Good People Doing Good Things — Don Stephens, Et Al …

I’d like to introduce you to Don Stephens, founder of Mercy Ships.

Don-Stephens

Back in 1978, Don and his wife Deyon purchased an ocean liner, the Victoria, for scrap value of $1 million.  It took them four years to convert the retired ocean liner into the hospital ship MV Anastasis. Anastasis sailing at seaThe 9-deck, 522-foot ship was equipped with three operating rooms, a dental clinic, an x-ray machine, a laboratory and 40 patient beds.  Since then, they have outfitted three other ships for the same purpose, with a fourth in the making.  And what, you may be wondering, is that purpose? 

The purpose is to provide humanitarian aid like free health care, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs, agriculture projects, and palliative care for terminally ill patients.  Mercy Ships has operated in more than 57 developing nations and 18 developed nations around the world, with a current focus on the countries of Africa.Deyon-DonBut just what inspired Don and Deyon to dedicate their entire lives to this project?  Don says one major motivator was the work of the international hospital ship SS Hope. Stephens’ research showed that 95 of the 100 largest cities in the world were port cities. Therefore, a hospital ship could deliver healthcare very efficiently to large numbers of people. The birth of Stephens’ disabled son, John Paul, also inspired him to move forward with his vision of a floating hospital. And finally, a visit with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, further deepened his commitment to serving the world’s neediest people.

Now, Don and Deyon are certainly good people, having invested their money and time … their lives, really … into this venture.  But, with the limitations of both time and space, there are many other good people in this story.  As Don noted in a July interview when asked how he came to found Mercy Ships …

“The real story of Mercy Ships is the thousands of volunteers and supporters who are now a part of this journey. These are the ones at the ‘coal face’ of bringing hope and healing …”

I chose just a couple of those volunteers at random to highlight here.

Emmanuel-EssahEmmanuel Essah left his native home in Benin, Africa, and flew all the way to Texas to become a Biomedical Technician—and finished top of his class. Then he joined the Africa Mercy. Today, Emmanuel is a long-term crew member, supporting the hospital and helping with repairs and calibration of the hospital equipment.

Dr-Sherif-EmilAfter growing up in a family of doctors, Sherif Emil thought he would like to try something different and carve his own path. He completed an undergraduate engineering degree before coming to the realization that he really did want to pursue medicine. “I like the personal aspect, I like the interaction and I like the human aspect of it.” That change in career path would lead him to specializing in pediatric surgical medicine in the United States and Canada and eventually would bring him to Mercy Ships. Dr. Sherif began preparations to visit the ship as a volunteer surgeon. Recently those plans came to fruition and he was able to experience the joy of serving in the operating theatre aboard the Africa Mercy.

heather-morehouse.jpgSeeing the before and after pictures and the ability of Mercy Ships to meet a basic need touched Heather Morehouse. “I was heartbroken to see what people live with. They don’t have access to help themselves and there is such despair that comes with that.” Heather decided that she needed to be a part of the organization for seven weeks during its 2013-2014 field service in the Republic of Congo. She quickly realized that seven weeks wasn’t long enough. “My time in the Congo changed me; it changed what I wanted in life. I rented out my house, quit my job and came back.”

These are just a few of the people who are dedicating their lives to the betterment of humankind.  But, let’s take a look at some of the good work that Mercy Ships has done and is doing.


Aicha was three months old when her parents started noticing there was something wrong with her vision. She wasn’t moving or looking around the same way her two older siblings had at her age. By the time she was starting to crawl, it was obvious that she could hardly see what was around her. Aicha-beforeFatmata and her husband, Mohamed, were nervous to trust strangers with their daughter’s eyesight, but they decided to bring Aicha to a Mercy Ships eye screening.Aisha-lightWhen they met with the screening team, it was unsure whether there was hope for Aicha’s eyesight. Having her cataracts from such a young age could mean that her vision had stopped developing — making her permanently blind. But, as they shone a flashlight in the baby’s eyes, all tension broke. A toothy grin spread across Aicha’s face; she grabbed the flashlight closer, her eyes not leaving its beam.

According to Ophthalmic Clinical Technician Larina Brink …

“I knew that the surgery would turn out well because of her being able to follow the light as I moved it around. My heart was filled with joy to be able to offer her a surgery that would open the world up to her.”

The surgery was, indeed, successful, and one week after her surgery, Fatmata and Aicha returned to selling fruit. Now that Aicha can see, she tries to grab hold of every colorful item around her: the orange handed to her; the red cap of a water bottle; her mother’s dangling earrings. There’s joy and excitement in the air, and Aicha’s no longer the recipient of strangers’ jokes. Instead, she’s a little miracle.Aisha-after


Sekouba-before It was an ordinary morning when then 10-year-old Sekouba first noticed a tiny bump in his mouth. He showed it to his mother, M’mahawa, who thought it would simply go away on its own. But it didn’t. What began as a button-sized growth inside Sekouba’s mouth, grew as big as a tennis ball. It was a dangerous tumor. Breathing soon became difficult, threatening his life.

