Archive | April, 2013

Of the People, By the People… and For Whom?

30 Apr

Well Congress has done it again! They have proven that they live in a world without end when it comes to their own personal needs and wants and desires. We now have the government that many of our founding fathers feared the most…a government of the Congress, by the Congress and for the Congress… and the way things are going…this one shall not pass from the Earth until they’ve blown the doors off the planet and found themselves a new one to live on.

This week, and with a remarkable alacrity and speed before unbeknownst to this political body, Congress undid one of their cannot be undone sequestration cuts. And what was it that required such a dire reversal of funding cuts that it took Democrats and Republicans less than 24 hours to get together, write a bill, agree to it and get it signed?

Did they restore money to 3.8 million jobless workers who have seen their unemployment benefits sequestered?

Did they restore federal Head Start program funding for about 1 million disadvantaged pre-school children across the country, now sequestered from such programs?

Did they restore federal funding for the Meals on Wheels program so that many under-fed and starving senior citizens can get their sequestered meals back?

Did they restore funds to  140,000 low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities who have seen their  housing assistance sequestered?

Did they restore the $9.9 billion sequestered from Medicare to help suffering seniors pay their bills, or the 350 million dollars sequestered from the federal court system to help free the log jam in our legal system or maybe the 1.5 billion dollars sequestered from medical research in the country because they realize how important health research really is?

Did they even restore the $42.7 billion to discretionary defense spending because they became suddenly worried about the safety of Americans in light of the recent and horrific bombings?

Nope.

They restored funding that had been cut from the nation’s air traffic control system because flight delays were becoming a big problem in America… so what better way to restore our free flowing friendly skies then by exhibiting the same extreme and congenial bi-partisanship that Americans have so come to expect from their political leaders these days and pass a bill to get it done… and all within one day.

Then Congress went to the airport so they could begin their vacation.

Hopefully they never come back… And that would be a sequestration worth voting for.

It Can Be Done

29 Apr

On Monday April 29th on the six month anniversary of Super storm Sandy’s devastation of the east coast and particularly the New Jersey shore, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that presidential politics were the last thing on his mind as he toured storm-devastated areas with President Obama last fall.

According to Governor Christie “The president has kept every promise he’s made. I think he’s done a good job. He kept his word. Everything the president promised me they’d do, they’ve done. I don’t have any complaint this morning on the issue of disaster relief.”

The storm destroyed about 360,000 homes and/or apartment units here in New Jersey, and some areas along the shore are still devastated and may not be repaired for years to come and the Governor went on to say that even though he and President Obama have fundamentally different views on governing, they were still able to work together to do what needed to be done for a devastated region. And the fact that they disagree on many things politically did not come into play when something this important needed to get done.

Wow! So it can be done. Political opponents elected by the people to serve the people can work together to help use the power of the government to help solve the people’s problems.

Instead of resorting to stupid tricks like sequestrations and filibusters our politicians need to do the jobs they were democratically elected by the people to do. They were all elected to represent the people and to work with all of the other representatives of the people regardless of their political affiliations or motivations.

Instead most, if not all, cavort about like elementary school kids who think the others among them have cooties…remember those childish days? Like anyone who is hired to do a job, if you refuse to work or refuse to get along with your co-workers then you should be fired…or at the very least sequestered to a playpen or day care center.

Give Governor Christie and President Obama credit for working together and showing that it can be done and for not being afraid to say so… but why must we always suffer from a disaster before our politicians will work civilly together and in our best interests?

Will we have to be invaded by aliens (the kind from outer space) before all of  our politicians decide to  work together (as they were elected to do)  to solve problems that will help our country and our citizens?

Because these days, space invaders or not, there really is no point in reelecting anyone who won’t…is there?

The Price of Freedom?

28 Apr

Perhaps I was a bit too wordy in my last post so I’ll try again….

A 4 year old went into his house and picked up a rifle then went outside and shot a 6 year old friend to death.

Should there be a penalty for the gun owner (not for the gun… but the owner)

And what kind of penalty?…

Or was this incident simply a price that some Americans pay for our freedom and the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution?

