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Archive for the ‘Lobbying and Lobbies’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One must give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump has picked up the political lingo of Washington much faster than I thought possible. For a long time, it was “Obama can’t be President because he wasn’t even born in America.” Even after the President showed a birth certificate, Trump questioned its authenticity. After Obama visited a mosque, Trump commented, “Maybe he feels comfortable there.” And, in a tweet on October 25th, Trump said, “Obama is a disaster.”

Ah, how things have changed following the “rigged” election that is now not rigged because Trump won the Electoral College vote. Trump now speaks of the President as “a good man.” Of course, Trump had to add that “the feeling is mutual.” For his part, When Obama was asked about Trump, he responded, “You know, he is somebody who I think is very engaging and gregarious.” Asked point blank, “Do you like him,” Obama said, “You know, I’ve enjoyed the conversations that we’ve had. He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence…” The President added, “…it’s probably a prerequisite for the job, or at least you have to have enough craziness to think that you can do the job….I think that he has not spent a lot of time sweating the details of, you know, all the policies…”

In Washington politics a “good man” is another way of saying, “This asshole couldn’t sell air conditioners in Florida in August.” A “good man” in Washington parlance is like calling someone a nebbish. For those not knowing the term, it’s akin to asking, “Did someone just leave,” when a “good man” or “nebbish” walks into a room. A “good man” is a nobody, a nothing. It’s about as backhanded a compliment as one can offer. Even Obama didn’t stoop to calling Trump a “good man.” However, his digs were, perhaps, deeper and more Washington—ese in their delivery. “He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence” can be taken in many ways. It might be interpreted as “You may think the ice is three feet thick, but two steps out and you’ll be up to your neck in muddy water.” Or, “not lacking in confidence” may be interpreted as, “Oh, you poor cocky son-of-a-bitch. If you only knew what awaits you over the next four years.”

You see, in Washington, “yes” when heard from a Representative or Senator, means, “No way in hell,” in part because those people never, under any circumstances, give a direct answer to any question. It’s just something that is not done, whether in polite company or not. “Well, that’s a good question, and our committee is looking into that right now.” This indicates that, “I don’t have a friggin’ clue to what you’re talking about, and how do I get the hell out of here…right now?” If caught a couple of weeks later by the same reporter with the same question, that reporter is likely to get, “Well, I’m glad you brought that up because I spoke with…and he or she will name some other sucker…and they’ve sent that back for review by…” some other committee you’ve never even heard of. Then, the reporter might ask about some freshman Senator or Representative who’s been attempting to make waves, and guess what the response will be. You got it, “Well,” this is the word that can be drawn out for close to ten minutes while the inquisitee gathers what are supposed to be his/her thoughts, and eventually comes out with, “He’s a good man.” Doesn’t really matter that you, as the reporter, were asking the question about a woman. It’s just the politically correct thing to say.

Now, I really should not castigate all Representatives or all Senators for the manner in which they respond to questions when on camera or in front of a print media person with a tape recorder in hand. [Whew, that’s a long sentence.] No, the old timers, those who have taken the course on “Correct Speaking in the Halls of Congress 101,” usually offered by any one of number of lobbyists, can come back at you and turn the tables faster than you can say “money under the table.” No, it’s always best to grab a ‘newbie’ who’s just gotten his or her feet wet with a few committee hearings, and then smack that person with a question about something completely foreign to what they are currently doing. With luck, you just might mine a nugget that you can either use as blackmail for getting something later on, or that you can take to the folks back in East Overshoe, or wherever you come from…but…first and foremost…you must know the lingo.

You may feel that Mr. Trump messed up when he called the President “a good man,” particularly after reading this primer, but you would be in error. The reason behind this is, quite simply, because Mr. Trump went on to say, “The feeling is mutual because it takes two to tango.” I have to tell you, Donald, that’s a bit limp. It’s weak because, as Trump may recall, when Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) was told by the President in A Clear and Present Danger that he now had “a chip in the big game” and could do the Washington two-step, Ryan replied, “I don’t dance.” Yeah, that was a bit weak too. However, President-elect Trump will learn quickly enough from those around him, that “No” means whatever the speaker wants it to mean; “Yes,” is always no way in hell; and “I’ll look into that right away Mr. President,” means “I hope to hell I can disappear for a couple of weeks so he’ll forget it.”

