Archive for April, 2017

Forget about race

Some neighbors down the street from us have a sign on their front lawn. It reads “Black Lives Matter.” These folks are not black. Obviously, they are concerned about the killing of blacks, I guess by police who, last year, appeared to get involved in a number of what seemed to be questionable – that’s one word for it – killings of black men, both young and old. It was a tough year, both for those who were shot and for those who did the shooting.

It seems to me that someone should inform the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, and any other powerful groups supporting the rights of members of the black community, that there is still a great deal of work to be done educating blacks not to kill one another. Murder in the United States seems to run right along racial lines. According to the FBI, of the 2,491 black murder victims in 2013, 2,245 of those killings were committed by other blacks. Before you think I’m being too much of a racist, let me add that of the 3,005 white people who were murdered, 2,509 were committed by whites. Isn’t it nice that we all seem to murder within our own race?

Now, I don’t want to bore you to death with statistics, but it seems to me that some are quite important. America, in 2015, had a population consisting of 77.1 percent white; 13.3 percent black, and; 5.6 percent Asian. According to the US Census Bureau, Hispanics may be of any race so they are included in the above figures. Personally, if I was of Hispanic origin, I would feel insulted not to be included as a race separate and apart from the manner in which the Census Bureau seems to view those of Hispanic origin…actually, I’d be really ticked off!

If blacks make up only 13.3 percent of the population, it seems disproportionate that they also make up 37.8 percent of the prison population, that is, according to the Bureau of Prisons report. The majority of prisoners, as one might expect are white, comprising 58.6 percent of our prison population. Asians account for 1.6 percent, and again, the Hispanics are not even categorized, and yet there are 22 Hispanic prison gangs identified by the Gang Identification Task Force.

This is not meant to be an indictment of any single race in the United States for its violence or propensity to commit crimes against one another. My purpose here is to simply state that while my neighbors down the street are to be complimented on the sign on their front lawn, it doesn’t go far enough. “All Lives Matter!”

“In 2015, The Washington Post launched a real-time database to track fatal police shootings, and the project continues this year. As of Sunday, 1,502 people have been shot and killed by on-duty police officers since Jan. 1, 2015. Of them, 732 were white, and 381 were black (and 382 were of another or unknown race). But as data scientists and policing experts often note, comparing how many or how often white people are killed by police to how many or how often black people are killed by the police is statistically dubious unless you first adjust for population.” The Post went on to note that when one adjusts population by race, black Americans are 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police officers.

According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population.

The Post survey also stated that “U.S. police officers have shot and killed the exact same number of unarmed white people as they have unarmed black people: 50 each. But because the white population is approximately five times larger than the black population, which means unarmed black Americans were five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.”

My point is very simple: Crime is crime. Killing is killing. It. Does. Not. Matter. Who. Is. Killing. Whom. It’s time for all Americans to stand up and say, “Enough is enough.” Let us take race out of the equation, and I will repeat myself…”ALL LIVES MATTER,” and get that through your heads!

Read Full Post »

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of It.” Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyham

Yes, it’s true. Once it leaves our mouths, it’s gone forever. Khayyham was a Persian poet who lived from 1048 to 1131. I cannot, for the life me, tell you how or who introduced his poetry to me. Since I was never a great fan of poetry, it must have been someone I admired. That and another verse have stuck in my mind for some time now, in large part, because of the truth, the severe truth of the words. They remind me of a story that you and I have heard countless times, nonetheless, you are about to hear it again.

There was a young boy whose temper was so fierce that when he was seven, his parent sent him to spend the summer with his grandparents on a farm, just to keep him – and them, I’m quite certain – out of trouble. The grandfather took it upon himself to cure the young child of his tantrums and maddening behavior. Since spankings and washing his mouth out with soap hadn’t worked the grandfather decided on a different strategy.

“Every time you get angry,” he told the young man, “I’m going to take you out to the barn and make you drive two long nails into the barn door.” The seven-year-old thought that sounded like fun, at least until he tried to do it. The hammer was too big, the nails too long, and the barn door was made of a very hard wood. Driving the nails became a terrible chore, but, the boy learned that this was a punishment about which he was not fond. As a consequence, and after a couple of summers, he learned to control his fierce temper and to manage his anger. One day, he went to his grandfather and said, “I don’t get as mad as I once did. Thank you for teaching me.” The farmer replied, “You have done so well that now you may remove two nails each day that you keep your temper under control.” The now 10-year-old thought that this, too, might be punishment, but he did as he was told. It wasn’t long before all of the nails had been pulled from the barn door. “Grandfather,” the boy queried, “I’ve pulled the nails, but the barn door now has many ugly holes. Isn’t that bad?” The old man smiled and said, “Think of those holes as the holes in the hearts of those at whom you were angry. Those holes are the pain that you caused others. You hurt them, and now, by taking the nails away you have left a hole in their heart. Feel free, if you wish, to fill the holes with wood putty.” The boy did as he was asked, and soon, all of the holes were filled. “I’ve filled the holes,” he said, “but it still looks ugly.” “Yes,” said the old man, “Those are the scars over the pain you inflicted. It can never go away.” The boy thought and thought, and the next summer, he told his grandfather, “I’m going to paint the barn door so that I won’t have to see the scars!” The grandfather just smiled, and the boy went to get a bucket of paint and a brush. The old man came out to see what his grandson was doing. “There,” the young man said, “that looks much better. The old man just smiled. The next morning, he noticed that the boy was again applying paint to the barn door. “What are you doing?” he asked. “I still know where the scars are,” the boy replied, “so I’m painting them over again.” “I cannot see where the holes were or where you patched them,” said the grandfather. “You will always see them, not matter how much you try to cover them up, because those are the holes and the scars that you made. For you, they will always be there.”

