Archive for October, 2014

Is a seat in the United States Senate worth over 100 million dollars? Is it worth $86 million? How about $78 or $72 million? What is worth spending those kinds of dollars? It seems that ever since the Supreme Court struck down the ruling on campaign contributions, PAC’s of all types and sizes are going wild with the money they are throwing around to get their candidate into a Senate seat. Senator John McCain was disgusted when he recently spoke to a Washington reporter. McCain, as we know, was one of the authors of campaign finance reform.

Back to the big bucks…Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker who is challenging her, could retire for life with the money that is pouring in from their party as well as from “independent” sources. In Colorado, Democratic incumbent, Mark Udall and his challenger, Republican Cory Gardner are wooing voters with over $86 million. And Udall is in trouble, in part because of his support of the Affordable Health Care Act.

If the Republican Party takes control of the Senate as it has the House of Representatives, it’s time for many people to be frightened. Obama might as well take the next two years off because he sure as hell isn’t going to get any bills passed by a Republican Congress. Senior citizens may as well take classes in shoplifting and other crimes to supplement what will surely be a reduction in Social Security…if it’s not cut altogether, along with Medicare benefits. Am I sounding like an alarmist? You-are-goddamned-right, because while Obama care is not perfect, the Republican House tried more than 40 times to get it repealed and failed each time. Can you imagine how fast it will go down the tubes if the entire Congress is controlled by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner? Neither has the courage to stand up to the Tea Party extremists like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Joe, “You’re a Liar” Wilson and other crazies who put themselves ahead of their constituents and the Republican Party they are supposed to represent.

If the 113th Congress was the least productive group ever to occupy the halls, the 114th will be one of the most productive, and Barack Obama may go down as the President who vetoed the greatest number of bills. The question then becomes, will Congress, with majorities in both houses be able to override those vetoes? If so, what will that mean to Mr. and Mrs. Average American?

How have we come so far away from where we started? Our founding fathers didn’t agree on everything that appears in the Constitution, but they at least had the ability to discuss questionable phrases and clauses within that document. In addition, there has always been a certain degree of rancor in both houses, but in the overall, things were accomplished, and we, the people, were better off because of it. That’s not so today.

Twice I voted for this President. I believed his rhetoric, and I still believe that he has the best intentions for the nation in his heart. Today, I believe he was not ready for the job; today, I believe that if he had waited; had gained more experience; had learned to listen to some of the more seasoned members “on the hill,” that he would have been better prepared. His failure to involve members of Congress from the onset of his presidency has cost him dearly with both parties. His inexperience in foreign policy has alienated many of our allies. His choices for department and division heads have been questionable, at best, and downright stupid in a number of cases. Could I have done a better job? Don’t be ridiculous. Could Hillary Clinton, his opponent for the nomination, have done a better job? I have no idea. Personally, I believe that Mrs. Clinton has a long list of people who did not serve her husband during his time as leader of the free world, and should she ever win the presidency, those folks would be wise to hunker down and hide.

I shudder to think how much money will be spent on the 2016 Presidential campaigns. My singular hope is that between now and then, a campaign finance reform bill will be passed by Congress, one that the Supreme Court will find acceptable, and that will make campaign spending more respectable. It’s time that “We the people” take back our rights; that instead of being led like sheep, we begin to howl like wolves and say that the rich may not be allowed to buy the United States Congress; that the rich may not be allowed to buy a President they can control; that there is a middle class in America, and we are sick and tired of being screwed by those who believe they can control us with their money.


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There was an article on AOL recently; it was headlined, “Don’t let your illness dominate you.” It was filled with the usual platatudinal bullshit – by the way, I just coined ‘platatudinal’ – that we hear from people who have no idea what a disease can or cannot do; how debilitating it can be; but who, because they read a book or two, think they know the entire situation.

I don’t have cancer, at least not that I know of, but I do have heart disease, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It comes from smoking cigarettes for 51 years. In 1974, the first warnings were put on cigarette packs, but like many stupid people, I didn’t believe they applied to me. I was wrong…dead wrong as it turns out. While I can still ride a recumbent bicycle for 45 minutes to an hour, I cannot walk the length of my driveway without having to stop a couple of times. Doctors have told me that walking is aerobic and the bike is anaerobic, whatever the hell that means. I have trouble walking from one end of the house to the other without a pause. Those who do not have any of these diseases would look at me and probably say something like, “You look good for your age;” in fact, several people have said that. I just say, “Thank you,” and let them go on their way. They don’t know, and I’m not about to tell them. However, when some idiot writes “don’t let your illness dominate you,” I have to believe they don’t understand illness…at all.

