A Feeling I’d Never Experienced

A Feeling I’d Never Experienced

Despite never having a dog of my own until manhood, I’m a lifelong dog lover.  Doris and I adopted my first dog, Brandy, three years after we wed. Brandy was a mixed breed one-year-old that we rescued from the local Humane Society.  She was a sweet dog, gentle with our babies and a spectacular Frisbee catcher who loved going airborne to pluck a disk out of the sky.

We loved Brandy for eight years before she passed away from a sudden debilitating disease.  It was a sad time for all of us.  I felt especially guilty that the poor dog spent so much of her days alone, waiting for one of us to come home from work or school.  It wasn’t fair to her. Like most dogs, she just craved attention but got too little from our family on-the-go.  I vowed not to get another dog until I could give it the time and attention it deserved.

As many who know me are aware, when Doris and I moved to Maine to start our early retirement, we got a miniature Australian Shepherd (a.k.a. American Shepherd) we named Charley.  He joined our lives at eight weeks old, nearly nine years ago. I craved to be a dog owner again and vowed this time I would do it right.  Charley has long been a full-fledged, card-carrying member of our family with almost all rights and privileges attendant thereto (except relieving himself indoors), and is similarly acknowledged by our daughter’s and son’s families.

Charley is my shadow and I’m his. Whenever possible, he goes where I go.  He has a disposition that, if emulated by most people, would make nuclear weapons and the United Nations obsolete.  He is bright, smiley, affectionate, playful, popular, obedient, patient and eager to like anyone he meets. He plays well with other dogs (he has a fascination with licking their ears for some reason) right up until they show an interest in his food bowl or try to be too friendly with me.

Charley is not just smart, he’s really smart. We were living on Orr’s Island in Harpswell, Maine when we brought Charley home from an upstate breeder in Litchfield.  Within less than a week, Charley (an eight week old ball of fur) knew to go to the front door to be let outside when he had to “go.” Our 400-foot driveway was a long and somewhat serpentine hill that ended in front of our house on Long Cove. For exercise (Charley’s, not mine) I would put a tennis ball into the socket of a “chucker” and throw the ball far up the driveway.  Charley would run up the hill, retrieve it, and bring it back to me so I could throw it for him again.  This lasted a few months before Charley changed the game.  One day, after running up the hill to retrieve the ball as usual, he started down the driveway but then stopped.  He looked down at me, tilted his head to one side, laid down on his stomach on the macadam, and rolled the ball down the hill to me. That was the way we played from then on. He figured it out all on his own and after a while had learned where to release the ball so that it didn’t fall off either side of the curves in the driveway.

When we moved from Maine to our present home, a condominium, we made sure we found one with a hill.

We never “crated” him – he’s always been welcome in our room on our bed any time.  Dog trainers (actually dog-owner trainers) ) were surprised at how quickly he learned and responded to commands. I easily trained him to come to me when I called him or whistled two specific notes.  Many folks in our neighborhood of more than 60 condominiums know and like Charley.

In early September 2019 we made our familiar hour-and-forty-five-minute trek to our daughter and son-in-law’s home to help care for three of our grandchildren (our son and daughter-in-law have #4) while ‘mom’ was away for three days.  Of course, Charley was with us.  Our eldest grandchild, four-year-old Maddy, had earlier explained to Hunni (Doris) and Pop (me) that while Charley lived with us, he was our dog, but when he was at their house Charley was their dog.

All went well.  I drove my daughter to the airport on Thursday evening and she returned safely late the following Sunday.  The kids were good all weekend and  Hunni and Pop were prepared to return home after breakfast on Monday. At 3:30 Monday morning, Charley woke Doris with the whimper he uses to let us know he’s got to “go.”  She forced her way from under the covers, turned on the light on Charley’s collar, flipped on the back yard light and opened the door for Charley to go relieve himself.

Our daughter’s back yard is fully fenced in and has three gates. I’d checked to make sure all three were closed when we arrived on Thursday, and found that one was ajar.  The fence is old and the latch on that particular gate doesn’t align well with the fence.  I force-straightened the gate so that the latch could close, gave it a shake to see if it held, and moved on when it did.

After five minutes Doris called for Charley to return, but he didn’t.  She asked me to try so I pulled on some warmer clothes and my sneakers, grabbed a flashlight and went outside to see why he didn’t answer Doris’s call.

He didn’t answer because he wasn’t there.

When I went to each of the gates to check the locks I found that the one I’d forced together had come apart, leaving just enough space for Charley to fit through.  I called for Charley and whistled the two tones from there, confident that he would come running back from wherever he was, as had happened almost always over the years.

This time, he didn’t come.

I felt panic rising from my heart when he didn’t answer my call.  I called louder as I walked beyond the fence and I started what turned out to be a two-day repetitive monologue asking God to help me find him. Aware that it was nearly 4:00 a.m. I tried to temper my calls of “Charley – Come” and started what must ultimately been hundreds of two-note whistles.