Perhaps that’s now how you heard the story, but if you, as a child, had a fierce temper – as did I – you heard some form of that tale. There’s a saying that I have on one of my T-shirts that reads, “Just because it pops into your head, doesn’t mean that it should pop out of your mouth.” I don’t know about you, but it took me some time to learn that lesson.

Just as I began this with words not my own, so let me end this piece on the same note:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. “Watch your words, they become actions. “Watch your actions, they become habits. “Watch your habits, they become character. “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Attributed to Frank Outlaw, Founder, Bi-Lo stores

Read Full Post »

My life has been saved by doctors. “Okay,” you say, “so what?” Stop and think about what I just said…my life has been save by doctors. On at least three occasions, I was in my primary care’s office, and he noticed something that had I allowed it to continue, would have taken my life. In only one of those cases had I gone to the doctor because I thought something was wrong. In the other two cases, he noticed something unusual and got me to the emergency room in one big fat hurry. Why am I telling you this? Well, on each occasion, I paid that doctor ten bucks. Sure, he was further reimbursed by my health insurance, but for how much? How much is a human life worth these days? In all three cases, I had a wife and three children to care for plus the usual debts that we all incur during our working years.

There was a time when doctors were thought to be the crème de la crème in terms of income, and at one time I suppose that might have had a ring of truth…not in the 21st Century. And many doctors will tell you it hasn’t been true for the better part of the last Century either. No, today, the big income boys – and girls, if you’re interested – are the health insurance executives, pharmaceutical CEOs, and the hospital administrators. Doctors are just the working stiffs who don’t do anything but save lives. Are they living below the poverty level? Come-on, of course not. Neither are they making the kind of money that you would think for the kind of work they perform. If you consider medical care as an industry, which it is, as wage earner doctors are about in the middle of the pack in the industry.

According to a 2014 article in The New York Times, “The base pay of insurance executives, hospital executives and even hospital administrators often far outstrips doctors’ salaries, according to an analysis performed for The New York Times by Compdata Surveys: $584,000 on average for an insurance chief executive officer, $386,000 for a hospital C.E.O. and $237,000 for a hospital administrator, compared with $306,000 for a surgeon and $185,000 for a general doctor. “ Now that income is nothing to sneeze at, but think of the comparison. The CEO of a hospital is making damn near twice as much as a general practitioner.

In a Boston Globe article last year, Elizabeth G. Nabel, President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, received total compensation of $5.4 million in 2014, the latest figures that are available. Another board chair of a major health care organization noted, “We must provide competitive wages and benefits in order to attract and retain the best individuals at a time when health care is undergoing sweeping change. The competition for excellent managers and leaders is especially strong at this time.” I’m sorry but the compensation for excellent managers and leaders has been strong since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. I come back to that 300:1 ratio, where the top dog is making 300 times as much as the worker drone, in this case, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who are putting in on the line every time a patient comes in. Let me give you just one example: I go into the hospital with chest pain. The on-call emergency room doctor orders blood tests to check my enzyme levels – if they are elevated, the doctor understands that I should be watched and another blood test administered in four hours. Now let us assume that the lab tech who is doing the testing is getting close to the end of his or her shift. S/he is exhausted because in order to make ends meet, s/he has a second job. S/he doesn’t read the lab results correctly and doesn’t pass them on correctly, thus showing that my enzymes are normal…oops, I am, quite possibly, having a heart attack. The doctor comes to me; tells me the test is fine, and discharges me. Driving home, the chest pains come back so severely that I actually die at the wheel, crash into several other cars, killing several other people, and all because some underpaid lab tech was so exhausted that the lab tests were misread. When there is an investigation who do you think is going to get nailed to the cross? It sure as the devil is not going to be that well-paid hospital CEO. More likely, it will be the lab technician and the emergency room doctor who relied on the test results and sent me home.

I have had the pleasure of working for some pretty fine people in my life. To the best of my knowledge, only one of them was a millionaire, and he didn’t make his fortune in higher education…although today, there are some multi-millionaire salaries being paid at some colleges and universities.

If you believe that hospital CEO’s make big bucks, take a hard look at what some of the big pharmaceutical heads wrap their greedy little fists around. In 2015, Johnson & Johnson paid Alex Gorsky $21.3 million. Ken Frazier of Merck & Company received $19.89 million. John C. Lechleiter of Eli Lilly was paid a paltry $15.6 million, and the list goes on and on. Health insurance chief executive officer of Cigna David Cordani drew down $17.3 million in 2015, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, $17.3 million, and Humana CEO, Bruce Broussard, $10.3 million. Meanwhile, your insurance rates and mine continue to jump beyond the inflation rate. It’s not going to doctors, nurses, or others right on the firing line. It’s going to so-called “excellent managers and leaders,” and that my friends is a bunch of baloney.

