Thursday, February 28, 2008

It was reported this week that 1 in every 100 Americans is in jail or prison. 2,319,258 to be exact. The above map shows where they are located. It’s scary. Texas, California, and Florida lead the pack. I wonder why that might be? It must be because they have the largest population. Surely, there are no other factors. Of course most of the illegal immigrants spend the night in jail rather than hotels, but that probably doesn’t count in the statistics.

The 50 states spent 49 billion dollars for corrections last year. The rate of increase for the prison cost was six times greater than for higher education. Texas spent 3.3 billion for prison cost last year. The average cost per prisoner is $23,876.

The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country and we are even ahead of China. China, of course executes their prisoners but they don’t keep score and report things like we do. We do rank as one of the top countries for executions and are only exceeded by China, Iran, Pakistan and Sudan. But, like I said those folks don’t keep accurate score.

Things are costing so much the states are being encouraged to be creative with cost cutting measures. It has been suggested that only the real bad guys go behind bars and those who commit lesser crimes could have better community supervision.

There is no real need for child molesters and rapist to be in prison. They could be assigned to the church for monitoring since the ministry now has a lot of experience in dealing with these types. These potential prisoners could go into some of the church rehab programs that have been so effective.

Drug addicts and pushers could be assigned to the US Border Patrol. They could be stationed along our borders and just use up the stuff on the spot rather than having in smuggled into the country. These folks really wouldn’t care about escaping since they would be where the action is.

Another positive action would be to force all convenience and liquor stores to close at sunset. This would eliminate well over half the robberies in the country. Robberies will also markedly decrease when Obama is President because most of these potential felons will be getting a sizable handout so they will be content to stay at home and reproduce. Another positive action would be to let all the black men go free, because according to Jesse Jackson they are being incarcerated because of their race. The final thing I would suggest is to ban all marriages because a large percentage of murders are related to domestic disputes. This would greatly reduce the murder rate.

I think my plan would work nicely. The prisons would be virtually empty. I would also plan to put bars on the porch, just in case. These bars, of course, are to protect me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lately, Roger Clemens has been in the news almost as much as Britney Spears. What bothers me about the whole affair is why it is any business of Congress if he took steroids or human growth hormone. It would seen that Congress should have a lot more important things to worry about than the substances Clemens takes to enhance his performance. Now they are spending an incredible amount of time trying to figure out if he is the one lying or his trainer Brian McNamee. One or both are lying which means perjury that carries a penalty of jail time, which we have to pay for. Who cares?

I can understand why the baseball commission may be concerned about Clemens. But, why Congress? I know steroids and HGH are bad for you and at the same time make you strong, but if I took it I sure wouldn’t be a Roger Clemens. I would only look like a bloated dead dog. Let Clemens take what he wants. I view these guys as a bunch of gladiators who are performing for us. It’s okay with me if we are watching a group of androids or robots swinging the bat and running the bases. I think Babe Ruth must have consumed huge quantities of beer and whiskey plus eat like a hog, so I guess we should exhume him and take away his trophies. Joe DiMaggio’s performance must have been enhanced by going to bed with Marilyn Monroe, so Congress needs to look into that type behavior. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and those guys are really no different than our professional wrestlers who have to be taking something. I say let them all shoot it up and let’s sit back, pay them millions, and watch the show. The show may be spectacular. They can throw the ball at two hundred miles an hour and knock the ball into orbit. We can have a whole set of new records, like the first one to actual get the ball into an orbit around the earth. The records to be set are unlimited.

Congress has enough to do keeping up with their own bad behavior and fighting with the President. They sure don’t need to take on any extra work. Sometimes while sitting on the porch I feel like a congressman; that’s when I’m sitting in my chair nodding off to sleep.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ralph Nader has thrown his hat in the ring again for President. That’s reassuring. I may even vote for him this time with the way things are shaping up. He has been famous in the past because of his position on consumer rights and as an environmentalist. He is also for a democratic government. In analyzing the 2000 election he may have been responsible for Bush defeating Gore. Nader took enough votes away from Gore to make the difference in Florida.

He apparently lives a Spartan existence and doesn’t even own a car. He became famous several years ago with his book “Unsafe At Any Speed” which took on the automobile industry about the safety of their vehicles. He tore the Chevrolet Corvair to shreds because the Corvair had likewise torn many people to shreds.

In the past he has run for president as an independent candidate and his party was once called the Green Party. He has now announced his run for the office in 2008. Good luck!! What I want to know is where the guy gets his money? How do people like Ralph Nader, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee stay in there. I know they want to make a statement but it’s sort of like urinating in the ocean to raise the tide or turning a fan on to blow a hurricane back to sea.

