Archive for June, 2016

ˈēɡō/ noun
Noun: ego; plural noun: egos a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
“A boost to my ego” “the defeat was a bruise to his ego”
Synonyms: self-esteem, self-importance, self-worth, self-respect, self-image, self-confidence
If you Google the word, you get 123 million results in a little more than half a second…amazing, isn’t it? That one little three-letter word can generate those results tells us a great deal. In effect, it says that the ‘I’ is very, very important. That’s what ego means, of course. It’s Latin for ‘I.’
Personally, I believe that ‘ego’ should also be synonymous with stupidity, arrogance, and narcissism…well, at least as it applies to members of the United States Congress, most other politicians, and too many medical research organizations. A perfect example of this was the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS. The fragile yet massive egos of Dr. Anthony Gallo at the National Cancer Institute and Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute delayed any announcement of which one was responsible for the discovery.
Today, we see another classic example of ego getting in the way of common sense. In South America there is a mosquito – let’s call it the Aedes Zika mosquito – and it carries with it a disease that can result in birth defects, including microcephaly and other defects of the brain. Put bluntly, it is one goddamned scary virus. If you have been following the news on this, you know exactly what I mean. The President of the United States has asked Congress to give him $1.8 billion to study the virus and to find a cure. The Republican members of the Congress say, “Sure thing, Barry, but we want to attach a few items of our own to that request you’re making,” and they do so. The Democratic members of Congress say, “We cannot vote for your bill, Mr. President, because the Republicans have attached “poison pill” provisions to the bill, including cuts in Planned Parenthood and the lowering of environmental pesticide usage. To put not too fine a point on it, the egos of both sides of the aisle are preventing the passage of a bill that could save hundreds and maybe thousands of lives. Perhaps they don’t care that the children born with microcephaly will not only cause parental grief but will cost the government more in critical health care.
And so, nothing gets done. No bill passed that will save babies’ lives…and the Democrats blame the Republicans and vice versa. Ego has gotten in the way of progress once more.
Is this what America has become? Have the people who govern our lives forgotten that there are problems needing to be fixed? Are they so attuned to a political party that they have lost their purpose? Do they not understand that their first responsibility is not to the political party to which they belong but to the United States of America? That means everybody; it doesn’t mean the “club” to which they belong. It means that pregnant lady in Chariton, Iowa who is scared to death that her kid will be born with a brain defect. It’s those kids in Wimberley, Texas who are wondering if the rains are going to flood them out again. It’s the people in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and every other town in every other state in this republic of ours who don’t understand why members of Congress don’t do anything but bicker.
America has some very serious problems that need to be attacked by Congress. Our infrastructure is falling apart, yet I see no signs that Congress is concerned. Our roadways and bridges are in dire need of upgrades; we are still too dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs; our drinking water problems are finally beginning to make noise; our schools, transit systems, dams, levees, and wastewater systems are all in need of examination, while Congress sits on its collective butts and does nothing. Why? It all comes down to ego and who will give in first in order that the winner may claim how well they have done for “the people,” when, in fact, they have done well only for themselves. Diogenes, that Greek cynic, would soon leave the halls of Congress, lantern in hand, knowing full well that there was not one honest man to be found. How sad.

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First they came for the Muslims,                                                           and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Muslim.                                                       Then they came for the undocumented alien,                                               
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t an undocumented alien.                                     Then they came for the Catholics,                                                                   and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic,                                               Then they came for the Jews,                                                                         and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me,                                                                           There was no one left to speak out.

Does it sound familiar? It’s a parody of the poem supposedly written by Pastor Martin Niemoller who spent the last seven years of Hitler’s rule in a Nazi concentration camp. I say, “Supposedly,” because there have been a number of questions raised regarding the actual author. However, you can see, I’m quite certain, where I’m taking this. Some will say that this is an invidious comparison while others may see it as merely odious. Whatever your take on the poem, is it possible that you can see the similarities?

A friend of mine, the late Bill Stewart, once told me, “I don’t dislike many people. However, for those few, I work at disliking them.” Bill had been manager of the Northeastern University bookstore. He was one of the most charming, funny, and empathetic people I’ve ever met. He was one who appeared to know everyone at the university on a first name basis. If two American nuns were visiting the Vatican and Bill appeared on the balcony with the Pontiff, one nun might just turn to the other and ask, “Who’s the fella with Bill?” Okay, so it’s old and corny, but in Bill’s case…who knows?

While I cannot claim Bill’s penchant for knowing so many, I do find that those few people I dislike, I work at doing so. Perhaps that is why I have written as many times about Donald Trump. I find him to be physically repugnant, morally and ethically reprehensible, and about as truthful as Whitey Bulger when asked if he’d ever killed anyone…and I apologize in advance to Whitey because the comparison does him a disservice.

