Archive for December 2013


This is a short story with a happy ending. I spend very little time worrying about football and certainly less time worrying about Texas football. But in this case, I was indeed devoted to the outcome.

It seems that earlier in the 2009 football season the quarterback of the University of Texas football team gave a sports interview. During that interview, he made at least one or more references to being retarded. Apparently he ascribed that condition to the other team that the University of Texas club would be playing soon. That word “retard” constitutes a fighting word for a good number of people who have an association with a person who has a mental disability.

In the instant case, the word was heard by the President of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas, who became rightfully incensed. If my understanding is correct, the President of the Down Syndrome Association wrote a letter to the coach of the Texas University football team calling attention to the use of the word “retard.”

At this point, I must remind my readers that I have a thirteen-year-old grandson who has been afflicted from his birth with Down Syndrome. His parents treat it openly as a disability, which I know all about. I am disabled because I am bald-headed and can’t dance worth a lick.

In any case, the coach’s wife at the University of Texas read the letter and got in touch with the author, the President of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas. One way or another, they came to the conclusion that it would be appropriate for officials from the Down Syndrome Association to address the entire football team at a subsequence practice. This was a major opportunity and my daughter and other officers with the Down Syndrome Society were not going to miss it.

So on the appointed day, the UT football team put on their pads and helmets and gathered for a bit of a talking-to. It turns out that the spokesman for the Down Syndrome Association happened to be my daughter, who will soon become the President of that association. Quite fortunately, her remarks to the football team were preserved and so I am able to tell you exactly what she had to say.

Here are the remarks delivered by my daughter:

“The words ‘retard’ and ‘retarded’ get used a lot these days. They’re in the movies and on TV, and even some really wonderful people use them, and those people probably don’t mean to be hurtful. But when you’re on the receiving end of these words, when you’re a person with an intellectual disability or you love a person with an intellectual disability, it’s a very different experience. These words cut like a knife and they go right to a person’s worth. So please don’t use those words, and if you can, please be an ambassador for us and tell other people not to use those words. Because everyone, regardless of ability or disability, deserves to be treated with respect.”

Following the remarks of Suzanne Shepherd, my daughter, the main event occurred. The Texas football team was addressed by John Eamonn Shepherd, who is my grandson. His remarks were also preserved, and I am now able to repeat them to you. Jack said:

“When you use the word ‘retard,’ it’s not nice. It really hurts me. Please don’t use that word.”

According to the local newspaper, Jack’s remarks were more voluminous than the above sentences. But I will stick with my daughter’s account of exactly what happened when Jack spoke to the behemoths of the football team because they make the point elegantly.

Every father likes to see his child do well, even if this one is more than 50 years old. When she spoke of the word retard having an effect on a person’s feeling of worth, I thought that was a major achievement in the English language. As I told you at the beginning of this little essay, this is a happy story. The Texas football team heard my daughter out as well as her son. When their speeches were concluded, there were hugs all around. My guess is that no one on the Texas football team who heard those two speeches will ever refer to another person as retarded. In and of itself, that is a major accomplishment.

During my daughter’s remarks, she observed a black player who was staring at her intently. As far as I know, they exchanged no verbal communications. The message was clear. That black player and probably his family have endured several occasions when their worth was questioned.

As I said at the outset, I am not much of a football fan, but I hope that that player and the entire Texas football team profited by the visit of my daughter and her son. I might also point out that he is my grandson. It is not often that I can write an essay that ends on a happy note. But that is the case here today and I hope that you are as pleased with the outcome as I am.

October 26, 2009
Essay 417
Kevin’s commentary: An easy favorite. I was proud then and I’m proud now. Mom’s president of DSACT now for I believe the 3rd year, incidentally.

Happy New Year’s Eve!


During a recent prolonged hospital stay, I found that the hospital bedroom was largely unheated. It seems to me that, in an effort to save some money, hospitals are now abiding by the New York apartment heating rule. Under that rule, landlords are not obliged to furnish heat until October 1st. In any case, my stay lasted 13 days, during which time I took every device at my command to avoid a cold. My stay involved prostate surgery but with the cold temperature in the room I was fearful of pneumonia.

Fortunately, I was armed with the Vicks inhaler which carried me through the thirteen-day period. The inhaler cleared my head and did much to improve my outlook on life. Perhaps there was an aphrodisiac in that inhaler and, if so, I salute the Vicks Corporation for its inclusion.

When I was a child in prehistoric times, there was no such thing as sulpha or penicillin or any of the miracle drugs that we have today. During cold weather, when a cold was approaching, the only solution was to use the salve, Vicks, on one’s chest. On several occasions my mother prescribed that a helping of Vicks on her finger should also be swallowed. The fact that I am 87 years of age may attest to her acumen in medical matters. But I give the major credit to the Vicks Corporation.