Anyway, you won, Donald…good luck, God speed, and if someday you are feeling weak and under the weather, have someone check your back for what might be one of the “thousand cuts” mentioned in Chinese torture books…I’ve been told.

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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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Writing about something is not the same as knowing about something. I have always admired good reporting as well as good fiction. John Powers of The Boston Globe was a hell of a writer when he was covering sports. John is a huge man, towering over me, but his insight into what took place at almost any sporting event made the reader feel that he or she was actually in the arena, not as a spectator but as a participant. My dear late friend, Bob Parker, was a wonderful fiction writer who drew the reader in from the first sentence and kept the reader enthralled until the last period was place.

I am about as far from a John Powers or Robert Parker or any of the wonderful writers we read on a daily basis. Like many of you, I struggle to gain and maintain the reader’s interest. It shows in that, if really lucky, I have two or three readers a day. It’s an ego thing, and I’m the first one to admit it.

Think about everything that is happening in the world today. We still have stupidity in Washington, with a President who feels he can do no wrong…and he’s wrong; a Congress now controlled by a single party, but I don’t see much taking place other than the Keystone Pipeline which is just going to line a few more pockets of the one percent; our judicial branch is, at best, confused about which issues belong before them and which should be left to the states for a final decision.

On the world front, we have the horrible executions of the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo and the assassination of four police officers by known radicals who were allowed to walk the streets freely and who got the martyrdom that they desired after their horrible onslaught. Sure, I could do my research online and read everything there is to read…like over one million articles, most of which are as accurate as would be teats on a bull, but that doesn’t give one the right to put together an accurate Reader’s Digest condensed version. Perhaps the most odious and despicable post-episodic thing taking place now is the race between al Qaeda and ISIS over who takes the “credit” for committing this hideous act. Is it fodder for the writer in me? By writing about this crime, I merely lend credence to the fact that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time, is safe from these half-crazed lunatics who are exercising their childhood fantasies of killing with no more respect for the beliefs of true Muslims and the Quran than the Bible-thumping idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church have in their beliefs about Christianity.

So what is left for me, in the few years I have remaining, to garble about? Should I talk about the 2016 race to become the next sucker in the White House? I have finally – gad, but it took a long time – figured out why smart people don’t run for president…their egos are not large enough, or as Clint Eastwood once put, “A man just has to know his limitations.” The really smart person allows the puppet to become the titular head and then the puppet-masters, eg, Citibank, the pharmaceutical lobbyists, the farm folk, and several others sit back and tug on a few strings to get the puppet to do their bidding. It’s wonderful to sit at the computer and gaze into the crystal ball. The Republican Party is firmly convinced that the next puppet will be from the GOP, thereby giving both the executive and legislative branches to a group of people who care little for the average American and a great deal for the one-percenters. After all, it’s the one-percenters who write the bills they pass and keep their bank accounts growing. And, what the hell, should a Democrat – by some miracle of God – attain the exalted puppet-post, it will merely be four or eight more years of gridlock. With gridlock, nothing gets done; the press has a field day; and late night comics rub their hands together in glee. While I consider myself an independent voter, I have to admit that someone like Chris Christie of New Jersey could really shake the old-time-DC-boys up; in addition to which, he probably knows where to get rid of the bodies….lots of swampland in New Jersey.

The recent story of the loving son is not something that you find every day. Could one invent such a thing? Perhaps if I was a more creative writer it could happen. However, I’m not that desperate to build a readership. That was just one of those poignant moments that had to be set to paper, and I was honored to have the opportunity to do so…my thanks to those who commented. The opposite of that situation was viewed by Juli yesterday. “Behind you is a mother and son,” she said. “Neither has stopped texting since they sat down.” Of course, we had no idea if they were texting one another, but my bet is that was not the case. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Can you imagine saying to one of your adult children, “Let’s go to lunch and leave our smart phones in the car.” Be the fastest goddamned lunch on record. Yes, I could write about my view on technology (said he, pounding away at the keyboard) but I don’t even know the vernacular for today’s techno-geek…tough to fall behind the times like this.

