Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy 100 Days!

Well, here we are-100 days into the Obama presidency already. Amazing. Where does the time go? The Wall Street Journal devoted a full section to this important milestone; the news magazines are covering it; it's been all over morning and evening news programs; and even the president himself had yet another news conference marking this important anniversary. But nowhere have I seen anyone ask the most important question of all: What's he done for ME personally? The heck with the rest of the nation and world. Well, let's see....I do know that as a Social Security recipient and veteran I can look forward to the arrival of my portion of the stimulus package. I haven't actually received it yet so I'm sort of counting my chickens before they've hatched-as it were. But I'm sure I'll get it and, man, I can't wait. It could be as much as $250!!! What shall I do with all that money? I KNOW!!! I have confidence that GM is going to come out of this crisis stronger than ever so I think I'll invest my money wisely and buy 10,000 shares of GM stock! Great idea, huh? OK, OK, so I'm being a little sarcastic. All kidding aside, you have to give the guy credit. He has gone a long way toward undoing a lot of the damage done by Bush and Cheney-although Cheney is still out there spreading his share of venom and anger but no one's listening except Fox News viewers. Obama has also taken the necessary steps to pull the nation out of recession (make that depression if you happen to be the one out of work) and most important of all he's given people hope that things will improve-well, most people that is. Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh and others of their ilk continue to whine and snivel about this, that and the other thing. Fortunately, my remote is working just fine so when I see or hear them, click click. They're gone! Cool, huh? Aren't you glad I invented it??

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Good Bye, Old Pals!

The vehicles you see above are a 1948 Plymouth Coupe, a 1955 Studebaker Hawk, a 1955 Pontiac Chief and a 1966 Olds Cutless. They all have two things in common. First, they're vehicles I owned at one time or another and second, none of them are in production any longer. The only one I bought new was the Olds which I got right after I was discharged from the Army. I drove it for about 10 years until the frame literally broke in half. Before that, it was by far my favorite car. It was a two door hard top with a V8 engine and 4 on the floor Hearst transmission. Fast as hell. But in those days body rot was a serious problem with cars and that's what finally got it. The first auto maker to go out of production was the Studebaker. Next Chrysler did in the Plymouth. After that and not so long ago was the Oldsmobile. Finally, recent reports have it that GM is ending production of their 'muscle' division-the Pontiac! No doubt about it. The American auto industry is in big trouble but I think they'll survive. I just can't imagine not seeing Ford F150's and Chevy Silverados and Dodge Ram trucks on the roads any more. No way that's going to happen-I hope. Bankruptcy is probably a good thing because it will give them time to restructure, renegotiate union contracts and generally get their acts together. Time will tell. In the meantime, good bye, old pals. I had a lot of fun driving (and usually abusing) you!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

(Un)Fair & (Un)Balanced

Fox news has been running a bunch of commercials lately billing itself as "the most balanced news program on television". I presume whoever wrote this did so with a straight face. I'm sure it was an effort to write those words without feeling some sense of shame. After all, no sooner do the words drift off into cyberspace, there appears the angry, distorted features of none other than Dick, We Don't Torture, Cheney. What a joke. This guy has been appearing on Fox News on a regular basis, spreading his lies and venom all over the air waves and Fox has the gall to call themselves 'fair and balanced'. Fortunately, most Americans are smarter than Fox gives them credit for. They'd rather watch Katie, or Charlie, or Brian!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Depression Era Mentality

This cartoon was sent to me by a friend of mine (see KM3's blog on the blog spot)It dates back to 1932 and depicts conservatives protesting the policies of the newly elected FDR. It was of course during the depression and it was Roosevelt's thought that Keynesian economic theory had a lot of virtue, i.e. during times of depression or serious recession it is not only appropriate for government to engage in deficit spending, it is essential. Some modern day Republicans have tried to argue that it wasn't Roosevelt's policies that pulled us out of the depression. Rather it was WWII. Duh! What exactly do you think it was the government started to do big time after Pearl Harbor? Spend, that's what. History does indeed repeat itself. As I've said before, Mr. President, keep calm and carry on!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Handshakes & Talk VS Fists. Hmmm...A Tough One

