and find a safe haven. In New England in the winter, we lay in supplies when a blizzard is on the horizon. We ensure that the snowblower is in good working order and we have enough wood for the fireplace should the heat go out. We keep battery-powered lanterns near our beds. In other words, we have a plan. A friend of mine living in Los Angeles has an ‘earthquake bag’ hung over his bedpost. I can’t tell you everything that’s in it, but I know that the first thing to go in was a pair of rubber soled shoes because of the glass breakage that can occur. He and his partner also live in an apartment building that is considered earthquake proofed.

Given all of the above, I cannot help but wonder at the competency and mental acuity of the people who live in beach areas, particularly those who live along the Massachusetts coast. For years, beach erosion has been taking place. For years, these people have been asking the state and federal governments to protect their houses by either adding more sand to the beaches, buy building ‘riprap’ in front of their homes or anything that would save their precious property. Despite warnings from environmental engineers and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA); despite residents’ meager attempts to reinforce the foundations of their homes – a temporary measure at best; despite this, these people refuse to admit that they are players in a losers’ game. And when their houses fall into the ocean, they are stunned that this could happen. They are shocked and amazed when MEMA or some other state agency says, “Sorry, but don’t tell us we didn’t warn you.” Some of these people, those who can afford it, will build again. This time they’ll build away from where their old house was…at least back another 20 yards! Why would they do this? The answer is simple: They’ll do it because you can’t fix stupid!

When the hurricane of 1938 – they didn’t have names then – hit Falmouth, Massachusetts, only one house was swept out to sea. In it were the only two people who had refused to evacuate when told to. Once again, can you say, “Stupid?”

I feel badly for the people of Moore, Oklahoma and for anyone who lives in or on “tornado alley.” However, I don’t feel sorry for them. They know where they live. They know that there is a pretty good chance – if you live in that part of the country – that tornadoes are going to be blowing up from the south. They will pass to the east or the west, or they will come right down your throat! In Moore it’s been three times in the last 15 years. I don’t know about you, but after the second one, I’d either be on the move or I’d build my house under the earth with a glass roof able to stand cannon shots…yes, that glass is now available and is used in some homes in Florida. Most likely, I’d  go with option number one…unless my trade was construction.

There were warnings about this tornado in Moore. Why didn’t all of the public buildings have adequate emergency shelters that were stocked and prepared for a week of waiting to be dug out? What was the city emergency plan and how did it work out. What was learned from the tornado of 1999? Was there any type of planning such as a “Hurricane Pam” series of workshops?

I’m not in Moore, Oklahoma. I don’t know exactly what went on.  What I do know is that Moore has been struck three times in 15 years and on the surface, it doesn’t appear that anyone has learned anything.

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I received a whole heap of materials the other day from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Right away I get nervous. What the hell is a Senator from New York doing writing to a guy from Massachusetts? It just didn’t seem right but…what the hell.

Schumer’s first mistake was…well, the very first mistake was sending me this mish-mosh, but other than that, his first mistake was in his salutation; “Dear fellow Democrat.” See, right off the bat, he’s proving he doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. I’m not now nor have I ever considered myself to belong to one or another of the political parties we claim to have in the United States. If he ever learned that I’d voted for Eisenhower, he’d absolutely crap his pants!

The good Senator – although I’m having some second thoughts about that adjective, or is it an adverb; ah, who cares – but the Senator opens with, “Here’s the hard truth: Republicans think they’ve got us right where they want us.”  What the hell is this? Are we playing some kind of sports game here? “They’ve got us where they want us?” What does this mean? Are we so diametrically opposed to whatever it is the Republicans that someone is keeping score?  I thought you were part of a 100-person team enacting laws to help all Americans. Instead, it’s a battle between the Democrats and the Republicans. Wake up Charlie. This isn’t us against them. This isn’t the Senate v. the House. This isn’t Congress against the President. It’s not anybody against anybody.

