Archive for the ‘Women’s rights’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How do you know who to believe?

You listen to a news report on television, but you have to check the station background to determine if its reporting is fair and unbiased. Is the manner in which the news is being reported fair or is it slanted in favor of one group…pro-choice or pro-life…liberal or conservative…men or women? There are many types of groups that can be favored or biased against. How do we know that we’re getting every single aspect of a particular story? There was a time when such was the case with newspapers and even weekly news magazines. However, they’ve become so transparent in their biases that we often find ourselves reading only that media outlet which actually reflects our own views of the world.

I was thinking about this as I watched a story on Planned Parenthood the other day. I have no particular bias one way or the other on this subject. It seems to me that if the federal government has been supportive of this organization for a number of years that it must be doing something right. Then I remembered those horrible advertising spots that talked about the organization selling baby parts and one of their doctors talking about getting a new car and just how gross the ads were. Ah, but wait a minute; those ads were later discredited and shown to be fraudulent…or were they?

My own digging came up with this: “The mission of Planned Parenthood is to provide comprehensive reproductive and complementary health care services in settings which preserve and protect the essential privacy and rights of each individual, to advocate public policies which guarantee these rights and ensure access to such services, to provide educational programs which enhance understanding of individual and societal implications of human sexuality, and to promote research and the advancement of technology in reproductive health care and encourage understanding of their inherent bioethical, behavioral, and social implications.”

Adhered to at all levels, that’s a pretty darned good and comprehensive mission statement. I say, “Adhered to at all levels…” because, as with any organization as large as Planned Parenthood, with as many offices scattered over the country, there are bound to be a few employees who will apply their own interpretation of what that mission statement means. That’s also true of the people who are against Planned Parenthood and remember those ads without remembering the fraudulence that was associated with them.

I’m pro-choice. I think a woman has the right to do with her body exactly as she darn well pleases. I also believe that women doing the same job should be paid the same amount of money as their male counterparts. One of the things that I don’t believe is that women are ‘baby machines.’ In that regard, I am a firm believer that if you happen to get pregnant and know that it’s going to be well-nigh impossible to feed and clothe that kid until it grows to an age where it can support itself, you should not have the child. I often think of the people who call themselves “pro-life” are, in fact, only “pro-birth” without any regard to the life that follows. Bringing a child into this world entails on hell of a lot more than just giving birth. I’m not talking about raising a child in the lap of luxury; that would be laughable. However, bringing a child into the world in the 21st Century requires a great deal more than a roll in the hay without any consideration of the consequences.

From what I can gather, performing abortions is (a) not done at every Planned Parenthood office and (b) accounts for only about three percent of the business done by the organization. It appears that the bulk of what is done is in the counseling area…and not just counseling about whether to have an abortion or not, but counseling regarding reproductive health. I learned recently of one woman whose life was saved by a trip to a Planned Parenthood clinic. She was there for some testing when it was discovered that she had cancer of the uterus. “Thankfully, they caught it,” she told me. Had they not, she would have died. Think about that for just a minute…”Had they not caught…” her cancer, she would have died. At the time, this lady was a single mother with two young children. Planned Parenthood saved her life. I’m willing for my tax dollars to continue to support an organization like that.

I’m not crazy about any of the people who are running for the nomination to be the 44th or 45th – depending on how you count Grover Cleveland – President of the United States. I’m even less crazy about those who promise that they will fight to defund Planned Parenthood. After doing a fair amount of research and reading over the past several days and nights, the organization appears to be filling a niche that is not being filled in the private sector. Until it is, I believe we should allow Planned Parenthood to continue its good works.

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When I was in college – yes, they had colleges back then, and no, we did not write with pieces of charcoal on the heads of shovels – I joined a fraternity. The term that was used at the time was “pledged.” One pledged a fraternity and if the brothers thought that you were acceptable, ie, take a good paddling on your ass and perform other, less vicious and idiotic tasks, e.g., going to the ladies room at South Station in Boston and present a detailed sketch of how the inside of that toilet appeared, then you were voted into the fraternity. The catch was that each of the brothers was given two colored balls with which to vote, a black ball and a white one. If you received all white balls, you were in; one black ball and you were out, fini, kaput, so long, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out! Somehow, this vote of no confidence was supposed to ensure that all brothers were fine, upstanding young men of similar strong character. We even had a fraternity house. It was a rather large Victorian, located off campus. Rather than staying in on-campus housing, a brother could stay at the fraternity house at a somewhat reduced rate. The expectation was that all residents would chip in for food and other household necessities. Since I was a commuter student, I’m not certain how that really worked out.

