Saturday, August 29, 2015

Drug Testing Controversy - We Need a Closer Look

I've been watching this debacle closely for some time. I think it is a mistake, because not only does it seem that the premise flawed, but the numbers don't prove out the theory.

1) There are people complaining that it is OK to drug test people who work for their money but not those who don't? 

First, our tax money is not paying for the drug testing of those who are applying for or working at jobs where the EMPLOYER has mandated testing. This is not the government wanting applicants tested.  It is the EMPLOYER and accordingly, the EMPLOYER pays for it. 

When the state drug tests welfare recipients or applicants, WE pay for it.

Second, this comparison is similar to, for example, all attorneys have to take the bar exam to practice law, but those who had to take that exam feel it's unfair that everyone doesn't have to take that same bar exam, even when they have no desire to practice law. 

Or, I have to endure the pain and humiliation of taking a drug test because my employer demands it, so even people who are not qualified to hold my job, and are not trying to take my job from me in some sort of revolt, should be made to suffer the same humiliation that I agreed to endure as a condition of my employment. For those who have never had to rely on public assistance, even for a short time, I can tell you it is an incredibly humbling experience in itself. Adding forced drug testing makes having to ask for help even more painful.

2) If we can believe the numbers being reported by independent bean counters, the national drug use rate is approximately 9.5 percent of ALL people working and not working. But testing of welfare recipients / applicants in states that mandate testing shows that, while the rate of positive drug tests in welfare applicants ranged from 0.002% to 8.3%, in all states but one, the rate of positive drug tests was less than 1%. That's 8.5% LOWER than the national average. 

As in most cases where the government overspends our tax dollars on the ridiculous, these states have collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and will spend many millions more in coming years. So where exactly does the "massive abuse" of our system end up?  With the state, of course. They will raise our taxes to perform unnecessary testing on people who have a rate of drug abuse significantly lower than the general population.  It's like the proverbial beating of the dead horse.

Yes, there will always be those unethical types that try to game the system, no matter what the system is. A determined enough criminal will find a way to cheat or steal, but that does not justify punishing the other 99% who are not.

Personally, I'd rather see our tax money spent in our schools and on our deteriorating infrastructure. At least we would see something that actually benefits the people, creating decent paying jobs and fixing what needs to be fixed. Perhaps we should stop taking out our frustrations on the poor and powerless and create jobs that pay enough to help them move back into productive society.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Second Annual Writing Weekend

After having such a wonderful time last year, my friend, Liz Petry, and I each packed our cars and headed across the country to meet in the middle.  That midpoint, via the Southern Tier (I-80), is Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  We each had traffic difficulties with construction zones.  I hit the road at 10:30 a.m. and had passed only two exits on I-90 before I ended up in a nasty, full-stop traffic jam.  I lost at least half an hour before I hit Route 11.  Once I turned East on I-80 it was one construction zone after another.  I finally arrived at the hotel around 5 p.m., which means my 4.5 hour trip took 6.5 hours.

After I got settled in, Liz and I went to Peter Herdic House for dinner.  The parmesan crusted shrimp was quite tasty, but I had to settle for spinach salad as they were out of fresh local cherries for the salad listed on the website menu.  One of these days, I’ll get there while the cherries are still in season.

It was bloody hot all weekend, and frankly, I’m not quite sure how Liz went running without dropping like a rock on the hot pavement, even early in the morning.  Just walking the 4 or 5 blocks to Herdic House, Rumrunners, and Bullfrog Brewery was extremely taxing in the high temps and stifling humidity.
We took a break from our writing and researching activities on Saturday night to visit Wine and Design, an art studio that offers painting parties and paint-n-sip classes for the public.  The painting of the day was an old anchor in an old shed.  It was rather fun, but I have to admit that I can’t draw straight lines with a brush even when I’m not imbibing in a lovely Barolo.