I cannot speak for other people, people with diseases of which I know nothing. I know people who ride a bicycle 192 miles the first weekend of August to raise money for cancer research…people who, themselves, are battling one kind of cancer or another. Some of them actually ride beside their doctors and/or nurses who are there just in case. Dominate, hell, these people are amazing, and yet, I’m willing to bet that after each chemo treatment, they puke their guts out and feel like crap for a few days. These people are deserving of my admiration, but don’t tell me that at some point along the way, they are not dominated by their disease. Before this fund raiser starts, there are always a few short speeches to inspire the riders. I was fortunate to share the platform with a retired judge the year after my wife had died. The judge was a cancer survivor and had been riding for 18 years. “This may be my last ride,” he told the cyclists. “You see my cancer has come back and this time there’s nothing anyone can do.” He died the following March, but on that August morning, he did dominate his disease.

Yes, I dominated my disease until these past few months. Now, it has begun its dominance over me. It won’t kill me for a few more years…I certainly hope, but it’s making its presence known in more ways each month. Going out to lunch, which is one of our favorite pastimes, isn’t the joy it once was. Most television programs seem foolish except those on PBS…and I’m not a snob. I can still enjoy soaking up the vitamin D, laying on my reclining chair in the backyard, but the days are shorter and the sun not as strong as it was even as late as last month.

So please don’t tell me not to let my disease dominate me. From the day we are born, we are all dying in one way or another. As gruesome as that may sound, perhaps that’s what the author was thinking as he tried to cheer me up by saying don’t let my disease dominate me. I had my time; I made my choices, and for years, I would not be dominated…but now, now the disease is laughing; now is its moment in the sun; its time to become a dominant force in my life. Perhaps I’m just angry…or perhaps I’m just the fool whose time has come.


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Ah, the toes

I would like to speak with you about toes.

Most of us have ten; we upright and walking on two feet type of homosapiens, that is. Some of us are unfortunate and have only eight, nine, or fewer. This can often be attributed to improper use of an axe, chainsaw, or some other sharp instrument swung above the shoulders and in a forward, downward motion…missing our objective and reducing the number of toes protruding at the front of the foot. This portends certain problems such as maintaining one’s balance while walking, for although we walk on the soles of our feet, the toes provide balance, weight-bearing, and thrust as we walk.

Most people I know are not particularly proud of their toes. “My toes are horrible,” which translates into “I see models on television with beautiful toes and mine look nothing like that.” Well, that’s because those are foot models. Just as there are hair, face, and hand models, so there are foot models. Get over it; they may have ugly hands, tiny tits, or buck teeth. None of us is perfect, right?

Women are prone to something called hammer toe. They generally get it from wearing high heels. Hammer toe is a buckling of one of the joints in the toe to the point of dislocation. I don’t wear high heels, yet I have had hammer toe. No, I never wore high heels, so knock off with the smart comebacks and retorts. There are other toe deformities such as trigger toe, claw toe, and the infamous what-the-fuck-is-that toe. The last is exceedingly common and found most often on beaches by those walking with their heads down.

I am very proud to state that my toes are just as ugly as anyone else’s toes. In fact, if there was to be an ugly toe contest, I would not hesitate to enter. Several of my toes, including the big toe on each foot, don’t exactly have toenails. They have what has been described by some as “Holy shit…what the hell are those?” or “Is that foot cancer?” and other such witticisms, too many of which are questions regarding where my big toes might have been trespassing. There is a reason why these toes and several others are lacking toenails. The reason is simply this: It is very difficult for a non-competitive, non-runner to run-walk 7.2 miles in a pouring rain, through hubcap-deep water without having something happen to one’s feet…including toes. This is exactly what I did, and within two weeks, there were no nails on any of my toes.

For a number of years…from 1999 to 2014 to be exact…I have performed what has been called by one podiatrist “bathroom surgery,” as in, “Oh, I see you’ve been performing a bit of bathroom surgery,” after I had accidently sliced into a big toe while trying to remove part of whatever is substituting for a toenail. Never went back to see the son-of-a-bitch-with-the-smart-mouth. I prefer to call what I do, “bedside surgery” because I sit on the side of the bed, hoist one leg at a time onto the mattress, and dig, dig, dig, whatever there is to be dug! How do I know when I have completed this surgery? I begin to bleed. This is why I keep a large supply of band aids on the night stand by my bed.

Over the years, I have grown weary of my predicament. There is a podiatrist about 20 miles away, the man who gave me my first orthotics – for four hundred plus bucks – and with whom I have maintained contact over the years. I finally went to see him. Although, my shoes and socks were off, and he was sitting facing my feet, he looked directly at me and asked, “What’s the problem?”

“Look at my feet, Brian,” I practically screamed.

