Archive for May, 2015

“Compression Confession”

May 29, 2015


The ancient Gaelic word is “ríastrad”, loosely translated into English as “warp spasm.” It was a notable characteristic of the mythological Irish warrior hero Cú Chulainn, “The Hound of Ulster”, who was said to have single handedly defeated the armies of Queen Medb of Connacht at the age of 17.

“Riastrad’ is classically defined in Irish literature as a “terrifying battle frenzy”, distorting the possessor into a violent, raging, angel of death – – an “unrecognizable monster who knows neither friend nor foe. “

 This DNA conveyed “Irish temper” can prove quite handy in warfare and was a greatly sought “killer instinct” in such renowned Irish-American prizefighting champions as Jack Dempsey, Gentleman Jim Corbett and the great John L. Sullivan. But such a complete abandonment of self-control and acceptable behavior in orgasmic-like surrender to the instinctively violent satisfaction of unrestrained emotional release has no place in civilized society. Or even an Oakhurst pharmacy.

Hereafter, certain specifics are omitted to protect the guilty, but general circumstances may be familiar.

Last week I encountered a number of difficulties obtaining a prescription for a chronic viral infection as my first attempt to obtain medication was met with a claim that no order had been received.

After verification was established that the request HAD been conveyed in a timely manner, my authorizing agent was informed that the matter would be immediately handled. Two hours later, I spent 10 minutes waiting at a “Pick Up” line and was again informed that no prescription was in their system. I was directed to speak with someone in the “Drop Off” section to find out if there was any paperwork pending that had yet to be acted upon.

Following another feverish 10 minutes in THAT line, I spoke with a nice lady, who sorted through a stack of orders and found what we were looking for, located the goodies from their inventory and went over instructions for its usage. When I pulled out my credit card to pay, she told me she couldn’t handle the actual transaction, but would need me to deal with a pharmacy cashier for that. Calling upon her colleague, she was then firmly, loudly, and repeatedly informed with a strong note of irritation, “Hey! I’m taking my second lunch break starting NOW!” I was then sheepishly informed I would have to “come back in a half hour.” WHAT? I lost it — instant “RIASTRAD!”

Although holding back on the “F-Bomb” (I think), I shared my extreme disappointment in colorful terminology with all within, say, a hundred yards, demanding to see a manager. After yet another 10 minutes passed, I asked where the manager might be and was told, “There’s no one available.” I then said, “Forget it” and left, calling the store as soon as I returned home, requesting that I be contacted by “whoever was in charge.” I have yet to receive the courtesy of a response.

You can tell when people hate their job. Upon reflection, that “cashier” who demanded an immediate second lunch (damn the customer — full-feed ahead) is quite probably as accommodating and polite an individual as one would ever care to meet. I suspect she hit “riastrad” level” just before I did. You don’t need to be Irish.

I’m seeing it more and more. Major chains seeking maximized profits by restraining labor costs are laying off thousands and dumping enormous workloads on their remaining employees, simultaneously limiting, if not reducing wages and benefits. While not excusing rude conduct when encountered, this does provide probable causality – certainly understandable and deeply concerning.

It’s simply a matter of unrelenting compression. Less money. More debt. Longer hours. Lost hope. Bad government. Worse leadership.

America’s traditional nuclear family has become economically unviable. There are no easy solutions within the constraints of this current plutocratic environment.

Lets come together.

Although we usually include a featured speaker at our monthly meetings of the Oakhurst Democratic Club, we’ll be running with an open agenda this Saturday to collectively plan for the future.

Please join us. You don’t even have to be a Democrat to attend and take part. And if you’re under 35 years of age, you’ll get a special treat. You ARE the future. Just ask for me when you arrive at Denny’s. Breakfast is 8:30 and the program starts at 9:30.

What kind of folks will you meet?

The kind of folks who brought about the abolition of slavery, the eight-hour workday, an end to child labor, the federal minimum wage, overtime pay, women’s right to vote, unemployment insurance, the interstate highway system, educational grants, our national parks, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the Clean Water Act, Universal Public Education and, yes, the American Revolution.

Every substantial improvement in the lives of Americans throughout history has been initiated by liberals and opposed by conservatives — not that they don’t have their place in proper pacing.

Democrats even invented weekends.

Let’s celebrate this Saturday!

“Sleep Now In The Fire”

May 23, 2015


In our nation’s capital, reality remains a rumor.

Congress is paralyzed by party politics. At times the administration appears to be losing face, faith and friends with each new headline. Effective distraction and diversion of focus has become prioritized, lest forces operating in true control behind the curtain be revealed.

Surface change is everywhere, but not in the deeply hidden mechanisms of mass manipulation.

