Fifteen years and counting

Tomorrow will be the fifteenth anniversary of my last alcoholic drink. I wrote my most frequented post nine years ago and it still resonates with many, as my struggles are not unusual. The echo of wanting a drink remains, but it is faint compared to what it once was.

If you or someone you know are having struggles with an addiction, be it alcohol, drugs, food or cigarettes, please read or share the post below. It is a daily battle – the mantra for me is “I am not going to drink today.”

Since we are creatures of habit, though, I encourage you to know your triggers and find better habits to substitute than the more addictive ones. In my case, it was fruits, popsicles, chewing gum, green tea, tonic water with a twist and non-alcoholic beer, etc. Dried fruits are an ideal snack when an urge strikes as things like figs, dates, apricots, et al are quite dense and filling.

Each person can figure out a substitute that works for them. But, know your triggers. Mine were grilling out on the weekend or coming home after a long day. My body would crave the alcohol at the end of work day, so I would get hot and my face would redden.

I don’t get red face anymore, but that craving lingers a little. Now, I can more easily kick the craving to the curb, so it does get better as the years pass.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones and friends with any addictive problems. It is not easy to escape the habit, so don’t let anyone tell you it is.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

Former Vice President goes all out against Trump in support of his daughter

I have noted before I disagree with many of the policy positions of Representative Liz Cheney, but I do admire her political courage and remembering her oath to the constitution. Sadly, because she is telling people the emperor has no clothes, she is trailing in her race for reelection. I actually hold her father in less regard, as I believe he served his own interests more as Vice President than our country’s. Yet, I do have to say he is being a good father for taking on the wanna-be-emperor and his allies with hard truths they need to hear.

In an article by Paul Steinhauser of Fox News called “Trump blasted by Dick Cheney as former vice president stars in his daughter’s latest ad,” the former Vice President does not mince words in his defense of his daughter Representative Liz Cheney. Here are a few highlights or lowlights, one could say.

“Former Vice President Dick Cheney calls former President Donald Trump a ‘coward’ and argues that Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is ‘fearless,’ as he stars in the latest ad released by his daughter’s re-election campaign.

‘In our nation’s 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him,’ the elder Cheney says in the ad, which the younger Cheney started running on Thursday, a week and a half before she faces a Trump-endorsed challenger in the Republican congressional primary Wyoming’s single congressional seat.

‘He is a coward. A real man wouldn’t lie to his supporters. He lost his election and he lost big. I know it, he knows it and deep down I think most Republicans know it,’ the former vice president claims, as he points to Trump’s repeated unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to massive voter fraud.

Liz Cheney was the most senior of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol. The attack was waged by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters who aimed to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election.”

While I am not a fan of name-calling, I agree with everything the elder Cheney said. This message needs to be heralded by many more Republicans, although more and more are starting to speak out. All of these folks are, of course, discredited as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only, for a key reason. If they admit they are true, then all of those candidates who are running on a platform built in Donald Trump’s sand of lies, will see their campaigns crumble. What these folks fail to realize is it should crumble.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-blasted-dick-cheney-former-vice-president-stars-daughters-latest-ad

The best teammate ever has passed away

I wrote this nine years ago about Bill Russell who passed away this week. Even if you do not like basketball or sports, please give it a read as there are many life lessons about collaboration within a team or group. It is a little longer than my current posts, but if you want to cut to the chase, at least read the last three paragraphs, which show you how much he cares about his team and the disenfranchised.

With the NCAA basketball tourney in high gear and the NBA playoffs nearing, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the best team player of any sport. With all due respect to my hockey friends, he is not Henri Richard of the famous Montreal Canadiens, who some would argue could lay such claim. The best teammate ever happens to have been quite successful as a college and pro basketball player, so it is apropos to mention him here and now.

His college team won two national championships, his pro team won eleven NBA championships and his Olympic team won the Gold Medal, as well. Who is he? He is not Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Larry Bird, although he is appearing in two commercials during the NCAA tournament with the latter three around the kids pre-school desk and the guy who usually does this funny banter with kids. His name is Bill Russell and he is remembered as the legendary center for the Boston Celtics and University of San Francisco.

Bill’s teams were good for two primary reasons. First and foremost, he was on the team. He had personal achievements winning the Most Valuable Player award five times and was a twelve time all-star. He is in the Hall of Fame and was voted one of the 50 Best NBA Players of all time. Yet, by his own admission, Wilt Chamberlain was a better basketball player. Wilt, though, did not win that many championships or have near the same amount of team success.