Trump’s bullying tactics against his Republican opponents was an interesting strategy. He was able to instill fear in them before the first ‘debate.’ However, in Secretary Clinton, who has been around Washington since Washington, or so it seems, he is battling with someone who has had to fight against better opponents than Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, and Jeb Bush combined. She is fully aware of how many times Trump has been bankrupt; who the mob ties are and which thugs he has supported.

Instead of Trump vodka, the presumptive nominee might have been better off attempting to sell whine, and no, that’s not a typographical error. It seems that when anyone presses him to define his policies on any of the important issues, he accuses them of being unfair, impartial, and prejudiced against him. If he’s so afraid of the media now, what happens if, God forbid, he should actually win the Oval Office? Hmm, perhaps I should add another couple of lines to the poem above. Since Trump believes that he is 100 percent on any answers he gives, what would be the use of a Presidential Cabinet in a Trump administration?

When “The Donald” entered the Presidential nomination foray, many leaders in the GOP thought it to be a joke. Now the joke is on them. They have a tiger by the tail and don’t know what to do about it. Outwardly, many have endorsed the candidate, but I wonder how many will really vote for him. In the case of the Republican Party, they have so far shown that they put party before country, and that is exactly the manner in which they have tried to run the country…and failed. Those GOP members who are straddling the fence are just too cowardly to make a decision…look out boys and girls, that fence is topped with barbed wire.

You’re damned right I’m fearful of what could happen in a Trump presidency. He’s reckless, spiteful, and truly believes that he is the smartest person in the room. His ego is too big for him to ever listen to more experienced figures. Having been born in the thirties, I’ve read volumes of how Adolf Hitler rose to power. I’m flabbergasted by the similarities between Trump and Herr Hitler. I don’t condone Michael Sanford’s  method of ridding Trump, but when my fingers touch that ballot in November, you can bet your bippy, baby, that I won’t be casting my vote for a narcissistic egomaniac like “The Donald.”

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So, what’s wrong?

Lotta people walking around these days saying things like, “We’re gonna make America great again,” and “We’re gonna ensure that there is equality in the workplace,” and a whole smack dab pile of promises that anyone in their right mind knows is just a bunch of gobbledygook. I’ve developed a new technique for dealing with disgruntled people: Someone says to me, “You know what this country needs?” or “Do you know what’s wrong with this country?” Well, I just look ‘em in the eye and I say, “Yep,” and keep on walking. It absolutely stops them in their tracks. You see, they want you to ask them what the country needs or what is wrong with the country, but when you tell them that you already know what’s wrong and what’s needed, they can’t handle that. These folks think they have all the answers and the truth of the matter is that they don’t know diddly squat…and that goes for the great majority of politicians who are running for local, state, or federal office.

What’s actually wrong with this country is that we don’t have enough people going out and asking questions about what others think is wrong. Not only aren’t there enough people to do that, but once they have the answers, they don’t have a clue about who to approach who can get something done about it. The very same thing is true when it comes to the question about what this country needs. You ask an impoverished worker down in Appalachia what he needs and he might say that he needs the federal government to stay out of his life. He might add that he’d sure as hell like to find a job that paid more than minimum wage. Of course, he might never have finished grammar or high school so who the hell knows where he’d ever find such a job.

You could ask a person living and working in any big inner city and they might tell you that they’d like to have more cops on the street to protect them from muggers and other thugs. Of course, if you ask them whether or not they’d like to pay a few dollars more to pay for those extra cops, well now, that’s a horse of a completely different color. Maybe you’d like to ask those questions of people in the farm belt who would, sure as anything, like to receive a price they consider more fair for their crops. When you ask if they would like to see prices increase on the grocery shelves, you know the answer as well as I.

What it comes down to, at least to my way of thinking, is that this country needs a great many things and that there are a lot of things “wrong” – and note that the word is in quotation marks – with this country. One of the things that I see as wrong is that there are too many homeless people. I don’t know why but there are. And they aren’t just in the big cities either. Heck, I can drive not five miles from my house which is about as suburban as one can get and I can show you any number of homeless people pushing old grocery carts around – usually with one bad wheel – and carrying their possessions in that cart. What do we do about these folks? Do they just want to be homeless, not have the responsibility for anything other than themselves? I don’t have the answer? Does that mean it’s not a “wrong” that someone should be examining, and if that’s the case, who is this someone? And where does the money come from to do the examining and develop programs to reduce the amount of homelessness?

We have a terrible problem of poverty in this country. “More than 16 million children in the United States – 22% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $23,550 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 45% of children live in low-income families,” according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. Go ahead, solve that one, because if the family income is that low, how do we double it? Do we say, “Hey, Mr. Employer, you should now be paying that person $47,100 a year so he can feed the family of four?” C’mon, it doesn’t work that way. So yes, poverty is a problem right here in one of the richest nations on earth.

