Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Dumbing Down of America

It amazes and disturbs me to be witness to the incompetent, behavior of our elected government officials, from our President right on down.  I don't just mean the present officials, I mean the majority of the past ones too.  Hitler was right when he stated "Make the lie big and stick to it long enough, and they will believe it."  If our President or any other Politician claims to be working for the good of our country, then they are lying through their teeth. 

I've never seen so much back stabbing, cheating, bickering, corruption, and back sliding take place in my life.  It seems to me that it would be impossible to actually accomplish anything with a desirable outcome under the present circumstances.  The sin of it all is that nobody seems to think that time is running out for our great nation.  We're just not the United States of yesteryear.  We've evolved into a crumbling, sinuous, pitiful collection of some of the stupidest humans on this earth. 

I understand the reality of our two party democratic system with different points of view on either side.  The general idea is that the two parties, disagreements and all should be working together as as a single unit for the good of the nation and the people.  This is not happening. 

As the rich-poor gap widens drastically daily, it's pretty obvious to see through the brick wall, not to mention the writing on it.  Wealth and Power go hand in hand.  Wealth and Power in with the intent to create a positive environment for our country and world would be ideal.  The problem is that along with Wealth and Power, Greed is spawned.  Greed, puts the whole equation in a completely different light and consequence.

If we had a system of voting in where my actual vote really counted for something, it might be different, but we don't.  In today's world, the people who possess Wealth and Power, get elected by the people who control the Wealth and Power, and those people are better known or identified as Corporations.  The Corporations control, well, everything.  They not only control everything, but their main objective is derived from one thing only:  The almighty Bottom line of Profit.  The Corporation has become a created Monster that cannot be controlled any longer or stopped.  Our laws, our elected Government officials are all controlled by the Corporations. 

The real crux of the matter is that the Corporations, in their greed, can't see the forest for the trees.  They simply exist for themselves.  It matters not how they achieve their end results, only that they achieve it.  In the case of our country, the Corporations use the Government to enact the laws to benefit the proliferation and scale tipping irregardless of the consequences to our country and the American people.  Most jobs are now outsourced out of our country only to profit the Corporations and weaken our economy. 

Our so called elected officials are too busy behaving as children to even realize that our country is about to fall so hard and fast that we won't even know when we will hit the bottom of the abyss. If you thought the Civil War was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet. 

So, as you sip your nightly cocktail while watching the nightly news, on the commercial breaks which are only campaign attacks, you might consider some of what I just tossed out.  It's coming, just as sure as the nose on my face.

Drive Smart & Save!

As I grow older each year, I am aware that I am driving slower than I used to when I was younger.  Much of the change of my driving habits has nothing to do with getting older, but more so my interaction with the increasing traffic concentration on the roads.  This is what I notice now:

If I go the speed limit or even five miles over it, everyone behind me will pass if possible.  Almost everyone who passes me, I catch back up with down the road a bit further.  All the jockeying for position accomplishes nothing.  Those who passed me, merely wasted their gas and profited nothing for their efforts.  Conclusion:  You gain no time by going faster.  When everything's said and done, gaining a car length or two ahead of me, saves nothing.

If you are driving on city streets with traffic lights on most of the blocks, trying to speed up to make the next light will only result in you catching the red light after the one you passed.  The timing of the lights is so that you can't gain any time by going faster than the speed limit.  If you can see a red light ahead in the distance, let off the gas a bit and you probably will catch the light green by the time you reach it.  If you take off at a green light, and find the next light red, you probably were going too fast.  By keeping with the speed limit, you will find more green lights than red ones. 

Don't justify speeding by believing that you will anger the traffic behind you;  some folks are born angry and will pass you no matter how fast or slow you go.  I believe you should keep pace with the traffic but not if it means going more than 10 miles over the limit. 

Do not assume that taking the Expressway to your destination will get you there faster.  In reality, you may get there a bit faster, but for the most part, it is not that much time saved.  If you are driving during the rush hour (3:30 PM to around 6:30 PM) you will not save any extra time by taking the fast route.  What I really don't relish, is being on the Expressway and encountering a traffic stopped situation and having no place to turn off.  You are stuck there until the traffic resumes movement or you can creep to the next exit.  In the city, you have the option of turning off a street to avoid the stopped traffic and re-routing around the problem area.  Learn the areas that you frequent and find the detours you can take to keep rolling. 

Don't take off full throttle at a start and you will save a ton of gas.  If you notice the traffic slowing or stopping ahead, take your foot off the gas pedal and slow down rather than waiting to come up quickly and have to slam on the brakes.  Much of driving is coasting. 

One of my biggest aggravation is tail-gaiters.  Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front.  I believe the rule of thumb is a car length for each 10 MPH you are traveling.  That means at 60 MPH, you ought to have six car lengths between you and the car in front of you.  So many times, I look behind, only to see grill lights and bumper on my tail.  That means the car behind me will not be able to stop in time if I need to. 

