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Archive for the ‘Creative Problem Solving’ Category

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

These are the first and last stanzas of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” The last was written when his father was going blind, but it’s really the first that is of greatest interest to me. You see, the 21st Century appears to be the province of the young. Youth appear to be creating all of the new inventions that make our lives, if not easier, at least, less complicated. We alarm our houses, talk to the teachers of our children, order food, find mates, teleconference around the world and perform myriad chores simply by tapping icons on a ‘smart’ phone. It seems impossible that less than half a century ago, I heard Kenneth Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment, ask the question, “Why would anyone ever want a computer in their home?” I later heard that he indicated didn’t it wasn’t what he said…even though these two ears were paying rather close attention. He maintained that his statement was, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Pure bullcrap, Ken, pure bullcrap.

I am not attempting to downplay what has been created by the likes of Olsen, Jobs, Gates, Wozniak, or Zuckerberg or any others, but I also believe that the elderly who have raged against the dying of the light have made contributions that too many of us take for granted or credit a younger person for the invention. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, (NBER) “Innovative thinkers are innovating later than they used to. While conventional wisdom holds that creative thinkers do their best work when they are young, a study by NBER researcher Benjamin Jones shows that over the past century the average age at which individuals produce notable inventions and ideas has increased steadily. Jones considers data on Nobel Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Economics over the past 100 years, and on outstanding technological innovations over the same period. For comparative purposes, Jones also considers the ages of track and field record-setters and ball players who have received Most Valuable Player awards.”

Perhaps one of the classic examples of inventions by the elderly is that of bifocals, created by Benjamin Franklin at the ripe old age of 78. Galileo was the same age when he perfected the telescope. At the time he invented the printing press, Gutenberg was in his early 50’s, considered quite elderly for the period in which he was living.

It doesn’t really matter whether one is old or young, just as long as men and women remain curious throughout their lives. Remember the story of Thomas Edison conducting experiment after experiment, until finally an assistant told him, “It just won’t work, Mr. Edison. We’ve tried and failed in all 999 different ways.” Supposedly, Edison succeeded on the 1,000th try. It’s old, it’s tacky, and it’s probably untrue, but it makes a hell of a story. Just think, however, if Edison had stopped inventing when he created the electric light bulb at the age of 22. He went on to invent the phonograph, motion picture cameras, batteries, and during his life received no fewer than 1,093 patents for his inventions.

If you know young people or you yourself have ideas, don’t let anyone stop you from promoting your thoughts. The success of others just might be your springboard to the world’s next great life-saving or life-affirming invention. Don’t forget, even Albert Einstein was once a clerk in a patent office.

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Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

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It’s difficult to understand why law enforcement, city, state, and federal, as well as the President of the United States, took so long to state the obvious about San Bernadino. I just don’t comprehend what is so difficult about seeing this couple, dressed as they were, not being immediately identified as ‘terrorists.’ However you wish to slice it, this was a terrorist act. It certainly terrified the crap out of the people who were being shot and those ducking for cover. With the discovery of the ammunition and pipe bombs in the house occupied by that couple and their baby would indicate preparation for a ‘terrorist’ attack. So we’re at war. Is there anyone in the USA who doesn’t understand that? Are there actually people whose heads are stuck so far up…in the sand that they aren’t aware that Americans are considered by some people who actually live and work here, as the enemy. Take a look at Dylan Roof who thought that blacks were taking over America. Can you understand why an ignoramus like that would think such a thing? Who does he see on television when the President speaks? Who does he see when the Director of Homeland Security speaks? Granted, the kid is probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s probably just a wee bit prejudiced against black folks in the first place. Someone said to me the other day, “I saw a family of Muslims in traditional dress coming in the store and I didn’t panic,” as though that was a major friggin’ achievement. It’s clue time…this country is filled with all sorts of people; some came here to escape terrorism and want to live peaceful lives. Others are here but are nothing but crazy fucking assholes who are influenced by other crazy fucking assholes and who will go out and kill anybody they see who is not dressed or look exactly as they do. They do have sufficient smarts to make certain they kill at a gathering…just walking up and down the street is not going to give one maximum exposure nor maximize your kill rate…riiiight!