We have an immigration situation that many people see as being a serious problem. We have a number of undocumented aliens – some say upwards of 13 million people – who take advantage of what this country has to offer without giving anything back. Okay, so what do we do, round them up (how?) and ship them back to where they came from? Wait a minute, what if their parents were undocumented but they were born here? Complex? You bet your bottom dollar it’s complicated. What do we do about it? Well, that depends on which politician you wish to believe. In the long run, the answer is probably going to be nothing…because too many of those undocumented aliens are making some kind of contribution to our GDP, and because we have bigger fish to fry than trying to round everyone up. The key is to identify the good ones and give them a road to citizenship. Who are the good ones? Hey, you tell me.

Do I know what’s wrong with America and what America needs? Yes, I certainly do. Do I know how to solve the problems and the needs facing America? Sure I do, but my words, just like your words, are just that…words. And words don’t solve problems. Problems are solved by people at the local, state, and national level who see the same problems you and I do, and put their country ahead of anything else, including themselves. What this country truly needs is about 535 Jefferson Smiths, and if you don’t have a clue, Google it!

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Live and let live

Let’s face it, there are all sorts of reasons why people from other countries hate Americans. After all, we’ve brought this on ourselves. I mean, hey, we’re loud; we can find humor in almost anything – ever watch one of your friends get falling down drunk and just laugh your ass off – and, given enough time, we can make everyone around us smile…what’s not to hate.

When other countries get in over their collective heads in world wars, who do they call on to help them win? It ain’t the ghost busters’ folks. They call on the good old USA. And what do we do? We plunge right in. We shed the blood of our young, healthy men and women in some jungle or on some desert floor in a far off land that no one had ever even heard of until Uncle Sammy said, “Hey, c’mon, there are some folks who need our help. Sometimes, a lot of those young, healthy men and women don’t come home. You see, sometimes there isn’t enough left of them except their dog tags to even bring home. So sure, there’s a lot of reasons for people from other countries to hate us.

We have welcomed refugees from damn near every other country in the world. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s written right there on the base of the Statue of Liberty.  According to The Observer, “The National Park Service first said that Sculptor Édouard René de Laboulaye, then president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, discussed the idea with abolitionist and sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi over dinner in 1865. They later revised their official report to say that story came from a fundraising pamphlet in 1885, and that the statue was actually conceived in 1870. Batholdi said the dinner party was not a formal proposal, but it did leave him feeling inspired. Whatever the true story, the French wanted to support America for abolishing slavery in 1865, so the broken shackles at the feet of Lady Liberty attest to our country’s then newfound status as actually being a land of the free.” From what I understand, and I’m not a traveler, the French today are not as welcoming to Americans was they once were. Hopefully, that’s just a rumor started by some ugly American who got shitfaced on French wine and puked all over the sidewalk…hey, what’s not to like?

It’s true that we refused to accept tens of thousands of Jews after WWII and some circles of Americans even encouraged Jewish emigration to the Middle East, so I guess that may be why some Middle Easterners don’t particularly care for us, but why then, is Israel one of our allies…just doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Every time there’s a disaster somewhere in the world, it appears to me that the USA is the first or certainly one of the first to send relief. Whether its food, medical supplies, or even people, we’ve always been among the leaders in helping others. Perhaps that’s enough of a reason to hate us…we’re generous to a fault, even though we have around 47 million of our own people living in poverty, which sorta sucks when you think about it. You would think that we would take care of our own and put them ahead of people in other countries, but that just seems to be the way we are. It sure seems like a good reason for 47 million folks to hate us, but for some unknown reason, they don’t pick up guns and go around killing fellow citizens. Nope, it’s people who say they’re doing it on behalf of some political group or other from some other country. It seems to me that when we say things like, “Oh, he’s a radicalized terrorist,” or “He hates gays,” or “He had mental issues,” we’re offering excuses rather than just saying, “He is or was an evil son-of-a-bitch” and we’re doing a piss-poor job of identifying evil people in our own country.

So excuse me for being so stupid, but I really don’t understand why so many people seem to hate Americans. Is it because we have a standard of living that, for the number of people who live here, pretty damned high? Is it because we have people who are always seeking new ways to improve that standard of living, whether it’s through better medicines that we make available to the rest of the world or better farming techniques that will improve crop yields? Is it because we have young people who are willing to travel to far away continents to improve health facilities or to bring fresh, clean water to small villages? Tell me, please, what the hell is it about Americans that make some of these people want to kill us? I mean, c’mon, I’ve lived in this country for over eight decades. I’m not rich, but I’m not among the 47 million. I drive a car – yeah, I know, I’m lucky to have one – that’s 15 years old. I really like my neighbors: One is a rabbi; another is Polish; a third is god-only-knows-what, and the rest…well, the rest are just “My neighbors.”