He did. Without making any big deal of it, he wiggled the second toe on my right foot and said, “Well, this one’s certainly dislocated; has been for some time; not much you can do about it unless you want surgery…you don’t want surgery.” Simple, straight forward, no BS answer. It also explained why there are times when pain shoots through that toe like a red hot poker. He looked at all of the other toes and without making any more comments about them, began digging and probing, periodically stopping, and tossing a piece of whatever he’d just dug out onto a plastic sheet. There was no pain. For about fifteen or twenty minutes he just dug, all the while asking me what had happened since last we met, and telling me about his own life. Then he sanded my feet with some kind of electric sander that sent dust everywhere. There I was watching my toes and then each foot get attacked by a professional. The difference between an amateur toe-digger and a professional toe-digger, I am convinced, is that the pro knows how to dig without drawing blood. Had I done what he did, there would have been arterial spray everywhere…and I don’t think there are any arteries in the toes. It should be noted that “Of the 26 bones in the foot, 19 are toe bones (phalanges) and metatarsal bones (the long bones in the midfoot). The way I look at this whole thing is that I probably have several bones in my toes that are dislocated or downright broken, or maybe even have been broken and healed improperly. Yes, I walk funny. Yes, I still have whatever-the-hell-that-is for toenails on my big toes. Is my friendly podiatrist concerned? Not at all, because he gets to see me in another three months and he can do more digging. When I told Juli this story, she merely smiled and asked, “Did he ask you to whinny for some oats?” Me and my big mouth!

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news; yeah, I probably shouldn’t even mention it…well, I guess you have to know…winter’s coming! It is possible to hold back on telling you that, but, well, we’ve sort of become friends over the years, and I believe you’re entitled to be aware of this phenomenon.

If you’re a New Englander, you might already have begun your preparations for this onslaught. If you love it, you’re preparing the ski boots; seeing if last year’s clothing is still stylish enough to be worn on the slopes; maybe you’ll just have to drop another $500 to a grand to be seen in this year’s latest fashion. I do have a money saving suggestion on that. If you know an orthopedic surgeon who can make a plaster cast of your leg – lower half only, of course – and make it so that the halves are held together with Velcro straps, you can spend all of your time in the lodge doing the apre ski bit by the fire, telling wonderful lies about how you snapped your tibia or fibula or both. Wear last year’s indoor stuff or buy a couple of sweaters to fake it look good.

I have never understood the appeal of winter. Eighty fucking winters I have spent here and I still don’t know exactly why I do it…can you say, “masochist?” Really; I think I’m doing penance for summer. Summer I like; I complain about the heat like everyone else, but we have central air conditioning…and a pool…and a dog [What the hell does that have to do with anything?]. But winter, come-on-folks. In the summer, what do you have to break your back shoveling? Nothing; you have to shovel nothing. In the summer, what do you have to worry about when you’re driving? Nothing, you have to worry about…well, okay, the other idiots on the road thinking about their vacations at the shore or whatever, but you don’t have to worry about skidding; about some other asshole skidding; about “Will my insurance rates skyrocket if this fool sliding toward me actually hits my car or will I get beyond him before he can do any…oh, shit!” It’s things like this that begin to prey on my mind as winter approaches, but I suppose that having tiny ice crystals blown in your face, which is so frozen you can’t feel it anyway, as you schuss down the slopes has appeal to many folks. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be places like Vail, and Aspen, Jackson Hole and Snowbird, the hill at the Norfolk Golf Club and the Blue Hills in Canton. Well, I just threw those last two in because they’re close. Celebrities go to places like Alta, Teluride, and Park City, but I’m not certain if they’re paid to tell others they are going there; if they actually ski while they are there; or if they say that and then head for Hawaii.

I have many friends who enjoy skiing and getting outside on a rink to slap a puck around when the temperature is hovering around zero, but I don’t understand them. They tell me how refreshing it is; how energized they become after spending a day “on the slopes.” I think they’re lying, but I can’t tell. How can you enjoy five or six hours of not feeling your fingers or toes; having to wear goggles so your eyelids don’t freeze shut? How can you do that? You call that fun?

There is also the prelude to winter. It’s called fall. In New England, it is one of the most beautiful times of the year. To the skiers and skaters, it portends the descent of white stuff soon to follow. To visitors to the area, it’s the time when the leaves stop making chlorophyll and return to their natural shades of reds, oranges, yellows, and a million different shadings which create an unsurpassed beauty. For the first few years that she was here, Juli and I would use the Columbus Day weekend as a time to follow the Mohawk Trail and take other side roads to see the remarkable foliage. Spots such as Williams College, the Universities of New Hampshire and Vermont, and other college campuses in the area take on an entirely new look in the fall. Artists, amateur and professional, can be seen painting buildings, but with a background so beautiful, it will take your breath away.

