I Don’t Believe In…

Recently, as I sometimes do on the now rare occasions when I drive somewhere, I listened to a radio talk show on Sirius XM.   The show is of no consequence, they all follow the same pattern, but I often find them amusing.  What caught my interest was a statement made by an older gentleman about his feelings about COVID-19, social restrictions, and the vaccine.

This caller said he was seventy-two years old, lived in Florida, took minerals and vitamins to supplement his fitness routine, and said he was healthy with no serious issues. He said he never wore a mask, did not practice social distancing, and would not get vaccinated. He claimed to have been in contact with some family members who tested positive from COVID-19, yet he remained free of any symptoms. He had no plans to be tested or change habits.

When the host pressed him on why he would not get vaccinated he hemmed and hawed then said this, “Well, I don’t believe in it.”

Think about this for a moment. “I don’t believe in it.”

On what rational basis is this decision made?

Doubt CBS Promos - Television Promos

None I can see.

This politicizing of the pandemic—where masks became some denial of constitutional rights—coupled with America’s growing anti-intellectualism and disregard for experts, creates the perfect storm of irrationalism masquerading as science (albeit junk science) and offering people an “excuse” to avoid their civic responsibilities.

Even if one wants to argue people should be allowed to chose whether or not to be vaccinated, the discussion should be based on actual science, risk assessment, and cost-benefit analysis. “I believe” falls woefully short and undercuts any substantive examination.

All this is the culmination of the anti-vaccine zealots who promulgate unreliable, untestable, yet authoritative (which the selectively embrace) sounding “evidence” that vaccines are inherently dangerous.

Much of this results from the failing level of basic science and math comprehension in America. Where we once led the world in technology, math, and science we now languish near the middle or bottom when compared to other modern industrialized nations.

We are a nation of conspiracy theorists paralyzed by fear of a boogie man constructed from irrational fears.  And no one can actually point to one shred of evidence or reason the government, or Bill Gates, or China, or any other lightning rod of the day would create such a pandemic for their own benefit.

And yet, it persists and festers.

“An important element in much of junk thought is innumeracy—a lack of understanding of basic mathematical and statistical concepts. Innumeracy is deeply implicated in the media’s and the public’s overreaction to many studies involving medical risks. News stories frequently report that a particular drug or consumption of a particular type of food increases or decreases the risk of one disease or another by a large percentage. The critical issue, though, is not the magnitude of the increase but the incidence of risk in the first place. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that a drug doubles the chance of contracting a fatal disease at age twenty. If there was only one chance in a million of developing the disease in the first place, an increase to two in a million is meaningless from a public health standpoint. But if two people in ten were already at risk for the hypothetical condition, an increase to four in ten would justify immediate removal of the drug from the market.”

Jacoby, Susan. The Age of American Unreason (p. 277). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The other, more sinister, reality is those who choose not to be vaccinated still benefit from the majority of those who will get vaccinated. Those anti-vaxxer get the benefit of the proliferation of those who develop anti-bodies and reach the threshold of herd immunity. 

The irony is if those opposed to being vaccinated were to succeed with their junk science and thought, they would place themselves in greater jeopardy.

To say one does not “believe” in vaccines is as irrational as saying one does not “believe” the earth is round. All the evidence points to the contrary.  Science works, not because anyone “believes” in it but because it is not based on faith or belief. It often dispels common beliefs. Science thrives on errors and corrections, pseudoscience does everything to avoid such scrutiny.

“Pseudoscience differs from erroneous science. Science thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one. False conclusions are drawn all the time, but they are drawn tentatively. Hypotheses are framed so they are capable of being disproved. A succession of alternative hypotheses is confronted by experiment and observation. Science gropes and staggers toward improved understanding. Proprietary feelings are of course offended when a scientific hypothesis is disproved, but such disproofs are recognized as central to the scientific enterprise. Pseudoscience is just the opposite. Hypotheses are often framed precisely so they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated. Practitioners are defensive and wary. Skeptical scrutiny is opposed. When the pseudoscientific hypothesis fails to catch fire with scientists, conspiracies to suppress it are deduced.”

Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. 

I may not believe in many things, but basing health decisions on beliefs or lack thereof, I am certain, is a dangerous path fraught with serious, and sometimes fatal, risks.

Don’t believe it? Time will tell.


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Look into my Eyes

Eyes are the windows to the soul.

While I am not religious, more a secular humanist, the Bible is one of the sources for the origin of this truism and does contain some wise, if often ignored, quotes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
(Author Note: in the original Greek the word translated as healthy in this version originally meant generous and the word unhealthy meant stingy. It’s one of those complications of texts (in the original sense) translated from Aramaic to Greek to Old Latin to New Latin to German to Old English to New English)

Matthew 6:22-23 

In these times of masks, we are forced to discern a person’s reaction to us through their eyes.  Beneath the mask, there may be a smile, or a frown, hidden by the necessities of the times. Yet the eyes tell a story.

We now “see” how eyes “light up” when one smiles. Or how they grow narrow and “darken” when there is anger or uncertainty.

We are like a person who suddenly loses one of their senses, forced to rely more heavily on the others to make up the information deficit.

The fact of the matter is, depending on which study you read, somewhere between 55-90% of communication is non-verbal.  Obviously, seeing a smile or frown or clenched lips would play a major part in such communication.  Lacking that, we are forced to rely on the next most obvious, the eyes.

While body language—gestures, stance, distance, actions—all play a part, it is in the eyes one has the best chance of recognizing someone else’s attitude toward you.

There is a definite change in the eyes when one smiles, and it is apparent if one takes the time to look for it.  Given that all the considerate people in the world are wearing masks, learning to read eyes is an invaluable skill.

Encountering someone in public not wearing a mask, even if they are smiling, engenders its own meaning. But there is still a message in the eyes.  In most cases it will be one of confrontational embarrassment for their lack of public responsibility.