I lost confidence in Ralph Nader several years ago when he wrote an article about how Radiologist were trying to irradiate black folks to death by giving them higher X-Ray exposure with the excuse that their bones were so dense. His article focused on the skull X-Ray. It was like there was a conspiracy to fry the black peoples brains. Nothing could be further from the truth. To begin with the exposure for a skull X-Ray is minimal and skull films are infrequently used. Exposure tables used by technologist make no difference in blacks and whites. If he wants to make a meaningful noise about X-Ray exposure he should talk about the overutiliztion of CT scans in children, which does make a difference.

His article about the skull X-Ray and blacks is so typical of politicians making statements about subjects in which they have no knowledge. It makes me suspicious of all the other things they talk about.

I just hope Nader isn’t allowed to debate with the others. I’m sick of all the debating and we have the entire spring and summer to go. I’m stocking up on old movies and good books for my entertainment on the porch for the next few months. .

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Most of the pictures of the political candidates we see now days are with them, on a stage, in front of a large crowd of people. All the people are carrying posters and shouting. This is a political rally and is a very effective technique for brain washing a large number of people to convince them of your belief or cause. It makes effective use of mob mentality and has been used to lynch some poor slob or even lead a nation into revolution. Hitler was a master at the use of this technique.

For years, many have used the rally very successfully. It’s used before football games to spur the team on to victory. Often these things get out of hand such as the Texas A&M Bonfire. Churches even use the rally ideal to whip people into a frenzy to believe anything the preacher or faith healer is saying. Just look at the TV evangelist and some of the megachurch praise services. The crowd will shower the minister with millions of dollars to use for his personal jets and other luxuries.

Obama is currently riding the rally horse. He has everyone worked into a frenzy about the hollow changes he promises. He is ready to carry the crowds through the gates of hell and everyone is following; the rich, poor, intellects, unions, blacks, minorities, and mostly the stupid and gullible. He has the momentum and is on such a role from the mob mentality he is probably unstoppable.

I have several books on Hitler and the Nazis regime that almost destroyed the world. It’s interesting to look at the pictures of the great political rallies he conducted. It’s also interesting to look at the riots and marches in the Middle East and in other countries where revolutions have ushered in a murderous regime.

I detest crowds and wouldn’t even walk out my front door to join a mob, on my front lawn, who might be gathered around a nude Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. I prefer to learn about the political candidates on my quiet porch. That can also be very difficult because most of the reading material is very slanted or filled with propaganda. My best bet is just to continue reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. That book is so meaningful in this day and time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I have an elderly brother-in-law who is in the process of dying and I have been ask to write his obituary and have it ready when the time comes. Writing an obituary is an interesting process. It’s like painting a little portrait of an individual.

I have an interesting book called “The Last Word” which is full of obituaries and farewells from the New York Times. It’s a collection of unusual lives and makes most interesting reading. The obituaries always start with what made the person interesting or the defining event that made the persons life noteworthy. The book is full of stories about people who did interesting things like create the comic strip Superman or develop the famous roadside advertising campaign for Burma-Shave. A couple of my favorites are about the coach who created the huddle in football and the story of Johnny Sylvester who was Babe Ruth’s sick little pal for whom he knocked the home run.

I started the obituary about my brother-in-law with, “he was one of the heroes of what has been labeled the Greatest Generation. He was of the generation which came of age during the Great Depression, won World War II and helped build modern America.” I wrote briefly about his war experiences. When he came home after the war he talked very little about his experiences but in recent years he has talked more freely but age and dementia have clouded and confused his stories. To confirm some of the things he has talked about before, I made contact with a spokesman through the web site of the 69th Division. Sure enough, much of what he has tried to tell me through the years is correct and he was part of that unit. He went to Europe after the Normandy invasion and was part of the Fighting 69th who crossed the Rhine River and moved across Germany into Leipzig and met the Russian Army at the Elbe River which assured the defeat of Nazis Germany.

I guess it’s a blessing that time clouds our memory of unpleasant events. I wish I had done a better job of capturing the stories and life experiences of many of my now deceased relatives. One of my prized possessions is an interview with my father on tape. Once you get past the morbid part about death, obituaries are fun to write and read. It’s a capsule or miniature of a person’s life and even more fun than looking at old photos. As I summarized my brother-in-laws accomplishments, it is very evident that he is an American hero of the Greatest Generation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Religion is a major factor in my life but I try not to be a religious freak. I try very hard to appreciate everyone’s point of view and not judge whether another’s religion might be right or wrong. I have always belonged to the Baptist church but religion has been more of a private affair with me. I have little tolerance for shouting preachers and hell fire and brimstone sermons. I am also suspicious of TV evangelists and consider most to be charlatans.
I prefer quiet and reverence in the church and favor traditional hymns and organ music. I realize in this day and time that method of worship must be very boring. Since we live in an energized world, there is a move to make the religious services reflect our fast paced, high volume, secular lifestyle.