This wasn’t the first time Charley had disappeared, but it was the first time he had done it south of Maine.  When we lived in Maine we had three acres of woods of our own and access to trails along the shore that began about a hundred yards from the end of our driveway.  Charley and I used to walk those trails at least once a week.  He never strayed from me there, but on occasion he chased a deer or just followed a scent around into the woods.  Most times, when I bellowed “Charley, Come!” within a minute or two he’d come running to me full blast, with a big smile on his face and ears pinned back.

The few times he failed to come, I’d drive my pick-up within a radius of half mile of home calling for him.  In less than an hour I’d either find him or Doris would call me to say he’d come home.  Each time, though, I had to fight down the fear that I might never see him again.

And now, I was prowling the suburban streets near my daughter’s house in Warren, New Jersey, calling and whistling for Charley in the early morning dark, silently asking God to let me have him back.

I learned a fair amount about Social Media shortly after sunrise that Monday.  While I was illuminating front yards on both sides of the adjacent roads with my flashlight, Lauren had sent an all points bulletin about Charley on her neighborhood’s Facebook page. Later, cruising the roads in the early daylight, I saw a gathering of mothers and children waiting on a street corner for the school bus. As I slowed towards the intersection one of the mothers flagged me down to tell me that she saw the Facebook posting and that she had heard her neighbor’s dog barking early that morning.  She said this was a dog that normally didn’t bark.  I was impressed that this good lady knew about my lost dog and was deeply concerned about Charley.  I thanked her sincerely for the only tip I had so far.

Lauren also Messaged her cross street neighbors, including my tipster, to ask if I might  look in their back yards for Charley.  With 10 minutes all of them had responded ‘yes’ and wished us luck.  I spent an hour or so in those back yards but heard only the high pitched barking of the nice lady’s backyard neighbor’s little dog.

Meanwhile, Doris took up the vigil of waiting outside at Lauren’s to be there if and when Charley returned on his own.  After seeing our two granddaughters off to school, Lauren drove around the vicinity and suggested that I might want to go to the top of the steep mountainside that ended the backyards of the homes directly across the street.  She gave me the driving directions to the backside of the mountain (nothing like the Rockies, but steep nonetheless) to a forested area at its top.  When I zeroed out my car’s trip odometer I measured that the road into the woods was .8 of a mile.  I parked my car and walked about 2.5 miles traversing those woods.  By the time I returned to Lauren’s home I was worn out physically and emotionally. The day was approaching evening and the daylight that I’d hoped would reveal Charley was fading away.

Doris asked me to change places and let her drive around looking for him for a while.  I agreed, so she took the wheel and I took the vigil chair.  There I sat with a blanket wrapped around me like a cape, my arms crossed, head down, and eyes closed.  It was then, because I was alone, that I allowed myself to cry – deeper and painfully. There and then I resumed my monologue to God.  I pleaded through the tears with Him/Her to let me find Charley.

I’d long ago realized my vulnerability to the significant price of grief/pain I will pay if I survive Doris or, God forbid, any of my kids or grandkids.  It is the ultimately high cost of love.  After nearly nine years, I was beginning to feel the leading edge of pain from the present possibility of Charley’s loss – a loss compounded by the likelihood that we might never know how or why we lost him.

One might observe that I’d obviously lost my sensibilities and my priorities in caring for a dog this much. Those who ever had a dog are more likely to cut me some slack on that observation. If they knew Charley they’d probably understand even better. When my neighbors back home heard that we couldn’t find Charley, more than a few of them were moved to tears.  Our closest neighbor told me that her reaction was that it felt like she’d lost her brother.

I am one who believes we have/are immortal souls and love is a product of the mind, body, and soul.  I am convinced that the purpose of life is to carry and reinforce our souls.  The size and capabilities of souls many differ, but they are all immortal.  No one dies completely, not my parents, not my teachers or friends, not even the souls of my worst tormentors totally expire. I am convinced that Charley is also a soul because he is obviously capable of love.

It was in moments of dwindling hope that I might ever see Charley again that I was compelled to find the real reason he was gone.  What had I done to deserve this?  Somehow, I felt totally responsible for his disappearance. I ended that Monday trying to understand what I had to atone for.  I thought of one possible reason for God’s anger.  Despite knowing that God does not negotiate, I tried to strike up a deal with Him/Her over it.  Whether or not I could have Charley back, I vowed to banish that reason forever. I promised.  It was all I could think of to do beyond looking everywhere for him.

By nightfall I was drained, so I slept.

When I awoke on Tuesday I immediately checked the open garage and the back yard. My hope that he might have returned during the night was erased.