Well, I’ve almost reached my thousand word limit so to you, my reader (hopefully with an ‘s,’ I bid you a wonderful winter without falls or flu; without slipping and sliding; without icicles or idiots. If you have young children, I hope you will enjoy sledding with them at the local hill. The bumps will be a bit rougher than you may remember, but what the hell, you’ll have wonderful memories when you recall the day over a cup of hot chocolate…don’t forget the whipped cream!

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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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What if I elect to drink and smoke, eat fatty foods that taste good, and probably die at 50? So what if I don’t give a damn and think that you’re a fool for eating healthy, going to the gym each day and don’t think I’m particularly bright? Which one of us is correct in our thinking? The answer is that we both are. It may sound rather insane but at the very least, we must consider that we are following our own paths and not allowing others to influence our thinking…or are we?

It seems to me that there comes a point in time when we are so besieged with messages of how bad smoking is; how bad obesity is; how much we should be following federal dictates about what to eat and what not to drink, etc., that a form of rebellion may set in. If I want my mother to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my school lunch, why should I be forced to eat somewhere isolated like a leper? Let the kid with the peanut allergy eat elsewhere; there are more of me than there are of him or her, right? You’ve forced me to have a smoke outside the building where I  work; you won’t allow me to smoke in bars, restaurants, on beaches or in city-owned parks, and now you’re trying to tell me what I can and cannot do inside my own car? When you take over the car payments, then you can tell me what to do. I’ve gotten along just fine without health insurance for 40 years [actual case] and now you plan to fine me if I don’t buy health insurance from a government that cannot even allow me access  because its site shuts down regularly…like, I’m supposed to believe that’s going to solve my problems; are you nuts?

About 43 million people or 19 percent of adults over the age of 18 smoke tobacco. That’s a significant minority to me. Right now, 27.1 percent of Americans are obese. Depending on how you look at figures, that’s also a whale of a lot of people – pun intended. And would you believe that 15 percent of Americans are considered to be alcoholics. Holy, moly Batman!

Time out; time out…what does all of this actually mean? Well, first of all, it means that we sure know how to keep statistics. Remember, “figures don’t lie…but liars sure can figure.” It also means that we haven’t made cigarettes so prohibitively expensive that people who are addicted will have to turn to something else or quit altogether. In addition, since the tobacco lobby in Washington is allowed to continue to flourish, we all know that cigarettes, while costing an arm and a leg, will continue to be smoked in the closet or out. You can’t pass a prohibition law on smoking in the US. We saw what happened when that was tried with alcohol, so don’t even bother thinking about it.  Of course, what could be done is to pass a law stating that anyone who contracts lung cancer from smoking can be refused medical treatment for the disease. If you want people to stop smoking – and from first-hand experience, I can tell you that it is a horrible addiction – make the consequences so frightening that fewer and fewer will be tempted. Unfortunately, there will still be those who have the “it won’t happen to me attitude,” and will smoke anyway.

There is a myth that all obese people are only those in low-income groups. While this holds true for women and children, for some reason, it doesn’t hold true for low-income men. If you attempt to interpret what is said in some of the studies that have been released, you come away with nothing. My conclusion is that people are obese for two reasons: (a) they eat what they can afford, and; (b) they don’t care. There are also studies, most of which are controversial, that intelligence also plays a role in obesity, i.e., that those with a lower I.Q. are more likely to become obese in their middle years. What can be done? Well, one of the things that we have learned as we have ‘matured’ as a nation is that education about social issues rarely works. It appears to have failed on a variety of social issues, eg, smoking, and even on legal issues…buckle up; it’s the law…yeah, right! Okay, so what can we do? What I’d like to see is food manufacturers take a greater role in reducing the ingredients in their products that cause obesity. I’d like to see teachers able to express their true feelings and be able to say, “Your kid is fat and so are you; bring him back when you’ve both lost a hundred pounds!” I just don’t see that as a feasible alternative.  School cafeterias have revamped their menus; restaurants are noting healthy choices for their customers who are serious about keeping off the pounds. Unfortunately, if people wish to eat unhealthy foods, they’re going to do so. At one time, the military had an interesting way of ensuring fitness. During basic training, soldiers were required to pass a fitness test. It combined strength, fitness, and stamina. If you failed the first test, you might find yourself in a special group that ran a bit more, did more sit-ups and push-ups, and ate apart from others in the dining area. Fail the second time, and you were worked harder. If you failed the third time, you had to repeat basic training.  Yes, those were harsh measures, but if we’re so concerned about obesity in America, why not require that a physical fitness test also be passed before a high school diploma is received? Some would argue that physical fitness has no place in an educational environment. I happen to be among those who believe that physical fitness and mental alertness go hand in hand. While one is being taught to maintain a healthy body, they can also be taught how to bring those lessons into their home life. Earlier, I spoke of buckling up when you’re in your car. As a family, we never did it, at least not until our youngest was taking driver’s education. It was at her urging or noodging – depending on how one looks at it – that we began to buckle our seatbelts religiously…and that was before it was the law. The children really can become the teachers if we do it properly.

