Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anniversary's Over, Now Back to the News

Almost a week since my last post, not that there weren’t things to write about but I chose to take some quality time to enjoy a long family weekend celebration of Gilda’s and my 40th wedding anniversary which officially was Monday. This last year of our four decades together has been quite eventful—Ellie married Donny, and Donny started a new job; Dan and Allison produced their second child, Dagny, they moved into a new home and Allison started working outside the home again, as a kindergarten teacher in a town near their new residence; Gilda’s spine surgery medical practice shifted to a new hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan; and I earned my real estate salesperson license. Lots of good things to be thankful for. 

The festivities over, time for some thoughts on current events ...

As the national debate on immigration reform is propelled forward by pronouncements from President Obama and a plan from a bi-partisan group of senators, I’m reminded of a Forseter family story of illegal entry into the United States by one of our cousins (for the record, my mother beat the quota in 1921 when she came from Poland, while my father arrived in 1939 from Poland, half a year before the start of World War II).

My father’s cousin Jack Fürsetzer snuck into New York in the early 1920’s, I believe. Hearing that a roundup of suspected illegal immigrants was about to happen, he asked around for a good place to hide. He was told Minnesota, so off he went to the hinterlands, settling in the Twin Cities area. He changed his name to Brushman. In the 1930s there was an amnesty for illegals, which explains why some of his six children have his assumed last name and some have his real last name. 

About 20 years ago I met with my cousins during one of my trips to Minneapolis, but sadly I did not keep up contact. ...

Immigration is but one of the hot topics being debated these days. Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, gun control has been topic one. Sadly, during a forum last night in Hartford, pro-gun advocates heckled the father of one of the young victims as he called for stricter gun control measures. 

Even if tighter laws on guns, especially on assault rifles, are passed, the chances of a meaningful reduction in deadly firearms availability is unlikely. As Dave Ross explained in a recent commentary I heard on CBS Radio, gun runners are already passing along ideas on how to get around any potential ban. Read his short commentary: http://mynorthwest.com/813/2184540/Just-calmly-getting-ready ...

Less than a week to go before the Super Bowl, a time to ponder why we are so enthralled with watching athletes, from high school age through their late 30s, abuse their bodies in pursuit of glory and, at least on the professional level, financial gain, however fleeting that might be. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy watching my New York Giants as much as any fan relishes rooting on his or her preferred team. I will watch some pro games in which I have no rooting interest, mostly out of curiosity or lack of anything better to do. After all, I do want to be able to be up to date on trending sports news and conversation, even if I don’t have a water cooler to hang around at work. But given repeated revelations about the medical complications football bequeaths its behemoths, don’t you wonder why so many parents permit, nay even encourage, their children to take up a sport that will torment them for life, or possibly even lead to their suicide?

The other day, president Barack Obama indicated if he had a son he might not let him play football. It’s a sentiment expressed increasingly by many parents, including sportscaster Michael Kay on ESPN Radio. Kay and his wife recently celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter. I remember when Dan was a tween and interested in catching a football in our yard, Gilda let him know in no uncertain terms he would not be permitted to play organized football. He pouted for a while, but soon got over it. 

He played soccer, instead. Goalie. During one game he blocked a hard, close-in shot with his head. Down he went. The game stopped as the referee and coaches tended to him. On the sidelines, Gilda had to be restrained from rushing out onto the field. In her frustration she asked, “What type of game is this where a mother can’t go out to her injured son?” Dan quickly recovered and finished the game, but Gilda rarely went to see him play soccer again. She did, however, enjoy watching him play Ultimate Frisbee. ...  

Want to be truly scared? I’m not talking some creepy Nightmare on Elm Street/Freddy Kruger horror flick. I’m talking real world, red and blue state election results. 

While Democrats savor Barack Obama’s second term, and his progressive inaugural address, there’s mayhem underfoot, as Republicans wax up their plans to put the skids on any future possibility of a Democratic president. In states where Republicans control the legislature and the governorship they are exploring changes in the way Electoral College votes are allocated. Here are two links worth taking the time to explore. Unless you’re a bedrock conservative, they'll have you quaking in your boots:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brrr. Murphy's Law Strikes Again and I Beat Stephen Colbert

I believe in contingency planning. I’m a big “what if” man. Drives my family crazy. I constantly drill into them the need for redundant systems, such as the need to carry extra keys for the car or home. Just in case. 