I knew that time was my enemy.  The longer Charley remained lost the less likely it became that we would find him.  Since failing to come home was against all of his characterized behavior, I could only think Charley was unable to come to us for some reason.  Had he been stolen?  Possibly, but who could have tried to take him at 3:30 in the morning? Had he been run over by a car or truck? Had he run down a deer and been kicked when it tried to defend itself?  This was a more plausible reason, but still not likely. Earlier in the year a bear was seen loping around my daughter’s neighborhood. The sightings were confirmed when the animal’s visits were caught on several home security cameras.  Had Charley fallen prey to some other animal in the woods?

With each click of the clock the situation became bleaker. My hope of finding him was dwindling as my despair was ramping up.  After another morning in the woods, this time armed with his squeaky toy, I returned to Lauren’s house having had no luck. In the privacy of the basement bedroom Doris and I used, I lied down and prayed to God to keep Charley safe.  Then I berated myself for wasting what time I had left to find him before returning home to Connecticut.  The idea of leaving without Charley was horrible, so I got out of bed and grabbed by car keys and the squeaky toy to continue my search.

Tim and Lauren’s home is on a dead end road. A 20-foot wide deer run separates the end of the street from the back yards of new houses under construction on another street. The deer run is perpendicular to the dead end of the street. I hadn’t yet ventured up that steep slope so I climbed half way up the hill and called for Charley while squeezing the toy for a half-hour, all to no avail.  By this time my mind and soul were just numb.  I had spent two days with the ugly notion that I might never see Charley again. Doris, Lauren and I had covered almost all of the territory where he might have been if he was not dead or dognapped.

As I drove my car back to the house, I noticed the neighbors’ houses and back yards where I had begun my search. At that moment a small hopeful feeling broke through the numbness and whispered that I should look there again.  This was the area described by the young woman who said her back yard neighbor’s dog had been barking in the early morning hours of Monday.  Her’s was the only lead I had, so I parked the car, picked up the squeaky toy and walked to the area I had traversed on Monday morning.

The back yards of the home of the barking dog and of my tipster faced one another, because the front of each house faced one of two parallel streets.  The yards were separated by a swathe of unattended foliage covering about 50 feet between the back yards of both houses. That area was a jumble of thick, waist-high vegetation.   When I waded into it I literally could not see my feet as they plodded through the territory.  All the while I continued calling for Charley and squeezing his toy after each call.

And then I heard his bark.

I squeezed the toy rapidly and told Charley to keep barking, which he did.  My adrenaline pumped the squeeze toy as I slogged in the direction of his wonderful barks. Soon I came upon a structure hiding in the sea of foliage.  It was an old, eight-feet square, seven-foot deep dry well, constructed of cement blocks.

I looked over the rim and saw Charley on its dirt floor, running in circles, yelping for all he was worth, and reaching up with his front paws as high as they could go to try to reach me!

Never before in my life had I encountered a moment when my psyche immediately sling-shot from deep despair to magnificent elation in the blink of an eye.  I cried tears of joy while laughing hysterically at the same time.  I shouted to the world and skies,“I found him! Dear God, I found him. I can’t believe it, I found Charley” It felt almost as though Charley had returned from the dead.

All this time he had been less than 300 yards from Lauren’s house.  I sat on the edge of the well and called her on my cell phone. “I found him!”

I told her exactly where we were and asked her to tell Doris and to bring a small ladder so we could get Charley out of that hole in the ground.  When I ended the call, I jumped into the well to pet him and hold him and share in our excitement of his having been found.  Charley was thirsty and hungry (in that order) but otherwise unscathed from his ordeal.  When I scaled the step-stool ladder and lifted him to Lauren, Charley was yelping and licking her face.  When he saw Doris coming across the yard he sprinted to her with a similar greeting.

Doris had brought one of our three grandkids with her. When two-year-old Goldy saw Charley running at top speed to get to them, she said, “Hunni (Doris) look! Charley loves me!”

She was right.

Epilogue

Since then:

I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I found my shadow again.  My gratitude is not limited only to the Heavens; it involves much more somehow. That moment of going from despair to joy was a gift that nudged my cynicism further away from my core, my soul.  Being so near to hopelessness and then having my most urgent supplication granted is an event beyond description.  The townspeople who were so wonderfully aware that Charley was missing and actively looked for him as they went for a run, or to the store and the like, gave me comfort and hope and reminded me what a real community can do.  Charley and our family are fully recovered from our ordeal.

And I do thank God everyday for life, love, family, friends, and Charley.

 

[How long] Can the world afford a Malignant Narcissist as President of the United States?

[How long] Can the world afford a Malignant Narcissist as President of the United States?

Roughly a month before Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States I published a blog that described my belief that he is and always has been a malignant narcissist. Accordingly I wrote that he would be not only unfit to be POTUS, but also a single-handed major threat on a global scale.  Sadly, my concerns were acutely warranted.

I am here reprising my blog of October 11, 2016, not as an ‘I tool you so,’ but to underscore the grave danger inherent in Trump’s continued occupation of the White House.

Can we survive another two years of a President who weighs every decision and/or action by how well it serves his personal agenda?  Can it be that he has taken steps to subvert and destroy NATO and lauded Putin as a role model because he wants to build a Trump hotel in Moscow?  Is the price of our national security that small?