To top off our understanding that we are at war, we have public panic purveyors like Donald “I-can-fix-everything-but-I-won’t-tell-you-how-because-I don’t-really-know-what-to-do” Trump. I find it truly difficult to understand how this man became a billionaire. The only thing I can think of is that he bullied his way to riches; he was the loudest shouter in the room; his face got so red, his opponents thought he was going to literally explode and shit would be flying everywhere since he was so full of it, so they gave in. It’s all I can think of. He speaks such ridiculous bullshit that no one in their right minds could possibly believe what he says. And yet, what is he doing? He’s appealing to the frightened, the uninformed, people who don’t know, or care to know, understand or care to understand other cultures. These are the folks who believe that blacks eat only fried chicken and watermelon; they may see hummus in the store so that’s what “they’ eat; Asians eat only fish and seaweed or some other shit like that. They don’t know, and one who preys on their fears such as Trump becomes their hero. The media is proving to be just as gullible. Trump speaks; it’s a sound byte they have to get on the air before the competition. Don’t react; don’t cover, and see how long Trump stays in this race. The media are “feeding Seymour” and he continues to grow. If the media ignore him, Trump will be within his rights to demand an equal amount of time as is given to other candidates; that is his right. However, the minute his talk becomes inflammatory, as it has been through most of his campaign, cut off the microphone; he has overstepped his bounds.

On November 8, 2016, America will go to the polls to elect a new President. That is eleven months from this very day. Should this country, in its ultimate stupidity, elect Donald Trump, I will make every effort to move to Nova Scotia and to renounce my American citizenship. I have little doubt that the world will become a nuclear wasteland before his term of office has ended.

Lone wolf terrorists on American streets will become more identifiable and stopped as we move along in our war. At some point, they will be identified before they enter the country. ISIS or some offspring of it will continue to function in the Middle East. It is only when America says, “Enough, solve your own problems,” that we will be able to breathe easily again. If “secure the homeland” is a dirty turn of phrase, forgive me. However, I don’t want to see more gold star flags hanging in more windows than are already there. We can “preserve, protect, and defend” the United States of America by putting our own nation first and let other nations solve their own problems.

The United Nations appears to be a useless group of foreign representatives suckling at the American teat and little else. Let us move their headquarters to someplace like Belgium, Luxemburg, or Lichtenstein, and see how quickly they dissolve or get their collective acts together to solve the world’s problems. America is too rich and too developed a nation to be playing host to a bunch of spies and neer-do-wells. Is this laissez-faire attitude going to work? No, because it will never receive bi-partisan support, nor will Wall Street allow it to happen. It would be nice to give it an honest try; to attempt to make other nations wholly responsible for their actions. We can’t; we’re America. We’re the supposed 800-pound gorilla in the room. That’s why poor families raise cannon fodder and we cry crocodile tears when they’re blown to pieces. If we really cared about our young men and women, we’d be expanding our efforts to keep them out of harm’s way rather than putting them directly in its path.

