Archive | January, 2013

Why War Is Stupid! Part 33⅓

31 Jan


If you have not read my previous two memos on this subject, Don’t Let You Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, and Why War Is Stupid: Part Deux, I invite you to please do so…but here is just another of so many reasons why you should not participate nor encourage anyone you know to go to war.

Depleted uranium is the waste product of the uranium enrichment process for nuclear power reactors and nuclear weapons. It consists of the same components and  it has about 60 percent of the radioactivity of uranium. Since it is a waste product and therefore difficult to find a place to put, store, hide, get rid of…The United States has stockpiled an estimated 450,000 tons of the stuff.

But…Since it has also been discovered to be heavier than lead and harder than steel, DU is used by the US  in both defensive armor and armor-piercing ammunition. These weapons contain a solid rod of DU that increases their ability to penetrate heavily armored vehicles, buildings, tanks and underground bunkers and, unlike other weapons that become blunted upon impact, DU sharpens and self-ignites upon firing and impact. These weapons also however,  create an aerosolized cloud of radioactive uranium oxide  that in effect “cooks” any unfortunates who may be inside said tank, vehicle or bunker. This makes DU weapons incredibly effective, and more and more the weapon of choice in today’s modern war scenarios.

It is now estimated that over 1,000 tons of DU have been used by US and British forces throughout the 1991 war in Iraq, in the Balkans in the late 1990’s in the 2003 Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. This of course has been very bad news for our enemies and very good news for those who have been trying to get rid of this nuclear waste product…but why should it be of any concern to you and I and our soldiers?

Well,…scientists estimate that anywhere from 50-96 percent of the dust created by these weapons is made up of respirable particles which, if inhaled, can remain in the lungs for years. As a result not only our enemies but also our soldiers breath this “depleted” uranium on a daily basis not to mention the millions of innocent Bosnian, Iraqi and Afghani citizens many of whom now live in cities under conditions akin to Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the A-bomb droppings of 1945.

And consider these figures which are now being reported…Just 467 US personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991. Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 on permanent medical disability. This astounding number of disabled vets means that within one decade, 56 percent of those soldiers who served in the first Gulf War now have medical problems.

We’ve all heard that “war is hell” and that it is an unfortunate  “necessary evil” but now when you consider that we as a country are fighting wars against such overmatched militaries like Iraq and Afghanistan much if not most of the damage that is done to our own soldiers is either from what is known as “friendly fire” or the newly added dangers of exposure to our own deadly weapons caused by the fallout from DU, and then if you add in the concussive effects of these incredibly powerful weapons and the head trauma that is experienced by troops who are simply on the battlefield when these weapons are fired,  then include the ever growing anti-social and anxietal problems of simply being in the modern military and the high incidences of  rape and suicide they produce, we truly have become our own worst enemies.

We have finally met our most formidable foe…and it is us!

So Mamas… and Papas…do not let, encourage or even suggest to your babies that they  grow up to be cowboys and fight in wars.

I fear,  and perhaps even more frighteningly so, that we must now and forever only let our robots do it…and that, sadly and ironically enough, may just prove to be the best and most imperative reason to no longer do it at all…



Pandora’s Parodox

29 Jan


Rhetorical questions although rhetorical can be fun to posit…but they can only be instructive and enlightening if, while we ponder them, we promise ourselves to answer them with all honesty and candor.

So…Let’s suppose you have a pretty good job and you are very talented at it when along comes a drug that when taken will enhance your abilities…so much so that you and your new talents will be in great demand within your industry…so much so that you will be in line for a big raise. And this will not be like your usual raise where you will go from earning $50,000 per year to $51,000.

This raise will be to 5 million dollars per year. And even though you think this drug might be illegal and give you what some might say is an unfair advantage over your colleagues it isn’t very hard to come by… and even if you get caught using this drug, which will mean that you most probably will lose your job…you won’t ever be asked to give the money back.

Would you take this drug?

Do you think anyone else would?

And in either case… and even if we tried… would that drug ever get put back in that bottle?


