Friday, January 29, 2010

The State of the Mess Address

The image at right should not be interpreted as meaning I think the president is just a lot of hot air. To the contrary I think he is an intelligent, well-meaning man with some very good ideas and the determination to work at making them a reality. The problem is all the determination in the world isn't going to get it done. Here's how I've analyzed it:
Fact: While there are signs that we're pulling out of this thing, we continue to remain in a very deep recession.
Fact: Obama's inauguration speech made the recession, the impending collapse of the financial system and its corollary, unemployment, the primary focus of his administration.
Fact: He proceeds to spend the next year focusing on necessary but costly health-care reform-the flaw being poor timing, not the issue.
Fact: As a result of the above forces, the republicans do what they do best. They are the masters at this. They pledge total resistance and embark on a blitzkrieg-type campaign that undermines the entire process, arouses public sentiment (partly justified thus making it even more effective) and vows to bring about total and utter stagnation.

And so here we are. No where. Massachusetts sealed our fate. What about Obama's goals for the coming year? Forget it. Most of it's not going to happen. This will be especially evident after the November elections. The nay-sayers are back! I wish I could promise that from this day forward I will focus on the things in my life that make me happy but I know as soon as I do that someone like gas bag Sarah, The Moron, Palin will come along and inspire me to be at it again. Thus endth my rant for the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The United States Supreme Court Is At It Again

Tomorrow night is the president's State of the Union address. This is an event required by the Constitution of the United States. It's one of the few mandated duties of the president. A quick reading of the Constitution will quickly reveal that a president's duties are rather vague. As head of the executive branch of government, it is his duty to enforce legislation passed by the Congress. His other two duties are, in my view, more important. One is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the other is to appoint Supreme Court justices. If a president is to have any lasting impact at all, it is in the last duty. President George W. Bush, aka 43, appointed two. They are both very conservative. Their influence is already being felt-most recently in a ruling that has far-reaching consequences. The ruling overturns a previous ruling that put a lid on corporate campaign contributions. So much for the concept of Stari Decisis (precedent-the whole concept of precedent is a joke anyway. For more on that, see an earlier post). With this last ruling it is now OK for corporations to contribute as much as they want to a person's campaign. Basically, it was the majority argument that no one has the right to tell another person or entity what they can do with their money. Those opposing this concept argue that because corporations have so MUCH money they could influence the outcome of an election. Through TV and other media ads they could get a person elected who represents the best interests of the corporation as opposed to those of the general public. Therefore their influence should be limited. Where ever you may stand on this issue is presently irrelevant-at least until the balance of power on the court has shifted (again, so much for the importance of precedent). Obama may well have an opportunity to add at least two more justices to the one he's already appointed thus bringing about that shift. Still, it will be close. The four conservatives there now-Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito-have a long, long way to go. If you're a conservative, you're in pretty good shape. If you're not, well, all you can do is hope Obama gets to appoint enough justices to make it a 5 person majority. It's in this area that Obama will have more influence than anything else he does.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Have A Nice Piece of Property for You in Florida

Connecticut Republican and Senate hopeful Linda McMahon was on a show recently where she was being interviewed by the station's head political correspondent. She was expending a great deal of time and energy attempting to convince the viewers that every single wrestler in the WWE of which she is CEO adheres to a strict rule of no steroid use. The really good part of all of this is she was doing this with a straight face. Not a single smirk, wink wink, nothing! Just imagine her as a Senator ostensibly looking out for our best interests. Yeah, right! And I've got a great piece of property for you in Florida.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four Sure Ways to Bring A Smile

Today I went to an assisted living facility to present a slide show to the residents. About 25 or 30 people showed up. The slide show was fairly easy to do. I simply downloaded a bunch of pictures of the natural wonders of the world along with some slides on different moon shots I found. There were about 80 slides in all. But the interesting thing about all of this is that as people filed into the room where I gave the show, I had my laptop on and the picture of my grand children that you see at right was the desktop picture. It's amazing how much interest it drew. I was asked a million questions about them. How old are they? What are their names? Is that little blond in the lower left corner as mischievous as she looks? Where do they live? What are some things I do with them? And that's just a few. I could have scrapped the original slide show and spent the next 45 minutes talking about these four little gems and showing more pictures (I have a few more). It's just one more example of how easy it is to make elderly people happy. And there's nothing that makes them happier than children. Once I brought my oldest grand child, Brooke, to this facility to visit her great grand mother. So many people made a fuss over her. That's why I like volunteer work. It takes so little effort to make people happy. All they really want is to know that someone is interested in them. I guess that's all anyone really wants. Unfortunately for many of these folks, families place them in an otherwise fine location and then forget about them. That's why they need people (usually once they've retired) to take an interest in them. It's a great way to spend time. Right now Brooke, Courtney, Cole and Nicholas don't know how happy they made people today but I'll be sure to tell them some day when they come with their parents to visit me!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Massachusetts Sends A Message

