Friday, August 21, 2009

College Daze

I just returned from dropping one of our daughters at the university where she begins her second year. The school she attends (at least I hope she does, attend that is) is nestled amid the gentle hills and cornfields in the middle of America. Some intrepid soul decided in the mid-1800's to begin teaching those seeking higher truths and plopped it right down in a spot quite lovely, almost pastoral. Regrettably--or not--when President Eisenhower inaugurated the Interstate Highway System, no one thought about this school. As a result of that bit of missed opprtunity, all that sprouted from the fertile ground around the school defines this bucolic little place as a quintessential 'college town'. Like so many other towns, this is a place somewhat insular if that concept is possible in the world of 24-hour news.

I don't write of all cities and towns that are home to institutions of higher learning, but of those burgs that grew up around what were mostly called 'colleges' . Of course, this was before the cognoscenti changed all the names to 'university' in what I submit was a vain attempt to appear larger, more important. Mercifully, the term 'college towns' has never been updated, never followed conventional wisdom to become 'university cities' or worse.

I had the good fortune to spend ten years in college towns early in life, delaying the inevitable slide into the 'real world' as long as possible. If I'd been any good at science, I might have tried med school. In any event, I love college towns, every one I've visited. Despite the general liberal bent of the professors, these are enclaves of literacy, art and science surrounded by entrepreneurial businesses--coffee shops, diners, music stores and the like that have quietly emerged around the borders of campus to address the whims and fancies of the students fortunate enough to matriculate. These towns seem lost in the '50's to a degree, many being quaint, but which inflate to bursting like festive balloons in school colors for home football games and Family Weekends and graduations. Despite the antics of kids who mostly have been cut loose from home for the first time, there is a wholesomeness about these places. Yes, yes, I know many kids take part of the tuition money and spend it on beer and worse. I guess the good news is that they spend the rest on riotous living. Kidding. We as parents tell them that the years in college will be "the best years of your life". I've parroted that bromide to our kids as I took a trip down Nostalgia Lane recalling those 'coming of age' days. Notice I didn't say 'growing up days'. I'm not sure I believe those were the absolute best years as I've been blessed with so many, but my years on campus were pretty damn good--all ten of them.

And our daughter couldn't wait to return to campus. After a half-day's drive, we arrived in her college town. It's one of those places that "you can't get there from here." We negotiated all of the twice-a-year, move in move out traffic, played 'chicken' with another family for a parking space (not a hint of guilt when I won) and joined this most American of migrations. I was going to hold onto to that space as long as possible before the annual trek to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy even more 'essentials'.

My vessel called 'heart' overflowed with joy for our daughter as we hauled all of her stuff' up the stairs to her room. She loves this place. Packing the car for the trip was one thing, but finding nooks and crannies for the bits and pieces of a young girl's (woman's?) life presents other challenges and this is before the annual trek to the nearest Wal-Mart for more 'essentials'. And her roommate had yet to arrive. The two spoke by phone no fewer than six times to determine the ETA. Our daughter has learned easily how to share limited space and enjoy this secret life, known only to those who sit cross-legged on their beds far into the night sharing pizza, but more importantly secrets and laughter.

Coeds are different when it comes to the reunion following the first summer back at home. I've born witness to it more than once. For the unitiated, the ritual involves plentiful squealing, jumping and hugging, but most of all there is smiling and laughing. And then the chatter. Like keys on a keyboard. Nonstop. In a patois all their own. Books and classes are but distant clouds on the horizon, a necessary adjunct to the socialization.

With modern technology, it's not as if the girls didn't communicate every day while separated--talking, texting, emailing, Facebooking and iChatting. Those disembodied discussions, however, pale in in front of the brilliant fireworks that explodes when, like salmon to the origin of their friendships, kids who have eased past the nascent stage rejoin as if never apart. They are bright young people who come from near and far to this town where each Fall life begins anew. It has a special smell, a taste to it. Like our skin, college towns are places of constant renewal, cells falling away only to be replaced by new ones. In college, seniors are gone, but uncertain freshmen take their places on the lower rungs of the undergraduate ladder while the others move up in the inexorable process of life. College towns are places set apart from the rest of us, and not just by the vagaries of highway engineers. For the most part, they are havens, safe from much of the ugliness in the world. They are not quite Utopian, that has been lost to us, but they are the next best thing. Students do dumb things in college towns and in all but a few instances they enter the pantheon of 'no harm, no foul'. The hilarious part when questioned about the rationale of such hijinks is the answer, as if it were self-evident: "I'm in college." Duh. Like, what did we expect? It's college for goodness sake. It is an excuse for knucklehead behavior in their evolving minds. I well know as I was once one of the knuckleheadiest. Perhaps still am.