“They think they can force us to cut Social Security agree to Rep. Paul Ryan’s tax cuts for the rich, and dismantle health care reform, piece by piece. They think they can run out the clock on the Obama presidency and stop us from making progress for the middle class.” Hold on there Chuckles; Do you honestly believe that anyone in his or her right mind is going to go along with Representative Ryan’s tax cuts? If you or your colleagues are that stupid, maybe it’s time to put someone in your seat who has a bit of good old common horse sense. As for the health care plan that has been passed, it’s not perfect; you know it and so do I. It’s a beginning and needs constant reexamination “in order to establish a more perfect plan.” If those words are strange to you, go back and check the Constitution. .

“I don’t have any intention to let [sic] the GOP push us around. But it’s not up to me. It’s up to you.” So if you get pushed around by the Republicans, it’s not your fault; it’s mine? Is that what you’re telling me? Are you abrogating your responsibilities as a United States Senator and trying to pass the blame for your failure on every citizen to whom you sent this bullshit. You goddamned coward; you think by getting me to give you a buck or two, you’ll suddenly solve all of your problems? I wanna smoke what you’re smokin’ because it’s gotta be some really good stuff!

“Republicans have proven time and time again that, when it comes to their dangerous plan to destroy the economic security of the middle class, they won’t listen to reason. We have plenty of good arguments of change. What we need are more sensible Democrats in the Senate who will actually work to enact change.” Ah, Charley, I hate to tell you this, but you have a majority in the Senate. Have you considered the possibility that the Republicans in the Senate and the Democrats in the Senate are just a bunch of fools who put themselves and their parties first rather than putting their constituents ahead of all of their pettiness? I love this next one: “You’d think Republicans would look at the 2012 elections and realize that the American people ain’t buying the old, broken ideas they’re selling.”  I don’t know who wrote this for you, but I hope he or she is currently collecting unemployment. You may believe you’re being folksy by using “ain’t,” but give people more credit, please.

This four-page letter continued in this same vein; the Republicans are going to run us over; cut Social Security and Medicare; eliminate teaching positions so that our children will not be properly educated. They’re going to let the rich get richer and there will eventually be no middle class. Let me share a news flash with the good Senator…There hasn’t been a middle class in this country for over a decade. There are the super rich; the rich; the upper lower class; and the lower class. There are seniors who have to choose between food or medication. If they try to have both, they generally get caught shoplifting what they want for dinner that night.

It’s you, Senator, who is to blame for the position we find ourselves in right now. You’re absolutely right; you have, as you say in your letter, been around while, and you have won a lot of fights. It you’re feeling too old or too tired to fight anymore, find a young turk in New York who’s ready to pick up your banner. Take the millions you’ve made in the Senate and retire somewhere to an island where you can relax and not have to worry about this nonsense. I’m old; I won’t be around for the next 40 years – 35 maybe, but not 40. There are too many people just like you who want to pick the pockets of the people you’ve already reduced to a lower living standard.  How much of your personal fortune have you and the other millionaires on the Democratic side of the aisle committed in your fight against the “Republican Menace?”

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We just lost our seventh dog. That’s not quite right; the dog didn’t run away; the dog died. Yet, I don’t feel particularly good about putting it that way either. I sentenced this dog to death, and the veterinarian was the executioner.

Vikki had been with us/me for over 13 years. She was a beautiful, brindle Cairn terrier we had purchased from a wonderful couple in Rhode Island. I had to go through a three hour interview on a Sunday morning before I was even allowed to view the pups. As I recall, I was asked to remove my shoes before I entered the house because they had a new litter in their bedroom upstairs and didn’t want to expose them to something I might bring in [if they’d only known where those socks had been – just kidding]. By the way, that new litter, as I recall was less than a week old. Following the interview, I went to see the 8-week pups playing in the backyard and told the breeder which one I’d like. “We’ll call you in a couple of weeks with our decision,” she said.

One week later I called the breeder. “Look, we don’t wish to wait another week,” I said. “We’ve had dogs before and we’re a good family for them. I’d like you to tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ please.” It sounded to my mind somewhat angry…which it was. “That’s funny; we were just about to call you and tell you that you can pick up your dog whenever you want,” I was told.