So to all you folks in other lands who believe that Americans should all be killed, and that we are “the evil Satan,” how about knocking that shit off, huh? If you’ll take the time to get to know us, all in all, we’re a pretty good group of folks. Life is a lot less complex than we try to make it. This whole idea of “live and let live” can be pretty good if you’ll just give it a try.

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Get out now Mr. Trump

Donald Trump has overstepped the bounds of decency and should immediately withdraw as the presumptive nominee for president of the Republican Party.

I say this because of the tweet that he issued yesterday when, instead of concentrating on the horror of the Orlando attack and express his regrets, he blamed the attack on a “weak” president and demanded that Obama step down because he refused to use the words, “Radical extreme Islamic terrorism.” In other words, he didn’t appear to give a damn about the 50 dead and 53 or more injured in the attack. His sole purpose seemed to me to be to raise his political numbers through inflammatory statements. And this is a man who wants to lead the country? The problem here is that there are so many who will agree with him. He is a hater and his target is the Islamic community. He has found a single group to attack and attack and attack, and he is attracting people who are prone to hatred and who now have been given a target for their hatred and aggression.

Again, this morning, in a telephone interview, Trump raged on, not about the families whose lives have been forever changed and not with any form of sympathy or empathy for the dead or wounded, but once more launching his attack on the President and the Muslim community. This man is so narrow minded, so manipulative, and so evil, that I fear what a Trump presidency would turn this country into. Perhaps my nightmare about “The Leader” is not as farfetched as it seemed. I do not; I cannot; I will not descend into the sewer of hatred that has been promulgated by Donald Trump in his bid to run this nation.

Congress, in its wisdom or lack thereof, has attempted to hamstring the President in every way possible, postponing the $1.9 billion for research and development of a vaccine for the Zika virus for example. Now is the time for Congress to open its minds to what the President and the intelligence agencies and police departments everywhere might want and need for intelligence gathering and investigation as the first steps in preventing future attacks. Gun shop owners and those who host gun shows must become more vigilant in terms of who is buying guns and why. We don’t need new laws regarding gun purchases. We need to enforce the laws that are already on the books and those do include background checks on purchasers. However, instead of peremptory checks, these need to be more thorough. This is America in the 21st Century. We are no long a nation of June and Ward Cleaver; we are now the Israel of 1948 and beyond.

Am I being an alarmist abut Trump and about guns? Dammit, I certainly hope so, because someone has to ring a call to American citizenry to wake the hell up and smell the cordite. It is a time when anyone with an axe to grind against any group will use any excuse to get a gun and begin firing. The FBI has already reported an increase in anti-Semitic incidents this year. What’s next? We don’t have a clue, but as sure as God made little green apples, these group massacres are going to increase. We do not need a political mad man to continue to inflame the populace with his rhetoric. Donald Trump may not be certifiably insane but his incitive invective certainly gives me pause to wonder.

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The Leader

The planning began in 2013 as far as can be determined. It would lead him into a position of power, and he would reign as the world’s most powerful leader. In his own mind he would be more powerful than any Caesar, Alexander, Khan, or any of Egypt’s so-called God-like Pharaoh’s. History would mark his tenure as the boldest and brightest, the best thing ever to happen to the United States of America.

He was a showman, a carnival barker, a television personality, a published author, and according to him, a philanthropist whose charities benefited millions. His books were all best sellers…he said. His television program was number one in its time slot…he bragged. The university that bore his name created hundreds of millionaires…he insisted. And the numerous water parks bearing his name were the best in the world…he said it and the masses believed it. He would achieve greatness by uniting a divided country and a distribution of wealth such as had never been seen before.

Well, that was the plan, but like those of other narcissistic, power-hungry, dictatorial maniacs, things began to fall apart shortly after his “election,” if that’s what one wishes to call his rise. During the pre-election days, his Red Shirts, as they were known, disrupted nearly every rally held by his opponent, shouting her down and starting fist fights with her supporters. At one such rally, eggs and tomatoes hit the candidate and forced her to leave the stage. Despite protests from the leaders of his own party, George H. Frump only smiled, threw out his arms and innocently told them, “I have nothing to do with them. I don’t know who these people are. Those people are just protesting all of the terrible lies she’s telling about me.” In point of truth, those ‘lies’ could easily be backed up. Frump’s appeal to the masses about uniting the nation and making it ‘great again,’ his equal opportunity for all ‘Legitimate Americans,’ his promises to round up and deport illegal immigrants, ban certain groups from entering the country, “topped off with an unceasing flood of invective aimed” at his opponent and his predecessor combined with the economic difficulties of the parts of the country – Frump was riding a “wave of street popularity he hoped would help him” into a position from which he could dictate his own terms.