The people who produce Vicks have long been taken over by corporate conglomerates. In this case, it is Proctor and Gamble. When I made a call to their headquarters, I was directed toward a fellow named Steve who was an engaging fellow, and I must say that he learned as much about Vicks as I did.

It seems that in the 1890s, somewhere in North Carolina, there was a druggist who produced a product named Vicks. It became renowned for its ability to hold colds and flu in check. By the time that I had reached the childhood age of six or seven, my mother knew all about Vicks and its efficiency in dealing with symptoms of flu and colds. So she became a partisan in medical matters that favored the Vicks concoction. So today, when I use my Vicks inhaler to ward off a cold, the work done by that unknown chemist in North Carolina who produced Vicks is still paying some dividends.

Today there are several Vicks products. They include Sinex for your sinuses as well as Nyquil and Dayquil for colds, I believe. There is also Vicks Vapor Rub and Baby Rub and Vicks Vapor Cream. Then we have Vicks Formula 44 for flu symptoms and Vicks Custom Care for flu and colds. I have probably told you more than you want to know about Vicks but, based on my experience of more than 80 years, the concoctions turned out by that chemist in North Carolina are efficacious and make one feel a good bit better. It would also help if the hospital got around to turning on the heat before October 1st or October 15th. But that is beside the point here. The fact is that while my prostate took its time in healing, a Vicks inhaler was hard at work. That pleased me no end.

When someone or some product does me a favor, it has been my custom for more than 60 years to acknowledge that fact. I know that this is a belated tribute to the Vicks Corporation or to the Vicks Company but, before time runs out, I wanted to tell the world that the products made by the Vicks people are worthwhile. They were good in the 1920s when I first learned of them, just as they are good now in the 21st century. Any product that can last that long has got to be meritorious beyond belief.

And so it is that I salute the makers of Vicks, even though they are now controlled by Proctor and Gamble which has achieved giant status in the field of medical remedies. P&G also makes cat food, among other things. Be that as it may, in this season of swine flu and other kinds of flu, you can depend on one of the Vicks products that I have named earlier. In my humble estimation, the products produced by Vicks are without parallel.

October 14, 2009
Essay 414
Kevin’s commentary: Oh man, Nyquil is my favorite thing when I have a cold. For some reason my system is extra susceptible to it and it does a fine fine job of clearing cold systems AND putting me soundly to sleep for about seven hours. I was always terrible at sleeping while sick before I realized I could basically just knock myself out via Nyquil. That was certainly a discovery that changed my life for the better, so I’ll join Pop in his salute of Vicks here.


According to the Jewish calendar, the year is 5770. In the calendars that non-Jewish folks use, the year is identified as 2009 in the current era. Whether the year is 5770 or 2009 makes very little difference in writing this preposterous essay. It is preposterous because three countries use antiquated systems for weights and measurements. The rest of the world uses enlightened weights and measurements but not the United States, Burma, or Liberia. While the United States ought to be embarrassed to find itself in the company of failed states such as Liberia, whose president, Charlie Taylor, stole everything in sight, and the junta government in Burma, also known as Myanmar, we show no evidence of changing our ways..

There are three examples that are required to make my case for the preposterousness of this essay. When Americans, for example, go to the grocery store, they often buy articles that are priced by the pound. My belief is that a pound consists of 16 ounces but who in the world determined what an ounce is? The enlightened world uses grams and kilograms for measuring the weights of products that they buy. But not the United States, Burma, or Liberia. All that can be said here is that an ounce is a small weight but it is very difficult to describe or recognize when someone says, “I will give you an ounce of a drug” or “I will give you an ounce of fish.”

The second example here has to do with measuring temperature. Only in Burma, Liberia, and the United States do we use the Fahrenheit system. The rest of the civilized world uses the Celsius system. Under the Fahrenheit system, water freezes at 32°. That in and of itself is preposterous. Under the Celsius system, water freezes when the temperature reaches 0°. That makes sense. To the rest of the world, when the temperature falls below 0°, they have sense enough to stay inside. But not in the Fahrenheit system at all. We continue to engage in outdoor activities regardless of the sub-zero temperatures, as in the case of professional football, and now the World Series playoffs.

The final example has to do with measurements. Some time in antiquity, the world was introduced to inches, feet, and miles. According to my best recollections, a mile is 5,260 feet. It may be 5,280 feet. But that is of little consequence here. Reduced to basics, the underlying question remains about how long an inch is. Generally speaking, I know all about inches because I have my thumb and my forefinger which I hold up at about an inch apart. The rest of the world uses meters and kilometers. I would argue that it is time for Burma, Liberia, and the United States to join the rest of the civilized world using the metric system.

