Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

I keep thinking that I’m living in one of the very worst political periods in the history of this nation. Yesterday afternoon I learned that I am wrong. Shocked? You shouldn’t be. I’m perfectly willing to be wrong, after all, I have been wrong once or twice in my life. I happened to arrive in the family room as Juli was beginning to watch an episode of “American Experience” on PBS (It’s on Amazon in case you happen to have that). If you’ve never seen one of these programs, your education is, as mine was, sadly lacking. This particular ‘experience’ dealt with the assassination of President James Garfield.

Here is the paragraph that displays my naked ignorance. I did not know that Garfield had served as an officer in the Civil War. Nor did I know that he made rank all the way up to Major General…at the ripe young age of 33. He was victorious in battle, brilliant of mind, and a dedicated abolitionist after seeing the way in which slaves were treated in the Confederate South. Although he was left fatherless at the age of two, he somehow worked hard enough to earn enough money to go to college, graduating from Williams in 1856. President Lincoln persuaded him to resign his commission with the Union forces and run for Congress, telling him that he could find plenty of major generals, but he couldn’t find many allies in Congress. He was reelected 18 times and became the leading House Republican, respected by all and hated by more than a few for his honesty and his ability to speak eloquently on every topic of the day.

Okay, you say, so why was then like now? Good question; glad you asked it…even with a little prompting. The answer is patronage, arrogance, and intimidation. In addition, like both of today’s Presidential candidates, Garfield had a scandal to live down. He was implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal in which congressmen who owned stock in Credit Mobilier, a construction company for the transcontinental Union Pacific Railroad, were accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in the company.

Garfield was content with his position of power in the House and had no greater ambitions, at least, as far as we know. However, at the 1880 Republican Convention, he failed to get his friend, John Sherman, nominated and on the 36th ballot Garfield found himself elected to carry the Republican banner. He won by only 10,000 votes, and everyone wondered whether he would be just another clerk for the corrupt New York Senator, Roscoe Conkling, who had controlled the previous two Presidents or if he would be his own man by selling NY votes to whoever promised him the “best deal.” Conkling was “king” of patronage in New York, then the largest city in the United States, more than double the size of the next largest city. It had been Conkling who could deliver the votes – approximately 10,000 – necessary for any candidate to become President, and while Garfield didn’t promise him anything specific, he agreed to meet with and listen to the Senator prior to the election. He even agreed to accept Conkling’s lackey, Chester A. Arthur, as his vice presidential running mate. Conkling thought he heard what he didn’t really hear from Garfield’s lips and turned the tide in favor of the Republican candidate. When Conkling did not receive the expected largesse from the new President, he tried everything short of assassination to get Garfield removed from office. James Garfield, it seemed, was his own man and would run the country his own way, eliminating corruption and patronage from his administration.

Considered to be one of the four “lost” Presidents – Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Harrison – who served uneventful administrations following the Civil War, Garfield is best known for being assassinated…not a particularly notable feat. Since his assassination took place only 100 days after he took office, we will never know what kind of President Garfield might have been. What we do know, however, is that if you wish to enrich your own personal education, you will seek out programs such as “American Experience” on your local PBS television station.

Read Full Post »

A gentleman with whom I am acquainted – well, I assume he’s a gentleman; never know these days – teaches philosophy at a local private school. For a number of years he was the headmaster of said school, but then he decided to get a real job – as I have been told on too many occasions to count by teaching faculty from here to hell and gone – and became an “educator.” Since I went neither through a liberal arts curriculum nor did I attend a Jesuit institution…the only two collegiate programs where philosophy seems to be a mandatory requirement…I was never exposed to philosophical thought. After several conversations with said gentleman, I began to realize just how sadly lacking my education has been. Were this to happen today, I could probably turn around and sue my undergraduate institution for not providing a compendious educational program, but to attempt this after having been absent the classroom for more – well more – than half a century, I would doubtless be throwing good money after bad. That is not philosophical thought; just common sense.