Today, the coldest day of the year, was one of those days. For the first time in more than 25 years, I locked my car with the engine running while standing outside. No need to panic, I thought. Like the last time, I’ll simply dip my hand into my pocket and extract the just-in-case key I always carry. Only, this time there wasn’t any extra key in my pocket. 

Murphy’s Law—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I had just dropped off food at the apartment of one of the senior citizens I service in Yonkers. I opened the front passenger door of the Jeep to turn the motor on to heat up the car. I pushed what I thought was the button to open the other doors. Instead, before realizing I locked them, I slammed shut the passenger door. 

I won’t say I panicked, but I did express anger and disappointment with the only person who could hear me—me! I called 911. They referred me to the Yonkers Police Department. They informed they no longer made house calls for locked doors. Call a locksmith or tow truck company, they advised. I called AAA. Yes, they’d send someone. They’d put me on the “priority list” since the engine was running. Priority meant no more than an hour’s wait. Some priority—I always thought AAA has a one-hour response standard whatever is your problem.

Did I mention today was the coldest day of the year? 18 degrees at noon. Wind chill as a single digit. At least I was wearing flannel-lined jeans, earmuffs, a hat, scarf, my warmest winter jacket with hood and several layers of clothing. I tell you this because as a self-inflicted punishment I waited outdoors for most of the 45 minutes it took AAA to show up. 

When he arrived, the friendly AAA man demonstrated how easily and quickly carjackers can break into their prey. He placed a wedge between the driver’s front door and the car chassis, opening a slot sufficiently wide to insert a long probe that in my case pushed the button to roll down the electric window but just as easily could have shifted the door lock. He was there maybe 90 seconds. As I drove off to fulfill the rest of my Meals-on-Wheels deliveries, I couldn’t help but think of another life’s saying—no good deed goes unpunished.

Strike One: I’ve written about my feeling that inanimate objects have a mind of their own. For example, my company umbrella broke my last day of work. The handle hangs from the bookshelf above my desk as a reminder of inanimate articulation. 

I think the Jeep is worried its days are numbered. Yesterday, it assaulted me. The rear hatch is finicky. Sometimes it stays open, sometimes it refuses to. When the latter happens, I prop it up with a broom handle. But yesterday it was behaving when I had to unload three real estate signs. I had just placed the first one on the ground when I turned to retrieve another and was struck hard on the side of the head by the drooping hatch. Normally I would have just winced in pain, but I was reminded of a tragic, fatal accident one of my publishing competitors suffered some 10 years ago. He was returning a rental car when he somehow hit his head as he closed the trunk. Like me he thought nothing of it, but within an hour he had hemorrhaged and died. 

As you can read, I’m still around, but Tuesday’s Jeep incident was strike one, today’s strike two. I’m not interested in reaching strike three.

Colbert Bump: I think I’m entitled to a Colbert Bump for beating Stephen Colbert to the story about plans by Republicans to alter the way Electoral College votes are allocated (of course, we both got scooped by the Associated Press, but I reported on it Monday while Colbert waited till Tuesday).

Anyway, spend five minutes watching Colbert “analyze” this ploy being considered by the GOP. Here’s the link—http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/423114/january-22-2013/the-word---win--lose--or-redraw?xrs=share_copy

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Deeper Meaning to Roe v. Wade

Forty years ago today, with the 7-2 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the right to obtain an abortion became part of the universal law of the land. That right has been degraded in many parts of the country. It is imperative that men unite with women to insure their ability to choose to obtain an abortion, free of hassle.

For many, the abortion issue is bound up in theology. I am beholden to my friend Ken for turning me on to the Jewdayo web site for this analysis of a deeper import of the Roe v. Wade ruling. 

"Roe is about so much more than delineating trimester by trimester rights for women, or determining when life begins or when there is viability of the fetus,” wrote Rabbi Robert N. Levine of New York's Rodeph Sholom congregation. “To my mind, Roe v. Wade . . . takes on the question of whether the government, law enforcement, male-dominated institutions have the power to control basic decisions about women's lives. Those who yearn to repeal Roe v. Wade really want to correct the 'illusion' that women can make decisions about their own bodies and lives."