In my junior year, a freshman pledged ‘my’ fraternity. He had been asked to pledge by one of the upper class brothers from the same hometown. I knew the young man by name and community only. I knew that he had impregnated a high school classmate and that his parents had paid for the young woman to travel to another state to go through the nine month gestation period – abortions really weren’t approved of in those days, particularly if you were a member of the Roman Catholic church. How I knew all of this is quite immaterial, but you should be aware that this young man was considered to be something of a rich asshole who liked to play, “hide the pecker,” and he didn’t care which young lady was available. Did I mention that his parents were rich? Very rich? Very, very rich?

During the pledge period, I went to the brother who had been designated, “pledge master,’ that is, he was in charge of the pledge class and responsible for assigning the idiotic tasks and ensuring that the pledges were doing what the pledges were supposed to do. I told my “brother” of my concerns about this rich asshole and requested that he be washed out immediately. I was informed that if I wished him out, I could do so by blackballing him at the end of the pledge period, not before…veddy interesting! When the time came for the vote, I dutifully cast my black ball. Somehow, it never made it to the final count. My vote was not in the voting box when the balls were counted. Despite my protest, the rich asshole became a member of the fraternity and I left the organization. It was not that many years later that the fraternity lost its national affiliation, was forced to sell its house, and to the best of my knowledge, was eventually disbanded.

I’m not in the least surprised by what is supposedly going on at the University of Virginia or at any other college or university in the country that allows fraternal organizations on campus. Can they be good spirit boosters and create lasting bonds? Sure, of course they can. Is it possible for them to become the animal house of movie fame? You bet your ass it is and there will always be an element within the frat who believes that is exactly what they are supposed to be.

Understand something very clearly; every four or five years, the leadership of any campus organization undergoes a complete transformation. If leadership succession is not considered a major part of the organization, it can go from top dog on campus to the bottom of the heap in that short a period of time. And once the “good old boys” take over and every night is keg night, the organization will go straight to hell in no time flat. With the mentality that goes along with eat, drink, and make merry, come other attitudes which are far more criminal in nature, and which involve, eventually, taking advantage of young women by getting them drunk and doing things that neither party would ever consider when sober.

“You’re speaking from only one experience,” you may say. The answer to that is, “No. I spent forty years in higher education; on two campuses where fraternities were in place.” My experience goes far beyond my single personal episode when I was an undergraduate. I have seen young men and women drunk out of their minds at ten o’clock in the morning. I have seen couples screwing in stair wells and behind a tree – not in the trees – knowing full well that one of them had to be drunk…and you can well imagine which party it was.

This raises the question; are college campuses safe places to be? For the most part, I would have to say that yes, they are. They are safe enough for anyone who knows the reason they are there. They are safe for anyone who knows their limits when it comes to alcohol consumption. They are safe enough if you understand that you’re not in college or attending a university where getting drunk every night is tolerated. Every year, some magazine or more than one will come out with their rankings for “party schools,” and every year, school administrators who find their institution on that list attempt to clamp down…or not. Did my kids belong to a fraternity or sorority when they went to college? My oldest daughter belonged to one of the two sororities on campus. They were so busy competing with each other for good kinds of recognition, they rarely found themselves on a Dean’s carpet. Did she drink along with others? I’m certain that she did…but I was never told by anyone, “Hey, your kid’s a drunk,” and a great many people knew who she was and to whom she was related. My son belonged to a different type of fraternal organization; it was a team; a swim team to be exact. Between practice, a tough academic schedule, and meets, he still found the time to booze it up occasionally…and he’d be the first one to tell you that. However, to this day – and he’s damn near 50 – he’ll tell you that he never once intentionally plied a female visitor with booze for dishonorable intentions. As far as the youngest was concerned, she was too busy overloading her academic schedule and, like her brother, swimming on her team, that I have to admit, I’m not certain when she had time to drink…add to that, that she’s not much of a drinker today, and you sort of get the point.

Are all fraternities’ places of debauchery and indecency? Of course not, I’d be willing to bet that those where wild things take place on a reasonably regular basis are a very small group. As I have said, that can change in one four-year cycle. Fraternities, however, are supposed to have advisors. With a weak advisor or a weak Greek system – the administrators who are, theoretically, in overall charge – things can change rapidly. Just because there has been no trouble in the past doesn’t mean that just below the surface, trouble isn’t brewing.

