Category Archives: political commentary

I just can’t help it

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Premium Payments Under PPACA
Maximum Out-of-Pocket Premium Payments Under PPACA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not a highly political person.

It isn’t that I don’t care. I do.

The reason I don’t like to talk about politics is this: Arguing about politics makes little difference to anything. Arguing does, however, raise everyone’s blood pressure and that isn’t good if you are of a certain age. No one wins. Politics is all about winning.

So I just can’t help myself about this business at hand.

Here’s the thing about this “Affordable” Care Act. The computer’s website doesn’t work. It doesn’t. We all have October until March to sign up and already the entire month of October is a wash out because NO ONE can sign up.

Think about this number: $600,000,000. Six Hundred Million dollars! That is what has already been spent on making this website work. Our money, yours and mine, that is gone, done, flushed.

(Wasn’t there some money go missing from Iraq when we were looking for Saddam? I believe it was less than $600,000,000. So Obama trumped Bush on spending losses here. Does that mean he won?)

The experts have spent weeks and weeks looking for the problem. They haven’t found it.

Here is my take on this: The website will never work for OBAMA-CARE as it stands today. Why? Because computers are logical. They work on logic. They run on logic.

Apparently OBAMA-CARE does not compute.

My prediction is that somehow this massive failure will be the fault of the Republicans.

Perhaps we should all just eat more fiber.


The Importance of Keeping the Special Needs Child in the Classroom (Or Not)

Calhan High School seniors in Colorado, USA.
Calhan High School seniors in Colorado, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the time my son was in second grade, I was working as a special education assistant. I was an “inclusion” aide/a paraprofessional/etc. “Inclusion” is what happens when a special needs child is put into a regular classroom with his/her own peers. Different states and school district call it different things. It came into vogue in the late 1980’s when President Reagan passed some sweeping legislation regarding special needs people.

I must say that “inclusion” is an excellent idea with qualifications. IF the special needs child is willing and quiet and IF the school district provides the child with special needs with a trained assistant to facilitate the child’s participation in a regular classroom the program WILL work.

There are two reasons “inclusion” does not work. The first and most important reason is if the child is violent and unable to control impulses to scream, throw furniture, or sit in a classroom with other children. And when I say “sit in a classroom with other children” I mean if the child does not have the ability to stay in one place without outrageous outburst that result in chaos, that child is not able to “sit in the classroom with other children.” (I realize I’m repeating myself on various levels here.) The other reason “inclusion” does not work is when there is not a dedicated person to sit next to the child and quietly facilitate a level of learning so the child feels fully integrated into the classroom projects and curriculum with their peers.

I’ve seen it work and I’ve seen abject failure.

Another reason it does not work is perhaps outside what a school district has control of – the special needs child’s’ parent is unwilling or unable to recognize the limitations of their child in the public school setting.

I was a teaching assistant or a long-term substitute teacher in public school from grade K through 12th grade. My education degree left me a qualified teacher trainer for private school. Instead of pursuing that I got a degree in art and worked as a commercial artist. Then I had children. I spent nine years full-time with special education in public school before switching to the job as long-term sub where I would have to not only write curriculum but write the tests.

I’ve worked with teachers I wouldn’t want near my child and I’ve worked with teachers I adored. I’ve seen children taken from my classroom in handcuffs, kids who were too high to lift their heads from the desk, and I’ve seen children who desired to excel. On September 11, 2001 it was my first day as a long-term substitute in second grade. That morning when the planes hit the buildings in NYC the principal came on the loud-speaker and informed us that if parents came to pick up their children, we were to let them go. I didn’t understand what he was talking about. About five minutes later I did. I couldn’t believe it – teachers crying in the halls, frantic parents running toward classrooms. It all made sense later. Problem was I had just taken over from a teacher who had had a meltdown the day before. The next day the kids came to class crying. They thought that the planes had killed their teacher the day before and that was why I was there. I kept up with those kids for ten years. Every time they ever saw me it was a hugfest. Such sweethearts. What a dope their teacher was to leave them.

I’ve had the privilege to teach a child that everyone else had given up on. She learned to read, to write, and to add and subtract. That is the joy of teaching. Without “inclusion” that would never have happened.