But no matter.  Soon, perhaps not soon enough, we will be in the time of the great unmasking. When smiles once again emerge into our menu of communication skills. It would do us well to hang onto the skills of reading eyes.

For if the eyes are indeed the window to the soul, even a smile cannot serve as an opaque enough curtain to hide the truth.


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Free Speech: From the Horse’s Mouth (and it depends on which horse)

Here’s a simple explanation against the argument that the impeachment hearing violates the former President’s First Amendment rights.

If a police officer says, in a speech, that he only arrests black people because they commit the most crimes, he may have a first amendment right to say it, but it would clearly violate his duties as a sworn officer.

If a doctor says, in a speech, that he won’t treat Jews because they killed Jesus Christ he may have a first amendment right to say it, but it would clearly violate his Hippocratic oath and licensure as a doctor.

If I say, in a speech, all women should obey the men in their lives because men know better (I would, of course, say this silently in the presence of my wife and daughter) I may have a first amendment right to say it, but it would clearly violate common sense.

Each example may be constitutionally protected and, more important, few people would pay attention to the point of the pronouncements, but they would be rightfully concerned about the context and position of the person making them. (Except mine, of course, my wife and daughter would just ignore me.)

The difference is a police officer, doctor, or any other person can hold and express anything they like when acting as private citizens if they act within the law. If they translate these protected speech statements into actions in their employment or position, there are legal consequences.

The President of the United States is never a private citizen while he holds the office. Everything he says, he says as the President and it implies infinitely more significance than statements from ordinary American citizens.

If the President enjoyed unfettered First Amendment rights, then he could announce an intention to fire nuclear weapons against the county of East Japeepee with no concern for the reaction of the East Japeepeeians.

If they launched a pre-emptive strike against us, it would be because they hate our freedom and our First Amendment rights.

Which leads us to the Impeachment trial. Getting past the raw emotions of what happened that day (as a former police officer I felt only rage for the attack on those officers and, frankly, I am in awe of their restraint. Some officers I know might have opened fire at such a threat) we need examine the President’s speech in the context of not just that moment but with the understanding of what led the crowd there in the first place.

A Lie

A bold faced fabrication intended to subvert the Constitution.

And more critically, a lie spread by the President of the United States that the election was stolen from him. And if one wants to argue the President of the United States can lie to the American public because he has a First Amendment right to do so, one risks the consequences.

Consequences that played out in the halls of Congress.

Or if one argues that it is not a lie if the President believed it to be true, somehow delusional does not seem a good characteristic for the President of the United States.

The speech by the President on January 6th wasn’t the reason the mob attacked the Capitol; it was merely the starter’s gun signaling the beginning. Mr. Trump lit the fuse on the artillery he had primed, loaded, and aimed at our country.

One last point, and this is telling, from the moment the mob stormed the Capitol until the President made any effort to dissuade the mob, he did nothing for hours. Hours while US Capitol Police officers were being attacked, assaulted, and murdered by a mob he unleashed.

Even if one accepts the premise that the President never intended his speech to spark an attack, he did nothing to mitigate it once it began. Actions, or in this case inactions, speak volumes. If he never intended them to attack Congress, why did he do nothing?

One can draw a reasonable inference from the President’s failure to take swift and bold action.

Can you imagine what would have happened had not the US Capitol Police and the Secret Service acted as quickly as they did to protect the Vice President and the members of Congress? There is no doubt in my mind that the frenzied crowd—driven by weeks of the President’s own exhortations that the Vice President could change the results of the election, had they seized Mr. Pence (after the Secret Service ran out of ammunition killing who knows how many)—would have executed the Vice President and anyone else the President sent them after.

Now there’s a legacy of Making America Great Again one could point to with pride.

As part optimist, I believe there is a chance that enough Senators will do what’s right as opposed to what is politically expedient. As part realist, I have little reason to believe it will happen.


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Discrimination Takes Many Forms (layoff my SPAM)

With the dawn of new age, when we seek a brighter and more embracing community, I am appealing to President Biden to address by Executive Order (of which he seems to have an unending supply) an unappreciated vestige of discrimination.

Now I realize there are much more pressing issues to address when it comes to discrimination, but this shouldn’t be an excuse to allow the endemic and prolific mistreatment of a whole class of otherwise worthwhile humans.

I am, of course, talking about the ostracism, condescension, and outright belittling of those of us with refined enough palettes to appreciate the sophisticated flavors and savory nirvana that is SPAM   

Introduced by Hormel in 1937, one might argue that since an army travels on its stomach, SPAM, just as much as B-17s, the M-1 Garand, and the atomic bomb, helped win the war. SPAM gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II; winners always draw others to themselves. By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries.

And yet, there are those with little minds, unrefined taste buds, and a pretentious haughtiness about them who denigrate and demean those of us who love SPAM.

Think about the versatility, let alone its usefulness doing times of struggle.

SPAM in a can, if left unopened, is good for at least 4 years, when it would be considered “young spam” or if treasured for several centuries then opened, like fine wine, it would be aged appropriately (although it might be advisable not to let it breathe.)

Yet I bet you could still eat it. Recalling my days hiking the Appalachian Trail (have I mentioned I hiked the Appalachian trail? All 2185 miles of it), I know if one were at a trailhead and ran into an AT thru-hiker, and all one had was a can of vintage 1941 SPAM to offer, there is no doubt in my mind the hiker would devour it with pleasure. They might even open the can first, but there are no guarantees of this depending on how long they’d been away from civilization.

I also have no doubt that some weekend hikers, wearing clothes that were clean that morning and carrying all sorts of unnecessary equipment to make them look like experienced hikers (their aroma of cleanliness gives them away), would turn up their noses at the SPAM devouring hiker.

And thus it is with all of us SPAMmers; we suffer grievously the slings and arrows of outrageous condescension. This leads me to another example of blatant discrimination: spam folders, spamming, and spammers as a description of unwanted things.

Who decided that folders containing unsolicited emails from some Nigerian Royalty or his solicitor should be called SPAM?