Well, we’ve covered tobacco usage, and obesity; what about this thing called ‘alcoholism’ or ‘problem drinking.’ Long before Joan was even diagnosed with cancer, we had stopped drinking. The stated reason was that we had lost the taste; the real reason was that we both felt we were on the border of becoming alcoholics, and it was getting too damned expensive. Do I drink today? Sure, if I want a drink, I’ll have one, but it’s usually overpowered by something that takes away the alcohol taste.  Since her passing, I have had a single drink the first time I’ve been back to any restaurant we ever frequented. I’ll offer a toast to her and, just as often, not even finish the drink. For some reason, people who drink to excess don’t bother me as much as they might.  I’ve worked with people who were functioning alcoholics. I’ve even told one or two that I knew what they were and that I never wanted them to come to work drunk. They get pissed at first, but that’s okay, they get over it. Thankfully, no one ever accused me of any kind of harassment, so I guess things worked out for the best.

WOW…we’ve covered a lot of ground here. Please don’t get the idea that I have the real solutions to these problems; I don’t. Far wiser heads than mine are looking at these problems daily and if they have yet to reach any solid solutions, who am I to believe that I can? Smoking? Yeah, it’s a problem because it can kill, not only the user, but those around the user. It killed my wife; it’s damaged my lungs; it’s a terrible, terrible addiction and anyone who allows themselves to become addicted is a fool. Obesity is another question; why wasn’t it a problem when I was growing up? Do we have too many food choices today that are bad? Are we disinclined to take physical fitness seriously? Anyone I have ever known who works out on a regular basis says that they hate working out but that they love the feeling they get from exercise.  I have belonged to three gyms since 1994. Each has had its own personality, but each also has had its own commonality and that commonality is the way people speak about how they feel after their workout.

As we begin another year, forget the resolutions, just do something right…for you and for others.

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America is petrified of home grown terrorists, correct?

We appear to believe that these home grown terrorists will attempt to set off bombs in Times Square in New York or use something like Sarin gas in our subways, correct?

American’s believe that these home grown terrorists will poison our water supply, the feed for our animals, and commit openly heinous crimes that will cause great death in human terms and destroy our infrastructure, right?

Allow me to postulate another scenario: What if these home grown terrorists had been planted in the United States decades ago? What if their parents were the original sleepers and raised their children to infiltrate various groups in the United States? What if they eventually infiltrated a single political party that already had a somewhat dubious reputation and whose sole goal appeared to be repression of those not in positions of power and to abet the rich and shameless who, other than knowing how to make money off the backs of others were unequivocally stupid in the ways of the real world?

Let’s give these home grown terrorists a group name, shall we? Let’s call them the Tea Party. That’s right; I’m openly calling the members of the Tea Party home grown terrorists. The founders of the Tea Party state, “Our mission is to bring awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty, or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation.” To that extent, what have they actually done? The answer is that they have attempted to fulfill this so-called mission by disruptive, demoralizing, and devastating the two-party system of government in the United States which has, over two and a quarter centuries, brought this nation to a leadership position in the world more rapidly than has ever been achieved by any civilized nation in the world.

Think about what has happened since the cowardly attack on the United States since 2001. Although they waited until three years later, when perhaps 20 percent of the shock had worn off, the Tea Party moved in to fill a void and to appeal to the less intelligent about their goals and objectives. Let’s take a few of their core beliefs and examine them. I freely admit that I do not have the capability to examine them to the depth that perhaps they should be, so let me give simplistic explanations.