The President of the United States has more on his plate than he deserves, but if he were ever to move to bring the metric system or the Celsius system to this country, it is my educated guess that the right wing would go nuts. I can guarantee you that anyone who sponsors a move to bring us out of the 14th century in terms of weights and measurements would be called, at best, a socialist or a communist and probably a fascist as well. I would suggest that my friends on the right wing have never thought about the disadvantages this places the United States in when it engages in international relations. When one refers to mileages between cities in this country, for example, he can see his European counterparts calculating how far that is in kilometers. When someone describes how much he paid for a pound of butter in this country, he can see his European counterparts trying to figure out what that would weigh in grams or kilograms.

Because we use an antiquated system of weights and measurements, think back to the 15th century, we pay a certain price in dealing with our foreign competitors. But be that as it may, I will assure you, all of the readers of these essays, that a move to bring us even into the 19th century on weights and measurements will be fiercely opposed by the right wing of the Republican Party. In personal terms, I feel very confident in dealing with meters and grams. My comfort does not make me a socialist or a communist or a fascist. But that is exactly what I would be called if I were a part of the effort to bring sense and enlightenment to our current system of weights and measurements.

On the other hand, if someone wishes to call me all these names, that would be fine with me, provided that we get a system of weights and measurements that comports with the situation in the 21st century.

October 11, 2009
Essay 412
Kevin’s commentary: I saw an incredible video about the imperial system of measurements that should be required viewing/listening for anyone who agrees with the sentiment expressed in this essay:

It’s only 3 minutes long and it makes me happy. It answers some of Pop’s questions, like where the inch came from!


I ordinarily do not give advice to sitting United States Presidents because I know it will probably never reach them and if it does it will probably be ignored. But if my thoughts have any currency at the moment, I would like them to be transmitted to Barack Obama.

Point one is that he should forget totally and without question any idea of bipartisanship for any piece of legislation that originated in Democratic ranks. There will be no bipartisanship on the health bill. If he thinks Olympia Snowe equates to bipartisanship, Mr. Obama has a loose wire. The thought here is that the Republicans are never ever going to agree to bipartisanship, which is their prerogative, and they will be labeled as the party of no.

Secondly, the Republicans believe that the only way they can return to power is by the failure of the Obama administration. Rush Limbaugh made it clear that he wants the Obama administration to fail. When the Republicans cast nay votes on such things as health insurance, you may rest assured that they wish for the Obama administration to fail, after which they can return to power. Any student of bargaining will tell you that.

Point three is that Obama needs to develop a mean streak. Senators ignore his council with impunity.

George Bush was the worst President in the history of the United States. But he did have a mean streak and Senators did what they were told. For example, John Warner, the old-time chairman of several Senate committees, and Dick Lugar, also an old-timer from Indiana, introduced on separate occasions two pieces of legislation. When they heard from the White House, they were forced to vote against their own bills. Were they humiliated? Of course, but Obama needs to develop a mean streak. When people ignore his council, it cannot be done without consequence.

Well, these are my thoughts for today on trying to improve the Obama administration. I expect that they will never reach the White House and, if they do, they will probably continue to be ignored. But be that as it may, it is good to get them off my chest. Obama should not ignore my 17 years of labor relations experience as well as my negotiations with foreign entities and my experience as a lobbyist. Perhaps he will ignore my thoughts to his own peril but there is very little I can do about that. If the President wishes to indulge in fantasies of bipartisanship, there is not much that I can do to help him. But he is from Chicago and perhaps sooner or later he will realize that Olympia Snowe by herself does not represent bipartisanship.

Matt Fritz, my old friend and mentor from St. Louis, would have had a thought about the apparent negotiations going on in Washington regarding the health bill. Matt would have said, “On with the rat killing.” For better or worse, that thought sums up my view of the so-called negotiations in Washington. I live in hope that tomorrow will bring better news. Let us see what happens.

October 12, 2009
Essay 413
Kevin’s commentary: It occurs to me that if ol’ Barack had actually read this, maybe he would have seen the government shutdown coming.


This fall there will be governors’ races in our two great states of Virginia and New Jersey. Why these two states hold off-year elections is beyond the ken of human understanding. In New Jersey, for example, these off-year elections seem to have been held since the beginning of time.

The race in Virginia has stirred up a good bit of controversy which has caused me to comment upon it. The Republican candidate in that election is named Robert McDonnell. A few years back, when Mr. McDonnell was a student at Regent University, he wrote a thesis for a Master’s Degree that has caused considerable interest. McDonnell already had a degree from Notre Dame University with a Master’s from Boston College. But one way or another, he decided that he needed another degree from Regent University in Virginia, which is a creature of Pat Robertson. The title of the degree he was pursuing will be a back breaker. It is called a Master of Arts in Public Policy and Juris Doctor in Law. Cynics like myself might well assume that attendance at Regent University was aimed at getting a job in the Bush administration. But that job never happened and George W. Bush has gone away.