"The fundamentalist right tries to tell us that Scripture explicitly sides against choice. They are wrong! Listen carefully: There is not a single verse, not a single verse in any Bible outlawing abortion," says Rabbi Levine.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inaugurating Change or Preserving an Outdated Legacy

Perhaps this happened to you when growing up. Perhaps you were the one who did it. Here's the scenario:  

Children gathered for a game are told by one of the group they have to play a certain way, by a different rule than normal. Or maybe that the owner of the bat and ball or the board game has to be picked first or else he or she will simply take his or her stuff home so nobody will be able to play. Or maybe in the middle of the game the owner of the equipment gets upset and decides to gather it up and go home.

Sound familiar? An adult version of that selfish, manipulative stance may be about to be played out across the country in the wake of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, the failure of Republicans to win the overall popular vote in five of the last six elections and a changing demographic that may alter GOP strangleholds in such states as Arizona, Kansas and even Texas. 

In states where Republicans control the governorship and the legislature, they are pondering changing the way votes are cast in the Electoral College. They would change the winner-take-all system with a proportional division of votes based on the percentage of popular votes cast for each candidate. The changes are meant to make it harder for a Democrat to secure the required 270 Electoral College votes to win the presidency, or at the very least reduce the mandate a candidate may claim.

Maine and Nebraska already apportion votes. As the Associated Press reported the other day, "Each state has the authority to shape its own election law. And in at least seven states—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina—Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the governor's office" (http://news.msn.com/politics/gop-eyes-changes-in-electoral-college-dems-are-wary).

Thus, in a state such as Pennsylvania, where 20 Electoral College votes were at stake, Obama would have won just 12; Mitt Romney would have garnered the remaining eight votes. Nationally, Obama secured 332 Electoral College votes to Romney's 206. 

On its face, proportional representation in the Electoral College seems fair, a democratic advancement of the presidential selection process. But only if ALL states adopted the practice. This would even out the imbalance seen in recent presidential elections that focused on swing states. Candidates would spend lots more time in all states to improve their chances of securing at least some electoral votes. They'd really focus on states where they expect to win to earn even higher percentages of the popular vote. 

But like Republican attempts to pass more restrictive voter registration laws this last election, the real intent of proportional representation initiatives by GOP-controlled states is to preserve the dwindling status of the Old Order—white, male candidates.

All this potential maneuvering of election laws places more emphasis on the choice of governors and state legislatures, especially in the election before new census data is used to redistrict congressional seats every 10 years. Redrawn district lines make it harder for the party on the outside to oust incumbents. 

Politics is not a vocation for the faint of heart. Nor should it be for any citizen who cares about the future and path of his or her country. In their desperation to redraw the lines of combat, Republicans are poised to change the rules—legally, to be sure—but with the clear intent of making their restrictive philosophy of life a never-ending legacy to a country and population shifting away from their "white bread" society.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Far From Right

I listen to a lot of NPR while riding around, thanks to suggestions from Dan and Ellie a few years ago. I'll be the first to acknowledge NPR and probably most of its listeners lean toward the left. So to provide some balance I steel my teeth and occasionally tune into some right wing talk radio to keep abreast of what the yahoos are saying about how our country is going to hell in a hand basket led by a Kenyan communist president who is going to take all our guns away and impose a dictatorship of like-minded people of color who will redistribute the wealth of true-blue real Americans, meaning white Americans. These TBRAs want to return to a simpler time, say, 100 years ago.

One of my retired business buddies from time to time sends me emails of right wing screeds. Friday he treated me to two of them. First, there was the claim that retired congressmen and senators have pensions totaling $174,000 per year for life. This claim, of course, is not true. Here's a link that will detail what they are eligible to receive after five years of service (http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/retirement_for_members.shtml). I sent him the link as well.