But I’ve also seen children who have kept a teacher entirely focused on their needs to the exclusion of all the other children in the room. I’ve seen children in second grade throw desks, or have to be put into a “safe” hug and be carried out of the room kicking and screaming by two or more teachers. This stops the education process of 28 other children. There is no telling what kind of psychological aspects such doings have on a regular child’s mind.

With all the other distractions a regular classroom offers a child, to have such folly on a daily basis is nuts.

I have a friend who is a teacher at a charter school and her situation is even worse. The children in her school are booted forward every grade level but don’t actually acquire any skill level with any degree of accuracy as far as reading, writing and arithmetic. I don’t believe charter schools are the answer. They sound great, but they fall to the level of their counterparts. Water seeks its level and runs down.

Private schools are damn expensive.

Next blog: the solution isn’t so complicated.

Ode to Doggie Joy and Other Random Christmas 2012 Thoughts

English: Noah sent out this dove Русский: Ной ...
English: Noah sent out this dove Русский: Ной выпускает голубя (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The End of the World day came and went. Some of us are still here. When speaking of end times the Bible says that ‘No man knows the day’ however, it mentions there will be some warning. The end days will be “like the days of Noah” with a mention of giving and being given in marriage. Until lately, I’ve often wondered what THAT meant. The days of Noah were marked by immorality so rampant it disgusted God. Someone asked ‘where was God’ during the recent school shooting. I like Former Governor Mike Huckabee’s commentary about that – If you make a point to escort God out of the classroom why do you ask where He is? I think the shootings were despicable. I mourn with those who lost loved ones. There is no excuse. I do wonder if that young man, the one who shot all those beautiful children, had ever learned the ten commandments? Parents blame schools for not teaching morals. Teachers blame parents for not teaching morals. Come on!

On a lighter note: This Christmas our fifteen month old grand girl is able to point and spout one word exclamations. Words such as “No!” That is what she says to the Big Boy when he tries to take the kolache out of her hand. She is a constant source of joy and serious giggles.

And the dog makes us laugh, too. He loves to share with the baby. He shares his chewed up toys, her chewed up toys, etc. Big Boy is full of joy – when I come home or even re-enter the room, or when I give him a treat, or after his bath, or at breakfast, or snacktime — just about all the time. I love that. He isn’t in my face about it. He is a big dog. And like most big dogs, he is laid back. Well, with the exception of thunderstorms, or the UPS truck driving by, or come to that – any truck driving by. At these times he is a powerhouse of BARK. Even then he believes that he is chasing the trucks or the thunder away, which is protecting his people from the terror of trucks and thunder, which translates into “I’m being a good dog!” So he is joyful.

Merry Christmas to all of you. And may the year 2013 be a joyful one for you.


Obama got Osama

So President Obama’s popularity points have skyrocketed. I haven’t seen any polls. I have not paper proof, but I imagine this is true, because Osama Bin Laden has been killed.


The first things I noticed in the news reel was that Osama’s body was taken, presumably by the navy seals that shot him, and buried at sea in accordance with Islamic beliefs.


That was at 8:30 this morning I saw the news reel on the television screen. I was elated that Osama had met his demise. He’s got some ‘splainin’  to do before his maker. I don’t think he’ll come out very well there.

So at 6:30 tonight there is little mention of the whole burial at sea “thing.” The talking heads are going on about the outstanding operation by the naval seals (good job, guys!), the lack of intelligence from Pakistan, and the subtle (NOT) bravado from President Obama about his role in Osama’s killing.

What about the burial at sea?

Two questions:

First. Why would we shoot America’s Public Enemy #1 in a dusty house in the middle of Pakistan and then give him a reverent burial at sea???

Second. Who knew that burial at sea was a Muslim ritual? Wasn’t Islam founded in the middle of the desert?

Crossing the Line

An enlargeable topographic map of Mexico
Image via Wikipedia

Maria is  someone I have known for many years. When first we met she told me she wanted to learn English better so she could get a good job. I was thrilled to help out. We’ve been friends for about fifteen years. Eventually she met more of my family members including my mother, and I’ve met all of her immediate family.