Frump’s promises faded quickly once the election was over. Although charges of voting fraud were brought by his opponent were ignored, Frump marched into the Capitol and it’s many pillared home in triumphant fashion. His inauguration on that January 20th showed the first indications of the type of government that the nation could expect to see for the next four years. Senators, Congressmen, and members of the Supreme Court were relegated to seats below the platform. Members of the Red Shirts surrounded the new leader wearing armbands that bore a donkey, encircled in black with a red slash across its body. In addition, a carefully selected corps of Army, Navy, and Marines encircled the audience with tanks and artillery pieces very much in evidence…the man was now Commander-in-Chief.

If Americans listening to Frump’s Inaugural Address had any illusions that he was going to be a great leader, they were dashed by his opening statement…”The Democratic Party has brought this nation to the terrible state in which we find ourselves today. From this moment forward, that party and every member of it is to be considered an enemy of the United States of America. There will be no more two-party system of government as long as I draw a breath.” Shock and fear went through the assemblage as hundreds of Red Shirts marched down the aisles and began herding Democratic members of Congress away in handcuffs. Half of the Supreme Court Justices, those appointed by a Democratic leader, were also arrested and put into cuffs. The rest of the speech was largely a tirade against anyone who might consider opposing Frump and a warning to immigrants that their days were also numbered.

Frump’s tactics reminded old timers of a dictator who rose to power in the 1930s, but to say anything publically could be viewed as treason. Red Shirts replaced police departments all around the country, often using intimidation and even murder to attain power. Red Shirt politicians – without wearing red shirts of course, began to surface and run for offices formerly filled by Democrats. In many cases, running a campaign was unnecessary. Fatten Frump’s personal campaign fund and you were guaranteed a seat in Congress. It was in this manner that Frump passed and signed legislation that allowed him to control nearly every aspect of life in America, from the financial institutions to agribusiness; and from petrochemicals to pharmaceuticals. America became the United States of Frump.

And, true to his word, Frump’s Red Shirt army rounded up and deported anyone and everyone with a foreign-sounding last name. Ships were filled with “illegal immigrants” who either returned to the country of their birth or merely sailed on until they could prove their citizenship. The “Leader,” as he preferred to be called also built a wall more than 2,000 miles long separating ‘his’ country from Mexico and increased security to such a degree that no one dared to attempt overland entry. Much to Frump’s dismay, illegal drugs continued to pour into America through tunnels. As quickly as one was found, two more were in operation, and The Leader’s famed temper would result in someone being tried for a treasonous act he or she never realized they had committed.

It was at this point in time that I awoke. Sweat was pouring down my cheeks, although it might have been tears. The T-shirt I’d worn to bed was drenched in sweat, and I realized that I was shaking all over. The dream had been so real. I was terrified. “That could never happen in America,” I said to myself…”Or could it?”


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Note to Self

Dear Richard:

By the time you’re old enough to read this, you will probably be about three years old. I’m assuming that your parents have been pushing you the way many parents have been doing for a long time. It’s too bad because it doesn’t really give you much time to enjoy your youth, but we’ll get to that later.

First and foremost, be proud of your name. Don’t let anyone attach any kind of a nickname to it. If you wish to be called “Rich” or “Rick,” that’s fine. Anything else is out of the question for reasons you will learn at a later time. Second, never let anyone add a ‘y’ or an ‘ie’ to whatever shortened version of “Richard” you wish to be called. It’s fine when you’re very young, but the minute you hit first grade, it sounds childish and immature, and those are two things you do-not-want.

I want to talk about your parents for a minute. They brought you into this world at a time when things were pretty bad economically. They struggled to keep food on the table and in your stomach. They sacrificed many things for you and your sister, Marilyn. Don’t ever, ever forget that. After you have grown up and have your family, it will be a simple thing to put off going to see them or even making a telephone call. Don’t put it off and make those calls often. I didn’t but I’m depending on you to be a great deal more intelligent than I was. Remember, these are the people who gave you life.

Speaking of giving you life, there is another thing that I wish you would take to heart. Find a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque somewhere to worship as you choose. God is out there; He’s also with you every day of your life in everything that you do. If you believe in nothing else, believe that there is a much greater power than anything you have ever or will ever know. I call that power God, but you may feel free to call the power whatever you wish.

When you go to school, don’t be a jerk. There will be those around you who will want you to goof off and do just enough to get by. Don’t regard these people as your friends; they are not. Just because they don’t think school is important or it’s boring or whatever, don’t fall into that trap. Take advantage of every single course that’s offered. Sure, you’ll have some teachers who aren’t so good at their job, but maybe the course is important. If that’s the case, you always have the Internet as something that can be a supplement. Don’t fool yourself, Richard, education is critical to your life. Never be satisfied with just getting by. If you do that in school, you’ll do it in life and you really won’t be a happy camper if “getting by” is how you live.