All of the above having been said, I am going back to school! “So what?” you ask, to which I respond, “When you stop learning, formally or informally, you’re dead and just too ignorant to lie down.” It’s never too late to learn. There are several reasons I believe this, the first of which is that I would like to be able to discuss philosophy on a more intellectual level with my acquaintance. Another reason is that, as was said earlier, without philosophy, my education is lacking and incomplete. I plan to take the same approach with journalism at some point, sadly having been denied the opportunity to pursue any formal training in that area. There may well be other subjects available through the Internet, but right now I’m settling on those two. A third reason for doing this is that I find of late, television programming is (a) idiotic; (b) idiotic; (c) idiotic; or (d) all of the above. It is with a certain degree of guilt that I must also admit that my reading list has begun to lapse into the mystery/murder/thriller genre, and it would be nice to get away from that for a while.

I will not pontificate on what I have learned to date. To do so would be to prove the adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln appears to have a quote for every occasion; that is another of his great ones. Let me just say that now that school has adjourned for the summer, I will have a few months to study philosophy and perhaps be able to carry on a reasonably less pompous conversation with my acquaintance when he returns to school and to the gym next year. Oh, that’s right, I didn’t tell you; we met at a gym. You meet the most interesting people in some of the strangest of places. Think about it…talking philosophy in a gym; discussing labor law…in a gym; conversing about politics without coming to blows…in a gym; I have even managed to get my utility company to bill me electronically…by speaking to someone at the gym,  thus proving that nearly all things are possible given the proper environment.

One of the things that I find truly amazing about the Internet is the amount of course work in various field that I can study without having to enroll or pay money, that last being perhaps the primary reason I do not hold a terminal degree from Grand Canyon, Southern New Hampshire, or one of the many online programs that are available; well, that and the fact that I’m on a fixed income. However, I’m not certain I wish to take online courses that are going to tax me beyond my limited abilities. To gain the basics of understanding of a subject with which I have no familiarity may well be as far as I wish to go, but go I will because, in this case anyway, I know someone who is an authority on the subject…and I’m a brain picker!

Think about this for a moment: You have died and on your first whatever in Heaven; I will assume you have gone to Heaven and not any of those other places, but on your first night, you are given the opportunity to dine with five other people of your choosing…and…there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion following dinner. Yes, I know, if you’re dead you probably won’t eat, yadda, yadda, yadda…give me a break, will you please? Who would you choose? Remember Mitch Albom’s book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven? This isn’t like that. You pick five people; they may be people you have admired because of their contributions to the world…Mohandas Gandhi, Budda, or Confucius. It might be you’ve admired great warriors like Genghis Khan, Hannibal, or Alexander. I have to tell you that I would be very hard pressed to pick just five people with whom I’d like to exchange ideas. Recently, I watched – yes, back to television again, but this was Netflix or Amazon or one of those – a piece on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Their fight for the rights of women might have put one of them at my table, but then I watched a piece on Jefferson and…well, you know what follows. Our world has been filled with those who could rightfully demand a place at your table or mine. What about our own ancestors; would they be a choice? If you have an interest in philosophy, would you have Epicurus, Aristotle, John Locke, or Plato at your table?

I can [and will…as always] offer a bit of advice on how to choose your dinner companions. Years ago, I taught a course in creative problem solving. The first step in what was known as the problem-solving wheel, was to identify all of the “messes” that required your attention. From that, your job was to identify the problem that first required your attention; which of the messes had to be cleaned up first before you could move on. In selecting that problem as the most important, I asked students and teams of students to answer one question when they felt they had identified the problem that they would attack. The question was, “Why?” If you can answer the question, why, five times in a row and receive a satisfactory answer each time, chances are you have the correct problem to attack. Perhaps that’s the question you should ask about your dinner partners. Why do you want Abraham Lincoln, for example? After you have given your complete answer, ask the question again and again and again, and one more time. If he stands the Five Why question, then he probably belongs at your table.

I leave you with this advice…use the Internet wisely; find out who attends your gym; and stay tuned for more about my foray into philosophy.

Read Full Post »

It’s no longer enjoyable to give or receive Christmas presents.