As many schools now begin the Fall term in August, the nip of Autumn is not yet in the air. It soon will be. The campuses in college towns will be aswarm with kids running to and from all sorts of things, learning, growing and edging up that ladder until the day the cap and gown go on. Only then is it time to leave the security of the college town, to venture forth into the wider world. Or not.

Tomorrow morning another daughter and I embark on a ten hour marathon drive to college. I get to do it again. Ain't life grand?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Acting Healthy, Wishfully Wealthy and None Too Wise

I don't know about you, but I'm about worn out. This barrage of information, disinformation, inference, dissembling, nuanced quotes, spin, circumlocution and outright lies that pass for a national 'debate' about the health care in this country are national alright. A national disgrace. We've no one else to blame as we've bought into the 24-hour bombardment of all news, all the time. It comes at us in a cataract, so fast and furious that no time is left to separate the wheat from the chaff--if there is any wheat. We have lost the ability to have a reasoned conversation or disquisition about health care. Or about any controversial subject for that matter. If it's not citizens exercising the right to scream, excoriating the 'other side', then it is politicians continuing the incessant percussion of one side or the other. We're disputacious simply for the sake of it. From either pole we're told what's best for us, didacts all around. Liberal v. Conservative--both can't be right, but is one totally wrong? Where is Rodney King when we really need him: "Can't we all just get along?"

Here's what I know and it isn't much. I know that our health care system could use some tweaking, just a little at a time. Kind of like making lemonade and tasting it a few times so you don't put too much sugar in it. Want it to be just right or you have to throw the batch out and start over. We can't afford to start over. Just cannot. Lemons cost too much and in the meantime we'd be really thirsty.

Speaking of sugar, we eat too much of it. I'm very guilty. We eat too much of a lot of things in this country. We are the fattest in the world. The scales reveal that some 60% of Americans are 'overweight', whoever decides that sort of thing. It doesn't surprise me. Just look around. I realize that, at least on the 'weight front', I won the genetic lottery, but even still I work at it. Moreover, estimates are that 25% of our fellow citizens are morbidly obese. Is it any wonder then that our life spans are shorter than those in other countries, that we have more heart disease, more cancer, more everything. I suppose it's because we have more money. Aha. That's why I'm not overweight. Tuition poor.

Because I've been told over and over and over again, I've assumed the truth of the argument that we spend more of our hard-earned cash for health care (as a percentage of GDP, of course) than we did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. A lot more. But didn't we get something for that? Don't we have the best system on the planet? If not, why do all the heads of state and other big shots come here when they are really sick? We bagged a lot for our bucks. I can testify. But for the invention of MRI as a diagnostic tool in the past 15 years or so, one of my daughters would not have been diagnosed with a rare brain condition and it's likely she would be paralyzed by now, requiring full time care instead of being on the cusp of joyfully entering her sophomore year in college in fine fettle. I also know that the continuing advances in treatment for various forms of cancer bought my kids 33 months with their mom--and she with them--time that would have been lost to all ten, even five years ago. Am I willing to pay more for the kind of incremental improvement in care that can do that? Are you? The answer is a simple one for me.

It may not be so simple though for someone who's never faced such questions of life. It's easy to bellow back and forth in a vacuum. It's more problematic when one is parachuted into a war zone, fighting for health or life and being reduced to begging beseeching medical science for something, anything that will heal. I hope it never comes your way.

So, here are a couple of things, simple ones I think, that we can do to make our system work a little better. Only one involves the government.