We have a great many problems in our own country that are in dire need of solutions. We need solutions to our problem of poverty. We need solutions to our problem of racial injustice and profiling. We need a unified, national police force that is fully trained and fairly paid. We need to stop teaching our children to pass some damned standardized test and teach them what it means to be a citizen of this country. We need more, better trained, and again, fairly paid, teachers. We need term limits for members of Congress to weed out the do-nothings, hangers-on, and radical assholes who somehow find their way into Congressional seats every now and then. We don’t need equalization of wealth, because if you’ve got the brains and ideas, God Bless You for making the money you’ve made, but we do need workers who are paid above a poverty level to build what you’ve designed or to sell what you have made. We need equal pay for equal work. We need to stop treating women like second-class citizens by telling them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Our problems are tremendous; they’re hard to solve and they will continue to get harder until and unless we take some positive steps to address them. However, remember this: Over half of the Pilgrims who made the voyage on the Mayflower died before a year had passed – OVER HALF – yet the rest didn’t just lay down and die. Seventy-five thousand colonists died in the Revolutionary War; that’s 1 in 20 what we now call Americans. Yet, the men who signed the Constitution didn’t give up and say, “Screw this; take it back England.” No, the problems of their day were no more or less complex than the problems we face today. Sure, the world’s a smaller place, and the problems are terrifying. Problems of the magnitude facing the Pilgrims and the colonials and that guy who lives down the street from you today are daunting, but they can be solved. That’s our job – yours and mine – to chip in and ask what we can do to help solve those problems. No, I won’t give you the Jack Kennedy tag line; you can do that for yourself. I will say a couple of things: “If you see something, say something,” and “Don’t listen to fear-mongers and loud mouthed know-nothings like Donald Trump, because he’s not worth your time.”

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“It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.” Fella said that some years ago. Can’t recall who he was or even where I first heard it, but it seems like reasonably good advice, should anyone care to ask me. You take care of the very young because you never know which one, if any of them, might grow up to find the ultimate cure for disease or discover another earth-like planet that can be colonized, or perhaps even find a method for eliminating those horrible traffic jams that many, many, too many people face every day they head off to work. As far as the elderly are concerned, it’s something like “they’ve served their time in hell,” and rather than just discarding them, we should reward them, not only for surviving, but for the contributions they may have made and for the ability to tell us what mistakes we made in the past…so we won’t repeat them…which we will anyway.

Awful lot of people out there who don’t agree with any of what I say, and there are too damned many of them who don’t believe we – society, that is – have any responsibility for caring for either group. “Screw ‘em,” they say. “It’s your own damned fault for bringing a kid into this world, and if you can’t raise that kid and take care of it, tough tomatoes; that’s your problem.” As far as the elderly are concerned, there is that group that would just as soon put them on an ice floe and let it drift until it melts. I think you might be a bit surprised at just how uncompassionate – or dispassionate; take your choice – some of our fellow citizens can actually be when any part of their own normalcy is threatened. It’s not unlike those folks they used to show on television; they called them “doomsday preppers” or something like that. They were prepared to take care of their own and would shoot to kill anyone who asked for help…nice folks.

Don’t get me wrong; if someone behaves like Red Skelton’s old hobo, Freddy the Freeloader, and is unwilling to make any contribution to society, I don’t believe society has any responsibility to take care of them. Maybe I’m starting to sound a bit like Rodney King and his, “Why can’t we all just get along,” but in truth, that’s not such a bad idea. In a Utopian society we could do that, but the earth is not populated by Utopians. It’s populated by so much fragmentation, so much anger, so much hate, and yes, so much love that I begin to wonder if the inmates have finally taken over the asylum.

I read a piece recently that said people in the Scandinavian countries are a great deal happier and satisfied than people in the United States. Of course they have fewer people, higher taxes, higher cost of living, and a few more troubles than we have so I don’t really believe that they are a hell of a lot happier. Someone living in San Diego reads that and they’d probably laugh out loud…”How the hell can they be happier with the winters they have to suffer through?” It’s just further proof that surveys don’t mean crap or the while figures don’t lie, liars sure’n hell can figure.