Like you, I think, I’m not crazy about Christmas promotions that begin sometime in late September. Also like you, I recognize that need for merchants to sell goods, make a profit, even create jobs to help keep the economy growing, but I truly believe pushing some of this crap that you never see advertised at any other time of year is just plain tacky, tacky, tacky. For example, when else do you find ‘Clapper’ ads being pushed so hard, or the plush animals with all of their pockets? Want to drink fizzy flavored water, buy the stream dream or whatever the hell they’re calling it this year? I must admit that Chia Pets don’t appear to be big this year, but energizer bunnies are getting another shot in the arm.

This year, Christmas ads are vying with health care promotions; thus, it would appear making it unnecessary for writers to develop scripts too complicated. While there may be rules and regulations regarding how many minutes of advertising can be crammed into an hour of programming, I get the gut feeling that those rules are suspended between Halloween and the Super Bowl.

The one market that has yet to be tapped by the advertising agencies or the manufacturers is the over 70 group. Since some are saying the, “Seventy is the new fifty,” there must be a Christmas market there somewhere.  You can’t really sell them a “year’s supply of…” anything because while you’re preaching youth to these folks, the fact of the matter is they could go anytime…and they know it. Since so many seniors are computer literate, selling board games (a) isn’t particularly profitable and (b) can easily be found as an “app” somewhere. Pushing a Nook or a Kindle also becomes a complex issue when dealing with seniors, most of whom will tell you they “…like the smell of paper and ink” that a book gives them, and what do you say in a thirty-second spot to counter that one. Gift cards are great but for how much? Is the degree of importance measured by the amount of a Walmart card? Not only is it a gift card – which shows just how little you think of me” – but to what store…”you know I never shop there” – which means you’re just going to regift the card anyway. Understand something very, very clearly: When you are searching for a gift for a senior citizen, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that you will screw up!

I sort of came to an agreement with my three kids years ago, after they were married and had children of their own…I won’t give to them and they don’t give to me. I will give only to the grandchildren and because I have no idea what they like – our ages being as separated as they are – I give money. Obviously, it can never be enough but I figure that’s their problem, not mine. If I have a rough year, they have a rough Christmas…my answer to their downturned-little-mouths is a very silent, “tough shit; get over it!”  I say that the agreement to give or not with the children versus grandchildren only, because the kids will sometimes try, but then, they don’t know my tastes, nor do they know that I really don’t need anything. I’d rather they put what money they spend on me into reducing their mortgage or buying something extra, like a good steak, for their refrigerator…”I don’t friggin’ need anything.” That’s not to say I have everything I want. Sure, I’d love the winter home in Boca or the Grand Caymans. The jet to get me there and back would also be nice, but who the hell is kidding whom. At my age, I like my bed at home; I don’t like flying anymore; and Boca in the winter is just as bad as it is in the summer – it’s God’s waiting room and who wanted to be reminded?

When Joan was alive, I would give a gift in her name to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was her favorite charity. If you asked her why, she wouldn’t have been able to give you a good reason, but she loved what they were doing. She may have seen a story on television or something that impressed her. To me she would give a gift in my name to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to help benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. I have lost so many friends and family to that insidious disease that anything that can be done to find a cure makes me happy.

Christmas is a great Holiday. It’s also a great Holy Day. Sure, scholars can prove six ways to Sunday that Christ was not born on December 25th. I don’t care; that’s the day we have chosen to celebrate the birth of Christian’s Lord and Savior. My rabbi next door and my Jewish friends at the gym all wish me a Merry Christmas and, tomorrow being the first day, I will wish them a Happy Chanukah. Our faiths may differ but I’d like to believe we all have faith. My prayers may be a bit longer around the Christmas Holiday, but that’s not to say that my faith is weaker throughout the rest of the year. It seems at Christmas I just like to spend a little more time talking to the Big Boss. Gifts don’t seem as important as prayers that He somehow help to unscrew this screwed up world.

My gift to myself is to watch White Christmas and a few other movies on that day. It’s a day when I cry some because Joan is no longer here to celebrate with me; and I cry some because I have a wonderful woman with whom to celebrate the holiday. I’m a pretty lucky guy when it comes right down to it. I pray that you feel lucky too.