Oops, My Bad

27 Apr

 

Here in New Jersey a six year old boy was accidently shot by his 4 year old neighbor after the 4 year old child went into his house and brought outside a loaded rifle which then went off accidently. In Tennessee only a few days before a 4-year-old boy grabbed a loaded gun at a family cookout and accidentally shot to death the wife of a sheriff’s deputy.

In both instances, as far as I know, no charges have been filed against the gun owners but in New Jersey under state law, anyone who knows that a child under the age of 16 could access a loaded firearm in their home can be charged with a disorderly persons offense if they fail to secure it or install a trigger lock.

But even if charges are or were filed, is a disorderly persons charge enough for such negligence by a gun owner? Isn’t it basically a slap on the wrist and an invitation to merely say, “Oops, my bad,” when people have been killed with a weapon that you own to “make yourself safe”?

The United States Supreme Court says that accidentally shooting a gun during the commission of a crime should bring the same penalties as intentionally using a firearm. This decision came when the court upheld the conviction and sentence of Christopher Michael Dean, who was arrested for trying to rob a bank in Rome, Ga., in 2004.

A gun went off accidentally during the attempted robbery and the discharge brought an automatic 10-year sentence for firing a weapon during a crime. Dean appealed, saying the automatic sentence shouldn’t count since the firing of the gun was accidental but Chief Justice John Roberts, said the law “does not require that the discharge be done knowingly or intentionally.” He also added that if criminals want to avoid the penalty for accidental gunfire, they can lock or unload the firearm, handle it with care, leave the gun at home, or avoid having one in the first place.

Imagine that?

And Mr. Dean received 10 years in prison even though no one was injured when the gun went off.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control statistics About 600 Americans die in accidental shootings every year. However prosecutor’s rarely if ever bring charges even though the required charge may only be a simple misdemeanor…and most commonly their reaction to a tragedy like this is that the families have suffered enough so why make matters worse…

But is, oops, my bad, enough? Or should there be mandatory  legal consequences and compensation made to the aggrieved families?  I am not in favor of  jail time for tragedies like the ones in Toms River or Tennessee, but I would like to see heavy fines imposed on gun owners who in cases like these did not properly care for or secure their weapons. And I mean fines on the order of, oops, my house now belongs to your family…

So my question is what if any kind of penalty should be imposed on gun owners who do not secure their firearms and whose firearms are then  used in the killing of another person whether accidental or not? I’d especially like to know what gun owners and advocates think. Is it fair to ask lethal weapon owners to be legally responsible for their gun’s use or would this send us on the slippery slope to Hitler’s America… again?

 

To Have and Have Not

26 Apr

“Them that’s got shall get. Them that’s not shall lose. So the Bible said and it still is news…”

I remember trick or treating many years ago when my friends and I came to a house where no one was home. We were about to leave and head for the next house when we noticed a large bowl on the stoop filled with candy and a note on it that read, “Please take one.”

Wow, we thought, that’s not only nice but very trusting also. Back in those days candy bars were really candy bars, not the little pieces of bite sized goop that they are now, and Halloween was the only time we kids could get our hands on real candy because parents did not buy kids candy, sweets, chips or any other kind of sugary snacks unless they had a reason like it was your birthday…or it was your birthday again….so leaving a giant bowl of candy out for anyone to haul away in what would have been the biggest heist of the century (for kids) was taking quite a chance.

But even though we were just kids we understood the sentiment, thoughtfulness, implications and expectations of all that candy left at an empty house with a note on Halloween…and we each took one and were happy to go on our way…as did everyone else in the neighborhood on that all Hallows Eve.

“You can help yourself…But don’t take too much…”

Is that sentiment still alive in today’s world? I would like to think so. I know that it still is for many…especially in light of some of the disasters that have befallen the East coast in the last few months… but when I look around at financial and banking institutions, Wall street, many large corporations and even our own leaders in Congress I am beginning to think that in many respects we may have turned the corner as of late, and anyone who takes just their fair share out of that big bowl of candy these days and leaves some for everyone else would be left for a chump….while some enterprising citizen who absconded with the entire contents of that bowl and set up shop selling them on a corner somewhere would be hailed as a forward thinking entrepreneur.

I hope I’m wrong and it’s just my advanced age talking.

 What do you think? Would that bowl of candy still be safe in your neighborhood?

“God bless the child that’s got his own…”

Driving Miss Distracted

24 Apr

 

My dad loved to drive. I think for him nothing represented freedom more than being able to get into a car and go…and he loved to go anywhere at any time. And back in those days, driving was just about all one could do in a car. You got behind the wheel, maybe opened the window (because air conditioning was a fancy extra in those days) and put on the radio (and there weren’t many stations so you didn’t have to worry about changing it all the time) and off you went.

And my dad loved the radio as a driving companion and we could always tell when he was just about home because the sound of his humming (he never sang along) preceded the noise of his car  as he turned the corner into our street. (and cars were noisy back then too)

Now however, things have noticeably changed when it comes to cars. They have become multi-task space stations for inner space travelers. Does anyone ever open a car window anymore? Even the dogs who travel with their owners demand climate control these days.

And have you noticed how taking out one’s phone is now a mandatory  prelude to the happy motorist’s opening of the car door?

Now-a-days when I’m driving in the car I not only pay attention to the road but I also try to pay attention to what the driver in front of me is focusing on… just in case I need to anticipate something I haven’t anticipated before.

I have seen drivers chatting on their phones, dialing their phones, programming their phones, texting on their phones, tweeting, reading their Nooks, doing crossword puzzles on their Kindles, fighting with their multi-disc CD players, watching DVDs, Searching for the proper station on their 100 channel pre-programmed Satellite radio… writing notes, putting on makeup, styling hair, Blackberrying (is that a verb now?) Multi tasking with iPads and iPods while balancing a Starbucks’ double shot mocha latte.

Yesterday, I sat behind an automobile after the light turned green for so long I swear the driver could have been baking a casserole!

All I can say is thank god that whenever confined to a small space, looking out of the front window is still a common human habit… and something that most drivers still like to do! Yikes! Where would  we all be without curiosity and the basic instinct to wonder where we’re going?

.

What Happened to Earth Day?

23 Apr

Whatever happened to Earth Day? I remember the first one back in 1970 and I remember the sense of urgency that people were feeling about the planet and air and water pollution and the overuse of fossil fuels and cars and oil and gasoline and carcinogens being everywhere and in everything etc…

We were all worried that if we didn’t change our ways then the future for ourselves and our loved ones would be bleak and filled with more pollution and harder times and wars over oil and…then… what happened? We seemed to just forget about it.
I blame my generation, which was in college at the time, for dropping the ball. We all graduated got jobs, got married, had children and joined the rat race and stopped paying attention and started shopping, eating out and driving SUVs…how did that happen?

Now the Earth is 1 and a half degrees warmer, (3 degrees warmer in NJ!) our cars get only 25 miles per gallon, everything is made in China where the sun never breaks through the industrial haze, we still go to war to protect our oil interests, drill the oceans and frack the very core of our planet in search of more of the same old fossil fuels… and cows are force fed corn until their stomachs explode.

And that poor old Native American with the tear running down his cheek is now crying bankruptcy in his casino…

I wonder what the odds were of that happening?

And still we pay little attention to the health and well being of our most precious and pale blue island floating solemnly amidst the enormity of the universe.

My apologies Earth day… Mother Earth… Your prodigal sons and daughters, even though we don’t seem to think about you very often, still hope you live a long and happy life, (at least until the sun explodes)

Where would we ever be without you?

A Highway Is A Wonderful Thing

22 Apr


A highway is indeed a wonderful thing…All those rules and regulations laid out in neat white stripes and signs and speed limits, yet,  even though the individual  might wish to dare a little more for speed or to stray outside the legal boundaries…by some small miracle we all obey them…  and we manage to do this while each driving our own 2-ton machine, at maddening speeds and side by side with all the others…but still we can each feel the freedom of the open road before us.

And whenever someone does break the rules they must do it right there in front of us for all to witness; whether moving too fast or weaving in and out of traffic or cruising too slowly or not bothering to use the proper signals…their infractions are their truest confessionals.

If we so choose we can curse or yell or damn them to hell from inside the privacy of our own fortress of solitude or we can use the universal language of the common  car horn to communicate our  cacophonous epithets…and who better than a seasoned and experienced veteran of the steering wheel knows how to make that horn sing with righteous outrage?

And so we cruise these freeways by the thousand millions aware that it is among the most dangerous things that we can do…but even so we stay within  the lines and obey the rules… and if and when we do have, what we almost always call, an “accident”, we know that it is most probably because someone, perhaps even ourselves, wasn’t obeying those rules or was driving without the manners that a civilization requires, or without the sobering seriousness that any life lived so intimately and dangerously among others demands.

Yet even though 211 million of us expect to do it safely each time we take the wheel we also realize that having 10 million accidents a year is so far about the best our social order can do…

but still off we go to do it again, and again… and always inside the lines and at the legal limits…and in accordance with the rules of the road…

Yes a highway is a wonderful and most curious thing.

Teach Your Children Well?

21 Apr

Okay, let’s try this…a simple yes or no is required…

You look outside and see that your 4 year old child is being hit by another 4 year old with a stick… Do you run outside and hand your child a stick and then say, “Here, now you are both safe.”

You hear that some unruly students at your child’s middle school like to push and shove and bully others while playing on the playground …Would you ask the principal to make an announcement  to the entire student body that from now on everyone in the school is authorized to push and shove and bully in retaliation to anyone who provokes them, in the interest of safety, order and security for all?

Your child comes home from high school and tells you that some of the other students carry switch blades which they often flaunt during lunch…Do you give your child a switchblade and say, “Don’t worry, show this to everyone tomorrow at lunch so that they will know to leave you alone from now on”?

If you answered no to these questions then at what age would you deem it appropriate to give your child a gun in the interest of helping them secure their future safety?

More Guns Does Equal More Crime

19 Apr

       I read a very interesting article in The New York Times this past weekend. As most of us know, following the Newtown, Connecticut shooting the National Rifle Association called for a renewed effort to place more armed police officers in the public schools to…you know…make them safer…because more guns equal more safety which consequently also saves more lives.

Even the White House jumped on board and has since proposed an increased police presence in the public schools.

And the NRA is always happy to site previous instances where a gun wielding principal or resource officer has helped to stop or thwart a student or intruder who was attempting to do harm.

However, as those of us who have worked in the public schools know, and as many NRA officials and gun advocates also like to point out when citing their statistics, there aren’t that many horrific acts of violence that do take place in the public schools and are in need of thwarting.

So, what has been the impact so far of an increased police presence in our public schools?

There has been an increase in arrests and misdemeanor charges for what most teachers have always seen as essentially non violent behaviors… like scuffles, truancy and even cursing. As a result more students are finding themselves in court and in fact in Texas, where I am assuming there has already been a police presence in the public schools for quite some time, over 100,000 tickets are written each year by police officers in schools…which of course leads to fines and police records etc. where none would have been incurred before.

Experts have noted that it’s not necessarily the policemen’s or resource officers fault,  it’s just that hanging around kids all day who behave…like kids…can be, as any veteran teacher will tell you, enough to drive you over the edge of sanity. And I have known many teachers who would have arrested the better part of their  school’s student population each and every day, if only their most fervent dream had come true and they had somehow been deputized and allowed to carry a gun and wear a badge.

However, when properly trained and taught how to work with students and young adults and schooled in adolescent psychology and mediation techniques, life in the public schools returns to normal because, well…the policemen start to interact with the students more like…teachers… and life in the public schools gets back to normal.

And, even though one horrific act of violence is always one too many, walking the halls every day trying to prevent it can be a pretty boring job…especially when you are a gun toting officer of the law who is probably not used to such boredom…and then of course one would have to be in the right place at the right time anyway. (I think that my high school alone had over 50 different entrances and exits…not counting windows.)

So until we can come up with a way to prevent violence before it happens rather than try to be there to stop it when it does, it looks like more guns will equal more crime and parents will have to just make sure to add their lawyer’s number to their child’s speed dial and keep a bailout fund in the cookie jar next to the milk money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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