After studying for a year or more, Mr. McDonnell wrote a thesis of lengthy duration. It had 15 points, which I will not try to recount for you. Among those points that he raised in the conclusion to his thesis were these. First, Mr. McDonnell is anti-abortion to the hilt. Secondly, he decries working women because those women ought to be at home nurturing their children. The curious question follows: what if there are no children? But that seems to make no difference to Mr. McDonnell.

Among his other conclusions in the thesis is that he is against the interstate sale of pornography and obscenity. That is a pretty safe conclusion to come to. Then there is the thought that Mr. McDonnell recommended the end of all government welfare programs. And so he means such things as Social Security and Medicare. Finally we get to the sexual part of his thesis. Mr. McDonnell rails against homosexuals. He also condemns single-parent unwed mothers. Good gracious, he is also against safe sex education programs. He opposes telling anyone about abortion. He believes we should reverse no-fault divorce. I suspect that people should live together until they commit homicide. But the kicker is that Mr. McDonnell also condemns fornication. In the Republican Party, I suppose it is appropriate to condemn fornication and feminism. In the wicked Northeast, those things have long gone been accepted by the Republican Party.

The thesis was written by Mr. McDonnell in 1989, when he was 34 years of age. When I was 34 years of age, my thought processes had pretty well been established. But Mr. McDonnell says that, upon the discovery of his thesis, the thoughts he had expressed no longer really apply. He says that over the years his mind has evolved and he tends to leave it at that. He does not tell us that he now really opposes anything that has to do with working women who do not nurture their children, real or imagined, at home. On all the other points in his thesis, Mr. McDonnell tells us that his views have evolved but he does not tell us what the evolution amounts to. Clearly, it appears to cynics such as myself that Mr. McDonnell wrote his thesis in 1989 and holds the identical views today, but now that he is running for governor he finds a need to smudge those views. I had hoped that Mr. McDonnell in his mind evolution would tell us that he now either favors fornication or that he no longer opposes it. But that is not the case. The state of the record is that McDonnell opposes fornication.

It is clear that if McDonnell lived in the great state of New Jersey he would oppose the governor, Jon Corzine, not only because he is a Democrat but because he lived with a woman who was not his wife. The fact that in this case the two principals were divorced would, I suspect, make very little difference to a zealot such as Mr. McDonnell.

Jon Corzine was for a time the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the investment firm. When he left that firm, he took with him great bundles of cash. He used that money to become a United States Senator. When he tired of that job, I suspect that he resigned to become the Governor of New Jersey because he thought that the governorship would propel him toward the White House. Ah, but that is not the case. For old Corzine is stuck in Trenton, New Jersey, with a monstrous deficit, but at least he will not do what the Governor of Alaska did, which was to resign and let somebody else take the heat.

Now, as long as McDonnell has brought up the issue of fornication, it might be observed that for a certain period of time, Jon Corzine was living with a woman who was also divorced, who was also an official of the Communications Workers of America. She was the President of the local that held the bargaining rights for a large number of New Jersey state employees. I feel a certain kinship here in that the Communications Workers of America is my old union. But I must say that I never had an arrangement that included a love affair with a well-heeled fellow like Jon Corzine.

When the affair with the union president, Carla Katz, was finished, he picked up the tab on her house, which amounted to more than $700,000. He also agreed to put her children through private school. That is generosity beyond the understanding of any ordinary human.

Corzine’s opponent is Chris Christie, who during the Bush years was the federal prosecutor for the state of New Jersey. He contends that in that role he should be elected to the governorship because he put several crooks in jail while he was prosecutor. Finding a crook in New Jersey is about as difficult as catching fish in a barrel. In this state, crooks abound and are rivaled only by those who exist in Louisiana. At the moment the polls tell us that Chris Christie is ahead, but this is only September and the election is in November.

I have a conclusion about these two races. On the general subject of fornication, it is my view that as long as the act takes place under voluntary circumstances, I can do nothing about it and therefore I really have no objections to it at all. Clearly the affair between Carla Katz and Jon Corzine was a voluntary one. But Mr. McDonnell of Virginia is not one who would attract my sympathy or my vote. He says that his thinking has evolved, but clearly he still dislikes the idea of women in the work place, homosexuals, co-habitators, and all sorts of other people. I do not have a vote in the great state of Virginia, but if I did had one, it would not be cast in favor of Mr. McDonnell and his antediluvian views on life. I do have a vote here in New Jersey, and as we approach the elections find it interesting that no one has raised the issue of Jon Corzine living with a woman who was not his wife. I find this an enlightened view of life in the 21st century. If the election were held tomorrow, I would clearly vote for Jon Corzine, fornication and all of the other concerns. I will follow the events in Virginia as well to see if Virginians have a similar view of things in the current century. And I will also try to follow the fortunes of Mr. McDonnell to see if somewhere along the line the evolution of his mind might include acceptance of women in the workplace. My guess is that his thesis, written at the age of 34, pretty much states it all.