This morning on The Today Show we were treated to the news that conservatives/republicans were upset that Obama shook hands with Venezuela dictator Hugo Chavez. Newt Gingrich was asked for his two cents although I can't imagine why anyone would want to hear anything that loser has to say. Nevertheless, there he was criticizing first Obama's meeting with Chavez and then Obama's whole approach to foreign policy. Gee...he may have a point. We certainly wouldn't want to undo the fine body of work and good relations the previous administration left us, would we? After all, what possible good could come from actually sitting down to listen and talk to those leaders who dislike us? Isn't it much better in the long run to show them the business end of an M16? That would certainly convince them to listen to what we have to say, wouldn't it? For proof just look at how well that worked for W! At the end of the day it's not going to matter what Obama does. What ever it is, republican gas bags are going to come out against it. Therein lies their hypocrisy regarding 'nonpartisan' politics! Fortunately, the majority of the nation recognizes the need for Obama to do exactly what he's doing. Stay calm & carry on!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Look out, Jeter!! There's A New Kid on the Block.

That little cutie you see poised to take a hard hit line drive and fire it to first base is my oldest grand child. She's 5 yrs old and yesterday she played in the first organized sport we've attended for grand children. The first of many, I'm sure. She's in a league with 6 & 7 year old girls but adjacent to the field they played on was a little league game in progress for 10 year old kids-most of whom were boys. One of their coaches happened to look over just as Brooke was batting and asked me if I knew who she was. Being a somewhat protective grandfather, I of course wanted to know why. He said he'd never seen anyone with such amazing skills and he was wondering if her parents would consider letting her join his team......OK, OK. I'm totaling lying but I'm entitled to indulge in "grandparent exaggeration". All of the girls did a great job. They ran the bases correctly although some passed the runner in front of her; they listened to their coaches; they made contact with the ball; they made some really good catches and throws and most of all they were having fun. So stay tuned for many, many more pieces to follow about the accomplishments of our 4 (gifted) grandchildren. (By the way, check out the video clip on http:/ for more about the game)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eerie Silence

It's awfully quiet around here. Nicholas's big brother Cole and dog Sadie have gone home after three days. Everything is put away, Sadie's blanket is back on the porch and there's no one to play with-until the next time one or more of the grand children come over. It's amazing how quickly one can adapt to the 'small child' mode of life. Part of the key is not sweating the small stuff like clutter, a little dirt on the carpet, spills here and there,a sink usually full of dishes, sometimes an interrupted night's sleep followed by pretty early mornings, etc. If you can get past that, then it's all down hill from there. And it's all good stuff. As someone said, don't sweat the small stuff and it's all small stuff.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Introducing Nicholas George Stockwell

I was sitting here a little while ago fretting about the mess my yard is and all the other stuff I need to do when it occurred to me that I was being stupid. After all, what's more important than your family-speaking of which Nicholas George Stockwell made his way into the world on April 15th at 1:05 P.M. weighing 7 lbs even and measuring 19 3/4 inches. The hell with the yard and the wood pile and the power washing of the house and the windows and the garden and whatever else I have on my list. Nothing's more important than watching over big brother Cole until mommy and daddy and Nicholas come home!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rescue At Sea. Go Navy!

Finally, a good ending to a bad situation. A situation that was brought somewhat closer to home when I received a forwarded email regarding a former colleague of mine. It seems this person and her husband are on a luxury cruise ship presently in the Indian Ocean not far from the region were the ship was hijacked by Somali pirates. Security was tightened to the extent that it could be but needless to say everyone was a tad nervous until they were safely out of the area. What's to be done about this growing threat to shipping in that area? Armed resistance, that's what. Every nation in the world has a stake in this and they all need to pitch in and help. These pirates need to know that they're not going to just easily board a ship and start demanding a ransom. They need to know that what awaits them is capture or death. When that happens, the hijackings will stop-or at the very least diminish in number. There are times when force and violence are the only appropriate actions. Very unfortunate but that's the way it is right now-at least until we human's have evolved into higher order creatures. Oops. Sorry about that you 'creationist' folks out there. Thus endeth my rant of the day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Here We Go Again

I think it’s appropriate to quote that Great American Conservative, Ronald Reagan (genuflect when you say that)-“Here we go again.” Air Force One has barely rolled to a stop and already conservative gas bags are jumping all over him. First they’re complaining that he’s trying to do too much and now they’re saying he hasn’t accomplished enough. For example Laura Ingraham appeared on the Today show this morning ranting and raving and generally running off at the mouth on Obama’s trip. It seems too much attention was paid to issues of little or no substance, i.e. Michelle’s wardrobe, lots of hand-shaking and smiles, photo ops, etc. Instead he should have returned home with a troop commitment from France; stopped North Korea from launching its pathetic little missile and a whole host of other stuff. Never mind that this is his first trip abroad as president. Never mind that he’s stepping into territory that for the past eight years was held in contempt by the previous administration who delighted in flipping off our allies and pugnaciously snarling “bring it on!!”. Never mind that the art of diplomacy and negotiation requires a great deal of time, patience and finesse. It’s unbelievable, but when you think about it not at all unexpected because conservative pundits in general and the republican leadership in particular have absolutely nothing to offer this country except their constant whining, complaining, criticism and hostility. Ingraham, Coulter, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Boehner, Jindal and all the rest are completely out of touch with America’s needs. In a sense you’ve got to feel sorry for them. They’re such a pathetic, irrelevant, disorganized and off message group that all they can really do is throw their tantrums in hopes that someone will listen. Well, lucky for the rest of us, they’re being ignored-except of course by Fox News but who cares. They can listen to each other. Rave on, mindless fools.

Monday, April 6, 2009

All Hail, Almighty Union!!

There are a lot of reasons why I'm glad I'm retired from teaching but one of the biggest is due to the amount of abuse being dumped on the teaching profession these days. I have no patience with it anymore and if I were still active in the profession, I would no doubt get myself into trouble with letters to editors and comments at budget hearings. For example, here is an excerpt from a recently published letter:

Dear fellow citizens of Newtown,
It is time that we stood up to the powerful Board of Education and teachers' union. For a long time, the Board of Education, the PTA and the teachers' union have used fear as a method of soliciting more money for the school budget every year.

I chose this particular passage because it is typical of some of the stuff that comes out every year at budget time. There are so many things wrong at so many levels with this that it's hard to hold this piece to a reasonable length. First of all, the writer targets the Board of Education and the teachers' union (usually an adversarial relationship) but then goes on to include the PTA conveniently overlooking the fact that the 'P' in PTA are parents. So I guess it's safe to say the writer here has a problem with the Board of Ed, the teachers' union and all parents!! Interesting. The issue that prompted this letter was the teachers' union's refusal to consider a salary/step freeze for the coming year. What the writer doesn't know or perhaps conveniently overlooks is the following:
1. The teachers' contract is up for negotiation anyway. There is no need to 'open' it.
2. The teachers in this town, unlike any other area town as far as I've been able to determine, have been furloughed 6 days for the coming year thereby effectively resulting in a salary cut for many that could be in excess of $2500.
3. Even if this wasn't a 'contract year' as we used to call it, you do not simply just open a contract for renegotiation. The consequences of that can be enormous.

The bottom line here is that the Board of Education, teachers' union and their members are nowhere near as powerful as many would have you believe. I'm sick to death of hearing and reading of people complaining of how powerful the unions are. The fact is the real power lies with the voters. Pure and simple. Does the person who wrote the above excerpt actually think that every time the voters turn down a budget, the Board and union have the authority to overturn that vote? These are very difficult times for many people-no doubt about it. But before people vent their anger and frustration on a particular group, they need to get the facts. Publicly running off at the mouth serves no purpose and results in more harm being done.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Will That Be An AK47 or an M16, Sir?

Four Oakland, CA police officers ambushed. One killed. Sixteen people shot dead in Binghamton, NY by an man who lost his job. Three Pittsburgh, PA police officers killed in ambush by man wielding an AK47 assault rifle. These in just the past week or so. The list goes on and on. What is it about the NRA that scares politicians? Is it their lobbying power & all their money? Is it that their members number in the tens of millions? I don't know but I do know that there are not only too many guns in this country but they are too easy to get. Yeah, yeah, I know. The legendary frontier we all read about in history classes was settled by Messers Colt, Winchester & Remington. And I'm well aware that there are millions of people out there who participate in sport shooting whether it be hunting, target shooting, trap or skeet. I used to be one of them and I, in fact, still own a rifle although I haven't fired it in about 30 years so it would probably blow up in my face. So I get it. But what does someone need an AK47 for? And how do convicted felons get firearms? And how do they continuously end up in the hands of the wrong people? Does the Second Amendment or the NRA have an answer to those questions? Not a long time ago the ever-growing, Bush appointed, conservative wing of the Supreme Court pretty much took the Second Amendment out of play. Basically, if you want a gun, it's yours. If your state won't let you have one, not to worry. Get it at a gun show in Virginia or Alabama or Tennessee. The fact that the FBI may have a file on you isn't pertinent. How bad is that? Is there anyone man (or woman) enough to take on the NRA? I'm looking around but I don't see anyone. Not even Barack!

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Day At the Truck Museum

I spent the morning and part of the afternoon with a group of men from an assisted living facility. We visited a truck museum. I volunteer at this place and one other one or two days a week. There are relatively few men at this facility so the Director of Therapeutic Recreation has been working hard to provide social opportunities that they might not otherwise have. So far it is working very well. I started volunteer work shortly after I retired and as I have written before it is certainly a very worthwhile thing to do. Volunteering probably does as much for the volunteer as it does for the people you're working with. There are other volunteers there but not many. Some of them manage to give time while still working full time jobs. In addition to my regular visits there, the next trip scheduled is to the Botanical Gardens in NYC. Unfortunately, the amount of time this trip requires will exclude some of the men but efforts will be made to find something else for them at another time. So if you are retired or find you have some time on your hands, consider doing volunteer work. You won't regret it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Sleeveless Dress? How Gauch!

As the news has been reporting lately, the Obama's are in Europe for the G20 conference. The topic of course is the world wide recession that has gripped this and all other nations. Pretty important stuff, right? The media is all over this, right? You've been well acquainted with the various issues and solutions being offered, right? WRONG! What you HAVE been watching is the attention being paid to of all things Michelle Obama's dress and the quality of the gifts the President is presenting. It seems these two issues are what's being talked about among polite circles. Frankly, I couldn't care less about either of them. For all I care Michelle can wear jeans and sweats (my personal favorite) and the president can give gift cards to McDonald's. Why is this stuff, instead of the substance of the conference, important to people? Maybe it's only important to the media?? So what are you going to wear today? Be careful, people are watching!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools Day- No Foolin'

Ah, the first of April, April Fools Day. What fond memories I have of this day. As a former teacher for over 31 years of 9 & 10 year old kids, I’m sure you can imagine I have seen it all! I mean everything. There were of course the usual suspects such as chalk in the blackboard erasers (they don’t even have chalk & blackboards anymore!); soap added to my coffee mug; children writing different names on their papers; everyone sitting backward in their seats; reports that the principal wanted to see me immediately (I’ve actually pulled that one on a few kids!); notes in their handwriting purportedly from their parents saying they’re not to have homework that night, etc, etc. But there’s one April Fool’s joke I’ll never forget. It was pulled off by a quiet little girl named Christie. What made the joke so effective was that you’d never in a million years suspect this girl of being capable of doing anything even remotely wrong. She was the kind of student you wanted to clone and keep for your entire career. So when she presented me with a piece of chocolate layer cake I didn’t suspect a thing. Besides she was always bringing me cupcakes, cookies, brownies, stuff like that because my sweet tooth among students far and wide was legendary. So when I bit into this tasty morsel, I certainly didn’t expect that between the layers of cake and chocolate was hot, hot, hot, horse radish!!! As I stood there turning red and choking, she & the rest of the class erupted in gales of laughter that pretty much disrupted the two classrooms on either side of me plus a couple across the hall. Everyone jumped up and ran into my room to see this hilarious situation (to them!) unfold. Once I regained composure, I congratulated Christie for her ingenuity. She promptly ratted out her mother but I reminded her that she was an accomplice so she happily took part of the credit. They don’t make jokes like that anymore. I often wonder what little (now big) Christie is doing. I hope every April Fools Day she sits quietly for a moment or two with a smile on her face that everyone wonders about.