Archive for the ‘Population’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recognizing fully that there are approximately seven billion people on earth who are more intelligent than I, far be it for me to suggest or dictate possible foreign policy decisions to those in my own nation who are in a temporary, at best, position to do so. It seems somewhat as ridiculous as attempting to tell General Motors how to make an ignition switch for their vehicles or how to tell American tourists which mountains to climb in the Middle East. In other words, speak well of what you know well and speak not of which you know nothing.

That having been said, I would propose that Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama if he sends one soldier, sailor, marine, airman or woman, coast guardsman or woman, or even a member of the Boy/Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, or member of the 4-H into harm’s way in the Middle East before he clearly, articulately, and demonstrably proves well beyond the shadow of anyone’s doubt that we have national interests at stake in that region other than the protection of our oil interests or the interests of the so-called one percent. Please, do not tell me in the vaguest of terms that terrorists will use bases in the Middle East to plan and carry out attacks on our nation. I will not believe you. If you believe that to be the case, strengthen the protection of our borders at home; increase the use of HUMINT and other intelligence-gathering resources abroad, and devote greater resources to the same type of attacks that the terrorists carry out, i.e., sneak attacks on their targets before they can carry out their attacks on our targets.

It’s an entirely new era of warfare into which we have entered and America is lagging well behind the curve in terms of how it should be fought. Remember the days of the Napoleonic wars when great armies would face each other on the battlefield and exchange fire? Then, when the soldiers of King George III attempted to engage the “American Rabble” [note the capital ‘R’ please}, they were rudely shocked by the guerilla tactics of the Patriots. Those tactics plus planned operations such as D-Day, Operations Overlord, King Too, Charger, Casanova became the way to fight. What about civilians? Well, insofar as possible, America and its allies attempted to respect and reduce civilian casualties with noted exceptions. Today things are different. The people who are America’s enemies today prefer to use civilians because they are aware of America’s horror at seeing non-combatants used, abused, and slaughtered. Our enemies don’t care who they kill as long as they, the dead, don’t believe the way they, the terrorists, happen to believe on that particular day. Politely, we used to call it tribal warfare; it is not. ISIS or whatever the hell they are calling themselves are nothing more than a gang; no better than the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Michigan Militia, or the Wah Ching. They proclaim to be religious jihadists, but that, I believe, is merely an excuse to kill others unlike themselves.

In 1961, President Kennedy stated that we were sending “advisors” to someplace called Vietnam. It wasn’t a popular decision, but we trusted Jack the war hero to do what was right. The advisors were followed by more advisors and then marines and soldiers who weren’t “advisors,” but who were right in the thick of things. The guys who fought and died in that war were patriots; make no mistake about that. The reason they were asked to fight, I regret to say, were never clearly spelled out. As a consequence, many people back in the states didn’t understand and blamed those who fought and died as much as they blamed future administrations. I didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him, but thanks be to God for Richard Nixon’s intelligence in ending that war that claimed over 58,000 American lives.

Now, this current President – for whom I voted twice – who has nothing to lose because he can’t run again is talking about sending 275-300 “advisors” and Special Forces to “train” Iraqi forces. When do the “advisors” and “trainers” become companies, regiments, battalions, and armies who shed blood? When might we reach the point of saying, “We need more young men and women so by executive order, we’re reinstating selective service?” That is, perhaps extreme, but maybe extreme is what is required to wake up the American people to the fact that our people are dying and the only thing we’re told is “…because it’s in our national interest.” Dammit, give me specifics, not glittering generalities, because right now, I’m thinking that your national interests are not my national interests nor are they in the national interests of those mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who have gold star flags hanging in their front windows.

If Iraq divides into three states, we all know what will happen. The most war-like state will soon absorb the other two. They will then, in all likelihood absorb Syria and move on Iran. The United Nations will condemn them and they won’t give a damn. The Israelis will fight them and eventually use a nuclear weapon to defeat them, or perhaps by that time, the war-like state will have nuclear weapons and the world’s Armageddon will have come about. Only at that point will some sage declare, “It’s Obama’s fault for not sending in “advisors” and “trainers,” and once more, I will have been proven wrong…but it won’t really matter to me; I’ll be dead.

