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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

House Bill 234 -- Conceal More, Carry More, Train Less

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 234, comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation.

As part of the changes, the new law ... 

(1) Reduces the number of training hours required from 12 to 8 hours to obtain an Ohio Concealed Handgun License (At least two of those hours would have to consist of in-person training; the remainder could be done either in-person or online.)

(2) Eliminates minimum length-of-residency requirements to obtain a concealed handgun license  (This scraps a rule that a concealed-handgun license applicant must be an Ohio resident for at least 45 days and a resident of the county for at least 30 days.)

Proponents of the changes say the law will make it easier for law-abiding citizens to bear arms and bolster proper safeguards.

However, gun-control advocates claim the changes will threaten public safety, as it would allow more people to carry concealed weapons in Ohio.  

One Ohio firearms instructor questions the purpose of the reduction in training. He said: "My students and I spend a scheduled 1 hour on the 'blue gun' in preparation for their range time. Besides going over grip and stance, the hour on the blue gun (rubber training gun) allows me reasonable assurance and confidence my students are handling firearms safely before they even touch a real gun. Secondly, it allows me the opportunity to evaluate each student, as much a possible, for mental competency.  Though it hasn't happened yet I know I would reject a student that didn't seem quite 'right.'"

“I’m very pleased to see this common sense reform bill pass the House,” said Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) who sponsored the bill. He continued, “Infringing on even one of our rights granted to us by the Constitution is unacceptable. You sacrifice one, you might as well sacrifice them all. This bill takes away unnecessary laws that do nothing more than put law-abiding citizens at risk of accidental felonies.”

("Ohio Passes Firearm Bill to Modernize Reciprocity & Concealed Carry. June 19, 2012)

My Take

I support the right of the people to bear arms. I understand the need to own firearms to hunt and to protect the gun owner, his property, and his loved ones. Although I believe in gun control, I am not opposed to sensible gun ownership and responsible carry. At the same time, I am very concerned about some alarming statistics.

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings.  This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.

That same year 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds.

How can a reduction in the number of training hours required to obtain a concealed handgun license be an improvement for gun safety? I am amazed that just two hours of in-person training could suffice for the required hours of concealed instruction. I view this as insufficient for public safety.

I see no "sacrifice" of anyone's Constitutional rights in the old training and residency requirements. Representative Johnson is on a slippery slope when he contends that so-called "infringing" on one gun right means "sacrificing them all." I also question his reasoning when he says the new bill "does nothing more than take away unnecessary laws that put law-abiding citizens at risk of accidental felonies."

Rhetoric invoking the Constitution and facts from shooting statistics often collide. The best interests of the public are served through laws that assure proper procedures are met before allowing a concealed firearm to join over 100 million handguns in the United States.

(Stat: U.S. Census Bureau, January 2009)

The United States ranks number one in the world in 2014 as the country with the highest gun per 100 residents rate at 90. (This is the number of privately owned small firearms divided by the number of residents.) The U.S. has over 50% more firearms per capita than the next two highest nations, Serbia and Yemen at about 0.55 and three times as many as major European countries such as France and Germany.

Even if the major argument of concealed-carry advocates is the need for personal protection, is it any wonder how sky-high handgun ownership in America has contributed to that need? This is a case of "fighting fire with fire." It seems the real problem is how to put out the dangerous, threatening blaze of criminals using their handguns illegally while preserving the flames of security for a frightened public who diligently follows rules and strict gun laws.

I see the problem of lax regulations contributing to easier access to triggers for criminals and for those who are not adequately trained. These folks are a definite danger to society when they conceal a firearm. Just as we realize our supreme duty to educate and train a teen driver, we must also make gun laws that help lessen the ever-present danger of being shot.

Just consider Ohio law for a probationary driver license holder under the age of 17. These drivers ...
* Are not permitted to operate a motor vehicle with more than one person who is not a family member in the vehicle, unless accompanied by the license holder's parent, guardian, or legal custodian. Studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have shown that one passenger doubles the risk of a crash among teen drivers, two passengers triple the risk, and three or more passengers increase the risk by more than six. 

* Are prohibited from driving between midnight and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or guardian with the same exceptions as above. This is a change to the previous restriction of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

* If convicted of having committed one moving violation during the first six months of having a driver's license, may be required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian whenever operating a motor vehicle during the six-month period commencing on the date on which the person is convicted of or pleads guilty to the moving violation or until the person turns 17. 
(ODPS Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles)

Wow, this is a far cry from restriction on my driving days after my 16th birthday. Things change and threats change. Restrictions do not necessarily mean loss of guaranteed freedom, and they are often necessary to protect the public. Minimal Range hands-on firing without personal guidance nor private, customized instruction to improve a person's current skill set is too little gun training.

People like Eric Korn, who runs American Firearms Training, a website based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, offers online gun training. Korn, 33, said his 90-minute video offers in-depth information about pistol proficiency, safety, cleaning, storage and other issues. Korn is also quick to defend no need for training at all.

"According to the Second Amendment, there should not be any type of training requirement in order to carry firearm," he said. "That said, we feel our class is a very good compromise between practical hands-on training and no training at all."

Korn acknowledged that individuals are better prepared when their training includes time at a shooting range, but said the law was about the civil right to defend oneself, a right that's separate from the question of proficiency.

("Web Training May Suffice for Wisconsin Concealed-Carry." 
Associated Press and Fox News. July 10, 2011)

People like Eric Korn frighten me. Mouthing their sacred right to carry arms, they believe in no compromises, but are willing to use the system to appear concerned about gun safety. I think Mr. Korn should realize much has changed since 1789. Allowing concealed weapons on the body of every American without restriction is akin to frontier justice.

The State of Illinois was the last state to allow concealed carry (2013), and it requires a 16 hour concealed carry training course - twice as much as Ohio. I, personally, believe the more in-person, hands-on training by competent professionals, the better.

I would also remind advocates of less training that my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must not be compromised by a fervor to free restrictions on firearms by revoking regulations that seem logical and necessary.

And, no, I do not believe in taking guns away from sensible, responsible individuals. That is a far slide down that old slippery slope I mentioned before. There is absolutely no indication that a regulation of gun control is going to cause such a significant, negative effect, much like an object taking a slip on the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom. Ignoring the middle ground is the same as political partisanship denying compromise.

In Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope (2003), Eugene Volokh analyzes various types of such slippage. He uses the example "gun registration may lead to gun confiscation" to describe six types of slippage:
  1. Cost-lowering: Once all gun owners have registered their firearms, the government will know exactly from whom to confiscate firearms. Gun-control opponents argue against limits on the sale of "assault weapons" because the confiscation of sportsmen's shotguns will soon follow. Meanwhile, government officials defend their inflexible enforcement of a regulation, even in circumstances that some see as unfair, because allowing an exception would open the floodgates.
  2. Legal rule combination: Previously the government might need to search every house to confiscate guns, and such a search would violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Registration would eliminate that problem.
  3. Attitude altering: People may begin to think of gun ownership as a privilege rather than a right, and thus regard gun confiscation less seriously.
  4. Small change tolerance, colloquially referred to as the "boiling frog": People may ignore gun registration because it constitutes just a small change, but when combined with other small changes, it could lead to the equivalent of confiscation.
  5. Political power: The hassle of registration may reduce the number of gun owners, and thus the political power of the gun-ownership bloc.
  6. Political momentum: Once the government has passed this gun law it becomes easier to pass other gun laws, including laws like confiscation.
Oh my. How talk of gun control infuriates many people. Reason seems to evaporate as the debate intensifies. People become mistakenly convinced individuals are "all" or "none" in favor or against  anything to do with firearms. I abhor violence, yet that does not mean I abhor guns. It is the human maiming and human killing effects of these weapons that I believe we must radically reduce. I believe in education, and I see the loss of training for concealed carry to be injustice.

Hunters will be able to use suppressors while hunting. There was strong support for this from NRA, Buckeye Firearms Association, American Silencer Association, and sportsmen who will benefit from the reduced noise.
Coinciding with the suppressor language, those who want to buy a $200 tax stamp and get a suppressor will be able to have a sheriff conduct a background check as though one were applying for a Concealed Handgun License (CHL). If a person passes the background check, the sheriff will sign the Federally required paperwork. The purchaser will then send this paperwork to the BATFE to begin the Federal process.
The disqualifications for obtaining a CHL will be generally aligned with State and Federal law for possessing a gun. Currently there are those who are prohibited from possessing firearms who can still qualify for an Ohio CHL. However those with very minor records and can own a firearm may still not qualify for a CHL. This bill would make Ohio law more similar to standard practice throughout the country.
Ohio’s background checks will be strengthened. Better background checks enable sheriffs to know they are granting CHL’s to people who qualify for one. This change will help Ohio get reciprocity with Texas and possibly other states who refuse to sign agreements with Ohio because of the holes in our current background checks.
The application for a CHL will be deleted from Ohio Revised Code (ORC) and will be maintained by the Attorney General. This allows the A.G. to make needed changes in a timely manner instead of waiting for the legislative process. Removing words from code without changing the law is good policy.
Sheriffs will be permitted to use CHL funds for training. Many sheriffs conduct firearms training classes. These include CHL, hunter education, and Eddie Eagle classes.
The definition of an automatic firearms will be corrected to match what the Federal government and every other state define as an automatic firearm: a firearm that fires more than one round per pull of the trigger.
People who live outside Ohio but work in Ohio will be able to apply for an Ohio CHL in the county where they work or any adjacent county. OPOTC training will satisfy the training requirement and DD-214’s will now be accepted for 10 years vs. the current 6 years after issuance.
Currently, it is not a violation of Revised Code section 2911.21 (trespassing) to have a firearm in a “no guns” posted parking lot under state law. This bill clarifies that having a firearm in a posted parking will not trespass under any criminal law, not just 2911.21.
There are multiple sections of ORC that deal with restoration of rights. The problem is that some sections don’t recognize other sections. Persons have rights “restored” and then find out that this restoration of rights does not “count” for other sections of law. This conflict and confusion will be corrected.
Ohio citizens will be permitted to buy a long gun in any state. Currently Ohio citizens may only buy long guns from five contiguous states. That limitation dates back to the 1970’s before the NICS background check system. The bill would recognize that background checks are much improved. (Purchases of handguns are still limited to state of residence by Federal law.)
An Ohio license will not be revoked/suspended if a license holder moves out of state. It will remain valid until the state date of expiration. This is important because it allows time to apply for a license in the new state of residence.
- See more at:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Truth and Community Counseling Treatment Services

"When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck 
and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."

--James Whitcomb Riley, Poet

To use political power to manipulate enforcement and deliberately skew justice by maliciously destroying a good person's livelihood and reputation is criminal. The actions taken by local and federal officials against Paul Vernier at Community Counseling Treatment Services Center in Ironton, Ohio, as well as at two facilities in Portsmouth and at the owner's home seem to reveal some "dirty ducks" bent on destroying Mr. Vernier.

Reports months ago about the raids said the officials were looking for evidence in drug trafficking and money laundering cases they claim had been in the works for more than a year. Yet, to date, no formal charges have been made although the searches tore apart all premises in the process of their investigation while all but shutting down the businesses. Such lack of legal action seems unprecedented. It certainly leaves questions in the minds of many.

Meanwhile, many people remain convinced that Vernier had operated a legal, extremely beneficial business that greatly aided the drug counseling communities in the Tri-state. Given the climate of competitive services and the need for treatment with Suboxone, these supporters are convinced politics, not drug trafficking, was the real reason for the raids.

I hear from many people that Mr. Vernier was targeted out of suspicion for his own generosity and overwhelming concern for his clients. Sources say he was meticulous in dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" in his operations to insure compliance with the law. Perhaps certain connections were used to instigate investigations aimed at ruining his legitimate treatment centers in order to benefit their own interests.

The damage to Paul Vernier, his businesses, and his family is so regrettable because of the accusatory effects. No innocent individual who dedicates his life to saving others should suffer such a fate at the hands of those who merely "suspect" wrongdoing. This is a man who turned his own life around, completed several college degrees, and then accepted the noble responsibility of using his experience and education to impact positively the culture of addiction.

Back to the idiom of the duck -- I see lots of "walking, swimming, and quacking" that suggests a frame job was spitefully enacted. Scioto County is a place where collusion often displaces justice. I believe this is evident to many of us who live here. If one follows the money and influence trails, he or she will find some ugly truths that support the existence of political corruption.

If these raids and intrusions into the life of Paul Vernier bring to light some real criminals in our area, then the unfortunate sacrifices of Mr. Vernier may benefit us all. At this point, I must admit all the "smoke" about Vernier's illegality has produced no "fire," but it has flushed out some fowls who seem to be crying "Foul!" without proper provocation.

I wonder if anyone has solid proof of what looks like the actions of dirty ducks that have been committed by those with true, filthy Anatidae D.N.A.? Perhaps we should require those in authority to heal their own ranks and call out these crooked, political cohorts with self-serving agendas.

You may fairly ask me why I should speculate about such a matter entrusted to several authoritative agencies. I have good reason to believe that even when conducting the raids, some of the officers participating in the proceedings believed that undue processes were being used and that Vernier had  committed no crimes.

"Quack! Quack! Quack!" As long as the commotion goes unwarranted, I will believe I have witnessed some ducks, some dirty ones with ulterior motives.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Game On: "One Little, Two Little, Three Little Councilmen"

It's time to update the "He said; She said" shenanigans at Portsmouth City Hall.

In the latest chapter ...

New restrictions are being proposed.

