America: Then, Now, in the Future

I look at America today and I am saddened. I am also torn because I am a conservative Democrat who shares a lot of Republican views but is more in line with Democrats. But what does it matter when this men and women whom we have elected are in the business of getting re-elected and kowtowing to their PACs. I really liked Bernie Sanders because he took no PAC money but felt Hillary was the better candidate. Bernie is close to be a socialist which my conservative side cannot tolerate except in a few small doses.
I think back to the 1960s and 70s when men with vision had the commitment to follow through on ideas that help all Americans and not just the well-monied and the well-placed. John F. Kennedy was a very flawed man, but he promised us early in his presidency that he would put an American on the moon, something most people of the day could not happen. And even though he was killed in 1963, President Johnson took the lead and in 1969 it happened. And Richard Nixon, probably one of the most flawed presidents ever, understood the mood of Americans with regard to Vietnam and quickly made a plan to remove American soldiers. That happened in 1975.

In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court had the courage to rule in favor of Roe v. Wade in a 7 – 2 vote. Up until that time people were put in jail just for speaking out about contraception. All the justices on that court were brought on the philosophy of the sanctity of life. Six of those justices were nominated by Eisenhower and Nixon. But they did not allow their political beliefs to interfere with their interpretation of the Constitution relative to the case at hand. That took a lot of courage in those days.

President Lyndon Johnson, a conservative Texas Democrat, spearheaded the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Had Johnson been a little younger and lived to see the 1980s, he would likely have changed parties as did most southern Democrats of the 1960s. But both parties seemed to recognize the wrong that was being dealt to people of color.

All the good that that generation of Republicans and Democrats did is under siege by today’s Republican party for reasons I cannot understand and believe are based in ignorance and pettiness by the divisive minds of a few men who have abandoned the ideal of working for the greater good in favor of working the agenda of a well-monied powerful few.

But I do still believe in the basic goodness of the overwhelming majority of Americans. When disasters befall us, these Americans are not checking party affiliation before they give aid. They just do it because it is the right thing to do.

The Right Thing to Do. Americans support or don’t support things politicians want based on the information given them. But today’s politicians are wont for giving their constituency all the relevant facts regarding a particular issue and instead feed the only those facts which support their agenda. This applies equally to both parties.

It is time for those members of Congress who are in the 70s and 80s to retire and give way the a new generation of politicians. People in their 70s and 80s are not nearly so concerned with the future, in spite of what they may say, as are people in their 30s and 40s. And it is that group who must be given the reins of government if America is to move forward in the best interest of all Americans.


The Crisis Called Trump

Donald Trump loves to announce himself as one of the greatest presidents ever. The reality is, I believe history will portray him as one of the worst ever. He will join Warren Harding, probably the most corrupt, Andrew Johnson, probably the most ineffective, and Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and a few others who are at the bottom. We all know that Andrew Johnson was brought before the senate for removal and was saved by a single vote. Warren Harding was so corrupt that he faced the possibility of being charge with a federal crime and was facing removal by his own party had he not suddenly died.
Donald Trump is probably one of the most divisive presidents ever. Even before he was elected, he was using an “us against them” strategy which he has continued, if changed in flavor, during his presidency. But he has done so at his own peril and has either fired or had quit more of his senior staff than any president in history during his first two years. And swirling around all that is his likely collusion with the Russian government prior to the election which, if proven, would put him directly in the cross-hairs of the, as the Constitution names it, most “high crimes” of probably any president; something approaching treason.

One of the things you find inquiries, such as what are going on now with the FBI investigation, is that there is ultimately a degree of truth with the focus of the investigation. For example, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair and investigation. Clinton steadfastly denied any wrong doing but when the Starr investigation was completed it was clear that Pres. Clinton was guilty of “abuse of power.” That very same abuse of power is happening today although in a form yet to be spelled out.
The recent NY York Times anonymous Op-Ed article illustrates an administration in crisis. People have wasted their time arguing over whether the article should have been printed, it should have, or that the writer should have identified himself, irrelevant. Instead, discussion should center around how much truth is contained in the article. The writer presents a very reasonable description of what dedicated, and highly intelligent people will do to prevent a president from erring so egregiously as to cause serious damage to the country.

What Trump has failed to realize, and I doubt will ever, is that his job is to do the will of the people, and not whatever suits him from one moment to the next as he has done. In truth, all politically elected and appointed official, from the president on down, are public employees who, when they take their oath of office promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And it is quite clear in the Constitution that all public employees hold office only in the interest of the American public.
Trump is acting like he is starring in a t.v. show where he can yell “you’re fired!” and it becomes true. Government simply does not, and cannot, work that way. He constantly tramples the First Amendment by exclaiming that people who hold opposing views should be silenced. He has made ludicrous statements like he knows more than his generals! Only a fool makes such a claim.