I don’t know if college will be a big deal when you are older. It may be so expensive that only the rich can afford it, and your folks aren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to go to college, start in a community college. Better yet, go to work for a couple of years, preferably in the retail business. It will teach you a great deal about other people, give you a chance to save some money, and it might give you a better idea of what exactly it is you want to do. When you do go to college, don’t just ‘take’ a class because you have to. Sometimes, required courses are really boring, so try to find an instructor who loves what he or she is doing and give every course you take your very best. Remember, four-year colleges and universities are expensive places, particularly the ‘big name’ institutions. Even if you go to college and get a degree, that’s no guarantee of a job. What will help is what you did outside of your classes that’s important. Volunteerism, that is, not going to beach resorts or whatever on spring or winter breaks, but instead working for something like Habitat for Humanity or another worthy organization can be the difference in getting or not getting a job. Yep, I know this sounds dull and boring but it really will pay off for you later in your life.

When you get your first job, don’t think you’re going to be the president of the company in the next month or so. You’ll be starting on the lowest rung of the ladder. It’s up to you how many rungs you’ll climb. It’s also important to remember you meet the same people coming down as you do going up. As you climb those rungs, don’t step on others. Make allies, not enemies. Oh, sure, there will be some people who won’t like you no matter what. Don’t disregard them but be very careful around them. One other word of advice, preserve your integrity. It’s the one thing you have that differentiates you from everyone else. If you ever get into a situation where someone, company or individual, wants you to do something that you feel is not right, walk away. The minute you say “yes,” to something that will compromise you, you have given away your integrity. Don’t give away your integrity under any circumstance.

Someday, you’ll meet someone and you’ll fall in love. Don’t mistake making love with being in love. The person you’ll learn to cherish should be someone with whom you fall in love every time you see her. Respect her, honor her, and be faithful to her always. Trust me when I tell you that there will be a lot of temptation out there…forget about it. She is your light and your life; never, ever forget that.

I wish you well, little me. There is so much more for me to tell you, but that’s enough for now. May God Bless You and Keep You. May He make His Light to shine upon you, and bring you Peace.

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One sad night

Our View – Dick Bishop & Emily Doe

Just imagine if Brock Turner had been Black and a theoretical physics star at Stanford University…that poor bastard would be serving 14 years or more in a maximum security prison somewhere other than California. He might have a clean record, not even a parking ticket, but that’s the difference between being an outstanding athlete and white versus being a star academically and of color. Life sucks, but that’s the way things are in this world in which we live. To me, the most disgusting part of the entire episode is what Turner’s father had to say. In part his letter to the judge says that, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed of and worked so hard to achieve,” arguing that his son should receive probation rather than jail time. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus year of life.”

If ever a father “didn’t get it,” Turner’s dad is the shining example. Your kid was caught by a couple of grad students, and he was banging away at an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. I’m sorry dad, but your kid is a bit of a deviant. Now he’s a registered sex offender for life. So what did you teach him when you were “having the talk,” or perhaps you told him it was okay to take advantage of women in any way he could. Maybe you told him that he should get as much as he could in whatever way he wanted because women would love ‘it’ coming from a potential Olympic athlete. Clue pops: women are not to be disrespected; not to be taken advantage of; and certainly not to be abused by idiots such as you have raised. You say, “He will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile,” and I ask “Whose fault is that? “ Owning up, which I understand he never did, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions, which I gather he never did, and being accountable, which he never did, are sure signs of a mediocre person.

What follows is the letter that the victim read in court. I hope you will read the entire thing, but you probably won’t. Be prepared if you do…it’s not pretty. It opens with her response to Turner’s comment that his life has been ruined…ugh.

“A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

“See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All­ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.

“My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain the private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be. I did not return to work full time as I knew I’d have to take weeks off in the future for the hearing and trial, that were constantly being rescheduled. My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.

“I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.

“I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.

“You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.

“You cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.

“When I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over again she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “[Her sister] said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me? Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.

“You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.

“Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. But right now, you do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.

“Now to address the sentencing. When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness. My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context. I fought hard during this trial and will not have the outcome minimized by a probation officer who attempted to evaluate my current state and my wishes in a fifteen minute conversation, the majority of which was spent answering questions I had about the legal system. The context is also important. Brock had yet to issue a statement, and I had not read his remarks.

“My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured. Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public. He pushed me and my family through a year of inexplicable, unnecessary suffering, and should face the consequences of challenging his crime, of putting my pain into question, of making us wait so long for justice.

“I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft time­out, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women. It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence. Probation should be denied. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.

“Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s report, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity”. By definition rape is not the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.

“The probation officer factored in that the defendant is youthful and has no prior convictions. In my opinion, he is old enough to know what he did was wrong. When you are eighteen in this country you can go to war. When you are nineteen, you are old enough to pay the consequences for attempting to rape someone. He is young, but he is old enough to know better.

“As this is a first offence I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.

“The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.

“The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.

“What has he done to demonstrate that he deserves a break? He has only apologized for drinking and has yet to define what he did to me as sexual assault, he has revictimized me continually, relentlessly. He has been found guilty of three serious felonies and it is time for him to accept the consequences of his actions. He will not be quietly excused.