My mother loves her. So we invited her to work for my mother as her aide. And that’s when we discovered that Maria doesn’t have a social security card. I was puzzled at first. What did that mean? It couldn’t be that she was an illegal alien, surely.

Maria and her husband have been in the United States for over twenty years. Maria has ten brothers and sisters. All of them live in the US. Her parents live in a mountainous region of Mexico, in a village with a name I can’t remember because I can’t pronounce it. Their children recently sent them a computer so they are able to feel more acutely linked to their children and grandchildren.

Maria and her siblings haven’t been to visit their parents in years because of the violence.

There is a terrible civil war going on in Mexico and it doesn’t get much press. They recently found twelve people beheaded in Acapulco, a favorite resort on the pacific coast of southern Mexico. Five women who worked in a beauty parlor were the most recent victims. That should be enough to slow the tourist trade, but it won’t be because this news won’t travel past north Texas. The line is drawn in the sand somewhere along the Rio Grande and not much news on these terrible gun, knife, machete killings gets past it.

It isn’t the only news that won’t travel far. There are wild fires burning from West Texas to Magnolia, just north of Houston. People are losing their homes. But it won’t be big news outside of Texas. I guess our Texas Independent streak comes around to bite us in the behind every once in a while.

Not only are there beheading in Acapulco. There were 64 bodies found just south of our Texas border. These were not just Mexican nationals but some tourists as well. If it weren’t for those tourists, I wonder if we would have heard about it. This is huge. For over fifteen years, there has been a serial killer or killers in Mexico, and this doesn’t get any press. This person or persons preys on young girls along the Texas, Mexico border. Their bodies are found in shallow graves in obscure ranch country, usually on the Mexican side. There’s lots of wide open spaces along there. And there isn’t enough press about it. The warning isn’t out. Girls continue to disappear. And now with the drug wars raging, who knows what or who is involved. Because it isn’t just the young prostitutes now, but entire families who are being murdered.

It’s a regular killing field.

There are revenge killings, and revenge for revenge killings. There is no end in sight. The president of Mexico vows to crack down on the drug lords and the drug lords vow to never stop the murders. Diplomats, US drug agents, city officials, police officials, their families, and so on and on. In Mexico, no one is safe. If you have money, you are not safe. If you do not have money, you are not safe.

When I discovered that my friend Maria was an illegal alien, I offered to sponsor her process to become an American citizen. That was what she wanted, more than anything, to become an American. So I went to an immigration lawyer. I asked what steps I needed to take to help my friend.



“There is nothing you can do,” he told me.

“I can pay for her papers.”

“No. There are three steps in becoming an American citizen. You can pay for steps one and two. But the law is firm. You can not proceed to step three. Don’t waste your money.”

“But she’s been here a long time. She’s never even gotten a ticket.”

“There is nothing you can do.”

“Is there anything she can do?” I asked.


Nothing. Nada. She can not become an American, which she wants to be very much. She wants to pay taxes. She wants to provide a better life for her three children. And she can’t. She can’t go back to Mexico, even to visit her parents. And she can’t become an American citizen.

Where did we cross the line from picking and choosing who gets to be an American? We offer visas to foreigners who would rather blow us up than to ever become productive hard-working citizens. But our wonderful Mexican neighbors who would rather work for sixty dollars a day constructing a roof here, than sit in a card-board hovel begging for pesos in a blood-spattered border town, can’t become Americans. We can’t even pay to make them citizens.


Something is wrong with that.

The Bog Blog

Most will recognize that the word bog might mean many things. Here, especially in south Texas the word calls to mind a swamp that is “swampier”, perhaps with a little quicksand lurking beneath the green duck weed, and the faint odor of rotting vegetation.

In England the bog means different things also, not only a type of swampy marsh, but it could mean a toilet. It isn’t a nice word for toilet, more a derogatory term. The English have many words for toilet. If you visit, you could ask for the toilet, or the loo, or the “ladies” or the “gents”, only don’t call it a bog in polite company.

This week I had a bog experience of the worst kind.