SekoubaSekouba loved school, but he dropped out. The shame was too much. Even his brothers were embarrassed to be seen with him. No one saw Sekouba for himself anymore. All they saw was the growing tumor that had filled his cheek. Sekouba’s family couldn’t afford the surgical costs needed at a regional hospital. So, a neighbor told them about Mercy Ships.

After being admitted onboard the Africa Mercy, Sekouba received surgery to remove the maxillary mass, followed by several weeks of appointments to closely follow his recovery process. Surgery was a success. The first thing Sekouba said he wanted to do after returning home was to get back in the classroom to continue his studies. Then he shared that he had his eye on a girl who he never stops talking about. “Now, I’m going to be able to marry her one day,” he beamed.Sekouba-after.png


There are many, many more success stories here, and I could have made this post at least 5 times as long as it already is and still not have finished.  But, as I am out of both time and space, I encourage you to visit Mercy Ships website, for there is a plethora of heartwarming stories and information. I wish I could share them all.  Meanwhile, I would like to give a huge shout-out to Don and Deyon Stephens for having the vision and the motivation to start this wonderful project, and to all the volunteers who give so much to helping people.  Earlier this year, Mercy Ships celebrated performing it’s 100,000th free surgery.  Thumbs up!!!  I leave you with a short video clip of one young patient’s story.

Human Rights Day …

Today is Human Rights Day, marking the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt played a key role as chairperson of the drafting committee of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I initially considered using her speech before the United Nations as the basis for this post.  However, the speech is long … over 4,000 words … and I decided instead to listen to some of the voices from the past, including Eleanor Roosevelt, speaking of human rights.


11B-Mahatma-Ghandi

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it—always.” – Mahatma Ghandi


Eleanor-Roosevelt

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” – Eleanor Roosevelt


nelson-mandela

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela


Martin-Luther-King

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King


desmond-tutu

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” – Desmond Tutu


cesar-chavez

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” – Cesar Chavez


These are but a few of the thousands of people who have worked tirelessly to bring about equality and fairness for everyone, not just for a select few.  Let us hope that today and into the future, there are many more like them.

Just A Bill … Sittin’ Here On Capital Hill

Last Saturday night, a Police Sergeant in Houston, Texas, was killed when he responded to a call of domestic abuse.  The officer was Sergeant Christopher Brewster, he was 32 years old, and now he is irrevocably dead.  Just another statistic?  There is the danger, that with more than 36,000 gun fatalities already this year, each one becomes just another statistic.

But Houston Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, has seen enough and he is angry …art-acevedo

“We all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are not … getting the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized is because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends who abuse their girlfriends.  And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.”

H.R. 1585: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, is one of more than 250 bills that have been passed by the House of Representatives and are now languishing in what has come to be known as “Mitch McConnell’s graveyard”.  McConnell has called himself the “grim reaper” of progressive policies in the Senate.McConnell-graveyardSome of the other bills that have not seen the light of day in the Senate …

  • H.R. 1: For the People Act – aims to require states to provide an online option for voter registration and allow voters to register the same day they go to the polls. It would also require states to automatically register citizens who don’t register themselves. To protect elections from any foreign meddling, the bill mandates that states use paper ballots and that the Department of Homeland Security evaluate threats to election systems 180 days prior to an election and inform states of their conclusions. The bill includes campaign finance and ethics reform measures, including mandating presidential candidates release their tax returns.
  • H.R. 5: The Equality Act – seeks to provide comprehensive anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans in employment, education, federal funding, housing, public accommodations and more.
  • H.R. 6: The American Dream and Promise Act – would protect young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children — known as Dreamers — and establish a path to citizenship for more than 2 million immigrants without legal status.
  • H.R. 8: The Bipartisan Background Checks Act – seeks to expand background check requirements on private sales, including those at gun shows, on the internet or through classified ads.
  • H.R. 9: The Climate Action Now Act – would block the Trump administration from exiting the Obama-era Paris climate agreement.
  • H.R. 987: The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act – seeks to lower prescription drug prices, bolster the Affordable Care Act and protect care for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • H.R. 1644: The Save the Internet Act – would reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s party-line vote in 2017 to repeal net neutrality that prohibited broadband companies from blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain websites.

im-just-a-bill-6These and a couple hundred more bills have run into a brick wall named Mitch McConnell as they passed from the House to the Senate.  Now … as I see it, it is the job of the senators, including McConnell, to legislate.  That means, we are paying them $174,000 per year … except McConnell who, as Senate Majority Leader is being paid $193,400.  For. Doing. Nothing.

Chief Acevedo places Sergeant Brewster’s death firmly at the door of McConnell and others who are stubbornly and without purpose ignoring their duty.  I would agree, and I would also ask how many others have died because of the inaction of the Senate?  More than once, McConnell has said he will refuse to consider any legislation that does not have Trump’s support.  WTF???  Trump is not the employer of the U.S. Congress!!!  WE THE PEOPLE are their employers!