By altering your driving habits, you will save a bunch on wear and tear on your ride, your gas mileage will increase, and you will not be in harms way half as much. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Demise of a Dream

A few of us remember when our country was strong and vibrant.  I remember, but the vision is tarnished and faded now, like old Plexiglases; opaque, dirty, impossible to see through.  My Dad held one job his whole life for 45 years.  The longest I held a job was 10 years.  Most of the places I worked at closed, caved in, forcing me to move to another place of employment.  32 years ago, when I moved back to Rochester, NY, I first heard the term "Temp Agency"  I found out that most places do not hire permanent staff any more.  You get to work somewhere, but with no benefits or stability.  At about the same time, I began to her tell of another new term " Outsourcing"  American corporations, utilizing China's cheaper manufacturing facilities.  From then on, I could see our American Dream crumble before my eyes.  No longer were products proudly made in the U.S.A.  Why?  The country is controlled by the powerful corporations whose only agenda is the Bottom Line.  In order to increase profits, the product is made elsewhere (as we all know) and the product is thinner, more disposable, and decidedly shoddier.  The good ole Government is run and controlled by the wealth of the world.  We've sold out at close out prices and we're spiraling out of control.  We're at war on more fronts then ever before.  We used to be governed by God fearing leaders.  Now, we're governed by the Evil One.  We have gone to hell in a hand basket.  1984's knocked the door down and the beginning of the end is in full throttle.  A few of us remember when our country was strong and vibrant.  Now, it's the Demise of a Dream.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Saint Benedict was born about the year 480 at Nursia, in the province of Umbria, in north central Italy, and that his family was probably of noble lineage. We also know that he had a sister called Scholastica, who from childhood vowed herself to God.

Saint Benedict was sent to Rome to be educated but he was quickly revolted by the licentiousness of his fellow students. He decided to go away from Rome to live in some remote spot. No one knew of his plan except an aged family servant, who loyally insisted on accompanying him to serve his wants. Benedict and this old woman made their way to a village called Enfide, in the Sabine Mountains, some thirty miles from Rome. In the Dialogues, Saint Gregory gives us a series of remarkable incidents associated with Benedict's life, one of them occurring at this time. While staying in the village, Benedict miraculously mended an earthen sieve which his servant had broken. Wishing to escape the notice and the talk which this brought upon him, he soon started out alone in search of complete solitude.Up among the hills he found a place known as Subiaco or Sublacum, beneath the lake. It was near the ruins of one of Nero's palaces. He made the acquaintance of a monk called Romanus, and to him Benedict revealed his desire to become a hermit. Romanus, who lived in a monastery not far away, gave the young man a monastic habit made of skins and led him up to an isolated cave.

According to Pope Gregory, the first outsider to find his way to the cave was a priest, who while preparing a special dinner for himself on Easter Sunday heard a voice saying to him: "Thou art preparing thyself a savoury dish while my servant Benedict is afflicted with hunger." The priest immediately set out in search of Benedict, and finally discovered his hiding place. Benedict was astonished, but before he would enter into conversation with his visitor he asked that they might pray together. From that time on, others made their way up the steep cliff, bringing such small offerings of food as the holy man would accept and receiving from him instruction and advice.

Saint Benedict had to struggle with temptations of the flesh and the devil. One of these struggles is described by Saint Gregory. "On a certain day when he was alone the tempter presented himself. A small dark bird, commonly called a blackbird, began to fly around his face and came so near him that, if he had wished, he could have seized it with his hand. But on his making the sign of the cross, the bird flew away. Then followed a violent temptation of the flesh, such as he had never before experienced. The evil spirit brought before his imagination a woman whom he had formerly seen, and inflamed his heart with such vehement desire at the memory of her that he had very great difficulty in repressing it. He was almost overcome and thought of leaving his solitude. Suddenly with the help of divine grace he found the strength he needed. Seeing near at hand a thick growth of briars and nettles, he stripped off his habit and cast himself into the midst of them and plunged and tossed about until his whole body was lacerated. Through those bodily wounds he cured the wounds of his soul." Never again was he troubled in the same way.

Between Tivoli and Subiaco, at Vicovaro, on the summit of a fortified rock overlooking the Anio, there lived at that time a community of monks. Having lost their abbot by death, they now came in a body to ask Benedict to accept the office. He at first refused, assuring the monks that their ways and his would not agree. They persuaded him to return with them. It soon became evident that the severe monastic discipline he instituted did not suit their lax habits, and in order to get rid of him they finally poisoned his wine. When he made the sign of the cross over the cup it broke as if a stone had fallen on it. "God forgive you, brothers," Benedict said serenely. "Why have you plotted this wicked thing against me? Did I not tell you beforehand that my ways would not accord with yours? Go and find an abbot to your taste, for after what you have done you can no longer keep me with you." Then he bade them farewell and returned to Subiaco.