Then, the leaves in all their beauty are gone. Where, you ask? I often believe that God has a plan to dump them all on my lawn. I know that’s not the case. It just seems that way! My neighbor maintains that I leave the leaves on my property until the east wind decides to move them to his front lawn. I would never do anything as dastardly as that…heh, heh, heh! Actually, I employ his three sons, who have a very successful landscaping business to care for leaves as well as lawn. I get my exercise each morning in the gym. You expect I should go out and rake leaves, too; what are you, nuts?

I kid a great deal about the seasons in New England but the truth is, I’m not certain I’d have enjoyed growing up, living and working anyplace else. The mountains and the air are magnificent in Colorado, what little I’ve seen of it; the beaches in Florida are beautiful with their white sand and warm ocean breezes; Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California all have things going for them in one way or another; however, for my money, nothing is more beautiful than the six states that comprise New England. Yes, we have our potential for hurricanes that come over from Africa – no Ebola comments, please – and we have our blizzards that come down from Canada or from the west, and lately, we’re even catching a few damaging tornadoes. We also have some of the best health care facilities in the world; colleges and universities, state and private, that have built an outstanding reputation for excellence in education. We are a diverse culture where all are encouraged to do as they can. In total, despite my bitching and wailing, I’m not certain that I want to spend the next eighty years anywhere else.

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What, me worry?

I have a little problem. I’m hoping that some people can help me with this: You see, I’m not really afraid of death. After all, that’s it. I mean either you’re dead and there’s nothing else, or there is something else and if you don’t know what it is, why should you fear it? Certainly, there’s nothing left of this shell or gift wrap in which you and I arrived on earth; that just a temporary thing that will melt, rot away or get burned up in some crematorium. The grave and casket thing takes a little longer but eventually, we all just become dust of some kind.

Here’s my problem with the dying part. I cared for my wife when she was dying. It’s not a pretty picture to watch someone die from cancer. It’s not pretty for you, the caregiver, and it sure as hell is not all that much fun for the person who is dying. If you’ve never seen an open bed sore that’s larger than a silver dollar, it’s pretty damned ugly. If you’ve never seen a person unable to take more than two steps toward the bathroom before they can’t breathe, it’s terrible…it’s terrible because you’re trying to breathe for them and you don’t understand why that’s not working. If you’ve never seen someone incoherent because of the pain, and there’s not a frigging thing you can do because you gave them morphine ten minutes ago, it will break your heart. I’ve seen this; Juli has seen this; hundreds, if not thousands of people out there have seen this. Eventually, you have to ask yourself a question; “Is this how it’s going to be for me?” or “Will I have to suffer through so much pain.” You can make up your own questions about how you might consider this prospect.

My Dad died of lung cancer. He was in a hospital. My grandparents were in the same room when they died of cancer…hours apart. When my mother died, my brother was with her. “Did she suffer,” I asked. He told me that she had about six seconds of suffering. None of us wish to suffer as death closes in upon us. We’d all like to fall asleep as though the next dawn would come…except that it wouldn’t. Having had time to reflect on my fainting spell this past July, I have to say that it wasn’t all that bad. Well, at least I woke up from that one, but I don’t really remember anything other than a momentary dizziness before I woke up in the ambulance. From what I’m told, I was unconscious for some time before landing back on earth. There isn’t one part of my unconsciousness that I remember…no dreams, no nuthin!

As far as I can see, there’s little sense in worrying about how we’re going to die. We will do it nonetheless. Since I’ve now past my 80th birthday I think it’s time that I quit worrying…but I won’t. The last couple of weeks have seen me hit with a miserable fall cold in my head and chest. That’s just about gone, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym with my “buds,” and stop letting all this worrying crap become someone else’s problem. After all, ain’t nothing I can do about it!

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My girlfriend has coined a new word. Since no one wishes to be thought of as a racist, we will now call all people, regardless of color, ‘stupid,’ and we will be known as “stupidists.” In that way, no one can say that we are calling out Amber Vinson who was allowed to board a plane from Dallas with a low grade fever and was allowed to return from Cleveland to Dallas with a “below the guidelines” fever. We also intend to attach the stupid label to Dr. Tom Friedan of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for telling Congress a couple of years back that all hospitals in the country could handle any situation as it might arise, including Ebola.

President Obama and Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration are other recipients of our “stupidest” label, for not stopping all flights into the USA from any country with a West African point of initial departure. Sorry, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Nina Pham was caught early enough not to make our grouping.