With the Muller investigation’s report likely to be wrapped up in very soon, it is absolutely imperative that its findings are made public.  If Attorney General Barr fails to do so, it will be an indelible stain on his legacy.  He will join the long line of spineless Republican Trump enablers whom history will hold accountable for the aftermath of his presidency.

Below is my 10/11/16 blog..

 

Q: Can the world afford a Malignant Narcissist as President of the United States?

 A: Probably not, but let us not test the idea.

What is Malignant Narcissism?  Below is a bullet point rendition of Wikipedia’s definition.

As you read it, ask yourself, is this not Donald Trump?

 

“Malignant Narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of:

  • narcissism,  […no one loves Donald as much as the Donald does, and nothing that Donald does is intended to benefit anyone but Donald. His proposed tax break for the middle class is part of an overall tax strategy that would hand the wealthy top 10%  – including himself – a much bigger tax break.  Trump thrives on being in the limelight, disregards any inconvenient truth, and cannot acknowledge his mistakes to the point that, obviously contrary to his own best interests, he doubles-down on his numerous blatant blunders.]
  • antisocial personality disorder, […does bragging about being able to grab any woman’s crotch simply because he is The Donald qualify?  He has absolutely no respect nor an ounce of empathy for anyone but himself.]
  • aggression[…he sues everyone who dares to cross his path, is a misogynist, a bigot, and indiscriminatly intimidates any who might be in his way] and
  • sadism […refusing to pay workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck, and the act of firing someone are among many harmful situations that seem to give Donald great pleasure].
  • Often grandiose, […he genuinely thinks his five-letter name should be valued at more than a billion dollars per letter, nuff said?] and
  • always ready to raise hostility levels […like the schoolyard bully, he will pick on anyone he thinks is weaker than himself.],
  • the malignant narcissist undermines organizations in which they are involved […can America afford this?] , and
  • dehumanizes the people with whom they associate” [Women, Mexicans and Other Hispanics, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Political and Business Opponents,  etc., etc.].

Power in the hands of a malignant narcissist is extraordinarily dangerous. The malignant narcissist does not want to lead, but to rule. Most of those who fought to depose the last major malignant narcissist ruler over 50 years ago are no longer with us.  Few are left who saw first-hand how dangerously evil a popular conniving malignant narcissist can be.

Donald Trump’s candidacy presents danger to the world, and many world leaders know it.  His bluster, reversals of expressed opinions, personal slanders, and complete disregard of truths that are in conflict with his desires, make him unreliable, untrustworthy, and insanely volatile.  These attributes might be useful in gaining the upper hand in business negotiations, but it is a terrible mix when dealing with leaders of other sovereign nations that have national pride and military options.  Putin would love to play with someone who thinks Twitter is a great political forum.  Trump’s buttons are easy to see and easy to push.  All it takes to make him totally irrational is to insult him personally. (Have you noticed that he never says he was “attacked.”  Any assault on his character or comments is a “vicious attack.”  Apparently in his self-absorbed mind having the temerity to attack Donald Trump must be vicious.) 

Do you really want Donald Trump in charge of our nuclear arsenal?

Beyond Frightening – Simply Unacceptable.

We are in these seriously dangerous waters largely because for the last six years the Republican-controlled Congress chose to abdicate it’s responsibilities and freeze the government to undermine the remainder of Obama’s two-term presidency. Trump’s popularity is the genuinely frustrated but reckless grass roots response to the uncompromising leadership of Congress.  Perhaps Republican incumbents in both houses who are running for re-election as “down-ticket” candidates under Trump’s name this year will suffer for their intentional and petty gridlock.*

The last political malignant narcissist who rose to power on a wave of an indignant grass roots backlash nearly destroyed their world and ours.  Luckily, he didn’t quite have access to atomic weaponry.

The next one will.

Ah, America. We Have A Problem…

Ah, America. We Have A Problem…

Okay. It’s Official. Donald Trump and his Banana Republicans have rhetorically incited their base to outright hate their Democratic opponents. Whether he acknowledges it or not, his preposterous radical lies are strategically intended to demonize his political rivals and to “stir up his base.” Now some of them are a serious threat to the heart of Democracy in America.

Trump may or may not have specifically intended to prod one or more of his “base” to terrorize the nation via package bombs addressed to his detractors, but in reality that is exactly what he did.  Like the leaders of Russia, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, etc., he refuses to accept that he has any responsiblity for his actions, in this case his irresponsible acid rhetoric.   It is very important to point out that well into the second day of this continuing saga, his condemnation of these heinous acts has been perfunctory at best.  His immediate instincts are not to bring folks together under the banner of Democracy, but to find a way to be able to blame someone else.  Not at all surprisingly, if it’s not his fault (it never is), the “media” must be to blame.

His strategy is reprehensible, but not new. History tends to repeat itself.