In 1976, we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the adoption of our Declaration of Independence. It was also during America’s Bicentennial year that we witnessed a threatening new declaration in Paddy Chayefsky’s multiple Academy Award winning film, “Network”. Ned Beatty plays TV boss Arthur Jensen as he savagely chastises rebellious newscaster Howard Beale for daring to defy the established order.

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Beale, and you will atone!”

Widely regarded at the time as satirical in nature, “Network” now seems wildly understated, its anticipation of FOX News being particularly predictive.

There’s no braking “breaking news.” Every new happening is hyped. Our electronic town criers are at dependable yowl a full 24/7. Bad news is best, pulling powerful ratings.

More Iraqi forces fled in fright before last week’s abandonment of Ramadi to ISIS insurgents, leaving behind millions of dollars in U.S. supplied weapons and supplies now turned against us. The historic Syrian town of Palmyra has similarly fallen to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, jeopardizing the continued existence of ancient temples, ruins and priceless archaic treasures. We’re fighting with Iran in Syria and against Iran in Iraq. Often we’re with the Sunnis against the Shiites, then the other way around. Sometimes both. Got that?

Our tragic invasion of Iraq in 2003 was militarily magnificent, then mindlessly managed. And for every American life lost, fortunes were made.

It’s just a mess. Big money loves it. That’s how they bet.

On Armed Services Day in Iowa earlier this month, most of a dozen GOP presidential prospects at a state party dinner in Iowa called for a more confrontational stance toward Iran. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s answer for handling things was to: “Load up our bombers and bomb them back to the seventh century.” 

I find myself in the company of the sporadically brilliant Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) when I suggest we load up our guys, gals and goodies and leave a nightmare neighborhood where we’ve never belonged. The road to winning needs a whole new beginning.

Those chickens coming home to roost are starting to look like pterodactyls.

In January of 1999, Michael Moore filmed the rock group, “Rage Against the Machine” at Federal Hall in downtown Manhattan across from the New York Stock Exchange.

“Sleep Now In The Fire” quickly went into heavy rotation on MTV and was nominated at the 2000 MTV Music Awards as “Best Rock Video” of the year. In this eerily prophetic production, we see vocalist Zack de la Rocha screaming prescient epithets as the true voice of a self absorbed ruling class solely dedicated to the exponential furtherance of a guarded private agenda. Against Tom Morello’s relentlessly righteous guitar, the rich speak to us.

In November of 2000, George W. Bush was elected 43rd President of the United States, serving two full terms in office. Under his watch, we completely lost our way.

And we sleep now in the fire.

“Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past – control the future.” – George Orwell –“1984”


May 15, 2015


Father Simon Le Moyne was a Jesuit missionary to The New World, a vocation that saw many of his fellow priests conclude their careers in an untimely manner at the wrong end of an Iroquois tomahawk. Father Le Moyne fared much better. He was particularly held in high regard at the Salt Springs of the Onondaga nation, arriving there on August 5, 1654. On October 21, 1945, it was announced that a new Jesuit college would be named in Father Le Moyne’s honor on a hill in Syracuse near the site of his efforts.

I had the honor of graduating from this institution in May of 1963 and have mentioned it from time to time in these columns, particularly since Pope Francis became the first Jesuit ever elevated to such prominence in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. I predicted Francis wouldn’t fool around. He hasn’t. And neither have more than 600 current students and faculty members at my alma mater, including the majority of the graduating class. Last week, they even made FOX News. They wanted a Cardinal canned from Commencement.

Pope Benedict XVI named Timothy Dolan Archbishop of New York on February 23, 2009, then to the College of Cardinals in January of 2012 a year before Benedict’s curious early retirement and succession by Francis. Cardinal Dolan is generally regarded as a gifted and entertaining orator, although not “the head of the Catholic Church in America” as glibly reported by the typically clueless Steve Doocy on “Fox and Friends”. Looking for a bit of hierarchical star power at this year’s Commencement ceremonies, Le Moyne was successful in scheduling the Cardinal, although keenly aware that Dolan holds traditional, conservative viewpoints on most major Catholic issues. Certain rigid perspectives have become sharply controversial in contemporary society. Jesuits like to stir things up. In this light, the invitation for Dolan’s appearance before 2015’s graduating class of Millennials worked like a charm.

A petition demanding cancellation of the Cardinal alleged, “Over the years, Cardinal Dolan has been involved with sexual abuse scandals dealing with the clergy, homophobic comments and does not represent the ideals we have come to know at Le Moyne.” The school firmly stood by its decision. Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura even says the controversy makes her proud: “In reality I see it as a great call for celebration. Our students are questioning decisions we’ve made. They want to understand the rationale at a deeper level. I think Cardinal Dolan will take some joy in the fact that our students are well educated and want more questions answered. It’s a sign of engagement.”   How’s that for spin?