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How much of our lives is regulated? In Great Britain the amount of salt one uses is being regulated as a health improvement. How do they know? Are there salt police who come around at breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner time? Granted, salt can cause any number of medical problems, but…what if people in Great Britain really don’t give a shite?  It’s their lives. We’re all going to die of something. If person A doesn’t care how long he lives, let him layer the fish and chips in white, beautiful salt…yuck…but what the hell; that’s what he wants; that’s what he gets.

In the United States, we used to “throw out the trash.” Whatever trash we had went in plastic or paper bags or maybe old boxes, and we took it to the dump…and dumped it. Times have changed. In our community, we have trash pickup as part of a town service. However, we are asked to separate our trash by barrel color…yes, we have differently colored lids on our barrels. The blue cover is for recyclable materials; the green cover is for burning…everything not recyclable is turned to ash…which is then recycled. I suppose it’s possible that we could have the ‘recycle police’ who might come around and check your barrels, handing our tickets if you’ve put a recyclable in your green covered barrel. It would serve to reduce unemployment, I suppose.

Not too long ago, I made a trip to Maryland. Coming home, I made the mistake of getting trapped in one of those EZ pass lanes. Rather than stop, cause an entire lane of traffic to back up; in all probability cause several accidents, etc., I placed money on a ledge – stupid me – and about a month later received a “you-naughty-boy” letter and bill from the State of New Jersey. I called my friend, Bridget Anne Kelly in Chris Christie’s office and she and I were so mad…well…you know the rest of her story. Nah, not true; I paid the fine, but the letter was pretty threatening.

Our food is more regulated than ever before. Why,,,because the government is trying to make us more healthy or conscious of our health. We can no longer eat any trans fats because it’s been determined that they are not good for us. It wouldn’t matter that I might think my food cooked in trans fats tastes better; I’m not allowed to have them! I know you’re doing it for my own good, but get outta my face; let me make my own decisions. People are considered bad parents if they don’t want their kids to receive certain inoculations…well…I happen to go along with that but when you think about it, why can’t we just say that they’re no longer welcome in our schools or anywhere else in town…pack up and leave. Whoops, that’s just a bit too much regulation for me.

In America, we have been so used to so much individual freedom that when any action is taken that might, somehow, infringe on that freedom, we get really upset. I have several articles about the dislike of cameras that focus on catching speeders flying through intersections. There are stores and banks where one cannot enter wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, or a hoodie in the “up position.” Is this or are these infringements on our individual freedoms. You walk into my bank with your hoodie up and sunglasses on, I’m going to have you accompanied by an armed guard!

We are now regulated into having health insurance under penalty of being fined. Is this fair? One of my younger friends who played in an amateur hockey league after completing his high school and college days in the rink would say, “No.” Last time I saw him he still didn’t have health insurance. Now that it’s mandatory, I have no idea what he’ll do.

We say that we live in a free society. There is no such thing. Without rules and regulations, life would be so chaotic that no one would be safe. The big question in my mind is how far regulation should be allowed to go. If we’re trying to get everyone to eat healthier, exercise on a regular basis, aren’t we creating additional problems for ourselves? Gee, people live longer; Social Security will have to be paid to a larger population, but we don’t have the funds for Social Security; where do we get that money? Should people be forced to work longer…up to the age of 85 or 90, perhaps? If people live longer, they have to be housed, which means we’re taking away more animal habitats, and that means the bears and deer and wolves and elk and the…holy crap, I’ve got a zoo in my back yard…and they’re looking at me while licking their chops!

Our space in the United States is finite and before we go a building, building, building, maybe we should consider the amount of pollution that results from such efforts. All of this begs several questions: “How much is too much regulation…of the way and the things we eat; of the observation of the individual by monitors; of the manner in which we dress; of the speed with which our cars will carry us; of the demand that public transportation be used? Don’t laugh; regulation is already an integral part of our daily lives.

Finally, there comes the big question: “Will there come a time when the United States actually carries regulation too far and regulates itself to extinction?”

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The Palestinians don’t want to recognize that Israel even exists. The Russians want to take back the Ukraine. India and Pakistan are ready to push the button if one even spits across the other’s border. North Korea wishes to be able to bully anyone it so chooses just like its cousins, Al Qaeda, and everyone’s pissed at America because we have so much and they have “so little.” That about sum it up for you, Bunky?