Why Kids Don’t Pass the Basic Skills Test

28 Jan


Why is it that so many kids in our public schools can’t pass a basic skills test?

Many kids just don’t care. Many kids just don’t want to. Better yet, they don’t want to have to prove it…not after 12 years of 180 days of study and lecture and practice and test taking and homework and notes and did I say 12 years??? They just went to school for 12 years and now, after having passed all of their required classes and met all other graduation requirements asked of them by their local school district, they still have to prove to the state that they were there and that all of the teachers and all of the administrators and guidance counselors and everyone else who says that they are ready to move on aren’t lying.

Of course those of us who make up the 70% of Americans who were raised to be anal retentive are more than happy to sit through 9 hours of testing over 3 days to prove that we know what you already know we know because, well because we’re anal retentive and we always do what we’re told. We just spent 12 years doing this crap! Now may I have a test please? May I have another?

But there is a percentage of children out there who have developed personalities that just don’t see any reward in proving it over and over, again and again, and certainly not in a marathon exam of tedious questions and answers. So they don’t take the test seriously. They fall asleep. They pick any old answers and skip the long winded and open ended questions and skimp on the essays just to get it over with as fast as they can. It’s the Pledge of Allegiance all over again. What does all of that repetition get you? How much rote learning will make you a patriot?

Many students just don’t see the logic of 12 years of schooling vs. 9 hours of testing especially when it is the 9 hours of testing that is most important and that will get them the diploma, not the 12 years. If the tests are so important then why not let children take them whenever they are ready? My own children could have graduated high school when they were 12 if that were the case. Yet students are asked to plow on through school until they are 17 years old and then Wham! Test time! Why do they have to do this? Because we have a government bureaucracy that demands standardized testing. And why do they demand this? Could it be because they are bureaucrats and that’s what bureaucrats do?

Students find standardized tests boring. They find most things that require their attention for more than 10 seconds boring but especially testing and tests. Asking a student to sit quietly for three hours and concentrate is like asking them to sit quietly without listening to their iPods for three minutes. Impossible! And many students never even get to the questions. No child left behind? They leave themselves behind: utterly and completely bored out of their minds. Give them a story to read about Dick and Jane or some other equally mundane 1950s characters or topics and they are guaranteed to be asleep in 10 minutes…boring, boring, booooooring!

Our students live in the 21st century but our standardized tests shall forever linger, as the students would say, “back-in-the-day”. I’d like to give all of the members of Congress and all of the elected members of all of the state governments a 9 hour exam on the Constitution of the United States and Federal and State laws and Robert’s Rules of Order and what ethics and honesty and trust mean and I’d like to give them a Basic Skills test too, including grammar and math and science and health. Then I’d like to make the test results public and have every person who did not pass, step down from office and return all of the money they had earned while doing a job that they were not qualified for. We could call it, “No Candidate Left Behind”.

Let teachers and schools and local boards of education do their jobs and let students who complete 12 long hard years of schooling, graduate with a high school diploma. Do you have any idea how much money we’ll all save in taxes if we all just go back to doing that? Those bureaucrats, who would never consent (For quite obvious reasons) to taking the test that I have just proposed, know…and it’s a fortune.

But let’s “be real” and assume that we are going to have to continue to give our public school students these tedious and ridiculous tests. How do we get kids to pass their high school exit exams whether it is The Regents, The High School Proficiency Assessment or whatever you want to call it? How do we get them to prove that they have actually learned something and have mastered basic skills in Mathematics and English after spending 12 years in school?

Well now let’s think about this for a minute…there is one test that everyone takes and everyone passes. Can you name it? It’s the Driver’s Test! Both the road test and written exam are taken and passed by virtually all who take it, and before they leave high school!