American health care is in a lot of trouble. Doctors are being told by their insurance plan companies just how many patients they need to see in a day to maintain their coverage by the plan. They are being dictated to by hospitals regarding how much they can charge for procedures. And if you want to blame one single group for the opioid crisis in this country, look to the big pharmaceuticals who, in 1986, went on an all-out marketing campaign to convince doctors that “their” opioids were not, repeat not, addictive. Man, are we in trouble or what?

Read Full Post »

There are problems, and then there are PROBLEMS. I have both. The biggies are my age, my knees, my back, my eyes, and the fact that my mind is slowly going to hell in a handbasket. There is little to nothing that I can do about these problems, ergo, that go into what I call the “Fuckit Bucket.” If there’s nothing that can be done, pull an Alfred E. Neuman (of Mad Magazine fame) and say, “What, me, worry?” The little problems, the ones that I can do something about, include getting enough exercise, taking medications on time and seriously, eating the right foods, finishing up all of my latch hook problems before I die, ibid the harvesting of this year’s garden, and…books before I go blind from glaucoma.

Books are my most pressing problem. Please don’t ask me why, but I own four Kindles. I have not read all of the books that are stored on any of them. If books and Kindles were an addiction, I would be considered and incurable addict…no hope. Take away one Kindle, and I’d go into ‘reader withdrawal.’ In my heart of hearts, I’m convinced that I will never get to read all of the books on all of my Kindles before I make my way to whatever lies beyond. Perhaps it will be The Reluctant Demon, the third in a trilogy by Mark Cain. He’s a very funny writer. Hell’s Super and A Cold Day in Hell are absolutely hysterical, and why I haven’t read the last is somewhat beyond me. It may be that when I see a new ‘prey’ book by John Sanford or something by Robert Ludlam, David Baldacci, Greg Isles, Michael Connolly, Lisa Scottoline, Brad Taylor, or any of more than two dozen authors, I can’t resist…c’mon Amazon, sock it to me…one click and I can own this sucker…and so I click.

Looking for a mystery, thriller, fiction or non-, I’m your guy. Just finished Steve Berry’s The Lost Order, a fascinating story about a horde of Southern Civil War stolen gold and silver that…nah, you’re going to get it and dig in yourself. A word of warning, however, don’t start this book after dinner or supper or whatever you call your evening meal. You may not fall asleep reading it, but you probably won’t get to work or school the next day either. This is a very well research and readable piece of fiction. Oh, and don’t forget to read just how much research he did to write this masterpiece.

There is something else you should know about my reading addiction…I didn’t always have one. In fact, as a “yute” – thank you, My Cousin, Vinny – I stayed away from books as though each and every one carried the plague. Shakespeare…I’d rather drink beer; Edgar Allen Poe…Oh, no, no, no. Arthur Conan Doyle…I’ll go play pool with Billy Boyle. Really, it wasn’t until I married in 1957…an English teacher, no less, that my interest in the written word began to grow. Oh, sure, George Khiralla, a literature Professor at Northeastern, had piqued my interest somewhat with the manner in which he brought Shakespeare to life, but that was George and that was one course, and we tore through the Bard’s plays at the rate of one-a-week, and if you didn’t read and didn’t understand, come the quiz on Friday, you were in deep do-do. Following back surgery shortly after we were married, Joan, my wife, brought home a few books from the library, among them, Allen Drury’s, Advise and Consent. Ouch, talk about getting hooked. The book was a political thriller that lasted 102 weeks in first place on The New York Times best seller list (I did not know that at the time). This was followed by book after book, and I suddenly found myself surrounded. I truly believe that it was the reading of so many different authors that enticed me into doing a bit of writing on my own. Did I ever want to be a published author of a successful book of some kind? Sure. Did it ever happen? Nope. Is there still a chance? You’ve got to be kidding. How could I ever become intelligent enough to do what James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, or Joel C. Rosenberg have done? It would take a fourth book by Mark Cain…Hell Freezes Over, before a book by me would ever appear.

Years ago, some first lady or other made it her cause to get kids reading. The slogan was “Reading is Fundamental,” with the first three letters of that last word emphasized. I just wished to hell she had been around in my younger days. Instead, I had to wait until I was older to read about the Civil War in books by Bruce Catton or The Civil War by Shelby Foote. I guess, by that time, I had already trod the battlefield at Manassas and seen some of the old cannon. By the time WWII ended, I had not yet become a ‘bookie,’ but trust me, I’ve read many since my addiction began. Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Ken Follett’s Jackdaws are just two that come immediately to mind.

There is one thing that I know for certain…I will never read every single book I’d like to read before my time on this earth is up. Perhaps my idea of Heaven would be lying in the big brown bear chair, floating among the clouds, some soft music in the background, and me reading book after book after book for all eternity…man, what a…death.