“Baby Boomers” like me, were fathered by American soldiers after they returned from their triumphs over Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II.  Those with first-hand memories of that war and what America and our Allies fought for, are mostly gone by now.  Those who remain are few in number, long in years, and honored, but have little voice left.

We Baby Boomers by default have become the most heavily invested keepers of the lessons taught by those who survived the effort to put down the aggression of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany and Italy. It’s up to us to remember what was learned in the single largest global event in the lives of our parents.  Their generation paid a heavy price to defeat narcissistic, autocratic bullies, drunk with power and ideas that their supposed superiority gave them a mandate, not to govern, but to rule.  (Sound familiar?) It now falls to us and our progeny to preserve American Democracy’s dedication to the ideals of truth, mutual respect, civil discourse, and to the notion that we are a nation of diverse people who share in equal rights to life, freedom and opportunities for happiness and prosperity.

Unfortunately, that is a very tall order in the context of the polarized politics in America today. The middle ground between the two major parties is now a wide no-man’s land in the middle of an intensely hateful battleground.  Personalities and personal agendas now “trump” fundamental Democratic Ideals of respect for contrary opinions, empathy, and (God forbid) compromise.

In less than two years since taking office, a blustering, malignantly egomaniacal, pathological liar of the highest order has driven a stake into nearly all that Democracy stands for, and opened a huge chasm in American politics.  He clearly incites “his base” to deeply hate Americans who oppose him.  He lies prolifically all the while charging professional journalists, who take great pains to verify all that they report, with creating fake news.  He occasionally admits his lies (Surprise, he finally fessed-up that Middle Eastern terrorists are NOT among the Hondurans’ caravan of would-be immigrants in Mexico. April fools.  Note, however, he has not yet conceded that his ridiculous claim that the caravan was funded by a wealthy Democratic fundraiser was another lie, just a part his harmless little “game.” No harm, no foul. So what.. the fundraiser was sent a pipe bomb.. big deal.

And can you believe it, two weeks before the mid-term election he announces he’s about to roll out an additional 10% tax break for middle class Americans.  Seriously now, can you believe it?   

Yeah.. yeah.. a middle class tax break.. that’s the ticket!

Evidently, no one in Congress or any other corner of the government is aware of this beneficent plan.  His own party, (having further bloated the national debt by enriching corporations and the financial elite with this year’s tax reform) is in the midst of fleecing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for the emoluments they made to their masters.  And now Trump is dangling another tax break instead.

But they’re not really worried.  We and they know the whole middle class tax cut idea will whither away after the Mid-Term elections are done.  Bring on the April fools again.

Trump figuratively slaps the nation across the face when he boldly justifies his lies by saying, “hey, they worked” (e.g., fooled you suckers again). When anything goes seriously wrong in his administration, which is most of the time, he always, without fail, finds someone else, preferably an enemy, to blame.  He calls this “counter-punching.”  I call it the automatic reaction of a bully when he’s caught out.

The “unbelievable,” has become the norm.  Even when he admits his lies to his base, they love him for it and ask for more.

The snake is selling snake oil and the swamp has fast become a cesspool.

Mockery, mimicry and parody, being the most offensive types of personal bully humor, are top among Trump’s favorite tools in the stand up comedy shows he calls “political rallies.” Trump rallies are where his base comes to re-confirm their baseness.  Members of his own party who he demeaned with derogatory nicknames and relentless ridicule have figuratively crawled on their knees to surrender all semblances of their pride, honor and patriotism before Trump’s Throne.  This is what he thrives on. He wants blind loyalty far more than real integrity from his sycophants.

Wow, what a leader: heartless, cruel, arrogant, degrading, disgraceful, lecherous, amoral and uncivilized.  Is this what defines American Democracy at its best?  Or is this what my father’s generation went to war to defeat?

This last full week of October 2018, in an ugly turn of events, America heard the news that a terrorist or terrorists sent bombs to prominent leaders of the Democratic Party. Coincidentally, all of the bombs’ targets had been specifically named by Trump as his enemies at his hate rallies.  In that event at least one sicko crossed a line that may shift our president from despicable to fatally dangerous.  The escalation of the animosity encouraged by Trump was only a matter of time.  A bunch of lies, innuendo, and grade-school comedy was bound to light a fuse like this.

The survival of our Democracy from enemies from within has been laid on the table.

A certifiably deranged egotist is in the White House.  Now that John McCain is no longer with us, who among Mitch McConnell’s merry band of spineless racists in the Banana Republican Party will step up for Democracy, real Democracy?  Don’t count on many Repugnican legislators, administrators, or judicial officials to step out of line and fight for the rights of all.

Apparently, true Democracy is just not in their DNA.