How is it possible that teenagers who cannot put pen to paper to prove that they can read with comprehension or cipher with the comparative skill of Lassie, can pass a test that allows them a license to operate a 2 ton vehicle at break neck speeds across interstate lines? And the Driver’s test is not that easy either! Applicants must score 70% or better on a written test containing anywhere from 25-50 questions. And get this! They also have to take a practical test! They have to actually drive the car! With an examiner in the passenger’s seat! Who’s an officer of the law! And they pass! Almost Everyone! You, me, Forest Gump! Who doesn’t get their license to drive?? And are the streets filled with unskilled drivers and haphazard carnage? Well, yes, but you see where I’m going here. They pass the test. They prove to the state that they know the rules and understand the regulations and can put the key in the ignition and even define ignition for that matter! And they know what yield means! And they can calculate mileage and read road signs and Parallel Park! And they study for this test in school and at home and on their own time because it is of paramount importance to them that they pass!

Yet these same 17 year old geniuses can’t pass a Basic Skills Test in Reading and Math after 12 years of study! Drivers test: 87-100%. Basic skills: 60-80%. Prove to me that you can do the most dangerous thing on Earth; (operating an automobile in traffic) everyone passes! Prove to me you’re a little bit smarter than a chimpanzee? 40% fail! How is this possible???

In the meantime…

You want to drive a car?

Then graduate from high school.

You drop out? YOU WALK! Problem solved!

Heaven and the Hall of Fame

26 Jan


I was thinking about baseball and heaven yesterday…

A question that I used to ask my students, usually depending on the occasion and reading material we were discussing, was “Do you believe in heaven?” Most students if not all would raise their hands.

Then I would follow up with, “Who thinks they will someday go there?” And all who had first raised their hands would always  keep them raised. I never thought that unusual. In fact I think it would be unusual to believe in heaven and then not think you were going there. That student would probably be a candidate for the child study team.

But I digress…here’s where the baseball part comes in.

Is heaven like the Baseball Hall of Fame? Must we have and have lived with exceptional moral skills to get in? Do we have to have lived a life with the moral skill set equivalent of a Willy Mays or Babe Ruth Or will Bill Mazeroski skills get us in there? What if we live a decent life but our moral batting average is more like Mario Mendoza’s baseball batting average? (It wasn’t very good and he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame)

Or do we have to hang out in Purgatory (Do we still have that?) for a while and wait for the Heaven Veteran’s committee to vote us in?

The reason I ask is because it seems to me that whenever one of our loved one’s die those of us who knew them in life form a veteran’s committee of sorts and automatically vote them in…don’t we?

I mean you never hear Jonathan Edward say, “Hey, I’ve got a spirit coming in and it’s a hot one! Anybody out there have a loved one whose gone to hell?”

Anyway, I’m just asking. What do you think? Is getting into Heaven like getting into the Hall of fame?

Happy Motoring

25 Jan


Sometimes I do suppose deregulation can be a good thing…I guess.

Today while driving along the Garden State Parkway in NJ I fell into one of those driving lapses where you just sort of drone along in traffic, following the crowd of automobiles like just another fish in school when I slowly realized that most other cars were whizzing past me.

I assumed that I must have slowed down  while in my reverie and just wasn’t keeping up so I looked at my speedometer and much to my surprise the needle was hugging 80MPH! And here I was the fish out of school, the slow poke in the group.

Wow, I thought, how fast is everyone else going? Used to be that driving from the Jersey Shore to the New York State border at the federal, gas saving, because American needs to be energy independent, speed of 55MPH was a good 2 hours or more; a veritable road trip of tedium and endurance. Now an hour and change will get you there.

Cruising the highways today is more like playing a video game than it is like going for a drive, especially when one has to always be on the ready to dodge the occasional old timer who appears like a lumbering asteroid doing his or her patriotic ole’ 55 in the center lane.

I must admit that getting to where you want to go so much more quickly does make life that much more enjoyable. I know we have technology to thank for that. Back in the old days the car my dad let me drive would have exploded at these speeds!

However, everything has it darker sides too. We’re gonna need more oil and lots of it! And of course eventually the government will probably put an orbiting “Death Star” of a traffic satellite that will tweet me a googled photo of my car in relative position to the earth’s rotation along with a fine electronically charged to my easy pass and the message that I was doing 105MPH in a 65MPH zone for the last 95 minutes so that will be $2085 dollars in fines please!

Until then happy motoring…and please drive safely!

Get the Boot!

19 Jan


Filibuster: The English term “filibuster” derives from the Spanish filibustero, itself deriving originally from the Dutch vrijbuiter, meaning “privateer, pirate, or robber”. It is also the root of the English word Freebooter.

The use of the filibuster in the American Senate was a tactic used to delay or prevent the passage of legislation, usually opposed by a minority of members. In years past, real filibusters rarely happened since they required opposition senators to go to the effort of standing on their feet and speaking continuously for hours on end. Only the most intense and dedicated opposition would mount filibusters.

However, the “traditional” filibuster custom was significantly changed only a few years ago to allow senators to “filibuster” without actually speaking and consuming their own time. That would be equivalent to you not having to go to work and do your job but still being able to say that you worked so you can collect your paycheck. And imagine if you, the workers, were able to decide on creating this rule yourselves without having to consult your bosses?!

Of course as one would expect this new “silent filibuster” is just way too convenient. Why should anyone go to work then if only ten Senators (workers) can sign a piece of paper and then the object of their wrath (the job) requires a 60% supermajority to pass. So, since all 100 senators now know that there are not enough senators (workers) to pass the legislation (do the job) then no one really needs to show up for work!

By eliminating the cost of filibustering, this new and ingenious rule has effectively undermined majority rule, a cornerstone of our constitutional republic and the definition of a “working Senate” itself… Now all the minority needs to do (in many cases just 1 disgruntled Senator (worker) to prevent a bill from even reaching the floor is simply to threaten to filibuster. Debate never begins. Real filibusters almost never take place. And this of course is cleverly and ironically called a “silent” filibuster, an oxymoron if there ever was one, kind of like “no-show job” or “unemployment pay” or “Welfare queen”  wouldn’t you say?

If a worker’s union came up with this ingenious tactic to help its workers avoid work and still demand their pay no doubt the government and the taxpayers would move to either disband the union or call out the national guard to have them arrested and thrown in jail.

“Sorry boss but we all can’t work today because Joey here doesn’t like what you’ve asked us to do.”

How appropriate! The American Senate once one of the most august legislative bodies in the world  has managed to transform itself into a non-functioning band of lazy, do-nothing pirates of panache! privateers of personality! robber barons of democracy! and by the very definition of the word that describes their most favorite and new and improved way to get their jobs done… freebooters!

If only “We the People” could really give them the boot!

Where’s Mom?!

13 Jan

I don’t know what it is about men or what it is that they have against women but here we go again. The House of Representatives didn’t vote on reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which was opposed by many key Republicans because it would have extended domestic violence protection to lesbians and transgender individuals, in addition to illegal immigrants and Native American women.

The bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate would have extended  protections to 30 million more women but I guess if you’re not very fond of women in the first place then excluding 30 million more is not much of a problem.

In addition to providing protection against domestic violence for the above mentioned groups, VAWA would have provided funding for programs that work with victims of sexual assault, stalking, date rape or violence and domestic violence. The original act provided over $1.6 billion toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, and also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

But then a few days later just to add insult to injury Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia, who is also an OB-GYN, and currently serves as co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, defended the offensive statement made last year by  Congressman Todd Akin by saying that Akin was “partly right” when he claimed that women rarely become pregnant as the result of a “legitimate rape,” and then continued by supporting Akin’s belief that a woman who is being raped is unlikely to become pregnant because her body will “tense up” and prevent her from ovulating.

And he’s a doctor! And a Congressman! Shouldn’t these servant’s of the Hippocratic oath and the public know better than that?

What in the name of all that is holy is the matter with these men? I mean after all aren’t we the gender that was created in the name and image of all that is holy? Then why are we so stupid and always wanting to shoot things and always wanting to tell others what rights they can and cannot have?  I’m ashamed to have to count myself as one of them. What don’t we get about women having rights and equalities and freedoms… or everyone else who wears the mask of humanity for that matter?

To hear some men tell it you’d think that women have had nothing to do with the survival and flourishing of the human race… unless guys like Akin and Gingery believe that the immaculate conception was proof of the first instance of “legitimate rape”? But I suppose if you believe in the idea of an immaculate conception of a man by a man for “man”kind, then you just might.

Is the female of every species on Earth responsible for giving birth to life and then nurturing it or am I a monkey’s uncle? And Is ejaculation really that much of a life giving experience for my fellow brother’s on Earth that we must undoubtedly see ourselves as the exclusive lords of all who walk the planet.

For God’s sake, Women of the Earth, unite! And please find a way to take over the day to day operations of this pale blue dot before it’s too late… before we men completely trash, overheat, and shoot the hell out of the place. It’s been a few thousand years and we’re still arguing over whether or not all people are equal, whether being better prepared to kill is the best way to stop killing, and where babies come from!

We really, really, really,  suck at this job!

Pseudoephedrine Doesn’t make Crystal-meth Only People Make Crystal-meth

11 Jan

Once upon a time I had allergies and when I went to the doctor he prescribed Claritin-D and it was like a wonder drug. It cleared my nose up and I was able to breathe again and since he gave me a prescription for it and I had a prescription plan through my work it was relatively inexpensive. Then it was announced that Claritin-D would be available over the counter and that I would no longer need a prescription and that this would be wonderful news for allergy sufferers all across America because we would no longer have to see a doctor in order to obtain the drug. Of course now I had to pay full price for Claritin-D and it was much more expensive but at least it was still available.

Then one day I went to purchase my monthly supply of Claritin-D and it was nowhere to be found. It was now behind the counter and I had to show my driver’s license and sign a form in order to purchase it, and I could only buy so much because Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005  as an amendment to the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act. Signed into law by president George W. Bush on March 6, 2006.

Apparently Claritin-D contains pseudoephedrine which can be used to make Crystal-meth and the methamphetamine craze is becoming so wide spread that all of us humans are potential Crystal-meth entrepreneurs so pharmacists must be wary of us all. And even though I pointed out to the pharmacist that pseudoephedrine doesn’t make Crystal-meth only people make crystal-meth, his response was, “Exactly!”

Now if I attempt to buy too much Claritin-D a red flag or whatever goes off at the pharmacy counter and I am promptly sent away. (No doubt the Feds are also notified!)

So now we fast forward to today where I read on my computer that James Holmes the Colorado shooter who killed 12 people and injured 70 others in a Colorado movie theater last summer was able to purchase a small arsenal including two semi-automatic pistols, a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, 6,200 rounds of ammunition and high-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire more rounds without stopping to reload, a helmet, gas mask and body armor, fuses, gunpowder, chemicals and electronics, PLUS 2 hand grenades that he purchased on-line from a catalogue.

No red flags. No buzzers, No bells, no being turned away from the counter and absolutely no idea that James Holmes might be dangerous. I mean really? What does one do with a hand grenade that could possibly ever be considered recreational? Wow!

Perhaps we should simply ask Congress to pass a law that says that from now on all guns and bullets must contain 9 grams of pseudoephedrine.

And from now on when gun enthusiasts say, Guns don’t kill people, only people kill people” our quick retort should simply be, “EXACTLY!”

There’s No Crying in Baseball

9 Jan

This Just In: The Baseball Writers’ Association of America did not vote anyone into the Baseball Hall of Fame today, taking an obvious stand against steroid and drug use in the game of baseball, while making a stand for morality and fair play everywhere!

However, despite the popular saying, potential Hall of Fame candidates, baseball owners and even the writers themselves were later seen crying…on their way to the bank.

Racism 102-Gangs

9 Jan

So isn’t all the fuss about racism really just about appearances and attitudes and accents? If you look the way we want you to look and talk the way we want you to talk and behave the way we want you to behave then you can live in our neighborhood and go to our school. Kids know all about this and they know that it’s all about how you look and walk and talk and behave. Life is all about fitting in. Yet our society seems to be all about separation, into haves and have nots, have mores and have not so muches, have almost everythings and have just about nothings. Humans have a way about segregating themselves in so many different ways.

When children become aware of this they have to begin to decide where they will fit in and how they will go about doing it. This is how gangs become so attractive and alluring to young people. They allow have nots and probably never will haves a place where they can fit in and most importantly find approval, which is a need that all humans seem to also share.

We had a team of individuals from our county prosecutor’s office visit my school one day and I was asked to videotape their presentation. The team consisted of a county prosecuting attorney, an assistant and a county juvenile corrections officer. The corrections officer did most of the talking and his presentation to the students was along the line of a “Scared Straight” talk or program designed to explain the pitfalls and hazards of gang life and the crime that was associated with gangs. He talked about the horrid living conditions and the difficult everyday monotony of life in the county correctional facility or prison as it were. And he impressed upon the students that should they join a gang then they would someday wind up in prison. It was almost guaranteed he said, and on this point the prosecutor agreed. Join a gang. Go to jail. Sooner or later every gang member gets in trouble with the law and that after all, was the business that they, the county prosecutor’s office, was in…sending people to jail.

Then came the most startling statistic of all, for the corrections officer went on to explain to the students that once you went to prison you would almost assuredly always come back! In fact, he added, and the prosecutor agreed, that fully 80% of all convicted felons would find their way back into jail not long after their release and most of those would eventually stay there.

So once a life of crime was begun, and joining a gang was synonymous with crime in their view, you would be destined to spending most of your life behind bars.

What startled me was how confident they were in their numbers. 80% would return to jail! And I was also startled by how proud they were of that fact, as though it were their badge of honor. Once you check in you don’t check out! They were, I’m sure, intending to scare the students with these boastful statistics but they were scaring me too! They were a “correctional” facility with a success or correction rate of 20%!!! They didn’t correct anybody. Instead with the help of the horrible, dismal, degrading conditions of the jails themselves (which their carefully produced power point presentation was about to show) along with the help of the bullying, profane, institutionalized inmates that a newly arrested juvenile would meet there, (a living example of whom they were also about to introduce) you would be almost guaranteed the beginnings of a cycle of crime and arrest and incarceration for the rest of your life.

These officers and prosecutors of the county correctional facility failed at a rate of 80% and they were practically giddy with the thought of the impact they were having on society, while I was a teacher in a profession where a 25% student dropout rate was being hailed by political leaders as something tantamount to the end of our society as we know it. 75% success stories, 25% failure rate? Dismantle the schools, fire the teachers and run for the hills!

80% failure rate, 20% correction in improved behavior? Hallelujah! Build more prisons. Here comes the answer to our prayers!

And were the students scared? Did they leave the presentation vowing to avoid gangs and a life of crime, forever scared straight? No. They already knew all of this. They had friends and relatives who were experiencing all of this. It was already part of their collective despair and disaffection. They saw that schools were closing or that school budgets were being defeated. Their neighborhoods are crumbling. Was education going to be their way to salvation? As a teacher I knew it was their only salvation and I am sure that the corrections officer and the prosecutors knew it too. But is that where our society is putting its resources? Is it our best bet to be laying our money on the 75% probability of winning with our public schools or with the 20% probability of success with our prison “correctional” system? Putting our money into prisons is a bad bet. We’re going to get more prisoners. Any gambler could tell you that. It’s a mortal lock, a sure thing. We’re drawing to a dead hand.

The lesson to be learned here is that if we want to defeat gangs then we have to invest our money and our resources in poor neighborhoods and communities and in their children and in their schools, not siphon money out of them and into investments that can only lead to more failure and despair and gang members.

Unfortunately that day the visitors from the prosecutor’s office were not scaring the students out of a possible bleak future that might lie ahead for them. They were instead foretelling the bleak and inevitable future that many of my students, mostly of color and “racial” ethnicity, would find waiting for them.

“You don’t fight fire with fire, you fight it with water. You don’t fight hate with more hate. You fight it with love.” And to that I would add… You don’t fight fear by scaring someone. You fight fear by comforting them.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King

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