This is an insult to SPAM lovers everywhere. And we are everywhere. Even those who may claim otherwise secretly fry up SPAM in the confines of their kitchens when no one can see them. You may deny it, but every family has one of us.

It’s time for all SPAMMERS to come out of the shadows and proclaim to the world, I LOVE SPAM!

And they should be able to do this without being subjected to heaps of abuse, vomiting memes, expressions of disgust, or any other mistreatment.

Thus we need an Executive Order from the President of the United States. The S.P.A.M. Act, Spam People Are Maligned Act. And this should take precedent before any other matters, including stimulus checks or other issues of concern.

Just this very day I was the object of scorn for posting a picture of my breakfast preparation that included SPAM. It cuts me to the quick. This must end!

It is time to SAVE THE SPAM and prevent discrimination against those of us who love our SPAM.  Mark my words, you will have to pry my SPAM out of my cold, dead hands before I ever give up my right to enjoy this wonder of the world!


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Listen(ing) to the Quiet

We live in a noisy world.

For those who live in urban-suburban environments, cars, trucks, and sirens are the white noise of our lives. To those in the country, animals, birds, or the hammering of a woodpecker fills the same place.

When one switches environments, urban to country or vice versa, those background noises become almost unbearable just because they are unfamiliar.

We inflict noise on ourselves, filling our lives with TVs or music or game apps to satiate our limited attention spans. We are bombarded by constant communication with texts, phones, and social media alerts.

So it is a rare moment when we can actually listen to the quiet.

In the 1960s and 70s, I became familiar with a poet/songwriter/performer named Rod McKuen. I was introduced to him through my Uncle, Mike Campbell. Mike is no longer with us, but he had a great deal of influence in my life, and my fondness for Rod McKuen (who I will bet few of you have ever heard sing or read any of his books, although I know there are a few) has persisted all these years.

In the title of McKuen’s book, Listen to the Warm, there is a summoning to Listen to that which we would typically not hear. On warm summer days, I often try to Listen to the Warm, hoping to hold onto such moments a bit longer before they flitter away.

But in the dead of winter, especially in places like New Hampshire where I often find myself, one has a real opportunity to Listen to something so rare in our world.


The stillness of silence, if one pays attention, is camouflage. For within the quiet are the secrets of life. It is cathartic.

And there is no better moment to Listen to the quiet than with a walk in a snowstorm.

Everyone who has ever lived in a cold winter climate has mixed feelings about snow. We anticipate it, grow weary of it, marvel at it, curse it, shovel it, slide in it, fall in it, build snowmen, break bones, conquer slopes, unbury our car, and bundle up against its chill.

Yet, just taking a moment’s pause to walk in a snowstorm, in a New Hampshire wood or anywhere away from the noisy cacophony of the world, one can actually hear the quiet. It may be hard to imagine, in a city or even a small town surrounded by modern society’s mechanism, that one can hear snow fall in a quiet forest.

But you can…and it will be magical.

To hear snow falling, it has to be quiet. And to the hear quiet, one must listen for it.

Shhhh…Listen to the quiet


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Serendipity: How a Blizzard Set My Career Path

Forty-three years ago tomorrow, February 6, 1978, I was scheduled for my first interview with the Rhode Island State Police. It was a career choice not always on the top of my list, at least not consciously, but through circumstances or perhaps inevitability it had moved to the top.

My father had been a trooper, I would follow in the footsteps.

Then, serendipity struck. A snowstorm turned from just another winter event into the storm of a lifetime. It snowed for thirty-three hours straight, sometimes coming down at four inches an hour.

Early on the morning of the 6th, I received a call from State Police Headquarters; they were postponing the interview.

I was disappointed but, at the moment, thought it would be just a week or two before they rescheduled.

Since I was a member of the RI National Guard at the time, I dove into doing my part with digging the state out of the deluge. Woonsocket, RI set the state record with fifty-four inches of snow.

It was a big storm.

Several days after it stopped snowing, equipment and personnel from outside the state arrived to help. I recall a crusty old highway employee from Buffalo, New York, if I remember correctly, stepping off a plane, looking around, and saying,

“Blizzard, this ain’t no freakin’ blizzard. This is Saturday night in Buffalo.”

I guess perspective matters.

Once things returned to normal, I awaited the call for a new interview. It never came. The state imposed a hiring freeze, cancelling the scheduled class of new troopers.

Now what?

One of my best friends, Ralph Ezovski, had joined the ranks of the East Providence Police Department. They were hiring. He told me to apply. I didn’t even know, in typical Rhode Island fashion, where East Providence was let alone city hall or the police department.

I declined. The State Police would call, eventually.

Undaunted, Ralph arrived with a copy of the application and convinced me to fill it out. He may have plied me with alcohol, if so it was effortless. I filled out the application, but either intentionally or subconsciously didn’t send it in.

No worries, Ralph took it and stuck it under the door of the Personnel Office the day the applications closed. I forgot about it and resumed my wait for the state police.

Several weeks later, I received a notice for the written exam for EPPD. “What the heck,” I thought, “can’t hurt.”

Cutting to the gist of the story, I passed the test, passed the agility, and passed (imagine!) the psychological test. All that remained was an interview with then Police Chief George Rocha.

“What the heck, it will be good practice,” I thought.

After the usual preliminaries, Chief Rocha said something that changed everything. Looking me in the eye, a bit of a suspicious grin on his face, he asked, “So, are you gonna run out the door as soon as the State Police hire again?”

Everyone, including myself, thought I would go to the state police. This consensus started a long time ago even if I wasn’t part of it. Somewhere I have a copy of my yearbook from Ashton School (The Scotty!) in Cumberland, RI. In it, my second grade teacher wrote, “Best of Luck to a future Rhode Island State Police Detective.” It would seem destiny had a plan for me. Not because of any talent or ability or calling, but because my father had been a trooper.

It was at that moment it all changed.

“No sir,” I said. “I applied to be an East Providence Police Officer and, if I get hired, that is what I will be.” The rest is history.

