29 November 2009

Part 2 - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 2009

Yesterday we examined how the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act of 2009 (PPACA, H.R. 3590) would act to improve health care for America's older persons.

Today, we continue that examination.

Keeps Nursing Homes Safe - The PPACA requires long term care facilities to conduct criminal background checks on prospective employees. Through this legislation, families will have greater assurance that their loved ones receiving long-term care are safe if the people who provide care have passed a background check for previous criminal behavior.

Brings Savings To Medicare - By eliminating wasteful over-payments to private Medicare Advantage plans and create new incentives for coordinated, high quality care across the health care spectrum. Medicare Advantage plans currently rake in an average of 14% more per person than does traditional Medicare or added perks without any demonstrably better medical results. Ending these over-payments will be an important step toward insuring the long-term solvency of Medicare's Trust Fund.

Helps 55-64 Year Olds Stay Healthy:
  1. Eliminates pre-existing condition and health status exclusions.
  2. Establishes a "basic benefits package" that ALL health Insurance plans must provide.
  3. Limiting Premium Costs and Out-Of-Pocket costs
  4. Making Health Insurance Affordable by offering a Public Option alternative.
  5. Supporting Coverage for Retirees by creating a $5-billion fund to assist employers offset the costs of expensive health claims for its 55-64 year old retired employees.
From the setting of minimum standards of what must be included in every health insurance plan to helping employers pay for retiree costs and establishment of competition to drive down rates and ending over-payments to Medicare while preserving the existing doctor of choice, PPACA 2009 remedies many of the ills of the current system and insures that older Americans are not left behind in the process.

Okay, it is not perfect. Granted. But, it is what is available right now and if we miss this opportunity the likelihood of ever achieving equitable health care for all Americans diminishes greatly. The drug Tsars and insurance oligarchs will have won again.

Coming Tomorrow: Have a real effect on the debate. Adopt a key senator!

Patient Protection and Affordibility Act of 2009 (The Facts)

Part One of Two Parts:

As the U. S. Senate prepares to begin debate on health care reform older Americans need to have the facts and to understand their stake in the outcome. The coming Senate floor debate is a huge step forward in bringing equitable health care to all Americans, but our goal (Alliance for Retired Americans) of affordable and accessible health care for all Americans is still to be fulfilled.

We hope that the Senate will take this opportunity to improve what the House brought forth and completely phase out the doughnut hole; allow the government (Medicare) to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs; and remove the tax on the health benefits of retirees and working families.

Regardless, there are many positives in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 (PPCA), H.R. 3590 for older Americans.

Lowers Your Prescription Drug Costs - By requiring drug makers to provide 50% discount to Part D beneficiaries for brand-name drugs and biologics beginning July 1, 2010. It will also shrink the "doughnut hole" by $500 per senior for 2010.

Protects Your Choice of Doctor - By preventing a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare doctor payments in 2010, ensuring that doctors will continue to serve seniors and seniors can continue seeing their preferred doctors.

Makes Preventive Services More Affordable - Today, Medicare beneficiaries must pay 20% of the cost of preventive services. Much of those prohibitive costs will go away, meaning no copay for immunization, cancer screenings, cholesterol screening, bone calcium level screening, and colonoscopies, among other procedures. Older Americans will, at last, have an opportunity doe free annual check-ups, with comprehensive health risk assessments that will help identify chronic disease, modifiable risk factors and emergency or urgent health needs.

Helps Seniors Prepare for Long Term Care Costs - Ten million Americans today need long term services and support---including 4-million under age 65. Despite this urgent and critical need, fewer than 10% can afford the incredibly expensive private long term care insurance policies. To met this urgent need and to promote independence the PPACA will create a new, voluntary national insurance program (to be known as the CLASS Independence Benefit Plan) that will help seniors pay for care in their own homes rather than premature entry into a nursing home in order that they get care through Medicaid.

Coming Tomorrow: Nursing Home Safety, More Medicare Savings, & Helping 55-64 Year Olds Stay Healthy.

24 November 2009

Let me be the first - "Happy Holidays"!

Here we go again....reading that can't you just hear Ray Charles somewhere back in your memory banks? But, the here we go again is not Baby Ray's soulful rendition of that great country ballad. Or even Dean Martin's more straight forward version. No, not even close.