Well, the title of this essay was contributed by my wife, Miss Chicka. And I suspect that the races in Virginia and New Jersey will carry out the theme which is that governors’ races ain’t what they used to be. But there is enough interest in those two races to keep me occupied in the early part of November. These are the only two races for governorships that we have and they will have to do until 2010 comes along. In the meantime, keep your powder dry and watch out for working women and those mean-spirited fornicators that Mr. McDonnell has warned us against.

September 6, 2009
Essay 411
Kevin’s commentary: The only way I see him defending that thesis is that it had so many horrible problems that nobody knew where to even begin with refuting it. Seriously though, it sounds like a holy grail for bigots.

Of course Christie won this race. You can view his thoughts on Christie below:






The genesis for this essay took place earlier this week when a gentleman highly skilled in the science of computer technology appeared at our home to work on Judy’s computer. I know nothing about computers, so I am left to admire the verbal byplay between my wife and this gentleman. Over the years, this fellow has come here on several occasions to upgrade Judy’s computers and he refuses to accept any compensation beyond what the parts cost. As background information, this gentleman worked for AT&T and for a period of time he reported to Judy, my wife. This occurred perhaps a quarter of a century ago, so both of us have had a long time to consider this man’s skills and his general demeanor. Following the work on the computer, this gentleman engaged in conversation with Judy and myself for a period of time. The conversation took us through German automobiles and to real estate in suburban New Jersey. In every case, whether it was computers, German automobiles, or suburban New Jersey real estate, this fellow had very positive opinions. He left no doubt where he stood on every question and I wondered how it would be to have this fellow as a spouse with such positive conclusions on nearly every subject.

Following his departure, I asked Judy, my wife, whether in all of the years that she had known this fellow anyone had declared affection for him. The answer was immediate. It was, “No.” Obviously they respected his knowledge but he was affectionless in nearly everyone’s eyes. This is not to say that he is to be scorned. That should never be the case. But it brought up the question of the fine line or the wide gulf between those who are technically qualified and announce their thoughts and those of us who are less sure of ourselves.

For example, if I were to ask this gentleman what two plus two equals, he would answer, “Obviously four. That is all there is to it.” Another friend of mine from the great state of Missouri who is not nearly so positive would probably say, “I believe that two and two equal four, but there may be some exceptions.” Clearly there are no exceptions to that small addition. But the fact that one is so positive in his thoughts and that the other is giving room for doubt if someone disagrees with him is of interest and it led to this essay being written. In point of fact, this essay has been dictated, but the difference between dictation and handwriting I hope will not be apparent.

My point is that those of us with great technical skills are to be lauded. But on the other hand, those of us with people skills who possess a germ of humility and humor are going to be beloved. Given a choice, I would suggest that all of us should go with those who are beloved.

There are many examples of this in a variety of fields. In the legislative field, Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah is widely respected for his skill at maneuvering or blocking bills in Congress. On the other hand, Senator Hatch, from what I have seen over the years, is devoid of humility and a sense of humor. Contrast his accomplishments with those of Senator Ted Kennedy. At his funeral, which took place earlier today, there were heartfelt declarations of that belovedness, ranging from small children to elderly folks. Ted Kennedy had a sense of humor and Orrin Hatch has very little. I suspect that there is much to admire in Orrin Hatch, but given a choice, I would say the vote always goes to Ted Kennedy.

To use another example from the sports field, there are Pete Rose and Stan Musial. Over a long career, Pete Rose has become the leader in base hits. He was not a feared hitter who could drive the ball out of the ball park, but on the other hand, it seemed as though every time one looked up, Pete Rose was on base. As it turns out, Pete Rose was found to be gambling on baseball games and has been largely banned from the sport. He will not be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

Stan Musial had an equally long career with the St. Louis Cardinals where he amassed base hits in every form. Wherever Musial goes, he is recognized as a beloved figure. Musial is still alive at age 88 and my hope is that he lives forever. Once again, there is that wide gulf between a man who has mastered the art of base hits as opposed to the man who not only possesses that art but possesses a sense of humility and a sense of humor. In this case, there is no choice but Stan Musial. Pete Rose was respected for what he did, but no one loves him.

In military matters, there are two outstanding examples from World War II. The first involves four-star general George S. Patton, who wore a pistol on each hip. He also at times carried kid gloves in the style of European generals. General Patton produced some amazing results, particularly in the Battle of the Bulge, but I suspect that he was disliked and/or hated by the GIs who did the heavy lifting.