First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson wants Portsmouth City Manager Derek Allen to talk about any issues he has with Portsmouth City Council not in an open forum such as a City Council meeting, but instead in one of two more private settings. These settings are as follows:

1. Behind closed doors in executive session by which they can discuss legal or personnel issues, or

2. In private meetings with a member or up to three members of council at a time 

According to the Daily Times, Johnson is disturbed by allegations made by by City Manager Allen. He says ...

“At our meeting two weeks ago the City Manager went on at length with an allegation that I had told the Community Development Director that she could possibly be laid off and various comments about council laying off other city employees in the room.

“And, of course, this accusatory discourse by the city manager concerning two members of council once again made front page news in the local newspapers; to the extent that one paper twice mentioned the name of an employee, quoting our city manager, which I consider to be not the fault of the paper but definitely an ethical breach of our personnel policies.”

(Frank Lewis. "Johnson responds to city manager. Portsmouth Daily Times. December 29, 2014)

In a statement to Council, Johnson said the accusation was all about a conversation he had with the City Clerk in the office of the clerk and council when a department head happened to be sitting in. Johnson claims he didn't say "anything close" to what the city manager alleged.

Instead, Johnson claims Allen, as confirmed in conference agenda minutes during a meeting for both the public and city employees on November 24 stated, “We’re not going to be able to do the things we need to do without laying people off and one of those is the Community Development Department, and we won’t have that department.”

Welllllllll ...

It looks as if the "gag" may be the new order of the day. Could it be that Council will limit the much-reported, highly entertaining, personal bickering to closed executive talks or private conversations of "one-two- or three"? And, if the limits are imposed, what about Council members "four, five, and six"? Will they get the news from the designated trio of inside men by good old hearsay?

I suggest when a councilman or the City Manager has a disruptive or disputed piece of city information to speak, the group should be required to take a line and play a round of the popular parlor game of "Gossip." The participants have just one opportunity to whisper the news into the ear of the next participant, and so on down the line. Then, at the end of the game each person can believe whatever he heard from the next. There would be no need for time-consuming sessions and limited meetings. And, a good time of "not hearing anything close" would be had by all.

If things do go private, I, for one, will miss the harrumphing and blabbering personal accusations in public council meetings. The infighting never ceases to be fascinating, trivial conversation that diverts the attention of council from any real business at hand. Many thanks to the Times for printing these reports as they reveal the "Access Hollywood" perspective of council exploits to the community.

Words? I can tell you one thing about words: Whoever says words can't hurt you has never gotten hit in the face with a dictionary. But now that dictionaries are online, new dangers lurk.

“Words are like people, I think. Put too many of them 
too close together and they cause trouble.”

--Carolee Dean, Take Me There

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Turning Backs in Uniforms -- Blame Game?

"In an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York's Andrew Siff, New York's PBA President Pat Lynch stands by his controversial comments over the weekend blaming the mayor and City Hall for the shooting deaths of New York City police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu."

("Police Outside Cop Funeral Turn Backs on Mayor de Blasio." Associated Press. December 27, 2014)

Hundreds of officers outside Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens where Officer Rafael Ramos' funeral was held turned their backs on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio as he spoke during Saturday's service. They had been watching the service on giant TV screens.

In response to the back-turning incident, de Blasio deputy press secretary Wiley Norvell said in a statement: "The Ramos and Liu families, our police department and our city are dealing with an unconscionable tragedy. Our sole focus is unifying this city and honoring the lives of our two police officers."

NBC News reports: "Police union officials have blamed de Blasio for fostering anti-police sentiment for his support of protesters angry that no charges will be filed in the police deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island. At a hospital after the officers' slayings, the police union's president, Patrick Lynch, and others turned their backs on de Blasio in a sign of disrespect. Lynch said the mayor had 'blood on his hands.'"

Weeks before the shooting, Lynch had suggested that officers sign a petition requesting that the mayor not attend their funerals were they to die in the line of duty.

De Blasio has stood firmly by the police since the shooting, calling on the demonstrators to temporarily halt their protests and praising officers after the police department announced the arrest of a seventh person since the shooting for making threats against police.

My Take

I respect the right of the police to protest just as I respected the right of peaceful protesters in Ferguson, Staten Island, and in other places around the country. This unrest is evidence of the divide between law enforcement and a segment of the population convinced that changes should be made in policing procedures.

Unfortunate tragedies in New York and in Ferguson have drawn ire from the public and their public servants. Some reactions have been noble while some have been regrettable. The execution-like slaying of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is utterly dispicable. It has become a symbol of just how costly crazed, unguided reaction can be. Their killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, was a crazed, disturbed loner who used the incidents in New York and Ferguson to commit his unspeakable acts.

Are New York police justified in their display of protest against the mayor? Perhaps, but I believe they could not have chosen a worse time to "turn their backs."

Police union president Patrick Lynch and other protesting officers must live with their decision to broadcast their animosity of the mayor to a grieving nation. Yet, as public servants in uniform who are sworn to protect and serve, I believe in committing their act of defiance, they misused their rights as they displayed such an ill-conceived "show" of union solidarity. Instead of simply giving respect by mourning, they used an opportunity of a solemn occasion to force their influence as enforcement officers. I think this was unwise and irreverent.

I find the direct blame of blood on the hands of Mayor de Blasio and the disrespect of his remarks at the funeral to be troubling, to say the least. This is a clear indication of political posturing at the wrong time. At a time when easing tensions should be paramount, this act only raised acrimony.

In his speech at the funeral, the mayor seemed to try to reach out to police, honoring not only Ramos, but the entire New York Police Department. After directing his remarks to the Ramos family, he said he wanted to "extend my condolences to another family -- the family of the NYPD -- that is hurting so deeply right now."

It is apparent that the mayor's honest words have already offended many who are not open to scrutiny. De Blasio created controversy with his recent response to demonstrations about police relations with minorities, after a grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after he was put in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

In a statement, de Blasio called Garner's death "a great tragedy" but said that any protests following the decision should be peaceful. He said that his administration was working with police to make sure that similar incidents did not happen in the future. De Blasio also noted that there would be a NYPD internal investigation as well as a separate investigation by the U.S. Attorney.

De Blasio said, "We're not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we're not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism, we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. That is how profound the crisis is."

(Sam Levine. "Bill De Blasio Responds To Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision." 
The Huffington Post. December 03, 2014) 

De Blasio also described Garner's death as a moment that should galvanize all communities for change, but that change should come through peaceful protest.

The mayor, whose wife is black, said he had spoken to his mixed race teen son about how he should act if he is stopped by police.

And, in speaking about protesters who were arrested and charged with assaulting police during a demonstration in New York, de Blasio used the word "allegedly," which some in the NYPD took as a slight.

Am I the only person who sees a difference between Mayor de Blasio's conduct and the conduct of protesting officers at the funeral of Officer Ramos? It seems to me as if a deep racial divide in America still contributes to a populace locked and loaded, ready to lash out when any scapegoat can be readily identified.

