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Archive for the ‘Bureaucracy’ Category

I received an e-mail today…yes, I still get e-mail…and it was headed, “Awaiting response from Dick Bishop.” Hot damn, doesn’t that sound critical? It began, “You have been selected to take part in a digital poll of grassroots Democrats in Westwood, MA.” I stopped right there. Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying…”You shouldn’t have opened it in the first place.” Well, you see, I had an inkling that I knew what was probably contained in this missive, and while I didn’t realize that I would be addressed in such a fashion, I thought I’d just, well, you know, just give it a little tickle.

Here is my response: “I am not a “grassroots Democrat” by stretch of anyone’s imagination. Do I believe that Donald Trump is certifiably insane and should be removed from office? Absolutely! Do I believe the Democrats have anything better to offer? Absolutely not! Until such time as all lobbyists are thrown out of the District, and until such time as the Congress of the United States finds a way to work together for the common good of the people of this country, I will continue to write my blog, but not financially support any candidate from either party.” This was my time to vent. I had better things to do with my time I readily admit, but what the hell, I was on a roll, and I was just getting started.

I continued, “At 83, it would give me no greater pleasure than to stand before a combined Congress and dress them down like the spoiled and pampered children that they are. There are sick people in this country who cannot afford health care, and yet neither party can compromise to the point where universal health care is no more than a dream. There are hungry and poor people in this country who don’t know where or if their next meal will be coming to them, yet we send all sorts of foodstuffs to starving refugees in other countries.” Was I rockin’ or what? I mean, can’t you just see me standing before a combined group of senators and representatives in a pair of sweats and wearing my T-shirt with a picture of the Capitol Building and the writing underneath, ‘Never underestimate the stupidity of a large group of people.’ (Actually, I don’t think I’d really wear that shirt…although I do own it and wear it to the gym on occasion.)

Taking a sip of water at the podium, l would move on: “Mass murder occurs almost on a daily basis, but Congress – owned by the NRA – does not dare to implement any greater control of who has access to guns. Both the House and the Senate promise tax reform, but each bill put forward, helps only the top one percent of the wealthiest. Our nation has not faced such a critical time since the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. America has become a country no longer united, but a nation divided by a commander in chief who is, in fact, a clear and present danger to the future of this country.” And here, I would pause…look to my left at the gathering of Republicans. Pause again, and sweep my gaze across the Democratic side of the aisle.

At this juncture, I would conclude, “Our nation’s elected leaders talk a great deal about the importance of our Constitution, however, they cite only those parts of that wonderful document that will either further line their pockets or allow them to be reelected in order to further line their pockets. Congress does not appear to realize that our Founding Fathers authored a document that was not chiseled in stone, but that was written in a manner that it could change with the times. Please, if you wish to recruit me to your cause, you will have to do a great deal more than send me little surveys that always wind up asking me to fork over more of my fixed income.” With that, I concluded my response as follows, “And I’m willing to bet $100 of that hard-earned income that I will not hear from anyone other than a lowly staffer, if I hear from anyone at all.”

Thinking about it, wouldn’t it just be wonderful, if the House and the Senate would set aside just one or two hours a week in their (pardon me while I have a laughing fit…okay, I’m back) busy schedules to allow constituents to tell them, as a group, how Mr. or Mrs. America believes them to be doing their jobs. The fact of the matter, at least in my humble opinion, is that they are not really doing what we elected them to do.

If you are a Republican member of Congress, you had seven years to put together a program to replace the Affirmative Care Act, to create, edit, and finalize a tax reform bill, to develop and be prepared to put forth your ideas on foreign relations, gun control, reigning in the big pharmaceutical companies, and a whole pile of other legislation to benefit your Republican constituents. If you are a Democratic member of Congress, you should have seen the writing on the wall that you were doing a terrible job because you refused to have anything to do with the Republicans. Because of that stupidity, you lost your majority in both houses, and now the Republicans are doing unto you as you did unto them…and whining about it. I don’t want to tell your business, ladies and gentlemen, but the odds are looking fairly good that you just might win back your majority in 2018. Would it hurt you to extend a hand of peace across the aisle and say to your brethren that you would appreciate the opportunity to have their input on your plans for revisiting affordable care for their and your constituents, that you would like them to help you draft some new tax reform legislation, that perhaps you could work together to tell the NRA to get lost and work with you on new gun control laws? Would that be too much to ask? Yes, I know, these ideas are just completely out of the realm of possibility. After all, this is Washington, the nation’s capital, where politics has often been defined as a “blood sport.” When was the last time that anyone asked the question, “Why?” and when was the last time that the questioner received an intelligent answer? Surely, it has not been in my lifetime.

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In the “as if we needed to hear any more bullshit from you,” category, Donny Trump tweeted that “ObamaCare will explode and we will all get together and piece together a great healthcare plan for THE PEOPLE. Do not worry!”