Now, we have an election coming up next year, and Mitch McConnell is up for re-election.  We can hope that the people of Kentucky have had enough by now and will vote him out.  Or …

Article I, Section 5 of the United States Constitution provides that “Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”

Yes, I know it’s a longshot, for most of the republicans in both chambers of Congress have drunk Trump’s poisoned Kool-Aid and are too cowardly to stray from the party line.  In other words, my friends, they have set aside their oaths of office, have set aside their duty to We the People, and are intent only on pleasing the ‘man’ in the Oval Office and their big-money donors such as the NRA and fossil fuel industries.  And the ‘man’ in the Oval Office has also set aside his oath of office … well, actually he never had any intention of honouring his commitment to the people of this nation … and is about to be impeached for doing so.

Folks … our government is B-R-O-K-E-N.  We are on a rudderless ship that, as I have said before, is headed for a big iceberg (one of the few left).  How much longer are we going to put up with this?  We damn well better make some sweeping changes on November 3rd, 2020, else we WILL hit that iceberg.vote-animated

 

A New Batch Of Snarky Snippets … Grrrrr

There are a number of relatively minor things that have cropped up in the last couple of days with seemingly the sole purpose of stirring my ire.  So … you know what that means … it must be time for some snarky snippets, yes?


Let’s start with Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and some speculate next vice-presidential running mate for Trump in 2020.  As governor, I had a great deal of respect for Ms. Haley.  As ambassador, I had less, for she fell in line with Trump’s ideology, if he can be said to actually have one.  She became one of his sycophants, and I lost much of my respect for her.Nikki-Haley.jpgSo, why is she raising my hackles today?  Well … last Friday she was being interviewed in a podcast on conservative Glenn Beck’s radio program.  One segment of the podcast was about Dylan Roof who, in June 2015, opened fire in an African-American church, killing nine people.  Roof was an avowed white supremacist who had posted pictures of himself posing with the Confederate flag prior to his attack.

dylan-roof-confederate-flagMs. Haley said …

“Here is this guy who comes out with his manifesto, holding the Confederate flag and had just hijacked everything that people thought of. We don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. There’s always the small minority who are always going to be there, but people saw it as service, sacrifice and heritage. But once he did that, there was no way to overcome it.”

Let’s call a spade a bloody shovel here.  The Confederate flag never stood for “service, sacrifice and heritage”.  It has always stood for a lifestyle that included slavery, the ownership of other human beings simply because of the colour of their skin.  Period.

Ms. Haley’s argument was that the Confederate flag was noble until Dylan Roof made it appear to represent white supremacy.  IT DOES represent white supremacy, fool!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, shot back on Twitter …

“Really, Nikki?! The Confederate Flag represented ‘service, sacrifice and heritage’? To whom? The black people who were terrorized & lynched in its name? You said it should never have been there. Roof didn’t hijack the meaning of that flag, he inherited it.”

Racism, folks … it’s alive and well in the United States of America.


Seema Verma has flown beneath my radar since she was appointed by Trump, then confirmed by the Senate in March 2017 to the position of Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  This is the agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the insurance markets.Seema-verdaNow, Ms. Verma came into the job with some conflicts of interest, and had the Senate done its job, she likely would not have passed muster.  She is the founder and previous CEO of SVC Inc., a health policy consulting firm, which was acquired by Health Management Associates (HMA) just prior to Verma’s nomination to head CMS.

One of her first actions was to send a letter to the nation’s governors urging them to impose insurance premiums for Medicaid, charge Medicaid recipients for emergency room visits, and encourage recipients to get jobs or job training.  In her role as CMS administrator, Verma spent more than $2 million of taxpayer funds on Republican-connected communications consultants and other expenses to boost her visibility and public image.  She has made numerous speeches and attacks against the concept of Medicare-for-All … enough so that she is now the defendant in a lawsuit claiming she is in violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal officials engaging in political activity.

But what placed her on my radar was a trip she took back in August.  She claims that jewelry, clothing and other possessions, including a $5,900 Ivanka Trump-brand pendant (that she owned one speaks volumes about her character, in my book) were stolen from her luggage during that business-related trip.  Okay, fine … if that were me or you, we would file a claim against the airline and maybe, if we were lucky, get reimbursed for some small portion of it.

But, Ms. Verma decided that We the Taxpayers ought to reimburse her for what she claims was the value of her ‘loss’.  To the tune of $47,000!!!  More than most of us make in a bloomin’ year!  And what sort of a numptie (been listening to my Brit friends too long) takes things of that value on a business trip anyway?  And why is it my fault or yours?  And why should we pay for her ignorance???  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Her claim included $43,065 for about two dozen pieces of jewelry, based off an appraisal she’d received from a jeweler about three weeks after the theft.  Who takes 24 pieces of jewelry on a business trip, then fails to insure them?  And the claim further included $2,000 to cover the cost of her stolen clothes, a $325 claim for moisturizer and a $349 claim for noise-cancelling headphones.  My entire wardrobe does not consist of $2,000 worth of clothing.  My moisturizer costs $4.99, and my headphones are Skullcandy, $29.99 at Best Buy!  Just one more alligator in the huge swamp that Trump built.

Not to worry, though, for the federal health department that oversees her agency decided to reimburse her for only $2,852.40 of OUR money.


owen-shroyerOwen Shroyer … ever heard of him before?  Neither had I.  He’s a host on Alex Jones’ Infowars program, which I thought had long since met its timely demise since being banned from Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  Apparently, they still exist somewhere on the fringes.