1. Do something to fix Medicare before even looking at anything else. It's a mess because the government runs it. A pediatrician friend of mind loses money every single time he innoculates a medicare patient--every time. It's not just the value of his time. He loses money on the reimbursement for the actual drugs. He continues to treat these patients because of his adherence to the Hippocratic Oath and because he is a good guy. Is it any wonder though, that doctors run like wild mustangs from taking any more Medicare patients? Whatever your business, would you elect to lose money on many of your customers? One 'fix' for this bureaucratic nightmare would involve legislation, though I shiver at the idea. I am a big believer in the freedom of choice in this country. For example, I wear a seatbelt always, but don't think it should be a law (except in the case of kids). It should be up to me. However, should I be in an accident without one and require medical care, guess what. No help from the government. My problem. I elected to take the risk, so I take the penalty. Same with refusing to wear a motorcycle helmet or smoking cigarettes. Okay, I have the right to choose, but I don't get to have your tax dollars pay for my reckless behavior.

2. Stop eating Big Macs, Whoppers, fries, two-pound burritos and drinking Big Gulp sodas all the time. Push away from the table occasionslly. 'Abstemious' is an adjective that would fit us all well without having to go on the 'Cardiologist Diet: If it tastes good, spit it out.' None of us has to give up everything. We need food for the body as well as food for the soul. Without the latter, life would be grey indeed. However, anyone who continues the porcine habits and develops diabetes or heart disease, don't expect me, i.e. my tax dollars to pay your medical bills. Take some stinking responsibility. It's genetic you say? Even more reason to drastically change your behavior.

3. Every insured family would be required to have a Health Savings Account--including members of trade unions and Members of Congress. We're told we seek and/or our doctors recommend too many tests because for us, it's only a co-pay--little fiscal pain. Why worry about it? Here's why. Some of it isn't necessary, overkill. There's plenty of blame to go around for the 'why'. Look in a mirror for some of it. I went 'cold turkey' starting two years ago when I first tried an HSA. The first $5,000 of cost were on me--doctor appointments, prescriptions, tests and everything else for my family. Believe me that I started giving some more thought to where exactly that money went. I selected that amount because I felt I could swallow an average of $400 a month, though I had no clue how it would evolve over a years. The kicker was that my monthy family insurance premium decreased to the point that the total was about what I'd paid for coverage in the prior year. The bonus is that if I didn't spend $5,000, my annual total was less. In the first year, we had a couple of significant costs and blew through the $5K. After that, every dollar was paid by the insurer. This year, so far so good and no major issues have arisen. The HSA amount each family can afford is different, of course, but I guaranty the structure will cause people to alter behavior. That will translate to lower relative costs for all.

4. One of the provisions of the myriad Congressional proposals floating around is that insurance policies should be portable, i.e. an insured can take it from job to job. That makes sense to me, but perhaps I'm uninformed. Enlighten me.

5. Lifetime caps on an the amount of coverage for any one insured under a policy is a complex issue. Many if not most policies establish a $1 million cap per insured. Sounds like a lot doesn't it? It's not. Judging from my own experience, when dealing with a serious illness, that amount can race over the horizon without warning and I can testify that I had no idea until the end. Maybe there is a larger number that makes sense or maybe there should be no cap. That's fine, but it will be reflected in the premiums we pay. I'd rather pay.

6. Pre-existing conditions - That's a tough one as well. I tend to think that as the mindset of our population changes, that has to change as well. I read somewhere that my generation has or will change jobs an average of 3 or 4 times in a lifetime. The next generation are likely to change careers more than that. Translation: More movement and under the current system, many would be excluded from coverage at a new employer. I don't think any of us believe in a slavish existence, tied to a job we don't want simply because of the need for insurance. It's not good for either employer or employee. I'm not sure how many people are cut out by insurers today other than the ones trotted out for media coverage, but it seems they could be absorbed in some manner. I don't know the monetary effect, but emotion rules on this one.

7. Give hospitals statutory liens on the property--including government assistance--of any patient who comes into an emergency room for treatment and refuses to pay.