Meanwhile, back in the lower 48, the Blacks hate the Spanish; both hate the whites; the Asians hate each other. Immigrant sub-groups are trying to take over neighborhoods by violent methods. The Jews are trying to celebrate Passover, and some asshole from Kansas who doesn’t believe in anyone’s civil rights but his own, goes on a shooting rampage to kill them. We have crazy people walking into our schools and shooting or stabbing students, teachers, and administrative personnel. At the same time, we have 435 idiots in Washington who probably couldn’t agree on how to wipe yourself, much less pass legislation that will allow the government to function more effectively and efficiently. We have state governors telling the federal government to fuck off because the states are going to do as they damn well please…and all of this is what future generations have to face and solve. Kinda makes you wonder about bringing children into the world, doesn’t it?

Is this a messed up world or what? It rather makes you wonder where in the hell you could go to get away from all of this nonsense and maybe set down some roots [pronounced however you please] somewhere in the boonies or backwoods of…aw, who the hell knows. Can’t go to a tropical island; never know when an earthquake will hit ‘n sink the whole damned thing. Besides, television sucks. If you wish to move to the back snow country of Alaska, good luck and write when the temperature gets to be around 70 F; I’ll come for a short visit.

However, I have some wonderful news. There are still towns right here on the continent where you and I can go for some peace and quiet; rest and relaxation…as long as you mind your business and I mind my own. If you agree to those terms, I’ll let you in on the secret.

Mother Nature Network has listed twelve towns that sound ideal for getting away from it all. If you’re looking for fine dining and nightlife, you may as well stay where you are, but for me Monowi, Nebraska doesn’t sound bad at all. Hell, I could double the population just by moving next door to Elsie Eller, the Mayor, librarian, and bartender…she’s the only resident living there now. Time was her husband, Rudy, was around but he passed back in 2004, so Elsie’s the sole resident. Monowi was a boomtown back in the 30’s with 150 residents, but the draw of the big cities with greater job opportunities just whittled that population down to Elsie and Rudy.

There’s a big question regarding whether or not I’d be welcome in Lost Springs, Wyoming. There’s a great deal of controversy. Somebody put up an official-looking sign that says Lost Springs has a population of one. Mayor Leda Price, who’s been living there for nearly 40 years, says that’s wrong. Even after the coalminers left, she says that the town has always had three or four residents. Controversy aside, it seems to be a hospitable place; even has a post office and the general store…which is owned by none other than Mayor Price.

I’ve actually driven through Tortilla Flat, Arizona. That was back in 1953. It’s the “…last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail” but no, we didn’t have to fight the Apaches. Tortilla Flat [there is no ‘s’] is Arizona’s smallest official community that has a post office and voter’s precinct. It also boasts a restaurant, gift shop, and a saloon. Right now, the ‘town’ is owned by a couple who bought it in 1988, but if you’re willing to kick in $5.5 million, the place can be yours. With my luck it would be bought by a gambling syndicate and turned into another Vegas…guess I’ll pass on this one also.

If it weren’t for the summer’s heat and humidity, I might consider moving to Weeki Wachee, Florida. “It’s home to just four residents, according to census estimates, making it the only city in the world with more mermaids than people. The deepest naturally formed spring in the U.S. runs through this small town, and Seminole Indians named it “Weeki Wachee,” meaning “little spring.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been located, and every day more than 117 million gallons of fresh water flow into the spring from subterranean caves.

“When former U.S. Navy SEAL trainer Newton Perry came across the spring in 1946, he saw a business opportunity and built a theater into the limestone below the surface of the spring. Perry trained women as “mermaids,” teaching them to swim, dance and perform beneath the water, and the Weeki Wachee mermaids were born. The mermaids transformed Weeki Wachee into a tourist hotspot in the 1960s, attracting thousands of people to the small town, including celebrities like Elivis Presley. The city incorporated in 1966, making it one of the nation’s smallest cities — and the only one with a mermaid mayor. Mayor and former mermaid Robyn Anderson now oversees both the city and her underwater kingdom of mermaids.”