Upon waking and getting busy around the house, I found the vacuum had broken, then as I was taking some paperwork to a certain government office to drop off, I discovered their offices closed due to flood. (No it didn’t rain. It was either a toilet overflow or a pipe burst type of flood.) So I had to drive back across town to await their office re-opening. I discovered in an email communique that the offices were open so I drove back. AND I’ve never seen such a line. I think it was the day to turn in papers, or something. At other times I have parked, walked in, handed in the papers, received a signed receipt, and walked out. That day I stood in line. After hour one I was well acquainted with a nice family who were in front of me. By hour two we had exchanged email addresses, by hour three we were discussing the politics of the world and specifically France’s responsibility in the Vietnam war.

It was during this time that my renter called. She had just moved in and the next morning when her son was showering she discovered water coming from beneath the toilet. Later when she was washing up the dishes, her sink wouldn’t drain, later she was bathing and noticed black stuff coming up from the drain.

Gross! Ack! Ack!

Then the tub wouldn’t drain, and yes more black stuff. I don’t want to write anymore about that.

I have a handyman who works on most everything to some extent. I asked him if he would go “snake” the trap line. The ‘snake’ is a long wire with a type of bent pipe at one end so that if you drop the wire into the line and wind it, it should squeegee out the blockage. The ‘trap’ is a pipe sticking above ground that leads to the intersection of all the main drain lines underground. He went after work and did that and said he could find nothing.

During all my adventures in house renewal and fixing up, which we’ve been doing for almost two years, my main disappointment is in finding a good plumber who was half-way affordable. And this was an emergency. My renter has young children.

I remembered in one of my trips to a local big-box home makeover store that I had discovered one of the employees in the plumbing department did plumbing as a side job. So I went back to that store and couldn’t find him. I asked another employee, “do you know one of the employees who does plumbing on the side?”


Now, hummmm, how frustrating is that? Here in Texas it isn’t customary for a customer to be brushed off in such a manner, I would have questioned his attitude, but I was tired. It had been a long day. “Okay”, I said. “Do you know where the wax ring seals are for the toilet?”

“Yep, over there.” He pointed, and didn’t move from his spot.

I nodded and dragged myself over to wax ring seals which go under the toilet where the sewer pipe meets the porcelain. It completes a leak-proof seal in the assembly. As I’m looking at the variety (who knew?) I heard a voice whisper, “You’re lookin’ for Milton. He works tomorrow from eight to one. But you didn’t hear it from me.”

It was the abrupt guy. “Okay.” I whisper back. “And thank you but I’m not speaking to you.”

“Right. I haven’t helped you in the least.”


This is top-secret stuff that we’re talking about. I figured Milton must be on some supervisor’s “watch” list or something. I have a name now and I determine to come back the next day.

So I let the renter know that her plumbing was not up to par(umm, she called me about it, oh yeah) and could she go back to our other rental property to give the children baths? Like camping, I say. I don’t think she thought much of that prospect. She said, “I’ll take the kids to my grandmother’s.”

Whew! So I went to the big store the next day about ten o’clock thinking Milton would probably be on break. I recognized him. He was in the plumbing department talking to some customers. I sauntered over, looked at valves, noted the impressive line-up of pvc fittings. Milton asked if he could help me. There were customers there and this was top-top-secret-agent-stuff so I said I had a bath that wasn’t draining. He finished with his customers and took me to the display of drain mechanisms. I said, “It isn’t really going to work. Something has plugged up the line and we can’t get it unstuck. I need a plumber.”

He pulled a couple of boxes off the nearby shelf and opened one of them, emptied out the various parts to lay them out on top of another box, and spoke into the open end of the now empty box, “I’ll need your number so I can call.” I gave him my number and the address of the house. He said he knew just where that was. He said he would call me after work and meet me over there. He would start work immediately.

I went home to await his call. He called. He set a time that he would come with his crew. They showed up and flushed the lines from the bath (Ack! Ack!) and the toilet and discovered that the trap was clogged with cement. Apparently when the previous owner poured his porch slab, some of the cement went into the trap. Whoops. It dried in little hills forcing the exiting waste to have to squeeze through. Or not.

The next few days he was able to come with his crew and dig. Thirty-eight feet of pipe was replaced. He discovered on uncovering the pipe nearest the house that the palmetto bugs were rushing out of the hole by the hundreds. The palmetto bug is a relative of the common roach, only they are about three inches longer. Almost the size of those Madagascar Hissing Roaches. Yuck! I hate palmetto bugs! He said that the reason there were so many is because the pipe was actually broken. They like the broken sewer lines. Double Yuck.

