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Archive for the ‘Accountability’ Category

The way it looks to me is that, as a nation, we’ve just about come full circle. We began by acclaiming a man who couldn’t tell a lie to a man who doesn’t seem to be able to tell the truth and who lost the popular election. Kind of a tough one to take on an empty stomach, isn’t it…hell, even on a full stomach, it sorta makes you want to empty out! Of course, we didn’t have television, social media, or hackers of all kinds in good old George’s day. Heck, things were so hush-hush back in that time that even today, we do not know the names of all six of President Washington’s infamous Culper ring of spies. The way things are today, it appears that all you have to do is give the incumbent a classified briefing, and after he tells Putin, he’ll find a way to put it out in a Tweet. I can see it now, “Mika Brzezinski, you low IQ co-anchor of the most low-rated program on television, let me tell you what I just told Vlad…” and he’d go on to reveal more of America’s secrets.

In announcing that the US was pulling out of the Paris Accord, Trump noted, “We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.” Excuse me, but there was no such thing as negotiation. Each nation set its own commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and those commitments were non-binding. One of the real kickers was his announcement that, “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” That’s just not true. An article in the Washington Post says, “There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.”

In spite of all of Trump’s lies and his tweets that demonstrate his insecurities, narcissism, bullying tactics, and his willingness to throw friends as well as former friends under the proverbial bus, Trump is not the first egotist to occupy the Oval Office. Jack Kennedy, somewhat of a roué in his own right, reflected to an aide about Lyndon Johnson, “You are dealing with a very insecure, sensitive man with a huge ego. I want you literally to kiss his fanny from one end of Washington to the other. While doing a bit of research for this little essay, I came across this interesting point, “In his memoirs, longtime Johnson aide George Reedy painted an ugly portrait of LBJ, accusing him of being a womanizing, perverted drunkard who delighted in having conversations with people while he sat on the toilet for the sole purpose of making them uncomfortable and bullying his staff to the point of sadism. Johnson was especially fond of whipping out his manhood, which he’d dubbed “Jumbo,” in mixed company. There is even a story, possibly apocryphal, that he urinated on a Secret Service agent’s leg, claiming it was his “prerogative.” Johnson’s behavior could be so reprehensible that it has been suggested that he was likely mentally ill, possessed of more “‘grandiose narcissism” than any other president in history.” Can it be that history might be repeating itself on an even grander 21st Century scale?

While his supporters appear to approve of his “fighting spirit,” what Donald Trump is demonstrating is a lack of presidential qualifications. As Maine Senator, Susan Collins, said, “The President of the United States should not have to dignify remarks made about him.” Every President, from George Washington on, has had to suffer the “slings and arrows” of an outrageous press. From William Howard Taft’s weight to James Madison’s height – he stood a magnificent 5’4” – and from Jack Kennedy’s womanizing to Richard Nixon’s Watergate antics, US Presidents have come under fire from all sides.

It is apparent from his inability to handle any type of criticism that Donald Trump doesn’t really know what the hell he’s doing in the Office of the President. Perhaps the Russia investigation will blow over. Perhaps the lies he’s told about James Comey and others will pass like the clouds overhead. Perhaps he will not lead us into another war, this time with nuclear abandon that will destroy the world. Perhaps none of this will happen, but I can almost guarantee that by the time Donald Trump leaves the White House, America will need decades, if not a new Century, to correct and repair the damage that he will have done to this nation, its people and its image around the world. He gets my vote for America’s number one homegrown terrorist. By his actions, he has denigrated this nation in the eyes of the rest of the world and made the Office of the President, a laughing stock.

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Individual responsibility. You, yes, you, are accountable for actions taken in your life. And every action you take has a consequence. Or, to quote Sir Isaac Newton, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Study hard, you get an A+ on the test. Slam your fist into a wall, it’s going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch and you stand a good chance of breaking some bones. Take certain drugs while you are ill or in pain, you will feel better or get well. Continue to take some of those same drugs, you will become addicted and chances are pretty good that you will die.

Okay, so perhaps I took a bit of liberty with poor old Sir Isaac, but do you see what I’m saying? You are responsible for your actions, particularly when it comes to taking drugs in what today we are calling a world-wide opioid epidemic. If you are an adolescent or an adult and doing drugs has been your “thing” in life, great, that’s something that you have elected to do, and you are probably aware of the consequences of your actions. If you’re strung out all the time, you may not give a damn about the outcome. To hell with your family and friends who care about you because you’re doing what you want to do. Besides, if you happen to overdose, some EMT will probably have some naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, to bring you around…maybe…or maybe not. So, if you wish to continue to get high on Percocet, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, or perhaps heroin because it’s become cheaper than some of those prescription medications, you just go ahead. I would remind you of one thing…you are the one who elected to continue to use opioids.

For those of you who may know someone with an opioid addiction, please, please do not give me excuses for their addiction. Yes, I’m certain that they had pain. Yes, I know that the doctor prescribed the drugs to which they are now addicted. Yes, I know the prescriptions ran out but by that time they were hooked. Yes, I know that they turned to the street drug, heroin, because it was cheaper and more available than Oxycontin. Yes, I know, I know, I know. However, who chose to continue taking the drugs? Who chose the feeling of euphoria over saying, “Wait just a minute here. I’m gonna be in some kind of trouble if I don’t knock this off?” It’s called individual responsibility. It’s called not-making-excuses-for-a-bad-decision. Oh, we can blame Purdue Pharma for creating the drugs, Oxycodone and Oxycontin as an alternative to morphine, codeine, Percodan, or Percocet. And we can blame our doctors who prescribed the pills for the pain, but…when it comes right down to the bottom line, did that individual really need to take something as powerful and addictive as Oxycontin? I have had over twenty surgeries in my life. My back has been invaded three times, both of my shoulders have been opened and closed, as have my knees, elbow, wrist, hand, and on, and on, and on. After my first knee surgery, I was given Percocet. It was terrific…took away the pain and the world was a great place…whoopee. I didn’t move my bowels for damn near a week, and when, after multiple doses of laxatives…well, I won’t tell you just how bad it was. When I asked the doctor why that had happened, he had one word…”Percocet.” No two ways about it, Percocet is a great drug, but I really would prefer not to have the cramps that I suffered getting away from it.