His second email demanded a more intimate response. He had forwarded a screed that bemoaned all the taxes we pay in the United States, taxes that did not exist 100 years ago, a time when we were the most prosperous nation in the world. Here's the list:

Building Permit Tax 
CDL License Tax 
Cigarette Tax 
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax 
Federal Income Tax 
Federal Unemployment Tax 
Fishing License Tax 
Food License Tax 
Fuel Permit Tax 
Gasoline Tax 
Hunting License Tax 
Inheritance Tax 
Inventory Tax 
IRS Interest Charges  
IRS Penalties
Liquor Tax 
Luxury Tax 
Marriage License Tax 
Medicare Tax 
Property Tax 
Real Estate Tax 
Service charge taxes 
Social Security Tax 
Road Usage Tax (Truckers) 
Sales Taxes 
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax 
State Income Tax 
State Unemployment Tax  
Telephone Federal Excise Tax 
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax 
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Tax 
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax 
Telephone State and Local Tax 
Telephone Usage Charge Tax 
Utility Tax 
Vehicle License Registration Tax 
Vehicle Sales Tax 
Watercraft Registration Tax 
Well Permit Tax 
Workers Compensation Tax 

Here’s what I quickly wrote back:

Not sure if we were richest country 100 years ago (as the screed asserted). It might have been Great Britain still, but they were fading. As to why we have so many taxes, consider that 100 years ago we did not have social security. We didn't have an extensive road network. Most food was not processed by outsiders, nor were many drugs available, so we needed better regulations. We hadn't fought in two world wars and countless skirmishes since then, so our military was much smaller. Most people back then earned less than a thousand dollars a year. Do we want to go back to those times? Do we want to return to the days when women didn't vote, when blacks were not treated equally, when education was limited to the wealthy?

These look-backs at simpler times can be amusing, but I doubt most people would like to go back and live in homes that all too often did not have indoor plumbing, or even electricity, that used dirty coal to heat. We live in the greatest nation in the world today. Shouldn't we expect to pay something for that privilege? 

I'm sure anyone who doesn't want to pay all the taxes listed in this email can find many countries where no such taxes are levied. There's nothing stopping them from emigrating to them and making room for all those who want to enjoy the freedom to pay those taxes.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wheels of Misfortune, Real-Time Homeland, Hipsters, MOM's to the Rescue

The wheel is a marvelous invention, surely one of the main reasons civilization has advanced from the cave. But a wheeled snow shovel? As far as I am concerned, I might as well still be a Neanderthal.

I had so been looking forward to a slight snowfall to test-drive my new wheeled snow shovel. I was disappointed to hear rain tapping against our bathroom skylight when I woke up in the middle of the night. But when the alarm went off this morning I was rewarded with a light, white covering on the driveway and walkway. Even before eating breakfast I eagerly unhinged my new toy from the hook it was hanging from in the garage. 

A total disaster. I won’t bore you with details of either my ineptitude or the poor design of the shovel. The only consolation is the friendly customer service rep said she would send a mailing label so I wouldn’t be charged for return freight and I didn’t even need the original invoice which came with the shovel. Good thing, because I can’t find it. 

I’m really bummed. The shovel had looked so easy to use in the promotional video I watched on line. Ah, well ...

Homeland Update: Ever wonder what a real life Carrie Anderson, the CIA agent/analyst trying to uncover a turncoat American serviceman, would look like? She’d more likely resemble a grandmother than the fetching Claire Danes of the Showtime program Homeland, if one goes by the picture of the woman who spearheaded the effort to find a mole inside the CIA, the notorious Aldrich Ames. 

Jeanne Vertefeuille died December 29. She was 80. For those who missed her obituary in Sunday’s NY Times, here’s a link. It’s a fascinating story of dedication, reminding us that truth is often more engrossing than fiction (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/us/jeanne-vertefeuille-who-helped-catch-aldrich-ames-dies-at-80.html?_r=0).

Connected at the Hip: During a profile aired on CBS Sunday Morning a few days ago, Scarlett Johansson was asked if she feels any older, now that she’s been married and divorced. “No,” responded the 28-year-old actress. “I feel wiser, maybe. I only feel older in my right hip. But I’m attributing that to Marvel" (for whom she plays the Black Widow in the Avengers comic book-inspired film series).

The morning I turned 35, I woke up with a pain of unknown origin in my right hip. It went away pretty quickly, but I always wondered why my body sent out a ping of rebellion, considering I do not angst over birthdays. Seven weeks from today I’ll celebrate another birthday, the one immortalized by the Beatles (64, for those who have no idea what I’m talking about).

MOM’s to the Rescue: Advertising works. I made a nice living on that premise. But not all advertising is appropriate, especially when targeted to influence those who cannot always discern the hidden messages being sent their way. 