Common sense seems to have gone out the window when we are talking about Ebola. Let’s face it…the workers at Texas Presbyterian Health Care Center hadn’t a clue about how to treat Thomas Duncan. No one had a clue about why he was sick; why he had been sent home the first time, or why they should have isolated him immediately. The fact is they did not know how ill this man was or that he had just come from a part of the world where a pandemic is full blown.

If you walk into your local hospital, whether it be Mass General, Brigham and Women’s’ or Tufts Medical Center in the Boston area or your local community hospital such as Newton-Wellesley or Emerson Hospital, do you think you’re going to be greeted by people wearing hazmat outfits and breathing through respirators? It’s a long sentence with a short answer…and that answer is “No!” How many of the 5,273 hospitals in this country actually have hazmat suits as part of their Table of Organization and Equipment (TOE)? I’m willing to bet it’s damned few. Dr. Friedan says that he can have a team of specialists at any hospital in the country within 24 hours. That’s an unacceptable time frame, doctor. There should be one team in each major city in the country that can be ready to go to their epidemic region at an hour’s notice. Yes, they can be on staff at their own institution, but their training and knowledge should be such that they can be called on immediately. Where the hell was the CDC crisis plan to cover an eventuality such as what we are currently seeing?

It appears to me that the CDC, not having to be in crisis mode 24/7/365 became too damned complacent. The leadership refused to acknowledge that a problem on another continent might possibly impact North America. Leaders of every nation understand that the world is shrinking. Communications, business transactions, travel, and now disease move freely from one continent to another. We “stupidists” have seen that coming for the past few decades. Where has the rest of the world been? Yes, it is easy to say that we all have 20/20 hindsight; however, this is not a situation that could not have been foretold.

I don’t know and don’t wish to know the structure or organization that governs hospital practices and procedures on a national level…if there is such a beast. What I do know is that too many people with M.D. after their names believe that they are authorities on everything, and that’s just not the case. Too many are so busy trying to make U.S. News & World Report’s ‘best’ list that they are overlooking the behind the scenes activities that will make them #1 on their patients’ list. Will hazmat equipment age and crack? Will it have a “pull by” date? I have no clue but even if it does, wouldn’t it be wiser to be prepared by upgrading on a regular basis rather than deferring the maintenance until it’s too late?

So, we “stupidists” will go on not hating any particular person, minority or majority. Our disgust will be directed at those who are just plain stupid.

As a post script to this piece, it should be noted that Amber Vinson no longer ranks among the stupiddists. She had the good sense to call the CDC both before she left for Cleveland and before she left to fly back to Dallas. It was some asshole at the CDC who told her that she didn’t fall within the guidelines even though she indicated that she had been one of the staff taking care of Mr. Duncan. Can you say, “What a fucking idiot!”

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The Ebola epidemic in Africa appears to be creating a panic on the part of certain people in the United States. The talking heads seem to be putting on their “disaster” faces when talking about the death of Thomas what’s-his-name in Texas and the two health care workers who are currently showing symptoms of the disease at the hospital. It’s not that I don’t remember Mr. Duncan’s name; I just don’t give a damn about it. He can probably now be called “US patient zero” for bringing a disease which I believe he knew he had contracted into this country. You don’t give a damn about us; we don’t give a damn about you.

Ebola is a terrible disease. Doctors in Nebraska and several other states are knowledgeable about it and how to prepare to receive anyone with symptoms. It has become all too apparent that the staff at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas cannot be rated as knowledgeable, and that is unfortunate. It is also clear that Dr. Thomas Friedan of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is tap dancing faster than Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire in an effort to demonstrate how poorly prepared the CDC was for what has taken place. Training does not mean sending out a bunch of instructions that you hope hospital personnel will take the time to read. Whenever he said, “We have a team ready to go anywhere to train hospital staff,” I damn near pissed my pants laughing. Excuse me sir, but we have nearly 320 million people in the United States. In addition, we have 5,273 hospitals in the country…and you have “a team;” what turnip truck did you just fall from?

Ebola kills people…but…it doesn’t kill everyone. Ebola can be treated and steps can be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. The CDC and nearly everyone else in a position to know say that Ebola cannot be spread other than by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids. So, if an Ebola patient sneezes while I’m inhaling, can I become infected, or, if it happens to be a woman, do we have to “swap spit,” so to speak?

New diseases seem to crop up on a regular basis, and Ebola seems to fall into that group. Notably, it has chosen to arise in some of the poorer countries of Africa. This doesn’t appear to be unusual. From Africa, it will normally descend on Europe and then on to North and South America. We have faced many epidemics or pandemics long before Ebola. We have conquered the majority of them without too much trouble, and doctors have shown that the fight against Ebola can also be won.