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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.

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The nation is more than 5,000 years old. It’s been fought over, pissed on, divided and subdivided. It’s been invaded by more conquerors than any of us can begin to imagine. And America, in its naïveté thought that they we, a nation formed by immigrants from all over the world, with our less than 400 years of experience and only one civil war thought we could bring a lasting democratic form of government to Iraq? What the hell kind of arrogance is that? Better yet, what kinds of stupidity is that?

America is a developed, highly technological, and somewhat futuristic nation. In parts of Iraq, they still stone people to death or cut off a limb. In its worst gangster days, Americans killed members of other gangs. In Iraq, if there is a feud, one kills not only the offending party but the entire family…mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, and nieces. Why…Because they want no one left to ever come after members of their family. I don’t know about you, but that to me is just a wee bit obsessive. In America, we can’t remember who our BFF was a year ago. In Iraq, they remember offending remarks or actions that go back thousands of years.

When we went to war to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein, did we honestly believe that we were doing them a favor? If we did, it was even greater naiveté plus stupidity on our part. The pot of humanity is always at the boil in the Middle East. Are we so ignorant that we haven’t seen that during our brief history? Have our ambassadors and various secretaries of state had their collective heads buried so far in the sands of the Middle East that they haven’t understood the mentality that pervades the region? Forget the few civilized members of the population in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, for while the few are trying to modernize their countries, the many are at war with both the few and with other ‘tribes.’ That’s what they are…tribes. Only in this case, the tribes have access to modern weapons and are not afraid to use them. They are not even afraid to strap explosives to their bodies and kill themselves if it means they can gain an advantage over another tribe or another invader, an infidel if you will.

Being religious is one thing; being a radical religionist is something quite different. The people to whom America and its developed country allies are trying to bring peace and harmony are completely unaware of the meaning of either of those words. When we pull our troops out of Afghanistan, do we believe that radical Muslims won’t attack Kabul, Kandahar, Heart, or Gardez? How stupid can the leadership of America be?

“It is in our national interest to remain in Afghanistan,” says President Obama. “We must invade Iraq because they have weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us,” said President Bush. Both statements were bullshit; pure unadulterated, straight from the butt bullshit! I find it impossible to agree with Fox military analyst, Retired General Dr. Robert Scales, when he insists that we must stay in the area to prevent chaos and to keep an eye on Iran. Why, why must we do this? We have satellites; we should be growing our HUMINT; we should not be sacrificing the lives of young American men and woman simply to support corrupt administrations that we put in place and that are attempting to bleed American dollars from a budget that could be far better spent on home projects.

If we stay in the Middle East for any reason, any reason at all, we are making a mistake. There are enough people in the countries I’ve named who hate America, Americans, and everything for which we stand that the jihadists will never quit. Hell, they’ll never quit anyway. All we have done is to provide them with the weapons they can use to carry on their wars…and we gave ‘em the good stuff, too!

While it is difficult for most civilized people to believe that anyone would choose to live under a code such as that proposed by Shariah Law, particularly females, we should not forget that it wasn’t until 1839 that women in America were allowed to hold property; that their rights were subsumed to their husbands before that time. Today, we talk of equal rights for women in this country when we all know that equal doesn’t mean equal at all. Therefore, if the radical Muslims wish to fight and create a state where the laws of Mesopotamia and Methuselah once reigned supreme, fine, let them have it. Better that they should kill one another and wipe out their entire race of people than to have them continually pissed at American invaders or corrupt government in their own lands.

Am I saying that America should just pull all of their troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Sure; why not; I don’t see how things could get any worse. Children won’t get educated in the area; women will be treated like crap; men will get pissed at their neighbor for stealing some goat’s milk and they’ll feud over that until one family or the other is eliminated; there will be chaos that Ayatollah’s won’t be able to control. The nations will be composed of the haves and have not’s – oh, gee, that sounds like today’s America – and the anger will eventually be turned back toward the United States. It’s at that point that we unleash our technological fury in such a manner that not one city, town, village, or person remains alive. Will that start WWIII? I rather doubt it because enough cooler heads will have seen the idiocy of the Iraqi and Afghani immorality and agree that strong action was demanded. “What about the United Nations,” someone will doubtless ask. Certainly the UN has done some wonderful things to help nations that have evidenced a desire to be helped, but there comes a point when nations that demonstrate their unwillingness to follow a peaceful path to development must either be abandoned or destroyed. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have proven so inept in putting honest governments in place; have demonstrated a total inability to control their own people; have sucked so much blood from the young men and women of other UN nations that it’s time the UN cast them aside and let them destroy themselves as part of a natural order.

President Obama, please, please, please, get those soldiers, marines, airmen and women, as well as naval personnel out of the area and brought back home. We don’t need any more gold stars in windows. Let’s concentrate on what needs to be done in America for Americans. You have a year and a half left; let this be your legacy…you brought home the troops.

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I’m kinda funny about certain things. Like…if you want to piss down my leg and tell me it’s raining, I won’t believe you but generally speaking, it’s no big deal. However, if you tell me that I won’t lose my health insurance because you’ve got some great new deal coming my way, well, I get rather pissed when I find out that you’ve lied to me. Right now, I’m just a wee bit pissed at President Obama.

The truth is that I’m not quite as pissed at the President as I am at those who drafted the Affordable Care Act. This had to have happened one night when a small group of complete idiots were sitting around a table in Georgetown, drinking bourbon or whiskey sours, gnoshing on peanuts and pretzels. Somebody asked, “What can we do to really fuck up the new guy in the White House,” and some other genius reminded the group that seven presidents before him had failed on national health care…”So why don’t we convince him that that will provide his lasting legacy.” I’m certain there were belly laughs and guffaws around the table; even a few pats on the back. Then they began putting notes together.

Shitfaced and filled with the free snacks from the bar, the fools began writing and by morning had drafted…drum roll please…the first national affordable health care bill that stood a chance of passing…ta dah! Of course, it then had to be given to their aides who gathered the following evening in a small bar at the far end of Wisconsin Avenue – they couldn’t afford Georgetown – and over draft beer and anchovy pizza – they further refined this proposed bill, changing much of the meaning, muddying the clear parts and clearing up the muddy parts. The following day, this proposed bill, now a tome of over 600 pages was given to a group of secretaries from the various offices of the first group of fools and told to “…and put this in order so that it makes sense.”

These secretaries, now called Personal Assistants – to whom they never knew because it seemed to them that they were at the bottom of the hill from whence the shit flowed downward – met over coffee in the office building of the aides and the legislators – bourbon, whiskey sours, or beer – hell, they were lucky to afford the single two-room apartment twenty miles away on Route 50, and for two days they talked about the document they were being asked to ‘translate.’ That was the only word they could think of for what had been put before them. Mary Ann, the one with a husband on his third tour in Afghanistan and the three kids was elected ‘consolidator’ of the shit pile, as it was called. Joanne, the most senior accepted the title of ‘shit kicker,’ which meant that the most obvious pieces of garbage would be pulled out and turned into appendices. Sarah, the most senior of the group, would be the ‘creator,’ meaning that she would take what remained after the shit pile was coordinated and the garbage removed and attempt to make sense of the remaining shit pile. Roslyn and Meredith, as the two most recent additions to the various staffs, would be stuck with entering the data into the computers. Of course none realized that Roslyn was a graduate of the University of Edenborough, with a masters in Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State or that Meredith also had a background that qualified her to make intelligent insertions into her typing. A graduate of Columbia, Meredith also held an advanced degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU.

If ever a bill of any kind didn’t stand a chance, it was one put together by a bunch of drunken politicians, congressional aides who thought they were God’s angels on earth, and personal assistants who had more brains in their heads than the politicians and aides put together…but who didn’t understand the inner workings of the political scene in the nation’s capital.

From this amalgam came “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” 900 plus pages of gobblygook that would never be read through completely by any elected legislator in the House of Representatives or Senate. Somehow…and it must have been by the Grace of God and the Blessings of the Devil, the bill passed. The personal assistants congratulated one another and went out for coffee. The legislative aides gathered at the bar on the upper end of Wisconsin and slapped one another on the back for the great job they had done. The fools who put the original plan in motion met at the Inn in Georgetown, chugged down their first bourbon and/or whiskey sour, and asked one another, “My God, what have we done?”

Since no one had read the bill, no one had the vaguest idea of how to put it into effect. The President, having signed the bill on March 23, 2010 [without reading it, one might add] paraphrased Larry, the Cable Guy, and said, “Get ‘er done!”

No one in the United States government appears to know what happened after “Get ‘er done,” but somehow, the same firm that fucked up the Canadian Health Care Program was hired to put a computer program in place that would enable uninsured Americans to sign up for this wonderful new patient protection and affordable care act – has it ever bothered anyone that the word, ‘health,’ is not included – within a brief period of time.

The rest, as they say, is history – as doubtless as the affordable care and protection act will be in the future. Members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives have attempted more than 40 times to kill the bill in one way or another. The Democratically-controlled Senate has defeated these attempts, but so much time has been spent arguing that nothing else seems to have gotten done. The eventual rollout of the bill was nothing short of disastrous. The computer firm that designed the rollout package has left the country and is now deigning a similar program in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia far from the reaches of the FBI, CIA, NSA, or the Keystone Kops. President Obama is now the public apologist which is exactly how the crowd at the Inn in Georgetown had planned it in the first place.

Ain’t democracy wonderful?

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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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On November 19th of this year we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg.  As Lincoln might have said, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we do so.” It is not so much that we are dedicating a “portion of that field” or any field for that matter to those who have died to protect our freedom so that “government of the people, by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.” We have monuments that have been dedicated by the score but, unfortunately, we dedicate and only those who died; only those who actually participated; only those who lost a loved one know the pain and sacrifice that it required to continue Lincoln’s pledge.

I, along with too many others, have a short memory of what it has taken since our founding to keep our nation moving forward. Yes, there have been only two world wars in which we were involved, but there have been so many other threats to our freedom, subversion from within and without that I believe we sometimes lose track of how hard we have to fight to keep America free. Over 12 million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might go to the church of our choice on Sunday or whenever; so that our young people can go school and study whatever they wish; so that you and I can walk down most streets without fear of getting caught in some kind of riot. All in all, I have to say that those 12 million Americans have not died in vain.

In spite of all of our advances, we still have a long way to go. In fact, it seems to me that in at least one way we are regressing. With the passage of North Carolina’s photo identification law, it seems that we are, once more, attempting to limit who can and who cannot vote. It may be all well and good to cite potential election fraud as the reason for passing this legislation; however, it appears to me that it’s more about ensuring that the elderly and disabled as well as minorities must take additional and unwarranted steps to ensure that they get to vote. If asked, I must provide proof of identification in Massachusetts; however, in some states that form of photo identification is not considered adequate, nor is a photo identification card from a college or university. Call me stupid, but this just doesn’t seem to be a proper way for people to be treated.

Lincoln said that “…our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We know that hasn’t always been the case. Minorities have had to fight long and hard to become equal and do so to this day. Women are still fighting in many areas to become equal and small-minded people are fighting equally hard to “keep them in their place.’ It seems to me that enough of those little minds have already screwed things up so badly, it’s about time we gave women a shot at fixing many of our problems.

Lincoln’s address was running through my head this morning for no particular reason. I had not recently seen a television special or anything like that. It was just there. I had to re-familiarize myself with it and so I read it online…again and again and again. I tried to picture myself standing on that field where bodies could still be seen not that far away. I tried to understand why I would have been there when the stench must have still been almost unbearable. I tried to determine how I might have felt hearing the President of the United States speak for well under five minutes. Would I; could I as part of that audience possibly have understood all that was said in those 246 words? I rather doubt it.

It’s time for us to stop looking at monuments and listening to the crap that is repeated every Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. It’s time for us to stop thinking of the Fourth of July as a time for concerts and picnics. It’s time for us to rededicate ourselves to demanding more than platitudes and pap. It’s time to rededicate ourselves to ensure that those 12 million did not die in vain. It’s time to make America the greatest nation on earth once more.

[Just in case you don’t remember…” Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”]

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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!

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Do you believe that the bulk of the American population really cares? North Korea is making these threats and insisting that a state of war exists between it and those in the South. Drugs are pouring across our southern border like water from a spigot but, in all probability, you and I don’t see the effects of their death and devastation. There’s a three week or one month hue and cry about greater gun control, but nothing has happened on the national level. Connecticut has passed some pretty strict laws, including no magazine under ten rounds…but they have no plans to haul in those who already possess them. If you’re an immigrant and you’re already here, you probably have a pretty good chance of staying and gaining citizenship. What does that tell others who want to get into the country illegally? Go for it! If you lay low for a long enough period, you’ll probably be okay. Nobody cares except the people in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, and not all of them really give a damn….probably fewer than you might think.