This is just another indication of why Trump is not a leader, just a thin-skinned child who, when he doesn’t get his way, takes his ball and goes crying home…in this case, to his daughter, not his wife…hmm. It was the perfect opportunity to admit that ‘his’ congressional leaders were unable to develop a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act {ACA}. He could have followed it up with, “Now is the ideal time for Republican and Democratic leaders to reach across the aisle and, together, develop a plan that will replace the flaws in ObamaCare and that will ensure that all Americans receive appropriate health coverage.” That is something that a leader would have done.

Consider the number of times that Republicans attempted to repeal the ACA over the eight-year term of Barack Obama. The number, by the way, is sixty. It seems to me that rather than spending all of that time attempting to repeal a law, they could have more productively spent their time developing a plan to replace the Act. If you, as a member of Congress, felt that ObamaCare was such a terrible piece of legislation, wouldn’t you first come up with a better, stronger, more viable plan rather than behaving like a bunch of spoiled children? I’m sorry, am I being too logical here? Was it, perhaps, a case of, “We don’t want anything that the ‘foreign-born,’ n-word, SOB got past us to ever show up as part of his legacy! Oh, naw, that could never be the case…or could it? Was it that this first national health plan, for all its flaws, managed to get enacted by Congress?

You see, I’m rather a cynic when it comes to killing something just for the sake of killing it. I don’t hunt, but I used to enjoy deep sea fishing enormously. We kept the bluefish and stripers that we caught because people would eat them. If we were having a better than average day, it was catch and release. The Republican Party had seven years to put together a better health plan. They-didn’t-do-that. They-wanted-to-kill-a-program-that-had-been-legally-enacted-without-having-the-faintest-fucking-idea-of-what-to-replace-it-with. Now, I don’t know about you, but I might just have wanted to ask my Republican Congress person what he or she was doing to develop a plan to replace ObamaCare during those seven years, and if they didn’t have an answer, I might just have voted his/her ass right out of that Congressional seat. Am I being too harsh for you here?

Now, unable to come up with something to replace the Affordable Care Act, instead of uniting Congress, this idiot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the “Greatest Deal Maker of All Time,” whines and moans and blames everyone without even considering the tremendous opportunity put before him, starts his surrender talk with, “Well, no Democrats were going to vote for anything the Congress came up with.” Note that please. It wasn’t “…anything we came up with,” it was, “…anything Congress came up with.” In other words, “It wasn’t my fault; it was the fault of those assholes in Congress.” It’s this lack of leadership qualities or even understanding the qualities of leadership that terrifies me about this man. He was a little king in a small village when he had his businesses that were being run by others. He was a television celebrity who could do as he damn well pleased when he was on air. He is now in a position that requires skills and qualities that he has never and probably will never possess, but because of his celebrity status and the bombast with which he conducted his campaign, he was the chosen one.

There is a need for our nation to have a health plan. There is a need for a health plan that covers the rich, middle, poor, and elderly classes. It can be done. Mitt Romney showed that it could be done in Massachusetts. Was his plan perfect? No, it, too, was flawed, but care was taken to correct many of those flaws. No plan, whoever, drafts it, is going to ever be 100 percent guaranteed to work for everyone. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation. Hell, we weren’t even a one-size-fits-all-state. From the hills of Holland to the tip of Provincetown and from Florida to Dracut and beyond, Massachusetts residents have different needs, but by God, Romney tried and did something no other governor had done. Now is the time for Ryan and McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi to sit down, shake hands, look at one another, and simultaneously ask one another, “How do we pull ourselves out of this deep shit,” for that’s what it is. Trump and his hooligans will do everything in their power to ensure that the ACA implodes, just to get back at Obama. It’s time for the adults in the room – those from both sides of the aisle – to come together and determine what is best for the country, for all 326,474,013 members of this country. Forget ‘Hairspray’ and his band of brothers, for he will attempt to sabotage your efforts. While sub rosa may be a term we don’t care to hear, it may be the only way that the nation will be able to make health care for all a reality. Demonstrate that you are true leaders even though we don’t have one sitting in the White House.

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I was a depression-era baby. My mother and father believed strongly that if you couldn’t pay for it, you didn’t need it. That included just about everything, including a can of baked beans to a new or used car. It’s just the way things were. Mom had a ‘Christmas Club’ whereby she would go to the bank each week and deposit five or ten dollars – sometimes as little as a couple of bucks – in order to buy presents for the kids in December. This was ingrained in us from our earliest years…”Don’t get into debt!”

When I went off to college, my folks had scraped enough money together to get me through my first year. My part-time job put money in the bank so that I could continue. Since I went to a university that offered the co-op plan, I was able to work a term to pay for a term…”But I didn’t go into debt!” Tuition and books were a lot less expensive then, and I most assuredly was not a residence hall student. One book that was a required text was “Advertising Production.” At the first meeting of the class, the instructor informed us that it was not his choice of a text, but the department chair insisted. He then said that it wouldn’t bother him in the least if we returned the text to the bookstore. That had been the most expensive text I had ever purchased and, suffice it to say, no one from the class came close to getting to the bookstore with the speed and exuberance of yours truly.