It would seem that there is no screening process for entrance to the impeachment proceedings, for Mr. Shroyer managed to get in yesterday.  Moments after Representative Jerry Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opened the hearing, Shroyer rose from his seat in the packed hearing room and shouted …

“Jerry Nadler and the Democrat Party are committing treason against this country! Trump is innocent!”

owen-shroyer-2Police quickly removed him from the room, during which time he was livestreaming to his personal Twitter account and yelling at the top of his lungs …

“So I’m being arrested right now for disrupting Congress. I’m a criminal for my First Amendment rights.”

Is there any doubt in anybody’s mind that Alex Jones was behind this, that it was naught more than a publicity stunt?  At what cost?

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Shroyer actually called for President Barack Obama to be lynched just this past June …

“Barack Obama is a treasonous…he belongs in jail. He belongs in Guantanamo Bay. I mean look, I’m not saying this should happen but Barack Obama, you know, find the tallest tree and a rope.”

All my life I have been a proponent for 1st Amendment rights to free speech, but in the past year, maybe two, I have begun to re-think it.  It has been abused so much, by so many unsavouries such as Mr. Shroyer, Mr. Jones, Mr. Carlson and a few thousand others, that I’m coming to believe there must be limits.  As our friend Roger said to me the other evening, “Free speech is not a right; it is something which has to be earned.” I’m not so sure the people of this nation have earned it. Rather a damn shame for the rest of us who use our rights responsibly, don’t you think?


I had one more, but … I shall stop here and give you a chance to breathe.  Make America great again, says Mr. Trump?  I think not … I think he has placed the United States in the worst light it has been in in all of its 232 years.

The Scope Of Impeachment

The big question about Trump’s impeachment is whether the scope should be narrow or broad.  Initially, Nancy Pelosi seemed determined to keep the focus on Trump’s attempts to bribe/blackmail Ukrainian President Zelenskyy for personal gain.  That, in and of itself, is enough for impeachment, but there is so much more … should the House expand the horizon and include Trump’s other violations of his oath of office?  There are mixed feelings about it among the experts and journalists.  Today, I would like to share New York Times columnist David Leonhardt’s view, for it is one with which I largely agree.

The Eight Counts of Impeachment That Trump Deserves

The lessons from Nixon and Clinton.

david-leonhardtBy David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

During Watergate, the House Judiciary Committee considered five articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — and voted down two of them. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the House voted on four articles — and rejected two.

That history serves as a reminder that impeachment is not a neat process. It’s a chance for Congress and voters to hear the evidence against a president and decide which rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

My own instincts have leaned toward a targeted, easily understandable case against President Trump, focused on Ukraine. And that may still be the right call. But the House shouldn’t default to it without considering a larger airing of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution. A longer process, with more attention on his misdeeds, seems unlikely to help Trump’s approval rating.

So last week I posed a question to legal experts: If the House were going to forget about political tactics and impeach Trump strictly on the merits, how many articles of impeachment would there be?

I think the answer is eight — eight thematic areas, most of which include more than one violation.

In making the list, I erred on the side of conservatism. I excluded gray areas from the Mueller report, like the Trump campaign’s flirtation with Russian operatives. I also excluded all areas of policy, even the forcible separation of children from their parents, and odious personal behavior, like Trump’s racism, that doesn’t violate the Constitution.

Yet the list is still extensive, which underscores Trump’s thorough unfitness for the presidency. He rejects the basic ideals of American government, and he is damaging the national interest, at home and abroad. Here’s the list:

  1. Obstruction of justice.

Both the Nixon and Clinton articles included the phrase “prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice,” and Trump’s impeachment should start with his pattern of obstructing investigations.

He has admitted that he fired the F.B.I. director to influence the investigation of his own campaign. He has harassed Justice Department officials who are Russia experts, including Andrew McCabe and Bruce Ohr. Trump also directed his White House counsel to lie about their conversations over whether to fire Robert Mueller. Most recently, the White House tried to hide evidence about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president, by improperly classifying material about it.

  1. Contempt of Congress.

Another article of impeachment against Nixon said that he had “failed without lawful cause” to cooperate with a congressional investigation. Trump has gone much further than Nixon, outright refusing to participate in the constitutionally prescribed impeachment process. As a result, the country still doesn’t know the full truth of the Ukraine scandal.

  1. Abuse of power.

The House will almost certainly adopt a version of this article, impeaching Trump for turning American foreign policy into a grubby opposition-research division of his campaign.

The most haunting part is that if a courageous whistle-blower hadn’t come forward, Trump most likely would have gotten away with it. He would have pressured the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation of the Bidens, and we in the media would have played along, producing the headlines that Trump wanted to see.

  1. Impairing the administration of justice.

That phrase appears in the second impeachment article against Nixon, which detailed his efforts to use the I.R.S., F.B.I. and others to hound his opponents. It’s a version of abuse of power — but distinct from the previous item because it involves using the direct investigatory powers of the federal government.