Then there is General Omar Bradley, a native of Missouri, who achieved the same results with much less fanfare. From my personal knowledge, General Bradley had the affection of all of the soldiers of the non-commissioned ranks who served in his armies. I believe that every old GI will tell you that Patton was flamboyant; he drove his men mercilessly to achieve great results. But Omar Bradley achieved equal results with much less fanfare and in the end, General Bradley was a beloved figure. Here again, take the man who is beloved over the flamboyant George Patton.

There are many other examples that can be cited to demonstrate the wide gulf between those who are simply respected and those who are not only respected but admired as well.

I believe that this essay need not go on, because it appears that the point seems to have been made. In this life, there are some of us who are respected and others who are not only respected but loved as well. If you ever have a choice, always go with those who are loved as distinguished from those who are simply respected.

September 6, 2009
Essay 410
Kevin’s commentary: When Machiavelli asked a similar question, he came up with the opposite answer. I have a hunch that the people who would prefer between being respected/feared to being loved are probably the same kind of people who would not be particularly beloved in the first place.


The title suggests that the subject for this essay is guns. If there is a more unqualified writer on this particular subject, he is unknown to man or beast. I have never owned a firearm. I do not ever intend to buy one. Now it is true that from the early part of 1943 through the beginning months of 1945 I made my living, or nearly dying, from firearms. It was a machine gun that was owned by the United States Army. The gun was loaned to me on the condition that I kept it in good repair and at the end, returned it to the owner. The last shot that came from that borrowed gun was probably fired in late 1944 or early 1945. For the next 65 years, I have been absolutely free of any type of firearm. When I returned the machine gun to the United States Army, I was thinking that the old spiritual should apply. That of course would be “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.”

Two events have occurred this summer that have caused me to once again think about guns. The first has to do with those who are seeking to protect their second amendment rights by carrying loaded pistols to the town meetings being held by congressmen. The second event involves a wide receiver for the New York Giants football team who had a regrettable incident at the Latin Quarter Night Club in New York City.

When guns are carried by citizens, they often proclaim that they are within the law and are fully protected by the Second Amendment to our Constitution. The Second Amendment reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. In neither of the cases that inspired this essay is there any hint of a “well regulated militia.” But nonetheless, we have citizens showing up at town hall rallies carrying loaded pistols, followed by the incident at the Latin Quarter nightclub.

Taking first things first, it should be noted that in the month of August, politicians tend to leave Washington, DC and head back to their home districts. While they are there, they often hold town meetings to sense the pulse of the people.

Generally speaking, a high percentage of the members of the House of Representatives and a few senators contend that Washington is an evil place. In the town meetings, these representatives suggest to their constituents that only they can straighten out the evilness that pervades our capital city. In spite of the evil nature that is perceived by a good many congressmen, they tend to do everything that can be done to win re-election so that they can return to the evil city. I should think that it ought to be the other way around. If a Representative from Utah, for example, found Washington DC to be so evil, why would he want to ever go back? But the fact of the matter is that all of the Representatives and all of the Senators do everything within their power to be re-elected and to be sent back to Washington.

During the 1960s, it was my great pleasure to spend the better part of four years in our capital city lobbying for the great AT&T Company. For a man such as myself who comes from St. Louis, I found the climate to be ordinary. Of course, it gets warm in Washington during July and August, but the same could be said of Corpus Christi, Texas. In any event, the representatives and senators that we send to Washington typically tend to return to their districts after having declared themselves in recess for the month of August. This is a fairly cushy job in that our representatives, as a general rule, work only three days per week. They leave home on Monday evening, show up on Tuesday, and by Thursday evening they are headed back home. So I do not see this as a wrenching drama that drains all of their energy from them.

But in any case, when they go home in August, they often hold town meetings. What has disturbed me is that in the year of 2009, a good number of people show up at these meetings carrying firearms. They contend that the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives them that right and that they are there to exercise it. It seems to me that a good many of those who carry arms are intent upon telling the news media that they are doing so.

I may not be an expert on guns but I do claim some expertise on human behavior. I simply do not buy the argument that if everybody were armed, things would be more peaceful. I contend that if everybody were armed, there would be more killings than there are today. It is my suggestion that a speaker who exercises some passion may well arouse one of the armed persons. It has always seemed to me that a person does not go out in public carrying firearms without having the intent to use them. In my humble opinion, firearms have no place at all in a public meeting. Yet in the meetings with the representatives and senators, we find that a handful of armed men show up and brag about their armaments. To a European, this must seem like a preposterous American development. I consider it a preposterous American development as well.

Finally of course with respect to carrying arms to town meetings, I am forced to again observe that this country has a president whose father is of African descent. In the first seven months of the Obama administration, it is my belief that a percentage of the people who oppose him may do so for racial reasons. This is not a farfetched idea. This country has lost two of Kennedy brothers to assassins. Should there be more?