Read Full Post »

The Flower Thief

There are three major elements to our back yard. One of these is an extensive garden of flowers. A second is our in ground swimming pool, not too large but neither is it too small. The third element is our vegetable garden with ground beds and raised beds. In the summer, the back yard is a delight of fragrant roses, lilies, and other assorted flowers. The pool is, generally, crystal clear. The vegetables are growing and it’s a nice place to be. The front yard is also quite beautiful. Juli has planted close to 700 bulbs of daffodils and tulips, hyacinth and god-only-knows-what else. Midway down the brick walk and set to the left of the front door is our lamp post, surrounded by a flock of daffodils that looks impenetrable – trust me, it’s not – but will soon be blessed with tulips, I hope.

Directly in front of the house is a planting. Juli has also filled much of this area with bulbs – thus, the more than 700. Many of these are now in blossom, including many of the tulips. “Okay,” you’re saying, “get to the point.” Simply put, some son-of-a-bitch came to the front of the house and cut a bunch of tulips for him or herself. You want tulips, come to the front door, knock, and ask. It’s a very simple request. Could they have done that and we didn’t answer the door because we were out? Sure, it’s possible, but then, you don’t cut the flowers, you come back another day. The fact that they were cut with scissors is rather obvious, and, quite frankly, it really ticks me off.

I really shouldn’t be surprised that someone would simply walk up to the front of the house and cut flowers for themselves. After all, that seems to confirm what I believe is the attitude of many people these days. “I see it; I want it; I’ll take it; and if you stop me, you’re a hater…or worse.” People appear to think only of themselves in the 21st Century. Someone ahead of you is driving at the speed limit but you wish to go faster? No problem, just ram them or honk your horn, or run them off the road, or better yet, shoot the dumb bastard! The teacher gives your kid a poor mark on a report card, either for a class or a deportment rating – do they still do that? – and who gets questioned? Certainly not your kid. Your kid is perfect. The teacher is an idiot. Teachers aren’t what they used to be, et cetera, et cetera. Your kid is one of those who plays for three outs…in right field…and a single time at bat…and still gets a trophy for participation. What the hell is that all about? The light turns green and the person behind you immediately starts honking the horn…is there a bloody fire somewhere or something? Did you ever hear of the poem, “Patience?” It goes like this: “Patience is a virtue, find it if you can…seldom in a woman; never in a man.” It seems that today, it’s “never” in both sexes. Of course, that light story has two sides: If you’re the second car and the one in front doesn’t move because the telephone he or she is talking on is more important than driving, perhaps one should remind that driver that this you’re on a road, not in an office or sitting in the kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong, I like people. I enjoy most people I meet. I have a number friends who attend the same gym I attend, and while we don’t invite each other to dinner, we enjoy each other’s company. That’s me. There are others who are not interested in socializing, and that, too, is fine by me, but through it all, you don’t just walk into someone’s yard and cut yourself a bouquet of their flowers. I may have told you the story of the woman in Wellesley who lived across the street from the Babson College campus. Men from the physical plant department had been putting fall flowers at the two entrances to campus, and when break time came, they took theirs. Imagine their surprise when they returned from break to find this woman loading a wheelbarrow with the plants they had just put in the ground. When questioned, the woman was incensed. She began to chew the men out because they told her that she was stealing. “Babson has plenty of money, and there are plenty of plants on your truck,” she told them. It wasn’t until one of them took out a cell phone and told her he was calling the Wellesley Police that she dumped the wheelbarrow and went back across the street. I really don’t know whether she came back under the cover of darkness and stole more plants or not. To put things somewhat in perspective, Wellesley is a somewhat snooty town (with no reason to be so), and the section of town where the College is located is also home to some of the more expensive abodes and across the street from the local country club…tennis courts – in and outdoor, swimming pool, and, obviously, the full 18-hole golf course…my dear!

The whole thing just pisses me off. What’s yours in yours and what’s mine is mine. If you wish to ask me to share, I might and I might not, but you will, at least, have asked. Had our flower thief asked, Juli would probably have handed her a vase with water, along with a pair of scissors…oh, that’s right, she or he had scissors…how silly of me to forget. Thoughtfulness, not thievery, gets rewarded.

Read Full Post »

Spring comes to visit

Three days ago, spring came to visit. I say visit because in New England one never knows if spring has come to stay in mid-April, or if spring is just pretending…you know, “Hi, thought I’d drop by for a while,” and then…bazinga, right after the seedlings go in the ground…oops, late frost…kills everything and ya just have to start all over…again.

I swear April and October can be the most fickle months on the calendar. According to the old farmer…not his almanac, just some old farmer I happened to run into one day at the farmer’s market. Well, there again, you never know. He was dressed up like a farmer, with the LL Bean overalls, straw hat, and pig boots…the high ones…so if ya stick your foot in pig shit, you don’t sink in ‘til it goes just over the boot top and gets inside your boots…you know the ones…might even own a pair. Anyway, he’s the one, come to think of it, who told me that in New England, you generally have only 186 days to plant, feed, and harvest a garden crop of any kind. Come to think of it, that sumbitch was selling bananas ‘n blood oranges along with other stuff, so maybe he really wasn’t a farmer after all. But…I’m getting away from April and October so I best get back to tellin’ ya about those fickle months. When the second or third week of April rolls around and you’ve nothing but a few showers, and the daffodils have popped ‘n the tulips have buds, and the dogwoods are looking mighty fine, you just might think it’s okay to put those little seedlings in the ground…and if you’re a gambler, I guess you could do that…me, I’m not a gambler. Our seedlings will stay under the grow lights or on the bow window ledge until the early part of May.