In 1979, I received a new appointment for an interview with the State Police. I turned it down. East Providence PD was, and remains to this day, one of the finest police departments in the country, and I am proud to have spent twenty years as a member of that agency.

I’m not sure if Chief Rocha believed me at the moment he asked that question about leaving. Later, when I was in a unit that reported directly to him, he asked me why I hadn’t gone to the State Police.

I smiled and said, “Because that’s what everybody expected me to do and I wanted to blaze my own trails.”

“You should have done it, kid,” the Chief said, “they make better money.”

A long time ago, notice the typewriter!

Perhaps, but I bet I never would never have done the things I did with EPPD, worked alongside outstanding EPPD officers, or created the memories I cherish, and I do not regret one moment. While I have the utmost respect for the RI State Police and had the opportunity to work many cases with some outstanding troopers and detectives, I’m glad things turned out the way they did.

I like to think there was something inside of me directing my choices, even if I have uncertainties about such things. I like to think I somehow heard those messages sending me down an unexpected path. I don’t know if I will ever know why I chose one path over the other when I came to “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Yet, I will be forever grateful to a changing weather pattern that put a blizzard in the path of one road, sending me down the other, less traveled.

It may not have been much of a blizzard to that guy from Buffalo, but it was a life altering experience for me. I’m not a big believer in mystical messages, kismet, karma, or any other such things. I tend toward the more rational. It’s likely I would have ignored any subtle intuitive notions. Because of this, it took a blizzard to get my attention.


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Vaccines and Conspiracy Theory: Science vs. Belief

It would seem in America people have misconstrued their First Amendment right to free speech—where the government cannot intervene, prevent, stifle, or censor the exercise thereof—to mean anything they say is of equal value to any other pronouncement and thus immune from criticism or challenge.

This “equality without evaluation” is a product of postmodernism, characterized by skepticism, subjectivism, and relativism., It is defined by a rejection of science and authority (in the expert sense) and general suspicion of reason.

In a post modernist world, anything you say, opinion you express, or contention you make is equal to any other and immune from challenge. This is about as far from reality as one can venture. In the real world, you may have the right to claim something but not the right to insist on its veracity merely because you believe it to be true.

Every man has the right to an opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Nor, above all, to persist in errors as to facts.

Bernard Baruch

This sheltering under Free Speech is disingenuous. One cannot prevent someone from making a point, just like one cannot deny others the opportunity to refute it.

In our fantasy-infused society—where many people believe the Bible to be factually accurate, the Earth is flat, angels routinely intervene in people’s lives, and people channel omnipotent beings to heal incurable diseases (but, curiously enough, never regrow limbs)—facts have become malleable to opinion. It presents a clear and present danger to our survival.

One must keep in mind the folly of biblical literalism: what some see as the obvious meaning—in a passage translated from ancient Hebrew to ancient Greek to Old Latin to New Latin to Middle English to Modern English—others will not.

Here’s an example, albeit a bit unscientific. Using Google Translate which has no vested interest in the purpose of the translation and I believe would be at least as reliable as monks with papyrus and a stylus in a cold, candle lit room.

I started with “In the beginning…

Greek “Στην αρχή” to Hebrew: בהתחלה to Latin: initio back to English: initially.

After two thousand years of translation by humans, is the Bible in its current iteration something to believe is inerrant fact? Or to rely on for medical advice?

And yet, there is this from a 2017 Gallup poll…

Chart: data points are described in article

And from the same poll…

Still, while biblical literalism has waned, the vast majority of Americans — 71% — continue to view the Bible as a holy document, believing it is at least God-inspired if not God’s own words.


Coupling the perception that Free Speech means unchallengeable with the right to hold any faith without serious analysis or questioning of its basis or origin, imbues a perception of invincibility to any derived positions. Therein lies the danger. Yet, perhaps there is some advice we can embrace from the Bible, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Mark 12:17 could be interpreted keep religion and secular matters separate.

Why does this matter?

America is one of the most religious of developed nations. It may be a diverse spectrum of religions, predominantly Christian, with a smaller helping of Judaism and an even smaller portion of Islam, but we are no doubt a religious nation. Just imagine the outrage if a President didn’t end every speech with God bless America.

Although the number of adherents is decreasing in terms of traditional faiths, i.e., Catholicism or mainstream Protestants, others are growing. The Evangelicals (a kinder and gentler term for Fundamentalists) and Charismatics (a marketing term coined to put a kinder imprimatur on Biblical inerrancy, speaking in tongues, and direct messaging with God and Jesus) are increasing in numbers.

Prosperity Preachers (who knew there was such a thing, must have been a different version of the Bible than the one I read) draw tens of thousands to their full-blown production services, more Hollywood than Holy. One such preacher, Joel Osteen, is worth about fifty million dollars. Kenneth Copeland, the granddaddy of the phenomenon whose fortune is between 300 and 700 million dollars, has his own airport. Life is good when God is your business agent.

Apparently they never read Mark 10:21 (“Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”)

This religiosity sets us apart from Europe, Australia, Japan, and other educated nations, putting us in line with theocracies and countries with state religions. We may have a restriction against government-sponsored religion, but we support it through forgoing taxes on church property and income. We do this, it would seem, willingly with the Judeo-Christian faith and more reluctantly with Islam, but it is a fact.

Why does this matter? Because when one blurs the line between beliefs and fact it fosters misinformation. Religion has its place as a guide to behavior. Still, when it crosses the line into the rational, secular decision-making process, it becomes indistinguishable from conspiracy theories, dark age mythology, and pseudoscience.

“The likelihood of supporting conspiracy theories is strongly predicted,” they concluded, by two key pieces of our national character that derive from our particular Christian culture: “a propensity to attribute the source of unexplained or extraordinary events to unseen, intentional forces” and a weakness for “melodramatic narratives as explanations for prominent events, particularly those that interpret history relative to universal struggles between good and evil.” (from a study entitled “Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion,”)

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire by Kurt Andersen

No better example of the danger of making choices based on beliefs instead of medical science exists than the myths surrounding vaccines


The Great Vaccine Scare: How a Fabricated and Falsified “Study” Became “Fact”

In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper linking thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative and stabilizer then used in vaccines) to autism in children. The implication was childhood vaccinations were more dangerous than the diseases they prevented.