When it came time to purchase our first home, my wife and I were very concerned. We both held full-time jobs, but both were in education. Anyone who has worked in the field knows that the salaries are not exorbitant. My folks couldn’t help but my wife was the only child of a successful theater chain executive. He helped us with a ‘wink, wink loan,’ and our mortgage became something manageable.

By this time, credit cards were becoming a bigger and bigger business. “Buy now; get it now; pay later,” was the mantra and many people fell into the trap. Since she, too, was a depression baby, our philosophy was a bit different…”If you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it.” Gee, where had I heard that one before? Did we eventually build some credit card debt? Absolutely, but not to the point where we couldn’t pay the debt off in the short- rather than the long-term. We calculated annual rate percentages and couldn’t stand the thought of “them” taking all of our interest. Hell, it ticked me off that our mortgage payments were more interest than principal for a while.

The biggest drawback to this frugal behavior didn’t catch up with me until the other day. In order to get a substantial discount on a moderately expensive item, I agreed to apply for an Amazon credit card. In the turn down letter that I received, was written, “We used information from your credit report in making our decision. In whole or in part, from the credit reporting agency below (Experian, Inc). The agency won’t be able to provide the specific reasons for our decision. We’ve enclosed details about your right to know the information in your credit report at the end of this letter.” I was truly pissed! I called Experian to learn what was going on, only to be told after an hour and two minutes on the telephone, that I didn’t have a credit rating because, basically, I didn’t have any credit debt. Of the three people with whom I spoke, not one could speak the King’s English. I kept asking to speak to a supervisor which only got me transferred to another – be polite now – international speaker. After the first 26 minute wait, I asked how many people were working the phones in the office. This question at first stumped the person on the other end. Finally, she admitted that there were somewhere between 100 and 150. “Why then the long delay in answering your phones?” I asked. She just chuckled, yes, chuckled, and asked how she could help. She couldn’t and I was again transferred. After a similar wait, I reached Kadherin, who neither spoke English very well and either chose not to understand or didn’t understand my request. Here’s the topper: I am now being charged $39.95 for calling Experian plus a $1.00 charge for my credit report, which I will never see because it’s nonexistent!

Tomorrow I go to my bank and request a credit card from them. I will use that credit card, but only to the extent of receiving a monthly statement for the purpose of establishing some credit line. I should not have to do this because I pay my bills on time. This has been ingrained in me since birth. Thinking back on it, while mother was changing my diapers I do remember her singing a lullaby about “…the Joneses are in debt; we won’t keep up with them, etcetera, etcetera,” and the chorus was “…if you can buy it, you don’t need it,” or words to that effect. Yeah, yeah, I remember that (uh huh, sure you do)!

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Oh, how times have changed…and not for the better.

We were told by our parents that we should treat our school teachers exactly as we would treat our parents…with both courtesy and respect. Those of us – yep, I was one of ‘em – were punished accordingly if a note was sent home that we had, in any way, misbehaved in class. The only time my folks didn’t drop the hammer was when the teacher, Miss Lannin, sent a note home saying that I had kissed Gloria Madden. Of course, Miss Lannin didn’t know that I’d been dared by the ‘janitor’ to do it and had received a nickel for my efforts. Mom and Dad had a difficult time trying to bawl me out while holding in their laughter.

Later, in my academic career – fifth grade to be exact – I received a sharp rap across the back of my hand from Miss Shea, a former nun, who was exceptionally skilled in the use of a ruler as a weapon of individual destruction. My crime was in mispronouncing the word frigid – looked like frig-it to me, but evidently, Miss Shea found my interpretation bordering on the edge of indecency. How the hell would a nun know that? Ah, well, I guess we’ll never know.

Later, I sat in Bertha Tenney’s math class in junior high school, and when Billy Bailey decided to act up, Bertha knocked his ass right out of his seat and onto the floor. Billy was tough. How the hell she could have put him flat on the floor is something that still confounds me.

There were several other examples of corporeal punishment that I could relate about my own high school experiences, but I believe you can see where this is going. What happened to me after the Holy Roller incident and to Bill after Bertha took him out with one swift back hand was nothing to what happened to us when our parents learned of our misdeeds. Yet, in spite of all of this, Bill and I grew up, went off to college, achieved a modicum of success…depending on how you define it, and raised children of our own. Were we as tough on them as our parents had been on us? I doubt it, but if a teacher told me that my kid had disturbed a class, I kind of doubt that I would have blamed the teacher.

Today, it would appear, that the teacher is never right, can’t lay a hand on some little puissant who is disturbing her/his class, and can be sued at the drop of a missed call in class. My reaction to this is one of horror. Recently, a teacher with 16 years of experience clapped a piece of candy out of the hand of a 14-year old who had been disrupting her class. She is now being taken to court over this…she left a mark on the poor child’s wrist. She should have left the little punk with a couple of black eyes.