Read Full Post »

“My children don’t speak to me.”

“Mother and I have grown farther apart as the children have gotten older.”

“Dad doesn’t want to see us anymore and goes into another room when we visit.”

“My kids don’t like my parents very much.”

If any of this sounds familiar, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for touching a nerve that is probably the same nerve over 75 percent of people have to one degree or another. I’m one of those 75 percenters so I know what you go through or have gone through. In defense of ‘us,’ however, it’s nice to know that we’re not alone. Maybe, just maybe, some people are able to control their feelings far better than those of us who are openly honest and candid. My own family breakup began when Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. Yes, you’d think that would be the time when the family would come together to help him with his struggle; it didn’t work out that way. He was pissed at the world – probably God, too – and I would say, from a psychiatrist’s point of view, that I became pissed at my father because I [erroneously] attributed my own smoking addiction to seeing a cigarette constantly in my father’s mouth. Oh hell, who am I kidding; there are probably millions of reasons that a psychiatrist could use to describe my schism with my family…jealousy over mother having another child when I was almost a teenager; Dad never being home because he worked a 3 to 11 shift at the shipyard; teachers who always told me that I wasn’t as good a student as my older sister; etc, etc, ad nauseum.

The kicker is that life is so short on the grand scale of things that we really shouldn’t have or take the time to be pissed off at any member of our family. We, each of us, inherit traits – good and bad – from those who have contributed to our birth and onward. Let the geneticists have a field day with that one, but I rather doubt they’ll even try. It’s probably beyond DNA strands to something even further removed in our human make up.

Attempting to define our familial relationships is akin to shoveling shit against the tide; sooner or later you’re going to find yourself swallowed up by the tide and you know what that’s gonna mean; you’ve got it. I don’t believe Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz, or Dr. Whatever can accurately determine what goes on in the human brain to cause us to act as we do.

Many efforts have been undertaken to determine why serial killers and these school, mall, and theater killers behave as they do. Brains have been scanned; frontal lobes probed and poked following death; interviews have been conducted with the living, and very little has been determined. Why should it be any different with family arguments that result in wounds that never heal?

Mother was really ticked off when I announced my intention to get married. My wife-to-be was several years older. I had just graduated from college. We were from different social strata. She was Catholic and I was Protestant. She was from Newton and I was from Rockland [as though the two were planets apart], and other equally ridiculous arguments that all fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until our first child was born that my parents seemed to take an interest in our ‘family.’  Ah, perhaps it was my rebellion in later years that created the chasm between us…who the hell knows? Perhaps that’s the wrong question; perhaps the question should be, “Why?” Why do we allow stupidity to get in the way of family? Family is what has created the ‘human condition’ as we call it. Defined, “The human condition encompasses the unique features of being human. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and innate to human beings and not dependent on factors such as gender, race or class.” What hogwash. The human condition is who and what we are and always will be. It is the good and the evil that is in each of us and what we become will depend entirely on which we find more attractive.

It seems to me that when it comes to family, we seem to find the evil more attractive in the long run. Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule, but if we are being “transparent” {that’s a new 21st Century buzzword], we have to admit that we have our own lives to live and our family is rarely a part of it. Why…Because our family’s life and our lives are not really compatible. To put it in terms that may be more easily understood…My parents grew up in the age of conversation; I grew up in the age of radio; my children grew up in the age of television; my grandchildren are growing up in the age telecommunication that is far beyond my scope of understanding. Kids are learning algebra in the second and third grades; kids in junior high are talking about quantum physics with a certain degree of clarity that I can’t even begin to understand. The times they are a changin’.

As a consequence of all of this, is it any wonder that families are torn apart. The only thing they can hold on to is what they shared in common way back when, and the younger generations don’t wish to look back. They want to look forward; to the future; to what lies ahead. And that attitude has become more common as the world shrinks. In my own case, I find that my children have become less tolerant of my [aberrant] behavior. They tell me they want me to be happy, but they want me to be happy on their terms; I prefer to be happy on terms that suit me.