Disciples now began to gather around Saint Benedict. At last he found himself in a position to initiate the great work for which God had been preparing him. This was the idea that had slowly been germinating during his years of isolation: to bring together those who wished to share the monastic life, both men of the world who yearned to escape material concerns and the monks who had been living in solitude or in widely scattered communities, to make of them one flock, binding them by fraternal bonds, under one observance, in the permanent worship of God. His scheme was for the establishment in the West of a single great religious order which would end the capricious rule of the various superiors and the vagaries of individual anchorites. Those who agreed to obey Benedict in this enterprise, he settled in twelve monasteries of twelve monks each. Although each monastery had its own prior, Benedict himself exercised general control over all of them from the monastery of Saint Clement.

The town of Cassino, formerly an important place, had been destroyed by the Goths, and the remnant of its inhabitants, left without a priest, were relapsing into paganism; the once-fertile land had fallen out of cultivation. From time to time the inhabitants would climb up through the woods to offer sacrifices in an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, which stood on the crest of Monte Cassino. Benedict's first work, after a preliminary forty-day fast, was to preach to the people and win them back to the faith. With the help of these converts, he proceeded to overthrow the pagan temple and cut down the sacred grove. He built two oratories or chapels on the site; one he dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and the other to Saint Martin. Round about these sanctuaries new buildings were erected and older ones remodeled which was to become the most famous abbey the world has known. The foundation was laid by Benedict probably about the year 520.

It was probably during this period that Benedict composed his famous Rule. Gregory says that in it may be perceived "all his own manner of life and discipline, for the holy man could not possibly teach otherwise than as he lived." Although the Rule professes only to lay down a pattern of life for the monks at Monte Cassino, it served as a guide for the monks of the whole Western Empire. It is addressed to all who, renouncing their own will, take upon them "the strong and bright armor of obedience, to fight under our Lord Christ, our true king." It prescribes a diversified routine of liturgical prayer, study, and physical work, in a community under one father. It was written for laymen by one who was not a priest; only after some five hundred years were clerical orders required of Benedictines. Its asceticism was intended to be reasonable; the monks abstained from flesh meat and did not break fast until mid-day.

Benedict extended his solicitude to the people of the countryside. He cured the sick, relieved the distressed, distributed alms and food to the poor, and is said on more than one occasion to have raised the dead. When Campania suffered from a famine, he gave away all the provisions stored in the abbey, with the exception of five loaves. "You have not enough today," he said to his monks, noticing their dismay, "but tomorrow you will have too much." Benedict's faith had its reward. The next morning a large donation of flour was deposited by unknown hands at the monastery gate. Other stories were told of prophetic powers and of an ability to read men's thoughts. A nobleman he had converted once found him in tears and inquired the cause of his grief. Benedict astounded him by replying that the monastery and everything in it would be delivered to the pagans, and the monks would barely escape with their lives. This prophecy came true some forty years later, when the abbey was wrecked by a new wave of invaders, the pagan Lombards.

Totila, King of the Goths, had defeated the Emperor Justinian's army at Faenza and in 542 was making a triumphal progress through central Italy towards Naples. On the way he wished to visit Benedict, of whom he had heard marvelous tales. Totila now came himself to the abbey and was so awed by Benedict that he fell prostrate. Benedict, raising him from the ground, rebuked him sternly for his cruelties and foretold in a few words all that should befall him. "Much evil," he said, "dost thou do and much wickedness hast thou done. Now, at least, make an end of iniquity. Rome thou shalt enter; thou wilt cross the sea; nine years thou shalt reign, and die the tenth. Benedict did not live long enough to see the prophecy fulfilled.

He who had foretold so many things was forewarned of his own death, and six days before the end bade his disciples to dig a grave. As soon as this was done, Benedict was stricken with a fever, and on the sixth day, while the brethren supported him, he murmured a few words of prayer and died, standing, with hands uplifted towards Heaven. He was buried beside his sister Scholastica, on the site of the altar of Apollo which he had thrown down. His symbols are reminders of various incidents in his life: we see him with a blackbird, a broken sieve, a rose bush, a scourge, a dove, a globe of fire, or a luminous stairway up which he is proceeding to Heaven; occasionally he is depicted with King Totila at his feet. The order which Benedict founded has spread over the earth. It was mainly responsible for the conversion of the Teutonic races, and has left its mark on the education, art, and literature of Europe. Within its cloisters, always marked by an atmosphere of industry and peace, were copied and recopied the great writings of the past, to be cherished and passed on to succeeding generations.