They’s promisin’ us some rain this weekend, but it won’t be the kind that’ll bring “May flowers” – don’t know what damn fool wrote that, but I’m bettin’ a whole pile of money was made. Nope, this is goin’ to be that cold rain, the kind you get in mid- to late-November, early-Deember. I just hope it doesn’t rain hard enough to knock some of the buds off the flowers. Since the hyacinth and the tulips are already opening, I guess I shouldn’t worry too much. Since I talked to ya last, about a paragraph ago or such, the daffodils around the lamp post have really opened up. Prob’ly some kid on his or her way to school will break off a bunch for the teacher, els’n on the way home from school will grab some for Mom. I don’t have a problem with that. Hell, if they’d asked, I prob’ly would’a said no anyway.

So April’s one of those fickle months where you’re torn between putting plants in the ground, starting your seeds outside or just holding back. Thankfully, we only had three or four days that were tempting, and I didn’t give in. May’s only a week and a half away, so might’s well wait. Now, as far as October goes, that’s another one of those damn fickle months. Some years you can actually get a last swim or two down at the ocean…bay side, of course…ocean side cools off too damn fast. Other years, you’ve got the parka out in the first week, the goofy hat with the ear flaps the second week, and by the end of the month, you can be looking at an early snow. New England really is a great place to live, but it’s like Mark Twain said, “If ya don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” It sure can change fast.

If ya don’t think things can change fast up here in the Northeast, let me tell ya about last year. By the time summer ended in 2016, much of New England was suffering from a severe drought…wasn’t quite as bad as California, but it was pretty bad for the folks living around here. Rivers were off their banks by four or more feet. The water department told us we couldn’t use our wells because they drew from the same aquifer, and ya didn’t even rinse the dinner dishes afore ya put ‘em in the washer. Yep, it was pretty darned bad. Then December, January, and February were warm but not wet. Fact is, with only a couple of exceptions, our winter was pretty dry. March came along and solved the drought problem…rain, aw hell, it rained and rained and rained and we got more ‘n seven and a half inches. The old drought-o-meter dropped like a rock. We’ve gone from ‘severe drought’ to ‘dry,’ whatever the hell that means. Right now, things are looking pretty good for the planting season.

Time to wind up this little whatever-you-call-it. Oh, it looks like this will be the second year in a row that we won’t open the pool. As much as I love the water, love to swim and all, I’m just getting too old and achy for it to be cost effective. If that sounds funny, let me tell you that I could spend darn near a week at a hotel for what the pool costs to open, keep clean, and close…and it’s-just-not-worth-the-aggravation.

Until next time, keep the faith.

Read Full Post »

I don’t want to say anything but when a felon is convicted of ten counts of sexual assault and one count of object rape, and the judge calls him “an extraordinarily good man,” there is something wrong with our judicial system. That’s exactly what happened in a case in Provo, Utah. Judge Thomas Low heaped praise on the former Mormon bishop before sentencing him up to life in prison for his actions. According to the Associated Press, “Prosecutor Ryan McBride speculated that Low had been swayed by the more than 50 letters referencing Vallejo’s character as well as Vallejo’s brother’s testimony, which compared the rapist to Jesus, maintaining they were both wrongfully convicted.” Compared him to Jesus? What is wrong with these people?

Victims of sexual assault are “VICTIMS!” They do not go into court wanting to tell their stories of how they were groped, raped, battered, or too drunk to know what was going on. They are not sluts or whores or any other derogatory term that some use. They are “VICTIMS,” and should be treated as such. When Canadian federal judge, Robin Camp, asked a victim, “Why didn’t you just keep your knees together,” referred at one point to the victim as “the accused,” and asked later why she didn’t just let her bottom drop into the sink so she couldn’t be penetrated, he was forced to resign.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I know what it feels like to be raped. How could I? I’ve never been in a situation where something like that could or would occur. Can a male be raped? Of course he can. As I understand it, this is not uncommon in some criminal detention facilities. Never having spent a great deal of time in one, I just wouldn’t know. I’ve never been robbed at gunpoint either, so I don’t know the terror that that might hold. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s impossible for me or any member of my sex to know what horrible terrors must go through a woman’s mind when she is being physically assaulted and penetrated by a complete stranger who is, in effect, exercising control over her body. The only thing that I can say is…nothing…I can say nothing because I don’t know.