Brinsley, a lunatic, scapegoated two innocent public servants and viciously took their lives in cold blood. Yet, in vengeful response, the NYPD through Patrick Lynch has chosen to scapegoat Mayor de Blasio, who now has been painted as an instigator and, even worse, an accessory in the death of the New York officers.

America, where is discernment and decorum? I fear these honorable traits have fallen to the oldest misjudgments -- prejudice and revenge.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Portsmouth City Hall Pushes Another Tax Increase

"I shall never use profanity except in discussing house rent and taxes."

~Mark Twain

The voters of the city of Portsmouth passed a 0.6 percent income tax increase in 2011.

Now, in 2014, from City Hall comes word that Portsmouth City Manger Derek Allen has done "everything in his power to increase revenue and decrease unnecessary expenses" except "eliminate five or six positions that would be tied to the income tax and the general fund" and/or eliminate another "six that have to do with other departments.

Therefore, the City Fathers have drafted a resolution stating Allen's efforts have been insufficient to bring city finances in order, so the city is asking for an income tax increase of 0.5 percent. The Daily Times reports the resolution states the city’s general fund is expected to be in deficit for the foreseeable future without either significant cuts to services and numbers of employees or additional revenues.

Allen said. “We have done all we can, there is (are) no more areas to reduce except for laying people off or making employees pay more for their benefits.” Estimates say there are nearly 300 City employees and officials.

The resolution states, “on average since 2009 yearly budget loses due to actions by the state legislature include $775,000 in Local Government  funds, $430,000 in Estate Taxes and $200,000 per year Personal Property Taxes for a total of $1,405,000 in total losses per year to the city budget.”

(Wayne Allen. "Resolution passes to ask for tax increase."
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 26, 2014)


I think people need answers to some questions before considering 
another increase in city income tax.

1. If a 0.6 percent income tax increase in 2011 has not stopped losses to the tune of $1,405,000 per year to the city budget -- 2012, 2013, 2014, and a projected 2015 -- then why is another increase of 0.5 percent going to have any lasting effect?

2. Exactly who would be laid off if the income tax increase does not pass and how much salary would that save?

3. Exactly how much do city employees now pay for their benefits and how much more would they need to pay to significantly decrease city expenses?

4. What benefits do city employees now reap?

5. What specifically does the City Manager mean when he states "additional revenues that could be generated"?

Citizens have already suffered many increases in their water and sewer bills during the last decade. According to the Times, here are recent Portsmouth water and sewer rate increases:
  • 2004 - Water 5.7% - Sewer 5.9%

  • 2005 - Water 5.6% - Sewer no increase

  • 2006 - Water 9.1% - Sewer no increase

  • 2007 - Water 3.4% - Sewer 3.5%

  • 2008 - Water 3.5% - Sewer 3.5%

  • 2009 - Water no increase - Sewer 3.0%

  • 2010 - Water 8.0% - Sewer 9.0%

  • 2012 - Water no increase - Sewer 9.0%

  • 2013 - Water 3.0% - Sewer 3.0%
 (Frank Lewis. "Portsmouth water and sewer rates increase."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. July 24, 2013)


By the Beatles (Written by George Harrison)

Let me tell you how it will be
There's one for you, nineteen for me
'Cause I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman

Should five percent appear too small
Be thankful I don't take it all
'Cause I'm the taxman
Yeah, I'm the taxman

(If you drive a car)
I'll tax the street
(If you try to sit)
I'll tax your seat
(If you get too cold)
I'll tax the heat
(If you take a walk)
I'll tax your feet

YouTube Video: Click


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Improving Images: "Pull over and Get Your $100"

“It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit 
within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel 
far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned 
to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”

--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So many wonderful gestures of kindness allow those less fortunate to enjoy Christmas. It is the time of giving, and in the true spirit of the season, gracious charities and philanthropists insure that Christmas can be special for those who are down on their luck.

What loving gestures accompany Christmas! Isn't is glorious to have people share their prosperity with others without any thought of reciprocity? More power to all of these generous souls ... or ... well ... to most.

It seems the West Virginia State Police troopers are faking traffic stops while pulling over motorists and giving them $100 bills.

Who is providing the money? Who knows? First Sgt. M.R. Crowder tells the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that Monday's giveaway was a Secret Santa project funded by an anonymous donor. The Princeton Detachment of the West Virginia State Police recently received an anonymous $1,000 donation with the stipulation that the money be doled out to individuals in the community one C-note at a time.

“He (the "Secret Santa") said he wasn’t rich, but he did have a little bit of money that he would like to give back into the community,” Crowder said.

“It’s actually a privilege today to give out $100 bills because when people deal with law enforcement, it’s not always happy smiles, it’s usually in a negative way. So it’s good to be able to provide some joy instead of negativity to these people,” Trooper D.C. Graham, also of the West Virginia State Police Princeton Detachment, said. 

Four troopers participated in the what the division is calling its "Santa Stops" program, one of several similar initiatives making headlines across the country and even in Canada. 

(Blake Stowers. "West Virginia State Troopers give $100 bills instead of tickets." 
Bluefield Daily Telegraph. December 23, 2014)

My Scrooge -ish Questions

I assume the donation was made by a citizen who felt confident that troopers were the perfect people to give away charity money to the community. And, by Trooper Graham's astute comments, I assume the West Virginia State Police felt confident that such a gesture on a traffic stop would improve their public image.

While this is all well and good, my questions have to do with the random selection of the recipients of the money and the motive for the gifts as it applies to the season. Some of the people who received the money may not really need it. And, a true gift should come with no strings of "image" attached.

I want to pose a couple of questions as I wonder if there might be a future improvement for Highway Secret Santas?

(1) If the troopers are chosen to be the ones distributing the charity, wouldn't it be possible for them to give selectively the $100 bills to those in their community deemed most needy?

(2) If enforcement are chosen to be the ones to distribute the $100 bills, wouldn't it be possible to simply deliver the $100 bills to the homes of these needy folks?

This seems almost a tit-for-tat method of sharing charity. The theme, as it presently stands is: "When it comes to pulling over motorists, the State giveth (to a lucky few) and the State taketh away (from the multitudes). Of course, had I been one of those lucky drivers receiving a $100 bill, I am sure I wouldn't be taking this perspective.

Oh hell, this isn't a "bribe" to make us like us policemen, but it is a nice, little, unqualified gesture of handing out money. And, having been the recent victim of a couple of speed traps in my community, I felt the same way when I got two tickets recently, one of which I contested only to witness a trooper lie in court. I "handed out" my "charity" money to the local coffers in the form of two fines.

Oh well, since my recent luck has branded me a frequent lawbreaker with a heavy foot on the gas pedal, I must admit to bias. So, just forget everything I said in this post. You ten lucky West Virginians, enjoy spending your money on a delicious Christmas dinner or whatever you please. You troopers, keep handing out cash to unsuspecting motorists. And,meanwhile, I will continue to try to obey the speed limits.

Why Save a Dirty Drug Addict?