So tonight I report that the bog is finished! done with! FINIS! Except I can’t because the renter just called and her sinks won’t drain.

Just the fats, Ma-am.

Fact #1  America’s number one health issue is obesity. I’ve been aware of this perhaps longer than the average American because this hugeness issue first showed up at my house. Not saying we were the only ones, just that it was what it was already in 1969 and that’s a long time ago.

Weight is an issue I struggle with, yet while I type this I remind myself this obsession isn’t a weight issue at its core, it is a food issue. You see, my parents were foodies before foodies were cool. In fact, my parents were so uncool in their foodicity that many, many years ago I said that I hoped they lived to see their grandchildren graduate. I wasn’t a cool thing to say, more like a cruel thing to say. It was then my father took me out to eat, something he did when he needed to discuss some serious something. During that wonderful Italian meal, he said, “It cost a lot of time, money and effort to put on this weight, why would I want to take it off?” Why indeed.

Fact #2: Obesity spawns incredible health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, breathing problems, sleep apnea, joint pain and strain, and the list goes on. It may be un – PC to talk about fat. Sorry. While there is a movement undertaken by overweight young persons to reclaim their sagging, uh, self-esteem, the monetary toll that fat takes on health care in general will only increase as the largest generation ever (pun not intentional), the baby-boomers, reaches medicare age as it is on the brink of doing.  Can we afford it, I doubt it.

My father did make it to my children’s graduation. Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer (not known to be related to weight problems) and in his last year of life he lost so much weight I was begging him to eat.

My parents loved food. They took the family out to eat every week. I’m traveling down Memory Lane as I recall all the places we ate at. We hit every good place in Houston: The Golden Palace on West Gray, the original Antoine’s Imports and Deli, Valone’s  across from The Shamrock Hilton, Alfred’s on Stella Link, Captain John’s Seafood or the original Christie’s in the Med Center area. On Sundays after church we would sometimes take a drive (over 80 miles) to Don’s Seafood just this side of Beaumont or to Gaido’s in Galveston. (With the exception of Christie’s, Antoine’s, and Gaido’s all these places are gone.) When we kids left home the parents reported their visits to Tony’s, Brennan’s, Kaphan’s, Sonny Look’s Steakhouse (where an armored knight sat on a white horse in the parking lot), San Fransisco Steak House (a girl on a trapeze swung over the patron’s), Vargo’s (peacocks in the gardens), and all the ones in between.

My parents loved food. Not just at restaurants, my mother was an exceptional cook. My parents made a point of inviting the large families from church over for a meal – because who else would invite a family with four or more children to their home? Since we were a family with four children, we knew from experience. It was a great ministry they kept up for all the years we were growing up. My mother was an excellent cook and we children developed enduring friendships. It was all good.

Eventually their love of food caught up to them with lots of extra weight and later with diabetes, strokes, and sleep apnea.

Fact # 3: My parent’s generation grew up during the Great Depression. They didn’t have much food. If their families couldn’t grow it or raise it they probably didn’t eat it. And my parents were better off than many, at least they had a home. My mother in her old age tends to hoard her food. When my father passed away and we had to relocate my mother to a safer environment, I found food in drawers, in cabinets, hidden in bookshelves. Candy jars and cookie jars resided throughout the house. I’m not sure but that my parent’s love of food wasn’t colored by their childhood want.

This doesn’t excuse the younger generations of large people – generation after generation of fat. I worked for twelve years in a public school where I noticed a growth in numbers of large kids and fat families. There were always exceptions — large child, skinny parents, large parents, skinny children but the most common phenomenon were large parents with large children. And The Great Depression can’t be blamed for this.

So what can be blamed? We’ve gotta blame something. I say let’s blame Poncho’s Mexican Buffet. It’s those little flags that you could raise at the table when you ran out of something. It was non-stop, all-you-could-eat mexican food and it was cheesy, it was greasy, it was yummy. My parent’s loved that place. I loved that place. I can’t believe they went out of business.