To shorten the story…We did. My late wife had eight wonderful years with our Vikki, and I had five more. About two years before Joan was diagnosed with cancer, the dog knew she was sick. There were no signs or symbols, but one evening, Vikki suddenly jumped into Joan’s lap, snuggled down and began licking Joan’s hand. She began doing it more and more often…right up to the time of the deadly diagnosis. No one will ever convince me that Vikki didn’t know Joan was ill.

In her 13th year Vikki went blind. She knew the house and the yard well enough to get around and do so rather skillfully. Whether her other senses sharpened or not, I have no way of telling; however, this blind-as-a-bat pooch must have had one hell of a sense of smell because she presented us with three baby rabbits the day before she collapsed. Her crash occurred in the backyard. She was lying in the grass and went to get up. Her hind legs just let go and she landed on her side. No matter how hard she tried, her body would not respond. Juli carried her into the kitchen and lay her on the cool tile floor. I called the vet and was told to bring her in the next day.

Vikki was the seventh dog we had owned since 1961. We knew she was in serious trouble. When the vet came into the examining room, she sensed immediately how upset Juli and I were. After a brief examination, she inquired, “Are you both here to say goodbye to Vikki?” We looked at our dog, then at each other, and despite my promise to myself that I would not show emotion, the tears began to flow. This was my seventh dog. I have no idea how many Juli had before moving to Massachusetts. I had never cried before. I loved every one of our other dogs, but I’d never cried. I rested my head gently on Vikki’s as the injection was made. I cried like a baby and so did Juli. Someone later suggested that my tears might have come from Vikki being my last link to Joan. I hadn’t though of it that way, but I suppose it is possible.

Then it was over; Vikki was gone.

Someone said to me a day or two later, “I know what you’re going through; it’s like losing a child.” I’m certain I just looked at them and said nothing. Had I opened my mouth it would have been to say, “Are you fuckin’ kidding me?” A child is your flesh and blood; a pet is a wonderful part of your life that leaves too soon, but to compare the two is sheer idiocy. I will always remember those last moments; better yet, I will remember Vikki falling in the pool and realizing she could actually swim, eventually understanding that on a hot summer day, “Hey, this is a pretty cool thing they put here for me.” Stick up the finger of one hand – not that one, fool – and sweep your other hand around it. That was Vikki in the middle with the world revolving around her. It wasn’t quite that bad, but you get the picture.

When they are pups, they leave little treasures for you to clean up. As they age, they bark at the back door. They let you know when they want to eat and when they want to cuddle. They are loving and they are a pain in the butt. There are times you’d like to slap ‘em upside the head and the next minute they’re laying beside you licking that hand you were going to use before. One moment they’re as stubborn as a rock; the next they are at your side. They are your pet, and if you’ve shown a little love on your part, you get a passel back that’s so big it will just melt your heart. The breed doesn’t matter. If you get a puppy and treat it with kindness, you will receive love that is unconditional. We’ve had Charlie the Dalmatian; Tammy, the Siberian Husky; Snowy, the small poodle, Dapper, the All—American something-or-other who was our only dog to appear on a Boston television show – that’s right a star was born and died on TV…but only when told to die. We had Lacey, our first Cairn. She died of cancer at six…and then we had Vikki. You know the rest.

Will I have another dog? Here’s what I wrote to Vikki’s breeder: “Since I am now 78, I fear this is the end of my pet days. After I go, Juli will be moving back to California with her family and, quite frankly, I just don’t think the kids want any more confusion in their lives Ann already has two labs, and Rick has some monster named Bandit who, I gather is a cross between the Incredible Hulk and Mr. Hyde. Janet’s kids are too young for a dog and they’re so into sports I fear the dog would be a second class citizen.” You should also know that I later e-mailed this breeder, asking if she had any puppies available. If she has, Juli will take him/her to California when my time is up. Vikki has been gone less than a week; the sense of loneliness is inexplicable. Could I love another dog? Of course not…well, not until that first lick on the back of my hand or on my cheek. What a bloody softy; I just hope I never grow up!

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