There is a law now that says teachers cannot touch students. Are we afraid that some teacher is going to go “postal” and wring some kid’s neck? I rather doubt it. I won’t reiterate what I did to one of my sophomores in high school, other than to say that two weeks after I’d punished him, the Massachusetts State Police came and took him away on felony charges.

These are different times. Latch-key kids whose lives are programmed from the moment they rise in the morning until their heads hit the pillow at night are given little outlets for some of the hormones that begin raging in their bodies earlier and earlier. The word, “Discipline,” is foreign to them. They aren’t disciplined at home…”You’re grounded; go to your room!” Go to the room with your cell phone, computer, and every other electronic device one can think of; that’s not discipline; that’s peace and quiet. Sparing the rod and spoiling the child has become too much of a mantra for today’s parents and it has carried over into the legislatures which are makings laws that completely handcuff teachers in their efforts to do what they are poorly paid to do…teach children who are eager to learn. If a child is a disturbance in a classroom, he or she should be disciplined to the degree possible and that doesn’t mean giving up a cell phone for 24 hours. Punishment must be meaningful and fitting. Unruly child…refused to listen…created a disturbance in the classroom…was eating candy openly…hey, kid, I’m so sorry that you didn’t know Miss Tenney. Had you lived, you would never have forgotten her.

Years ago, teachers were treated with the honor and respect due them. What happened? Where did all of the respect go? Did teachers change that much? I taught high school for a brief period of time. It was in the same school from which I had graduated. I gained an even greater respect for teachers, now colleagues, in whose classrooms I had been a student. Did teachers, as a whole, become people to be disrespected and not believed? Has television and social media been responsible for the lack of respect shown to these people who, generally, want nothing more than to increase the knowledge and intelligence of those with whom they work day-in-day-out?

Perhaps the parents of captain-candy-eater should be in the dock with the teacher. After all, who raised him to be disrespectful to other adults? I cannot imagine what this child gets away with at home. There is no such thing as “Stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby; stop it Bobby” ad nauseum. There is only one “Stop it Bobby,” and if it is not stopped, Bobby will wonder if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just ran him over.

It’s time we reinstated two words in the classroom…RESPECT and DISCIPLINE…on both sides of the desk. Teachers have known those two words for years. It’s too bad that today’s children have not been taught their true meaning before they even begin school.

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I am an American.

I was born in America, educated in American public schools, attended college in America, worked all of my adult life in America, married an American lady, brought up three kids in America – not quite true because my wife did most of the kid upbringing – and I fully intend to die in America. I love the country of my birth and death, but I don’t much care for some of the things that go on inside it.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite certain that there people in other countries who feel the same way about their nations as I feel about my own…though that’s not necessarily true, because it seems to me that many people in other countries look to America as either being the hope of the world or the devil that is driving the world to extinction.

My complaints about my own country might be considered by some as marginally ludicrous. I don’t consider them such. For example, why does this country spend so much money on foreign aid when we have Native American people who don’t even have clean water with which to drink, bathe, or do their washing in? Haven’t we done enough to the Native Americans? First, we – the settlers who first invaded what we now call the United States of America – slaughtered as many Native Americans as we possibly could so that we could steal their lands. Then, when we came to a certain degree of our senses, we gathered them together and tried to place them on the most inhospitable lands that we could find. When they discovered that the land had value – beneath if not above – we pushed them into other areas where the land had no value above or below. Here it is, the 21st Century, and they are without running water in many of their homes? What is wrong with us? Have we lost all sense of what is important versus what is politically expedient? These people, whom we slaughtered, marched on a trail of tears, pushed away from the ‘real’ Americans, should be revered and treated as well as we treated the Italians, Poles, Germans, Irish, and so many others who came to this country seeking the American Dream and who actually found it. Native Americans, on the other hand, have known nothing but the American nightmare.

“It has been said the democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the others that have been tried.” The quote is attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, although there are many questions regarding the date, place, time he might have spoken such erudite verbiage. Purists will tell you that America is not a democracy but is, in fact, a republic…and they are correct. According to ThisNation.com, “The United States is, indeed, a republic, not a democracy. Accurately defined, a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly–through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums. A republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf. The Framers of the Constitution were altogether fearful of pure democracy. Everything they read and studied taught them that pure democracies “have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Sounds about right to me because if we allowed the people of Wyoming, Rhode Island, Florida or any other single state to enact laws applicable to every other state, the death of our nation would, indeed, have been swift and violent. The problem, however, is that those representatives we have chosen to make policy decisions on our behalf have, over our 228-plus years evolved from being men and women concerned with the welfare of the nation, to a group of idiots more concerned with perpetuating the goals of their own political party and their place of power within that party…and this is wrong. It is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I for one do not see any hope for a return to the days when, as Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill said, “It’s country first; state second, and political party a distant third.” We the people are represented by those we elected to office; however, their allegiance is being usurped by lobbyists, by political action committees (PACs), and by a few power brokers who can ensure their reelection or their defeat, ergo, their allegiance is really to themselves and to hell with the people who actually cast votes in their favor.