I know two small communities to which I won’t be going. One is Centralia, Pennsylvania. There was a time when the mining town boasted a population of 3,000. Today, that number is down to ten. Ya see, what happened there was that in 1962, some workers set a trash fire in an old mine…damned fire’s still going. The state condemned the town – even took away their zip code; that’s about as low as you can get – and the state spent $42 million just to relocate the townies. The other ‘no-no’ place on my list is Picher, Oklahoma, the spot dubbed the most toxic place in America by the Environmental Protection Agency. At one time, this was the most productive lead and zinc mining area in the world, but the mine waste contaminated everything in the area, turning the local creek red. “Picher was declared too toxic to clean up in 2006, and was further devastated by a tornado in 2008. Despite this, six residents remain; can you say, “dumb?”

So whether your search for peace and quiet takes you to Buford or Emblem, Wyoming, Freeport, Kansas, Bonanza, Colorado, or Gross, Nebraska, just remember…somehow, the IRS will find you!

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The late Academy Award winning actress, Bette Davis is quoted as having said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Now that I’m only a couple of years away from when she died – she passed away at the age of 81 – I’m beginning to understand precisely what she was saying.

Getting or growing – your choice – old is a process, along with everything else. If you are diagnosed early on with a terminal disease, you never have the chance to experience what some might call the torment of growing old. My friend Jerry – and at my age, I’ve forgotten his last name – died of some damned thing called poliomyelitis. I saw him on Saturday night, when the store in which we both worked closed. He was fine; no problems. Evidently, he woke up Sunday morning with some aches and pains; by Tuesday, he was dead. He never had his chance to grow old. Neither did my friend, Joe Thompson. Joe quit school in our senior year to join the Marines. On the way back to camp one night, on some Georgia road, Joe and three of his buddies wrapped their car around a tree. Joe hadn’t hit 20 yet.

It’s been said that only the good die young. Personally, I think that’s bullshit; you die when you die. Life, at least to me, is a big gamble. Every day the dice get rolled somewhere and you live or you die. That is, perhaps, a bit morbid, but it’s one way of looking at it. I’ve also been known to say that every morning I pull back the covers and put my feet on the floor, the Devil says, “Oh, shit, he made it through another night.”

Depending on the “expert” with whom you speak we begin the process of sarcopenia anytime between the ages of 20 and 50. Gotcha with the big word, didn’t I? Don’t worry I also had to look it up. It’s the age at which we begin to lose muscle mass. Sure, it’s possible to slow the process through strength training, and I suppose if you’re Mark Maguire, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, or a few others, you can even reverse the process, but (a) I would prefer to grow old at the regular rate, (b) I’m not certain I have the money to pay for that ‘stuff,’ and (c) I’m not all that big on injecting myself if I don’t have to do so. If you’ve ever had to inject yourself with insulin or Lovenox or anything like that, you know what I mean. The point is that as we age, we can’t lift the things we once lifted. We can’t do what we once found fairly routine. I well remember being in the gymnasium at Babson, watching a group of students playing basketball. One of them yelled over, “Hey, Mr. Bishop, wanna play?” Certainly, I was too wise to get into that gig, but they did convince me to take a shot. I stood where I had remembered standing in high school – my ‘spot’ on the floor from which I once had been a deadly shot. It was about 25 feet away from the basket and just off to one side. I took my shot and it fell about five feet short of the rim. I laughed; they laughed, but it was a clear indication that when you’re in your late fifties, you don’t shoot hoops the way you did at 17.

As I say, aging is a gradual process. If you’re lucky (and smart), you exercise to stay healthy; you eat right to stay healthy; you don’t smoke; you don’t drink to excess…everything in moderation – even moderation itself. With luck, cancer steers a wide path around you, although many of us find the basal cells of our sunbathing youth and they must be removed. When I grew up, smoking was an acceptable habit, and so in middle age, were its consequences…COPD and emphysema. Quitting helps but the damage is done. You can’t run as far or as quickly…if you can run at all. You learn that the meals that tasted so good also took a toll on your heart. If you’re lucky, you survive the first attack, and if you listen, there may or may not be a second and more severe one.