 

James C, Ash – October 26, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Need a Citizen Army

Why We Need a Citizen Army

Note:  

This is a reprint of an article written by a colleague and friend, John Delach, for his blog On the Outside Looking In.  He has graciously given me permission to reprint Why We Need a Citizen Army here.  John’s blogs reflect his no nonsense/great-common-sense nature and his unbiased wisdom.  I sincerely thank him for his strong insights, good humor, friendship and for his permission to present this piece here.  

Jim Ash

Why We Need a Citizen Army

by John Delach

Not too long ago, my grandson, Matthew asked my assistance with a report he had to submit for a high school class. The subject was should we have a military draft? “What do you think, Grandpa?”

Matt knows I’m an old Goldwater conservative, so he did not expect my response: “Absolutely! Citizen-soldiers protect the armed forces from being over used.”

Today we have professional, all-volunteer armed forces including the reserves. The patriotic men and women who choose to join the service want to be there and they bring a degree of commitment and professionalism to all the branches that would be watered down by draftees.

Draftees just want to do their time and get out. Army Reserve and National Guard units would revert to the days when individuals opted for six months of active duty and a six-year reserve commitment to fulfill their required service.

I accept that the commitment and dedication of our professional armed service would surely suffer, especially the Army, but I believe that such a downgrading is a price worth paying to offset the downside of an all-volunteer Army.

Our all-volunteer service has created a new form of separation, not by race, religion, background, education or nationality, but one that basically divides America. We have the few who serve while the rest of us go on with our lives completely removed from their sacrifices as if our endless wars don’t even exist.

Of course, there is public recognition of those who serve. Cosmetic recognition in the form of staged events such as honoring service members at sports events, football and baseball games, the Super Bowl and the World Series. We honor them during Fourth of July patriotic concerts and with pre-planned scripted TV moments showing returning troops surprising spouses and kids (usually at school.) We are conditioned to thank troops for their service and object to any behavior that could disrespect these men and women. They fight while we sprout feel good platitudes.

Meanwhile, we live our lives, attend births, holidays, graduations, marriages and funerals. Life goes on while far in the background, mostly soldiers and Marines suffer and die in lonely places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and hot spots in other Middle Eastern and African locations. We have been engaged in “War Without End” since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and nobody screams, “Isn’t enough, enough?”

We protest if someone slights the flag or football players kneel at the playing of our National Anthem, but our leaders don’t seem too give a damn that we are engaged in two wars, both longer than the sum of all the wars we fought in our nation’s history.

The clock on the Afghan War will tick over to 17 years this October. Iraq, in all its gestations, is right behind it. To date: “More than three million Americans have served in uniform in these wars. Nearly, 7,000 of them have died. Tens of thousands more have been wounded.”

Where is the outrage? Where are the protesters? I find it strangely sad that the old Viet Nam War protesters who I watched fill the green at the top of Main Street in Keene NH, to protest W’s war against Saddam don’t bother to picket any longer. They gave up during Obama’s reign or just became too old.

Instead of outrage over the death and maiming of our greatest national treasure, our young patriots, the protesters march against ICE, the World Trade Organization, Civil War Statues and other causes too stupid to mention.

Meanwhile, soldiers and Marines continue to give their lives for real estate that their bosses abandon in six months. Sadly, they are called on to do this repeatedly. Six month or one-year tours in “the sand box” until they get out, break down, or return maimed or in flag draped coffins.

How many times can the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe they can send these brave men and women into harm’s way repeatedly before they break down? Enough is enough! Stop the madness!

The draft would re-establish a basic tenet of our Republic. Historically, a citizen army fights our wars and we need a citizen army to end this abuse of power.

No president since FDR has asked Congress for a Declaration of War. Our Constitution mandates that only Congress can declare that we are at war. Congress, long ago abdicated their authority and signed off on various Executive Orders taking us to war. Korea, Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and whatever heroic name we use for that Afghan mess were all mandated using smoke and mirrors.

Presidents and the Congress realize that we, the American public, are content with our all-volunteer armed forces as we abhor the thought of little Johnny or Suzie being drafted and being killed in a war. Those we can’t trust exploit the volunteer army. So long as patriotic men and women volunteer to serve, the beat goes on

During the eight years when Dwight David Eisenhower was president, we had the draft and we didn’t lose one service man in combat. Ike detested putting his soldiers in harm’s way.

Today, we allow our leaders to thoughtlessly discard our sons and daughters, our greatest generation, because we don’t hold these leaders accountable. Shame on us! A draft would re-establish an army of citizen soldiers like our Republic meant it to be.

With a draft, if a future president attempted to dispatch Johnny or Suzie to China or Lower Nowhere without cause, we’d take to the streets for the real deal: “Hell no, we won’t go!.”

Trading the Obama Nation for an Abomination

Trading the Obama Nation for an Abomination

Never in my life did I expect to even consider thinking that I am ashamed of my country, the United States of America, but I truly am.  My father, a proud World War II veteran, must be rolling over in his grave.

My statement is not made lightly, but patriotically. My father risked his life for the American principles that he taught me.  He instilled in me that protecting those principles is a duty.  They need to be protected now.