On Sunday night, after another day of writing activities, we braved the heat to walk to dinner at the Bullfrog Brewery.  They had gorgeous copper and stainless tanks, and the food was quite tasty.  We passed a gift shop (Gustonian Gifts) that had interesting locally sourced stuff in the windows, so I decided to delay my departure on Monday and peruse the shop.  I bought a beautiful walking stick for Jim.  It was numbered by the artist and had some lovely wood burnings and relief carvings.

It was a terrific weekend.  Both Liz and I made progress on our writing projects, and we had the chance to get a good visit in as well.  For those writers who can’t seem to get anything done at home, I highly recommend that you get away, alone or with a writing friend, and get your word counts up.  There are many options for low-cost accommodations, even a cabin in the woods.  As long as it has electricity to keep your laptop running, you’re good to go. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

One nation under one flag...

I’m an American.  I was born and raised in Ohio along the Southern shore of Lake Erie.  I have ALWAYS considered displaying of the confederate battle flag to be an openly defiant and blatantly unpatriotic act.  It represents a confederation of Southern states that chose to separate themselves from the United States of America.
There were other causes for the rift between the North and South, but the biggest reason was money, another word for slavery.  Southern property owners needed slaves.  Free labor meant more money.  Why pay for employees when you can buy a slave and work them to death for years without ever paying a penny in wages?  They considered slaves as property, as less than human, as undeserving of human dignity.  This did not stop those same owners from raping their women slaves and making them bear their offspring.

When the Civil War ended, the United States retained its unity, though to say that all were in agreement would be a gross exaggeration of the facts.  For those in the South, only the machinations of war ended…the violence, hate and resentment did not.  The slaves were emancipated, but many Southerners, angry at their defeat, spent the next 150 years working hard to make sure that slaves and their descendants were treated as though they were beneath contempt.
People of African descent were harassed, tortured, lynched, humiliated and segregated by those who felt superior.  Southerner’s hate toward those they considered beneath them was palpable.  They started secret organizations, burned crosses in the yards of African Americans, refused them entry to public transportation, and would not eat in the same restaurants, or drink from the same fountains, or let their kids attend the same schools.  This vile hate has crept into all corners of the country.  Parents, brainwashed by their own prejudiced parents and grandparents, keep passing that hate downward to new generations, and as those generations move from place to place they spread the hate.
The confederate battle flag is a symbol of that hate.  Like the nazi swastika, it represents everything we as human beings should abhor.  It belongs in a museum so we don’t forget, but it should never fly in this country again.  It should certainly never fly over or near any public or government building.  And it should never fly higher than the American flag...ever. 

I don’t know about the rest of the nation, but I am tired of seeing innocent Americans die for the color of their skin.  Genetically we are all the same.  We are all one species on this planet.  Marking one for violence because of the color of their skin is the same as beating up all the short people, or all the tall people, or all the redheads, or all brunettes with blue eyes.  When you strip away the physical characteristics that make us individuals, we all consist of the same thing underneath…blood and bone, organs and DNA.  We are all the same.  

Why are we killing our own?  When will we stop killing our own?

Monday, May 25, 2015

On this Memorial Day

For my uncles who died in WWII and are buried in Europe, Paul Boyle and Jim Madden, and for my great uncles Joseph Love and Pat Madden who served in WWI, my father Joseph Boyle and my uncles Pete Madden, Tom Madden, Jude Madden and John Boyle who served in WWII and/or Korea, and for all those who have or still do place their lives in peril for our freedom, I dedicate the following verse, written by John McCrae during WWI in May 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
the larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Chuck Collins - Another Life Lost to Cancer

Well, sports fans, I’ve been pretty lax in getting my blog posts written.  I know it’s been a while in coming.  Hopefully, you have been delving back into old posts to amuse yourselves, because there are plenty of funny stories in the archives.