Time moves along and the print on the newspaper gets smaller and a bit more indistinct. You see an eye doctor and he may tell you that he can improve your vision or that you’re condemned to bi- and then trifocals. In my case, procedures had advanced whereby, laser surgery removed cataracts and my vision was restored to the point of buying eyeglasses off the rack. Some folks aren’t so lucky. Their vision keeps fading until it’s all but gone. The same is true of other senses. Hearing seems to fade…very, very, very slowly but it fades. Hearing aids become a part of one’s wardrobe along with greater caution when crossing the street.

One morning, we wake up and something seems to ache as we’re getting out of bed. Hell, which can happen any time from 10 on, I suppose, and if you’ve been an athlete, it happens the morning after every game. At some point, the ache or the pain doesn’t go away and you realize that the cartilage which once was there is either torn or worn away. The doctor says it’s the onset of arthritis, that you need surgery, or that, “we have a pill for that.” If it’s your back that’s hurting, they have injections for that or you can go ‘under the knife’ and pray for the best. You see, aging today, is not the same as it was in the day of your mother and dad. And it most certainly isn’t the same today as it will be 50-100 years from now. If you followed Star Trek, you may remember when Bones, Kirk, and Spock, returned to earth in the late 20th Century to rescue one of their crew. They found him in a fairly modern hospital, yet Dr. McCoy called the doctors of that period, “barbarians” and “butchers.” I can honestly say that I’ve seen some of that in my lifetime. My left leg has a six inch scar from the first knee surgery; the second – a year later – has two one inch scars on either side of the knee. My youngest child, whose knee surgery was done about 20 years later, had three tiny pinholes which we can no longer see. What next, you ask? What’s next is already here. Doctors are growing cartilage to repair or replace that which has worn down or gone altogether. Gall bladder surgery, which once left a nine-inch scar on one’s chest, is now accomplished with a miniature vacuum cleaner that leaves a barely noticeable mark. But still, we age.

Despite medical marvels and advances, the human body is not built for longevity. Our organs begin to function less than optimally no matter what we do, take, exercise, or eat. Sure, it can be slowed down; sure medical science is making fantastic strides; sure this and sure that, but…we still wake up with a new pain here or a new ache there every day or week or month. The beauty of it is and if this is the case just think of how fortunate we are. We’re still alive to see the beauty that is the world around us. Yes, for some, we awake to see the ugliness that is around us, but I guess I’m luckier that I’m in the first group. I watched Juli’s morning glories open again this morning; the purples, the blues, the reds, and yes, even the whites open to signal the beginning of a new day. And yes, I don’t feel particularly well because of my aches and pains and other problems…but I’m alive to see those flowers come alive; to see the blue jays come and grab the peanuts Juli has tossed out for them; to see the squirrels, chipmunks, and wild turkeys come to eat the grain and see that she’s thrown out. It all reminds me of just how lucky I am to have made it to this age and to think of how sad it is that so many of my peers have not.

Life is a treasure; a blessing. Getting old may not be for sissies, but it sure as hell is for the experience of seeing just how much beauty there is in it and how fast it’s changing. If life in the 1800s and early 1900s plodded along like a horse, and if life in the 1950s move along slowly the automobiles of the time, the 21st Century, by its end, can certainly be a time when, instead of our progress being measured arithmetically, it will be measured in exponential growth. I would love to have a crystal ball to stare into to see just what I won’t live to experience.

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Wynton Marsalis made an excellent point recently. He was talking about the civil rights march on Washington 50 years ago. It wasn’t billed as such; it was supposed to be a jobs march. Marsalis noted that while as many as 25 of the speakers were White, the march is remembered mainly for Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. He said that while that is the quotation that most remembered, he remembered how King tied the races together when he said “…they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