It was a fraud, but every con has its willing victims. Celebrities such as the wife of the late shock jock Don Imus, Deirdre Imus, embraced it and portrayed Dr. Wakefield as a martyr sacrificed by the drug companies for the sake of profit. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02989-9

You may have the right to claim something but not the right to insist on its veracity merely because you believe it to be true.

Joe Broadmeadow

The British medical society investigated Dr. Wakefield and the circumstances and methodology of his “study.” The results were startling and largely ignored by the anti-vaxx community because it didn’t comport with their belief.

“In 2010, the General Medical Counsel declared that the paper was not only based on bad science but was deliberate fraud and falsifications by the head researcher, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and revoked his medical license. Investigators learned that a lawyer looking for a link between the vaccine and autism had paid Wakefield more than £435,000 (equal to more than a half-million dollars). https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/do-vaccines-cause-autism

In 2004, two studies performed in the United Kingdom examined whether thimerosal in vaccines caused neurodevelopmental or psychological problems; neither found evidence that early exposure to thimerosal was harmful. The study by Thompson and coworkers in this issue of the Journal (pages 1281–1292), the third and most comprehensive to date, also found no evidence of neurologic problems in children exposed to mercury-containing vaccines or immune globulins.

Although the precautionary principle assumes no harm in exercising caution, the alarm caused by the removal of thimerosal from vaccines has been quite harmful. For instance, after the July 1999 announcement by the CDC and AAP, about 10 percent of hospitals suspended use of the hepatitis B vaccine for all newborns, regardless of their level of risk. One 3-month-old child born to a Michigan mother infected with hepatitis B virus died of overwhelming infection.” (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmp078187)

And now, amid the deadliest pandemic since the 1918 Spanish Flu, the specter of doubt about vaccines raises its ugly head once again, causing people to refuse vaccinations. Vaccines that no longer contain thimerosal or any other ingredient with even the most tenuous link to autism.

A vaccination site at Dodger Stadium in LA had to be temporarily closed because of a protest by anti-vaxxers. A bizarre and dangerous example of pitting beliefs and faith-based myths against medical science. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-01-30/dodger-stadiums-covid-19-vaccination-site-shutdown-after-dozens-of-protesters-gather-at-entrance

Photo LA Times

Not sure how receiving a vaccine places one’s soul at risk. Still, there you have it—religion blurring the lines between rationality and doctrine.

They base this vaccination fear on a lie. The conspiratorial proclivities of a significant number of Americans (and it is predominantly an American phenomenon) crashing against rationality spawning a dangerous situation.

Nothing in this world is 100% effective. Not one vaccine, not one medical procedure, not one medication comes without some side-effects or risk. But focusing on the minimal risk blinds people to the overwhelming benefit. These risks are amplified by lies, manipulations, conspiracy nonsense, and outright fraud.

If you want a risk free life, you’re living on the wrong planet, at the wrong time, as the wrong species. Life has risks. Yet, with proper medical procedures, dying is deferrable if not avoidable. There was a time when heart disease always carried a prognosis of a shortened life. Now, open heart patients are walking out of the hospital within days. Some incur complications and die, the overwhelming majority survive.

If one wants certainties, you’re unlikely to find them.

In this case, faith isn’t solely to blame. People may choose to rely on prayer—which has no evidence of efficacy—over vaccines or other treatments—which have mountains of evidence of effectiveness—because they doubt the word of scientists or the government. These beliefs lack any meaningful evidence but are proliferated by conspiratorial nonsense like Q-Anon or anecdotal examples of isolated incidents of government incompetence.

Somehow, they overlook the proof of fraud because it contradicts their beliefs or mistrust of authority.

The duplicitousness of this stance eludes them. With thimerosal, the only study that linked it to autism was fraudulent. Yet, the lie persists. The consequences are frightening. Cases of measles, rubella, whooping cough, and polio are again rising—conditions which, sometimes, can be fatal.

Now, with the increasing numbers of vaccines available to bring the COVID pandemic under control, irrational fear of vaccines based on fraud, lies, misrepresentations, and unadulterated hogwash infects society.

Here’s a great example of the nonsense circulating on social media. This from a Facebook post, but similar idiocy proliferates across multiple platforms.

Does a vaccine give you immunity…. no

Does the vaccine illuminate the virus…. no

Does the vaccine prevent death….no

Does the vaccine guarantee you won’t get it …..no

Does the vaccine prevent you from spreading it….. no

Ignoring for the moment the misused words—the least of the problems with these pronouncements—some accept this is as a rational reason to forego the COVID vaccination. The limits of our own self-inflicted stupidity know no bounds.

Yet, social media is not the problem. Once, many perceived the invention of the printing press as a danger to society. The printing of the Bible in the vernacular rather than traditional Latin opened the words to millions outside the clergy’s once exclusive confines. Both religious and secular powers feared the unleashing of knowledge would be a death knell to society.

It wasn’t, but it may have been the beginning of the end for the religious hegemony over government and society.

The same concerns hover over social media. But the newness of the phenomenon ignores people’s ability to learn how to embrace new technology. It is a new aspect to free speech, but the same strictures apply; fact trumps fiction given the proper intellectual tools.

If we focus on education—giving people the analytical skills to differentiate fact from myth—people will learn to be discerning in the material they embrace online. There will always be a tendency toward confirmation bias, but truth and rationality will rule given an opportunity.

But we need to confront those who use Free Speech as a shield for spreading lies and myths. We need to subject those who offer opinions masquerading as facts to answer the challenge, prove it. Conspiracy theories based on lies, innuendo, false logic, and ignorance led to an insurrection. If we let similar actions derail our efforts to control this and any future pandemics—something we know is inevitable—we face a bleak future.