Unfortunately, even though it is the 21st Century…repeat that to yourself…”this is the 21st Century.” We have come so far, in so many fields…science, medicine, technological changes, invention after invention, all just within the past century, and yet, sociologically, we live in the dark ages. We’re still back where it’s okay for the caveman to bonk the cavewoman on the head with a club, drag her wherever the hell he pleases, and fucks her. Don’t be disturbed by the language, because that’s the way it was and, quite frankly, there are still those who believe it is okay today. Granted, they are warped, sick, psychopathic assholes, but that doesn’t matter either because they live in the 21st Century. The larger problem is that some of those males are in law enforcement, positions of power in the workplace or school place, and some of them are actually sitting on the bench in our legal system.

“She brought it on herself…by flirting…by wearing that outfit…by getting drunk…because I heard she was a slut, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.” Bullshit! I don’t care if she walks naked through the hallways and sits down to take notes in Economics 101, she is not meat on a hook. If she wants to get laid, she’ll say so. If she wants her boobs or her butt squeezed, she’ll say so. Yes, this is an exaggerated example; of course it is, but goddammit, if it takes absurdity to get a message into someone’s thick skull, then absurdity I will use.

Have I ever pushed to get a little sex? Sure, when I was 17 or 18, sex was always on my mind…well, along with working at the A&P, doing chores around the house, getting ready and then going to college, and a whole pile of other things…but yeah, sex was reasonably important. Then I grew a little older, took more responsibility for my life and the lives of others, like workers in the workplace, my wife, my growing family, making a living, et cetera, and while sex certainly didn’t take a back seat, I, as with all of the people I know, didn’t go around ‘hunting’ for something or someone to be forced into placating our sexual desires. Unfortunately, there are people – men – out there who do exactly that. “If she’s female and I want her, I’m strong, and she’s weak, and I can have her.” And the answer is, “No, you cannot. You cannot because she doesn’t want you, probably doesn’t even know you exist, and what you are contemplating is not acceptable in an advanced society.”

Not only is sexual assault not acceptable, but blaming the victim for its happening is also unacceptable, whether that blame comes from innuendo, direct remarks, or anything…VICTIM blaming should just not be done…at any level. Thomas Low and Robin Camp are only two examples of the thought processes that go on in the heads of many men, everywhere. It’s difficult to comprehend, I know, but these are the same people who don’t see anything wrong with paying a man more for doing the identical job that a woman is doing…and they’re wrong! The Declaration of Independence states, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” It was wrong when they wrote it, and it is wrong today. It is wrong because while some say it was the “generic” men of which they were speaking, more realistically, it was white males. Blacks and women were considered chattel, and, as unfortunate as it may be, that still holds true today. And it is WRONG!

Read Full Post »

I often wonder if some of the folks I encounter on a daily basis have cases of terminal stupidity. The say that stupidity kills. Unfortunately, it has many stages through which it must pass before the final, fatal conclusion.

I made up a song for my kids. It goes like this:

If ya phone me and yer drivin,’ I’ll hang up. If ya phone me and yer drivin,’ I’ll hang up. If ya phone me and yer drivin, then ya may not be arrivin.’ If ya phone me and yer drivin,’ I’ll hang up.

If you’re texting and you’re driving, you will die. If you’re texting and you’re driving, you will die. If you’re texting and you’re driving, then you will not be arriving. If you’re texting and you’re driving, you will die.

I really don’t care if you can drive hands free. If you are driving a vehicle, your mind should be focused on driving that vehicle 100 percent. I am so sick and tired of seeing people, particularly women – and screw you if you think that’s sexist, because I don’t care – driving these huge SUVs, and chatting on the telephone…not hands free. The other day, one woman in the left hand lane as we approached an intersection, decided she wanted to make a right. She simply cut off another driver and made the turn, all the while gabbing away on her phone…stupidity strikes again. You’ll be pleased to learn that there are two sides to that particular type of stupidity. Here’s the smart side: The gentleman who did our plowing last year will also be taking care of our lawn this summer, stopped by this morning to clarify exactly what needs to be done. Before he left, he asked, “Do you mind if my truck stays in the driveway for a few minutes while I make some calls? I don’t drive and talk on the phone.” I thought Juli was going to hug him. This man has two children, ages 11 and 13. I hope to hell what he’s doing is also serving as a teaching moment for his kids.

People do stupid things; there is no getting around it. Have you ever run into these two: You’re in the supermarket. You turn down an aisle. Half way down, two people are talking; one of their carts is heading north, the other south. Where are they? Side by each, chatting away and blocking everyone else from going either north or south. You say, “Excuse me,” and they look at you like you have three heads. I don’t say, “Excuse me,” anymore; my new catch phrase is, “Coming through,” said loudly enough to let them know that they are screwing things up for others.

Stupidity, like just about everything else, knows no gender, race, or religion. I mean, when the Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs, a brain surgeon no less, tells his first meeting with staffers that, “…up here (pointing to his head) everyone has a brain.” Gee, Ben Carson, are you certain of that? He goes on to elaborate that he can drill holes in people’s heads and make them smarter. Ben, Booby, this isn’t a medical convention; it’s housing and urban affairs…they couldn’t care less. What are your plans for getting rid of urban blight? How are you going to bring people back to the cities? Give us a plan, Ben, don’t take us to medical school. We wanted to be in medicine, we would have worked for NIH, except that appears to be going on the chopping block.