Second, his team won because Russell understood the concept of team play better than anyone. You see Russell’s forte was not scoring, although he did do some of that averaging 15 points a game as a pro. His forte was doing those things on the court which involved effort and intellect as much as skill. He was a voracious rebounder averaging an unheard of today 22.5 rebound per game. Rebounding requires calculation of where the shot was taken and where a missed shot might carom or bounce. Most basketball shots taken from one side of the basketball court, when missed, will carom to the other side. Then, it requires a huge amount of effort to get to the best position where the missed shot might go and use your body to block out an opponent, another lost art in the US.

By rebounding well, the opponent gets fewer shots and your team gets more shots. An explanation of basketball success doesn’t get any easier than that. Yet, he also was one of the best shot blockers the game has ever known. Shotblocking is timing as well as skill, but he made it a craft. But, the one thing he did that is rarely done when you watch the tournament games today, is Russell blocked the shot to a teammate. This normally started a fast break which has a higher chance of scoring than a set play. He was known to have said, “If I block it out-of-bounds, it may look more theatrical, but we still don’t have the ball.” When you watch the Final Four and the NBA playoffs, see how many times the blocker just blocks it out-of-bounds.

The third thing he did well in addition to the shot blocking was play good defense. Offense is more fun to play. Defense requires an effort. Offense is what the fans want to see, but defense wins championships. The shot blocking was his signature trait, but he also did other things to make his team defend the goal  better. He worked hard to disrupt the other teams’ offense through disrupting passes and shots.

The final thing he did well is his passing. He knew his teammates could shoot better than he did, so he would get them the ball passing out of the post position. Plus, by having his teammates involved, he knew they would pick up their defense. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said this the other day, “I know I am not supposed to say this, but when a player is scoring and involved in the offense, he usually plays better defense as a result.” Having been around basketball for years, I have never heard a coach utter those words, yet I think Russell knew this intuitively.

Russell actually was a player coach his last three seasons as a Boston Celtics and his team won each year. But, when he kept coaching after he retired, his teams did not win like before. The key reason was Bill Russell was not playing. He brought all of the above to the court – intellect, effort, skill and energy. But he brought one other thing. His desire to win. Before almost every big game, Russell could be heard in the locker restroom throwing up. His teammates knew that if Russell was throwing up because he was nervous, they were going to win. And, they did.

One final thought about Bill Russell, which I also admire him for, is his activism. He was very intelligent and he knew that African-Americans were continuing to be maltreated in the 1960s. He joined together with Jim Brown, the superb NFL football star, and others to make a statement because their athletic prowess and notoriety gave them a platform to be heard. They did what people like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have not done because of fear of lost endorsements. They stood up for African-Americans who were being disenfranchised and said this is not right.They convinced Muhammad Ali to take part as well. This needs to be done today, but the players and stars of the same ilk will not stand up for causes like these men did.

I think his activism shows what kind of man and teammate Bill Russell is and was. In today’s me first world where statistics mean more than they should with fantasy leagues and big contracts, winning year-in, year-out with energy and effort, seems to be a lost art. And, with fourteen championships to his teams’ credit, win they did. Maybe that is why we may never see another Bill Russell. The team has to be bigger than the player.

Veterans get screwed again

I am so very tired of politicians playing zero-sum games where they must make the other side lose, so they can get a political win. What uniformly happens is we the people get screwed. Just recently a bipartisan bill to help veterans with health care that passed in Senate by a large margin was slightly amended by the House and returned to the Senate for an expected passing.

Yet, enough Republicans decided to switch their vote and the veterans got screwed. Comedian Jon Stewart, who had led this cause along with a successful, but arduous 9/11 restitution cause a few years ago, has led a reaction that calls the Republican Senate members out for their bait and switch tactics.

Per the New York Times article this weekend, called “Jon Stewart blasts GOP after Senate blocks burn pit bill for Veterans” by Callie Patteson:

“Comedian Jon Stewart doubled down Friday on a viral rant ripping Republican senators who voted against advancing a bill that would boost benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Forty-one Republican senators voted against cloture Wednesday on the Honoring our PACT Act, accusing Democrats of using the measure to hide a ‘budget gimmick’ that would permit $400 billion in spending unrelated to veterans’ health care. 