The first of the Tea Party “Non-negotiable core beliefs” is that “Illegal aliens are here illegally.” Well, duh, that makes a whole hell of a lot of sense, except it doesn’t say anything about what should be done. Illegal aliens are here illegally because the jobs they are willing to take are jobs that the average American citizen won’t touch because they are hard, back-breaking labor, without which, you and I would probably (a) not have vegetables on our tables or (b) the cost of our vegetables would be so high that we couldn’t afford to put them on our table. Americans are funny; they want a good day’s pay for a good day’s work. Illegals just want ‘some’ money that they can send back to wherever it was they came from, ie, countries that are not fully developed or that inhibit that development in order that the government can keep them under said government’s thumb. While the Tea Party’s non-negotiable core belief is that illegal aliens are here illegally, I don’t see or read how they would remedy this situation.

“Pro-domestic employment is indispensable.” I can really think of a single way in which we could make this happen in some fields. That would be to repeal all of the Civil Rights legislation that has ever been enacted and to bring slavery back to the United States. That would certainly ensure domestic tranquility. Can you say, “Uncivil War,” or “Race War,” or any one of a hundred wars occurring in every city, town, village, and hamlet in all 50 states? This sounds to me like a guarantee of work for every American citizen, whether naturalized or born here, but what kind of job will this be? Tell me how you’re going to do it and don’t just toss out these blanket statements.

“A strong military is essential.” We have a strong military; we have a strong volunteer military. We have a military that, in terms of its equipment and training, is probably ten times stronger than any other military in the world. Some have even argued that our military is almost too strong and that because of its strength, it is called on to be the world’s policeman. Is that what America really wants, to be known as the world’s policeman? Isn’t that something like empire-building, because whenever we step in to help somewhere, it seems that we always have to leave troops behind? I’m not talking about the men and women we bury on foreign soil, and God knows there have been too many of them. I’m talking about the ones along the DMZ in Korea, the troops in Vietnam, Germany, Iraq, and other spots around the world. I’m also talking about how sick and tired America’s moms and dads are of changing that blue star flag in the window to a gold star.

“Special interests must be eliminated.” This is a gutsy core belief. I congratulate the Tea Party for putting it on their list…when I can finally stop laughing. The sophistication of special interest groups to influence every member of every party, both in power and out, is so great as to be a government unto it or themselves. I have no idea which egomaniacal son-of-a-bitch thought this one up, but if we haven’t been able to do it over the past two centuries, it’s not going to happen when the new kids on the block tell the special interest groups they’re no longer welcome. Telling the farm lobby, pharmaceutical lobbyists, bankers, tobacconists, and automakers to get out of Dodge is just likely to get you unelected really quickly.

“Gun ownership is sacred.” No, it’s not sacred. The Second Amendment of the Constitution provides “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It says nothing about owning a gun being sacred. As a matter of fact, it could be interpreted as saying that anyone who owns a gun is, de facto, a member of the Militia, ie, military, and is subject to being called to active duty at any time so long as he or she owns that or a gun. “Because you are a registered gun owner, we’re going to put you through eight weeks of basic training and then we’re sending you into the hills of Afghanistan. You will receive shit for pay and eat MRE’s every day. You will sleep on some of the coldest friggin’ ground upon which you have ever slept. You will get fired upon on a regular basis and if you aren’t alert, you will be killed. How’d ya like them apples?”

We will examine several more of the Tea Party “non-negotiable core beliefs in future essays. When all is said and done, however, I believe you will begin to question whether or not our own home grown terrorists are merely masquerading as members of a third political party.

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If we didn’t know or were unsure of what’s important in the United States Congress, we were given the most concrete example possible this week when Congress defeated gun control legislation that had been put together in a bi-partisan effort. Four Democratic Senators chose politics over common sense and preservation over losing their chances of reelection.

I suppose it’s wrong to cast blame on Senators from states with a large number of small rural populations, where guns are more of a necessity than a ‘pleasure’ item; after all, one can’t eat ‘road kill’ every night. Nonetheless, this vote showed that the United States is not being run by those elected to do so but by a group of fanatics who are able buy elections in much the same way Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, and Ford did in the early part of the 20th Century. Oops, only the names have changed but it appears that big business or big lobbies can still put their stamp on who represents the ‘country’ in the nation’s capitol.