My conclusion is that carrying a loaded firearm to a meeting where contentious issues may be discussed is an invitation to use the firearm against a speaker with whom one has a disagreement. And for those who nurture resentment toward people of African heritage, whether they admit it or not, it could well be that in the excitement of a public debate we might lose another official. Firearms have no place at public meetings. I wish that they could be left at home or, indeed, never bought. But the courts have construed the Second Amendment, which has to do with well-regulated militias, into citizens claiming that they have the right to carry arms both concealed and in the open. I believe that this country can do without another assassination. Carrying these guns to meetings that are contentious may well provide a short-tempered person with an opportunity to shoot somebody. We have enough shootings without inciting more.

The second reason for my concern at this date involves Plaxico Burress, the former wide receiver for the New York Giants. In February of 2007 at the Super Bowl game, it was Mr. Burress who caught a pass from his quarterback that enabled the New York Giants to gain a victory and become world champions. Now in less than two years, Mr. Burress is headed for jail, which will be his home for the better part of two years.

This whole episode started when Plaxico Burress decided that he needed a firearm to complete his outfit when he went nightclubbing at the Latin Quarter Club in New York. Now Mr. Burress, who clearly is not among the brightest people on this earth, decided that he did not need a holster to carry his pistol. Rather he stuck it in the waistband of his trousers. It may be that in dancing the tango, the gun slipped from Mr. Burress’s waistband, but one way or the other the pistol fell to the floor. This is where the music should have stopped. But in any case, when his pistol hit the floor he had not bothered to use the safety on it. On striking the floor, the pistol fired, which is what it is supposed to do when the safety is off. The bullet grazed Mr. Burress’s leg so that he needed some first aid attention and it narrowly missed an employee of the club.

It could well be that a person who is not as well known as Mr. Burress could have escaped the police attention that followed. When Burress got patched up at a hospital, the police began to investigate what had happened and so it was that Plaxico was charged with a felony which in New York State carried a three-and-a-half-year sentence upon conviction. There was a secondary charge that carried only a two-year prison sentence.

Before it was done, old Plaxico decided that he did not want to stand trial and he pleaded guilty to the secondary charge, which means that he is now an inmate of the New York state prison system for two years. He is 32 years of age and he says that he hopes to straighten his life out and that he would like to return to the National Football League. I can tell you that there are very few clubs that would sign a 34-year-old wide receiver with a prison record such as Mr. Burress will have. I believe his chances for employment on a football club are, as they say in soccer, nil.

It seems to me that people who carry loaded firearms to town meetings are as thoughtless as Plaxico Burress. Perhaps it might be that carrying a loaded pistol might increase a man’s sense of masculinity. I consider it to be an exercise in stupidity. But be that as it may, you have these laws on the books that are greatly connected to the Second Amendment to our constitution under which some people claim the right to carry loaded firearms. Perhaps the people who attend political rallies might draw a lesson or two from the Plaxico Burress incident. When that gun struck the floor, it fired a bullet that grazed Burress’s leg. It could just as well have fired that bullet into Burress’s private parts, which may well have deprived him of his manhood forever. Perhaps those who go armed to political meetings might well keep the fate of Plaxico in mind.

August 25, 2009
Essay 409
Kevin’s commentary: Public places are bad places for guns. Bars are bad places for guns — not just due to dancing-related issues, but bars tend to have drunk people getting in fights. Barfights should not feature pistols. Lots and lots of other places are bad for guns too. In fact, basically every place that isn’t an active war zone qualifies as a bad place for a gun to be.

Honestly the only other place where it really makes sense to have a gun, if of course you’re a crazy person who decides he or she needs one, is in your house. So that way when the burglar comes, you may murder him in your foyer just like you’ve always wanted. Aside from that ‘protection’ element there is practically no use for the object. Shootings like Aurora have taught us that the “good guy with a gun will stop bad guy with a gun” line of reasoning is utter horseshit, because the person who wins a gunfight is the person who comes prepared to that fight. The aurora shooter had full bulletproof riot gear on. Some asshole with a pistol is just going to get himself killed.
Stop bringing your guns out of your house. Stop having guns at all, Jesus. They do so so so much more harm than good, it’s preposterous.

Merry Christmas!


It is a rare case when I have the opportunity to write an essay on love, lust, and $65 billion in larceny. There is also the element of infidelity in an extra-marital affair in this essay.