During an interview with Fox News Friday, the former ‘Daily Show’ host insisted the bill was no different from the version that passed the Senate 84-14 in June.

‘This bill is purely based on toxic exposure health care and benefits to veterans,’ said Stewart, who urged viewers to look up the text for themselves.”

Maybe the GOP is scared that other things are getting passed which make Democrats look good. I just don’t know. I do know this is not the first time veterans have gotten screwed by politicians. The VA Healthcare system was in dire straits a few years ago with a huge need for more doctors, specialists, etc. Senator John McCain led a bipartisan effort to meet a planned request for a $64 billion bill to hire more doctors and get more resources. It was defeated and created an outrage from Veterans’ groups.

Then a debacle of backlog on appointments occurred in Phoenix a few months later and members of Congress asked how could you let this happen? A few more months later, $16 billion in funding was passed. Note this is 1/4 of the total requested and six months after being requested. The veterans again got screwed.

And, it should be noted only recently was funding provided for compensation for poisoning Marines and their families with toxic water systems at Camp Lejeune in NC. It took decades to admit there was a problem and more time to get the restitution. Decades is not an exaggeration.

I get tired of people who like to tout how hawkish they are but won’t help veterans when they get home. Politicians are OK funding battles but not the aftermath. They will say thank you for your service, but you are on your own when you get back. I fully recognize that Democrats are not perfect, but the GOP makes a great deal about being pro-military. To be honest, with respect to its troops, I do not see it. Neither should the veterans.

https://nypost.com/2022/07/29/jon-stewart-blasts-gop-after-senate-blocks-veteran-burn-pit-bill/

Is it Agnes or Maggies? – a reprise

Given time constraints, the following is a repeat of an earlier post.

My wife says “Goodness gracious Maggies!” I was brought up hearing “Goodness gracious Agnes!” She was raised in South Carolina while I grew up in Florida. We don’t know where Agnes and Maggie were raised.

Geography seems to play a role in variations in similar sayings. In the South, I often heard “Bless his (or her) heart” to reference someone prone to inanity. Our friends from Pennsylvania say “God love him (or her)” meaning the same thing. A minister once said, if you add “Bless his heart,” one can say some less than flattering things before that point.

The more religiously influenced have a variety of sayings. I think the Catholic influence might lead a surprised person to say “Holy Mary mother of God!” which is quite the mouhful. Often, it is shortened to “Holy Mary!” leaving the longer version for more awe-inspiring events.

“Jesus Christ! or the shortened “Jesus!” is uttered when a religious mother is out of earshot. Otherwise, the child might get a look or rebuke. Often, it is shortened to “Jeez,” “Jeepers,” or “Gee whiz,” depending on the generation or religious zeal of the mother. Of course, the more formal rendering is “Jesus H. Christ,” but I have no idea where the “H” comes from.

We can thank Walt Disney for popularizing another replacement with his character “Jiminy Cricket.” Making his name plural makes another saying of surprise. A variation is “Jiminy Christmas” for more exasperating events.

“Dammit,” has long been a shortened version of GD which would have gotten a strong rebuke in my house. The rebuke for Dammit would be less severe. Either phrase reveals disappointment in some failure. I am reminded of Strother Martin’s character in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The tobacco chewing character would say “Dammit” when his tobacco spittle got on his chin, yelling “bingo” when it did not.

It saddens me to think of the humor of Bill Cosby given his off-stage criminal acts of sexual assault. But, one of his funnier routines was of his father trying to edit his language around his kids. When mad, Cosby said his father could not complete a sentence due to self-censure. He also had routine where his father referred to Cosby as “Dammit” and his brother as “Jesus Christ” when mad. “Dammit” get in here. “Jesus Christ” why did you do that? When he mixed up the two, his brother would say “But Dad, I’m Jesus Christ.”

I have shared before the saying of my wonderful colleague whose father was a minister. When very frustrated, she would say, “Bad word, bad word!” Her saying would lighten the moment if others heard her saying it given her temperament.

What are some of your family, friends and region’s sayings? Are they unique to your area or more widespread?

Texas Republicans want to deny STD and HIV screenings under ACA

In an article in Politico by Alice Miranda Ollstein called Obamacare back in court as Texans challenge coverage for STDs and HIV care,” yet one more try to gut certain preceived, unsavory provisions will be headed toward the Supreme Court. A few paragraphs are below, with a link to the article at the end:

“This challenge, filed in March of 2020 by a group of Texas residents and employers and backed by former Trump officials, argues that the ACA’s preventive care mandates violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and that forcing people to pay for plans that cover STD screenings and HIV prevention drugs will ‘facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use….’