When Europeans first arrived on the shores of the New World, they brought with them something called smallpox. It wiped out entire tribes of Native Americans during the 1633-1634 periods. According to Healthline, “…the native population in New England dropped by over 70 percent.” The last reported case of smallpox in this country was in 1949, and that was someone who had never been vaccinated.

If you’re looking for something a bit more recent, how about the Spanish Flu that infected soldiers fighting in World War I and who were from any number of countries. This epidemic/pandemic left 20 million dead in a matter of months before its spread could be stopped. In the United States, this flu killed an estimated 675,000 men, women and children. Today, a flu shot is available that will prevent or ease our chances of catching the flu in one of its many forms.

The peak of the polio epidemic in the United States was around 1952. “The first major polio epidemic in the United States had occurred in 1916. In the 1940s and 50s, polio outbreaks created frenzy, frightening parents and prohibiting travel from city to city within the United States. Some towns were quarantined to protect the public from affected individuals. It reached a peak in 1952 when over 58,000 cases were reported, including 3,145 deaths.” One of those deaths was a kid I had been working beside on a Saturday. By the following Tuesday, he was dead. Thanks to Jonas Salk, we no longer worry too much about polio.

There have been many other epidemics in America’s more recent history. The one with which we have the greatest familiarity is perhaps the AIDS epidemic that started in 1981. “…the epidemic we now know as HIV began to appear as a rare lung infection characterized by a weakened immune system. It remains the leading cause of death in the United States among people age 25 to 44. Research has found many ways to put AIDS into remission and I, for one, have no doubt that the time will come when a cure will become possible.

There is, of course, one disease against which we are continuing to fight with only moderate success. Cancer is the most insidious of the diseases we fight; yet, that’s not fair. Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, and a ton of other diseases that could be named are still out there to be fought and research is ongoing. However, I don’t believe there is a single person in the United States who has not been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it was a member of the family, a friend, colleague, teammate, or the neighbor across the street, we all know the tragedy of cancer. It killed my Dad, my wife, my grandparents, and too many other non-family members for me to count. Just when the researchers think they’ve found the answers to a particular cancer, it mutates, and they have to begin their fight all over again.

Ebola is not cancer. A cure will be found. The big question mark becomes how will the manufacturers of the vaccine to cure Ebola get into the hands of those who need it? Countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are too poor to be able to afford the price of the cure. Here’s another opportunity for the world to show its humanitarian side and not be concerned about the bottom line.

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Michael Brown is dead and has been buried…all six feet, three inches, nearly 300 pounds of him. He was unarmed when Darren Wilson shot him; shot him six times. The only thing he was carrying was the stolen box of cigarillos that he and his buddy had taken from a convenience store.

Is Michael Brown a symbol of a racist police department? What an interesting question, particularly in light of the fact that the police haven’t been able to stop the rioting, looting, and overall social unrest that’s occurring in Ferguson, Missouri. They say that “Big Mike” was a gentle giant. He sure didn’t look too gentle when he was shoving that convenience store clerk around. They say that “Big Mike” was a child in a man’s body. He and his buddy, Dorian Johnson, were adult enough to rob that convenience store. They say that “Big Mike” was a friend to teachers, coaches, etc. I taught high school. I was criticized for hitting a smart ass in the head with a piece of chalk. I was told by the principal that “..there is no such thing as a bad kid.” I laughed my ass off when the Massachusetts State Police came to the school and hauled that kid away in handcuffs because he was determined to be the leader of a gang that was robbing stores all over town. Was he my Michael Brown?

Is the Brown death a tragedy? Of course it is. No one wants to see an adolescent cut down. Was the shooting a good one? There are two people who know the answer to that…Dorian Johnson and Darren Wilson. Who am I more likely to believe? I’m going to go with the cop 99 percent of the time. Hell, Johnson’s already shown that he is a punk store robber. Was Michael Brown’s body left on the street for four hours as has been claimed? That’s just wrong, and the Ferguson Police receive very bad marks if that’s what actually happened.

After Michael Brown is killed, what happens? There are riots in the streets. “Oh, that poor baby!” “Oh, those racist policemen!” “Oh this and Oh that and let’s go steal some television sets as retribution.” It didn’t matter that the television sets and the air conditioners and whatever else, there were riots and looting from stores owned by other Blacks. Michael Brown’s been shot…Hallelujah, it’s time for me to get my new TV. What bullshit! If Michael Brown had been a white kid, would whites have rioted? I rather doubt it. If Michael had been Hispanic, Asian, or Native American, would there have been riots? I sure as hell doubt it.