Donald Trump, a person whose actions and objectives are diametrically opposed to what makes America great, now presides over my country.. He is seriously and purposely attacking the soul of our nation for his own selfish purposes and autocratic aspiration.  We Americans should have a zero tolerance policy for anyone governing our Democracy who blatantly manipulates the Truth with reckless abandon in order to shower himself with undeserved glory.  The man is the personification of an abomination and has not a shred of common decency.  He is dismantling the pillars of strength that have defined our country since its inception.

It is unfathomable that any true American could, for any reason, create the  cruelty of cold-heartedly separating children, including infants, from their downtrodden parents at the border.  He and his sycophantic minions literally decided that stealing babies is the American way to discourage people seeking asylum from corruption and the predators in their native lands.

Do we now really equate innocent victims fleeing from gangs of thugs with the very gangs who prey upon them?  Can we not tell one from the other?  How can we tell these people to legally cross into America at designated border crossings, when those crossings are closed?  When did America become a Catch 22 nation?

The border policy (not law) imposed solely, soullessly, and maliciously by the Trump Administration is despicable.  It is shameful.  It is morally loathsome.  Trump metaphorically pointed a gun at the helpless in an attempt to blackmail legislators into doing his bidding.  When they didn’t comply, he opened fire, disingenuously blaming Democrats for not giving in.  This is the act of a childish bully, not a leader. He has literally and cowardly taken helpless hostages under the American flag and has disgraced that flag in the process.

This is not making America great again.  Trump is trying to re-make America in his own greedy malevolent image. And he’s doing it with the silent complicity of the cowardly Republican leaders and followers who control the Legislative houses of our government. Worse yet, he’s counting on the silent complicity of American citizens as well.  Those who follow or fail to contest evil are themselves accountable for that evil.

Do you see what he is doing to us?

How has America become so fractured that any of us would tolerate, never mind advocate, stealing children to use as pawns in an effort to achieve a political agenda?  Have we become so hardened by Trump’s outrageous antics that we’ve forgotten to recognize when true outrage is needed?

Raise your hand if you are proud to see this abomination and then, if you are not an atheist, think about God’s agenda.  No matter what religion you may practice, no concept of a benevolent God could condone, let alone enact, the systematic stealing of children and fracturing of families.  Does your God’s notion of family values end at the border?

This is nothing short of extreme governmental terrorism that could well spawn equal or worse terrorism in reprisal for decades when these innocent children grow up damaged and corrupted by what we are doing to them.  We are sowing bad seeds.

These are children whose already victimized families were purposely broken under the auspices of America’s/our, name!

Is nothing sacred any more?  Can you let yourself be led by someone so self absorbed and heartless as the President of the United States of America?

Please God, help us to save America before it’s too late.

 

Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

Main St. Disney is Wall St. Disney

I have been a huge Disney World fan for several decades.  I loved going there, my kids loved going there, and even my wife loved going there (the first 6 or 7 times, but not so much the 13 times after that).  Now my kids have babies and I‘ve been looking forward to going to Disney World with them when they’re old enough to appreciate it so I can see the park through their new eyes on their first trip there.

Despite it’s being my best childhood dream, I never got to Disney Land as a kid (there was no Disney World at the time), but I made up for it as an adult. I realized shortly after my first trip to Orlando that Disney World was a place where I could escape Rest of the World both mentally and physically.  Stress disappeared and the only objective for each day was to have more fun.  I never counted, but I’d estimate that over a span of 30 years I’ve been to Disney World at least 20 times. (Extending a business trip for a day, I finally fulfilled the childhood dream by spending a full day in Disney Land in 1995.)

There are lots of folks who have been there many times more often.  It was my treasured escape, until today.

Today Bernie Sanders sent me and scads of his other admirers an e-mail asking us to sign a petition in support of the many Disney employees who have been shamefully treated by the Company.  My first whiff of the tarnish on Mickey’s statue came when a neighbor/friend told me that his son had just been fired without warning or cause from his job as a singer in Epcot.  That couldn’t be right. That wasn’t Disney, it was Rest of World.  I filed that a away in my “there has to be more to it” file, but today Bernie’s light shining on the corporate side of Disney moved that file into the “could well be” drawer.

I can’t tell the story better than Bernie Sanders did, so I pasted an abbreviated version of his call for help here:

The Walt Disney Company is an enormously profitable corporation worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 billion. Last year, it made $9 billion in profits and rewarded its CEO, Bob Iger, with a compensation package worth up to $423 million over a four year period. And as a result of the Trump tax cuts, they were given an additional $1.6 billion.

At the same time — and this is a national disgrace — employees at the company’s theme park in Anaheim, California are paid so poorly that many of them are literally living in a tent city not far from the park.

According to one recent study, nearly 1 in 10 workers employed at the park reported being homeless in the past two years, more than 2 in 3 say they are food insecure, and 3 out of 4 employees say they do not make enough money for their basic needs.