Religion and faith have their place. They can be useful guides in our daily interaction with our fellow man. But they can also be dangerous wedges used to segregate and divide. No rational person would just pray for their child’s broken arm to heal and not treat it medically. Why would we tolerate those who spread false information about vaccines that put society at risk without challenging them?

If we don’t, our dearth of basic understanding of science and our declining ability to segregate opinion and nonsense from facts and reality will kill us all. Rationality and reason are the sine qua non to our survival.

If you choose not to receive a vaccination, it is your right. But society has the right to make decisions which are for the overall good. If you find yourself banned from travel, or your children banned from school, or your job at risk, it is not a violation of your rights, it is a consequence of your choice. The exercise of rights is not a guarantee of a lack of repercussions when those individual rights cause harm to others,

Or, at the risk of being a bit crass and flippant, you could refuse to be vaccinated and, in the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “die and decrease the surplus population.” You have the right to choose but remember, Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em…(the title of a good book by the way click here)


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Black Panthers and Rt. 146: The Mixed-up Mile

If you got your driver’s license in Rhode Island before they connected Rt 146 to 95 South, you had the unforgettable experience of driving what was known as the Mixed-up Mile. This is something we often did on our summer treks from Cumberland to Scarborough Beach in our search for nubile young women in bikinis to charm (most of whom, okay… okay… ALL of whom, ignored us.)

For those of you unfamiliar with this once challenging gauntlet, Rt. 146 ended, forcing drivers to navigate the narrow side streets near Chad Brown up to Douglas Ave, weaving your way back onto the highway.

For some reason or another, likely the results of a no-bid contract going to the Governor’s daughter’s boyfriend’s mother’s third cousin who was also related to the Governor,, you could connect directly from 95 North to 146 North but not 146 South to 95 south. The necessity slipped their mind.

It is one of those things unique to Rhode Island.

For those of us from the suburbs—white, young, and hopelessly un-urbanized—1972, the year I started driving, presented another challenge. This was the era of anti-war protests and urban rioting over racial disparities (sound familiar?) when many American cities were ablaze with tension.

The Black Panthers, the Black Lives Matter of a earlier generation, which, through the prism of official law enforcement pronouncements of the time, amounted to the world’s most dangerous terrorist group—apparently our standards were lower then—presented an additional challenge to running the gauntlet of the Mixed-up Mile.

The Panthers would gather at the red light right off the exit from 146 selling the Black Panther Newspaper. Each time we approached the exit, we’d make sure the doors were locked and the windows tightly shut, no matter how stifling hot it might be, and hold our breath hoping we didn’t catch the light.


As a side note. The Panthers were always dressed in suits and ties, as an early reader of this piece reminded me. They were the best dressed terrorist group of that era. I wanted to add this important piece of information to the original.

As we started onto the exit, all eyes focused on the light. We knew the timing by heart. If you hit the exit and the light stayed green until the corner straightened out, you were golden. If not, and the dreaded Yellow Caution light came on, you were trapped.

Eyes locked straight ahead to avoid any eye contact, we did our best not to draw any attention to ourselves, hoping our pretense at not noticing anyone would grant us protection. Sometimes, lost in conversation as we took the exit, we foolishly left the windows down.

As the realization took hold we would catch the light, too late to close the windows without painting ourselves as targets, our heart rates climbed, and we resigned ourselves to buying yet another copy of the paper.

Now, all these years later, I realize that we never had one moment where anything other than a polite request was made if we wanted to buy the paper. Not one threat. Not one challenge. Not one hint of violence.

The fear came from our own ignorance.

Some members of the Black Panthers engaged in criminal behavior. Some may have used strong-arm intimidation to sell newspapers to raise money for their cause. But none of that happened to us.

I wonder if the newly emboldened right-wing white supremacist groups on the rise today would act in such a manner. Perhaps the problem was our then definition of a terrorist group. Those Panthers may not have known it, nor may they have intended it, yet they taught a lesson about ignorance and stereotypes to a bunch of naïve kids from Cumberland that lives on.


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And on the Seventh Day, Joe Biden Ruined…

It would seem we have another story like Genesis on our hands. Joe Biden has been President for just about seven days and, according to those stalwart supporters of the “good ‘ole days” when Mr. Trump was President, and everything was perfect—kind of like Eden before the snake arrived and stole the election—Mr. Biden has singlehandedly ruined the country.

IN JUST 7 DAYS.  (I gave him inauguration day off since it took time for him to get inside, find pens, and create these proclamations for disaster.) The last time something this dramatic took seven days…well, never mind.

This is a quote from one response to a Facebook post I made (“That sound was a collective sigh of relief echoing across the country…”) after the inauguration, but it reflects the tone of many.

 It would seem those who didn’t support Mr. Biden see a looming disaster that began January 20th, 2021, at 12:00 P.M. (unlike the previous exit from paradise, we know the exact time this apocalypse began.) According to these visionaries of the future, Mr. Biden has caused the following,

“…gas and heating oil are on the rise, the stock market is going down, not tanking, but going down.
  Women’s sports will now be dominated by men, taxes are on the rise, China can now control our power grid if they feel like it, for Joey gave the access, the cost for a family to purchase an EpiPen for their child will now double thanks to Biden’s EO so that Senator Manchin’s (D- W. Virginia) daughter can go back to scalping those that need it.  Add insulin to that equation, I don’t know who benefits from that, and there are others, but I think we’ve done enough sighing in relief for now…”

Facebook reponses

These are statements lacking context, supporting evidence, or any actual proof, just conjecture, opposition talking points, or expectations based on innate disagreement with anything in opposition to their position.

 I have no idea what the future holds, although I am more optimistic about it, but I thought I’d address each item as best I could and see if there was any truth to the assumptions.