“He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.

“To conclude, I want to say thank you. To everyone from the intern who made me oatmeal when I woke up at the hospital that morning, to the deputy who waited beside me, to the nurses who calmed me, to the detective who listened to me and never judged me, to my advocates who stood unwaveringly beside me, to my therapist who taught me to find courage in vulnerability, to my boss for being kind and understanding, to my incredible parents who teach me how to turn pain into strength, to my grandma who snuck chocolate into the courtroom throughout this to give to me, my friends who remind me how to be happy, to my boyfriend who is patient and loving, to my unconquerable sister who is the other half of my heart, to Alaleh, my idol, who fought tirelessly and never doubted me. Thank you to everyone involved in the trial for their time and attention. Thank you to girls across the nation that wrote cards to my DA to give to me, so many strangers who cared for me.

“Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.

“And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”

May it never happen again. Unfortunately, we both know better, you and me.

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On more than one occasion I have lashed out at the United States Congress…and have done so with great relish. I remain convinced in no minor way that the Republican Party and, in no small part, many Southern Democrats have very quietly – denying ever so vehemently – been racist in their dealings with President Barack Obama. It’s a hell of an accusation, however, I can’t find any other concrete reason why a group of 435 men and women, supposedly mature men and women, cannot work with the leader of the free world.

In his recent book tour of the television programs, Mitch McConnell stated that dealing with Obama was like being lectured to by a teacher. It seems to me that is exactly how President Lyndon Baines Johnson accomplished as much as he did during his administration. Management styles aside, Congress is as weak a branch of the United States government as we have ever seen. What minor bills that are being passed are so minor as to have no impact on the majority of the citizenry, and major bills that should be out of committee and on the floor are stagnating in one committee tie-up after another. Not allotting monies to find a cure for the Zika virus is tantamount to denying research funds for the cure of polio or smallpox, and the resulting care that will be required to maintain a healthy environment for Zika babies will far exceed the $1.9 billion currently being requested. In addition, to deny this President the opportunity to name a Supreme Court justice is a travesty. Personally, I believe that if the next election sees another Democrat in the White House, the SJC candidates will be far more liberal than any candidate the current President would have ever submitted…and it will serve Congress right! Biting one’s nose to spite one’s face has never been good advice.

Perhaps the two-party system has outlived its usefulness. It appears that too many Congressmen are putting party ahead of both country and those they supposedly represent. A bigger problem is that this attitude is infecting the general population. Time was when the popular slogan was, “My country, right or wrong.” Today, that seems to have morphed into, “My party, right or wrong.” While it has been attempted many times in the past, efforts to initiate a third party have all failed because of party unity. Today, with the unfavorable ratings of both Presidential candidates, the time may well be ripe for a third party to move in and give the traditional parties a run for their money. This is more assuredly true with the GOP as opposed to the Democrats. For such a third party, the “Unity Party,” for example, to be established, a new set of ground rules would have to apply. First and foremost, is the matter of campaign financing. At the present time, it is a joke, and unless campaign finance reform undergoes major overhaul, congressional dysfunction will continue to sink into the morass of party politics. Who will stand up and be counted? The answer currently is not one goddamned Senator or Representative has the courage or the backing to do anything. In other words, we, the American people, have reached the point where we are at the mercy of the PACs and the lobbyists in our nation’s capital. Until such time as a small group of ex-military men and women bring about an open rebellion against their Senators and Representatives, nothing will change. Why “ex-military men and women?” Only they have seen the real truth of American politics. Only they have the courage to band together and have a mass appeal and impact. John Kerry tried it on his own and was swallowed up by the Washington machine. John McCain attempted it earlier with the same result. It will take a “band of brothers,” so to speak to have the impact that is required. Take note that even the Tea Party, whose politics I largely abhor, appears to be toeing the line of party before people.

But I have to ask, “If the two-party system has served us so well throughout our history, is it really broken or are we, the people, at fault for expecting too much of this large body? Do we even know what it is we really want?” Perhaps we have become a nation of such diversity that our melting pot of people has become a stew of sluggishness. Perhaps we don’t even know what it is we actually want, and Congress is throwing up its collective hands and saying that they don’t even know how to please some of the people some of the time. Is this a distinct possibility? Let me give you a few examples: There are currently 795 bills in Congress dealing with the Armed Forces. Education bills number 580.  For environmental protection, there are a measly 272. Do you see where I’m going? I didn’t bother to total the numbers of bills facing Congress, but after looking at a few in detail, I can see where the most scholarly of these people would begin to get bleary-eyed. “Read this and give me a one paragraph explanation of why I should vote yea or nay,” is something that probably is said to staffers and aides about fifty times a day…and then, do you trust them?