Accordingly, MOM’s Organic Market, a Washington-Baltimore based regional grocer, is taking off its shelves all packaging that features cartoon characters from children’s books, films and television, even those from educational TV like Elmo and Dora the Explorer.

The 10-store family owned retailer can hardly hope to influence the national market, especially when adults have to be willing and knowledgeable participants. Last month I bought Finley a drinking cup with a race car floating in its base. I thought it was cute and would make meal-time fun. Little did I realize the car was a licensed product of the movie Cars; the suspended auto was the star, Lightning McQueen. Even though 3-year-old Finley had not seen the movie, he knew the character. 

In my defense, I’m a grandparent. Aren’t we supposed to spoil our grandkids? Still, I agree with Susan Linn, Director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, who said, "Using beloved media characters to sell kids on a particular brand of food is wrong, even if it's healthy food. Children should not be trained to pick foods based on the cartoon on the box” (or, I might add, the car in the cup). 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Homeland and Other Worries

So here's my problem with Showtime’s Homeland, now that Gilda and I are watching the DVD of the first season. The suspected Al Qaeda plot the CIA and FBI are investigating—a sniper attack against the president as he leaves or boards his Marine One helicopter at Reagan National Airport—is based on erroneous fact. Air Force One, the only plane the president flies in, does not use Reagan. It flies in and out of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, nowhere near the Virginia house Abu Nasir's terrorist cell bought and planned to use in their assassination attempt because its roof has a direct view of the helicopter landing pad at Reagan. 

There are no doubt other points we could dissect but this one is troubling. You'd think the CIA and FBI would know the president doesn't use Reagan National Airport. Maybe the dilemma is cleared up in the last two episodes of season one which we hope to view this weekend. I hope so, because otherwise I really like this show and can’t wait for the second season DVD to become available.

Fox Hunting: Homeland's plot arc has a former prisoner of war suspected by a CIA agent of being a sleeper terrorist turned by Al Qaeda during his eight years of captivity. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brady is elected to Congress, where he can wreak havoc from within the political system. My niece in England sent me a link to an article in the Guardian about Rupert Murdoch’s failed attempt to co-opt the American presidential race from within. 

It's by Carl Bernstein who has experience in these matters (for those too young to know, he’s the Bernstein of Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate reporting fame). Here are two links, the first to Bernstein’s article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/20/bernstein-murdoch-ailes-petreaus-presidency), the second to the actual voice tape of the conversation between General Petraeus and K.T. McFarland of Fox News referred to by Bernstein that was obtained by Bob Woodward. Keep in mind this conversation happened a year before Petraeus’ downfall from his alleged affair

Signature Moment: Ordinary Americans always strive to identify with their politicians. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever. My point is, the brouhaha over Treasury Secretary nominee Jacob J. Lew’s signature—a series of connected loops looking much like a Slinky on its side—has me identifying directly with the man whose scrawl would appear on all paper currency should he be confirmed by the Senate.

I for one can’t find fault with his illegible writing. Mine is what I call my executive signature, stroked so quickly that only, and just barely at that, can you make out the “M” of my first name. Sometimes when I sign legal documents I slow down, but that causes a problem, as when I go to the bank to gain access to our safety deposit box. I can never remember which signature I am supposed to match. 

My poor penmanship must be in my genes, for Dan as well has a signature where only the “D” is legible. I used to think Ellie’s signature was decipherable, but since she got married and changed her middle and last names, she too has channeled me, and I know what she’s supposed to be writing. 

Blame, or Praise, Me: If you're wondering why there hasn't been any snow this month, I have an explanation. In my quest for the perfect snow shovel I recently bought a wheeled shovel, good for up to six inches of flakes. I eagerly awaited the next snowfall to test out my purchase. 

Naturally the power(s) to be have thwarted my ability to test drive this model by spritzing rain on us versus snow. I hope you all appreciate this gift I have given you, unless, of course, you like shoveling snow and skidding along on snow-covered streets.

Recalls From Hell: Here are headlines over press releases you really don’t want to have to issue if you run a company:

“Columbia Sportswear Reannounces Its Recall of Batteries Sold With Jackets Due To Fire Hazard”

“High-Pressure Scuba Diving Air Hoses Recalled by A-Plus Marine Due to Drowning Hazard”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

McChrystal Light in 2016

Twice in the last three days I have seen on TV the next Republican Party candidate for president. He is tall, slim, articulate, a young-looking 59, a man with vision, accomplishment and dedication. He commands, instills, inspires and practices loyalty.