Everyone talks about a moral compass. America’s moral compass is so screwed up that the Founding Fathers are, I am quite certain, spinning so fast in their graves, they resemble a child’s toy on the kitchen table. We invade other countries and wind up starting bigger wars than we can finish. We feed the people of other nations, dig wells for their fresh water supply while our own citizens go wanting. We pay more attention to the infrastructure of other lands than we do to the lands in our country. I am but one voice screaming in the wilderness. I will continue to scream until things change or I am dead, and where I’m headed, I’m certain I’ll still be screaming!

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Okay, Jihadi, John, any plans you may have had for terrorizing the United States can now be put on hold. You’ve won, baby, and you didn’t even have to drive a tank down Pennsylvania Avenue or march around the Lincoln Memorial – that would have really fucked up DC traffic if you did it at rush hour. See, here’s the way this is going to work…you send a couple of guys into Congress; one goes to the office of the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and the other goes into the office of House Speaker John Boehner. Each delivers a bill that relates to the Department of Homeland Security. The one to McConnell will be falsely authored by Boehner and will include nothing on immigration. The bill to the House Leader will be a fake, supposedly written by McConnell that will include a section that would nullify the Presidential executive order. By the time they determine the fraud, both houses of Congress will be so confused, they’ll be shooting at each other. Just stand back and wait, Johnny-Boy, and our own legislative branch of government will implode.

On a more serious note, I am so sick and tired of the Congress of the United States that I’d almost be willing to move to Canada. The only thing preventing that is that the Canadians are beginning to sound almost as idiotic as the Americans. Excuse me, but if you’re a Canadian citizen and you wish to buy an airline ticket for Turkey, the answer is a resounding “No.” If all of you took classes in Islamic studies from a known Islamist, (a) double “No” and (b) the government will buy the ticket for the known Islamist and fly his ass directly to Syria.

If, as has been publicly said, the United States is conducting terror investigations in each of the 50 states, why hasn’t some action been taken? If we are already aware of whom the catalysts in our prisons are, why hasn’t some action been taken to weed them out, isolate them, or martyr them? If we know, and I’m quite certain that our intelligence agencies know – oh, god, I hope I’m not wrong about this – the mosques and imams who are radicalizing our citizenry, why the hell hasn’t action been taken to close the mosques and ship these people back from whence they came? Have we become so politically correct that we are willing to turn the other cheek until the jihadists decide that slitting our throats is easier?

The time has long since past when America should tolerate extreme Islamists. Whoever they are; wherever they are, they should be shut down now. “Oh, but if we do that, it’s a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution!” Bullshit! When a sect or cult begins to threaten the rights of the people who built this country, their First Amendment rights no long pertain or exist. Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the civil war. We are currently engaged in another, undeclared civil war right now against a group of foreign invaders who, if not dealt with as soon as humanly possible, will be flying the black and white over cities, towns, and hamlets all across America.

Do I sound paranoid? I’m too old to be paranoid. I am not yet old enough, however, to stop loving my country or to see that it is being eaten away from the inside out. The “new” Congress, controlled by a single party, was elected by the people because they promised to break gridlock and “govern.” Since that time, they have passed one major piece of legislation and that was vetoed by the President, as they knew it would be. Now, the houses cannot agree on a piece of legislation, which if not passed, will leave the security of our nation, closed for business. If that is what the Congress calls “governing,” then many of them have stuck their heads in the sand or somewhere else where the sun doesn’t shine.

The problems that we face cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the Legislative Branch of the United States government any more than they can be fully blamed on the Executive Branch. More than ever before, I blame the American people for electing the same political hacks who promise everything and deliver nothing, for creating the fix in which we now find ourselves. Google the number of criminals who are serving in the United States Congress; you’ll find that most of the investigations and arrests involve money. Income tax evasion, illegal campaign funding, illegal use of campaign funds…and you think that these people give a good goddamn about the people who voted for them? The answer to that depends entirely on how much which voters contributed to get them elected.

Ross Perot said it years ago; “Wake Up America.” From infiltration by jihadist terrorists to an inept legislative branch of government that can’t agree on anything, we are, to use an old saw, “up to our collective asses in alligators,” and the swamp remains undrained.

I propose that before any candidate for national public office is allowed to run, the same type of background investigation be conducted as is done for members of the military to be granted a Top Secret Code Word clearance. That would include a polygraph examination as well as random drug testing.  Given sufficient time, I’m quite certain that other requirements could be developed that would separate the wheat from the chaff.

Think about this for a moment: We are a nation of 320 million people, ninety-five percent of whom don’t give a damn as long as they have a roof over their head, a meal on the table three times a day, a new car in the garage or carport every six or seven years, and shoes without holes. On the other hand, you have the one percent who wants more than their fair share. You also have about 46 million children going to bed hungry every night. According to a UNICEF study, the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the world. Is it any wonder that ISIS is able to recruit young people to its cause?