Sure, Congress is dysfunctional. It doesn’t have to be but it is. Until such time as members of the Senate and the House begin looking at legislation as good or bad not for their party but for the country, this dysfunctional attitude will continue. It’s time to put on your big boy panties ladies and gentlemen of our legislative branch and start doing what’s right for America, not what’s best for you and your little clan.

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All that build-up just for one stinking heart attack! Looking back, it hardly seemed worth the effort. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about what happened recently; neither do I intend to make this another po’ me, po’ me essay designed to get the “Oh you poor dear,” bullshit. We’ve been there, done that, and I gotta tell you that the T-shirt isn’t too bad.

No, this is going to be another of those goddamned lectures that we all used to cut when we were in college. This is one of those dreaded ancient professorial types who should have been named emeritus a long, long time ago and given some small administrative task that would keep him out of everyone’s hair but most importantly, keep him out of the friggin’ classroom.

You do have to admit that my qualifications to give this dull, boring, and sometimes nauseating pontification are pretty darn good. Hey, four heart attacks and made it through each one. I mean, think about it, where are you going to find qualifications like that? Oh, sure, you’ve got your double, triple, and quadruple bypass types, but they all have those long scars on their chests. Donald Trump would look at them and say, “Ah, you guys got caught. You’re no heroes to me. It’s the guys without the scars, still walking around; those are the ones I like.” It would just be his basic John McCain anti-hero speech turned upside down, inside out, and sideways.

Anyway, getting back to today’s (snore) little talk, I cannot help but wonder when this little heart attack began to build up. Yeah, that’s right, build up. Heart attacks, so I’m told, don’t just suddenly happen. “Oh my God, he had a heart attack? Died? He was so young. He used to play golf every weekend. Oh my God.” Okay, but did he walk the course or ride a cart? Was the golf course where he could smoke a few cigars and not worry about being nagged by his spouse? Did the rest of his week consist of sitting his ass behind a desk, perhaps even grabbing a quick lunch at the desk? Was he always the first one in the office and the last to leave? What were the external and internal stresses he was facing on a daily basis? How often did he see a doctor…and did he listen to what the doctor told him? Better yet, what did he tell the doctor about his life?

My last heart attack was in April 2002. After number three, I have to admit that I was pretty cautious for a number of years. Sure, I slipped up every now and again, perhaps as time went by, maybe a little more often than now and again. My weight slowly creeped up until my six foot, one inch frame was carrying over 260 pounds. During the past two years I had been told by my primary care doctor, pulmonary physician, and my cardiologist, “You have to lose weight.” I’d try…not all that hard, but I’d try. Finally, I decided – note who made the decision – that the weight wouldn’t come off no matter how much I exercised or how much I watched what I ate. Trips to the gym became a serious chore…but I went, not as often as I had been going, but I went. Walking down the hall became a task. Out of breath, I’d stumble into bed at night. All of this developed over a period of about two-and-a-half years. I’m not telling you that it takes that amount of time to build up to a heart attack. I am saying that in my own case, I would trace the beginnings of this heart attack back to 2014. Did I know I was in this position in 2014? Naw, of course not. I was almost 80 years old. At that age, everyone is short of breath; everyone has trouble walking down the hall. Everyone is exhausted every night, right? Wrong my friend, wrong, wrong, wrong! No one could see what was happening inside my body. In hindsight, I can say that plaque had begun to reach a point where it was allowing blood to be pumped through the heart, but one of the arteries was closing, not rapidly, but with every squeeze, a micron more of plaque was being added. It wasn’t until May 17th of this year that that particular artery, said, “Hey, Jack, I hate to let you down, but I gotta tell ya, I’m tired. I can’t do this stuff anymore. I’m gonna send you a message and it ain’t comin’ by snail mail.” Now, I don’t know if my arteries are as dumb as the rest of me, but this wasn’t “Hmm, pain in left side of chest, radiating down left arm, with sweating and someone pounding a sledge hammer around where the heart should be. I think I have a problem.” Uh-uh, and that’s the interesting thing about heart attacks…they are not required to send you a specific message that your heart and your life are under siege. I have yet to feel and hope that I never do feel what most think of when they speak of heart attacks.

Am I trying to terrify you with all of this? Yes and no. Yes, I’m trying to set you straight that heart attacks can affect anyone at any time. My assistant came into the office one day and announced that she’d just had her annual physical exam. “They told me I’d had a silent heart attack,” she said. Okay, it didn’t kill her and, in fact, she’d never known. But it gave her an awareness. Just be aware that your heart won’t betray you unless you betray it. Not smoking, regular exercise, and a healthy diet…every doctor and his brother will tell you these things are important. Others will say live fast, die young, and have a good looking corpse. Then there’s the middle ground: Be smart; take care of yourself as best you can; ensure that the doctors you have are people who are practical and offer practical advice.

And no heart attacks…you hear me?

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