Then Cornell West, a Black activist from Princeton goes out to Ferguson, probably because people are beginning to come to their senses, and he inflames the crowd even more. Peaceful sit-ins become us against them and West gets that fire all built up again. Of course, the minute one disagrees with anything that West has to say, one becomes a hater, a racist, anti-Black, and “you people” are still trying to keep “my people” down. That is just so much hogwash.

The Black inner city community needs to wise up. Black fathers need to begin acting responsibly. Black mothers need to keep an aspirin between their knees. Black children need to insist on equal education with equal facilities. If the Black community wants to protest something – without resorting to violence – let them protest the quality of some of the inner city schools. Obviously, these are generalities. Obviously, there are large communities of Black men, women, and children who are peacefully pursuing the American Dream, whatever the heck that is. However, there are too many angry Black people out there who either are not pulling their share of the load, want that load for free, or who see the only way to get their share is by robbing, looting, selling drugs, and hating. Those are your racists!, and I will, once more, be called a racist for telling the truth.

Is there blame on the part of the white community for the problems in Ferguson and elsewhere? You’re damned right there’s blame. “Oh, you poor people; my ancestors kept you down so we must give you everything we can.” That’s nonsense. The white community in both the North and South were too slow to recognize that Black people are just as good as white. Killing civil rights workers; fire hosing peaceful marchers; refusing to integrate schools; segregated units during WWII…all of these things are contributors to why we still have racial problems today.

The population of Ferguson is 67.4 percent Black and 29.3 percent white. The police department has 50 white officers and three Black officers. By anyone’s math, those figures are disproportionate. I fully recognize the problems that all communities have getting, training, and retaining police officers of any color. It’s like trying to find a theoretical physicist with a Ph.D. who is a minority for your university…it ain’t easy, McGee! I want to know what Ferguson officials have done to try and equalize the police department, fire department, schools, etc., so that the Black community is properly represented. Some will toss figures back at me, saying that Missouri is 87 percent white and only 11 percent Black. Know what, I don’t really care; I care about Ferguson, a tragic death, a cop who’ll have nightmares for years, and a bunch of citizens being riled up by inside and outside racists who get their jolly’s by starting trouble.

This country is beset by problems galore. By comparison to everything else that is wrong with this country right now, Michael Brown’s death is a piss hole in a snow bank. We have a government in gridlock. We will probably soon have boots on the ground again in the Middle East. We have a national debt that is only growing larger. We have other nations purchasing America one piece at a time. I’m sorry for your death, Michael, and I’m sorry you had to shoot Darren, but it’s time to learn from what happened in Ferguson. Let’s learn from what happened, examine our own communities, change what needs changing, and move on to solving some of our national concerns.

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When I was young, I thought of beauty as something physical; it’s really not. When I was young, I thought of sensual as something sexy; it’s really not. When I was young, I thought only policemen and soldiers carried guns; oh boy, was I wrong. When I was young, I thought that I’d never know any really bad people; that, too, was the naiveté of youth. I don’t really know if it’s the wisdom of age or the wisdom learned from exposure. I’ve traveled the gamut from naiveté to liberal to cynic to realist. The journey hasn’t always been pleasant, but it sure has been an eye-opener.

As a young boy, what I saw as beauty was all so very external…beautiful lips; a wonderful smile; eyes that laughed; hair that shined and glistened. I couldn’t see the heart of a mother who loves her child so deeply that she is willing to die to protect its life. I couldn’t know the depths to which I could love someone just because she was what she was; not who she looked like, but for what was hidden away inside; for love is not a contest of looks, nor a contest of any kind. Love is love. Sometimes, what you believe to be love is just fascination, but when the real thing comes along…yeah, there’s no mistaking it; you know exactly what it is…and there’s no other feeling quite like it.

There are, however, many, many kinds of love. There is the young studs’ version of love and he’ll use it any time he wants to get a girl into bed or into the back seat with him…that’s lust, not love. There’s the love of those who have never really known love but are fascinated by what they see before them. Theirs is also the love that grows, from being an acquaintance; from being a friend; from being someone to be counted on; to being someone who is always there; through the good times and those that are not so good. I consider myself the luckiest man in the world for I’ve known both types of love. What more could one ask for out of life?

Have I seen sexy or sensual? Sure, who hasn’t, and who hasn’t thought, done or tried to do something about it? Hell, even President Jimmy Carter admitted to “…lusting in my heart.” Willie Nelson even wrote a song to all the girls he’d loved before, and yes, they always remain a part of who you are and what you are, even if the word ‘love’ is somewhat loosely used. In our youth, we often believe that we love someone when all we’re trying to do is get laid. Anyone who says differently is a liar or has a very short memory.