I would offer this to all generations: Be happy with one another for what each has contributed to the other’s life. You will never share interests other than historical. Respect those interests and to hell with everything else. Youngsters…go your way; move forward and make a better world for yourselves and your children; rid the world of all of the evil that you see and take another step toward the Utopian existence you desire. Oldsters…let them go, but require the same of them; that they let you go and live your life the way you wish. They will learn; they will stub their collective toes along the way; they will add to our knowledge; and perhaps they will move the world forward on this front or that; wish them well in their endeavors; then sit back and pray for them. After all, in the final analysis, isn’t that what you did with your elders?

Read Full Post »

Do you enjoy watching news shows? I won’t watch them after seven in the evening. There have been several psychological studies – doubtless commissioned at great taxpayer expense – that indicate one will sleep better if one does not watch a news program immediately prior to bed. CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS are fine for watching…most of the time, and the local affiliates…welllll…that’s another story.

It was tragic to watch the news of the recent boardwalk fire in New Jersey. Those folks had been slammed hard enough during Hurricane Sandy and now they have to rebuild for a second time. The first four or five times I watched it on our local network affiliate, it was devastating. After about the eighth time, listening to Governor Chris Christie say on camera that he felt like throwing up, I felt much the same way. My question, however, is why was this story, being aired in Boston, followed several times by a black bear caught in a tree in Florida.

I can fully understand that people who must leave for work early don’t catch the morning’s local news and weather. They’re probably working when the noon news comes on. They may have to wait until six or even eleven to catch up on the day’s news, but I think most people probably catch today’s stories at some point during the day…so why must the same stories lead day after day after day.

I don’t know how it is in your part of the world but in Boston, “If it bleeds it leads” is a credo that has gripped this part of the country for decades. In an effort to balance their programming, some stations are now asking the public to help them find stories about kids who are doing good things or exceptional contributions to communities. They all have ‘investigative reporters’ who break bad news about bad CEOs or judges or this one or whatever. Those are the stories that are aired once and are never heard from again.

I’m not certain why everything on the news has to be negative. Showing me police tape and flashing blue lights around some part of the city where several people were shot or stabbed doesn’t really give me the whole story. If you’re going to be a good news reporter, get your cameraman/woman in tight and show me the blood and gore the way you did at the Boston Marathon bombing. Stick your finger in the bullet hole to show just how deep it went. Ah, screw the cops; let them get their own footage. Get the real stuff that will make the assignment editor salivate. Oh, and never mind the story about the groups of volunteers who are teaching young kids basketball and baseball and how to swim, or taking groups to the various museums to give them a better understanding. Well, never mind unless some driver runs the group down and then get in there because remember, “If it bleeds it leads.”

What does it say about what we have become that we watch with rapt fascination as Syrian children and adults foam at the mouth and die? Why are we so enthralled with death and devastation as it appears on our news programs? Is all of this really news? Certainly, the forest fires and the floods are newsworthy, but if I see that man being rescued from his car in Colorado, one more time, I’m going to nominate the guy for an Emmy as best performance in a daytime drama…except he wasn’t acting.

I’d like to know what they are teaching in journalism schools these days. We all know that talking heads are not journalists; they are the beautiful people whose plunging necklines, padded shoulders, and matching hairstyles are all designed to draw in the viewers. Assignment editors appear to be those with the police scanners on their desks, waiting to send a truck or helicopter to the latest disaster scene. Where are the people who are out looking for stories that are human interest; that can make us feel better about the state of our state and/or the state of the world in general?

Wouldn’t you know it; here I am bitching and wailing and I just came back from watching one local and one national program where the news was darned near all good. Must have something to do with it being Friday. One story dealt with a man who march through his city wearing a billboard and looking for a kidney for his wife…the ending was happy. The other dealt with a group of tourists stuck in one of Boston’s Duck Boat tours and the humorous manner in which they were rescued. Hey, maybe assignment editors are catching on, or maybe there really are reporters out there looking for ‘good’ stories. Maybe the word is getting out.

As one of our greatest, Ed Murrow, used to say, “Good night and good luck!”