His comment made me realize that in at least one way, America is little different from some of the countries in the Middle East. I have spoken on more than one occasion how we might as well leave Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq alone because they will merely return to tribal warfare when we leave. That may be true enough, but doesn’t that also hold true for Americans. We talk about the “haves” and the “have not’s;” We talk about the Black gangs, the Latino gangs, the Russian and Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Haitian, Dominican, and God only knows how many other “gangs” in the United States. Aren’t they behaving in the same kind of tribal warfare that takes place in parts of the world that we would like to call “uncivilized?” Yet, there are the same trades and professions in those Middle Eastern countries that we have in the United States. Lawyers practice law; doctors see patients; there are nurses and sales clerks, and all sorts of other skills. Perhaps we should stop interfering with what is one of their national problems and begin concentrating on ridding our nation of some of those same idiots who prevent our economy from growing; who kill cities like Detroit, East St. Louis, and so many others. Maybe we shouldn’t be closing our doors to immigrants. Instead we should open a door that leads only one way…out! Let’s use our Homeland Security, FBI, NSA, and all of the other acronymic agencies at our disposal to identify and ship back the assholes that create so many problems. Pareto’s principle, a.k.a., the 80/20 rule, apples beautifully in this situation…it is twenty percent of our population that creates eighty percent of our problems. Let’s determine where that twenty percent came from and ship them back. Oh, wait a minute, you say they were born right here in America? No, no, no, not the people I’m talking about. These are the people who parade their nationalities as badges of honor in their gangs. These are the people we should hunt down and dispatch…oops, I mean export to their native lands. If they brand themselves as African-American, that is unacceptable. African-Americans are Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Sidney Poitier, Rahm Emmanuel, Berry Gordon, Leo Kennedy, Jimmy Proctor, Pat Blackman, Amos Andrews, and millions of others. You don’t know all those names? Well, the last four are people I know and there are plenty more where they came from…good people who want just what you and I want – to be recognized for our skills; to be able to get a good job; to pursue with all of our heart the American Dream, however each one dream.

I don’t know about you, but I never dreamed of becoming a multi-millionaire.  I just wanted to make a comfortable living, get married, have kids who I could send to college – if that was what they wanted – a house that I could pay off some day, a new car every few years, and maybe, just maybe, a place at the beach in my later years, possibly one where I could retire. Pretty high aspirations, eh? Isn’t that basically what all of us are or were seeking? Did you want more? Did you want to be the richest man or woman in the world? Good for you; hope you make it; I sure as hell am not going to get in your way…at least, not until you begin to infringe on my rights. You see, your rights end where mine begin, just as mine end where yours begin. What it means is that you achieve your goals with due regard to everyone else. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, told an audience at Babson College, “Remember, you meet the same people going down the ladder that you stepped on to reach the top.” Is this Pollyanna speaking? Of course not: Life is simple if you let it be. There are struggles of all kinds. How would you like to be Black and face the potential for sickle cell anemia? How would you like to come from a family where every male has died of a heart attack before the age of 50? How would you like to be a woman whose mother and sisters died of breast cancer? Sure as hell makes you feel pretty lucky to have your own life, doesn’t it?

We have come a long way since 1963. Whites and Blacks, Latinos and Asians, Europeans and Middle Easterners who have come to this country to pursue their dreams have, for the vast majority, been able to pursue and sometimes even achieve their dreams. I’m not quoting anyone in particular but I agree with those who say we have a long way to go, and it’s not just the races; we have a long way to go to meet equality among the sexes. Will we ever find or create a Utopian society? No, we won’t. There will always be those who are dissatisfied with their own lot or who want what the other guy has. There will always be jealousy among nations or countries that wish to expand their borders. That’s life on this little blue marble.

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What can I say? It’s nearly the end of another year and the world is still hanging around.  So what does one ponder now that we know – well, we sorta think we know – that the world still has a few more… hmm, minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? What-the-hell-ever to go before the rapture overtakes us.  Just as an aside, it’s you youngsters that have to “worry” and note that the word is in quotes.

Oh those crazy Mayans! I knew that had a sense of humor. It wasn’t all just war and killing one another nearly to extinction. Of course, there was that, too, but ending your calendar on 12/21/12, now that takes some one or some people with a genuine sense of humor. They actually had some ‘doomsdayers’ convinced that the whole thing was for real. It reminded me of the Orson Welles ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast in 1938. That one managed to rattle a few cages…probably more than the Mayan prediction managed to terrify.