There you have it…from Jihad John to an inept and a somewhat corrupt government to a castigation of the American public and the way it treats its poorest, we have a great deal to overcome. Lordy, Lord, how I don’t envy the generation charged with pulling us out of this shit pile!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I suppose that if we really wanted to, the United States could always find a way to keep its population from growing by sending its young men and women to die somewhere. Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Columbia or any Central American country, or any other African country for that matter, and we could send in the cannon fodder, just for the hell of it, right?

What is wrong with us; no, not us; what is wrong with the President, the Congress, the Department of Defense, and the rest of the idiots who believe that we, the United States of America, must stick our noses into the business of other countries? Isn’t that why we have a United Nations? Just because that operation happens to be headquartered in New York – a fine place from which spies from other countries have a field day studying American processes – does not mean that we are the chosen one to send our children out to die. Why don’t we headquarter the UN in someplace like Berlin or Paris or Moscow or Milan? Let those people take the lead in interfering with what’s going on in other nations? Why not; the answer is simple; they wouldn’t. They are too intelligent to interfere. It’s a freaking wonder we haven’t sent some troops to Gaza and some to Israel…just to be fair.

These “wars,” for that’s what we seem to be calling them, are costing us billions of dollars. However, I really don’t care how many goddamned dollars we’re spending, we’re also killing and maiming our young men and women, and that, my friends, is the real tragedy of war. Oh, look, isn’t that wonderful; we’ve created an entire new charity; it’s called the Wounded Warrior Project; give now, and support our veterans. Bullshit and I’m not saying forget the wounded warriors. I’m saying that we should stop interfering in things that don’t concern us in order that we not have a need for programs like the Wounded Warriors. We have the technology to create arms and legs, hands and feet; we don’t have the technology to mend the minds of these young men and women. We cannot take away the memories of what they have seen and what they’ve been forced to do to protect themselves.  Post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] has become an ingrained part of our vocabulary. We hear it every night on some ‘news’ program or other. We ‘find’ the causes of it, but no one, as yet, has found a cure for it. Therefore, because we have the ability to do so, let us lessen the opportunities for people to endure it.

There are so many things that are in need of support here at home and America still has to find away to insert itself into the business of people abroad.  I kept hearing that we went to Korea to stop the “red menace” from taking over the country and then moving on until all of Southeast Asia was under the iron fist of the communists. I heard basically the same thing when we went into Vietnam. Then what happened? The bastion of communism, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ went kaput. The red menace was a menace no more…at least that’s what we believe. With KGB’s Killer Putin in charge, one never knows what to expect. The Middle East is a different story. We have no business interfering with tribal warfare. Let them kill each other; it’s just adding a bit more bleach to the gene pool. We have enough problems at home to take care of. How about spending fewer dollars on defense and a few more on (a) increasing the minimum wage to something above the poverty level; (b) protecting our borders to  the south from an immigrant invasion that is going to cause us nothing but problems in the future; (c) strengthening our infrastructure so that every time I drive over or under a bridge, I’m not terrified that the damned thing is going to collapse under me or crash down on top of me; (d) revitalizing cities like Detroit and others that have been allowed to go to hell in a hand basket; (e) revamping our educational system in order to allow future generations to compete on a world stage that is becoming smaller and smaller; (f) rewriting our tax laws to allow average Americans to at least attempt to live the American Dream; (g) taking a hard look at our immigrant population and getting rid of those who are abusing what we have to offer without buying into our language or culture – yes, there is such a thing as being too nice.

Does all of this mean that I’m opposed to a strong military? Absolutely not, because we need a strong military if we are to survive.  We require a dedicated military that can respond at a moment’s notice to threats directly against the United States. My military service was limited, for the most part, to reserve activities. However, I spent a tour at the Pentagon, and it was one of the most rewarding times of my life. For many, the discipline and structure of military life are critical, and we have the best damned military of any nation in the world…but let’s not waste their lives so generously or to protect the assets of a few wealthy people. That’s wrong, and as a country, we should know better.

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All I’m saying is that it has to happen in someone’s lifetime.

It is imperative that we make it public; that we repeat it over and over and over again until we have them so bloody terrified that not even the thought of such a thing will ever enter their minds.

What am I pontificating about? The public execution of a child in such a horrible manner that it will thoroughly sicken all who are forced to witness it…on every television station and for as long as it takes to get through peoples’ thick skulls that taking the life of another will not be tolerated.

Wait a minute. That sounds as hypocritical as to be laughable…kill someone to show that killing is bad? Statistically, ‘we,’ whoever the hell ‘we’ is, have proven that capital punishment is not a deterrent to the taking of lives by others. Okay, fine; now, if that is the case, how do we stop children like Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier from attempting to kill a best friend? How do we study their brains? How do we study the brains of their parents? What are we attempting to learn if we do study them? Is there an extra chromosome somewhere? Are they lacking in cognitive reasoning? How the hell do we solve this problem of children killing other children and for not ‘apparent’ reason?