8. Ask our doctors to come down from the pedestals upon which we placed them. I have many friends, many, each of whom is dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering. They are good decent people, but they are not gods. They are humans. They deal mostly from symptoms. They are not infallible. They make mistakes. They should be held to a standard that befits their education, experience and gut instinct. Conversely, we should be forbidden from suing a doctor simply because we didn't care for an outcome. We shouldn't sit on a jury and give fellow citizens money from doctors and their insurers simply because it's there for the taking. Yes, in egregious instances where a doctor ignores the evidence, doesn't exercise the care which is common to his specialty or worse, consequences should follow. Sometimes though, money is no compensation, but mere a windfall. I well know. No amount of money, not Bill Gates' money, can buy us what we really want when a loved one is sick. Or worse. We should stop looking around when something bad happens and assuming that someone must pay for our pain. Sometimes, it's nobody's fault.

So, a couple of suggestions that would modify our current system, but not subject us to an unknown that may not be workable, not because it doesn't have merit in theory, but because the government has shown it can't run anything efficiently. Though some would argue otherwise, the bellwether that are the systems in Western Europe are not ones to emulate.

What about the '46 million uninsured'? First, subtract the illegal aliens. Then require those that can afford coverage to actually buy it. Those two groups removed from the total will reduce the number substantially. There are other sub-groups that can be deleted as well. The gross number has become 'conventional wisdom' simply because the media have repeated it so often. After stripping out those that can be accommodated, the remainder can come under the aegis of Medicare even as it is being overhauled.

I admit to the simplistic approach outline herein and that it has not been researched to the nth degree, though I have read about the matter ad nauseum. But then is this all as complicated as we've been led to believe by those on both sides of this uncivil war? I think not. Perhaps we should add just a little sugar to the lemonade and see how it tastes.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I'm no dog lover. Nor am I a hater. I grew up in a family, each member of which engages in canine cavorting on the floor, in the yard and elsewhere. They talk baby-talk to 'man's best friend' as if the dogs can understand. Anyone ever hear of Pavlov? They allow them in bed and swear the dogs' mouths are cleaner than mine. I brush twice a day. And floss. Now, I'm the only person in four generations who elects to not have a dog. We do have a dog at home and until a few weeks ago we had two. It was not my idea to get them. I don't like dog hair on my furniture or my clothes. I don't care to vacuum hairballs. I don't choose to have wet, nuzzling noses or licking tongues, especially after walking a dog and seeing where it puts its nose. Frankly, if God had meant dogs (or cats for that matter) to be indoors, my guess is He would have taught them how to build a house. All of that is context, full disclosure, a run-up to the point of this diatribe.

The Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League signed Michael Vick to a contract yesterday. You might recall that this is the same Michael Vick who was once the highest paid player in the game, brought low by allegations of and subsequent admission to engaging in some sort of sordid enterprise involving dog-fighting. I don't defend what he did. It was illegal. At best it was repugnant and engendered widespread antipathy. Michael Vick payed dearly for engaging in this miscreant behavior. He lost his job (suspended from the NFL), his money (declared bankruptcy), his fame and most imporantly, for 21 months he lost his freedom. He was released from his prison sentence a short while back and he is now re-employed.

Commentators have engaged in self-indulgent analysis of the entire matter, pre- and post-hiring by the Eagles. One common theme is that Vick has paid his debt to society and now has a right to rejoin our ranks and make a living. Now, however, the lynch mob questions whether he has paid his 'moral' debt, whether he has 'learned his lesson', whether he is unsuitable to walk among us. What is that? The First Amendment guaranties each of us the right to freedom of expression, so the PETA fanatics and other animal lovers can continue to vilify Michael Vick until he retires and thereafter. What I don't understand is the 'why'. He did what he did. He was punished. He apologized and has expressed remorse. Does he now have to tithe to the ASPCA?

I abhor the killing of innocent animals as much as the next 'rational' person, though I admit to wearing leather shoes and support using lab rats in medical research. I do eat meat from time to time. I've even purposely stepped on ants. Does that make me morally reprehensible?