Yesterday the voters of the most liberal state in the country sent the president, the congress and the rest of the nation a very clear message: STOP! Slow down. Let's take a better look at this thing. And the 'thing' they're talking about is the issue of health care reform. Now the democrats no longer have the 60 vote majority they need to stop filibusters. Granted, Brown won by only 5% of the vote but when one considers the fact that it was Sen. Kennedy's seat in the Senate that was up for grabs and in Massachusetts of all places, then Brown's victory becomes even more meaningful. There's no question that Martha Coakley ran a terrible campaign by being too casual, over confident and just plain unprepared. But that's not the chief reason why she lost. The people of Massachusetts and indeed the nation are not prepared to accept the current rendition of what is being passed off as health care reform. In spite of what we're being told, it is very likely going to be an extremely expensive piece of legislation at what is currently the worst possible time. On top of that, there are precious few people who actually know what the bill says. People want the president and congress to slow down and exercise a little more care getting this done. The interesting part of all of this is going to be how the president handles it. He can do one of two things. The first thing he could do is become strident and petulant and insist things get done his way come hell or high water. Or, second, he could withdraw, regroup, concede he under estimated public sentiment on this issue and start over. What ever you may think of Barack Obama, you have to admit he is not stupid. He will no doubt take the second route and by doing so ultimately salvage his plan-although slightly different than he first envisioned. But that's what the system of checks and balances is all about. Point, counter point and eventually compromise. The next few weeks in American politics will be quite interesting (well, to me anyway). Let's see what happens.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time Passages

Six years ago today our first grand child Brooke was born. The picture you see is one of many I had stapled all over my office walls. I'm sure students and staff who came in to see me about something were somewhat overwhelmed at first but that's what being a grand parent is all about. Now Brooke is in kindergarten, reading, playing sports and other activities and growing and learning more every day. She has a sister and two cousins who are starting to do the same things she and our children have been through. As expected they're taking slightly different routes and at different speeds but we're blessed in that they're all bright, healthy kids with unique personalities. It seems every time one of my children or grand children has a birthday I find myself reflecting on the passage of time and the various events and milestones along the way. It's been an interesting journey to say the least. There have been more than a few times when I've been tempted to sit down and say 'woe is me' and lapse into self pity. But fortunately it doesn't take long for me to realize how stupid that is because as I consider things right this minute, I know I've been extraordinarily lucky. This is especially true when we take the time to reflect on the problems other people we know have had. The key is to stop whining, put your head up and keep going. So on that cheerful note, happy birthday, Brooke. You've made your grand mother and me extremely happy. You've got many, many great years in front of you. Buckle your seatbelt. It's going to be a great trip.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The 'Other' Religious Extremism

In this time of terrorism with attacks and numerous threats of attacks coming out of places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen we often forget that religious extremism is not unique to the Muslim community. Take for example the recent remarks of evangelist Pat Robertson. It is his contention that the tragic earthquake in Haiti was the fault of the Haitian people because some time ago they made a pact with the devil. This is a guy who boasts of millions of 'followers'. There have been other examples of this kind of thing right here in the good old USA, i.e. Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell. These men and their followers are dangerous people. They are ignorant and hateful people and while I'm all for freedom of speech I also believe we have the right to contradict or at the very least ignore their views. I suspect the numbers of followers they keep telling us they have is highly inflated but even just a few is a sad commentary. Fortunately, the Obama administration handled it well by giving it as little attention as possible and simply stating it was stupid. I'm reminded of the previous administration who had a similar mind-set as that of Robertson and others of his ilk. Let's hope the upcoming round of Congressional elections doesn't result in more of those kinds of people in office. Cast your vote carefully.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bits & Pieces

1. Yesterday my grand daughters (ages 6 & 3) proudly showed me a recent gift from their uncle (which probably included some stuff from their father): IV bags, tubes, connectors, bandages, medical charts, sugical gloves, assorted paraphernalia & a doll called Igi IV. They then proceeded to explain the purpose of all of this stuff-accurately! To think, when I was 6 I was pushing dump trucks and bulldozers around in a sand box. But then I never pretended to be a genius.

2. Here's an excellent example of a knee-jerk reaction: Recently there was a tragic accident in CT where a school bus and a car collided resulting in the death of a student. The driver of the bus was not licensed to drive a vehicle of that weight. It was the first school-bus related fatality ever recorded in the state of Connecticut. Immediately a state representative called for legislation mandating seat belts on buses. Bad idea. Accidents are terrible but you have to back away from the emotion of it and look at it statistically. First, the cost is prohibitive. But if that seems callous to you, consider the actual consequences of seat belts on a bus-especially one transporting small children. Can you imagine the chaos, delays and numerous incidents of tripping kids they would cause? It would take forever for a bus to get to school-or home-because the diver is busy buckling or unbuckling every kid. Factor in the high probability of kids tripping on belts hanging all over and you have a mess. All this because out of all the kids who ride buses over millions of miles, ONE was killed. Knee-jerk.

3. Dontcha just love republican Senators right now? While privately being absolutely giddy with delight over Harry Reid's stupid remarks, publicly they're screaming & foaming at the mouths with righteous indignation for Reid's resignation. What a bunch!

4. So Sarah Palin has signed on with Fox. Gosh, what a surprise! Nevertheless, that's great news for normal people. She's exactly where she belongs. Out of the public's eye where she was making a pain in the ass out of herself (not to mention a complete fool) & into her own little corner with the rest of her gas bag colleagues where we can ignore her.

5. Would you like a lesson in self destruction? Consider NBC's handling of Leno, O'Brien & Fallon and the Late-Night slot. Whose head is going to roll over this one?

6. Mark McGwire finally admits to using steroids. What a pathetic loser. He must never be allowed in the baseball hall of fame.

7. And finally, Simon Cowell is leaving American Idol. I have a three part question: Who's Simon Cowell & what's an American idol & who cares?

Friday, January 8, 2010

In A Child's Mind

My grand daughters have extraordinary imaginations. I'm sure the boys will too but the oldest is only two so their stories are yet to come. To continue, my 6 year old grand daughter and I were playing doctor this afternoon. I was a 4 yr old named Keila and my sister, Mary, was 2. My grand daughter was the doctor and her immediate concern was with Mary. It seems my grand daughter couldn't get enough blood from her so she had to start an IV. She would then spend the night in the doctor's office. If her condition worsened, she'd be rushed to the hospital by ambulance. During the night there would be people sitting by her bed watching her sleep. If she didn't get better she'd 'pass away'. When and if that happened she'd go to a cemetery. That's were dead people go. She told me God is in the clouds but dead people are in cemeteries. She asked me if I believed in God and I said I wasn't certain but I hoped there was one. She seemed to accept this but I could tell the wheels were turning. Soon it was my turn to be examined. I got my shots and was told to return to the waiting room where Mary was asleep on the little sofa. I could play with her if I wanted but not for long. Not long after that, Grandma came home and that was the official end of the game but we sure covered a lot of territory during the time we were playing that game. I wonder what's next.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Christmas Story and the Perils of Parenting

I know the holidays have come and gone but this is more a story about parenting than Christmas. Just recently I had a conversation with a lady who has an 8 year old son. She told me how her son has been struggling with the idea of Santa Claus. He's getting to the age where he's putting things together but he's not completely there yet. It seems that he didn't get a particular book he wanted for Christmas so he logged on to, navigated to the account history page and there before him was a list of almost every single thing he had received for Christmas. Very puzzled, he approached his mother and asked her if Santa used She said, "well, it certainly looks like it, doesn't it? Maybe he was just too busy this year to get everything done". She left it at that but it was clear the kid wasn't completely buying it. The mother is sure that very soon her son will get it sorted out. This is a great example of how childhood myths clash with the digital age. Here's a kid who has enough technical savvy to make his way around the internet yet can't quite connect the dots where it comes to Santa Claus. I see a similar scenario shaping up with my grand daughters. The older one will soon be 6 and her younger sister is 3. Their comfort level and expertise with computers is amazing-and scary. Children who know their way around the internet are at 'digital' risk. There's a LOT of trouble waiting for them. Parents need to watch what their kids are doing more than ever. This is just one more thing for parents to worry about. My parents don't know how easy they had it. I could ride my bike all over town, all day long without anything to worry about except the occasional German Shepard trying to make a meal of me. Unfortunately there's now a whole lot more for kids (and parents) to worry about than dogs. I thought I'd be glad when my kids were grown up and I didn't have to worry about those things any more. Now I worry about their kids. No justice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Let's Network!

Until recently I thought I was pretty much with it in terms of social networking. I've created and maintain my own website; I write a blog on a pretty regular basis; I'm on Facebook and I even Twitter from time to time. However, after reading an article recently in The Wall Street Journal, I realized I'm still living in the dark ages where it comes to 'networking'. It seems there's a whole other, well, 'network' out there.
Here are a few things I've been missing out on:

-You think your life is average? Join the crowd. There's a website where you can post your 'average' daily experiences. Fittingly it's called MyLifeIsAverage.

-You mean your life is actually better than average. Well then, you need MyLifeIsG (for 'good'). You can find this at

-The first two don't get it done? Need another forum to post those inner-most feelings? If so, this is for you.
FMyLife (I don't know what the 'F' means and I don't really want to know):

-Here's one that's sure to get you. A site that let's you post your text messages-honest!

The WSJ article went on to mention a couple of others but we already know about them, i.e. FB, Twitter, MySpace, etc. So if you're sitting there on these cold winter days, wondering what kind of mischief you can get into, here you go. That's of course you don't have anything better to do than, say, a job, family obligations, various duties you've committed to, etc. Have fun and be sure to let me know how it works out.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: Bah Humbug!

I'm in trouble now. My wife's made her one and only New Year's resolution. We (read 'me') are going to start using grocery coupons. It seems there's a great deal of money to be saved by taking the time to cut out all these pieces of paper, checking the expiration dates, looking at the fine print to make sure they don't require the purchase of a calf's brain with the item in question, etc. I'm the one who does most of the grocery shopping in our family. I often see (mostly) women standing in the aisles going through stacks of little pieces of paper to save 10¢ on a 60 lb. purchase of Crisco. Here's how I shop: I (we) make out a list. I stick to it religiously with the lone exception being if I see something one or more of the grand children would like, I buy it. Other than that, if it's not on the list, it doesn't get bought. When I see the item I want on the shelf, I toss it in the basket. Sometimes I'll check to see if buying a larger quantity will yield significant savings but that's it. I simply can't be bothered with coupons-up to now, that is. Besides, half the time I walk off leaving them on the counter. (I wonder what Freud would say about that?) Another thing I usually do is get name brand items. Contrary to what a lot of people say, buying the store brand often results in an inferior product, i.e. Stop & Shop 'Oat O's' vs. General Mills 'Cheerios'. No comparison. Cheerios are much better. But all this whining is academic because there behind me, on the family room coffee table is a pile of graffiti. And not far away is our little wood-burning stove, perking away. My wife just left to get her nails done. Hmmmmm.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Happy New Year. And now the 2nd decade of the 21st century has begun. The last 10 years were nothing less than extraordinary. The highlight of course was 9/11 but there was plenty of other note worthy stuff: A prolonged war-in the wrong place; eight years of a presidential team that proved to be more damaging than any other pair of elected officials-ever; one of the worse recessions in history; and finally, the election of a president who promised hope, change and cooperation. President Obama has completed one year of his term. For reasons partly not his own, it has been generally disappointing. His call for cooperation in tackling the tough issues and cleaning up the historic mess handed him was laughed at by his opponents. Republican members of congress have demonstrated clearly that their agenda is to object and oppose. Unfortunately, they have no interest whatever in the good of the country.

On a personal level this past decade has been equally eventful. Sandi and I welcomed into our family a son-in-law and daughter-in-law and four beautiful grand children. While Sandi's career continues to roll on, my life changed a great deal with retirement and some now resolved health issues. While the years 2000-2009 were very difficult in many ways, I can look back and see much to be thankful for.

And now on to 2010. Here are my predictions:
1. The economy will continue to improve. With the exception of occasional adjustments the stock market will continue to recover. Unemployment will go down, confidence will return and we will slowly work our way out of this very destructive recession. By the way, this is precisely what President Obama predicted.
2. The war in Afghanistan will continue to grind on. The US and its allies are facing an enemy who has been deeply entrenched for thousands of years but we have no choice. As long as they continue to commit atrocious acts of terror against the rest of us, we must resist.
3. The US political climate will change. The mainstream electorate is fed up. I predict the elections later this year will result in many incumbents losing their reelection bids. This in turn will result in a shift in power in congress. We may very well end up with a republican controlled house and/or senate. I don't think it will be a huge majority but enough to make Obama's second two years very difficult. All of this will result in continued bickering, posturing and general political stagnation. In other words not a whole hell of a lot is going to get done. There are those who would consider this a good thing.

On a personal level I predict a great 2010. More time with family & continued good health. I hope you, dear reader, have a good 2010 too.