Funny blogs aside, I would like to say a few words about an old friend who passed yesterday after a long struggle with brain cancer.  The legendary Chuck Collins has joined countless musicians, producers, publishers, disc jockeys, and radio personalities on the other side.  I have to wonder if they are up there spinning tunes for the almighty.  Chuck, you will be missed.  Your wonderful personality, your caring and giving, and your infectious smile will be missed, not only by me, your friends and your fans, but by your lovely Monika and your family.  Heaven is now enriched with your presence, but down here, the light grew a little dimmer.  Rest in peace.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Body Image - Perfection is where you are right now!

I started life with poor body image.  The first things I remember about how I looked as a child stem from those typical awful words slung back and forth between siblings.  Lollipop Legs was a good one.  It was an overblown description of my legs being thin below the knee and bigger above.  My particular favorite was that when I was wearing a pink bathing suit cover-up, I was told that I looked like the “pink dancing hippos” from Disney’s Fantasia.  When they tell you that harsh words don’t hurt, don’t believe them.  I was so traumatized by the “pink dancing hippos” gem that I refused to wear pink, clear into my 40s.
Sadly, when I look back at photos of us as kids, I was no bigger than my sister.  I didn’t really have a weight problem.  But the perception that I had a problem, that I wasn’t the perfect size, became completely ingrained in my young and malleable psyche.  I suffered from what I call “fat brain” syndrome.  I began drastic dieting very early on, resulting in a damaged metabolism and rebound weight gain that always exceeded what I had lost.  In essence, I dieted my way up the scale, failing time after time to be perfect.

And as if it isn’t bad enough to hate your own image, it doesn’t help when those without weight issues make nasty comments or treat you as though the size of your intellect is inversely proportional to the size of your body.  I can’t tell you the number of times people went out of their way to degrade me in public or to talk to me as though I had the IQ of a watermelon.  This is not limited to walking down the street.  It happens in stores, restaurants, parking lots, schools, playgrounds, and in the workplace. 

I was very heavy when I started my present job many years ago.  Only when I lost half my body weight did I start commanding any respect from my superiors.  Prior to that, I was ignored when I spoke and no one asked me any questions.  They evidently assumed that since I was fat I must be stupid.
I even had a doctor once tell me, with a straight face, that she could not perform laparoscopic surgery on my ovaries because I didn’t have a naval (I had lost it in a previous surgery).  I wanted to say, “Oh my God, does that mean I can’t have that laparoscopic knee surgery either?”  Every word that came out of that particular doctor’s mouth was as though she was talking to a complete idiot.  Needless to say, I never went back.
When Forest Ratliff and I were performing regularly at the coffee shops and wineries, I often sang a parody song called “New Bod” to the music of “Cool Stuff” (with permission of course).  “CoolStuff” is a catchy tune from the album "Homework" by the legendary Alex Bevan, listing all the things he would buy if he ever got rich or won the lottery.  “New Bod” was a listing of all the plastic surgery fixes I would have if I could afford them.  Both songs are pretty funny tunes.  But, while everyone has things they would buy if they suddenly had money, only those with poor body image would want plastic surgery instead.

But enough meandering around the topic.  I’ve seen a number of articles and videos recently where people are being bullied for their weight.  I feel great sympathy for those in the public eye, such as Kelly Clarkson, who has a great attitude, but must be completely inundated with nasty tweets and comments.  A weather woman was “twullied” when she didn’t lose all the weight after her baby was born.  Is it really that offensive to the viewer if the weather woman isn’t a runway model?

It isn’t always the result of overeating.  Those with weight issues don’t seem to understand that there are many reasons for the rest of us to not look svelte.  It can be genetic predisposition, medication, damaged or sluggish metabolism, injuries that prevent adequate exercise, etc.  But even if it isn’t one of those things, why exactly is it anyone’s business other than the person’s own?