Anyway, back to our situation with young and old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “In 2014, 15.5 million or approximately 21 percent of children in the U.S. lived in poverty.” That’s an awful lot of children and a lot of poverty for a country that claims to be as rich as ours. In addition, “According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 15.3 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. Although food insecurity is harmful to any individual, it can be particularly devastating among children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Are there federal programs to feed these children under 18? Sure there are…if they’re in school. A lot of these kids aren’t in school because they don’t have shoes to wear or clothing that would be appropriate. In other words, the federal and state programs, while they work for some, aren’t working for all. We do not, as a nation, do a good enough job of identifying and jump-starting the poor in our country. Most of the folks I know don’t wish to be poor; they’re willing to work. All most of them want is what all of us ever want, and that’s a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. If our infrastructure is so fragile, maybe the poor can help to change that; let’s put them to work. I’m not talking about welfare here; there are too many slackers on the welfare rolls already…no work; no welfare. Who is going to pay for it? Damned good question. If we could make some sense of the federal and state budgets, perhaps we could cut some pork and create an infrastructure fund that would damn near cover all costs. Hell, we might even have a bond issue that would help to underwrite a program to help the poor.

So now we have cured all of the ills of the very young and the very poor. What about the elderly? “The number of older adults is projected to increase over the next decade and continue to rise in the following decade. In 2040 there will be 79.7 million older adults, more than twice as many as in 2000.  Additionally, the senior population is becoming increasingly diverse.  Between 2012 and 2030, the white population of 65 and plus is projected to increase by 54 percent compared with 125 percent for older minorities.” This could certainly be called a growing market.  People are living longer because of healthier lifestyles, advances in medicine, and just in general. Do we owe these people something or should we just abandon them? I hope that I hear a resounding, “No” to the last part of that question.

Here are some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that outline a few of the problems facing society with regard to the elderly:

  • In 2014, 3.0 million (9%) households with seniors age 65 and older experienced food insecurity. 1.2 million (9%) households composed of seniors living alone experienced food insecurity.
  • In 2013, 5.4 million Americans over the age of 60 were food insecure. This constitutes 9 percent of all seniors.
  • Food insecure seniors are at increased risk for chronic health conditions, even when controlling for other factors such as income:
    • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
    • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
    • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
    • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

Yes, there are, currently, a number of federal and state services that provide meals and general care for the elderly. It is imperative that we continue to see these programs both expanded and funded to meet what is a growing societal crisis in elder care in this country. It’s predicted that the last of the Baby Boomer generation will reach retirement age by 2025…ten years hence. I cannot help but wonder if it won’t be until that year is upon us that we will decide to take action.

Yes, “It should be the duty of society to take care of the very young and the very old.”

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It’s thirteen months before the next Presidential elections, and I’m already sick and tired of the promises being made by candidates from both sides, promises they have no intention of keeping because they don’t honestly know how. That, my friends, is a 37-word sentence, a fierce violation of the “writers’ code.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn. If the politicians can lie as blatantly as they do, I can violate a few of the inviolable rules of journalism.

What the political hacks seem to conveniently forget is exactly what Barrack Obama forgot when he assumed the Executive Office…you do not work alone in governing the United States of America. The Founding Fathers made this very clear when they proposed a system of checks and balances for each of the three branches of our government; the Legislative, Executive, and the Judicial. While it is the function of the Legislative Branch to propose and enact laws that will benefit a “great majority,” these can either be vetoed by the Executive Branch or ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Branch. The President, while he – no she yet – may bluster and bitch, he can veto what Congress sends to him for signature, ergo, he thinks he’s top gun, but Congress may override his veto. In addition, they control the purse strings, thus limiting his ability to spend monies on projects of which he may approve but which Congress does not. Oh, yes, and if they believe he has done something illegal or immoral, they can also impeach him. The judicial branch, while controlled by a systems of lower courts, is basically exempt from the checks which apply to the other two branches, and the rulings of the Supreme Court will stand until challenged by new justices.