Gas and heating oil are on the rise

February 17, 2020 the retail average price of gas was $2.518/gallon
(at the cusp of the pandemic)
April 27, 2020 the retail average price of gas was $1.87/gallon
(Low point for the year)
January 25, 2021 the retail average price of gas was $2.478/gallon

Using the same benchmark (adjusted for seasonal changes) for oil,

February 17, 2020 $2.899/gallon, March 30 $2,41/gallon, January
25, 2021 $2.575/gallon
and https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_gas_price)

So this contention is correct, gas and oil prices (adjusted for seasonal use) have been rising since Spring 2020 (pre-Biden) which means little. There is a glut on the market because of falling demand related to the pandemic, production by OPEC countries is in flux, uncertainty in the Gulf creates price variations.

In other words, it ain’t that simple.

It remains to be seen what effect Mr. Biden’s Executive Orders regarding oil and gas leases on Federal Land and offshore will have on the economy. I would argue the overall risk to the environment outweighs the negative economic costs. Existing markets will adapt, or new ones arise.

In an interesting development, General Motors announced they would eliminate gas powered automobiles from the production line by 2035 and all their vehicles would be carbon neutral by 2040. Nothing says America like Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie, and Green-energy Chevrolet.

Economics 101 says gains will mitigate losses. Mr. Trump once touted the return of the coal industry as a gem of his economic plan. But the realities of the market mitigated any huge growth. It wouldn’t work because it couldn’t work economically. (https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_coal_production)

Stock market is going down, not tanking, but going down

So if we look at the chart below, the market has been trending up—Gasp! Say it ain’t so—since 2009 under President Obama and Vice President Biden when they came into office after the crash of 2008. This trend continued under Mr. Trump.

It is a bit premature to write the obituary on the economy and I would caution, as I often have, that much of what happens in the market does so despite any actions by the President not because of them.

Dow Jones Industrial Average – Historical
Annual Data
Closing Price
Year OpenYear HighYear LowYear CloseAnnual
% Change

Women’s sports will now be dominated by men

This one threw me. If this somehow relates to transgender issues it is complete nonsense. Here’s something I wrote in an earlier piece. (https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2021/01/26/your-bias-is-showing/)

“What I came to learn is transgender is a more colloquial term for a wide-ranging variety of conditions. One specific condition, which it would seem is the heart of such protective actions, and the foundation for a Supreme Court case which I will mention shortly, is Gender Dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. But not everyone is affected. Some transgender and gender-nonconforming people feel at ease with their bodies, either with or without medical intervention.

Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5); a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental
conditions. This term is intended to be more descriptive than the one that was previously used, gender identity disorder. The term gender dysphoria focuses on one’s discomfort as the problem, rather than identity. A diagnosis for gender dysphoria was created to help people get access to necessary health care and effective treatment.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gender-dysphoria/symptoms-causes/syc-20475255#:)”

I am fairly certain we won’t see the next Lebron James in a dress heading into a WNBA locker room or a women’s soccer team needing a shave any time soon.

Taxes are on the rise

Taxes for some segment of the population may increase. Mr. Trump’s tax cuts have done little to stimulate the economy, allowed the wealthy and companies to buy back stocks and increase the share prices (which of course positively affects the stock market though not equitably), and increased the national debt.

Compounded by the pandemic—something not caused by Mr. Trump, but I would argue so poorly handled that the problem was amplified—and the need for the economic stimulus bills, revenue has to come from somewhere and a revision of the Tax code may be necessary.

China can now control our power grid if they feel like it, for Joey gave them access

A bold, daring, apocalyptic, and factually inaccurate description of what Biden’s Executive Order does. The order does impact Mr. Trump’ earlier executive order entitled, Executive Order 13920 of May 1, 2020 Securing the United States Bulk-Power System.  The superseding order suspends the prior order for 90 days. It doesn’t revoke it, but includes the following provision, 

“The Secretary of Energy and the Director of [Office of Management and Budget] shall jointly consider whether to recommend that a replacement order be issued.”
Biden’s order https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-01-25/pdf/2021-01765.pdf
Trump’s Order https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-05-04/pdf/2020-09695.pdf

Prescription Drug Costs

“…the cost for a family to purchase an EpiPen for their child will now double thanks to Biden’s EO so that Senator Manchin’s (D- W. Virginia) daughter can go back to scalping those that need it. Add insulin to that
equation, I don’t know who benefits from that, and there are others…”

Facebook post response

Here is a link to the Executive Order which does no such thing as raise the price on anything. Instead, it freezes for review any such prior orders to insure they comply with the policies of the new administration and their goal of a reinstatement of the Affordable Care Act and improvement or adjustments to the program as part of their overall strategy. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/regulatory-freeze-pending-review/

You may think this will fail, but that’s different than contending it already has.

This leads us predictably to a discussion about why US drug prices are so much higher than other countries.

Key Findings: U.S. Drug Prices Significantly Higher than
All 11 Other Countries • The U.S. pays the most for drugs, though prices varied
widely. • U.S. drug prices were nearly four times higher than average prices
compared to similar countries. • U.S. consumers pay significantly
more for drugs than other countries, even when accounting for rebates. •
The U.S. could save $49 billion annually on Medicare Part D alone by using
average drug prices for comparator countries.
(House Document)

Once again, this is a complex topic and, it would seem, Republicans have been leading the charge in blocking any meaningful changes to address the issue. As usual, the devil lies in the details.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he won’t hold a vote on a House-passed bill supported by Democrats that would require the federal government to negotiate lower prices for some
drugs covered by Medicare. 
He is also reluctant to hold a vote on a separate bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa),
that would limit the price increases drug companies typically make every year.” https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/477604-drug-price-outrage-threatens-to-be-liability-for-gop

In the interest of full disclosure, the Democrats walked away from negotiations on the bi-partisan legislation for purely political reasons. They saw the Republican reluctance to address the issue as a political liability and election vulnerability they could exploit. Politics can be an ignoble endeavor, but it doesn’t alter the fact that Biden’s Executive Order didn’t cause the price of EpiPen or insulin to rise.
Rather, the EO seeks to consolidate their policy goals into crafting an effective universal health plan for all Americans and addressing price of prescription drugs.