The service at my church today violated virtually everything I consider sacred about a service. It was part of a youth weekend. The church is trying everything to reach youth and make the service more attractive to them. Many feel there is an exodus of youth from the church and membership cannot be sustained and the Christian religion is in danger of withering unless we can do something to attract the young back into the fold. Today, in my opinion, my church crossed over the line in this effort. It was like a rock concert. A rock band played rock praise music at the highest volume obtainable without bringing down the walls of the sanctuary. Most everyone was dressed in tee shirts and stood with their arms in the air and performing other gyrations to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. To quote Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, “ Jesus would have puked.” I thought that any minute during the service they would bring out a chicken for us to kill or a snake to handle. It was that bad.

If I am lucky enough to get to heaven, with my simple beliefs, I certainly hope it is a place with many mansions like the Bible says. I want to be in one of the mansions far away from the bunch I heard today with sound-proof walls between. God will have to be on a marijuana high to appreciate that group who conducted their rock ritual in the church sanctuary today. It certainly shouldn’t even be called a sanctuary after today’s performance. If heaven is going to be filled with the kind of activity and music I witnessed today, I may have to seek refuge with Mark Twain in a warmer climate for the hereafter.

I only wish we could teach our children the importance of reverence in communicating and worshiping God. Instead, we are allowing our children to misbehave and demonstrate blatant irreverence to appease them in a misdirected effort to save their soul.

With these blasphemous statements I realize I am guilty of judging, so I suppose it is best for me to just confine my religious activities to the porch. There it is quiet, peaceful and you can hear the voice of God in your innermost self. You are more likely to hear the soft knock on the door of your heart rather than through the thunderous roar of a rock band or the shouting ramblings of a preacher.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I believe I heard that Obama is for change we can believe in. Here are some answers Obama gave to an interviewer.

Interviewer: What are your views about the Iraq War?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: What do you propose to do about universal health care?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in

Interviewer: Do you have a solution to the energy crisis?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: How do you plan to fix the economy?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: What are your plans to help the unemployed?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: What are your views on illegal immigration?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: Do you think you will need to raise taxes?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: Do you believe in Pro Choice and that gays should be allowed to marry?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: What do you plan to do with the war on terrorism?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

Interviewer: What do you plan to do about global warming?
Obama: I believe in change we can believe in.

After this interview, I now plan to vote for Obama. He is a brilliant and profound thinker. He would be a great Professor of Philosophy at Harvard. I am anxiously awaiting the publication of his book, “I Believe In Change We Can Believe In.”

I have made a poster for the porch with his captivating slogan, “I believe in change we can believe in.” Obama is truly an American original.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The World Health Organization reported this week that tobacco could kill over a billion people in the 21st century. They recommend raising tobacco taxes, banning smoking in public places and enforcing laws against advertising tobacco in an effort to save lives. Tobacco causes cancer and cardiovascular disease. The poor souls who are addicted, prematurely age with wrinkly skin and yellow fingers where they grasp the cigarette. They also smell like the gates of hell.

Of even greater interest is that the world population as of today was 6,652,740,600 and the population of the US is 303,418,524. The world population is expected to soar to over 9 Billion by the middle of the century. There were 343,000 births in the first week of the year in India. The US will be well over 400,000,000 by the middle of the century with most of the growth coming from immigrants flooding into this country illegally. The alarming thing is that the birth rate is outpacing the death rate more than 2 to 1.

Tobacco simply is not doing the job of killing enough people. If something doesn’t happen we are going to have standing room only on the planet. There certainly won’t be enough food for everyone. We need another great plague or a cataclysmic event like an asteroid hitting the earth. Perhaps global warming will end up saving the planet from over population.

Meanwhile, I’m just sitting on the porch waiting for it to rain and watching the second hand of the clock sweep around signaling that there are several births every second in the world. The thought of it is enough to make my head swim. It almost makes me want to encourage smoking.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

If I wrote an autobiography it would be a dull one and wouldn’t sell a single copy. It could even be called, “Life of a Dull Man.” All I have done is study, work, love God and my family and try to stay on a steady course in life. I haven’t had an affair, taken dope or even smoked. My only real vices are that I love humor and hate hypocrisy. When I was drafted from a busy general practice with a family of three children during the Vietnam War, I didn’t run off to Canada, but went willingly into the Army because it was the thing I was supposed to do for my country. That’s what my brother and brother-in-law had done in World War II and it was expected of me. As it turned out, it was one of the greatest things to ever happen to this dull individual. That might be the most exciting chapter in the book, next to the eye-opening and revealing chapter about medicine and doctors.