The ones I really love are the parents who feel that their children are perfect. They will go in to a school and lambast a teacher for giving their kids a poor grade or those who are called in to school to be told that their children are disruptive or are bullying. When teachers or administrators attempt to explain, the parents go into bullying mode, thus proving that even stupid apples don’t fall far from the stupid tree. These are generally the same people who go into the “Ten or less items” line in the supermarket with a full carriage and then get pissed off at the cashier for asking them to use another line.

Canadian border guards are generally very friendly. I was bringing a busload of conventioneers back from a conference in Montreal. I had asked everyone to have identification available as we approached the border crossing. Folks were in a jovial mood and all, with the exception of my boss, appeared to be ready to comply. When the guard got on, my boss shouted, “Don’t tell ‘em about the drugs.” We were all ushered off the bus, our luggage and we searched and delayed for several hours. No one in the office spoke to the boss for about a month. What the others from other institutions thought about his remarks I never did learn. A postscript to that is that he never did apologize to any of us for his stupidity.

One that happened to me recently could have been fatal. I was coming home from the gym and was stopped waiting for the traffic coming toward me to stop when the light changed. It’s traditional that one pulls into the middle of the intersection and when the light turns yellow, I watch and then make my turn. The light turned yellow, the two lanes coming toward me stopped and I began my turn. One of the cars behind those that were stopped pulled out and tried to go through what was now a red light. I had to slam on my brakes, but this dumb SOB came within inches of hitting my passenger side. We were both stopped, and he just threw up his hands. Suffice it to say, I threw up only one hand…with only one finger extended. What I couldn’t get over was the way he pulled out from a line of cars that were already stopped.

Stupidity is everywhere, on the highway, in the market, at our schools, on Little League fields, and in our everyday life. You’ve seen them, you even know them, and who knows, maybe…you’re even one of them!

Read Full Post »

I came in here to write. Sitting in the ‘big bear’ chair, reclined back at a 45 degree angle…well, may not quite that deep, but you understand. An idea occurred for an essay to add to the blog, and if you think I can remember what the heck it was, you’re a better person than I. How the hell can an idea disappear when one is just walking down the hall? Is that aging or is it a part of the early onset dementia that I’m told by my neurologist I have…hmm, I’d really like to settle on the aging. The dementia will come all too soon, and then, if I write at all, it will just be gobbledygook. I’m quite certain there are a couple of readers out there who are thinking, “Gad, all he writes now is crap that is nonsensical…so what else will be new?”

They are, of course, correct. The four basic premises of writing are clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity. It’s a quote from William Zinsser. He died a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 92. He is best remembered as the author of On Writing Well, a book that I, unfortunately, never read. In reading about the man, however, I find that we do have a couple of things in common. He thought that you should write as though you enjoy what you’re writing…and I do. I don’t believe that there is a word anywhere on this blog that I didn’t enjoy putting to paper…or whatever the hell it is they call what you’re reading. Another thing we agree upon is to write what interests you, and once more, Zinsser and I are in the same camp. Oh, yes, and we both, well had in his case, have in my own, the problem of glaucoma. It’s a degenerative eye disease that eventually causes blindness. Hard to know which is going to get me first, going nuts or going blind.

Zinsser was not the idea, however, that occurred to me in the ‘big bear’ chair, nor was it the premises of writing. It could have been something about Donny Trump’s first foray into the world of military might and his bombing of a Syrian airfield. Yes, it is something to be applauded for the terrible chemical weapons attack that Bashar al-Assad launched against his own people. It took courage to act as decisively as Mr. Trump did. It was no more saying, “Stop it, Bobby, stop it, Bobby,” with no further action. Trump just had to see the pictures of children dying in agony to say, “Bullshit, Bobby,” and give little Bobby – in this case, little Bashy – a taste of his own medicine. In my mind, it was a pretty good knee-jerk reaction to a horrific criminal act, but I can’t help but wonder about the long-term strategy for dealing with this insane dictator. Obviously, initial reactions from the leaders of the world are something akin to the manner in which our own Congress behaves. The guys who like us think it was a great move; the guys who don’t like us think it was an act of aggression, or as one Russian deputy said, “This could lead to armed conflict with America.” Perhaps that’s what concerns me a bit. How far are we willing to go? UN Ambassador Nikki Haley indicated in her remarks that the US is willing to go further. What happens if Russia decides to take out a US airbase in retaliation for our strike in Syria? Where does this escalation end? What the hell do I care? Well, I do, because I’d like to see the world in one piece for my grandchildren and their offspring. In addition to which, I don’t believe the Russians are any more interested in universal annihilation that we are…the North Koreans, eh, but not the Russians.

Then, again, I don’t believe that was the idea that occurred to me while lounging in the ‘big bear’ chair – I just like saying that. It could also have been something about our upcoming gardening escapade, but you read all about that recently. Juli did, however, find a Topsy-Turvy tomato planter downstairs this morning and brought that to show me. We’ve decided that instead of tomatoes, we’re going to try bell peppers in this upside down grower. This is what we are now calling our year of experimentation. Bucket—growing of potatoes and cucumbers, experimentation with cantaloupes in New England’s short growing season, and now peppers in a tomato planter. Ye gads, next year it will probably be hydroponics!