As I have said on previous occasions, I am an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment…” A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That being the case, why don’t we eliminate the Army and just call up those who have that “right to bear arms” and send them to the faraway places to become cannon fodder. We could then consider them our “well regulated Militia” and bring a new concept regarding how the second amendment is being interpreted. One could easily make the case that by bearing arms, you are part of a “well-regulated Militia,” and as such, you and your weapons are subject to regular inspection and because you are Militia – not National Guard or Reserve – you are subject by the Constitution to bear those arms at the whim and fancy of the Commander in Chief.

There is one distinct reason why some folks who keep arms should have them. People who ‘need’ guns are those who hunt for food for their tables. People who have guns for “protection of life and property” have a bit of a paranoia problem. If I lived in a ‘dangerous’ part of a city would I own a gun? Yes, I probably would. Back “in the day,” I qualified as a marksman with the M-1 rifle. I also qualified with the M-1 carbine (a useless weapon) and the .45 cal. Pistol, a weapon that, no matter where you hit, would take down a human being. However, I see no need to keep weapons in my home. If anyone can give me a good reason why I should have a gun in my house, I really would like to hear it.

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” That’s wrong. If the people didn’t have the guns, they wouldn’t use them to kill people. You want to kill someone, beat him to death with your fists; hell, if you don’t know how to do it, you can always ask a Utah soccer player. Work in close with a knife if you want to kill someone. That way, you have to look in his eyes as he’s dying. But a gun can be fired from some distance. All you have to do is watch the body drop. It’s impersonal and, if the other person isn’t armed, it’s cowardly. Facing a loaded gun, looking at the business end of the barrel is not a pleasant experience; been there, done that…three times; don’t care to do it again. When an out-of-control kid presses a double barreled shotgun to your head and screams, “Bishop, I’m gonna blow your fucking head off,” you would be absolutely amazed what goes through your mind…and I’m not talking about, “Gee, I’m glad I’m wearing clean underwear!”

Congress, I fear, doesn’t understand what 90 percent of the population wants to do. Conduct background checks on people who are buying guns isn’t a bad idea and it most certainly is not the first step on the road for the Federal Government to confiscate your weapons. No question, there are some very bright men and women in Congress. They are also cowards. Every single Congressman or woman who voted “No” on gun control put themselves ahead of their constituents. It is my sincere hope that they will be turned out of office when next they come due.

I can only sit and wonder what will happen the next time some fool with a gun decides to wipe out an entire elementary school classroom. The record right now is 20 young children. If you don’t believe there is someone, somewhere in the United States who isn’t thinking about how he or she can break that record, you have your head in the sand. Yes, it’s a horrible thing to consider; it’s incomprehensible that there are people who think that way. Unfortunately, those people exist and we have no clues about identifying them. We finally woke up to the fact that bullying exists. No longer is it “boys will be boys,” although there are still too many parents and teachers who excuse it that way. We finally accepted the fact that domestic violence is a crime and not something that is just a family argument. One of these days we may even begin to recognize that a restraining order is no protection against a knife or a bullet or a baseball bat. Until judges learn to do more than slap the wrists of domestic violence offenders, however, we will have to read about more deaths.

We may consider ourselves to be the most civilized nation in the world. It’s too bad that violence in all its ugly forms belies what we claim. We maintain that no country other than China has a larger population; that citizens in countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, and Korea, just to name a few are all happier than we are. Why is that do you suppose? Could it be that they don’t have the violence we have? Could it be there schools are better than ours? Could it be that their system of health care is far superior to ours? Could it be that they have learned not to take themselves quite as seriously as Americans do? I don’t have a clue, but it seems that we must really have a burr under our saddles if we can’t pass some legislation that would tighten up on gun control. What do you think?

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The manner in which war is conducted today is certainly a far cry from America’s first encounters. Standing up, looking straight at your enemy from 20 yards or less was, I guess, fine in Colonial days. My only two hopes as a soldier would have been, first, that the man at whom I was aiming was the one who was aiming at me and second that I was a better, more accurate, and quicker shot than he. Staring at one another across Lexington Green had to be terrifying. I’d like to think that we “Colonials” were a quick study because of our guerilla tactics at Concord, but the Civil War proved we hadn’t really learned one damned thing…well, we do shoot at each other from greater distances for the most part but there were still those lines of soldiers facing one another.