‘Ending the requirement that preventive services be free to patients will have negative health and financial consequences for millions,’ warned Katherine Hempstead, senior policy adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Biden administration is arguing that the case should be thrown out because the Texans do not have legal standing because they aren’t being harmed by their insurance covering preventive services — a line of argument that has been successful in past defenses of the Affordable Care Act.

They also argue that there’s a clear government interest in preventing the spread of HIV and STDs for the health of the population at large which justifies the policy.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been used like a hammer since it came about to legislate some version of morality that suits a strident set of religious folks. Since many teens are going to have sex whether their minister or parents tell them not to and often it will be unprotected sex, having preventive coverage against STDs and HIV is important. And, with prostitution being the oldest profession and drug use more rampant now that drug companies have hooked people on pain-killers which are more expensive than heroin, exposure exists even to the teen and adult children of the most pious of us.

I have used this example before, but a pretty devout friend noted church parents would be astounded at the level of unleashed promiscuity that goes on even at the most ardent of religious colleges. College students are going to have sex. And, my guess is they will like it and want more. Further, I do not think whether their plan covers STD or HIV prevention will be too much of a factor in that decision. If Rx is a factor, it will likely be around a Plan B pill or daily birth control.

If certain ministers and priests are so concerned with sexual promiscuity, then they may want to govern some of their fellow ministers and priests about their sexual misconduct. While I fully recognize that the significant majority of religious leaders do not do these things, predatory sexual behavior is not good form for a religious leader.

Let’s protect people with health care preventive options. Health care is a private matter and is no business of a minister or even the parents, once the child is legally an adult.

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/obamacare-back-court-texans-challenge-110000749.html

Same-sex marriage protection passes a hurdle

In an article called “47 House Republicans vote to write same-sex marriage into law” by Anthony Adragna of Politico, the good news reverberated in the hall of the Congress. It still must pass muster with 60 Senate votes, but it is encouraging. Please contact your Senators and ask them to vote in favor of this bill.

The full article can be linked to below. Here are the opening few paragraphs:

“Democrats loudly cheered from their side of the chamber as the bill passed 267-157, with 47 Republicans backing it, including members of GOP leadership such as Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and National Republican Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.). Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voted no.

‘This bill makes crystal clear that every couple and their children has the fundamental freedom to take pride in their marriage and have their marriage respected under the law,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in floor remarks.

A 2015 Supreme Court decision required states to recognize same-sex marriages, but Democrats urged a codification of the policy in the wake of the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last month. In a concurring decision, Justice Clarence Thomas voiced support for reconsidering the court’s earlier same-sex marriage ruling.

The short bill, which faces an uncertain path in the 50-50 Senate, would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. It would also require states to recognize same-sex marriages, as long as it was valid in the state in which it occurred.”

Note, when the two more prolific attorneys who have pled cases before SCOTUS argued for same-sex marriage when California’s Prop 8 case was in question, they noted that other folks had no standing on the issue. Plus, they argued that these are folks want to be in a recognized relationship and want to start families. I agree.

Again, please reach out to your Senators and let them know where you stand on this.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/47-house-republicans-vote-to-write-same-sex-marriage-into-law/ar-AAZLcDb

Oranges and sunshine

Sometimes you come across a movie where the hero is unlikely. In this case she is an overworked social worker from England. Sometimes the problem presented is unheard of so the duty of the movie is to point out atrocious behavior on the part of people and entities that should know better. Sometimes the victims do not have a voice and really just wanted to find out what happened and who they are.

When you add these things into a pot, the movie “Oranges and sunshine” comes out starring Emily Watson. Watson is one of Great Britain’s finest actors in my view, but she has the misfortune of having a name close to another actress of Harry Potter fame, Emma Watson, so confusion results. If Watson is in a movie, it usually is a good one and this is no exception.

In short, it is about a social worker named Margaret Humphreys in the mid-1980s who learns something unsettling from an adult Australian woman who was visiting England to find out who she was and where she came from. She tells Humphreys she was transferred as a child from an orphanage in London to one in Australia, not to be adopted, but just rehoused. Humphreys does not believe her as that would be illegal, but she leaves the file.