"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in 
my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; 
even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  

"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, 
as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends." 

--John 15:9-13, King James Bible

Saving a life is the most noble act of humankind. When we consider the worst possible outcome for a drug addict, we must put ourselves into a situation unimaginable to most: We must save the lives of social rejects who have become burdens to society while willfully destroying their own lives. This, undoubtedly, puts the caring individual in peril.

How hard it is for most of us to love those we commonly consider to be despicable human beings. Many of us hate addicts; many more of us merely treat them with cold indifference. And, nearly all of us cannot fathom how anyone could fall to full-blown addiction.

Even though everyone knows an addict faces the very real possibility of death, countless staunch advocates of sobriety wish to deny addicts expensive intervention and treatments that cost taxpayers huge sums of money. In other words, it is common to believe addicts have personal failings that they, alone, are supposed to overcome.

New Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research shows people are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes toward those suffering from drug addiction than those with mental illness, and they don't support insurance, housing, and employment policies that benefit those dependent on drugs.

"While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition," says study leader Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

("Stigma, Discrimination, Treatment Effectiveness, and Policy: Public Views
About Drug Addiction and Mental Illness," Psychiatric Services, 2014)

Barry continues: "In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one's struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal."

Not only did the research find that respondents had significantly more negative opinions about those with drug addiction than those with mental illness, the researchers found much higher levels of public opposition to policies that might help drug addicts in their recovery.

Here are some specific findings:

* Only 22 percent of respondents said they would be willing to work closely on a job with a person with drug addiction compared to 62 percent who said they would be willing to work with someone with mental illness.

* Sixty-four percent said that employers should be able to deny employment to people with a drug addiction compared to 25 percent with a mental illness.

* Forty-three percent were opposed to giving individuals addicted to drugs equivalent health insurance benefits to the public at-large, while only 21 percent were opposed to giving the same benefits to those with mental illness.

* Respondents agreed on one question: Roughly three in 10 believe that recovery from either mental illness or drug addiction is impossible. That is 30% who do not believe or support any recovery for mental illness OR drug addiction. 

This is the same American public that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, contains a population of about 25% of adults suffering from a mental illness, and the same public, that according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reported that 23.9 million American citizens over age 11 had used illicit drugs in the month preceding the survey.

What is the major cause of the stigma associated with drug abuse and drug addiction? It comes as no surprise that we are accustomed to believing drug addiction is the result of messing up in life and that in order to break free, one just has to have enough willpower. I would like to have a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, "They ingested the substance themselves, so they must face the consequences of their horrible actions. No one else is to blame."

I ask you -- "Should blame really matter when it comes to saving a human life?"

God knows I eat too much of the wrong foods and cause myself to have high cholesterol and problems with diabetes. On top of that, I should exercise but don't. I know I should be more responsible for my own health problems, but I bet you don't judge me and other weighty individuals  the same way you do drug addicts.

Perhaps you smoke too much ... or you drink too much ... or you work too hard on a stressful job ... or you don't pay your child support and inflict suffering on your own ... or you gamble too much ... or you take dangerous, unneeded risks in life -- risks in relationships, in leisure activities, in texting while driving. Do you see where I'm going?

Blame is defined as "the state of being responsible for a fault or an error." To most of us, it all comes down to blame and who is at fault when there is a drug addiction. Many of us are willing to assign all blame to the addict. Period. Once we divorce ourselves of any responsibility to save that addict, we rest comfortably without any empathy.

See, when we consider something inherently "bad" like drug abuse, we have no problem judging blame. Yet, if a more commonly accepted thing becomes a problem -- a cigarette or a beer or a job or lottery tickets or even a pretty risky proposition -- then, most of us are more than willing to question just where the full responsibility lies.

Do I believe addicts should assume the major blame in their drug abuse? Absolutely. I think any clinician, medical professional, treatment professional, or counselor would say the same. Do I believe other things greatly influence who becomes addicted. Absolutely.

Even if blame for addiction could be established, it doesn't solve the problems that lie at the root of the population that must accept that blame. We can turn our backs on every addict who "made himself or herself sick," but we still must deal with the carnage that results. I am sure that addiction in the 21st century pays no heed to socioeconomic boundaries, no heed to boundaries of race, no heed to boundaries of gender, or no heed to boundaries of identity.

To me, the most tragic victims of drug abuse are young people. So many youngsters make bad decisions early in life and commit mistakes that leave permanent scars. They hobble themselves by taking drugs, and they acquire health problems, criminal records, broken families, and, for far too many, death certificates.

On behalf of CASAColumbia, QEV Analytics -- a national public opinion research firm -- conducted a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,003 teens, ages 12 to 17.

The survey found that 86% of American high school students said that some classmates drink, use drugs and smoke during the school day. Additionally, 44% of high school students knew a student who sold drugs at their school. Asked what drugs students sold on school grounds, 91% said marijuana, 24% said prescription drugs, 9% said cocaine and 7% said ecstasy.

The survey also revealed that 52% of high school students said that there was a place on school grounds or near school where students can go to use drugs, drink or smoke during the school day, and 36% said it was easy for students to use drugs, drink or smoke during the school day without getting caught.

75% of 12-to-17-year-olds said that seeing pictures of teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook, MySpace or another social networking site encouraged other teens to want to party like that. 45% of teens have seen pictures on social networking sites of other teens getting drunk, passed out or using drugs, and 47% of teens who have seen these pictures said that it seemed like the teens in the pictures were having a good time.

("National Survey on American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens." 
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: CASA. August 2012)

Drug use is a national health concern with potentially devastating consequences. Drug use turns into drug abuse, and drug abuse turns into drug dependency, and then drug dependency turns into drug addiction. We must address all of these issues if we expect to see a well-adjusted, physically and mentally fit future generation. If we wish to ignore the so-called "druggies," all of us in America will suffer with the consequences. 

On a personal level, the options are clear for everyone. Each one of us has to choose either to offer greater love for those in peril, no matter the personal risk, or to refuse to care for those we judge as refuse. So many lives are in the balance: Lives that can be saved.

How To Save a Life

By Fray

Step one, you say, We need to talk
He walks, you say, Sit down, it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through

Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all, you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence

Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And I pray to God he hears you

And where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed

He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

King, Joseph / Slade, Isaac

YouTube Video, please click here:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas: Bygone Magic Rings and New Perspectives

"Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete."  

 --Charles Dickens 

At 63 years of age, I believe finding the magic of Christmas past is very difficult. For some very obvious reasons and for some reasons not-so readily apparent, the holiday ignites mixed emotions in me that I find disturbingly confusing. Now, new joys and old remembrances come together at the end of the year creating an ever-changing perspective of the season.

Dickens' quote reminds me of my fruitless search for a seasonal grail buried deep in the debris of the past. Despite colorful lights, beautiful music, and joyous celebration, I can kindle but a spark of the bright spirit I once felt for Christmas. Nothing now compares to the jubilation of those innocent Christmas seasons lost to time.