Trump has repeatedly called for investigations against his political opponents, both in public and in private with aides. For example, as the Mueller report documented, he pressured Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, to investigate Hillary Clinton: “You’d be a hero,” Trump said. This behavior has violated the constitutional rights of American citizens and undermined the credibility of the judicial system.

  1. Acceptance of emoluments.

The Constitution forbids the president from profiting off the office by accepting “emoluments.” Yet Trump continues to own his hotels, allowing politicians, lobbyists and foreigners to enrich him and curry favor with him by staying there. On Sunday, William Barr, the attorney general, personally paid for a 200-person holiday party at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington.

The Democratic-controlled House has done an especially poor job of calling attention to this corruption. It hasn’t even conducted good oversight hearings — a failure that, as Bob Bauer, an N.Y.U. law professor and former White House counsel, told me, “is just astonishing.”

  1. Corruption of elections.

Very few campaign-finance violations are impeachable. But $280,000 in undisclosed hush-money payments during a campaign’s final weeks isn’t a normal campaign-finance violation. The 2016 election was close enough — decided by fewer than 80,000 votes across three swing states — that the silence those payments bought may well have flipped the outcome.

  1. Abuse of pardons.

The president has wide latitude to issue pardons. But Trump has done something different: He has encouraged people to break the law (or impede investigations) with a promise of future pardons.

And he didn’t do it only during the Russia investigation. He also reportedly told federal officials to ignore the law and seize private land for his border wall, waving away their worries with pardon promises.

  1. Conduct grossly incompatible with the presidency.

This is the broadest item on the list, and I understand if some people are more comfortable with the narrower ones. But the “grossly incompatible” phrase comes from a 1974 House Judiciary Committee report justifying impeachment. It also captures Trump’s subversion of the presidency.

He lies constantly, eroding the credibility of the office. He tries to undermine any independent information that he does not like, which weakens our system of checks and balances. He once went so far as to say that federal law-enforcement agents and prosecutors regularly fabricated evidence — a claim that damages the credibility of every criminal investigation.

You may have forgotten about that particular violation of his oath of office, because Trump commits so many of them. Which is all the more reason to make an effort to hold him accountable.

♫ You And Me Against The World ♫

Sometimes, I push myself too hard, I care too much about … well, everything.  And when that happens, I fall into a dark hole I call, for lack of a better term, the ‘rabbit hole’.  Often, whether intentionally or not, my music selections reflect that state of being, that dark rabbit hole.

This was the first song that Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams wrote together. They teamed up again to write the Oscar nominated score for the movie A Star Is Born, and the song Rainbow Connection for The Muppet Movie. Says Williams …

“We went to England to do a television show, Kenny was a member of my band. And when we got there there was a problem with the work permits, so the guys in my band couldn’t play. I had to use local musicians. So Kenny’s sitting around with nothing to do in a hotel in London. So we’re sitting there, and we’re having a few drinks, because that’s what I did in those days. I’m 17 years sober (2007), in those days I drank. We’re sitting around and we’re talking about writers, and we all love Cole Porter and a certain kind of writer and all. And we started talking about Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. I loved Harry, but every time I tried to tell Harry how much I loved his songs, he would always tell me, ‘No, here’s the great writer,’ and he’d play me Randy Newman, who I also loved.

So Kenny and I wrote this little song, ‘Do you love me, babe, do you love me not? Let’s decide in the morning, not now. Boy, you don’t like Shuman, or Randy Newman, Nilsson ain’t your cup of tea. You think Van Heusen is a shirt worth choosin’, but you’re still undecided ’bout me. Bo-wo do you love me, babe, do you love me not, let’s decide in the morning, not now.’ It was really kind of a cute little song.

And Kenny’s sitting at the piano, turned to me, and he said, ‘If that was on an album…’ and he played, ‘bomp bomp bomp bomp bomp.’ He played the intro to what became ‘You And Me Against The World.’ And I just looked at him when he finished the intro and sang, ‘You and me against the world,’ and he hit another chord, and I went, ‘Sometimes it feels like you and me against the world.’ And we went on from there. It’s the first song we ever recorded, and God bless Helen Reddy, she had a big hit with it.”

There are more … professional versions of this song, but … as  I am a huge fan of Kermit, then it can only be this one tonight …

You and Me Against the World
Helen Reddy

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walked away,
You can count on me to stay.

Remember when the circus came to town
How you were frightened by the clown,
Wasn’t it nice to be around someone that you knew,
Someone who was big and strong and looking out for

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world
And for all the times we’ve cried I always felt that
God was on our side.

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Songwriters: Kenneth Lee Ascher / Paul H. Williams
You and Me Against the World lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

You Can Do WHAT Online???

A couple of weeks ago, November 20th to be exact, I received an email from a group called Concealed Online.  The email read …

“It was penned like this in December 1791…’A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’

Today, almost 228 years later, The World Has Changed… I am writing to urge you to GET YOUR CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT!

This week we celebrate our nations birthday… 243 years old (using the average human lifespan that’s just over 3 lifespans ago).

In that short period of time we have fought in 5 major wars, elected 45 presidents, and have passedover 20,000 laws…

Unfortunately, many of those laws have moved us further and further from freedom all in the name of order and protection. The truth is protection starts at home and our forefathers knew it… they knew this day of BIG GOVERNMENT would sneak up on us all…

This is why I encourage you fellow patriots exercise your right to bear arms HERE AND NOW!