With her husband’s (and later her boss’) help and support, Humphreys begins a process to find out what happened and locate parents, alive or dead, so that this woman and others who come out of the woodwork can get closure. Without giving the plot away, this true story tells of what Humphreys learns and how extensive a problem it is. With it so large, she hypothesizes it has to be systematic and involve folks higher up.

I will stop there. The movie is a must see. Will it make you angry – yes? Will it show you what one person can mean to many – yes? Will it show you the mental, family and physical toll trying to do the right thing causes – yes?

The movie was made in 2010 and also stars Hugo Weaving, Lorraine Ashbourne, Molly Windsor, Stuart Wolfendon, and David Wenham among many. The screenplay was written by Margaret Humphreys and Rona Munro – note the title comes from an adult telling the kids that Australia had plentiful oranges and sunshine to get them on the ship. It was directed by Jim Loach. Weaving played the father with PTSD in “Hacksaw Ridge” and people who watch British TV will recognize Ashbourne from numerous shows. Give it a look.

Southern sandwiches

If South Carolina were a sandwich it would be a tomato sandwich with plenty of mayo on white bread.

If Georgia were a sandwich if would be a pimento cheese sandwich.

If North Carolina were a sandwich it would be pulled pork on a bun with a touch of sauce.

If Florida were a sandwich it wound be a Cuban on that long bread.

If Kentucky were a sandwich it would be a Hot Brown.

If Tennessee were a sandwich it would honor Elvis with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

If Virginia were a sandwich it would be a country ham biscuit.

If Maryland were a sandwich it would be a soft shell crab sandwich.

If Louisiana were a sandwich it would be a shrimp po’ boy.

If Alabama were a sandwich it would be ribs with white bread, not a sandwich per se, but the folks in Tuscaloosa will know what this means.

If Mississippi were a sandwich it would be a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich using your favorite jelly.

Note, there are no right answers to the above, only my and other opinions. Where have I strayed? What are your thoughts? I limited this to the south, but let me know of other states.

Top of mind issues that aren’t

Issues that need to be top of mind aren’t being discussed because we would rather talk about more exaggerated and contrived issues.

The global water crisis lives here, especially in drought prone areas like the Southwest United States, which is running dangerously low on water. Climate change only makes matters worse. And, this is even before we speak of the lead water pipe structures which have their own set of toxic issues as in Flint, Michigan.

Miami is the most at risk city in the world for encroaching sea levels due to climate change, but the governor calls more dramatic solutions liberal based ideas. Miami has built right to the coast and the limestone guarding the largest aquifer is porous. The fact the number of sunny days flooding has increased with sea water coming up through the street drains in Miami Beach should give people pause. Call me crazy, but when you are surrounded on three sides by sea water as Florida is, climate change should be a huge issue.

Toxins in our environment due to manufacturing run off of chemicals or middle of the night storage elsewhere are causing bell weather cancers years later. The water at Camp Lejeune in NC has been killing and making Marines, their spouses and their children sick for decades and yet we are still screwing around with a decision. Thank you for your service, just don’t drink the water. Recent stories on environmental cancers from Teflon and Round-up chemicals also continue to get press.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, biologist, author and speaker (who has testified to Congress and the EU Parliament), spoke at an event I attended. She noted our tests are designed for a 50 year-old man, but we really should be testing for children. Our children have lungs and brains that are not fully developed, they have lesser body weight and are closer to the ground, they mouth breath more and they touch things more and put their hands in their mouths. They are easy targets for toxins to poison them.

I want people to remember her words. She added some hope, though. When we act in a serious manner we can fix things. She used the example of the Rabies vaccine, as she and her son were exposed. Rabies is a horrible way to die and it only takes a bite. But, we long ago created a series of vaccines that prevent Rabies, even if exposed. We learned and acted. She said that is a lesson that we should follow on dealing with other environmental issues – learn and act whether it’s getting rid of arsenic on playground equipment, removing asbestos out of building materials or knowing how to handle PVC pipes in a closed environment.

People matter. Children matter. Short term profits matter less than human life. I would argue companies that aggressively act to fix things will do better with long term profits due to goodwill.* Let’s act like parents and grandparents in governing what is needed. Let’s shine a spotlight on legislators and business leaders who do not.

*Years ago, Dow Chemical had a huge chemical spill in India. Because of their reputation as a good community citizen and by acting quickly to fix things, the long-term profits of the company did not suffer. The same held true with Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol after product tampering incidents killed some people. They acted quickly to fix things and we now have tamper identifying bottles.