For my part, I now bring myself to the season with the assumed necessity of observation to tradition. All the while, my holiday participation is directed by the need to remain distant and yet cordial. As a younger person, I would dive headlong into festivities, never afraid to make a frolicking fool of myself with a hearty blend of "drink" and "merrymaking." But, these days, circumstances and relationships are much too complicated to risk offending anyone with revelry.

Increased obligations and sensible expectations have bridled the carefree celebration of Christmas. In truth, I find great relief after surviving my role in the holiday without much fuss and quarrel.

Sure, Christmas remains a reason to focus joy upon the youngsters by showering them with lovely presents and sweet goodies to satiate their fantastic desires. This is how it should be.

Still, even when observing the smiles and playfulness of children, I can't help but wonder if the required outrageous expenditures have not grossly exceeded not only our tight budgets but also their playful needs. So much is provided for what enjoyment? This kind of thinking only stiffens my resolve to remain too indifferent to the holiday.

How did I end up with Scrooge-like tendencies? I think my "limited world" as cited in the Dickens' quote has sped past Intimate, through Comfortable, and settled at Overwhelming. Like most everything else in my life these days, the "tight circle" of Christmas seems to have expanded to enormous proportions, and many significant changes around me have helped sour my tastes for a few fragments of comfort and joy.

I blame myself for this ugly transformation. I do not make excuses for my senseless condition. And, I do not wish it on anyone else. I certainly do not recommend it because of some kind of inherent worth. So, please don't think I'm looking for sympathy or seeking a redemption of sorts. Things change, and, naturally, so do people. I know I am one of those folks.

In fact, I am very fortunate to still have the nearly complete Christmas "picture" of family and friends at 63. Perhaps, it is the "shining reflection" in my eyes that is missing as a cataract of reality has tarnished my view. Perfection is an immature idea anyway, and I know it is impossible to obtain, but once young spirits have thrilled to the wonders of a holiday fairy land come true, all else is secondary at best. To conceive the illusion of the old magic takes away from every future prestidigitation.

To close, I guess I'm saying that nothing seems simple and enchanting about Christmas to an old geezer like me. The smoke and mirrors still put me in a state of wonder but the "wonder" these days is too full of incredulity about the actual celebration. The tiring season seems to begin in early November and rattle on until December 25th. What was once a crescendo at the end of the last month of the year now seems less a pinnacle of love and more a release of nervous emotions.

As I read my own words, I disdain them. I know the real reason for the season, and I believe those who pursue it are wonderful human beings. Yet, I think I carry the baggage of the holiday because I am unable to generate simple, loving emotions in the midst of a hodgepodge of frenzied, oddly coordinated celebration. By Christmas Eve, I feel strobe-drunk and drowning in "how I should be."

I apologize for viewing the holiday so sacrilegiously. I see my lack of affection for what I should love and respect as just another fault in my character. I hope you understand my awkward attempt to convey a truthful perspective -- a bad, pathetic perspective -- but, nonetheless an honest one. I promise to try harder to grow up and become better suited to enjoying something I used to love so much.   

Merry Christmas From the Family

By Robert Earl Keen

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk at our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch and homemade eggnog
Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn't know what to think of him until he sang
Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad

Brother Ken brought his kids with him
The three from his first wife Lynn
And the two identical twins from his second wife Mary Nell
Of course he brought his new wife Kay
Who talks all about AA
Chain smoking while the stereo plays "Noel, Noel
The First Noel"

Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
It's margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension chord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of Pampers, Marlboro Lights

Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can't remember how I'm kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights
Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang Silent Night, Silent Night, Oh Holy Night

Carve the turkey turn the ball game on
It's Bloody Marys
Cause We All Want One!
Send somebody to the Stop 'N Go
We need some celery and a can of fake snow
A bag of lemons and some Diet Sprites
A box of Tampons, some Salem Lights
Hallelujah, everybody say cheese
Merry Christmas from the Family

Feliz Navidad!

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New York Tragedy: The Need for Blame of Brinsley

The brutal ambush and assassination of two New York policemen, Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu, by Ismaaiyl Brinsley is an unspeakable act of violence. Without provocation, Brinsley committed the heinous murders just before 3 p.m. on December 20 in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The pair never had the chance to draw their own weapons and may never have seen their assailant.

The 28-year-old criminal then ran to the platform of a Subway station on Marcy Avenue and killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Brinsley was an Afro-American male who had a residence in the Atlanta suburb of Union City, Georgia. He also had addresses in Maryland and Brooklyn. Brinsley reportedly had posted a sinister message on Instagram earlier Satuday along with an image of a silver handgun and hashtags invoking the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner after having shot and wounded a former girlfriend in Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn.

Sources say the posts read ...

“I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours...Let’s Take 2 of Theirs ... This May Be My Final Post...I’m Putting Pigs In A Blanket.” Brinsley wrote, with the hashtags #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGarner #RIPMike Brown. Another post read: “I Rather Die a Gangster Then Go To Sleep A Coward.”

His girlfriend's mother contacted Baltimore police after she noticed Brinsley's comments on Instagram. They reportedly had sent a "warning flier" to police in New York to alert NYPD that Brinsley might be en route to Brooklyn, but the fax tragically arrived at 2:45 p.m. — five minutes before the shooting.

Now, the shock waves of accusation are reverberating around New York and around the nation.

Former New York Governor George Pataki and police union officials quickly lashed out at Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom they accused of putting officers' lives at risk with his support for recent protests.

Pataki cast his disdain at the mayor and the Attorney General in a post on Twitter.

"Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of (Attorney General) Eric Holder and Mayor de Blasio," he tweeted.

Pataki was referring to de Blasio's and Holder's support for peaceful protesters decrying alleged police brutality after the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two unarmed black men who died in confrontations with officers this year. In recent days, protesters have taken to streets in New York and nationwide to demand an end to killings of unarmed people by police officers.

Pat Lynch, the head of New York's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, also has attacked the mayor before and did so again the day of the shooting.

"There's blood on many hands tonight," Lynch said before making reference to the mayor's office.

Faith Karimi, CNN digital news desk editor, reported that the police officers who gathered at the hospital where the slain officers were taken turned their backs on the Mayor de Blasio and "quietly faced the wall" when he entered a news conference to condemn the killings.

De Blasio did not respond to the accusatory comments and gestures, but he condemned the killing of the officers as an "assassination." The mayor said, "When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on the very concept of decency."

(Faith Karimi. "Backlash, finger-pointing begin after 2 NYPD officers
 are ambushed, killed." CNN. December 21, 2014)

Holder issued a statement Saturday. It reads as follows:

"I condemn this afternoon’s senseless shooting of two New York City police officers in the strongest possible terms. This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty.

"On behalf of all those who serve in the United States Department of Justice, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the officers’ loved ones and colleagues. I will make available all of the resources of the Department to aid the NYPD in investigating this tragedy.