And how cool it was for the Jesuits to appoint Dr. LeMura as President a year ago, making her the first non-ecclesiastical female to lead a Jesuit college or university in the world. Hopefully I am not expressing undue optimism in suggesting this might well be a harbinger of similar positive changes within the Church in days ahead. Let’s face it, guys. Sometimes these ladies can make us look pretty stupid. Look what Laura Ingraham just did to our very own Fourth District Congressional Representative.

Ms. Ingraham, regarded as a trusted conservative talk show host, was interviewing Representative McClintock. She exclaimed with disappointment: “Oh my God. The idea that you, Tom McClintock, with all of your brainpower on immigration, don’t see the writing on the wall… I’m flabbergasted… Once you pass TPA, the fix is in.” Laura later told her listeners:  “Despite having been the man selected to deliver the GOP’s pitch to the nation on Obama’s massive global trade and labor pact, Rep. McClintock admitted today he’d never read it.”  

Then we have Senator Elizabeth Warren scoring a major, unanticipated win over President Obama in “fast track” voting, forcing various changes and adjusted provisions in language before initial Senate passage. And a 19 year old female college student, Ivy Ziedrich, flummoxed Jeb Bush on the campaign trail by insisting his brother George had “created ISIS”, explaining why she felt so in amazing detail.

The unexpected has become the unavoidable. Perhaps none too soon.  


Turn and face the strange


Just gonna have to be a different man

Time may change me

But I can’t trace time”

“Changes” — David Bowie — from “Hunky Dory” (1971)

“And Then Along Comes Bernie”

May 8, 2015


He has the same chance as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.

Although my personal choice for election next year to our nation’s highest office remains Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, I’m happy Bernie Sanders is now in the race.

Although Bernie has announced his candidacy as a Democrat, he has acted and voted in Washington as an Independent from Vermont since 2007 – the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.

In identifying his political philosophy through the years, Senator Sanders allies himself with such notable American icons as Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Jack London, Lucille Ball, Harry Belafonte, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, James Baldwin, Woody Guthrie, Ernest Hemingway, Walter Reuther, Kurt Vonnegut and Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bernie Sanders is an avowed “Socialist.”

And – what is “Socialism?”

I’ve avoided quoting Webster’s Dictionary since Junior High and Sister Vincent de Paul’s admonition that doing so should be “the last resort of a first class mind”, but will do so here for purposes of political purity.

Webster says: “Socialism is any of various theories or systems of ownership and means of production and distribution by the society or community rather than by private individuals, with all members sharing in both work and product.”

 A critical key to understanding this general definition is the word “various”, since “Socialism” comes in many different flavors and varieties – like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream or Campbell soups.

Bernie Sanders describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist.”

Democratic Socialism seeks a delicate, cooperative balance between individual and collective ownership, matching the rewards of private enterprise with the priority of common good as fairly and efficiently as human nature allows.

Those are my own words, Sister de Paul. I can feel you smiling up in Heaven.

We already “own” many things together. That’s where the word, “Commonwealth” comes from. In America, we all share ownership of the police, the military, public schools, our roads, our courts and so on. You get the picture.

Forget what we’re being fed on FOX. Here’s what Bernie the Socialist believes.

* Government should belong to the people. When certain folks say, “Government is bad”, they speak for rule by wealth – however unknowingly. Even though he surely knew better, Ronald Reagan had it down to a science.

* America today witnesses the most unequal income distribution of any major country on earth — worse than at any time since the 1920s. This must change.

* We need a massive federal jobs program that puts millions of our people back to work and brings about an end to disastrous trade policies that have sent so many jobs overseas.

* The minimum wage should be a living wage with pay equity for women.

 * The United States must lead the world in combating climate change and transforming our energy system to efficiency and sustainability.

* Every person in this country who has the desire and ability should be able to get all the education they need regardless of family income.

* The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people. Health care should be a right, not a privilege.

* In a democratic, civilized society — no one should be hungry or live in desperation. We need to expand Social Security, not cut it.

* We should insist on real tax reform that makes the rich and profitable corporations pay their fair share, not hide loot stashed away in the Cayman Islands.

* As a result of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, American democracy is up for sale to the highest bidder. It must be overturned – if necessary by Constitutional amendment.

When Bernie Sanders formally announced his bid for the Presidency, these were his exact words:

“Ever since I was a kid I never liked to see people without money or connections get put down or pushed around. When I came to Congress I tried to be a voice for people who did not have a voice – the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor. And that is what I will be doing as a candidate for president.”

 Every major political pundit says the poor guy doesn’t have a chance. He’s up against it all: not owned, yet not owing and not afraid. He looks like a mad professor. But what makes Bernie mad makes me angry too.

In researching this column, I just discovered an amazing thing. Bernie Sanders and I were both born on September 8, 1941 – the first day of The Siege of Leningrad by German forces in World War Two.

This was before Pearl Harbor. At the time, most folks thought there was no way the Nazis wouldn’t win.