I just wanted to encourage you that you should Get Your Concealed Carry Permit while it is still legal and easy… California Democrats has already made it nearly impossible to get one there and the Liberals are slowly advancing their agenda in Congress.

This site helps people get their CCW Permit through online certification… They are truly patriots, they are available by phone as well if you just want more information.

There may not be an option for you to legally carry next year. Tomorrow may be too late. Get your permit while its still legal to do so.”

And then they provided a link where I could “Start the online process”.  It wasn’t the first such email I had received, but it was the first one I decided to take note of … for I was curious … is it really so simple for a person to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon as simply logging onto a website?  And so, I did a bit of digging.

When I followed the link, their website begins with an introduction that said all I had to do to obtain a Virginia (note that I don’t live in Virginia, but Virginia has a reciprocal agreement with 28 other states) concealed carry license was to watch a short video, answer 12 multiple choice questions, fill out an application, send them $65 and PRESTO!  I could go around with a gun stuck in my waistband, pocket, or maybe even a holster under my shirt.  Wow, huh?

No, I didn’t watch the video or take the 12-question test, for the simple reason that I don’t want to be on these people’s radar.  I don’t know how they got my email address, but I have no intention of giving them a reason to keep bothering me with such emails.  But, I did do some digging and found that in last year’s election cycle, this organization spent mega bucks … some $2 million … advertising on Facebook.

Its ads warned about the “blue wave.” “MOB RULE IS COMING!” read one series of ads before the midterm elections.  And after: “IT’S ALMOST OVER! The Gun Control Dems are IN.”ConcealedCarryAd-01Concealed Online launched in 2016, three years after Virginia started allowing people to take online courses to qualify for concealed carry permits. Those permits are recognized in states across the country, and even nonresidents of Virginia are eligible. The company’s owner saw a business opportunity in that. So, he developed an online training course, where people can watch a video on gun safety, take a test, and instantly download a certificate of competency with a handgun for a fee. You can take the test as many times as you need, making it nearly impossible to fail.

A writer for WIRED, Issie Lapowsky, says she took the test and intentionally answered a few questions wrong, and still passed – though she had not even watched the ‘safety’ video!

The Better Business Bureau gives Concealed Online an F rating, in part because it has received 25 complaints—primarily from people who paid for the certificate only to find out that Virginia’s permits aren’t recognized in their state.  The company’s owner says Concealed Online sells certificates to people living in states like California and Colorado, which don’t accept Virginia permits, because they can use them when they travel to states that do.

Think about that one, folks.  John Doe can decide to go on a shooting spree and get permission to carry a concealed gun in 28 states within a matter of minutes, and for only $65.  Is it any wonder that the U.S. has the highest rate of deaths by gun in the world?  Is it any wonder that as of November 19th, there have been 45 school shootings in the U.S.?  Is it any wonder that as of October 31st there had been 370 mass shootings, killing 441 people and injuring another 1,466?  And is it any wonder that as of today, December 8th, there have been 36,734 gun deaths in the U.S. this year – 14,162 murder/homicides, and 22,572 suicides.  And those so-called “prolife” people worry about abortion???

Oh, and by the way … you can also buy a gun online.buy-guns-online

crying

Saturday Surprise — Saving Bees!

bees-toonI almost didn’t do a Saturday Surprise again this week, for as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been unable to corral my mind and it just wasn’t working.  But then, I was going through some notes I had of saved topics and realized I could do Saturday Surprise on a topic I’ve been wanting to do for a while, just never found time … BEES!  Don’t worry … I promise you won’t get stung!

Now, we all know that the bee population in the U.S. and globally has been declining for years.  Most of the reasons are attributable to humans … loss of habitat and bee-killing pesticides being two of the main causes.  And, all living creatures depend on bees for food … one-third of all our food depends on bee pollination, so those little guys are pretty important!

Since this is a Saturday Surprise post, one of the rules is ‘no politics’, so I won’t mention what some governments are doing to exacerbate the decline of the bee population, but instead will focus on some of the good things people are doing to try to save the bees!  Rather a hybrid of Saturday Surprise and Good People!


Let’s start with a trip to the Netherlands, the city of Utrecht, to be specific.  This city has transformed all 316 of its bus stops into bee sanctuaries.  The Netherlands is home to 358 different bee species but more than half of them are already endangered and have been placed on the Dutch Red List of threatened species.utrechtThese bee sanctuaries or rather ‘bee stops’ are essentially standard bus stops with grass and wildflowers planted on the roofs to encourage pollination. Not only do bee stops support the city’s biodiversity by attracting honey bees and bumblebees, they also help capture fine dust and store rainwater.