Is what Michael Vick and his cohorts did more egregious than the conduct of the thugs in the NFL who beat their female companions or otherwise engage in illegal and immoral conduct? Yes, we read the news reports and a few editorials which fade quickly to yellow. To my recollection, the majority of the outrage when at least one NFL player killed a woman while driving drunk lasted a month. Maximum. Sure, we see mentions of it occasionally as the player continues to ply his trade a decade or so later. And now another player has been charged with a similar crime. A current star in the NFL was suspected of murder after the Super Bowl a few years ago. Of a human being. No conviction, but he is celebrated each year he adds to his football legacy on the field. The judicial system was unable to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I'm okay with that as that's how the system works. But what am I missing here? I hold sacred human life more than many as one doesn't really appreciate its value until it's no more. There is a quantum leap, however, from there to our canine friends. We had to euthanize one of our family dogs about a month ago. I didn't think it would bother me. I was mistaken. But I'd be a liar if I said that I held the life of our dog on the same level as that of a family member, or any human for that matter. Castigate me if you choose, show up at my house with placards and chants. I just don't see it. Perhaps my view is way beside the point anyway.

What is Michael Vick supposed to do? How is it that he can ever satisfy the rabid lynch mob that surrounds him? Perhaps he cannot. Maybe they've been awaiting the blessed 'poster child' for too long and now that they have one, they aren't about to let go--like a dog with a bone (pun intended). Or maybe the cacophony will die down in a month. If it doesn't, then how do we judge those that protest Michael Vick's legal right to earn a wage while staying silent about those like Leonard Little who took human lives? In decades past, why weren't the rabble rousers marching in front of Ted Kennedy's house after Mary Jo Kopechne drowned at Chappaquiddick?

I'm mystified as to the origin of the moral authority assumed by this tribe of bloviators who chasten Michael Vick. Do they define 'redemption'? I think not. George Carlin opined about us when he said, "Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that half of them or stupider than that." It is I or them in the bottom half.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mother's Day

My mom is very ill with emphysema. She is slowly suffocating, has been for years. The pace though is quickening. Emphysema is an iniquitous, pernicious disease of the lungs and in Mom's case, the natural outgrowth of a lifetime of smoking. Even after she was tethered by tube to the oxygen concentrator with the thrum of its sibilance, she continued to smoke until we convinced her she might blow us all to kingdom come.

At least in my presence, she has neither bemoaned her fate nor laid blame at the feet of Big Tobacco. She has taken responsibility for her own actions, her free choice. That is an American ideal, assuming responsibility for what we seek and paths we take. Mom is in the hospital and may not leave. She is receiving any and all care she requires despite her advanced age and critical condition. Her mind is lucid mostly, but her body is frail and withered like old fruit. Her eyes have slowly gone dark and she only sees outlines and shades now. She is like a doppelganger of herself. She needs full-time care for the simplest things in life, things we take for granted each day. Mom has arrived at her personal gethsemane. Being with her is to be enveloped by memento mori. Dad is gentle, vigilant and constant in his efforts, but it has gone beyond his ability to go it alone.

As one of Mom's six kids, I can only try to find a way to negotiate this path for myself. Sadly, I already know well the tale of watching a loved one waste away. To call it 'painful' is giving it short shrift indeed. For everyone. This is of a different kind though, watching my mom. For the entirety of my life, in the labyrinth of the subconscious dwelled the notion that no matter how difficult the times, how far I might have fallen, Mom would always take me back. Always. I came from the mystery of her womb as she did from her mother's. Mothers are supposed to take us back. Despite Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again.

Mom regularly caps her praise of any of us with the deadpanned tagline, "But remember, even a baby skunk smells good to its mother." I know it's not personal, though many times in my life I have played the polecat and far worse. Even though grown and on fairly solid footing, I can't yet imagine what it might be like when that comforting subconscious thought is no more, that she won't be here to take me back. A feeling of emptiness I suppose, a soft cushion on which to land snatched away.

Mom is stubborn and more than once the studied members of the medical community have passed judgment and given her up. Each time she rallied, so as to spend more time with her kids and the two following generations. Health care debate? It won't play a role in my Mom's final journey. Will it for me? Time, as always, will tell.

Mom and Dad celebrated their 60th anniversary last November with a weekend celebration befitting a coronation. Here's to hopes of 61. Mawkish? Perhaps. But read the title of the blog--No Apolgia.