I fully expect the Democrats to retake both the senate and house during the next elections. I expect there will be enough energy among party leaders to start impeachment hearings.

The people of the United States deserve far better leadership than they now have. It is time for my generation, the baby boomers, to step aside and allow the next two generations to take over. We did good work in the 70s and 80s but our time is past. It is time that those 40 years of age and younger take over and definite their future for in truth, the future of the baby boomers is far shorter than theirs and they deserve the reins of power.

Alcoholism Among Teens and 20-somethings

Alcoholism in America remains in the closet in spite of its acceptance by the medical community as a disease. And since this disease is listed as a mental disorder, it is doubly stigmatized. Worse, most people have no idea what it takes to be an alcoholic. Most see alcoholics in their mind as a person who lives on the street, is unemployed and who is at least 40 years old. In truth, none of those generalizations is truthful.

Few people ever think of someone in the 12 to 25 age group as being alcoholics. According to the National Institute of Health, people from age 12 to 18 reported 3.4% are heavy drinkers. For college students 18 – 22 reported 12.5% are heavy drinkers and binge drinking is 3 to 4 times the afore listed rates.
Because alcoholism is a mental disorder those in the age group described above are least likely to believe they are an alcoholic. Here are some of the common reasons given by 12 to 25-year-olds for why they are not an alcoholic:

• I’m too young
• I don’t drink every day
• I can stop anytime
• I’m doing all right in school
• I’ve never gotten a DUI
• I’ve only blacked out a couple of times

Chief among the reason for not being an alcoholic is age. There is a perception that to become an alcoholic takes many years of heavy drinking, drinking every day, and being at least 40. But in truth, if you drink because it makes you feel good, because it gets rid of bad feelings, because everyone your age is doing it and because it allows you to be more social are all indicators that you might have a drinking problem.

What follows is the Johns Hopkins University test for being an alcoholic. Go through these and see how many apply to you.
1 Have you lost time from your work because of your drinking?
2 Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3 Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4 Is drinking affecting your reputation?
5 Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
6 Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
7 Do you turn to lower companions or environment when drinking?
8 Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
9 Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10 Do you want a drink the next morning?
11 Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
12 Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
13 Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14 Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15 Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
16 Do you drink alone?
17 Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
18 Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19 Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
20 Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

You need only have answered yes to 3 of these questions to most likely be an alcoholic.

For the young person, questions 15 to 19 are probably the most telling and most likely to have said “yes” to. Answering yes to even one of these questions suggests an underlying problem.
Being an alcoholic is as much a why question as it is a how much question. That is, if you drink because you are feeling depressed, because you cannot be social otherwise, or because you have some really negative feelings, then you have a drinking problem. You have nothing to lose by deciding you have a drinking problem you cannot fix. Help is everywhere in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The good news for young people is that there are thousands just like you out there. And even better, if you live near a city, there most likely are meetings for you. They are called “Young People Meetings.” And within these groups, you will find a secondary group that refers to itself as “never had a legal drink.” And the really good news is, within each meeting you go to you will find someone else who has exactly the same problem as you who have found a solution to that problem, and others. You need only ask, and they will tell you how they did it.

It does not matter if there are no young people’s meetings near you, the regular AA meeting will help you more than you can imagine. The first step is in saying that you have a problem you cannot resolve. Take that problem to a meeting and in time it will be resolved.

For more information please visit Alcoholics Anonymous’ Internet site at:

Parents Are Failing their Child’s Education

I was able to retire at a pretty young age. Shortly thereafter I undertook substitute teaching. At one point or another I worked all grades, kindergarten through 8th grade. In those positions I got an up close and personal look into what is expected of today’s youth and how they are meeting those expectations.

Certain things have not changed since I was in the public-school system. Those students with a high degree of intelligence do well regardless of the situation into which they are thrown. That is a qualified “do well” however. The qualification is that if there is something at home which is very negative or if they have undergone a traumatic experience. Such students will need more and specialized attention. I will go into that a little bit later.

I believe that all students, regardless of capacity, have expectations thrown upon them which far exceed those of my generation and for a number of generations following. Towards the end of my educational experience in the public system I remember that “new math” was being introduced. That, of course, is a misnomer because there is no such thing. Math, regardless of what name you put upon it, in essence has not changed much in 100 years. Certain portions of advanced, college level, math have been introduced such as theoretical math. But for our public-school kids, such things do not and should not apply.