The here we go again I refer to is the fact that here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving eve and we're already hearing rumblings of our annual religio-culture war about whether the "reason for the season" is the celebration of the birth of the Jewish prophet "Jesus of Nazareth", on whom Christianity is based, or of a highly evolved pagan winter tide celebration wrapped up in capitalistic consumerism, gift-giving and football schedules. Unless, of course, you are Armenian, then you celebrate the birthday of Jesus on January 6th. I'm not certain about their gift-giving traditions or football schedules. I am dead-on certain about the Armenian January 6 thingee though!

The truth of the matter is very clear to any fair-minded, reasonably well-educated individual; there is absolutely no historical proof of even the year, let alone precise day, of Jesus's birth. I do not care what you believe, or what you believe the bible tells you, or what your preacher Jimmy Ray Billy Bob tells you, there is no historical evidence of even the precise year of Jesus's birth. Yes, there are a couple of conflciting date ranges extrapolated from biblical reference and known historic dates. But, nothing that tells us exactly when Jesus was born. Hence, since such proof or evidence is non-existent, I really would prefer that you not try to force on me and others your overly sentimental and fact-denying belief that the holiday season is about the birth of Jesus and somehow tied to the founding of the United States, Thanksgiving family dinners, the flag, WWII, and the Rose Bowl.

Got it? You are free to believe what you want...no matter how ill-informed is the foundation of your beliefs. What you are not free to do is to try to bully me and others into adhering to your narrow belief system.

I am going to celebrate the holidays, each and every damned one of them that I can fit into my schedule (even the ones I don't entirely understand) and revel in gorging on rich foods, spending too much on presents, and making certain I watch at least one version of the Christmas Carol, read at least once the story of The Little Match Girl, stay up til midnight on Xmas eve in yet another futile attempt to see if animals actually do talk on the stroke of twelve, and fit as many football games into my schedule as my wife will let me get away with.

So, with that, let me be the first; Happy Holidays!

23 November 2009

The Right-Wing Scam in Your Mailboxes

Let's say that, as an older American you get something in the mail from an organization calling its self the "Christian Seniors Association", you, I think, would be disposed to view them rather kindly...wouldn't you. Maybe even send them the $12.95 membership fee. After all the name Christian Seniors Association sort of conjures up mind images of grey-haired folks holding pot-lucks and planning raffles in the church basement.

Well, don't you believe it for an instant. It is just another scurrilous, fund-raising scam perpetrated by a family of right-wing homophobic zealots who find it easier to rip-off seniors by preying on their fears than to travel about the country selling crankcase oil as driveway black-tops or aluminum siding. It's a different scam, yeah. But, the end result is the same.

Let's take a moment to examine who and what is behind the scam which is lurking in mailboxes near you. But, first...The Letter & Pitch. The letter opens with this question: "Do you SUPPORT or OPPOSE the far-Left Agenda now being pushed into law by President Obama, Liberals who control Congress and AARP?"

Yeah, that well-known, undercover cell of the Communist Party, AARP. OK, OK I know I'm being a bit snarky, but for crying out loud, the AARP as a far left organization? Gimme a break, will ya!

Then it goes on with some phony questionnaire/ballot throwing about all the far-right's buzz and code words: "far-left", "socialism", "Socialist Agenda", "traditional moral values", "fighting for religious values", "AARP aggressively promotes homosexual lifestyle", "Crushing Burden On Our Grandchildren" and other equally profane and ridiculous bilge.

Then it moves into its main purpose. An appeal for membership at $12.95 and an "additional gift, above and beyond your regular membership dues...."10, $15, $20, $50, $100, or perhaps even more.

Sound faintly familiar? Well it ought to. This letter preying on frightened and unwary seniors comes from none other than Rev. Lou Sheldon, his daughter Angela and son-in-law, Jim Lafferty.
Sheldon is best known for his bug-eyed homophobic attacks on homosexuals through his umbrella front-organization, the Traditional Values Coalition and for his role on the Republican Congressional Committee and leadership in the Lindsey Graham for Senate campaign.

Son-in-law, Jim Lafferty is well-known Republican flack who served as Tom Delay's press-secretary from 1994-1995 and was a senior adviser to that frightening specter of wrath, she of the make up applied with a trowel, former Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Yeah her. The one that paved the way for that dry-drunk sociopath, George W. Bush to ascend into the White House.

Daughter Angela, one assumes, licks stamps and stuffs envelopes when not serving as Katherine Harris's make-up advisor.