Read Full Post »

We have adopted him as our own little pig…Maxwell, the wonder pig. You may recall Maxwell’s younger days when he was part of a car pool, holding his little pinwheel out the window as he was being driven home from school. He was always shouting, “Wee, wee, wee,” and then politely – we’ve trained him well – saying thanks to Mrs. B… who was driving. What a darling young piglet Maxwell was back then. Those people from Geico thought he belonged to them, but we were just letting him act in their commercials to earn a few extra bucks for the house treasury; pig slop these days has just skyrocketed in price, and Maxwell really seemed to enjoy the attention.

After his graduation from Swine High and before entering Boar U, Max – as we were now calling him – just scared the dickens out of us with his daredevil antics. After all, how many pigs do you know who’d ride a zip line above the trees or wrap his curly little tail around vines and swing from tree to tree?

Maxwell got himself and us into a great deal of trouble recently. He was driving one of his college friends home in his convertible when the car broke down. Ever the efficient one, Maxwell used his I phone to call for roadside assistance. While they were waiting, it appeared that the young lady had more on her mind than a quick trip home. Our naïve little Max didn’t understand and thought that the young lady wanted to play ‘fruity ninjas’ with him on his phone; who knows, maybe she did. When they finally got home, a few dirty-minded individuals tried to accuse them of bestiality. The ‘kids’ were so infuriated, they contacted the advocacy group, One Million Moms. We don’t talk about how that turned out. Evidently, that group also lacks a sense of humor.

After graduating from Boar, Max flew to the University of Arkansas [ Sooooo-weeee) to apply for admission to their graduate school people husbandry. It was during this trip that we found out exactly how cruel some stewardesses can treat someone of Max’s persuasion. While waiting for the plane to take off – he was flying on Hog Hairlines – a stewardess asked him to turn off his ‘kiddy word games.’ Not at all offended, Max shared with her a Geico Insurance app he was using. Although she appeared interested, another – this time the wicked witch – stewardess overheard the conversation and said loudly, “I’ll believe that when pigs fly.” On leaving the plane, Max ‘hoofed’ her foot. She couldn’t work for several months. Don’t get the idea that Max is a vengeful pig. He’s very polite unless people are rude to him. Why recently he was pulled over by a policeman; Max quickly handed over his license, registration, and even his insurance, all contained on his I phone. As the officer was about to leave, Max politely asked why he had been stopped, thinking perhaps that the policeman was somewhat aghast at seeing a pig driving a convertible…with the top down…but no, Max had merely forgotten to replace his tail light.

During a recent hail storm, Max and his friend Ted both had their cars damaged by hail. Our efficient little Maxy – he really hates that name – used his Geico I phone app to arrange an appointment with an adjuster. Ted didn’t have that app and was on the phone for so long that his girlfriend decided to go for a Jet Ski ride with our little pig.

Yes, our little Max is certainly growing up. He loves to ham it up at gatherings with his friend, Smokey Shoulder. Together they are the life of the party and have various ways to tickle the ribs of those around them!

You go, Maxwell!

Read Full Post »

“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.” James Garfield

A little over a decade ago, the following obituary appeared in a number of large city dailies across the country, “William Proxmire, a political maverick during 32 years in the Senate who crusaded against government waste and irritated presidents and lawmakers from both parties because of his contempt for the mutual back-scratching most politicians engage in, died yesterday in Sykesville, Md., about 40 miles from Washington. He was 90.” Just in case you’re too young to remember, Senator Proxmire (D) Wisconsin, was the originator of the Golden Fleece Award, presented whenever he damn well felt like it to government organizations for the wasteful manner in which they spent monies.

Included in those receiving the wrath of Bill Proxmire was the “National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 to determine why people fall in love.” According to one rather lengthy obit, “Another Golden Fleece Award went to the National Institute for Mental Health, which spent $97,000 to study, among other things, what went on in a Peruvian brothel. The researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy.”  We’ve all heard of the $600 toilet seats and the $200 hammers that were supposedly purchased by NASA or the Defense Department, but did you know that the Defense Department spent $3,000 on a study to determine if members of the military should carry umbrellas when it rained?