The first time I faced a loaded gun, it was in the hands of a police officer. Three of us were drinking some beers in a place we shouldn’t have been and the cop came along and rousted us. Since we weren’t local, the gun was drawn and we were taken to jail in a couple of cruisers. That was no big deal. The big deal was when a member of the SDS, a radical element of college students opposed to the war in Vietnam, burst into an evening meeting of several administrators. All were armed, and in the tradition of cowardice, all had their faces covered in ski masks. One put a shotgun to my head and said, “I’m gonna blow your fuckin’ head off Bishop.” I guess I’ll never forget those words. Seems to me it’s easy to be tough when you’re holding a shotgun and the person at whom you’re pointing it is sitting down and unarmed. As you can tell, he never did pull that trigger.

As for the bad people, my life has been filled with meeting strange and rather violent felons. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know briefly a bank robber, an arms dealer, several drug dealers – not the street corner kind, but some who were rather up there, so to speak. I’ve met members of the Japanese Yakuza, all of them gentlemen, although the first time was a bit shaky. On the other side of that very thin coin, I’ve met police and correctional officers who are only on the outside of the bars by the grace of God and who might, one day, find themselves on the inside.

Our life experiences mold us. It begins when we are so young and we really aren’t aware. Our influencers are both good and bad. Our choices can lead us down any number of paths. Perhaps The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost is a poem we should all read on a regular basis. We come to some many divergent paths during our brief time on earth. I have never seen a path in my life that hasn’t brought me both pleasure and pain. I don’t believe that there is a path we can choose that won’t give us a bit of both. It’s how we handle both the good and not so good things that happen to us that will mold us into who we eventually become.

There is an old Cherokee expression: “When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” There are many variations, but not matter how it’s expressed, it’s pretty damned good advice.


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Are the election ads as bad where you are as they are in New England?

For those not from one of the six New England states, let me tell you something…Boston television stations hit damn near every on of those six. That means that we get ads for pols running for office in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Thankfully, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and parts of Maine are very limited, but the bombardment, nevertheless, is irritating as can be.

Massachusetts had elected a man by the name of Scott Brown to the Senate seat held by the late “Lion of the Senate,” Ted Kennedy. However, he proved a bit too conservative for the liberals in the state and was voted out the following election which put “Let’s level the playing field,” Elizabeth Warren in that particular Senate seat. Not discouraged, Brown changed his address and went to New Hampshire. He is now running for the seat currently held by Senator Jeanne Shaheen who, I have to admit, has done a pretty good job for the state since being elected in 2009. My first reaction to Brown’s announcement was ‘carpetbagger;’ however, I’ve calmed down and now I just see him as a guy who wants a Senate seat back…any Senate seat.

So, we have the ads for New Hampshire Senators running along with Representative seats from New Hampshire, where a guy by the name of Frank Giunta is running for a seat he formerly held. The ads against him are blistering. They claim that he forgot to mention a savings account of $245,000 on his financial disclosure statements as well as the allegation that he has been described as one of the most corrupt politicians in Congress. Marilinda Garcia, who is also running for Congress has a few strange ideas like putting doctors who perform abortions in jail and closing all abortion clinics. As one ad puts it, “She’s too conservative even for the Tea Party.”

Okay, so there is New Hampshire, and frankly, they’ve been dominant on the Boston airwaves. In Massachusetts, all eyes are on the Governor’s race. The Democratic incumbent, Deval Patrick, has said “No” to another term and the race has come down to Attorney General Martha Coakly, who was Scott Brown’s opponent when he won his Senatorial seat and Charlie Baker who served on the Gubernatorial Cabinet of former Massachusetts Governor, Bill Weld. Compared to what I’m hearing from New Hampshire, these two have not only not taken off the political gloves, they could be sweethearts.

There is a great line from a movie in which one character says, “In Washington, politics is a blood sport.” Most of us have known that for years, but few say it out loud. Things haven’t gotten completely out of hand quite yet, but the schism between Republicans and Democrats might well turn that back into the literal truth that it was back in the mid-1800s. It seems that Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was an avowed abolitionist and during a speech he called avowed slavery advocate an “imbecile.” Southern honor had to be avenged and a member of the imbecile’s family, Representative Preston Brooks, beat Sumner senseless with his cane. Brooks resigned from Congress, returned to South Carolina where he was honored and reelected him to the House of Representatives. Summer was so badly beaten that he was away from the Senate for the next two years, but he, too, was reelected to his seat. On second thought, maybe that’s how politicians can show their true colors…let’s give them all a bunch of canes to use on one another. Oh, by the way, while the House of Representatives didn’t have the votes to oust Brooks, they were able to charge him a fine of $300.

Yep, politics today is tame by comparison to the way it was in 1856!

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