Unfortunately, too many of those who perform school, theater, public place, or drive-by killings wind up killing themselves or are killed by the police. We have James Holmes, the orange-haired Colorado killer. How are we studying him? He killed enough to warrant taking his brain apart. If not him, who; if not now, when? At one point, shortly after Littleton as I recall, the FBI began interviewing serial killers about their motives for killing. I beg your pardon, but in many cases, I’m not certain killers even know why they kill. Is it sexual gratification? Is it some other form of satisfaction? Perhaps the only way we will discover the real motive is to study DNA as well as by examining certain areas of the brain.

There appear to be any number of reasons why these killings take place. Yes, we can blame many of them on bullying or a romantic breakup, or perhaps burnt toast at breakfast, or even a buildup that includes all of those things, but many people go through them and do not pick up a gun a start shooting at others so what is our answer. Will we just boo-hoo and wring our hands when it happens again…because we all are well aware that it will happen again.

“Gun control; there’s the answer,” scream those who think the Second Amendment to the Constitution is being misinterpreted by gun owners. “We have Second Amendment rights,” scream the gun owners who have their own interpretation of what that Amendment actually means. “The only way to stop a bad person with a gun is by having a good person with a gun nearby,” cry others and even more shout that if the guns are taken away from those who should be able to have them, then only those who shouldn’t have them will own guns.” It’s a merry-go-round that never stops and never will until someone far more brilliant than I [that shouldn’t prove too difficult] arrives at a solution.

Terror is not the answer; public execution at its very worst is not the answer; repealing the Second Amendment is not the answer…we’ve already had one Civil War and attempting such a repeal might just cause another. No, the answer lies somewhere in between. The answer will be a compromise of some kind, and it will be successful…at least for a few months, years, or even perhaps a decade, and then the entire thing will go to hell and we’ll be back at square one.

Perhaps the best analogy I can draw is that of alcohol control. We learned that we cannot prohibit people from drinking. We tried; hell, we even passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution which banned the sale and manufacture of alcohol. It went into effect in 1920.“While it was the 18th Amendment that established Prohibition, it was the Volstead Act (passed on October 28, 1919) that clarified the law. The Volstead Act stated that “beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors” meant any beverage that was more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. The Act also stated that owning any item designed to manufacture alcohol was illegal and it set specific fines and jail sentences for violating Prohibition,” according to writer, Jennifer Rosenberg. As the popular question asks, “How’d that work out for ya?” and we all know the answer to that one.

Guns, alcohol, tobacco, drugs are all an integral part of society worldwide. We have learned that prohibition doesn’t work; we have learned that advertising, in the case of tobacco, doesn’t work. We have learned with drugs that enforcement is, at best, a losing battle. So what do we do? Do we give up; throw our hands in the air; buy more guns, and put bars on our windows? No, no, we can’t do that. Should we do as Colorado has done and legalize marijuana? Right now, it seems to be working for them… except they can’t put their profits in federal banks so they have to hired armed guards. That’s sort of taking a step back into the 19th Century, don’t you think?

I have written on many occasions that we have so many problems in this country we don’t even know where to begin to solve them. Open discussion appears to be no longer a solution because open discussion seems to devolve into shouting matches and the blame game. Doing what we’re doing isn’t working because of the number of tragedies that we see annually. People use the term, “slippery slope,” to talk about doing this or stopping that. We all know that our prisons are overcrowded. We all know that, unlike some other countries, we wouldn’t tolerate taking prisoners into a cellar and putting a bullet in the back of their head. We all know that a culture that tolerates the abuse of drugs and yes, even alcohol, is a culture that is headed for trouble. We all know that guns are not going to disappear overnight. What we don’t all know is the importance of having decent, honest, hard working people at every single level of our government…from the town selectmen, to the mayors; from the state senators to the governor and every single one of his or her staffs. We need people in Congress who cannot, under any circumstances, be lobbied into voting the way they are asked to by lobbyists or other influencers. How do we ensure this happens? The only way I know of is to emphasize the importance of voting. If we allow ourselves to become even more apathetic than we already are – just over 58 percent voted in the last Presidential election – that slippery slope may see us speaking some language other than American {we haven’t spoken English for years} within the next Century.

I don’t plan to be around in the next Century so…Good Luck, America!

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Republican members of Congress scream for smaller federal government involvement in the rights of states and the rights of citizens. Know what, they are absolutely right. We, the American people have allowed the federal government to become too much a part of our lives. There are too many living off the government teat and, in the long run, everyone suffers.