I have worked in four different school systems in the near-in Boston suburbs. One thing that was a constant across these systems was the amount of parental responsibility. This most important part of the educational system is greatly lacking if not entirely missing from the student’s education. How much a parent involves himself in their child’s educational experience greatly influences that child’s ability to succeed. Most importantly, the parent must set boundaries, discipline and structure for their child. A rebellious child is most likely looking for attention. When these things are not in the child’s home life, they end up in the lap of the schools, and in particular, the student’s teacher. These students frequent present a disruptive influence in the classroom which requires extra attention from the teacher. This, in turn, impacts the other 20 to 25, or more, students in the classroom. Then there is the student who consistently fails to do his homework. This again goes back to the parent who does not participate in their child’s education by failing to ensure that all homework in completely done.

When I was young, that information that was not given me in the schools, came to me via television, newspapers, magazines or my friends. The advent of social media on devices like computers and cell phones have given the young person an unprecedented access to the world. Some of the things these children have access to may not be healthy for them. This is a point at which society today struggles to differentiate what our children should see from what they should not. The cell phone, in particular, has become a device too often used to bully other children. And this is where parents fail most frequently. I have had many experiences in the school system where a parent is called in to talk about how his child misbehaves and is a bully. The parent, however, will not accept what is being offered and declares that his child is not a bully. One factor in their making such a decision is that they do not fully understand what a bully is.

When I was in elementary school, one of the ways we boys settled disputes was through wrestling on the playground. Fist fights were extremely rare and even then, they were forbidden. But somewhere along the way it was decided that no child should touch another child for any reason. We also played flag football which more often than not turned into tackling from behind. I do not remember any of us ever getting hurt but when we returned to the classroom a lot of our extra energy had been expended. But today’s overly protective atmosphere does not allow for this.

Today’s students are being taught concepts, particularly in math, which were usually not introduced until high school when I was in school. While I can see the benefit of an earlier introduction, it is sometimes put-upon children who are too young to understand these concepts and so they fail.

These educators, who I suspect all reside in college academics, have built a model that does not allow for the greatest chance of success at a particular grade level. Students fall behind and fail because this teaching model has failed to introduce the student to certain fundamental aspects of education. First, and foremost, students are not taught how to study. And by this I meant, at some point, possibly the third or fourth grade, a full year class in who to read effectively, how to study effectively and how to write effectively, be taught. Students are taught how to read and write, but that knowledge is never intertwined with how to study.

Finally, it is my belief that all school systems be required to have a state certified social worker at each school. The social worker would not be answerable to the school’s principal, but to the city’s mayor or town’s manager. Their being independent from the school system, and that being understood by all students, might greatly help students who are struggling with bullying, bad home life and trauma. Such a person could easily have a great effect, a positive effect, on a student’s success.

In recent years school systems have come under fire for failing their students. To some degree this is certainly true. But to a much greater degree it is the parents and state education administrators who are actually failing our students. This can all be resolved via parental involvement in a school system’s doctrine. Through Parent Teacher Organizations, parents can take control of how their child are taught and what they do in the schools. Communities must come together with educators. They must look closely at the students who are failing or those who are underachieving and find a course that will address those students’ needs.

It is not our schools that are failing us, it is we who are failing our schools.

What’s Killing Our Teens and Young Adults? Hidden Secrets.

This is one of those little things that I created entirely from personal experience.  But it is also the preface to my next offering.

I loved my parent and they loved me. But neither of my parents had a clue about bringing up children. There were three of us and for much of our adolescent and teen life we were latch key kids. But my parents were horrible with communications. I doubt they ever knew what was going on in my life, what I was thinking, what I feared, what I wanted or even what I needed. It’s not their fault. Theirs was the generation of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and I cannot fault them for that. It was all they knew.

What they did not realize is that they had one very troubled child in me. I had been sexually taken advantage of by a couple of neighbor girls who were twice my age, I was 5. I did not recognize it as abuse at the time, and even thought it to be fun. The fun stopped when certain neighborhood boys decided to sexually attack me. It was when I first experienced depression, a depression that lasted for decades. The sexual abuse end when I was 15. I had gotten mad at my mother and decided it time to run away to New York City; we lived near Boston. I was hitchhiking my way there, of course, and was picked up by a man who overpowered me just by his very presence, and my past experiences. He took me to a remote cabin in the woods near a pond and raped me for hours on end. In the morning all I wanted to do was get home.