I am so dull that one of my favorite presidents is Dwight Eisenhower. His presidency was a quiet and peaceful time for our country, when everyone seemed to respect the flag and not one American soldier was killed on the battlefield. We had a cold war but there was no shooting.

Today all the presidential candidates refer to the heroes of their past and how they are going to be like other great presidents. John McCane always refers to Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Reagan is his hero. McCane has never said a word about Eisenhower because Ike wasn’t flashy enough and our young folks don’t even remember who he was or what he did. Obama, of course refers to the great John Kennedy. Kennedy had the right tickets; he had charisma with good looks, a silver tongue and an attractive wife. In his inaugural address he said. “ the torch is passed to a new generation of Americans.” Kennedy was sort of slamming the old man who was about to pass the torch, Dwight Eisenhower. The main thing Kennedy had was a great speech writer named Ted Sorensen. He was otherwise short on substance, unlike the man he was about to succeed.

It’s to bad that nobody ever refers to Ike, the 34th president who served from 1953 – 1961. Here are a few of the things he did.
Oversaw the cease-fire of the Korean War.
Created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare
Created and signed the Federal Highway Bill which authorized funding for the Interstate highway system
Sent Federal troops to Little Rock to enforce integration in the Little Rock High School
Created NASA
Sent the first US satellite into orbit
Signed the National Defense Act which provided loans for college students
Signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act
Alaska and Hawaii became states.

Before all of the above, he saved our rear end from the horror of Hitler and the Nazis as Commander of the American European Forces and the Allied Commander. Peace came to the world as we ended World War II.

But none of our current presidential candidates ever refer to this quiet man to whom we owe so much. The Democrats also never refer to LBJ, the champion of Civil Rights. The African Americans owe him a lot but never even mention him. Of course LBJ wasn’t black so he doesn’t count. The Vietnam War was his undoing and no one wants to bring that up, especially Obama and Ted Kennedy.

Anyway, I am happy that my back porch looks a lot like the one in the Eisenhower home at Gettysburg. I also have the biography of Ike on a table near my chair to remind me of the life of another dull man. I sure wish we could elect another dull president.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

People my age are gradually turning to prunes. Wrinkles engulf the face. Deep furrows develop on the brow and cheeks and bags sag beneath the eyes. Layers of saggy skin envelop the neck and excessive adipose is deposited irregularly over the face and torso.

To avoid this process of aging, folks often resort to plastic surgery. The plastic surgery remodeling seems to look good for a year or two then many of these folks start looking like the picture of Dorian Gray. It’s almost scary. The face lift is called rhytidectomy. The surgeon makes an invisible incision to permit fat to be sculpted or redistributed and underlying tissue repositioned. Deep layers of the face are lifted and excessive skin trimmed away. Other techniques are also used like the injection of fillers under the skin to smooth out the wrinkles. Botox which is the toxin from the lethal bacteria that causes food poisoning is also injected into muscles so they go into a permanent spasm and prevent the muscles from scrunching up and producing the ugly furrows and wrinkles. Surgeons even have botox parties where people get together for drinks to get injected and then look at each others transformation to youth.

There was a term I learned in medical school called Risus Sardonicus. It is a term to describe the effects of tetanus, where the facial muscles are paralyzed and the victim has a fixed grinning expression. Their eyebrows are raised and they have a sustained fixed open grin that makes them look stupid. To me, this phenomenon also describes the way some of these plastic surgery remakes look. The skin is so taut it looks like the hide of an animal stretched over the model of a head and pressed with a steam iron.

All of this is great for a while, and I guess permanently in some folks, but many start looking like the distorted horror picture of Dorian Gray. This is the guy the author Oscar Wilde wrote about who remained young looking while his picture aged. I have known many of these people and they start looking like that picture. It’s sort of scary and I think it’s Halloween every time I see them.

Medicine offers many other things to restore our youth. Breast can be enlarged, reduced and reshaped. Various areas of the body can be tightened and some even lengthened, to hopefully, produce greater pleasure once experienced in youth. If surgery doesn't help, medicines can turn you into a raging bull to make you ready. Ugly varicosities can be removed with the results like the leg of a bathing beauty. Teeth can be capped and restored to give you the smile of an Osmond. There is simply no end to what money can buy from modern medicine. It’s like taking a dip in the fountain of youth.