Bee stops are tended to by workers who drive around the city in electric vehicles. But the scheme requires little maintenance because the roofs are mainly composed of sedum plants, which are a favourite among pollinators and require very little water to survive. To improve facilities for the human visitors, the bus stops have also been fitted with energy-efficient LED lights and bamboo benches.utrecht-2This is just one of the many measures Utrecht has introduced to improve urban biodiversity. It also runs a similar scheme which allows residents to apply for funding to transform their own roofs into bee sanctuaries. And as part of its clean transport goals, the aim is to introduce 55 new electric buses by the end of the year and to have “completely clean public transport” by 2028. The electricity used to power these buses will come from one of the Netherland’s most iconic attractions: windmills.

Now THAT’S what I call an environmentally conscious city!  And one of the most bee-friendly I know of.


You all know actor Morgan Freeman from such movies as Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption and others, but I bet you didn’t know that he owns a 124-acre ranch in Mississippi that he has turned into a bee sanctuary! morgan-freemanFreeman’s foray into beekeeping began in 2014, where he discussed his new hobby with Jimmy Fallon during The Tonight Show. Freeman had taken up beekeeping just a couple of weeks before appearing on the show and talked about his experience keeping bees and the need to preserve and save wild bees for healthy environments.

Freeman imported 26 bee hives from Arkansas to his ranch in Mississippi. There, Freeman works to feed the bees sugar and water and has help planting bee-friendly magnolia trees, lavender, clover, etc.

“There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet…We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation…”

bee-thumbs-upTwo thumbs up to Morgan Freeman … and a sincere ‘thank you’ from all of us who care about the future of life on this planet.


Ever hear of the National Pollinator Garden Network?   Neither had I until a few hours ago.  What is it?

The National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) is a partnership between conservation organizations, gardening groups, volunteer civic associations and participating federal agencies to inspire people and organizations to create more pollinator habitats. The nine founding organizations launched NPGN in June 2015.

The focus of the NPGN is: to inspire individuals and community groups, institutions and the garden industry to create more pollinator habitat through sustainable gardening practices, habitat conservation and provide these groups the tools to be successful.

The organization launched an initiative called the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, in hopes of getting one million organizations and individuals to plant and maintain ‘pollinator gardens’, consisting of pollinator-friendly plants and wild grasses that are both native and non-invasive species. Well, they now have more than met their goal with 1,040,000 as of last February.

Since the campaign launched, many gardening centers have also contributed to the challenge by offering more pollinator-friendly plants, services, and education.

Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

cute-beeBe sure to check out their website … if you have a garden and can take part, this is certainly a worthy venture to join!  We plant bee-friendly flowers in our tiny 2’ x 4’ postage-stamp ‘garden’ and have for years, but I haven’t got quite enough space to make much of a difference.


It’s encouraging to know that people are becoming more aware of just how crucial the bee population is to life … all life … on earth and are doing something about it, don’t you think?  And now, since I always try to end Saturday Surprise with a cute animal video, I thought this one would be appropriate today!

Have a bee-ootiful weekend, my friends!

Damn … Just Damn

Yesterday I wrote about Devin Nunes suing everybody who offended him, who hurt his tender little feelings.  Shortly after putting that post on the schedule, I came across another very improper lawsuit that made my blood literally boil.

trayvon-martin

Trayvon Martin

You’ll remember that back in 2012, a white security guard named George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman claimed self-defense, using Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, although he weighed at least twice what young Martin weighed and was armed.  I have written about this case a few times, the first in 2013 when George Zimmerman was let off scot-free, though by all rights he should have been convicted, at the very least, of second-degree murder.

Then, in May 2016, Zimmerman popped back onto my radar when he attempted to profit from his misdeeds, from taking the life of a teenager, by selling the gun, the murder weapon, at auction for somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 — reports vary.  He made as much as a quarter of a million dollars from the murder he committed.  Let that one sink in for a minute.

But yesterday’s news will leave you speechless.  George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin for no other reason than he “looked suspicious” as he exited the convenience store where he had purchased a pack of Skittles candy and a beverage, filed a lawsuit in the amount of $100,000 against Trayvon Martin’s parents and others.  That’s right … it’s rather as if Charles Manson had sued the family of Sharon Tate!  Or as if Ted Bundy had sued the parents of his first victim, Karen Sparks!

ben-crump-bookIn addition to filing suit against Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, he is also suing Ben Crump, who wrote a book titled “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People,” publisher Harper Collins, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, and various members of the prosecution team and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The killer is suing his victim’s family.  WHAT’S WRONG with this picture???

The lawsuit claims all defendants “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other related legal rights.”  WTF???  He killed an innocent kid, got off scot-free, made a cool quarter of a million selling the murder weapon, and he claims his rights were violated??? zimmerman-2And lest you have any lingering doubts about the character of George Zimmerman, let me tell you a bit about what he has been doing since he murdered Trayvon Martin …

  • In 2013, after being acquitted in the case of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault as well as domestic violence battery and criminal mischief, for pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend, smashing her furniture, and shoving her out of their shared residence.

  • In 2015, Zimmerman was arrested by Lake Mary, Florida, police and charged with aggravated assault with a weapon after allegedly throwing a wine bottle at his ex-girlfriend.

  • In 2016, Zimmerman was removed from a bar by law enforcement after yelling at a waitress and using racial slurs.