As a result of the checks and balances that our Founding Fathers included in the Constitution, it doesn’t really matter what tripe and braggadocio is uttered by wannabee Presidential candidates. Their key attribute should be the ability to get those from their own and their opposition parties to work alongside them for the common good of the nation. This might just be a novel concept for the Executive leadership branch of government; after all, the Legislative Branch does not know how to work in any kind of harmony for the betterment of the country. I’d like you to think about that for just a moment. We have a chief executive who, when he doesn’t get his own way with the Legislative Branch, attempts to go around them through executive action rather than work with them to determine what they see as the problem with what he is attempting to achieve. (You may have to read that sentence a couple of times, but you understand what I’m saying, don’t you…sure, I thought you did.)  On the other hand, as you may have read in The Selling of America, we have a Legislative Branch that is so torn apart internally that it cannot even decide on the correct time of day or whether or not the sky is blue! Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, a clerk is telling the Supreme Court to go straight to hell, because she doesn’t care about the laws of America; she’s a law unto herself. The Founding Fathers knew that governing wouldn’t be easy, but I’m not so certain they ever envisioned anything quite as tragically comical as what we are seeing in the early part of the 21st Century. Where the hell is common sense when we need it…yep, you’re right; common sense truly is not all that common.

This is why I am already sick and tired of the banalities of these people who believe they are qualified to lead the United States of America. Here is a question that I would like to ask each of the candidates: “how can you be so certain that you are qualified to run the nation?” They would, no doubt, begin to respond immediately and I would interrupt by saying “SHADDUP FOOL!” as loudly as possible. If they continued to speak, I would have them ejected from wherever our meeting was taking place. If you don’t have to stop and think, think, think about the questioning of your own abilities, say nothing until you can speak with genuine authority. I could take each candidate currently in the running and dissect them piece by piece but then this essay would go on forever. Let me just say that governing a state does not qualify you to govern a nation, no matter how successful you were in doing so. Being in Congress most assuredly does not qualify you to be the chief executive of the United States. Having been a business person who achieved a modicum of success hardly qualifies you to the pressures that you will feel when you enter the Oval Office. Let’s see, have I left any area uncovered? Nope, don’t think so. To me, the best person to run the country is the one who has all sorts of reservations about his or her ability to do so, but who is willing to put forth a best effort to keep the nation growing, to reduce the national debt; to keep our country free from attack by foreign powers or individuals who would attempt to destroy us, and who is actually willing to sacrifice his or her life to do these things and so many, many more. Show me that person, the one who is free from bluster and bullcrap, who is willing to work with and/or around the idiots currently occupying the halls of Congress like a goddamned childish sit in, and who can demonstrate openly the ‘how’ of their plan, and that my friends is the person who gets my vote. The saddest thing of all is that that person has yet to come forward. Because of that, I fear greatly for the future of my nation.

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Why is it so difficult to think of the world 200 years from now? Hell, you, your children, and your great-great-grandchildren will all be dead. Therefore, why should we even care? Why recycle, for example; why worry about the rain forest, species extinction, overfishing, or global warming or any of that stuff? After all, we’re just going to be a pile of dust by that time. Screw the future; there are already enough people who don’t give a damn about it anyway, so why should we care? But…we do recycle; we do attempt to do our bit to keep the earth as pure and pristine as our little efforts can do so. For some strange reason, whether it’s perpetuation of our species or what, we attempt to prevent the world from destroying itself through some combined effort.

When I say “we,” I don’t necessarily mean the United States of America. Shucks, we’re way down the list when it comes to ecological friendliness, or as I like to put it, “Preserving the planet for Cap’n Kirk and his Enterprise buddies in the 25rd Century.”  According to one article that I read, “You’d think with all of the smarts and resources this country has, it would rank a bit better than Number 2–afraid not. Although it did rank a respectable 211 for natural habitat conversion–that honor is pretty much negated by the country’s abysmal ratings in other areas. Ringing in at 1st place for fertilizer use, this country’s excessive application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertilizers can result in the leaching of these chemicals into water bodies and remove, alter or destroy natural habitats. The USA also ranks in 1st place for CO2 emissions, 2nd place for water pollution, 3rd place for marine captures, and 9th place for threatened species.” Sometimes, our braggadocio isn’t so warranted after all.