It really never occurred to me that the end of the Maya calendar would mean the end of the world. After all, who were the Maya? History records that they were “one of the most dominant indigenous societies” centered now, we believe, in Guatemala and surrounding areas. According to the History web page, “Unlike other scattered indigenous populations of Mesoamerica, the Maya were centered in one geographical block covering all of the Yucatan Peninsula and modern-day Guatemala; Belize and parts of the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas; and the western part of Honduras and El Salvador. This concentration showed that the Maya remained relatively secure from invasion by other Mesoamerican peoples.” From what I’ve read, these were extremely skilled people who were proficient in math, pottery making, writing, and architecture. Cities that have been definitively linked to the Maya demonstrate the extent to which their architectural skills were developed. Various theories exist regarding the demise of the Maya, the strongest being that a combination of overuse of their land drought, and endless warfare certainly brought about the downfall of their civilization.

End of the world predictions are nothing new. American Christian Radio President, Harold Camping, thought we were all going to disappear on May 2a, 2011. Uh, Hal, I think maybe there was a communication problem there! Hey, look, I’m not gonna put the knock on Harold.  He might have been sipping too much of the communion wine and had a vision just before he passed out. Who can really say? Of course, he also predicted that October 21st was going to be the day. Perhaps he’d better go back to the Bible.

As far back as the year 44 BC, predictions that dealt with the end of our being were predicted, but the Bible says that no one knows when the end will come; “…not the angels in heaven nor Jesus Christ. Only the Father knows.” If the Son of God is not privy, I think it’s fair to say that mere mortals don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of predicting when and if the world will ever end. A very prominent Jewish sage, Zakkai, expected the Messiah to arrive about the time of his death in the year 80CE. I don’t know whether to call that arrogance or egotism, but since the Messiah didn’t show, I guess we can just say, “The guy died!”

According to one source, “To the citizens of London, 1666 was not a banner year. A bubonic plague outbreak killed 100,000 and the Great Fire of London struck the same year. The world seemed at an end to most Londoners. The fact that the year ended with the Beast’s number (666), didn’t help matters either. “You have to remember that neither NBC, ABC, CBS, or the BBC were doing a hell of a lot of reporting at that time. News coverage and event importance was generally relegated to about…your own town! If you think that’s bad, “Mary Bateman, who specialized in fortune telling, had a magic chicken that laid eggs with end time messages on them. One message said that Christ was coming. The uproar she created ended when she was caught forcing an egg into the hen’s oviduct by an unannounced visitor. Mary later was hanged for poisoning a wealthy client.” Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted the end of the world and the Second Coming so many times that it would take a single essay to describe their antics. At nine predictions, they have the record for end of the world predictions.

People have formed their own religious sects just, it would appear, to predict the end of the world. Oh, yeah, and to line their own pockets.  A man by the name of Lee Jang Rim “…started a church called, “Mission For The Coming Days.”  He was jailed for two years after embezzling 4.4 million dollars 10,000 of his cult followers. He had used the money to buy bonds that matured after the end of the world! Numerology was the basis for the date. Several camera shots that left ghostly images on pictures were thought to be a supernatural confirmation of the date. The cult looked forward to the Second Coming at 9:00 am on this day. They believed that Jesus would return through Sydney Harbor! They had their prayers and songs. At the fatal hour there was a loud countdown of the final seconds – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, etc. The leaders disappeared after an hour hiding their faces from reporters. One reporter was punched. Some disappointed members committed suicide, probably because they gave all their worldly assets to Lee Jang Rim. Originally from Korea, Australia was the home base, which was abandoned and the phone disconnected for non-payment of the bill.”

In another beauty of a case, a woman by the name of Shelby Corbett, put up benches in Florida, advertising the rapture would occur in 2007. She had a web site and was actually just pushing her book. Gotta make your daily bread in some way, I suppose!

Perhaps I’m naïve but I don’t believe that the return of Jesus Christ to this earth would be such a bad thing If the Heavenly Father sent him back without a thorough briefing of the actions that have been taking place, Christ’s first reaction would probably be to cry; to cry so hard that deserts would flood and cities would be washed away. If that was not sufficient, I’m certain He would find a way to wreak havoc among those responsible for the status of the world in which we live. If you think that throwing the money lenders out of the temple was something, you’d better get out of the way because the bodies would be flying from all directions…from the drug dealers on the corners to the greed monsters on Wall Street, with a few religious zealots and warmongering dictators tossed in for good measure.  The earth’s population would go from billions to hundreds in a pretty short space of time. I would not expect to survive when the clearance sale begins…no particular reason except I can’t say that I’ve lived, in toto, the kind of life that would live up to the expectations of Jesus. If we’re all going to be honest with each other, there are very few of us who would expect to remain for the “new beginning.”