He's a retired U.S. Army general, forced to resign for imprudent comments his staff made to a Rolling Stone reporter about their civilian leaders. But in the bizarro world of politics we operate under today, insulting Vice President Joseph Biden or President Barack Obama would be listed as an accomplishment on his résumé when read by the Republican elite. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next Republican candidate for president, General Stanley McChrystal.

As a nation we have a long history of electing generals and other war heroes to lead our country. Washington. Jackson. Tippacanoe’s William Henry Harrison. Taylor. Grant. Teddy Roosevelt. Eisenhower. Kennedy. Bush 1. McChrystal would slide in quite nicely with that list.

McChrystal is making a publicity tour to promote his book, My Share of the Task: A Memoir. He's a darling of corporate America. Executives pay top dollar to soak up his leadership mantra as they sweat together jogging around the capital, stopping at various monuments so McChrystal can impart some leadership lore. 

I'm not sure he's fully on board with the main GOP planks. Heck, I don’t even know if McChrystal is a Republican. He actually has come out for limiting public access to military style weapons. That would be a novel position for any Republican standard bearer. Perhaps he would offer a more common sense alternative to the crazies who have crushed the mainstream of the party during the last two presidential elections. 

Perhaps he’s not as dogmatic when it comes to GOP platform planks. Who knows if he is anti abortion? Anti taxes? Pro debt reduction? Anti social services spending? Pro big defense spending? Blindly reveres Ronald Reagan? As a military strategist, he’s had to maneuver assets based on resources and capabilities. He’d figure out quickly what are electable positions. We might actually get a Republican candidate not so intimated to admit science proves global warming, science proves the earth is more than 6,000 years old, Creationism is bunk, evolution should be embraced, infrastructure is important to the military and our economy and money should be invested to upgrade it.  

I can't foresee any right-minded Republican presidential hopeful man enough to challenge him in the primaries. Sure, they might be correct in saying he has no government experience, but that might be appealing to Tea Party faithful and independents who consider normal politicians to be most of the problem in Washington. Let him pick a vice president with congressional experience, someone like senator Marco Rubio, and we might be looking at the ticket that restores the Grand Old Party to the White House, with perhaps strong enough coattails to sweep majorities along in the House and Senate.

McChrystal believes all Americans should engage in national service, not just military service. Having commanded troops most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, he's fulfilled his military obligations. Now he's primed for public service at the highest level. There's no way Republican poobahs are not salivating at the prospect. There's no way Democratic strategists are not shivering at the possibility. Democrats will need a really strong counter-candidate, someone who can keep together the Obama coalition of women, minorities, East and West Coast liberals and independents. Are you up to the challenge, Hillary?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Am I Safer Knowing About Guns in the 'hood?

Do I feel any safer knowing one of my neighbors has a permit to own a handgun? Not really.

Even if I knew for sure he, or she, actually possessed a revolver or pistol, I wouldn’t feel any more secure. 

Nor do I feel any less secure. Here’s an interesting fact—over the near 30 years in our current neighborhood, the only two homes burglarized were ostensibly protected by alarm systems. And by dogs. So much for high tech and man’s-best-friend protection systems. I’m always amazed people don’t employ the simplest and most effective security system—lights that automatically turn on and off. Don’t people realize a completely dark house any time from sunset to at least 11 pm is an open-for-business invitation to house burglars?  

Since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., there’s been lots of talk for and against tightening gun control laws, everything from doing nothing to restricting the sale of semi-automatic military-style weapons to placing limits on the size of ammunition magazines. Some schools have added armed security guards (about one-third of all public schools already had armed security). 

Our local paper, the Westchester Journal News, published a map pinpointing all holders of handgun permits in the county. The map does not reveal addresses where long guns (rifles or shotguns) may be present. Curiosity finally got the better of me, so I checked out our subdivision. I counted three homes certified to pack heat, with another two on a nearby street. 