I suppose that by the time the big blue marble becomes inhospitable to human life, somebody, somewhere will have discovered a place where all human life can be transported. It may even be a possibility that those people, with the species of animals they wish to take with them, will also have found a way of keeping the new planet somewhat cleaner than the manner in which we’ve treated this one…but I rather doubt it. You see, I don’t think that man, as a species, evolves as rapidly as we’d all like to believe he does. We may have banned DDT, creosote, and a few other dangerous things, but as it says up above, we surely have a long way to go. To digress for just a moment, I should tell you that I am now wearing the plastic bottles that only a few months or years ago I was drinking from. That is, I now have sweat pants that are made from recycled plastic bottles…and they’re great!

When I look at all of these ‘studies,’ reports,’ ‘analyses,’ etcetera, about countries and even cities that are good or bad in terms of this statistic or that, I find that the criteria, rather than clarifying the situation, only serve to confuse it.  Smaller countries, on the whole, seem to do much better than larger ones. Russia, China, and the United States have such vast areas as to make some judgments more harshly than they necessarily have to be. As another aside, my son was credentialed to attend the Olympics in Beijing but opted to stay back at Olympic headquarters in Colorado Springs. “I’d been there once,” he told me, “and I wasn’t certain my lungs would every clear up!”

Who are the clean, green, ecologically-conscious countries throughout the world? Yes, you’re right; the Scandinavian countries lead the way. Why is impossible to say, but they were the first ones that came to my mind, and they, along with Germany, Costa Rica and Spain round out the top ten.  These are countries that make a genuine effort to lower their carbon footprint and work at maintaining a partnership with the planet’s resources.

It puzzles me that our commuting problems in the United States are as bad as they appear to be. Some time ago we were caught in the rush hour between Hartford, Connecticut as far south as the New Jersey Turnpike. Between the amount of traffic and the word that was going on to expand the highways, it was rather obvious that by the time the new, widened highways are complete, the traffic will have expanded to keep pace and to keep the traffic jams just as they are today. A mathematician might say that the highway system is expanding arithmetically while the number of vehicles attempting to use those highways is expanding exponentially. The thing is that I’m not certain newer and wider highways are the answer. However, as long as the automotive industry controls Congress, along with a few other industrial giants, we will continue to view automobiles as our major source of transportation.

I’m fully aware that there are people from other parts of the country who believe that those of us who live in New England are as soft as a newly-minted cow flap, and to some extent that might just be true. However, I see industrial park after industrial park with ‘For Lease’ signs on better than half of the buildings, and it leads me to wonder why some companies insist on keeping their businesses in downtown Boston. This is the age of technology. You can be connected to anyone, anywhere in the world in less time than it takes to snap your fingers. Parking in cities such as Boston is a hassle that no one wants or needs. These industrial parks have tons of parking. Why do some of these huge operations insist that the ‘city’ is the only place to be? Years ago, a friend of mine had a consulting business in the heart of New York City. One day, he announced to his staff of 10 or 12 that he was moving his operation to Keene, New Hampshire. He had been commuting from Greenwich, Connecticut into the City, and had enough. How many people did he lose to this move? One…one person could not make the transition, not because she thought it was too “country-bumpkin-esh, but because of her spouses commitments in NYC. He has long since retired, but the business is still in Keene.

We ask that those who lead our businesses have vision. Perhaps part of that vision should include where the company can most efficiently be located. At least here, in the Northeast, visionary leaders should be looking at the suburbs with their unused and probably one hell of a lot cheaper-per-square—foot rental rates as places for their employees. The buildings are already there, in anticipation of a boom that never seemed to take place. Let’s use the space we have and stop destroying more of our land. Who knows, some employees might begin cycling to work or begin to feel better about their commute. After that, more companies might begin recycling programs. Lord only knows what innovative and planet-saving things may happen after that.