It comes down to this.  Right here and right now you are the perfect person you are meant to be.  If you lose a few pounds, you are still the perfect person you are meant to be.  If you gain a bit, the same applies.  What’s happening on the outside is not a reflection of what is inside of you.  You are the same person, with the same laugh, the same smile, the same level of intelligence, the same talent, whether you weigh 120, 220, or 320.  If someone puts you down, lift your head high and walk away.  Do not lower yourself to their level.  Smile and know that the person who just dissed you has severe self-esteem issues and is attempting to make himself or herself feel better at your expense. 

And now you can have a giggle at my expense!

New Bod!

Some say life is good and sweet
Some think toys make life complete
But they’re not lookin’ in my mirror each day
‘Cause for every week gone by
There’s some things that catch my eye
That make me want to call the doc and say…

Chorus:  Gimme a new bod, one that’s long and lean
Gimme a new bod, Like nothin’ you’ve ever seen
Fix me up from head to toe
My plastic surgeon’s rolling in dough
Gimme a new bod, one I'm not afraid to show.

Take a little nip here and a little tuck there
Lift my boobs and derriere
Make my form more pleasing to the eye
Some liposuction please
So I fill my Calvin Klein’s with ease
And make men turn their heads when I walk by.

So take these jiggles from my knees
And laser my legs if you please
And I won’t ever have to shave again
Take the thunder from both thighs
Remove these bags below my eyes
And put a mini implant in my chin.

A tummy tuck would sure be sweet
Those 6-pack abs are buried deep
A redone belly button would be quite nice
Lift my neck to make me sing
And upper arms without bat wings
Would certainly be well worth the price.

Give me a Lopez butt and Jolie lips
Tina Turner legs and gypsy hips
A bod makeover down to my last toe
I want to fit in a size five
and finally feel alive
Write a book about it all, and be on Oprah’s show

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Very Long (apologies) Easter Reflection

I sometimes rant on about politics, but I usually don’t rant about religion.  I’m going to try not to rant, but if I do, I ask in advance for your tolerance (or forgiveness) as the case may be.

Politically, I have issues with those who live and practice the extremes.  Those on the far political left are anti-religion and in full insistence on separation of church and state.  Those on the far political right quote religion, using their moral beliefs to back-up their political stance on issues, the nature of which I’m not sure should even be considered “political.”
I am first and foremost a human being sharing this planet with other equally human beings.  I belong to the Catholic Church, which means I am a Christian.  For those who think those two things are mutually exclusive, Catholicism is the oldest Christian religion on earth and the precursor to all the Christian religions that have followed.  Christianity began in the Middle East, as a revolutionary off-shoot of Judaism, led by Jesus of Nazareth and carried on by his disciples.  The Old Testament stories that so many people quote as justification for their actions were not stories of Christianity but of the Israelites, people of the early Jewish faith.

Today is Easter, the day the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after he was crucified.  And here I will begin.  Jesus was a rebel.  He preached a religious belief that was different from his fellow Jews and vastly different from the Romans who ruled the land at the time.  Romans had many gods, but for the most part, we remember them as a godless, warrior society.  Judaism was monotheistic…as in only one god, Yahweh.  Don’t forget, Jesus himself was born a Jew.  Other than preaching monotheism, one god the Father, what he did and said went against most of what he had been taught.
He attracted quite a following, and the leadership of the Jewish faith began to feel threatened; their power over the masses was diminishing.  They wanted to be rid of him, so they manufactured reasons to present him to the Romans for execution.  The Romans wanted nothing to do with it.  To them, this was a family squabble, a rift between two factions of Judaism.  In the end, they relented, if for no other reason than to have the situation resolved so they could move on to other things.  In having the Romans perform the actual crucifixion, the Jewish leadership could then claim that the Romans, not the Jews, had killed Jesus; therefore, they insured that they followed the literal letter of Jewish law, the law given to Moses…Thou shalt not kill.  Pure and simply put, this was a contract hit.
The move backfired, because after the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christianity grew at a phenomenal rate.  Soon the Christians were viewed as a threat to the Romans.  The persecution of the Christians began.  And religious persecution goes on today against many faiths.