In a recent Op-Ed piece in The NY Times, David Cole, a professor of constitutional law and criminal justice at the Georgetown University Law Center, wrote, “The right to bear arms typically invokes the romantic image of a cowboy toting a rifle on the plains.” True enough. But I seem to remember in Westerns featuring Wyatt Earp, Marshal Dillon or some other sheriff the rule of the lawman in charge was everyone had to surrender their firearms if they wanted to walk around town. When did we adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward gun possession in public, so much so that states seem to be falling over each other in their rush to permit open and even concealed weapons in public spaces including bars, schools and houses of government? 

It’s really rather depressing that so many care more about the right to bear arms than providing our fellow citizens with quality medical care, education and enough food so they and their children don’t go to bed hungry.

Pillow Talk: Speaking of going to bed, after reading my post on sleep habits, a representative from Anna’s Linens filled in more details about the company’s survey. 

Seems I’m not the only person who sleeps with three pillows—35% said they sleep with three or more, though they did not elaborate if they configured them to their body as I do. Another 45% sleep with two pillows; 20% rest their heads on just one.

The survey also found 18% sleep in their underwear to go along with the 8% who sleep in the buff and the 74% who wear pajamas.

Debt Service: Maureen Dowd in The Times wrote about Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo) the other day. Bennet was one of eight senators to vote against the bill to prevent the country from slipping over the fiscal cliff. Like many who want to curb spending and lower the national debt, Bennet argued against saddling the next generation. He told Dowd, “I think if we can get people focused to do what we need to do to keep our kids from being stuck with this debt that they didn’t accrue, you might be surprised at how far we can move this conversation. Washington politics no longer follows the example of our parents and our grandparents who saw as their first job creating more opportunity, not less, for the people who came after.”

I wonder, what do Bennet and those like-minded mean when they say “kids (are being ) stuck with debt that they didn’t accrue”? Of course children didn’t vote when they were young. Their parents did. They voted for presidents and congressmen who passed on to us such benefits as Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. The interstate highway system. NASA. Food and drug safety programs. OSHA. FEMA. A national park service second to none in the world. 

Creating opportunity for the next generation doesn’t just means the chance to make lots of money. It means being able to enjoy life, to be safe in your place of employment, to not worry about the surety of your food and water supply. Are there too many regulations? Probably, in some areas. Should we remove all regulations. Absolutely not. Let’s stop with the rhetoric and start and real discussion about what we expect from government and how to pay for it. Tax rates are at an all-time low. Let’s be grown up and realize if we want protections and services we need to pay for them. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sleep, Perchance to Dream

How did you sleep last night? 

If a recent survey of 3,700 people is to be believed, some 10% of you slept as I did, on your back. Almost three-quarters of you (74%) slept on your side. The rest (16%) lay on your tummy. When I was younger I used to sleep on my stomach. Then I gravitated to my side. Recently, I find myself on my back most nights. 

What stimulated this nocturnal revelation is the commemoration of National Sleep Day on Thursday, which prompted a release from Anna’s Linens on a survey of sleeping habits. Anna’s Linens has more than 300 stores spread throughout the country. 

I’m a three-pillow sleeper, a holdover from my nights sleeping on my side. One pillow would be for under my head, another I would cradle around my torso and the third would get tucked between my knees so bone wouldn’t knock against bone. Laugh if you will, but when Gilda attended nursing school and learned the proper way to make a patient comfortable, the instructor described my regimen to a tee. She started giggling in class when she heard this. She confessed to classmates she had always made fun of my sleeping arrangement. Ah, vindication. How sweet.

I might have been able to milk this sentiment had I not been guilty of excessive snoring. Gilda is among the 47% of those who share a bed with someone who snores. Many a night she nudges me to stop sawing wood so she can have a restful sleep.

For a variety of reasons, two-thirds of those surveyed said they enjoy restful sleeps just three nights or less per week. Sunday nights provide the least restful slumber, followed by Mondays. Friday and Saturday nights are the most restful. 

This survey did not reveal how often people have sex, but it did find 8% sleep naked. Another 74% said they wear pajamas in bed, leaving the attire of 18% unaccounted for.

Gilda would tell you I’m forever recounting to her my dreams. Often, after waking up in the middle of the night, I am able to resume a dream when sleep returns. The survey found more than half the respondents said they're able to recall less than one-quarter of their dreams, while approximately 10% said they were able to recall nearly all their dreams from that night's sleep.

Hopefully, this information will not keep you up tonight.