"This cowardly attack underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens. As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past. These courageous men and women routinely incur tremendous personal risks, and place their lives on the line each and every day, in order to preserve public safety. We are forever in their debt.

"Our nation must always honor the valor — and the sacrifices — of all law enforcement officers with a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe. This means forging closer bonds between officers and the communities they serve, so that public safety is not a cause that is served by a courageous few, but a promise that’s fulfilled by police officials and citizens working side by side."

("Attorney General Holder Statement on Assassination of Two New York City Police Officers in Line of Duty." Department of Justice. Office of Public Affairs. December 20, 2014)

My Position

There is absolutely no excuse for an animal like Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

I strongly believe the nation should understand that Brinsley was a criminal, a gangster, and a thug who did not begin his life of crime because of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. When he murdered the New York officers, he was already a fugitive from justice and a demon bent on blaming his miserable existence on something ... anything. Without reason, he conveniently found his scapegoats in a last-ditch effort to immortalize his immoral notoriety.

According to online records, Ismaaiyl Brinsley had a lengthy arrest record dating back to at least 2006 when he was arrested in Georgia for carrying a concealed weapon, a knife, as well as shoplifting. The next year he was nabbed in Dekalb County, Georgia, for criminal trespassing, and by 2009, he was indicted in Ohio for robbery -- a charge that was later apparently dismissed. In 2011, Brinsley was arrested again in Georgia for reckless conduct, tampering with evidence, criminal property damage, and discharging his weapon. The outcome of the case is unknown.

Brinsley was a worthless individual. This weekend he intended to murder innocents and to commit "suicide by cops." Yet, he was a coward who did not die in a blaze of glory; instead, he took advantage of a fateful opportunity to kill two police officers in cold blood. The "blood" of these two civil servants is directly upon "the hands" of this terrible man.

I respect the right of George Pataki and Pat Lynch to speak their minds about the senseless murders of officers Ramos and Liu. The tragedy is overwhelming. The grief is incomprehensible.

Ramos, a school security officer before joining the NYPD in 2012, had just turned 40 this month; Liu, a seven-year NYPD veteran, had gotten married two months ago. New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said both dreamed of being police officers.

Officer Rafael Ramos had a wife and a 13-year-old son who "couldn't comprehend what happened to his father," Mayor de Blasio said.

De Blasio, in paying tribute to the slain officers, called them "two good men who dedicated their lives to protecting all of us."

How can anyone blame the Attorney General and the Mayor of New York for the tragedy?

Now, it is up to a nation already divided by strong opinion concerning public unrest and profiling to recognize the difference between a peaceful protester and a crazed murderer... to recognize the difference between a concerned citizen and an opportunistic liar... to recognize the difference between an actual cause and a false excuse. Pointing fingers in wrong directions doesn't help this process one iota.

In order to discern, all of us must dismiss prejudice and affiliation to see with clarity. Only then will the utmost sacrifices of Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu be honored with proper dignity and remembrance. We owe that to the officers and to their families. We owe that to ourselves and to our families. And, we owe that to a troubled nation.

So, I say Brinsley was nothing but a crazed murderer and an opportunistic liar who employed an unfounded excuse to write his own personal ticket to hell.

A Part of America Died

Somebody killed a policeman today
And a part of America died...
A piece of our country he swore to protect
Will be buried with him at his side.
The beat that he walked was a battlefield, too,
Just as if he had gone off to war;
Though the flag of our nation won't fly at half-mast
To his name they will add a gold star.
The suspect that shot him will stand up in court
With counsel demanding his rights,
While a young, widowed mother must work for her kids
And spend many long, lonely nights.
Yes, somebody killed a policeman today...
Maybe in your town or mine,
While we slept in comfort behind our locked doors A cop put his life on the line.
Now his ghost walks the beat on a dark city street,
And he stands at each new rookie's side:
He answered the call . . . of himself he gave his all,
And a part of America died...

In Memory :
Deputy Nicholas S. Bryant  
Lee County, Sheriffs Dept, Ft. Myers Florida
April 12,
1972 - April 19, 1998.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Keeping Abreast of the Female Breast

"The reasons why the breasts of women are on the chest, whereas other animals more often have them elsewhere, are of three kinds:

First, the chest is a noble, notable and chaste place and thus they 
can be decently shown. 

Secondly, warmed by the heart, they return their warmth to it so that this organ strengthens itself. 

The third reason applies only to big breasts which, by covering the chest,warm, cover and strengthen the stomach.”

--Henri de Mondeville, the “Father of French Surgery,” 
in a letter to the King of France in the 14th century

Big breasts make strong stomachs? I don't know about this claim, but in what may be some of the only good news since the 14th century (at least to many adoring males), female breasts are getting bigger. In the Fifties, the average American woman wore a B-cup. The average-sized breast for women now is a C cup and lingerie stores sell sizes from H to KK.

And the cup runneth over! Bravissimo, a lingerie label for larger sized breasts, estimates at least 60 per cent of women wearing a C-cup should be wearing a D-cup – or larger. And it says the average British bra size is closer to a 34E than the 36C we are led to believe.

It seems society loves beautiful breasts, yet, until now, we have had a problem taking them seriously. Breasts – boobs, air bags, boulders, hooters – often lend themselves to embarrassment and goofiness. And, without a doubt, aesthetically lovely mammary assets can turn grown men into babbling idiots. Big breasts draw immediate attention and untold affection.

But, why are breasts getting bigger? And, is this growth a good thing?

Award-winning science writer Florence Williams attempts to answer these questions. Her research confirms that breasts are, indeed, bigger than ever. In her comprehensive “environmental history” of the only human body part without its own medical specialty, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History (2012), Williams reveals that breasts are very complicated tissues.What is the most versatile organ in the female body can also kill. Breasts are made up of fat and estrogen receptors -- so they "soak up pollution like a pair of soft sponges," Williams writes.

Florence claims she acquired an added interest with her subject after seeing scientific reports about industrial pollutants showing up in breast milk. She says she was breastfeeding at the time, and she did a piece for The New York Times Magazine in which she tested her own breast milk.

Florence says, “I FedExed a sample of my breast milk to a lab in Germany, and it came back with some slightly higher than above-average U.S. levels for flame retardants. But American levels in general, I learned, are 10 to 100 times higher than anywhere else in the world. The experience brought home to me, in this very dramatic way, how our bodies respond to environmental change. Our bodies are permeable in ways that we just don’t think about, or haven’t been taught to think about in the age of modern medicine.”

Of course, one expected finding was that, as a natural consequence of people being fatter than ever, breast size is increasing. This is not a revelation. What is astounding is that with this increase in size comes an increase in breast disease.

Williams says she discovered that a breast’s permeability makes it such an evolutionary powerhouse (lots and lots of estrogen receptors help human puberty occur at the optimal time; nutrient-rich breast milk makes for giant brains) – but that same permeability is also, partially, what causes one in eight women to develop breast cancer.