This is not what Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are supposed to be about. This does not sound like the “happiest place on Earth” to me.

Now, I could be wrong, but I don’t expect you will see the plight of these low-wage workers at Disney discussed tonight on ABC, which is owned by Disney. Nor do I think you will be hearing too much about income and wealth inequality in the mainstream media….

It is long past time that we, as a nation, stop worshipping the corporate greed of Disney and businessmen like Bob Iger, their CEO.

While he may be regarded as a brilliant and successful businessman among his peers in the financial, media, and political elite, the truth is that the way Bob Iger and Disney treat their workers represents much of what is wrong with contemporary capitalism.

This is a company, and a CEO, that accepted an obscene tax cut gifted to them by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress, publicly promised to anyone who would listen a $1,000 bonus for all of their employees, and then withheld that bonus from some union employees unless they agreed to a contract that gave them a tiny raise to a wage that is still a starvation wage.

This is a company, and a CEO, that in addition to paying their workers here at home extremely low wages, employs many thousands of people in China to manufacture their products sold at Disney stores and online.

This type of greed and ruthless capitalism is not an economic model that we should be embracing. It is not to be celebrated. We can do better, and we must do better…

 

It’s me again. Speaking only for myself, it pains me deeply to realize and say that Disney must do better to earn the respect and interest I once had in this once great Company.  I happen to be a Disney Shareholder, but not one with the wherewithal that the company would take seriously.  I can only hope that others, shareholders and/or Disney enthusiasts, who find this uncharacteristic greed disconcerting will sign Bernie’s petition.  I did.  Maybe the petition will get their attention.

It feels to me as though Mickey has lost his soul.

https://go.berniesanders.com/page/s/disney-greed?source=em180531-t1-full

 

Student Loans: The Gift that Keeps on Taking

Student Loans:                                                 The Gift that Keeps on Taking

I am increasingly concerned about what appears to be strategic planning on the part of some of the 1%.  Of course the plans don’t bode well for the rest of us.  Their objective involves the systematic killing of the American Dream of home ownership to create a new, steady and significant cash flow into their already overflowing coffers for decades ahead.

Here’s how I see it:

America will always need highly educated workers and tradespeople, but the cost of a college education or a technical school is very high and spiraling out of reach for middle class families, and even more so for those close to either side of the poverty line. Many institutes, colleges and universities are well endowed and offer scholarships that defray some of the tuition and cost of living burden on students, but the portion of these costs that are not covered by scholarships and grants are still substantial.

In order to make ends meet, more and more students have no choice but to take a out student loan – the gift that keeps on taking.

When many students graduate, the value of the degrees they earned is likely more than offset by the student loans they owe. They begin their careers saddled with five or six figures of debt that is often comparable to the cost of a nice home.  In essence, they have a mortgage without a dwelling and there’s no way out of that pile of debt in less than a decade unless one wins a lottery. Unlike many other loans and obligations, college loans are not forgiven (erased) when one declares bankruptcy.  In other words, someone took great care to keep these people bottled up for several years.

I have noticed over the years that many real estate developers, especially in big cities and suburbia, are building far more apartments and other rental units than they are condominiums or “starter homes.”  I wondered why, and then considered what they might be up to.

The student-loan-laden graduates have begun to earn good money in the marketplace.  But with the equivalent of a monthly mortgage to pay off student loans before paying other bills, including rent, these folks have little if any funds to save for a down payment on a home.  The rents they pay are like a second mortgage, only they are building no equity when they pay it.  Who is the beneficiary of the equity in this transaction?  The landlords (who are often the developers and/or financiers of the projects).

This generation of young professionals and skilled tradespeople are in a tough spot if they want to eventually own a home.  Rents look more and more like mortgage payments without the benefits.  What incentive is there for these people that could make a mortgage payment more attractive than a rent payment?

Until this year, there was such an incentive. Interest payments on mortgages used to be tax deductible, but they aren’t under the golden haired wonder’s “tax reform.”  Not only did the Republicans (many of whom are basically owned by the 1% profiteers) hand over more than 80% of the benefits built in their tax reform to the 1%,  at the same time they drove another nail in the coffin of the American Dream to own a home. No 20% down payment plus no tax deduction of mortgage interest equals no compelling reason to try to own a home.  They have few viable alternatives but to be renters.

This, and the last minute packet of special incentives for Real Estate Developers that was packed into the tax legislation in the 11th hour as a reward to the golden haired boy and his ilk, is too coincidental not to stink of collusion.

Within the next 20 – 30 years in America, landlords will have enjoyed an enormous captive marketplace and a great deal of influence in the quality of life for Americans.  Their strategy is largely already in place, and until and unless the tax codes in America are repaired, they will no longer be one of the only means by which the insane distribution of wealth in America can be changed.  The “let them eat cake” attitude of turning a blind eye to financial oppression is a time tested recipe for ugly, catastrophic revolution.