Plenty of all-you-can-eat restaurants have taken hold and I see this no matter the size of the city or town. I saw an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet in Lufkin, Texas! Don’t-chu know that’s gotta be some good stuff in there, boy howdy!

I don’t even like to go in an all-you-can-eat place any more. Mainly because it’s a waste of good money. These days I try not to eat my weight in food. Also, it seems such a waste of food. Health laws require that any food set out in a service area can no longer be re-served, even if it was never touched. All that food must be tossed at the close of the day. Now don’t all rush to eat it up, ’cause they’ll just put more out. And isn’t it a shame with hungry people all over the world that so much food is thrown out every day? I say if no one patronizes those places they will gradually go away.

Fact #4: (Okay, opinion) Poncho’s was the first of its kind that I recall. I still say it’s Poncho’s fault we’re all fat.

Durn Politikin’

Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past Tuesday morning a lady came to the door and asked for me by name, so I said “This is Me.”

“You’re voting straight Democrat in this election, right?”


“You mean you’re voting for the Republicans?”  She sounded aghast.


“Well, go blow it then,” she said in disgust, walking away.

I had to laugh.

Edmund Burke (1729-1792) once wrote about conciliation with America, “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”

Thing is, we gave ’em a chance. We would have given ’em a couple of more, except the last two years have been close to devastating for too many people. All those bail-outs. Banks didn’t go under but they certainly weren’t giving out any loans where people needed them either. The banks were bailed out of desperate times, but turned a deaf ear to people who were living the desperate times.

If Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae had been allowed to break … then and only then could there have been a possibility of fixing something. Because they are still floundering (yes, that’s a flat fish flapping around on the dock before it dies from lack of water). I’ve checked with the Houston Housing Authority, the Harris County Housing Authority, and several others, the waiting list for available housing paid with government assistance is closed with no possibility of filling out paperwork, getting in line, nothing. What happens to people who lose their house to foreclosure?

Now, I’m not sold on the Republicans doing anything amazing. Call me a skeptic, I’m not thrilled about this election. From where I stand what I see of Democrat or Republican is – they’re like two sides of the same plug nickel. They get up there to Washington and pass a bill or two, maybe three, and they get fat, either in the wallet or literally. Seems to me very few actually communicate well with their constituents. Maybe I’m wrong. But I watched the town meetings where the state representatives tried to sell the health-care agenda. I don’t think any of them knew what the bill was about. Few could address specifics, and those didn’t know much of what the bill included. Made most people furious is what I saw.

Here’s what I would say, if I could.

First. What we want is for our roads to be re-poured, for crumbling bridges to be rebuilt, for those who can’t find work to be able to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure. This would be a good job for our military service people coming home to NO jobs and facing homelessness. Shame on us. Those who volunteered to go over and fight a war or to keep peace to no avail and then come home to – what? No wonder so many recruiters are committing suicide. Shame on us.

Second. What we want is the same insurance that you have. That’s right. It’s real simple. We want your medical insurance.

Third. We want you to finally do something about term limitations. We think six years is plenty of time to change the world. You have a lot of power at your fingertips. Show up to vote, for every bill. And vote for term limitations.

Here’s another quote from Edmund Burke. “Society is indeed a contract …l it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born.”

I usually try to stay out of the political discussion. I’m just not that serious about party politics. I don’t mind others being serious about it. All this has impact on how we live and function daily. When politics collide with everyone around me is when I have to speak up. Even if I don’t really want to.

Edmund Burke is attributed with saying, “It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph.”

Miners Freed to face New Torture

Wonderful news that all the miners trapped so far below ground have been freed. Now for the feeding frenzy of news-mongers. I can’t help but feel sorry for them. These were once men who were important to their families alone. Now they will be exposed to the world in ways that at first may feel wonderful. Fame and fortune await them. But the downside is that they will be also exposed to those interested in taking their what they can, using them. It has already been revealed that long-lost relatives have shown up to claim donated items. It isn’t a new phenomenon, certainly. Look at Haiti. How many billions have been sent there, to what result? Look at the monies stolen in Iraq. People are out for themselves. After spending over sixty days locked in the earth’s vault, these freed men must face new trials they never could have foreseen. Sadly, a new kind of torture.