This scenario has been repeated over and over in the history of man.  It isn’t so much religion that is the issue.  Power and money, and the quest and greed for power or money is where the problem lies.  Religion is a convenient scapegoat, as are race and ethnicity.  Such things are used as a rallying point.  Convince the masses that a particular race or religion is the source of their problem and they will rise up and follow the person who is seeking the power.  They will give their money and time to that person, all because they have been brainwashed into thinking that if the target group is eliminated, they will once again be safe and prosperous.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
Does that scenario sound familiar?  It should.  It was the tactic used by Hitler to rally those around him, and convince them to do unspeakable things in a quest for the imagined public good and self-preservation of his “kind.”  Hitler was an extremist, a hard right-winger, a psychopath, raised a Catholic and a professed Christian.  It was his intention to make the masses think his way and carry out his intentions.  Dissent was punishable by death.  He alone was in charge; his ideas were “divine inspiraton.”  He would broach no argument or questioning.  Hitler convinced an entire nation that the Jews were their enemy and that all the ills of the nation would be resolved if they were eliminated from the earth...and that it was God's will that it be done.
He was not the first to preach genocide.  He won’t be the last.  But indeed, Hitler’s reign of terror is something we should strive to avoid.  Unless someone is holding a gun to your head, why would you perceive them as a threat to you or to your way of life?  The existence of other religions, Christian or non-Christian, or other ways of living, should have no bearing on our daily lives.  Most of the threats people perceive are imagined, or they are implanted in our heads by those who wish to control us by fear.  Place a lion at one end of a field and all the sheep will run to the opposite end, even if the lion is in a cage.

There are a few things that I find threatening:  a vehicle out of control, a gun pointed at me, a single person who is bent on harming me physically; but most of all I fear those whose thirst for power and money drives them to instill fear in others.
I don’t fear people of any Christian or non-Christian faith simply because their beliefs differ from my own.  I don’t fear people who dress or act in a different way.  I don’t fear people based on the color of their skin.  I don’t fear people of other sexual proclivities.  I don’t fear people with diminished capacities or special needs.  But I am human.  I do have my likes and dislikes, though they are based on experience with individuals, not a tarring of a whole group with the same brush.
The existence of people that are different is not a threat.  Those who stir up the rallying cry to pass laws to execute gays, to legalize discrimination, to keep others from exercising their civil rights, or to deny others basic human necessities are nothing but wanna-be Hitlers, seeking power through fear and inciting those who can’t or won’t think for themselves.

Jesus walked, talked and ate with sinners.  He ate with lepers.  He associated with and counseled criminals and prostitutes.  He did not discriminate, giving his good news to everyone, not just his fellow Jews.  He fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, cured the sick, gave solace to the grieving.  And he forgave everyone.  He told us to do the same.  He threw the merchants out of the temple.  He told us to pay taxes (give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s), and that applies to everyone, rich or poor.

So, on this Easter Sunday, stop and think.  If you profess to be a Christian, if you profess to have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then treat everyone with respect, pay your legal debts, pay your share of taxes, and act in a more Christ-like manner without complaint.

Stop listening to those who are telling you that your problems will be solved if only the civil rights of those different from yourself are taken away, if only those different from you are legally murdered, if only those different from you are targeted for beatings and criminal abuse.  That is not what we as Christians are mandated to do, or how we are mandated to act.  Those who try to convince you of these things seek only to further their own wealth and power by using you.  Their resulting wealth and power will not filter down, no matter how long you wait.
What strikes me as ironic in the extreme?  That while the supposedly anti-religious political far left seems more concerned with equality, humanity, the needs of the country and its people, and doing the right thing; the self-proclaimed keepers of morality on the extreme right are spearheading some of the most blatant, arrogant, anti-humanity, self-deferential ideas and laws since Hitler.  The Jesus I believe in would be ashamed of their actions.