People who change the World

Because we had similar class schedules one term, my late friend Charlie Allinson and I frequently walked back to the fraternity house for lunch at Colorado State University (known far and wide as The Harvard of the Rockies) lo those many years ago. Along the route we traveled was a day school for differently-abled kids, most of whom had Down Syndrome. One day on a whim (prompted by Charlie I suspect) we stopped and found that a sole teacher was present. So, we asked if she'd like a break to eat her brown-bag lunch. She was most grateful and we joined the kids on the playground for some swinging and the like. Though we were a bit hesitant at first, not knowing what to expect, the kids appeared delighted with our company and soon we were all laughing. I was struck by their innocence. We began visiting on a semi-regular basis, though I suspect that Charlie made it a regular stop each day.

While I was too self-absorbed at the time to realize the later impact these visits would have on me, they were epiphanic for Charlie. He veered suddenly from his career path of joining the family business. Instead, he continued his education until receiving a Master's degree in special education. He then devoted his life to enhancing the lives of all differently-abled people in Colorado. My friend Charlie made a difference, changed the world for the better and did so until the day we lost him.

At the same time we were enjoying our lunchtimes with the kids, half a continent away Eunice Kennedy Shriver rolled up her sleeves and boldly went public with the trials of growing up in a large family with Rose Mary, her sister. Rose Mary was 'mentally incapacitated' and institutionalized for much of her life. This was not an unusal occurrence in that generation nor in our own, but Eunice Kennedy Shriver set out to change not only the perceptions held by 'normal' people, but to enrich the lives of all who to some degree shared Rose Mary's differences. That she did.

The Special Olympics were born of her Herculean efforts and from around the world, people young and old now participate in these unique competitions between athletes who had previously stood outside the fence, invited only to spectate. I've seen this, had the privilege of a reserved, up close and personal seat in the grandstand to see the evolution, the revolution. I have watched the daughter of dear friends grow from childhood, participating, growing, learning. I have done so through the film of tears more than once.

A decade ago I was coaching a softball team made up of ten-year-old girls including our youngest daughter when Isabel's dad called and asked if she might be a bat-girl for the team. My response of "No", but followed with the thought that, while the team didn't need a bat-girl, Isabel could be on the team if she wanted. She wanted. Her dad was overjoyed and I'd like to say my gesture was heroic. Frankly, it never occurred to me that mine was an unusual decision. It came on the spur of a moment.

The result was beyond conception, well past any expectation. Parents watched humbly as pitchers from our foes moved up a step or two and softly lobbed pitches for Isabel. No adult gave instructions to do so. Kids made the decisions. When Isabel hit the ball, opposing players had no thought to throw her out. It was sportsmanship in the purest form. Isabel was joyful each time she pranced to first base, waving all the while. This experience jump-started an athletic career which has included playing field hockey for her high school team, a 'normal' team, as well as performing with her partner as guests at the National Figure Skating Championships. All she ever wanted was to be like her brother and sister, competing on the field, court or ice. And she is. Talk about self-esteem. Her high school classmates voted her Homecoming Queen her senior year. How about that. Isabel embodies all the good things that Eunice Kennedy Shriver must have envisioned for the future.

For all of the faults, warts and pimples attributed to members of the Kennedy clan, and there are many, Eunice Kennedy Shriver stood apart. She understood the concept of the 'Bully Pulpit', the power of the media and grasped them by the throat. She set sail on a journey to a land even she could not have imagined. She changed the world, though. She changed us all. Now that is change we can believe in.

In the words of the late, great St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck, "Pardon me while I stand and applaud."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Self Esteem

I have watched over the past 23 years as our generation has done its best to rear children with the best of intentions. It turns out to be a validation of the bromide, "Be careful what you wish for, it might come true." We were overjoyed at our children participating in organized sports beginning at age 6. We watched other parents (and sometimes ourselves) take it all too seriously. We applauded with glee as each team member received a ribbon, medal or a trophy--just for showing up. "What was the score?" we were often asked and the answer was a variable of "it was a tie". Why have we done this? Because somehow we all drank the Kool Aid and bought into the theory that this built self-esteem in kids. It doesn't. A majority of kids who particpated in youth sports are finished by age 13, either because they were never interested in the first place or grew weary of being pushed and prodded by over-eager parents. Look it up.