The author writes that “the day you (a woman) was born, your boobs took one look at you and were like, 'Oh, no. No. Absolutely not. Hey, does anyone know where I can get some poison?'” And, Williams' study found that “poison” is everywhere. Breasts, it turns out, are a particularly fine mirror of industrial lives. They accumulate more toxins than other organs, and process them differently.

(Florence Williams. Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. 2012)

Breasts are largely made up of fatty tissue, and chemicals love to accumulate in this fatty tissue. Here’s a partial list of those sources of chemicals from Williams: “paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline by-products, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides, and flame-retardants."

The chemicals contain lots of bad PBDE levels (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and octa-203 and penta-47 and dioxin and “lobule type 4” and other such enemies. She says one of the worst health concerns are flame retardants, and they are everywhere now: they are so bio-available that they are largely unavoidable.

The largest source of flame retardants in the human body is dust in homes. Many of the things in homes are filled with flame retardants, from upholstered furnishings to carpet padding to thermoplastics, like the casings of TV sets and computers.

(Lindy West. “Your Breasts Are Trying To Kill You.” Slate Book Review. May 5, 2012)

Then, it makes sense that Williams finds unsettling concerns about breast feeding. She concurs that “babies are cannibals and your breasts may be sexists.” Why? A male baby requires almost 1,000 megajoules of energy in his first year of life. “That is the equivalent,” Williams writes, “of one thousand light trucks moving one hundred miles per hour.”

And, as naturally follows, that energy comes from breast milk. That little dude sucks it right out of a woman “like the world’s chubbiest and least stealthy vampire.” Which, of course, is exactly how it’s supposed to be, but it’s not surprising that so many women are leery of breast-feeding with its chemical concerns.

It is a wide-held belief that breasts self-adjust for feeding boy or girl babies. Williams finds: “Milk for girls is thin but abundant, while boy milk is fattier and scarcer – the theory being that girls then must stick closer to their mothers for frequent feedings, thus absorbing their social roles, while boys are easily sated and have time to play and explore.”

Another expert, Dr Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist specializing in women’s health and hormones, looks at the causes for increase in breast size and cites estrogen. Glenvillle says: “It’s clear that we’re not just talking about fat, but increased levels of breast tissue, too. So we have to look at what stimulates breast tissue growth – and that’s estrogen, the female sex hormone. Estrogen is what changes our body shape during puberty.”

The link between increased estrogen levels and bigger breasts is so clear that there are even “breast-enhancing” supplements on the market such as Perfect C Breast Enhancer capsules -- containing ingredients such as fennel seed and fenugreek, which are said to have estrogenic properties.

Dr Glenville reports: “It makes sense to look at the ways in which our exposure to all types of estrogen – the hormone our own bodies produce and estrogenic chemicals we come into contact with – has changed over the years.”

And, it turns out girls today reach puberty earlier than ever before, and are going on to have fewer children and breastfeeding for less time. As a result, women have far more periods than their ancestors had and they are exposed to more monthly surges of estrogen, which stimulates ovulation.

Researchers from the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Program, established by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science and published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found (2013) the respective ages at the onset of breast development varied by race, body mass index (obesity), and geographic location.

Breast development began in white, non-Hispanic girls, at a median age of 9.7 years, earlier than previously reported. Black girls continue to experience breast development earlier than white girls, at a median age of 8.8 years. The median age for Hispanic girls in the study was 9.3 years, and 9.7 years for Asian girls.

(Frank M. Biro, Louise C. Greenspan, Maida P. Galvez, Susan M. Pinney, 
Susan Teitelbaum, Gayle C. Windham, Julianna Deardorff, Robert L. Herrick, 
Paul A. Succop, Robert A. Hiatt, Lawrence H. Kushi, and Mary S. Wolff. 
"Onset of Breast Development in a Longitudinal Cohort." Pediatrics, November 2013)

In addition, today’s young women were born to the first generation of women on the contraceptive Pill. Early versions of the Pill contained far higher dosages of synthetic estrogen than they do today, and little is known about the long-term impact of this increased hormone exposure on future generations.

HRT also tops up depleting estrogen levels in menopausal women, who, like women on the Pill, often go up a cup-size or two when they begin a course of treatment. But it’s not just women on the Pill or HRT whose estrogen levels, and cup-size, might have increased as a result.

In 2002, research published by the Environment Agency showed that an ‘exquisitely potent’ form of estrogen -- which is believed to have entered the rivers through the urine of Pill and HRT-users — was responsible for changing the sex of half of all the male fish in British lowland rivers, and could be contaminating the water supply.

Now, it has been suggested that the influence of these xenoestrogens (literally “foreign estrogens”) could be responsible for the rapid decline in male sperm count and fertility. “We can’t assume these pollutants have no effect on us,” says Dr Glenville. “There are many questions still to be answered, but if xenoestrogens are potentially responsible for declining male fertility, they are potentially affecting women, too — and the proof could be in our bras.”

(Hannah Catsman. “Are Hormones in the Environment 
Making Women’s Breasts Larger?” Greer Prophet. February 06, 2011)

Here are a couple of other interesting theories on breast growth:
  • The introduction of intensive dairy farming methods to maximize production means that about two-thirds of the milk consumed comes from pregnant cows. To ensure that a dairy cow has a steady supply of milk, she is almost constantly pregnant. But taking milk from a pregnant cow, especially during the last few weeks of her pregnancy, raises questions about the high levels of estrogen and other hormones in milk and how they might affect those who consume milk every day.

  • Modern people also live more sedentary lifestyles these days, which may mean they metabolize these hormones less quickly. The cumulative effect of this may be a build-up of estrogen, which, over a long period, could alter natural body shape. It’s something we should take notice of.It’s possible that increased alcohol intake impairs the liver’s ability to help people metabolize and excrete excess hormones.

    As breast size continues to increase, huge, new concerns pile up. In the 1970s, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States was just under 10 percent (or about 1 in 10). Based on current incident rates, the National Cancer Center reports 12.4 percent of women born in the United States today will develop breast cancer at some time during their lives.

    (Florence Williams. “The wonder of breasts.” The Guardian. June 15, 2012) 

Breast Trivia

All mammals have mammary glands, but no other mammal has breasts as we do, sprouting at puberty and remaining regardless of our reproductive status.

A woman who has her first child before 20 has about half the lifetime risk of breast cancer as a non-mother or a mother who has her first child after 30.

Bernadino Ramazzini, a Renaissance-era doctor, was the first to notice that breast cancer was more common among nuns, which led to the link with nulliparity (never bearing a child).

A women's breasts are not fully developed until the third trimester of her pregnancy, when her mammary glands finally mature.

Breasts are the second most common site of tumors in the human body, next to the skin.

Human breast milk naturally contains many of the same cannabinoids found in marijuana, which are actually extremely vital for proper human development.

Nude Torso by Joaquin Torres-Garcia.