Yes, I collect Social Security and I have Medicare. So what? The Social Security program was started under Franklin Roosevelt. Like everything else about the federal government, it has become too large and too bureaucratic. It appears that every federal program has become a dumping ground for someone’s brother, sister, aunt, or uncle. While the federal – and the state governments as well – claim that they are streamlining and getting rid of red tape and bureaucratic bullshit, the tape line grows longer and longer and the bullshit piles higher and higher. Bureaucracy breeds caution and contempt at a time when the country should be throwing caution to the wind and acting a little more humble in its dealings with the average American citizen.

The scandal at the Veteran’s Administration is nothing new. In 1929, Herbert Hoover proposed bringing the agencies that were administering veterans’ benefits together under one roof. On July 21, 1930 the three agencies, the Veterans Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions, and the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers were brought together as the Veterans Administration. Remember when this was, i.e., the period of the Great Depression. I am willing to bet everything I have that not one person in any of those three bureaus lost his or her job when the consolidation took place. From that point on, the Veterans’ Administration did nothing but grow. It was Topsy reincarnate The Selective Service Act was passed creating more members of the military. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor throwing us into World War II and creating greater need for veterans’ services. How does America solve this greater need? Throw more money and more people into the mix. It doesn’t matter that the people may not know their butt from a hole in the ground, they will learn by doing. The bureaucracy just grows and grows and grows. It is not dissimilar to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Started over two centuries ago, It was an amalgam of railroad companies often chartered by the state legislature, and anyone knowing anything about the Massachusetts state legislature will tell you that one of the key words to describe it is ‘patronage.’  In 1947, the MTA was created. Government agencies began to take on transit services, consolidating many separate routes into unified system.  In 1964, the MTA became the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, serving a greater number of communities and creating an even larger bureaucracy.

Perhaps the best way to describe the Veterans Administration, the MBTA, and many other organizations that have expanded rapidly without closely examining needs is to use the old cliché, “There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over.” When it’s being done over, a new layer of bureaucracy is added to ensure that it’s done right.  Once whatever the task to be completed is finished, the layer of people, money, supplies, buildings, vehicles, etc. remains even though they are no longer required…”Well, we might need them again and if we get rid of them, we’ll never be able to justify bringing them back.” Eventually, the original purpose of the entire organization grinds to a halt because no one remembers precisely what the original purpose was in the first place. That is, without question, an oversimplification of the situation. However, in the case of the Veterans Hospital Administration, putting off the treatment of veterans appears to have taken a back seat to saving money in order to pay bonuses to the major decision-makers in the organization. The VA has identified the wrong problem for solution. At some level in the VA, the decision has been made that rather than solve the problem of increasing service to the customer, we have to solve the problem of appearing to increase the service to the customer without actually doing so. If we make the problem appear to go away, it will do so by a process of attrition. The hospital will look good and those eligible will receive bonuses because the hospital will appear to be well managed. In other words, “If you can say smoke and mirrors, you’re hired!”

Will firing Eric Shinseki solve this problem? No, it will not. The bureaucracy is already too ingrained in veterans’ hospitals across the country. Problem solving 101 says that the first step is to identify the actual problem. There may be many perceived problems, and everyone employed by the VA will have his or her own idea of what that problem is…and they will be right…and wrong. It will take an independent management group to determine the first problem to be solved; how to solve it, and then determine the next steps to be taken to solving the second greatest problem. Right now, General Shinseki is sitting atop a pile of bullshit surrounded by red tape that is not of his making. One might say that he is the heir to the bullshit and red tape fortune. By not knowing how to cut through the red tape and not knowing how to dissolve the bullshit or by being blind to both, he does bear some responsibility; however, to lay the entire mess at his door is unfair. There are a number of criminal layers between him and getting his job done. If his subordinates have been keeping him in the dark, it may well be because they have been kept in the dark. Somewhere in this vast bureaucracy that we call the Veterans Administration, there is a criminal layer. That layer has put its own welfare before the welfare of the customer, the veteran. The same has been true of the MBTA. CEO upon CEO upon CEO has been hired to “clean up” the MBTA and the job has yet to be completed. It’s one of the great truisms of bureaucracy: “Bureaucrats in numbers can generally beat down any attempt to destroy them.” They will lie, cheat, steal, and yes, they will commit murder, if their fear is great enough.

Republican leader of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, says that he is withholding judgment on whether or not General Shinseki should be forced out. I’m with Congressman Boehner on this one – don’t faint – Shinseki just might be the solution once all of the facts are known. His military background could be the key to eliminating long-time bureaucrats who feel protected because of their tenure. Shinseki knows that if the job isn’t done properly on the battlefield, soldiers die; the same could be said here…if the job isn’t done correctly, former soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coast guardsmen and women will die. No military man worth his salt is ever going to let that happen, not on his watch!

Perhaps it is time to take a hard look at every government agency and to pare them back; force them to do more with less; eliminate all of the red tape and bullshit. Yes, it will cut jobs and it will inflate our jobless rate and no one, no one wants to see that. I would argue that it’s more important to be doing the job correctly than having a bunch of people collecting pay checks for doing nothing or for emasculating the jobs they are supposed to be doing.

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