Now before the usual attack on the source of this information ensues, a search of senate.gov. and house.gov and the Federal Register reveals no significant legislation affecting drug costs. Interestingly enough, one of the few Republicans pushing for such legislation was none other than former President Donald J. Trump.

So there you have it, my take on each of the “issues” raised by the comments about my post.  Challenge each point and I’ll be happy to post it to my blog for all to review and comment.

P.S. If this is perceived as being divisive, I apologize. My intent is to spur rational discussion not rabid reactions. (No, really, it is.)


JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

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Irenic vs. Chthonic: What’s in a Word?

A recent piece in the National Review (Biden’s Inauguration Speech Was a Lot Like Trump’s) caught my eye. I’ll leave it to you to read it, but the author bemoans the lack of media cynicism depending on which party is in power.

The author substitutes his own cynicism in his take on Presidential Inaugural addresses since he sees no such criticism by others. He sees a similarity in the speeches regardless of who is making it.

Otherwise, for incoming presidents, the formula is this one:
Whew, things are really bad out there, huh? Way worse than they are telling you.
Luckily, I have all the answers. (Details TK.)
It’s too bad we’re always quarreling. It would be better if we could all unite. Er, behind me.
Now pardon me as I wield the cross* like Father Merrin and wrap myself in the flag like Rocky IV. (*Some Democrats omit this part.)

Kyle Smith, National Review “Biden’s Speech Was a Lot Like Trump’s”
30 Things You Didn't Know About the 5 Exorcist Movies
The Exorcist

I think he has a valid point, to a point, but media cynicism, like everything else it would seem, is as partisan in its nature as is almost everything else.

I would argue, and I bet he would agree, there was a great deal of media cynicism with Mr. Trump and, as his article illustrates, we will see a similar cynicism over Mr. Biden. The only difference is the perceived bias of the media outlet involved.

I will also say this, Mr. Biden can use the sins of the previous administration as an excuse only for so long. He is now the President and, whatever the cause of the issues he faces, he must deal with them. Let history assign blame. We need solutions not an autopsy of prior policy actions by a no longer in power President.

But I digress.

The author also injects a couple of interesting words that, for most people, including me, might be unfamiliar. Now I am a big fan of expanding vocabularies. I take some perverse pleasure whenever someone says they had to look up a word in something I write. But such efforts need be used judiciously, no matter how much fun they may be. (I am looking for a way to interject Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (the fear of long words) into a piece, but it will have to wait.)

In the piece, the author described the difference in the media’s portrayal of the two speeches by claiming,

“Biden offered an olive branch to those who didn’t vote for him while Trump rained hellfire. Biden was irenic, Trump chthonic.”

ibid (look it up!)

Irenic and chthonic? Again, I will defer to the ingenuity of the reader to find the meaning. But it gave me pause. Are such challenges to one’s internal dictionary worthwhile or worthless?

There was a famous duel of words between William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, two of the most brilliant writers of the 20thcentury.

Ernest Hemingway: he has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb. He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.

William Faulkner on Hemingway

Hemingway punched back by stating that he did not need “ten-dollar words.”

Perhaps they are both right; sometimes simple is best, sometimes challenging is best.

Now the article makes another valid point. Presidents always say similar things at their inauguration, it falls upon us is to hold them to it and measure the promises at the beginning with the reality four years later.

I will leave it to your imagination my opinion of Mr. Trump’s four years. And I hope I can point to the first four years of the Biden Presidency and recognize promises kept, but that remains to be seen and, despite what I am certain will be a round of cynicism from some, I shall be forthright in my analysis.

One thing is certain, much of what a President can or cannot do is mitigated by Congress. Here is an example of my cynicism; one thing motivates most members of Congress, re-election. They spend thirty to forty percent of their time raising money to achieve that goal.

Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla, claimed that in a closed-door party meeting they were told their first responsibility was to raise $18,000 per day. Think about that for a moment. $18,000 a day. Any business with 535 employees bringing in at least $18,000 a day would do well. But in this case, none of the money goes to the employer, it merely sustains the employee. (60 Minutes)

This is what Presidential promises run up against, a stone wall if the agenda doesn’t support the efforts of Congress to stay in their job.

We need to pay attention to what people say and what they do to further those promises.

Sometimes, words fade into history because of what actually happened. In one of his lesser-known quotes, Abraham Lincoln said.

“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. 

Abraham Lincoln

What if Lincoln saved the Union without going to war and freeing the slaves? How different would our perception of him be? Or perhaps, and here is the cynicism creeping in, he said this to placate those less fervent for Emancipation to buy himself time to free the slaves once he had garnered sufficient support.

The point being, while words matter, actions matter more, yet actions are often dictated by forces and realities outside our control. One might think of an inaugural address as a battle plan. And, as anyone who has been in combat will tell you, the first casualty in a battle is the plan.

Thus Mr. Biden has set an ambitious plan. And the plan faces challenges not just from outside forces but from our own elected officials driven to surviving in office more than doing the people’s work.

If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the money that funds the quest for power is the poison coursing through their veins.

Joe Broadmeadow

As an aside, now that the dust has settled to some measure on the events of January 6th, the impending impeachment trial, while demanded by that incident, will yield nothing more than a reinforcement of our partisan divide.

If convicting Mr. Trump assured their reelection, the vote would be 100 to 0, and the same if finding him not guilty. Securing re-election is the only sure way to Congressional compromise.

This impeachment is a necessary exercise, but likely a futile one. Once they finish, we should turn our attention to fixing the broken system rather than seeking vengeance through a partisan infected system on those who trampled on the seat of government. If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the money that funds the quest for power is the poison coursing through their veins.

Despite my cynicism, I have faith that the four-year experiment in changing the status quo in Washington will be recognized as a failure and inspire a new generation of civic minded Americans to work within the system to change it, for that is the only way change happens for the better.

Anything else is anarchy.


JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

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