  • In May 2018, Zimmerman was charged with stalking against a private investigator who had been working with Michael Gasparro and Jay-Z on the documentary series Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story. According to the investigator, in December 2017, Zimmerman contacted him with 21 phone calls, 38 text messages and 7 voice mails in two and a half hours.

Really nice guy, huh?  But wait … there’s more …

zimmerman-1In late 2013, after his acquittal, apparently he decided to use his notoriety as a claim to fame, and he took up painting, selling his first one, a U.S. flag, for just over $100,000.  On the auction page for the painting, Zimmerman wrote:

“Everyone has been asking what I have been doing with myself. I found a creative way to express myself, my emotions, and the symbols that represent my experiences. My art work allows me to reflect, providing a therapeutic outlet, and allows me to remain indoors 🙂 I hope you enjoy owning this piece as much as I enjoyed creating it. Your friend, George Zimmerman.”

Trouble was, he didn’t actually paint the picture.  It was later reported that the U.S. flag painting was copied without attribution from a stock image taken from Shutterstock.  And ol’ George made $100 grand off of somebody else’s work.

In addition, he has been involved in numerous scandals on Twitter and elsewhere.  In short, George Zimmerman is what was once known as a ‘menace to society’.  I suspect it is only a matter of time before he kills again, and the people who fell for his plea of ‘self-defense’ and let him walk, will wring their hands and claim they thought he was such a ‘nice man’.

Meanwhile, as if the loss of their son wasn’t enough, Trayvon Martin’s parents now have to face a lawsuit by the man who murdered their son.  Damn.  Just damn.

Little Devin’s Feelings Are Hurt 😭

One of the not-so-illustrious faces of the GOP today, Devin Nunes, is suing media outlet CNN … for $435,350,000.  Yep, folks … you read it right.  $435 million and change!  I would love to know how he came up with that figure … heck, his life isn’t worth that much!  His net worth is estimated at $158,001 (the extra dollar … who knows … maybe the Tooth Fairy?).  He may well be the poorest member of Congress!

So why, you ask, is he suing CNN?  He is suing because last month CNN published what Nunes now claims to be a “demonstrably false hit piece.”  The story reported that in December 2018, while serving as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes traveled to Vienna and met with Ukrainian former prosecutor general Victor Shokin to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden.  Funny, isn’t it, that the entire focus of Trump & Co these days is on Joe Biden?

Now, I don’t claim that CNN or any of the other news outlets are above embellishing on a story from time-to-time, but unlike Fox, Breitbart and others, they are not into conspiracy theories.  They report actual news.  Their source for the November 22nd story was an attorney for Lev Parnas, a now-indicted business associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani.  The attorney, Joseph Bondi, says Mr. Parnas would be willing to testify to Congress under oath.  CNN contacted Nunes’ office multiple times before publishing the story, asking for a response from him, but he refused to return their calls.

Nunes’ complaint is 47 pages long … lawyers always manage to write 50 pages for what could easily have been said in 2-3 sentences … and accuses Parnas of manufacturing a narrative that he hoped would help him negotiate a deal with federal prosecutors or obtain immunity from Congress.  So … why isn’t he suing Mr. Parnas?

Records disclosed Tuesday in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry report show phone calls between Nunes and Giuliani as well as between Nunes and Parnas earlier this year.  Nunes says he remembers speaking with Giuliani, but that it was all perfectly innocent, and he doesn’t remember speaking with Mr. Parnas.  I guess he has a ‘convenient memory’ like Trump, eh?

Nunes claims that CNN published the story in order to damage his reputation and ensure his removal from the ongoing impeachment inquiry.  It seems to me that Nunes is trying to catch up to Trump in the number of lawsuits to his name.  Trump has been either plaintiff or defendant in over 6,000 lawsuits during his 73 years, so while Nunes has some catching up to do, he’s certainly trying (in more ways than one).

Devin-Nunes-criesIn March, he filed a lawsuit for $250 million against Twitter, claiming that two parody Twitter accounts (one called “Devin Nunes’ Cow”) and a Republican political consultant defamed him with mean tweets.  Awwww … pobrecito!  In August, he sued McClatchy news organization for another $250 million, alleging defamation.  And in October he sued Ryan Lizza and Hearst Magazines for $77 million, claiming that a story in Esquire about the Nunes family farm in Iowa defamed him.

An interesting aside … the Devin Nunes’ Cow Twitter account had only about 1,000 followers until Mr. Nunes filed the lawsuit, and then it’s readership skyrocketed to 667,000! nunesIt seems to me that Mr. Nunes has very thin skin.  As I was writing this post, the thought occurred to me that perhaps it would be fun to mail him a box of tissues to dry his tears.  Hey, maybe he would then sue me!  That could be fun, for as the old saying goes, “you can’t get blood out of a turnip”!

The irony here is priceless, for in 2017, Devin Nunes co-sponsored HR 1179 – Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act.

Just think, if Nunes were to win all these lawsuits, he would increase his net worth from his present $158,001 to $1,012,508,001.  That’s it, folks!  I’ve got it now!  He wants to become a billionaire like so many of his peers!  All these lawsuits could put him just over the billion-dollar mark!  Except … one small problem … I don’t think he’s likely to win a single one of them!Devin-Nunes