After Proxmire left Congress in 1989, it appeared that more than a few Congressmen and women breathed a sigh of relief. Why Congress, you ask? Who the hell do you think hands out the monies to NIH, NSF, NIMH, DOD, and the many other acronymic, “Over here; over hear; my hand is out waiting to be filled with dough from your bottomless, brainless pit!” groups. So the pork barrel remained unquestioned until2003 when former(R) Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn stepped up and introduced America to Breach of Trust, an anecdotal recounting of his three terms as a member of the House of Representatives. While I have yet to read his first book – and I surely will – he began writing the Book of Waste in 2010 in which he openly challenges many of the wasteful expenditures that take place inside the beltway. The 2012 version, which I am currently reading is enough to make one sick.

“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

Senator Coburn who can also be called Dr. since he is a physician, outlines the 100 most egregious expenditures, approved by Congress and doled out to organizations who (a) don’t need them (b) don’t use them for their original purpose, and (c) apply for them merely because they know a good rubber stamp when they see one.  Number 5 on Dr. Coburn’s list is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s $27 million plan to help Morocco improve its economic competitiveness. A key component of the project involved “…training Moroccans to create and design pottery to sell in domestic and international markets.” That might be all well and good except that Moroccans have been making pottery since before America was a nation, and should probably send some of their potters to America to train our folks in the art.. Another problem centered on the fact that the translator was “…not fluent in English and was unable to transmit large portions of the lectures to the participants.”

I find it difficult to believe…nah, I find it completely within the realm of academia, that researchers at San Diiego State University and the University of California at Davis spent a portion of a $325,000 NSF grant to build a robotic squirrel to answer that age-old question, “Will rattlesnakes kill a squirrel,” or some stupid crap like that. These are your taxpayer dollars that are paying for this. Are you beginning to get a bit irritated yet? If not, would you believe that the US Department of Agriculture is spending $300,000 this year to promote caviar; oh yeah, we’ll just have Jeeves jump in the Bentley and go down to the local Hannaford’s and pick up a case or two. Who the hell is kidding who? I cannot remember the last time we had a decent piece of meat at the dinner table and they’re out promoting caviar?

There has been a lot of talk about eliminating the penny from our monetary system. It’s not a bad idea since it costs two plus cents to make each penny. If I read Dr. Coburn’s analysis correctly, we could eliminate the penny and save around $70 million per year. Oh, and it should be noted that the nickel now costs eleven cents per coin to produce. Other countries have already realized the cost savings by stopping production of their lowest denomination coinage. What’s wrong with us?

The creation of video games by the US Department of Education, NASA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and several other government agencies is sickeningly expensive. If I have to watch a video on “How to watch television,” there is something seriously wrong.

The world’s largest snack food maker is receiving a grant of $1.3 million to build a Greek yogurt factory in New York. Food giant PepsiCo Inc, “…earned net revenues of $66 billion last year.” They now want to branch out and working with a German company, “bring premium yogurt products to the U.S.” The USDA seems hell-bent on getting us to upgrade our taste buds. Between the promotion of caviar and the building of a “premium” yogurt facility, I can hardly wait. I may have to, however, because Social Security and my modest retirement income certainly will keep me from $400 an ounce fish eggs and my reliance on Dannon.

A number of years ago a friend of mine went to Iraq as part of a police training program for the Iraqi police. This man is conscientious, hard-working , and a stickler for detail. Evidently, he’s one of a few. The State Department has pissed away over$400.2 million on what appears to be an undefined professional development program lacking in any goals or transferable skills for the Iraqi’s police. By the by, my friend is no longer in Iraq.

I would like to be able to recommend this book, if for nothing more than the “pissed-off-factor.” However, in all candor, I’m having trouble finishing it. To say that I’m mad about the wasteful spending by Congress and by the departments within our government is an understatement.  Dr/Senator Coburn has done a magnificent job of highlighting some of the waste of taxpayer dollars in our country. Read the book. It will show very clearly that there is no partisanship when it comes to wasteful spending. The real question is what can we do about it?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »