Archive | June, 2013

Hey! This Isn’t Kansas…And Never Has Been!

13 Jun

Here we go again here on the East coast of the United States! It used to be that during a long hot summer day the sky would begin to darken, the wind would begin to blow, the trees would begin to sway, a flash of lightning would appear then thunder off in the distance and all would head for cover.

Then a thunderstorm would pass through, dumping rain on us all and after a short while the storm would pass and all would be right with the world again. Mostly they were kind of fun and enjoyable to watch or even be caught in as long as you could find a place of moderate shelter to stand under while the wind and rain moved through.

And they were always quite a refreshing respite to the heat of the day and they would always rear their ugly heads in the late afternoon or evening or perhaps late at night when one might be awakened to the flash and thunder of a passing storm…then in the morning the sun would be shining and you might wonder if perhaps that storm were only a dream.

Now?! These storms are being treated by everyone as the second coming! And they have become so violent in their nature that one might expect an angry god to appear out of the sturm and drang to actually take retribution on us all…and I’m not kidding!

And they come complete with warnings hours in advance…we never had warnings before…there were no warnings in thunderstorms! And they arrive in the morning! What gives? It’s only 10Am and already the animals and myself have battened the hatches and are prepared to cower under the covers for the rest of the day…the rest of the day!?!

Who ever heard of a thunderstorm that lasts an entire day? And this one is supposed to bring giant hail…GIANT HAIL?! And tornado like winds…Isn’t that a tornado?! And don’t I live in New Jersey?!

Would someone please tell these storms that they are not in Kansas any more?!

What have we done to the planet Earth to deserve this? Is this happening where you live… Or are storms still pretty much storms where you are? Please let me know because either we have completely screwed up the entire planet…and the planet isn’t happy…or New Jersey has finally gotten its comeuppance for all of the crazy stuff that you no doubt have heard that all of we crazy New Jersians do!

Whatever happened to storms? You know, the kind the dictionary describes like this: a disturbance of the atmosphere marked by wind and usually by rain, snow, hail, sleet, or (not all!) thunder and lightning…

Look Out Old Draco Is Back

11 Jun

Former NFL receiver Chad  Johnson AKA Chad Ochocinco AKA Chad Johnson was sentenced to 30 days in jail for  apparently slapping his attorney on the butt for helping him avoid jail time with a plea deal in a Florida courtroom. However, when everyone in the court room started laughing the judge took offense, accused Mr. Johnson of not taking the proceedings seriously, nullified the plea agreement and sent Mr. Johnson off to jail for 30 days.

 Apparently last August, Johnson pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge after he allegedly head-butted his then-wife during an argument, then in May Johnson was arrested for failing to meet with his probation officer, which led to his courtroom appearance this June.

Now, I do not advocate domestic violence nor do I think it should be taken lightly and certainly avoiding one’s probation officer is not an action that I would recommend…but wouldn’t a nation that already spends over 40 thousand dollars apiece per year on the incarceration of over 2.2 million citizens be doing itself and its fiscal health a favor by trying to help keep citizens out of jail rather than in? .

It is said that Draco was the first legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece…and that he replaced the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud with a written code to be enforced only by a court. Unfortunately Draco’s laws were particularly harsh and often unfair. However, under Draco’s laws The death penalty was the punishment for even minor offences and when asked about this he supposedly replied “that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones.” So death was the order of the day.

But I certainly don’t advocate the death penalty for our prison overflow. It’s too expensive for one thing, cruel and unusual for another and too Draconian even for the 21st century…But Why do we need so many prisons and prisoners in the United States in the first place? Why is punishment becoming our national pastime? Isn’t this too draconian too…especially for the U.S. (of all countries) here in the 21st century?

And now that we have the NSA listening in on anything and everything and  anybody and everybody where are we going to go from here?

Why not just fine people who break laws…nice big hefty fines? Let’s just send them home so they can go back to work and then garnish their paychecks. Make them take out a nice hefty government loan at a lofty percentage rate…like we do with our law abiding students…or force them to use a high interest government credit card…like most of us do with our regular bank credit cards… or make them pay a special criminal tax rate…or something along those lines.

We could fine the NFL for not teaching Chad Whatshisname the meaning of respect while cavorting around NFL endzones in disrespect of NFL law. How about garnishing one of Dick Cheney’s hefty paychecks for bringing back the draconian practice of water boarding? Or a special tax on President Bush for not finding that evidence that sent us to war for 10 years and 3 trillion dollars. Or taxing President Obama at an especially high rate for all of those draconian killer drones that he likes to use so much.

I’m just saying…couldn’t we use the money more than we can use the prisoners? Let’s start fining our lawbreakers and wrongdoers and use the money to pay down our debts. The Schadenfreude that comes from our draconian application of punishment for our criminals may make us feel good but it doesn’t pay any bills…it just creates a great big pile of new ones…which I believe will just bury us all in the end…which I suppose would probably make Draco proud.

Since When Is Doing Nothing a Job?

10 Jun

The student loan crisis in the USA continues to grow and this summer the interest rate on federal student loans will double  if Congress doesn’t take action. Only in the United States can Congress  NOT doing something actually get something done and that might be the most important if not the saddest lesson that our college students will learn…

Last year, Congress delayed the doubling of the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans from 3.4% to 6.8%. which is what the rate will jump to in July should Congress fail to act this time around…Isn’t it nice that Congress likes to set these deadlines in such frequent intervals virtually setting up a nonstop game of Russian Roulette with their constituents lives…not exactly what our founding fathers had envisioned to be the role of the leaders of the free world do you think?

If the student loan interest rates double on July first and increases from 3.4% to 6.8% this could result in the equivalent of adding $5,000 to new federal loans for college students and their families.

Since 1999, the average student loan debt has increased by over 500%  while the interest on loans that the big banks get from the Fed have steadily decreased… despite the fact that these banks worked hard to bring down our economy in 2008 and then held it hostage until they got what they wanted in massive bailouts from the very taxpayers whose children now face a future of massive debt owed to…these very same banks!

You couldn’t write a more insidious crime story if you tried!

And don’t forget that federal student loans with low interest rates, such as the subsidized Stafford loan, are designed to benefit students whose families make under $50,000 a year  and these are people who certainly cannot  afford to see their interest rate jump…unlike Congressmen and bankers who I am sure never have to worry about taking out loans for their children at all since they can no doubt use their “lobbying proceeds” to cover such bills.

However the one flashlight at the end of this dark tunnel of bank and government…congress…is Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts who has introduced legislation entitled the Bank on Students Loans Fairness Act that would provide a one-year fix  by setting the student loan interest rate at the same level the Federal Reserve offers to big banks which is, believe it or not, 0.75%. That’s 9 times less than students would pay if the Congress does nothing.

So, what will our Congress do? Stand up to the banks for the love of our children…or just lie there and do nothing and let the banks make love to them? Either way, let’s hope our children don’t get it in the end.

Come On In! The Water’s Great!

7 Jun

I remember back in the 80’s when occasionally a barge out of New York would dump some garbage off the coast of New Jersey and the beaches would be littered with debris and then closed until all of the hazardous materials or waste could be cleaned up or would wash back out to sea.

And as a long time resident of Ocean County, NJ I can also remember how the Toms River Chemical Company AKA Ciba-Geigy Corp., built and operated a 10 mile pipeline from Toms River to Ortley Beach which they used to dump toxic chemical wastes into the ocean for over 25 years.

All of this was of course investigated by various state and federal regulatory and legislative agencies and after exhaustive (and expensive) study it was eventually revealed that the private companies… and the government agencies… knew exactly what was going on from the get go.

So it comes as no surprise but with also a bit of skepticism when I read today that “local and state governments have announced that ocean and beach water quality tests this winter and spring have shown good results, with few exceptions”…despite the fact that various contractors have had to remove more than 40,000 cubic yards of debris from bays and other waterways so far. (That’s more than 2,600 dump trucks holding 15 cubic yards apiece)

Also more than 70 vessels and vehicles have been removed from waterways, and over 5.1 billion gallons of either partially treated or untreated sewage was carried into the bays and oceans, streams and rivers of NJ by Hurricane Sandy…and that’s according to a Princeton based research group…and that’s not even including the fertilizers and chemicals and who-knows-what-all…plus entire homes and small communities, that were carried into our lagoons and waterways also.

And of course no environmental report would be a good report without the caveat that the long-term impact of  things like raw sewage, fertilizer and chemicals (and most of whatever was in the basements of every home on the barrier islands), that washed into the water during Sandy… is unclear.

But according to the DEP, last week all ocean beaches passed water quality tests. However, along with that good news the DEP also added that debris may still be found in the ocean and bays and people who spot it should immediately contact a lifeguard and that it would always be a good idea to have a heightened sense of awareness when swimming this season at the Jersey Shore

So after all is said and done  it is summertime, so don’t be shy. Come and enjoy the sun and the fun and the boardwalks and the beaches. Just tread carefully, keep your eyes open when entering the surf, and  trust your own senses…and just because we are all older and wiser now and perhaps a bit more jaded… always remember to take everything you hear from a government agency… with a grain of salt water.

Déjà Blew All Over Again

6 Jun

Oh boy! Here it comes again! It’s the  first week of the official hurricane season and already we have the first named storm of the year, Tropical Storm Andrea…and the good news is?… according to the weather service the storm is likely to weaken and lose its tropical designation as it moves north…But the storm is expected to dump as much as 8 inches of rain on parts of Florida and Georgia…and who knows how much rain we’ll get here in the balmy state of New Jersey but it doesn’t bode well for those of us who are still feeling the pain like John Travolta at a drive in movie theater over a girl named Sandy.

And can we please put to rest any debate on whether there really is such a thing as Global Warming or Climate Change and that we humans most likely have something to do with it because in another unsettling release this week, a Colorado State University professor who is widely considered a national authority on tropical weather prediction has released his team’s first forecast for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season – and…

The news isn’t good.

His forecast team is predicting 18 named storms during the hurricane season, nine of which are expected to become hurricanes and four of those major hurricanes, meaning they will reach category three status or higher and need we here on the east coast be reminded that Category three hurricanes pack winds of 111 m.p.h. or higher! So Thank goodness most of my trees have already blown down!

But wait! The news gets better!

Apparently early tests show that The tropical Atlantic has warmed over the past several months and in case you are a non believer in Science The CSU team does have data to back up their prediction… and here it is:

“Five hurricane seasons since 1900 exhibited oceanic and atmospheric characteristics most similar to those observed in February and March 2013: 1915, 1952, 1966, 1996 and 2004. Four out of the five years had above-average hurricane activity.” So…The team predicts that tropical cyclone activity in 2013 will be about 175 percent of the average season (2012 experienced tropical cyclone activity that was 131 percent of the average season!)…giving the east coast a 72 percent chance of being assaulted by another major hurricane.

So here are my proposed names for the rest of the 2013 hurricane season.

Beelzebub…Cuthulu…Damian…Earthsoaker…Fughetaboutit…Gargoyle…Hellsapoppin…Icantbelieveitshappeningagain…Jezebel…Krakatau: The Hurricane… Loki…MadMax…Nosferatu…OHMYGOD…PleaseNotAgain…Quexicotle… Rumplestilstkin…Satan…TitsandAsphalt…UgottaBeKiddinMe…VelosiRapture…WhattheF…


Good luck to everyone and may the Force… miss you!

Call Me Ishmael

5 Jun


This may be a bit of a departure from my title but…

What’s happened to the NBA?

Does anyone out there like basketball? Is anyone out there a real student of the game?

If so, has anyone noticed what I have noticed over the last decade or so?

What happened to dribbling?

And I don’t mean keeping the Gatorade from spilling down your chin after a long winded and grueling stretch of playing the game…I mean the kind of dribbling that involves bouncing the ball with your hand (only one at a time) while moving up and down the basketball court…you know, the most fundamental skill involved in playing the game of basketball.

Why are today’s NBA players allowed to carry the ball around the court like it’s a piece of luggage or a new style of men’s handbag?

Has anyone else noticed this but me?

Remember when you had to bounce the ball with your hand on top of the ball? And how that was pretty difficult, especially if you wanted to use your other hand…the one that wasn’t very good at doing anything? And remember how whenever you thought you’d try to put your hand under the ball and roll it over to the top just to make it a little easier someone would blow a whistle and charge you with traveling, or “palming the ball” or “carrying the ball” and that would be what was called a turnover and so the ball would be unceremoniously taken from you and given to the other team?

Watch an old NBA video of Bob Cousy or Jerry West or Walt Frazier bringing the ball up the court and you’ll positively die laughing at how silly they look doing all of that old fashioned “dribbling”…go ahead I dare you.

Then watch today’s NBA players…Is it just me or do they all look like NASCAR automobiles out for a ride while holding a ball out the side window on their way to a 10 car pileup underneath the basket? And if that isn’t bad enough, Then it’s off for a free-throw where they pause to catch their breath before standing Queequegesque at the foul line and tossing up a brick that clangs from the backboard prompting handshakes and high fives all around from their Rokovoko island teammates.

Then off they go to do it again and later with the score at a whopping 65-62 with 10 seconds left in the game that’s 3 hours old, we all call this defense!

Is this just me? Because I can’t stand to watch anymore. Perhaps it’s because I have grown older and am just out of touch with the “newness” of the game. I remember when I was young listening to my father lament about how not enough baseball players played the game like DiMaggio anymore…

I have always loved playing sports and I have always loved to watch sports and every once in a while I like to write about sports…but I have to admit that it is getting harder and harder to watch them now…they just don’t play any games like they used to and I know that tattoos are in and cool and everyone has them and that not many if any of today’s NBA fans would understand my literary references to Moby Dick but when it comes to sports… whatever happened to practice and rules and gamesmanship and skill?!

Today’s preparation for a career in sports seems to simply be…make yourself a physical giant among men, decorate your body and then praise the lord!

How long before athletes start tattooing themselves with advertisements?

Okay, I admit, I’ve just gotten too old to appreciate today’s sports and how they are “played”…

So call me Ishmael and give my heart  a tattoo, because Mr. Coffee, I guess, I’ll always have you.


4 Jun


I went to Ikea for the first time the other day? My family loves it there and it was an interesting experience and so other-worldly…who are these Ikeans and why have they come to Earth and especially here to America?

Are they some wee people from another planet in another solar system. Their store came with directions on the floor so I could not get lost as I roamed amongst their Hobbit-like furniture and Lilliputian wares…why an entire Ikean’s house furnishings could fit into one American sized great room!

Do they have Great Rooms in other countries I wonder? Do these aliens wonder what one does with a great room and what it is for? “Welcome to America. Here is my bathroom for bathing and my bedroom for bedding and my living room for living and my dining room for dining and my kitchen for…watching television… and here is my Great room where I spend my time in greatness of course!” and out there of course is my garage which is a house for my car!”

After following the Ikean path for what seemed like hours I came upon their dining hall where they served entire meals for $4.99! Imagine that? Meat and potatoes and strange berries for under $5! I was so amazed at these affordable and delicious dinners, I had three! Where do they find such meat and so cheaply?

And their coffee was free!

I would like to see the Ikeans shop at a great big American store! What might they say as they peruse our oversized and magnificent living structures?

“Look at that couch! It is bigger than my house! Where would such a television fit besides a drive in movie theater?? OMG! That automobile has rooms! We could put some nice shelving in the back seat!”

And what would Ikeans think of our food and eating habbits?

“Quick over here! They call their small coffees Grande! And place an entire ice cream sundae inside each cup…and all for only 8 dollars and 95 cents!…And there is an entire meatloaf with vegetables and cheese between the bun where my wee hamburger should be!”

Then I followed the path from their place of eating (more like midnight snacking if you ask me) to another level of shopping for accessories and decorations to fit inside their wee spaces…it was exhausting!

But then I wondered why are all of my fellow Americans so gleefully and happily shopping here among these strange and foreign Ikean retailers? Do they not realize that we are still giants among men and planets?! Or…

Is something happening to America? Is the unthinkable upon us? Has the unspeakable finally happened? Has the unraveling of our greatness begun? Is America downsizing?!

Good grief! Americans beware! Run for your extra -large lives! Save your over-sized selves!

The Ikeans are here!

What’s Wrong With Everything

3 Jun

Here’s what’s wrong with everything.

Banks can borrow money from the federal government at less than 1% interest.

Can you?

Banks already have your money and pay you less than 1% interest to do whatever they want with it…including putting it in places that it doesn’t belong…and then losing it!

As if that should even be possible.

And why do banks who have our money to play with… basically for free… need to borrow money from the feds anyway?

How much does the bank charge you to: write a check? Make a withdrawal at an ATM? Take out a home loan? Take out a student loan? Take out an equity loan? Pay interest on credit cards? Close an account? Receive a paper statement? Use a human teller??? …and all at a place that has your money to begin with?

This is not how it used to be and Can anyone explain why this is how it is now… and how these policies will lead to a better future for you or your children or your communities? (I am assuming you don’t own a bank)

I welcome all thoughts, insights and explanations.


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