A very unsavory lot and about as Christian as the pimple on a donkey's butt. Which is to say, not at all Christian.

And, now let us play the right-wing Republican game of guilt by association and implied menace through clever juxtaposition of words and letters: Christian Seniors Association, yep CSA. One has no problem envisioning them draped in the Stars and Bars.

20 November 2009

Grassroots Action Needed Right Now

Saturday night, the Senate is expected to vote on whether to allow debate on health care reform.

It’s only because of concerenced citizens, activists and people willing to be heard that we’ve gotten this close to fixing America’s broken health care system. Now you need to keep the heat on.

No matter how your senators feel about the Senate health care bill itself, tell them they must vote to allow the debate to begin.

Call your senators toll free today and tell them to let the debate begin:

The process can seem glacial, but every day we get closer to real reform—and this is another critical vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid needs 60 senators to support the process for moving forward. To be clear, this isn’t a vote for or against the bill—it’s merely a vote about whether to allow debate of the bill on the Senate floor.

Call your senators toll free today and tell them to let the debate begin:

We are further along in the process for real health care reform than we have ever been. The House has already passed a historic bill that will end insurance company abuses, require employers to pay a fair share and establish a strong public option to lower costs and make insurance companies compete. And it won’t tax the benefits of hard-working middle class families.

The bill put forward by the Senate leadership moves us closer to the historic goal of real health care reform in America, but it's not perfect and some of it needs to be fixed. To keep the reform process moving and to fix the bill, it's critical that the Senate start to publicly debate its health care reform bill.

Call your senators toll free right now and tell them to let the debate begin: 1-877-702-0976

19 November 2009

Senate Health Care Package Faces Saturday Hurdle

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid brought forth the senate version of a health care reform bill which is very similar to the version passed earlier by House. And, while the house vote was much closer than most progressives wished, the Senate vote in going to be even tighter as Senators posture to their base and/or adhere to rigid, well-defined party lines.

Do not expect a final vote this year! The skirmishes are behind us, the real battle in well-underway. The first open fight in that battle takes place Saturday as the Senate considers and then votes on whether or not to bring the bill to the floor. If, democrats stand as one and overcome GOP attempts to filibuster, it will mean that, at least initially, there is enough Democratic support at this point to move a final bill (based on amendments) through the Senate into conference committee.

Meanwhile, older Americans should be pleased with the progress that is being made.

815 16th Street, NW, 4th Floor ¨ Washington, D.C. 20006 ¨ (202) 637-5399 ¨ www.retiredamericans.org

For Immediate Release Contact: David Blank (202) 637-5275
November 19, 2009 dblank@retiredamericans.org

Retirees Praise Reid Health Bill

The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans congratulates Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for putting together a strong health care reform bill. The proposed legislation would make great strides in helping Americans of all ages better afford to see a doctor or get a prescription filled.

“Our nation’s retirees need lower prescription drug prices, the ability to get life-saving preventive screenings and testings, and an end to the Medicare Trust Fund-draining subsidies to the private insurance companies who run Medicare Advantage programs.

Senator Reid’s bill offers solid progress in these important areas.

“We are pleased to see the bill include a public option. Because of Medicare, retirees know first hand how important the public option is. Medicare is a great American success story. It has helped reduce senior poverty by two-thirds, and has shown a valuable role for the federal
government in improving health care. A public option would be a refreshing alternative to the exorbitant premiums charged by the big insurance corporations who profit by denying care and discriminating against pre-existing conditions.

“As the bill moves through the Senate we will continue to oppose the taxation of health care benefits at any level. This would disproportionately harm retirees and older workers, as it may lead employers to eliminate or greatly reduce coverage for this age group. Moreover, these are individuals who sacrificed wage increases over the years in exchange for retiree health coverage.

“Grassroots activists with the Alliance for Retired Americans will continue to urge their elected officials to quickly pass a strong health reform bill. Millions of Americans need help right away. It is time for Congress to finish the job.”

# # #
The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

18 November 2009

Canned Beer - Church Keys - Mimeograph Machines

Do you know what is a church key? Better yet, do you know what is a mimeograph machine?

OK, here I go with the phrase that validates the gray hair on my head...Back in the day, both were ubiquitous and necessary items. Much like number two pencils and legal pads.

I come to this because while at work I happened to mention both in passing to the quizzical, eyebrows raised look that tells me when my younger colleagues (which actually means all of my colleagues) are convinced that I'm setting them up for a punchline at their expense.