When I got home my mother asked me where I had been all night and I lied and said I had slept on a park bench in a neighboring city. Not entirely unreasonable since I was a headstrong boy and rode by bicycle everywhere or took the bus where ever. Upon reflection I wondered why she had not bother to call the police to report that her 15-year-old son had not come home that evening. I never did ask her that. But some weeks later I told her of the incident, fighting back enormous fear, only to have her say “boys don’t get raped.” I was brought up Roman Catholic so the next place I sought out help was from a priest at Merrimack College. After I told him what had happened he suggested I ask God forgiveness for my sin.

To backtrack a bit, I had been an excellent student thought my first 5 years of elementary school, almost always getting an A in every subject. In the 6th grade my grades slipped to all Bs and by the 7th grade the Bs and Cs, mostly Cs. By high school I was narrowly avoiding outright failure in every subject.
In the 7th and 8th grade I was the constant target of boys who were looking to make fun of someone. I was actually fairly good at softball but because I could not throw a ball properly, I was always the last kid picked. When high school rolled around I dared not even try out for any of the sports teams, football and baseball I would have enjoyed. Instead, I went where all the other “losers” went, the school band, at which I excelled. In another attempt to be socially accepted, I joined the extremely popular, or so I thought, drama club. I got a speaking roll the first time I tried out and worked my way to the leading roll by the time I was a senior. But my social life still lagged and I had failed to realize that being a member of the drama club was just another collection of misfit toys but still more acceptable than the band.

In the 7th grade we had our first dance. It was held at a student’s house as were the others that year and the following. I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t dance, and I didn’t feel like I fit even. I must have had some sort of self-abuse ideal because I kept going. In high school it was more of the same only worse. Starting in Freshman year my fellow classmates flouted their “steady” relationships. The boys began to brag about all the girls they had had sex with. It was not until my junior year that I had my first date. The idea of asking a girl out was just to scary. When I finally got up the courage, she said yes and not long after became my first, and only, girlfriend in high school. We went to the Junior-Senior Prom together, had a wonderful time, and I thought I was on my way. She broke up with me shortly after that but at that point I didn’t care too much because I had badgered my parents into sending me 300 miles away to a boarding school so I could get into college.

When I graduated from high school I was still a virgin, not a bad thing, but had had only kissed a girl once. I was too fear filled to just try to kiss a girl and anything more serious, which I did daydream about, was just out of the question. I limped through high school with just a few friends and even some of them picked on me, made fun of me. They knew I would neither stand my ground nor fight back.

Shortly after I graduated from high school, with honors, and then flunked out of Boston University, I became suicidal. I didn’t understand there to be any good reason for me to go on living. I had on and off bouts of suicidal ideation, but I never tried to do it. I always felt a greater desire to live, even though life continued to feel pretty miserable.

What was missing from my early years was structure and help from my parents in understanding the basics of living. Everything was trial and error for me. My mother never missed a chance to punish me when I was wrong but never knew how to praise my successes which meant I did not know when I was doing something the right way or that if I made a little correction in my direction, things would work out really well. I don’t blame them though. No one had given them instructions on child rearing. They did they best the could and I loved them just as they were, although I had a strange way of showing it at times. The thing that hurt me the most is that I never as a child heard my mother tell me that she loved me, my father either. My mother could not even show love via a hug which is the one thing my father could do. I later years I learned that both my parents were broken, my mother being the worst by far.

As it turned out, my mother’s secrets became mine, even though at the time I was entirely unaware of them. But what I do not understand, to this day, is how every teacher I ever encountered never pick up on what a depressed kid I was. Or if they did, they did nothing.

I carried a heavy load of secrets into my adult life and those secrets nearly killed me. To mask the pain I felt, I drank to excess. I find it amazing that I did not start drinking in high school considering how miserable I almost always felt. I had all these secrets, none of which I was trying hide, and yet they remained hidden because I knew of no way to release them, there were no outlets available.
An inner strength kept me alive but not everyone has such strength. To many teens and young adults today have secrets they are unable to release. As a society it is our responsibility to find ways, attractive ways, for them to let go of those secrets and kill of the demons inside the before those demons rise up and kill them.

Get Former President Obama Back in Politics!