When WWI rolled around armies fought each other from trenches; no more of that macho nonsense where no one stood a chance in hell of enduring withering fire across an open field. Of course weapons and weapon accuracy had also improved. In addition, a more use of tactics, strategy, and common sense also entered the fray. WWII was an entirely different ball game. From cleaning out caves with flamethrowers on several Pacific islands to hedgerow fighting to long distance cannons, to the introduction of the atom bomb, war reached a pinnacle that no one ever wanted to see again.

While Korea had some elements of both the Revolutionary War and nearly every war that followed, all sides recognized the stupidity of using atomic or, by then, nuclear weapons. None of that matters when you understand that more than 54,000 Americans lost their lives and nearly 105,000 were wounded. In retrospect, fear of creeping Communism dominating the Pacific Rim and eventually all of Europe now seems somewhat fallacious, but that was then and this is now.

When we – America, that is – went to war in Vietnam, we learned bitter lessons. I believe, and it most certainly a personal view, that the strategy and tactics used by the Japanese in WWII were a preview of the ways in which future wars would be fought. The Japanese were considered “sneaky” by the manner in which many battles or non-battles were fought. It was jungle fighting and I’m not all that certain we learned our lessons all that well. Vietnam was a nightmare, particularly for the nearly 60,000 who died in the conflict.

Today, there has been further improvement in weaponry. Strategy and tactics have changed in the wars that we fight, now in the Middle East. This is a new military; while its mission – defend the USA from all enemies, foreign and domestic – remains the same, the manner in which we approach that mission is far different from the times when we were a young group of Colonists attempt to create a nation of our own. It’s different from those days when Abraham Lincoln would walk into battle zones and change commanders for whatever reasons he had. Oh, wait a minute, Lincoln was the President; he was the political leader of a ‘party.’ While he was an excellent tactician and strategist, historians recall that he received great criticism for some of his military decisions.

Our military in the 21st Century consists of highly educated, militarily adept leaders. Yes, no question that there is politics within the military, but that’s where it remains. It has nothing to do with how soldiers – using that as a generic term for all members of the military – are trained or equipped. Soldiers and their commanders know what equipment they need when they are in battle. For instance, Humvees that couldn’t stop a BB were not very good; we learned that in the Iraqi war. Equipment that was susceptible to sand jamming or making it unusable was also not too damned good either. These were military problems, to be solved by military leaders without political interference.

Today, we have Congress trying to tell the military what it can have. Let me quote: “Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build an improved version of the 70 ton Abrams [tank].”

“It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt”  Well, you can’t say that’s altogether true. After all, when the Congress men and women needed to get home for a nine-day vacation – and don’t bullshit with me that it wasn’t a vacation – the wrote and passed a bill in one day that would eliminate delays at airports so they could get themselves away from Washington.

Anyway, “…in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“‘If we had our choice we would use the money in a different way,’ Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s Chief of Staff, told the Associated Press this past week.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but if the Army Chief of Staff admits he doesn’t need a weapon and wants to use the money differently, I’d accept what he said, because I’m not in his position, and he damn well knows better than I what he needs. Gee, if Congress was willing to let the FAA divert $25 million so the air controllers get back to work, why can’t they let the Army divert the money to something they can really use?  The answer is quite simple and it’s spelled P-O-L-I-T-I-C-S. It is politically expedient that the Abrams tank continue to be built because it provides 700 jobs for the people in Lima, Ohio. In addition, two of the biggest critics of the federal deficit, Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, probably wouldn’t get elected again since the plant in Lima is also in Jordan’s district in Ohio and Portman is the junior Senator from Ohio.

I will grant that closing a weapons-producing plant in Ohio will cost jobs; I’m also aware that we live in a time when retooling and restructuring of facilities is so much less complicated than it has been in the past. Just because the plant wouldn’t produce tanks any longer doesn’t mean that it cannot produce something equally in demand. No, this is a case where a couple of politicians and their supporters got caught with their hands in the pork barrel and the pork bit back.