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I’m attempting to put my teaching hat back on as it relates to law enforcement. The police officers whom I taught over the years ranged from the very, very serious to those who looked on what they were doing as just another job – I never really understood the latter group – that they would get up and go to each day. I could have been reading them all wrong, but perhaps it was just that they didn’t believe I couldn’t understand them because I wasn’t a ‘cop,’ a word more common among them than ‘police officer.’ Be that as it may, my job was to teach them to understand how to work in teams, rather than as individuals, and how to understand the underlying problems that contribute to the larger and more visible problems that they see on a daily basis. When asked to describe the major problem in their community, I would always ask, “Why,” why is that the major problem? What causes that to become the major problem? In other words, we would break the problem into its various elements, finally reaching the point of understanding that the perceived problem could not possibly be solved until the underlying problems had been taken care of.

As I watched the 60 Minutes report on the terrorists who have been attacking in France and in Denmark, it occurred to me that these types of attacks will become as great an epidemic as ISIIS or ISIL or whatever the hell you wish to call them because there is an underlying problem that first must be solved within each country…Why do these homegrown terrorists have such hatred for the nation that spawned them? What has caused their anger? Do they feel that their nation has rejected them? Persecuted them? Done nothing for them (and what do they expect the nation to have done for them)? At some point they have been radicalized against their own nation. Why? How? What is at the very root of their hatred?  It’s quite easy to say that there is a certain part of the population in any area that feels the world has forgotten about them or doesn’t give a damn about them. They drop out of school the minute they turn 16 because they don’t see the value of education. In addition, there is money to be made on the street and “It ain’t flippin’ burgers at the arches.”

Have we, as a society, failed this group of people? Have their parents failed them? What and where is the problem? Until the very basic problem is identified and the road is paved toward solving it, we can expect to see more homegrown terrorists in every country in the world because the terrorists abroad are way ahead of the good people of the nations in propagandizing and converting dissatisfied youth to their side of the street.

The French found out the hard way about who is and who isn’t dangerous. Said and Cherif Kouachi, along with Amedi Coulibaly were well known to French Police as young thugs who had served time for various crimes. Contacts within prisons helped to convert these three young people to violent radical jihadists who could take their hatred out on their own country. In Denmark, Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, the 22-year old shooter, was another home grown terrorist with a record as a local criminal. Okay, where are the commonalities here? What is the basic problem? All had police records from a young age; hell, plenty of kids have that and grow up to lead good lives (I happen to have a sealed juvenile record, and I haven’t done too badly); what brings these four people together or does anything? These are the questions that are facing law enforcement officials all over the world.

In the case of the French shooters, so much appears to be known about their lives that perhaps they could be used as models with certain base characteristics to help law enforcement organizations to put together some type of profile. Nah, that would be too easy, to unsophisticated. Perhaps it might also be too overwhelming a task because of the number of (a) youthful offenders who have served time, come out, and are now lost; (b) the number of recruiters in prison who have already converted some of those in the ‘a’ category who have now gone to ground; and (c) the dearth of people in the law enforcement system who are unable to keep track of the youthful offenders because they have a caseload that would choke an elephant.

“It’s impossible to keep track of all the possible,” I’ve been told. My answer to that goes back to the outset of this very essay…Why? Why is it impossible to keep track of all of the possible? Is it a lack of trained personnel? Is there a personnel pool out there that is being underutilized? How are we using our military police personnel who are being released from active duty? How about those who may be coming back as wounded warriors who are finding it difficult to adjust?  Somewhere, somehow, there is an answer to keeping better track of those who may be preparing the same thing or worse that was done in France and Denmark. The ACLU wouldn’t care for it a whole hell of a lot, but I’d rather be more protective of our general citizenry than less.

Let’s start asking the right questions and let’s begin a campaign to protect all Americans from facing more attacks on this wonderful place we call home.

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