Perhaps it was just the beauty of this particular day that I was thinking about when I decided to trundle down the hall. We’ve had damn near two solid weeks of grayness, mixed precipitation which covered the ground at one point, and we have accumulated more than seven inches of rain. The only good part about that is that our drought is no longer. It’s not just been eased; it no longer exists…now that’s when you know you have had one-giant-shitload-of-rain.

Well, as the Brits might say, I’d better just piss off until and if ever I remember what the hell I came down the hall to write about. Let me leave you with the fortune from cookie I received at Cheng Du yesterday, “Be willing to believe in anything that is good.” Kind of a nice way to end this, isn’t it?

Read Full Post »

I find it difficult to understand why Senate Democrats would block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination when they all know that it will just lead to the ‘nuclear option’ that will allow the man to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. This is just the child-like behavior that Republicans showed over the past eight years of the Obama administration. It seems to me that the two-party system in America has degenerated into a bunch of name-calling, infantile, assholedness that we often attribute to police state countries in other parts of the world. Perhaps the part that bothers me most is that the American public appears to be content to tolerate this behavior on the part of our national law makers…and that my friends is no less than absolutely frightening.

Are the Democrats so fearful the Justice Gorsuch will sway the balance of power that they have to use anything they have to prevent his nomination from passage? Yes, of course it’s true that he will be a voice of conservatism on the Court, just as Merrick Garland’s appointment would have made the Court one that would lean more to the liberal side of the aisle. However, I have to assume that the successful block of Garland’s nomination was nothing more than a cry-baby attempt by conservatives to further their agenda of diluting any kind of legacy that would be left by Obama. Certainly, Trump’s executive orders and the House’s idiotic attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act seem to be designed to ensure that there is no Obama legacy to be undone.

Call me naïve or dumb or whatever you wish, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that 435 men and women, sent to Washington to do the very best for this country by composing, comparing, and enacting legislation that will benefit this nation as a whole, cannot do so. Sure, I understand that what the people in Maine want, the people in Mississippi want, and the people in Montana, Minnesota, and Massachusetts may want, but goddammit, somewhere along the line, there should be things that people in our 50 states can say, “Well, yeah, I’m not crazy about it, but I can live with it.” This is not the case today in the Houses of Congress. It’s “my way or the highway, and fuck you very much!” and that does not serve the best interests of anyone in any part of the country. Congress has become too self-absorbed with what it considers to be its own importance. To top it off, we now have a person in the White House who encourages this type of discord, although for what reasons, it’s hard to imagine. Congress can censure its own members, but the only way that America can benefit is if we throw some of these people out of office and let some new folks attempt to understand the word, “compromise.”

I can hear the politicians now…”Oh, you don’t understand how government works. You don’t realize the pressure we’re under from our constituents to stand our ground.” Perhaps not, but what I do realize is this: Too many of you have been in office too long, and you have turned government into your own political play thing, that does nothing for the nation, but that lines your pockets in ways that are unimaginable to the vast majority of your constituents. Do you think I’m joking? Time Magazine, in a January, 2014 story, wrote, “The Center for Responsive Politics analyzed the personal financial disclosure data from 2012 of the 534 current members of Congress and found that, for the first time, more than half had an average net worth of $1 million or more: 268 to be exact, up from 257 the year earlier. The median for congressional Democrats was $1.04 million and, for Republicans, $1 million even.” In that same year, the median income of Americans was $51,939. Doesn’t that make you stop and think that perhaps members of Congress cannot possibly understand what it’s like to be an average American citizen? They listen and nod their heads and commiserate with their folks back in East Bumfuck or wherever, and then they return to Washington, dining at Fiola Ware, Bourbon’s, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, or The Source, usually at the expense of some lobbyist or other who will get them to vote for a bill that is actually at odds with what the interests of their constituents happen to be…but they tried…they were just overwhelmed by their fellow Congressional leaders or members of their party…and it’s all a bunch of bullshit…just so they can pocket a few more bucks or increase their portfolios.

Am I a cynic? No, that’s not cynicism, it’s realism. I’ve been on this earth for over eight decades, and in that time, I’ve learned one or two things about political leaders. The first of these things is that they are overly impressed with their own self-importance. A second thing is that they may have begun their political careers hoping to change things for the better, but that they soon become corrupted by those who were in office before them and took them under their wing, and if they refused to be taken “under a wing,” they were soon out of office and never even saw the bus that they had been thrown under by their ‘friends.’ Remember what Mark Twain said, “We have the best government that money can buy,” and by God, he was absolutely right.

My political ambition never carried me farther than being vice president of a Little League, and seeing the back-biting and chicanery that happened in something as low-level as that was enough to convince me that getting into the real political arena was somewhat akin to shoveling shit against the oncoming tide…you just won’t win.

I love America with all my heart and soul. It is the greatest country on earth. It’s a land where people are free to pursue their dreams, and whether they succeed or fall flat on their collective faces, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they are free to get up and start their pursuit all over again. Yes, I love my country, but sometimes I wonder just how we ever came to this sorry impasse that we call the United States Congress.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »