Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Happy Birthday Pony.....Again

Tuesday was my birthday and I turned the ripe old age of 47. It was the usual kind of birthday with the cards, phone calls, emails and such from friends and family, along with some presents, and a birthday dinner with waiters loudly singing happy birthday off-key as they waited for me to blow out the solitary candle on my free birthday ice cream dessert. And despite the lack of a pinata, a clown, or a pony, or any identifiable theme for that matter, a fine time was had by all.

(My dream of having a birthday party theme based on existentialist philosophers, replete with paper cups and dishes with the faces of Kierkegaard, Heidegger and Sartre, will have to wait another year.)

I know that I'm not a child anymore, but who says that adults shouldn't want to go to Chuck E. Cheese and play in bounce houses and swing bats at candy-filled paper Barney the Dinosaur? I want a shot at him, please! I want to play in the bounce house (and yes, it is insured - I checked.) I want my birthdays to be every bit as entertaining as those from my childhood, however, I will skip the pony rides as that would amount to blatant animal cruelty. Just because we have grey hair it doesn't mean we don't have tiny 8-year olds inside of us who want to yell, whoop and scream. (I named mine Jeremy Sneed, but I digress.)

I'm at the age where I'm too old for pin-the-tail on the democrat but too young for a shout out by Willard Scott or a "personal" birthday greeting from the president, and it bums me out. I believe that as we get older and our bodies adapt to the latest installment of decrepitude that we should find a way to celebrate it and not wait until we've taken leave of our senses for it to be appreciated. I, for one, do not wish to have my drooling and disoriented photo flashed before millions of the TV audience to see when I hit the century mark:

"This is Tom's 100th birthday today," Willard would say. "His nurses say that Tom enjoys tapioca pudding and likes to make up new, nonsensical words and shout them at inappropriate times. Well Tom, here at Good Morning America we all want to wish you a wonderful birthday today. Oh, and by the way, GRULPKA to you too!"

I know I will no doubt find allies within the AARP community when I say that just because we are old, that it doesn't mean that we don't like to party. We just need new and updated birthday games that pay tribute to our generous longevity. Okay, bobbing for apples at the old folks home was a bad idea. No one wants to look into a bucket of water and see a bunch of apples floating in it with other people's dentures embedded in them. Clearly something must be changed.

Drawn from personal experience, I have the following recommendations:

1. Tell Me What Hurts: Contestants have 60 seconds to tell you as many of their aches and pains as they can before the buzzer goes off.

2. Name That Muzak Tune: Contestants compete to see how many Muzak tunes they can identify.

3. Where The Hell Is My Car?: Contestants are driven to a large shopping mall and escorted inside. Then they are left in the middle of the mall with instructions to return to their car. The contestant that finds their car first (or comes closest to finding it) wins.

4. Pin-The-Appointment-Reminder to the Calendar: Contestants are given appointment reminder cards from their doctors and must pin them onto the corresponding date of the calendar without the aid of their glasses. Contestant with most correct or closest cards wins a years supply of orthopedic sandals with black socks.

5. A Prune-Juice Chugging Contest! Winner gets a years supply of adult diapers or a case of replacement pads for the Swiffer Wet-Jet Powermop.

6. Hide And Go To Sleep: A variation on the children's Hide and Go Seek, but in this version the person that is IT has to successfully find and wake up all the game contestants.

7. Non-Musical Recliners: A variation of the standard Musical Chairs but using recliners and yelling "SIT DOWN!" in contestant's good ear instead of playing music.

These are just a few suggestions. The point is that older people, though somewhat burdened with some physical and mental limitations, can still enjoy themselves as they once did in childhood, only with games that are less physically challenging considering their health conditions. Birthdays are, after all, for cheering on our friends and family on their special day and for making them feel triumphant for reaching this plateau of life.

All of us want to feel like a champion at some point in their lives. When you are old, it doesn't really matter why you are champion, just as long as you are are recognized as one and cheered for your accomplishment.

Think about this, you children or grandchildren of geezers. You want to make someone feel good? You want to make someone smile and feel proud to be who they are? Then structure a game that you know they will win.

Hold a contest to see who has the most or the longest ear hair. Hold a fashion show and award the dude who wears his pants the highest. If your gross Uncle Waldo is celebrating his birthday, then reward him for his stunning collection of belly button lint. Just be mindful to be positive and encouraging and not to make him or her feel like a freak. For instance, I'm sure your Aunt Martha doesn't want everyone to know she has the longest chin whiskers, so find a different avenue to follow.

Birthdays can be joyous occasions that bring families and friends together with a common goal of celebrating the life of one of their own. Games are one great way to get everyone involved and raise the spirits and morale of all the party goers. And even though children have enjoyed the attention of us adults for many years as we sat back and observed the fun, I think it's fair that we aging adolescents take back some of the party enjoyment for ourselves. After all, it's never too late to be a kid.

And by the way, me first!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hey Andy, I Don't Think We're In Mayberry Anymore

When the great novelist Thomas Wolfe wrote "You Can't Go Home Again" he wasn't kidding.

I grew up in a quiet suburban town in the San Francisco Bay Area of California called Fremont. I was born here, went to school here, got married and had children here. Then I moved away for about 17 years and now find myself back home in Fremont again. But it is a town I don't know anymore and where the people are not the ones I grew up with.

Sounds like a fairly common scenario these days with immigrants pouring into this country (both legal and illegal) and changing the dynamic and the identity of scores of towns and cities. The quest for a better life in America (plus the added motivation of our generous government services and free medical care, etc.) has driven immigrants by the millions to our shores with dreams of making a better life for themselves and their family. And who can blame them?

Americans are the benchmark by which immigrants measure success. Movies and television shows depict us as wealthy, beautiful, charismatic people (think Beverly Hills 90210) who drive expensive cars, go on expensive holidays and enjoy the finest the world has to offer. If you can succeed here, then you have indeed risen to the top.

With the boon in Silicon Valley the last 10 or 15 years or so, a huge influx of immigrants seeking positions in the high-tech sector swarmed into this area and brought with them their extended families. In no time at all, natural born citizens of this region became minorities in their own hometowns. What followed was a culture shock that continues today.

Please don't misinterpret my message as racist, for that isn't my intent at all. I welcome all races of people and enjoy a measure of cultural diversity because I feel that it makes for a more interesting and multifaceted lifestyle. I enjoy dining at Indian and Asian restaurants and the steady influx of these immigrants brought with them many new restaurant adventures. However I believe that along with the benefits there are some drawbacks as well. Though many feel constrained by political correctness about addressing this issue for fear of being labeled as a racist, I confess that I have feelings that are bubbling up inside me that scream to be released regardless of the consequences.

It was made clear in our most recent census that immigrants now comprise almost two-thirds of the citizens living in our town, and driving around town it's an unmistakeable fact. Everywhere you look there are indications that the new residents of this town have made in indelible mark. Aside from the stores and restaurants that have popped up everywhere, you see the people in their native attire on most every corner. It was also reported that Fremont has the largest concentration of Afghans in the United States. In fact, the main drag going down the center of town, Fremont Boulevard, where high school students cruised for years, now has a new moniker, "Little Kabul," and cruising is now just a fond memory.

No one can stall the march of progress, but I have to ask myself "when is it too much of a good thing?" You can accuse me of being nostalgic for the good old days and maybe you are right. In the old days if you needed to borrow a drill bit or a ladder you could go next door to your neighbors and ask them. Nowadays, though, to do that you have to be quite multilingual or come prepared with an interpreter.

On my street my next door neighbors are Chinese and don't speak English. My neighbors on the opposite side are Russian and don't speak English. Across the street my neighbors are Indian and speak little English and the surrounding houses are home to Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Pakistani families, most of which do not speak fluent English. Suffice it to say I have my own ladder and a good selection of drill bits just in case.

It's kind of hard to describe how I feel to people who haven't been put in this situation before. Imagine waking up one morning and instead of being in your hometown you are now living in Bombay, India and the only Americans you see are a few tourists that happen by. That in a nutshell is how I feel. And in a way I resent it. Have things gotten to the point that people that have spent their entire lives here are now put in the position of being that proverbial "fish out of water" and endure the frustrations that it incurs?

"Oh just settle down, Tom. How bad can it be? It's just a bunch of transplanted cultures trying to co-exist with yours and relegating yours into utter obscurity. Nothing to be upset about. I'm sure millions of Americans are probably doing the same thing in their homelands." Maybe that's why it bugs me. There's no quid pro quo!

Language problems are a big issue. Try to order anything from a fast food drive-thru and see how long it takes to get your order placed (and still they get it wrong.) I guess it's too much to ask that clerks, waiters and salespeople speak English. It's only our national language. Well, for now, anyway. In another twenty years it could be Spanish, Farsi, Hindi, Mandarin or one of the many other languages spoken here.

Cultural differences rub a lot of people the wrong way. Americans just assume that people that flee the hardships of their own country and adopt ours as their new home will want to do the complete transformation and learn the language, adopt the culture, styles, attitudes and other features that make us quintessentially American. Nope. In fact, although second generation immigrants find it necessary to learn the language and assimilate into our culture, the first generation is seemingly averse to trying to fit in. As a consequence to this, it becomes our problem to deal with them.

I will give you a couple examples. Recently my wife was witness to a scenario at a Fry's Electronics store here in town. An older Asian lady was trying to return a set of headphones she had purchased over six months ago. She had the receipt and the store clerk tried his best to make her understand that there was a 60-day return policy and that her purchase was made much later than that time period. Her response was to scream loudly "NO...You give money! Give me money! I want now!" This went on for quite some time as one clerk passed her on to an assistant manager and a department manager, both of them failing to get the customer to understand the store policy.

Finally the store manager was summoned and by this time the customer was fuming and screaming "You give me money! I want money for this! I have receipt! Give now!" When the poor woman finally broke down in tears the manager told her that he would honor her receipt but that he could only give her store credit. Again, she couldn't grasp the concept and cried "NOOO! Money!!!! Give me now!" He patiently tried to explain to the customer that store credit was just as good as money but that she had to use it in this store. Again, the crying, the fits, the screaming "No! Give me now! You give me money!" At that point my wife had to leave the store, so we'll never know how it all turned out. One thing for sure, though, it was a very time consuming and emotionally draining episode for all involved.

A similar situation presented itself to me recently at the checkstand of a Safeway grocery store. An Indian woman presented a $1.00 off coupon to the checker for some food items. Unfortunately, the requirements of the coupon clearly stated that in order to get the refund there was a mandatory number of units required. The customer did not have this number and as such was not eligible for the refund. An attempt was made to explain to the customer that she needed to purchase several more of the item in order to use the coupon. Not understanding, the woman began yelling at the checker, thinking she was trying to deny her something she was due. More yelling and screaming ensued and the store manager finally intervened. As the line behind began to grow and the prospect of this woman accepting the fact that she would not get the $1.00 off was never going to happen, the store manager told the checker to honor the coupon and just make a notation on it.

On one hand, I was grateful for the manager's intervention and help in moving the line along, but it did bother me that he had to capitulate like that just because of a cultural barrier that he had no control over. I wonder what I would have done in those instances if I were the store manager. Probably the same thing. Sad that we have to be put in those situations in the first place though. But until these immigrants make the commitment to assimilate into our culture, which includes learning our language, this scenario and others like it are destined to play out again and again.

Many of the Indian immigrants have gained a reputation over the years of being pushy, rude, cheap and immensely arrogant. I mentioned this to an Indian co-worker and she said, "oh, those are the Southern Indians. We Northern Indians don't behave that way." Not so. The ever-divisive Indian culture recalls an ancient caste system where people still live in accordance with the divisions of social strata that apply to them, from the very rich and powerful to the lowly "untouchables." When these high caste Indians move to America they bring with them an arrogant air about them. Many are wealthy and are not shy about flaunting their materialistic side by wearing lots of gold and diamonds and driving expensive autos. They also feel like they can get away with anything, as they do in India. This is particularly irritating if you happen to be driving on the street with some of them, as I've found out!

My Indian co-worker told me that the reason that Indian people sometimes act aggressively and abruptly to us "whites" (as they call us) is that they are afraid of us and often behave in a way that will show strength so they will be taken seriously and not be taken advantage of. Oh brother! I have another theory. Maybe, just maybe, a lot of Indian people are just jerks. Most people know that you catch more flies with honey. Maybe instead of closing themselves off into their own private little worlds and being anti-social, they could try being a friend and see where that takes them. And by the way, as long as they are being friendly, it wouldn't hurt to tip their waiter once and awhile too! LOL!

Probably one of the most shocking displays of arrogance happened to me a few days ago. Parked in the parking lot of our local mall I noticed a young Indian man and his son pull up and walk toward the bookstore. A couple minutes later they returned holding armfuls of hibiscus flowers they had stolen from the bush sitting in front of the bookstore. I was speechless at the total gall of someone stealing flowers so blatantly like that and being so at ease about it. What does this teach his son? It makes you wonder exactly where they would draw the line. I mean, would they landscape their yard with plants taken from neighbor's yards? Or would they draw a distinction where there is none?

As an American I do welcome our new residents and feel that they should be extended most every courtesy we as natural-born citizens are heir to. All I ask is that they show the rest of us some respect and try to assimilate into our culture. There's no need to be so inconsiderate and obnoxious toward us. We are glad for you that you have money, but we are not untouchables and you have no more right to try to rub our noses in it as you would them, no matter how crudely the third world teachings of your culture tell you to behave.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Winning The War On Terrorism

We can win the war in Afghanistan!

How many conquerors and nations throughout history have made that proclamation only to find that, thousands of casualties later, they were sadly mistaken. And now, as the death toll of American soldiers continues to escalate, it makes you wonder if maybe we aren't being led down the same path toward destruction.

Maybe it's having a son of military service age that puts it in perspective for me, I don't know, but the bottom line is I don't want any of our children to continue to be needlessly killed or maimed in Afghanistan. Continuing to use the same ground force tactics will only lead to protracted warfare that will serve only to cost the American people thousands of lives of their young men and women and billions of dollars that could be better spent to help Americans during the economic nightmare that has settled over our country.

And what do we get for our sacrifices to this endless bloodshed? Peace of mind? Does anyone really believe that eradicating Al Quaida from one country is going to quell the march of terror that is their radical religion? No, I think we can all agree that these Muslim extremists are here to stay. Even as we fight them on the battlefields today, more are being born and indoctrinated into this "holy jihad" life as we speak. They are already all over the world, including the United States, just waiting for the signal to poison water and food supplies, destroy infrastructure and cause economic chaos.

Only through good fortune and the efforts of our intelligence community have we been spared more 9/11 type attacks. I believe it is paramount that we Americans maintain our diligence and expand our efforts so that we can ferret out these terrorists from our midst and upset their plans at killing more innocent people. One way to reduce the threat is to uncover where the terrorist's safe houses are located, close down mosques, businesses and schools that give aid and shelter to these fiends, and imprison those that aid their cause. Exposing these terrorist cells and breaking up their support networks is key to defeating them and protecting ourselves.

I have to agree that withdrawing our troops will ultimately only lead to bolstering the confidence of Al Quaeda and the Taliban in their efforts to launch new attacks at the U.S. and it's allies using Afghanistan as their host country. So what can we do? I know a lot of people on our radical fringe have a solution they feel will suffice. They say, "We should just find out where they are and drop a friggin' nuke on them sum' bitches and send 'em all to Allah!" Yeah. That's a great plan. If only it were just that easy. Let's just invite them all to stand on a bullseye in the middle of the desert and tell them we are taking a group portrait by satellite, then just vaporize the lot. Yeah. Some people should just stick to whittlin' and leave the thinking to others.

We find ourselves in a classic Catch-22 situation where we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. There's no question in my mind that the threat of terrorism needs to end, and quickly. And my feeling is that we cannot succeed on our own because, as we proved in Vietnam, the American government will eventually withdraw their support of an unpopular war. We need help from the other super-powers if we are to prevail in this struggle.

Not surprisingly, despite the global implications if the war on terror were to fail, the U.S. military is basically on its own to fight and die to protect not just our country, but the rest of the world as well, with little or no help from the rest of the world's military. I guess the Russians still have a bad taste in their mouths from their earlier attempts at war with Afghanistan and the Chinese are more interested in sitting this one out than sparing any of their two million troops for the cause. Where is Genghis Khan when you need him? Seriously, it will take a lot more manpower (more than our country could muster) and the concerted efforts of combined military might to rout these insurgents from their caves and mountain strongholds and finally bring peace to this region.

I know that this opinion won't be shared by many of my more liberal friends and readers, but then I tend to be choosy about my dogma and have no use for those that "follow the party line" rather than their own feelings. We all want to believe that "peace in our time" is an attainable goal, but like most worthwhile things, it does come with a cost.

Hopefully it won't take another 9/11 or death squads of suicide bombers walking into our children's classrooms and detonating their devices to get the attention of a nation that has lost its focus on terrorism with the current distraction of our participation in Iraq's civil war.

I Am George W's Love Child

Of Course It's True....I Read It In The Enquirer!

Back in the olden days when I was little toddler and TV shows like Gilligan's Island and Flipper first burst onto the airwaves, I was a clever little fella and curious as all get out. I had learned early how to read and spent hours pouring over newspapers and magazines trying to find stories to satisfy my thirst for knowledge.

Thankfully, my mother was an avid fan of supermarket tabloids and would bring home a copy of the National Enquirer, The Globe or The Weekly World News with her groceries. Ohhhh, jackpot! Finally some publications that skirted the mundane issues and boring factoids of everyday life and focused instead on the fascinating and bizarre stories that rarely saw the light of day.

I was hooked! And thus began my lifelong obsession with things like UFO's, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Ghosts, Telekinesis, the Bermuda Triangle and so many other far-out stories of the weird and unexplained. Even now whenever a special program on Area 51 or Roswell comes on TV or a report on Bigfoot or the ever-popular Ghost Hunters series just happens to come on, I am instantly glued to the screen.

Now I must tell you, before you start thinking that I am some kind of super-gullible person who believes everything in print, there were tons of stories that I knew deep down couldn't possibly be true. I mean, for a long while there were stories about sightings of the late Elvis Presley every week. Some times he would be buying food at the Piggly Wiggly and other times he would be seen riding a convertible space ship. The guy really got around, which is rare for a dead rock star.

I realize that these rags are in the business to make money and the more sensational and ludicrous a headline appears, the more people want to buy it to get the full story, whether they believe it or not. But seriously people, how empty-headed do they think we are anyway? And what are our kids supposed to think when they see a photo of our president shaking hands with an alien from another planet while they are waiting at the checkstand?

Here is a list of some of the most idiotic real headlines from the tabloids:

1. Dick Cheney Is A Robot

Okay, I can see where some might wonder, but definitely not true nonetheless. I think.

2. World's Youngest Ninja: 9-Month Old Gets Black Belt In Karate

But how would he fare against a Robot Dick Cheney? Inquiring minds want to know.

3. Abraham Lincoln Was A Woman: Shocking Pix Found In White House Basement

I don't buy this at all. He may have been a transvestite, but definitely not a woman. Incidentally the article also states that John Wilkes Boothe was his jilted lover. Again, Lincoln was not a handsome man, and must have been an even more unattractive female, so no...not true.

4. Vegan Vampire Attacks Trees

Fortunately the trees survive the attacks, though they have developed a problem with sunlight.

5. Kitten Guilty Of Murder: Sign The Petition Inside Or She DIES!

The photo above shows a cute kitten strapped down to a table while a hand holding a hypodermic needle hovers beside her menacingly. I've got to many people signed the petition?

6. Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby: Survivor of Arkansas UFO Crash

Some people will do anything for an extra tax break. Angelina Jolie has dibs on the next one that crashes.

7. Cigarettes Cured My Cancer

I wonder how much the tobacco industry paid for that story?

8. Bigfoot Kept Lumberjack As Love Slave: Outraged Wife "He's No Longer The Man I Married!"

You know what they say, once you go Bigfoot, you never go back.

9. Vampires Attack U.S. Troops: Army of Undead Taking Over Mountains of Afghanistan

As if our soldiers didn't have enough to deal with, now its vampires! Perhaps it's not too late to convince them to work on our side and help find Osama bin Laden?

10. Aliens Settle In San Francisco

Seems like a perfect place for them to fit in. I wonder if an Alientown can be far off?

Personally, I am convinced, through evidence presented and personal experiences that ghosts are real. Further, I believe that Bigfoot is real, as well as UFO's (as well as the government cover-ups at Area 51 and Roswell, N.M., etc. ) and psychic abilities, the Loch Ness Monster, the Bermuda Triangle and many other strange and unknown mysteries. I believe that its possible that dinosaurs may still walk remote areas of the earth today, that some people have amazing gifts (think X-Men), and that parallel universes, time travel and other dimensions are our destiny.

I know many will refute these ideas for whatever reasons, but for me believing in the wondrous possibilities of life makes living much more interesting. You may choose to believe that aliens worship Oprah or the secret CIA talking cats that are our spies in Iraq, or the existence of a race of Mermaids and Mermen living in our oceans. That is your right. Don't worry, nobody is going to bother you.

As long as you continue to take your meds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Does Penile Enlargement Make You Smarter?

Tonight I had an epiphany.

As I stepped outside to my backyard and relieved myself on a shrub, I gazed up at the bright, twinkling skyscape against the vast blackness of space and wondered if we were alone in the universe or if somewhere, in some distant galaxy on some faraway world, if some alien being was relieving himself and wondering the same thing.

And then, like a flash, it occurred to me that so many of my most revealing thoughts and insights occur when I'm holding my penis. It evoked memories of many brilliant concepts which occurred to me while going pee or watching porn. In retrospect, I recall that even my cyber-sex conversations were notably expressive and joyous.

I paused to consider if there were other people, such as distinguished scholars, scientists, professors, physicists and similarly intelligent persons, who had discovered this same peculiarity. And then I tried to remember if I had ever shaken hands with any of them.

I pondered for a moment that my penis might also serve as some kind of divine antennae and that if it were positioned in just the right way I might be able to receive universal knowledge that could possibly answer some of the most intriguing mysteries of mankind. (It didn't.) And then I wondered if size might be a critical issue and if large penises made better conduits for absorbing information from some celestial source. And if so, would penile enlargement actually make you smarter?

Now I don't know anyone that has had such a procedure, nor would I go through it simply to prove a theory, so I leave it to you, members of the blogosphere, to chime in and let me know (for strictly scientific purposes of course) if you or anyone you know has had the procedure and if they are smarter now than before, or if they have always had a larger penis and have always been intelligent (or not). On behalf of myself and the scientific community we would be most grateful for your contribution.

I will publish the findings from this survey as soon as I have a sufficient number of responses to meet scientific method standards.

Thank you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Parents Say No to Obama's Pro-Education Speech To America's School Children

Friends and loyal readers (both of you), this blog was not intended strictly as some liberal soapbox for me to vent my frustration with the body politic or with radical conservative pundits and their hate-speak. But every so often as needed I have to let out some steam for the sake of my soul. A soul can only take so much mental manure before it starts to show the weary tatters of apathy and acquiescence, and it's better I spread it out here where it might help other ideas grow than let it pile up and stink up the place. I ask your kind indulgence during this smelly ordeal.

Stupid Is That Stupid Does

If there is one pet peeve I have (and believe me, there are a few) it is this...I don't do stupid. Which is why certain stories in the nation's press really get my goat sometimes. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they aren't the unmitigated fools I suspect some of them to be. Then they open their mouths and all doubt is forever wiped away.

I know there are areas of the country where the intellectually challenged tend to congregate and spew their right-wing rants and carry their signs around trying to deprive other people of their basic human rights because it better fits their world view. I can't stand people like that. So certain are they that they are right that they will do anything to convert the rest of us "unwashed heathens."

Give me an 'effin break!

Today I speak specifically about the uproar over the President's recent live national address to schoolchildren where he advised them to "take pride in their education — and stick with it even if they don’t like every class or must overcome tough circumstances at home."

Seems like sound advice to me. But rather than share the telecast with the students as planned, many school districts around the country refused to air it. In fact, in many places around the country where the school districts did air the broadcast, parents pulled their children out of school so they wouldn't see it. My son Bryan, who lives in Texas (home of "W" and a virtual cesspool of other radical right-wing miscreants), was telling me last night that parts of his fair state banned the viewing of the speech as well. Some teachers and school administrators refused to show the speech because of pressures from parents and their fears that Obama was trying to interject his "liberal" politics on their young, impressionable minds.

Oh....My....God! The President of the United States of America sets up a live telecast to inspire the American children to do their homework, stay in school, follow directions, stay away from drugs and make wise career choices and they react as if he is telling them to smoke crack, have unprotected sex and become lobbyists for abortion rights and gay marriage.

Why are people so freakin' stupid? Are they so full of hate and rage that their old guy and his ditzy running mate lost and that a new voice has ascended the mantle with fresh ideas and solutions for addressing the various social and economic disasters that the prior administration created or made worse? Or is it simply that this new voice is coming from a black man? I'm inclined to think it's a lot of both. When Nancy Reagan told kids to "say no to drugs" was she labeled a liberal commie pinko? Not hardly. But when our president says the same thing he is slammed as a left-wing radical trying to force feed his dangerous liberal agenda to the tiny tots.

Here is an excerpt of the speech that he gave last Tuesday at a school in Arlington, Va., where the president shared with the students some of his own challenges as a child and how he overcame them to eventually realize his success in politics.

“Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.

“I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was 2 years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

“But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world — and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

“And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.”

Makes you want to go join Greenpeace and save the whales, now doesn't it? I didn't think so.

Nothing in his speech attempts to persuade children to do anything other than to study hard and focus on creating a successful life. Why the uproar? If Bush or McCain were delivering this address they would be welcomed with open arms and the speech recorded so that parents could have their children watch it often for constant affirmation. But coming from a black liberal president, it just doesn't wash. Instead it triggers that "you can't tell me what to do" reaction in conservatives whose sentiments are more akin to "I'll do whatever I want with my children, even keeping them up all night playing on the Xbox on a school night if I feel like it, so keep your liberal views to yourself."

The reaction by these parents is tantamount to watching two trains crashing into one another in slow motion. You want to turn away in horror and disgust, but you just can't. It's a tragedy not only for the children who suffer for the lack of insight of their parents and communities, but also for the country as a whole who will undoubtedly be picking up the tab for yet another generation of Jerry Springer Show wannabees. It's painful to watch people consciously put their children in harms way, and by methodically keeping the tools of success out of their hands, it's like sending your kids to the Manson family to be home-schooled.

I feel sorry for the children of these redneck bumpkins because their fate is almost certainly sealed. Since no president who isn't a card-carrying member of the NRA will ever have their respect or allegiance - particularly if he is non-white - they will undoubtedly inherit their parents disdain for education, progress and human rights and continue on their path to ignorance and intolerance. What a shame that the cycle of stupidity continues to churn away in this fashion, all because the children that should be getting the words that will bring hope and future success to them are being stifled at home.

It doesn't take a genius to see that our future as a country will require a workforce that has the technical skills and knowledge to adapt to a much more sophisticated job market as the shrinking availability of low-level assembly line type factory work continues to shift to poorer countries. The average high school graduate lacks this knowledge. Whereas their parents were able to get by working menial grunt work at the meat packing plants or factories, those jobs will be taken over by the millions of foreign immigrants pouring into this country who will do it for a fraction of what American workers would. So where does that leave our next generation of leaders? Pushing carts at Walmart and flipping burgers at fast-food restaurants will certainly not suffice. The only solution to this situation is a good education.

In his speech, the president beseeched the children to understand that education was vitally important and that they must take responsibility for their own education. What an important and strong message that is in these difficult that all students should take heed to follow if they want a future that's bright and filled with unlimited opportunities. But I guess some parents want different for their children.

Obama told students in his speech that “Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer and you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is.”

Any parent that takes issue with this kind of encouraging, uplifting and inspiring advice to a young child doesn't deserve to be a parent.


Do I have space for a liberal tirade? I do? Okay, good.

Obama campaigned on the platform of real change for America. Instead of continuing the same errant ways that made a disaster of our economy and brought America to the brink on so many fronts as the McCain plan promised to do, our president wants to put his efforts into retooling and revamping these failed policies and practices and giving them a much-needed facelift, reinventing a few along the way. Change to a republican is like kryptonite to Superman. Change only threatens their goals of somehow returning our country to the 1950's and of Leave It To Beaver where wives knew their place, children were polite and everyone went to church (blacks in their churches, whites in theirs) and obeyed God's rules and those of their patriotic white president.

I've often asked hard-core republicans about this fixation they have about living in the past and why they can't seem to let go of it and deal with reality. They just stare dreamily off into space and mutter "So what would be so bad about living in the past?" How about that it's impossible and that you can't halt the march of progress and the country would sooner revisit the 1950's as it would the 1850's, I argue. Then a placid look of serenity descends upon their white, God-fearing faces as they contemplate living in an even more archaic period and a smile rolls up on their face as they imagine how many slaves they would own.

Why do right-wing wackos want so badly to make Obama fail at every turn, even at the cost of harming or causing the death of innocent American citizens who are only looking for a break with issues they are struggling with like healthcare, the economy, employment, social security and the wars waging in Iraq and Afghanistan. What is this incessant need to maintain a semblance of superiority over the "radical left-wing agenda" that republicans are so quick to denounce. Even when some of them miraculously "get it" and come to the conclusion that they are, in fact, full of crap, they still vote the party line because that is what is expected of them. Wrong or not, they are doing what they are told to do. Is it any wonder we are in the mess we are in?

Why does every republican think that complete and utter annihilation of our way of life is just one liberal vote away? Does passing an air quality bill always lead to legalized marijuana? Will improved roads and highways foster in an era of gay marriage and encourage our eventual enslavement by the "evil axis?" Will saving social security weaken our military defense and spread AIDS? They are not sure if it will or not, but they are not taking any chances.

But I digress.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let's Hear It For Freedom Of Jerk...umm..I Mean Speech!

What a country we live in! No matter how you feel about President Obama (I'm pretty okay with him myself) or our entire political system, it's great to know that we live in a free democracy where rights like free speech are protected and that even the little guy (under 5' 2") can have his say in our society. Try that in some places in the Middle East or Asia and you could end up being imprisoned, tortured or killed (or worse, exiled to Detroit.)

Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) drove home the point the other night during Obama's Health Care Reform speech when he shouted out "you lie!" when the President said that under the new health care reform bill illegal aliens would not be eligible for coverage. Sure, it was a tactless, stupid, rookie mistake to insult the President during a televised joint session of Congress during one of the most important speeches of the President's term, and sure there was quite a backlash from people from both sides of the aisle, but it really drove home two things to our neighbors around the world.

The first thing it shows people is that all of us are created equal, no matter how idiotic we may sometimes be, and that we are living in the most free country in the world where even people like Rush Limbaugh can spew hate and fear and insane rantings disguised as truth and get away with it. Secondly, it points out the sad truth that South Carolina is governed by total assholes for the most part. Well, South Carolina is unfortunately destined to remain that way until some intelligence somehow invades their collective gene pool, and in a state where school is the devil and being smart is a sin against the Lord, the odds of that happening are not good.

I have to wonder what it would have been like if that screwball Joe Wilson had been around for other speeches of note in the past. History is full of seminal moments that united a country and stirred the passions of Americans the world over. How inglorious a moment they might have been with just a bit of southern intervention.

Patrick Henry - "Give me liberty, or give me death"
Joe Wilson - "You Lie!"

Abraham Lincoln - "A house divided among itself cannot stand"
Joe Wilson - "You Lie!"

Martin Luther King - “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Joe Wilson - "You Lie!"

John F. Kennedy - "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. "
Joe Wilson - "You Lie!"

So no matter what the discussion is, whether it is health care reform, illegal immigration, or the war in Iraq, be content in the knowledge that our country will allow any fool with a pulse and a hankering to speak his piece the freedom to express himself publicly. And though it may be cause for embarrassment for some, others (like Rush Limbaugh fans, the KKK, the NRA and most anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line) appreciate the balance it provides those Americans whose intellects hover around the 4th grade level. Thank you, Joe "the Heckler" Wilson, for pointing out what's good about America! We Salute You! (You Big Frickin' Idiot!).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Smiling Dogs and Random Musings

9/11 Date - Was It Random Or Not?

The anniversary of the September 11thattack is just days away and in addition to the anguish and pain many of us are forced to relive on this somber occasion (punctuated by hours of television retrospectives and talk show banter) it occurred to me that maybe there might have been more than just a coincidence that the date chosen was also the same three numbers, 9 – 1 – 1, that we use to dial in the case of an emergency. Could it be that there was some marketing guidance in the choice of the date? Did someone consult an expert and discover that the best way to keep the fear of that terrible day ever-present would be to associate it with a number we are all taught as small children to turn to when dire circumstances present themselves? Is it strange that a series of numbers that prior to that day were associated with police, fire and medical emergencies is so quickly transformed into an icon of terrorism and fear? I don’t know if terrorists have publicists or whatever, but if so, they did one hell of a job.

Smiling Dogs Smell Yo' Fries

My dog Ringo is the happiest dog of all. With lots of sunshine, good food, plenty of water, tons of love and attention, cozy places to snooze, more toys than most toddlers and a trusty sidekick to wrestle with, he might be the most spoiled non-pedigreed dog around.

He (and his brother Rufus) are the canine loves of my life and I find so much peace and joy in sharing it with them. I was told that Ringo is part Chihuahua, part Beagle and part Rat Terrier, but to me and my wife, he is all cuddle-dog. His weapon of choice is his patented love-flop where he throws his body on you in such a way that his head is resting on your chest, his soft, chestnut-colored eyes gazing placidly at yours, as he snuggles ever-closer to you. Ahh, sweet contentment...thy name is Ringo.

Rufus, His brother-by-another-mother, is another amazing cuddle-dog in his own right and has an uncanny ability to lick you in the mouth (yes, I said IN) with his lightning quick tongue. He also loves to climb up on you and do the doggy version of hugging and kissing. He is decidedly more a mommy's dog so attends to my wife wherever she goes. He is very loving and very expressive and will sometimes sing when the mood strikes him. Together with Ringo they are a cuddle tag team that can't be stopped! Yes, so intruder beware!

The smaller of the two dogs, Rufus is a mix of Chihuahua and West Highland Terrier, but his size in no way prevents him from laying the occasional smack-down on Ringo. Even so, Ringo has an interesting spinning butt-kick that he employs quite effectively when the wrestling reaches a fever pitch. Rufus is getting quite adept of ducking out of the way of it most times, but when it lands it is a most potent weapon.

Both of the dogs love to lie beside us in bed and sit (or sprawl, as the case may be) on our laps as we watch TV. They follow us from room to room and outside to the backyard. I know many will roll your eyes at this, but it's true. They watch with extreme interest whenever we eat because they know my wife and I are a soft touch for those sad, puppy dog eyes and that a portion of our food is always reserved for them. People food? Perish the thought you say? Well, granted in time it may shorten their lives, but I like to think they are happier with lasagna than some combination of ill-smelling swill with "meat by-products" from who knows what. And besides, they don't get a lot of table scraps, they do have regular dry and wet dog food as well to round out their diets. At any rate, they aren't complaining.

Our boys live for treats, which we generously dole out throughout the day. I know some people may have issues with how we let our dogs behave and the freedoms they enjoy, but to us they are a close part of the family that we love like our children. It’s an understanding that other dog people share. Who wouldn’t love an animal that has such an amazing capacity for caring and giving to his family. We just believe such devotion deserves a reward.

Thank you, Ringo and Rufus. I can only hope that we bring you some of the same happiness and joy that you bring us.

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