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Now that we know the chicken came first [see Now we know…dammit!], perhaps it’s time we move on to bigger and better things. We shall ask ourselves, “Which came first, man or woman?” This vexing question is very clear if one is to believe The Holy Bible. That is that God created man. He then removed a rib and created woman…simple, uncomplicated, and straightforward…if you believe the Bible. There is also the old story of God creating woman first but giving her three breasts. She spoke ‘unto’ God and said, “I only need two boobs; this third one gets in the way.” God removed the excess breast, held it for a moment and pondered, “What am I going to do with this useless boob?” The punch line, of course, is that that is how man was born…ah, well, worth a minor chuckle. There are days, however, and there are people…we’ll just let that one go.

While the earth may have been around for millions of years, the best dating of man that can be found says that thee and me have only been on this planet for the far shorter period of 195 – 200,000 years. Such a short space of time for us to do all the damage we have done, isn’t it? Somehow, in that short period, we’ve managed to pollute the oceans, rape the forests, change the climate, and developed weapons that can wipe out all living things with just the push of a button. If you ask me, God or whoever allowed us to have life really fucked up big time! Ah, well, one’s follies must be placed on the back burner for at most a brief moment

According to an ABC News article by Maggie Fox…

“Science may have caught up with the Bible, which says that Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all humans alive today.

“But in the scientists’ version, based on DNA analysis, “Adam,” the genetic ancestor of all men living today, and “Eve,”the genetic ancestor of all living women, seem to have lived tens of thousands of years apart.

“How could this be?

“Peter Underhill and colleagues at Stanford University in California have an explanation. “They had different molecular clocks,” Underhill said in a telephone interview. “Fewer men participated in reproduction than women did.”

“Tracing Women to Earlier Time

“His team, working with top geneticists across the United States, Europe, Israel and Africa, did a genetic analysis of DNA samples from the Y chromosomes of more than 1,000 men from 22 geographic areas and determined that their most recent common ancestor was a man who lived in Africa around 59,000 years ago.

“Only men have Y chromosomes and researchers can look at gradual genetic mutations in them to “count” generations.

“Other studies have used mitochondrial DNA, which women seem to pass down virtually unchanged from mother to daughter, to show that the genetic “Eve” lived 143,000 years ago.

“The latest study, published in the November issue of the journal Nature Genetics, reconciles the two findings, and in the process the researchers came up with new tool for looking at how people are different from one another genetically.

“They also added a great deal of detail to the family tree of all men living today, information that can be used by historians, anthropologists and other researchers. “We can look at the tree and see, ‘Oh, this section of the tree is where Asians go.’ We can say, ‘Oh, here is a Japanese Y chromosome and this is a Chinese Y chromosome,’” Underhill said.”

Does this mean that science and theology are once again at war? No, I don’t believe so. I would much prefer to say that they work in consort. Science has one set of beliefs and theologians something that while it might be called opposing, is still within the realm of possibility within the faithful. If you would like to pursue this subject further, I cordially invite you to read,”What is Man” by Mark Twain, or any of the 9.9 billion references that Google provides.

Looking at it from a very personal view, I would have to say that man is an extremely complex piece of equipment that is wired differently in each and every version. As a species, we have the capacity for both good and evil; our wiring determines the direction in which we proceed. However, I agree with Twain that outside influences can help in that determination and our environmental and socioeconomic positions as well as the groups with which we come in contact will, in large measure what we are. There are times when we as a species are content to flow with what we learn, and yet, there are others who are discontented and seek out a different flow. In other words, anyone who says that they fully understand the complexities of man is someone of whom to be very, very wary.

As for women, I have been on this earth long enough to understand that any man who says he has women all figured out really does belong in protective custody, preferably in a room with padded walls, floor and ceiling. Understand women…preposterous!

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