With four kids of my own, the youngest of whom is now finishing high school, I have been left with many cartons full of the detritus from youth sports. Because I miraculously figured it out early on, the kids also concluded that the tangible rewards they received had no meaning. What did have meaning were the times a teammate said, "Nice job." We're reaping what we sowed, however, and now we are seeing the manifestation in what I refer to as 'The Trophy Generation'. The train didn't stop as the kids moved on to middle and high school. With a few exceptions, everyone gets to be on a team, no cuts. I've seen many instances of college-coddling akin to this, but outside of the athletic arena. Often young people expect a reward just for showing up. Who could blame them? It's always been that way. Guess what? That's not exactly how the 'real world' operates.

I know, I know, our parents said we were softer than they were and nothing could be more true. They wanted us to have what they didn't, but our kids have come of age in a time of plenty, not knowing a world without iPods, plasma televisions and the ubiquitous cell phone. These 'things' are simply an integral part of their life's template. These 'things' aren't considered luxuries, but necessities. Some reach driving age believing a car is some kind of birthright. We've done this and now kids are coming back home because they can't afford the TV, the Beemer payment and rent as well. So what goes away? The rent.

Finally, there is the school in Florida that has banned the cheers "air ball" and "overrated" at basketball games and other athletic contests as they hurt the self-esteem of the visiting players. Sow. Reap. The harvest is in full motion. Kids these days. Do I sound like my parents?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Student Council in Washington

With the rules currently being promulgated by the U.S. Census Bureau for the 2010 herding, I feel more and more like Alice after she slid down the hole into Wonderland. The country is being run by a band of 'Mad Hatters' in Washington who talk gibberish. All of them. All of the time.

As an example of this insanity, the information form to be used in the upcoming census will not include any question regarding citizenship. The latest American Commuity Survey concludes that California alone has 5.6 million plus illegal immigrants that will be counted as residents in the census. So what, you might say. California has run itself onto the shoals of economic ruin, so why worry about its problems. The answer is that California stands to gain as many as 9 additional congressional seats under the new rules. Doesn't sound like much until one considers that California will then have 57 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives (and I use the word 'representatives' loosely). Do the math. That's about 13% of the total in the House. From one state. Texas and other states stand to benefit as well. But there is no 'free lunch'. Other states, perhaps yours, will lose seats. Even if a huge majority of the populace of a 'losing state' are U.S. citizens. Apples to oranges it appears to me.

The entire mess makes President Obama's comments yesterday about pushing immigration reform into 2010 a bit problematic. California's economy is the eighth largest in the world. The world. It will become an entity unto itself if it hasn't already. Perhaps secession wouldn't be a bad idea--even if involuntary. This could be the harbinger of the Balkanization of America.

None of this should be surprising when one considers that, should the aforementioned scenario materialize, in today's climate it is likely that those new representatives would add to the Democratic majority. If that's the will of the people, so be it, but it should be the will of American people, legal residents of America, people who want to be Americans, not just avail themselves of the benefits of this country. Being a citizen of America is a two-way street. Politicians don't want to offend the sensibilities of any voting bloc that might be tied to the illegals so, like an ostrich, they bury their collective head in the sandbox. Immigration reform aside, the census for 2010 needs to count citizens of the United States and only them. Can anyone provide a rejoinder to that position? I'd welcome the points of argument.

For too long in this country, we have railed about Congress, threatened to throw them all out. We didn't. Re-election is nearly guaranteed barring hypocritical sexual escapades or outright selling of influence. We wanted everyone else to do it, but we wanted to keep our own because he/she 'brought home the pork'. It didn't matter if the 'pork' wasn't beneficial to the country at large. It was good for us. Look at the mess we've made. We've reached a stygian place in our history. We blame it on greedy Wall Streeters, unscrupulous mortgage brokers and Big Banks, even on the government itself. Take a look in the mirror folks. That's where the ultimate blame belongs. We are the government. It's our money they take and then waste on nonsensical things. The federal government is not some disembodied corporation. It's our money. We let them do this.

The new mantra for all Americans at election time, irrespective of political bent, should be 'Throw all of the bastards out, including my bastard'. Every two years. No matter who it is. No matter what. Until candidates get the message and go to Washington to 'do the People's business' and come home, what use do they have? After all, most are just people who didn't get on Student Council, belatedly taking their revenge.