As for me, I am content to stay on the porch and munch on prunes and be reminded that is the way I look. At least I have no picture hanging somewhere that is aging while I falsely maintain my youth. I will just age along with my picture and keep the camera aimed at the grandkids who are my secret to staying young.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

In the past few weeks I have been to several funerals. A number of my friends have also been very ill, threatening to cross over the River Jordon. At my age, these things start happening. It’s a little scary. We have started buying sympathy cards by the box.

Each of the last several funerals has been a different religious denomination. Everyone has the same message but it’s amazing how different the presentation and service is in the various churches. I hope the Lord understands how we are trying to communicate because it’s sometimes a little confusing to me.

I have actually enjoyed most of the services and leave felling good about the one who is being laid to rest. For the most part, it is usually my same group of friends attending the services. Whether we are in a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian or Catholic service my friends all seem to fit in, like they are an actual member of the church where the service is being conducted. I feel a little uncomfortable in some of the services knowing when to speak, stand, sit or kneel. I just sit toward the back and try to be quiet. I don’t even try to sing for fear that it might awaken the corpse. Like Mark Twain suggested, I just keep my mouth closed and appear stupid rather than open it and leave no doubt.

I prefer services that are more quiet and reverent, rather than a lot of loud music and preaching. I don’t feel like a hell fire and brimstone sermon at a funeral service. It’s great to be reminded about how great a place heaven is and that the one who has passed is now there waiting for us. I like to hear a nice eulogy, celebrating the life and accomplishments of the one being honored.

I also like for people to be respectful by at least turning off their cell phones for a few minutes. At a recent service, during a very quiet and meditative moment, a cell phone started playing a loud song that began with the sound of a cavalry charge. That woke everybody up and disrupted the whole affair and I thought I could even hear the corpse groan. The only religious message I got from that unfortunate event is that it made me think what a miserable place earth really is, that we are a slave to the phone and modern technology. We can’t even be silent for a few minutes to honor the dead.

I enjoy most of the churches and the messages. I still have to say that one of the most reverent places I’ve been is my very own porch. When it comes time for my funeral, I would sort of like for it to be on the porch. There is not room for many people but there won’t be many attending anyway. I would also like to have the cell phones checked at the door. It would even be okay to have the preacher stay outside and guard the cell phones while someone just reads a few of my favorite verses and the grandkids play my favorite tunes on their string instruments. That would be a perfect ceremony for me to exit the planet and enter the invisible world of eternity.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Three Cups of Tea is a great book that is essential reading for every American who wishes to know about the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan and how we can improve our relationship. If every American had the philosophy of the author, Greg Mortenson, we would have a better chance for peace in that troubled part of the world and Americans would be loved rather than hated. Military action against the Taliban and al-Qaida was necessary but there is much more to be done to establish a lasting peace. Greg Mortenson’s book has the answer.

Mortenson is a nurse, by training, who had a passion for mountain climbing. He tackled one of the most challenging mountains in the world, K2. This mountain is thought to be even more difficult to climb than Mt. Everest. Mortenson attempted the climb but failed and almost died in the attempt. He was saved by a mountain man of Northern Pakistan and nursed back to health by the people in the remote village of Korphe. After Mortensen regained his health he promised the people he would give them what they wanted most which was a school for their children. He not only kept this promise, but he has devoted his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. His schools have had an emphasis on the education of girls which has been forbidden by the Taliban. With the help of Mortenson the will of the people has prevailed to allow all children to be educated.

After much struggle and effort, Mortenson was able to establish the Central Asia Institute through philanthropic support from people in the US. He has used the money to accomplish his goal of building the schools against overwhelming odds. The greatest reward for his incredible effort has been the fulfillment of his dream to educate the children in this deprived area of the world.

His key to success was to become one of the people rather than convert them to a different philosophy. He prayed with them as a Muslim and became one with their family. Mortenson learned to respect their ways. There is a saying of the people, that the first cup of tea you take with them you are stranger. If you have a second cup you are an honored guest in their home and with the third cup you become family. Mortenson became family and is now loved by the people of the villages of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan as a Saint.

As Americans we must learn that we cannot change these people but must accept their ways to become their friends. We need to follow the example of Greg Mortenson to obtain the respect of the poor people in this volatile part of the world. Education will be the greatest defense against a resurgence of the Taliban and will eliminate the breeding ground for terrorist.

Mortenson’s hero was Mother Teresa. Like Mother Teresa, Mortenson deserves a Nobel Prize for his phenomenal accomplishments. This book is a great read and is a testimony to the power of the humanitarian spirit.