According to the New York Times, the Bloomberg News, and several other publications which appeared on August 14th, a woman named Sheryl Weinstein announced that she had a book that would be published shortly. It is reasonably clear that Mrs. Weinstein is a scorned woman who wrote this book in an effort to recoup her financial situation. Even though the book has been authored by a ghost writer, I have no trouble with her efforts to restore the family finances. As you may have guessed, Mrs. Weinstein was one of the many people who were bilked by Bernie Madoff. But that is only the beginning of this tale, because Mrs. Weinstein, according to her book, was Bernie Madoff’s mistress and lover for more than 20 years. Affairs of the heart that last for two decades must have some kind of meaning. But in the end, Mrs. Weinstein comes across as a scorned woman. For that, I am sorry for her.

It is clear that the Weinsteins took a heavy hit from the Madoff scandal. On the other hand, it should be noted that Mrs. Weinstein is a certified public accountant who should have known that no stock or collections of stocks return an 11% dividend every month for years. I suspect that greed and lust had much to do with Mrs. Weinstein’s current dilemma. On top of her qualifications, her son worked for Bernie Madoff during one summer and should have been familiar with his operations.

According to the story, Mrs. Weinstein was the Chief Financial Officer of Hadassah, which is of course a Jewish organization for women. In the end, Mrs. Weinstein not only committed $40 million of Hadassah funds to Bernie Madoff, but she and her husband as well as her son also invested with the king of Ponzi schemers.

When it was disclosed that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, Mrs. Weinstein and her husband concluded that they had better sell their real estate, which was located on the upper east side of Manhattan, in an attempt to recover their financial losses. Both of the elder Weinsteins now appear as publishers of a newsletter involved in the laundry business.

Those are the facts. Mrs. Weinstein, a Certified Public Accountant, was seduced by the 11% returns on money invested with Bernie Madoff. As everyone knows, this story ended tragically for the investors and Bernie Madoff is now serving 150 years in jail.

But those are only part of the story. According to Mrs. Weinstein, she will recount in her book that she was Bernie Madoff’s lover for the past 21 years. In all of those long years of love and lust, Mrs. Weinstein failed to detect that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. Quite to the contrary, she refinanced her house so that she would have more money to invest with good old Bernie. I suppose that love and lust blind us to human failings. But for 21 years, Mrs. Weinstein accepted Bernie’s love and collected her dividends. As we say, love is blind.

I have great trouble buying this story. In 21 years of infidelity it is absolutely certain that someone else, some other employee, must have wondered what Bernie and Mrs. Weinstein were doing. My statistics tell me that much of an extra-marital relationship is usually carried out in the afternoons. This of course would permit the participants to go home as though nothing had happened. Are we to believe that no one in the Bernie Madoff organization noticed that the boss was missing on so many afternoons? Secondly, if Mrs. Weinstein was the Chief Financial Officer of Hadassah, she must have had an office from which she was missing on the afternoons of the engagements.

And then there is Ruth Madoff, Bernie’s wife. When Bernie came home each evening after spending time with Mrs. Weinstein, I am certain that his wife would ask him how his day went. In 21 years, Bernie Madoff must have been a very inventive fellow to keep Ruth in the dark. As you can see, I am a skeptic and I either believe that this did not happen or that it was done with the full knowledge of Ruth Madoff.

And then there is also Ronald Weinstein, the husband of Sheryl. Do you think that, when he got home from editing the laundry newsletter, he might not have questioned his wife about where she had been all day?

If my assumption is half-way true about affairs of this sort being carried on in the afternoons, I am certain that members of Bernie Madoff’s organization and of the Hadassah organization would have noticed that their bosses were missing. I believe that my skepticism is well-grounded. However, the fact of the matter is that Mrs. Weinstein has said that she was a participant with Bernie Madoff in lovemaking. So who are you going to believe, my skepticism or a witness with first-hand knowledge? On the other hand, Mrs. Weinstein cannot look to Bernie Madoff as a corroborating witness. If he agreed or disagreed, with a 150-year prison sentence hanging over him, who would believe him? So we are left to buy the book which will appear shortly with a cover price of $23.

I had planned to end this essay by using a line from a Broadway show, slightly twisted. The quotation would be, “Love, lust, and larceny, all the things that make life worth living.” But Miss Chicka, my wife, produced a better line. She said that Bernie was not only screwing his investors, but also his mistress/lover. I think that captures the whole affair.

Old Bernie was an equal-opportunity cad. And I cannot say that Mrs. Weinstein, who had an extra-marital affair of 21 years, deserves many plaudits either. So boys and girls, Mrs. Weinstein’s book will be out next month. She not only promises details of this relationship but also photographs. I can only say, as a grizzled veteran of such accounts, “Who would have thunk it?”

August 17, 2009
Essay 407
Kevin’s commentary: Maybe it was a late-night affair instead. Perhaps Ruth is a very, very sound sleeper. Who knwos?
Big news for the blog: We’re departing from this silly schedule and resuming real-time posts. I’ll still be catching up to attempt to average 1 post per day by the time this blog gets finished, though!