When Oxycontin came on the market, one of the advantages being pushed by Purdue Pharma was that it was “abuse resistant.” Later, when the company had been given the go ahead to create 80 and then 160 mg time release pills, its marketing materials claimed that the potential for addiction was “less than one percent.” Many articles have been written about how Purdue Pharma duped the FDA, built dossiers on doctors more likely to prescribe opioids, and segmented the country for its promotional campaigns to increase its profits. If you would like to read more about Purdue Pharma, I invite you to Google them but I will warn you ahead of time, I believe they bring ethical behavior to a new low.

Pharmaceutical companies and doctors who freely prescribe opioids as a pain medication are such a small part of the epidemic in my own mind that I just cannot bring myself to write more about them. Certainly, I have only my own experiences to go by, what some may call a single case study, but those people who allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of easy pain elimination without regard to the addiction consequences are abrogating their responsibilities to themselves and to their families and friends. I really find having sympathy for them to be difficult.

It scares the devil out of me to think that we are becoming a society of people who refuse to take charge of their lives, who believe that there will always be others to cover for their mistakes. Pain is a part of life, both physical and mental anguish. Disappointment is a part of life; learn to live with it. It’s so much easier to place blame elsewhere rather than accepting the fact that the fault lies right at one’s own front door. Why do people get medals just for participation? Why are trophies given to everyone on the team? I’m all for teamwork and cooperation but within that team, each member must shoulder his or her fair share of the burden, responsibility, or whatever term you may wish to use. It is time we recognize that making excuses for others, defending the actions of others who create problems, is not what we are about. Big pharmaceuticals don’t care if you die. Doctors who continue to prescribe opioid pain pills obviously don’t care if you die. It’s up to the individual to know and understand the consequences of just how bad opioids are and to stay as far away from them as possible.

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“No, no, no, no, no, no, NO, he’s gone. That’s it, period.”

“Aw, c’mon, maybe he thought the cameras were on. He’s used to that.”

“I’m tellin’ ya, he’s gone. He pushed the envelope too far this time.”

“Look, calm down…you telling me you did everything right the first time you got a new job?”

“New job? New job? You get this job, you better be prepared for whatever happens. This isn’t like becoming the head of GM or Ford…or even Goldman Sachs for god’s sake. I’m telling ya, he’s G-O-N-E!”

“Geez, Paul, Mitch thinks it’ll be okay. He just wants a little less drama. I don’t see why you gotta be so pissed.”

“Pissed? Pissed? You haven’t begun to see me pissed. He says we’re gonna ban Muslims…and that didn’t work…not once…but twice he said it, and it’s still not working. Then he says we’ve got a great repeal and replace health care program when he knows it’s a piece of crap. Then he blames us because his shitty health care program doesn’t get passed. Blames us, the crazy a.. idiot. What the hell is he thinking.”

“You gotta calm down man. You’re gonna work yourself into a heart attack. Okay, so he’s not sticking to script. Whadda you want me to do?”

“Do? Do? Talk to Ivanka. Talk to Jared. Talk to Kelly. Talk to the general. Somebody has to put a rein on this guy before he starts to give out classified information to the world.”

“Ah…ah…Paul. He, uh, he met with the Russian Ambassador the other d…

“Awe, cripes, don’t…you’re not…no, you’re not tellin me…”

“Ah, yep, sorry, Paul, but yeah, he did.”

“How bad?”

“Top Secret Code Word, Paul. I mean, he threw the Israeli’s right smack under the bus.”

“Aw, no, and right after Comey…aw, no, what is he thinki…no, there’s the problem right there. He’s not only not thinking, he doesn’t even have the capacity to think…Russian collusion, Mike Flynn, Comey, giving away top secrets, and now he tells them it’s the Israeli’s…aw man…

“…Well, he didn’t really say that it was the Israeli’s.”

“Whadda ya mean, he didn’t really say?”

“You know, it’s just that, well, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know where it came from.”

“Oh, great, just great. Mossad’s really gonna want to share intelligence with us now. What’s next, Sarah Palin going to head up the FBI?”

“Paul, Paul, Paul, don’t say that too loud. We don’t know where the bugs are!”

“Oh, I know where the bugs are. The bugs are in his head. That doofuss couldn’t run an airline, his vodka business went up in flames, he’s got the Russians running their own ops out of one of his buildings, and all he can think of is grabbing more land from national monuments, probably to give to his oil drilling buddies, or for some new freakin’ golf courses!”

“Look, Paul, you’re the Speaker. You’ve gotta help us. We don’t know what to do. What do we do, Paul?”

“My advice? Now that everything has hit the fan, you come to me for advice? I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you call his son-in-law, Jared? He’s doing everything else right now, maybe he can take the guy’s computer away…or double his medication dosage…or just send him overseas and let Pence take over for a while. Nah, that won’t work either. He’ll take Pence’s batteries with him if he goes overseas. Think of it this way, now every other country in the world knows that Americans can vote even while they have their heads stuck up their collective…no, no, say, ‘heads in the sand.’ As for me, I’m going home to the first district and watch some Packer re-runs!”

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“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

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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?

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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!

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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.

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