This is merely another example of the Congressional lunacy the American citizenry faces today. I’d like to believe that it’s a rare occurrence, but you and I both know better. Until we can make some major changes in our lawmaking branch of government, critical action for the survival of the nation will not happen.

Vote out the 112th Congress of the United States of America!

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According to a report prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, “In August 2011, bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate voted for the threat of sequestration as a mechanism to force Congress to act on further deficit reduction. The specter of harmful across-the-board cuts to defense and nondefense programs was intended to drive both sides to compromise. Congress can and should take action to avoid it by passing a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package.”

The President and Congress could not agree on budget cuts. Obama sent two budges to the hill which would reduce our budget deficit by $4 trillion. Congress, as woefully ineffectual as it has been over the past half decade, would not budge and would not submit a budget acceptable to the President. Ergo, sequestration and its cuts has occurred.

Congress, in a race to get home for a one-week recess – see how much power these idiots wield – and noting that the sequestration meant fewer air traffic controllers – not to mention the fact that House Speaker Boehner’s flight was delayed by an hour and a half…oh, heaven forbid – managed to pass in one day, one fucking day, a bill that would allow the FAA to transfer $25 million from its building and improvement fund to hire back the controllers “to eliminate the long lines and cancellations of flights.” You bet your ass they did it in one day; those boys and girls had to get home; they didn’t want to wait in line. More than that, they wanted to blame the long lines and cancellations on the President.  At least he had the good sense to send budgets to the Hill. Is it his fault if Congress chose not to accept them, modify them, sit down with him. Oh, yes, Speaker Boehner sat down but he wasn’t really in a position to negotiate with the President. If Republican Congressman Boehner had come to a compromise with Democratic President Barack Obama, (a) he would have lost his speakership in the House, and (b) probably would have received zero support from the Republican Nation Committee when his next election came around, and (c) would have been replaced by a member of the ultra-conservative Tea Party, thus ensuring that anything the President desired in terms of legislation would never, under any circumstances ever find its way out of the House of Representatives.

“House of Representatives” is a Washington joke. They don’t represent anyone but themselves. As quick as they were to pass a bill that would allow them to get home quicker, they did nothing, absolutely nothing about the 30,000 teacher positions that are due to be cut. They did nothing about the reduction in the meals on wheels programs for seniors that are going to be cut. The FBI, Border Patrol, correctional officers, and other law enforcement officials will still be cut. The Department of Agriculture will not be able to inspect meat processing plants to ensure the guidelines are being followed and food and airborne illnesses are not being transmitted, thus affecting the safety of consumers.

But in one day, one single stinking day, those bastards passed a bill that allows them to get home on time. They don’t represent you and they don’t represent me. THEY REPRESENT THE 435 MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE 100 MEMBERS OF THE SENATE! If there ever was a more clique with any greater power, it would have to be the NRA. After all, they purchased Congress a long time ago.

You may be saying to yourself that there’s nothing you can do. Well I say you’re wrong. I say that if your Congressman/woman or Senator voted for this one-day bill, he and she showed their true colors. They are not red, white, and blue. Their color is green, money green! Oh sure, they may pass some puissant legislation that is so minor as to affect part of their district, but it doesn’t affect America. They are incapable of passing legislation that helps the country…totally incapable. They bitch and wail about how great the deficit is and how they don’t want to pass that on to ‘their’ – oh yeah and ‘your’ – grandchildren. It’s a little too late to be worrying about that shit when we have a whole pile of worries just to keep out country on an even keel. We’ve been a debtor nation for over half a century. Does anyone truly believe we’ll ever get that debt under control? We won’t; we can’t. It’s not going to happen. This should not be the major priority of our lawmakers. They should be concentrating on how we can better educate our kids; how we can provide more protection for our citizens; how we can strengthen our medical research programs to wipe out disease; how we can repair a broken Social Security system as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Your vote will count only if it is cast to eliminate those people in Congress who have shown their true colors. We elected them and by making telephone calls, by harassing them about issues that are meaningful to you, by working for fresh faces with new ideas and yes, by throwing the Tea Party out of Congress, we can possibly get Congressmen and women who are interested in representing us, the American people.

There’s an old cliché that goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me;” There are members of Congress who have been fooling their constituents for decades and guess what, we who put them in office should be ashamed of ourselves.

 

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