My suggestion that former President Barack Obama return to public life might sound a bit outlandish, but it is not without precedence. Our sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829, served in what many historians describe as one of the worst presidencies ever. Adams, however, returned to the U.S. Congress from 1831 to 1848 which he served with distinction. His leading platform, the elimination of slavery. Not an easy time for abolitionist when the movement was not very popular.
Then former President William Howard Taft, 1909-1913, served as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Judicial Court from 1921 to 1930. The Republican Party of 1908 was disaffected with Theodore Roosevelt and his populist actions and turned to a reluctant Taft as its nominee. Although it is not documented anywhere, it is believed Taft was relieved when the Republican party split between him and Roosevelt in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson won the election. Although Taft served but nine years on the Supreme Court, he was elevated to the position of Chief Justice and died in office in 1930.
This brings us to Barack Obama. At 59 years of age, Obama is considerably younger than a large portion of the House and Senate. As shown by Elizabeth Dole when she moved to North Carolina to seek election there, Obama need only move to Virginia to find any number, most in fact, that are held by Republicans. Right now, he lives in Washington D.C. even though he claims his home state to be Illinois.
The point being, for 8 years, Barack Obama served the United States with distinction and honor. He was also as capable as any president this country has had in the past 50 years, maybe longer. His statesmanship as outstanding as his ability to understand complex problems.
I do not expect Mr. Obama to read this blog but I wish he did. I know for fact that there are millions upon millions of Americans who wish he were still serving. Maybe someone will pass this on. I can only hope so.

Bring Mental Illness Out of the Closet

What is mental illness? “Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” ( This definition is what the American Psychiatric Association declares.

But mental illness has yet to gain full acceptance among the general population and, of course, insurance companies. People fear going to see a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker because to the stigma attached. That is the thinking, but it is incorrect, and I will speak on it a bit later.

I suffered from depression for most of my childhood and adult life. Several times I had to be hospitalized because of it. This, of course, allows me insight into the disease. I venture to say that every person on earth has at one time or another suffered from mental illness. Many have not recognized it as such because they fully recovered in reasonable time.

When the words “mental illness” are proffered, people tend to go to the extreme and think the suffering person likely is schizophrenic or psychotic. But in truth, most mental illnesses are a much more benign form. Chief among these is depression. I think everyone struggles with a bout of depression at some point in their life, sometimes caused by death of a parent or friend, extraordinary stress in the work environment, or financial problems. These sorts of depression can be easily dealt with by short term therapy. And many times, without the necessity of medication.
But when depression causes a person to stop doing normal things for a long term, months, it is likely that the person will need a heavy dose of psycho-therapy combined with medication. Such depressions present in women after birth, post-partum depression, after the death of a child, after rape, incest, attack on the person’s life and so forth. And as funny as it may sound to hear, these depressions are rather normal reactions to traumas. Be assured, the road to recovery from these situations varies but is quite frequently long-term.

Then there are two psychiatric illness which most of the public fails to recognize as such: alcoholism and drug addiction. These diseases, however, are the outward manifestation of more serious illnesses. People frequently use alcohol to get rid of the fear they have when entering either a very stressful situation or a social situation. Alcohol does the job, quite well too. And since it works, the person uses it more and more both for the original reasons and then for other reasons their mind says that alcohol would be useful. This is generally referred to as self-medication. The problem, of course, it that the individual is failing to deal with the root problem. And by not dealing with those problems they, like most other illnesses, only get worse and require more “medication.” The person finally gets to the point when he is using alcohol daily because it makes him feel good, until is doesn’t. The, “until is doesn’t” happens when the person gets fired from a job, loses a spouse, becomes overwhelmingly in debt, and many other situations. It is basically the same for the drug addict.

It is important to recognize that these are not bad people who need to get good but are sick people who need to get well. But where? A person is declared in need of a detox but when the advocate, usually the person’s physician, calls around looking for a bed is such a facility they find there are no beds to be had. There, of course, are the detoxes where a person has to pay but most people cannot afford the out of pocket expense.
Alcoholics and addicts need a minimum of 90 days in a detox, but most detoxes push these people out after two weeks. Some, state run facilities, allow for longer stays. At the heart of these problems is the insurance companies which refuse to pay for more than a 2 week stay. The likelihood of a person staying clean and sober after a two-week stay is near zero.

There is a common theme here. Every one of the various types of mental illnesses I have brought up, the person involved has a feeling of not being worthy, feeling useless, of having something deep within themselves which feels so horrible that they feel shameful and cannot find it within themselves to share their deep dark secrets. And in the end, it is one of these deep dark secrets, their demons, that turns the person either suicidal or alcohol and/or drug dependent.

The bottom line is that we are doing a horrible job in helping these people. We must remove the stigmatism attached to mental illness. We must get all insurance companies to treat mental illness the same way they would treat any other illness. We must insure that there are sufficient facilities to deal with those who sick and suffering.