It appears that we are becoming the Ununited States of NIMBY. Everything is fine as long as you don’t try to do it in my back yard. I pay my taxes – or not – and I do my thing, whatever that happens to be. I’m blind to the fact that there are people right here in my community who would do anything for a “fix” if that’s what they’re calling it these days because, so far anyway, they haven’t broken into my house [where they wouldn’t find much anyway] and they haven’t stuck a gun in my back for money. I have little concern about illegal immigration because I’m not certain how it affects me except to realize that some crops have to be harvested by hand and that we don’t want to use prisoners or truck in homeless to do it. Therefore, since it appears to be beneath much of the rest of the population, migrant workers, many of them illegals get the job done. It may seem a piss poor job to many people but it’s a hell of a lot for someone who has nothing and not very many prospects.

Most of us just want to live and let live. Unless it affects us directly, we aren’t popping off e-mails to our Congressman or woman and our Senator. Most of us don’t understand (a) how our debt reached 16 plus trillion dollars, and we probably have trouble looking at so many numbers following that sixteen. We may look around and see some of our neighbors adding on to their house or we drive through neighborhoods and see the MacMansions that have been constructed and we might even get a bit envious. While we may want to “keep up with the Jones’s,” we should remember the second part of that saying…”the Jones’s are in debt.”

Certainly my children are concerned about school safety. Our three kids have children that range in age from kindergarten to senior in college and everything in between. Does the safety of their children concern me? Of course it does, but I don’t lose sleep over it because I know that somewhere in this country sometime soon there will be another crazy who will get his or her hands on some guns and will do the same damn thing that’s been done in so many places. How many will die? I haven’t a clue, but as long as there are guns, and there will always be guns, there will be people who will try to surpass the record set by this one or that one. Hell, it’s the American way; no, it isn’t really, but it certainly seems that way.

I don’t know the concerns of the people who live in Minnesota or Nebraska or Iowa or Indiana. I’m certain they are many. They don’t affect me, so I’m really not too concerned. It some group in one of those states wants to do something that will impact me negatively, and then I become concerned. If someone from one of those states sends me an e-mail and outlines what their issues happen to be, I’ll probably mouth off about it…one way or the other.

Perhaps all of this makes me – on some level – a state’s rights proponent. I’d like to be able to see gay and lesbian couples marry; I’d like to see a woman have a choice about how she uses her body…seems to me we’re mature enough to let that happen. Those I consider being issues of national concern and therefore should be settled at the national level. We should also be intelligent enough to understand that our approach to gun control, background checks, the size of gun magazines, and any other issues relating to weapons that fire bullets is never going to be solved by 535 people in Washington, D.C. There are just too many divergent views. This is a state issue. You tell people who use their weapons to put food on the table that they cannot use a particular type of weapon and you are taking that food away from them. Oh, and good luck trying to find the straw purchasers; we’ve got bigger fish to fry than to be too concerned about that issue.

Here’s the way I see it. (1) Let the states identify their real problems and tax whatever to get the revenue to pay for seventy-five percent of the cost. The federal government, through income tax revenue, should be able to come up with the extra twenty-five percent. If it was a fifty-fifty deal, the states would never get the money and the federal government would demand to come in and screw it up so that nothing would be done. (2) Let the federal government devise ways in which to keep our borders safe and prevent terrorism from taking place inside those borders. Where border states are concerned, those with problems, eg, the four states mentioned in paragraph one of this essay, the federal government should play an extremely minor role in telling the states what they can and cannot do. (3) Any time that any group of people feel their personal rights are being infringed upon by the state, they will have the opportunity to bring before a “supreme court” in their state to hear their grievances. If that doesn’t work, the Supreme Court of the United States will make a decision to hear from the group or not. Yes, the Supreme Court docket is loaded; the question is what kind of cases they are hearing? Do they involve big business and big dollars or do they involve the citizens of the United States. Other than these, let the states handle their own problems.

We are still the richest nation in the world, but we really don’t know how to use that wealth. We spend so much money trying to cure the ills of the rest of the world that we seem to have forgotten that we have ills of our own. We are so careful to be politically correct in our own country that we’ve forgotten our founding principles. Remember, “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time; but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” It’s about time we stopped trying to please all of the people by allowing the federal government to dictate to us what to do in situations where the states could handle whatever it is perfectly well.

It really appears to me that we’ve lost perspective about our country. We’ve become more concerned about what’s happening with other countries and not enough concerned about what’s going on right here at home. While Thomas Wolfe may have written “You Can’t Go Home Again,” he also wrote “Look Homeward Angel.” Perhaps it’s time we begin to forget the first and think much, much harder about the second.

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