So, I found myself explaining that back-in-the-day nary a church basement where the ladies club held its meeting or school office from hence the daily lesson plans and cafeteria menus made their way to cork bulletin boards or to be Scotch-taped to classroom "black boards".

OK, since there is a likelihood that you have no clue at all as to what is a "mimeograph" machine, here goes: It is a mechanical duplicator that produces copies by pressing onto paper through openings in a stencil.

Aha! The stencil was created by loading it into a typewriter--you do know what that is...right?--and typing on it what ever it was you wished to be circulated. The typing created holes in the stencil which was then tightly wrapped around a drum or cylinder and secured in place. The cylinder was then turned (back in the days before back in the day, it would have been hand-cranked--more modern ones had...gasp..electricty) pressing against an ink saturated roller which forced ink through the stencil onto sheets of paper.

Yep, you got it. A handy-dandy primitive printing press of sorts.

Now, as I mentioned these devices were immensely popular with church clubs and school offices and were ubiquitous. And, the responsibility for running them were ALWAYS assigned to the nerdiest kid or sternest most humorless staff member.

Which brings us to "Church Keys". No, they were not keys given to the trusted person who ran the mimeograph machine. Au contraire', these people probably to this day do not know what was a "Church Key".

Come back into time with me to a period when beer was, for the first time in history, being sold in cans. Those early cans were not soft aluminum and did not have pop tops or pull tabs. They, instead, were made of a heavy metal requiring that they be punched open with an opening device which was no more than a sharpened triangular point which was levered into the can top opening a Vee-shaped hole from which one could "suck suds".

This opener was called a "Church Key".

There it is, and you'd be amazed at how many people, who "suck suds" never heard of a "Church Key". And you can put that in your mimeograph and circulate it it where you will!

17 November 2009

Jobs With Justice - Time To Help Them

I think you're pretty smart (hey, you're reading this, right?).

Now you can put your knowledge to the test and help Jobs with Justice raise some money at the same time. Their friends at CREDO mobile phone company have figured out a way to put all those crazy things the right-wing nuts say to work for progressive causes like us.

They put together a quiz to test you on the latest conservative claptrap - it's called OMG GOPWTF?!.

Every time you answer a question correctly, Jobs with Justice gets 10 cents. There are five questions, so that means that if they get 1,000 people to take the quiz and you score okay... they get $500 dollars.

TAKE THE QUIZ: http://www.unionvoice.org/ct/Q1_CDOp1cBAt/

You'll want to act fast. The quiz only benefits Jobs with Justice from November 16 to November 22. Next week, it will be a new quiz and a new organization, so don't wait!


Shane Fox

P.S. Tell your friends! Just forward this blog link to them.

16 November 2009

GOP's Game Plan to Derail Health Care Reform

Short and sweet today...a peek into the Republican playbook for derailing helath care reform: Click Here!

13 November 2009

House Passes Historic Health Care Reform Bill

On Saturday, the U.S House voted to pass H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, a bill that will help retirees and all Americans with their access to quality health care. The historic 220-215 vote was close - all except 39 Democrats voted for the bill, and all Republicans except Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana voted against it.

For a complete tally of the vote, click here:

The bill will help retirees right away. For example, in 2010, Medicare beneficiaries will no long have to pay co-payments for screenings for cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. The Medicare Part D doughnut hole coverage gap will immediately close by$500 and will be phased out. In addition, early retirees, who are not old enough for Medicare, will get help keeping or finding affordable health insurance.

More than 500 Alliance of Retired Americans members sent thank you notes to their Members of Congress who voted to pass the bill. Three videos on the Alliance's YouTube station give more details about how the bill helps seniors:"Stick to the Facts: Reform Good for Seniors," and "Facts: Health Care Reform & Seniors," and "New Hope That Every American Will Have Decent, Quality Health Care,"

"The insurance and drug industries threw everything they had to stop the bill,"said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. "I want to thank the 220 members of the House who voted to stand up for the seniors and all Americans across the nation who will benefit from reform."

11 November 2009

Not At All Remarkable

We all have certain trailmarkers and persons in our lives whom we celebrate--or should celebrate. One such man in my life was my grandfather, James E. Martin. The "E" was for Ebenezer and you just don't find many men with that name in the modern age. This is apropos of only one thing, grandfather Martin was a man of a different age and with values which seem to have been lost by all too many of us.

I was a young, barefoot, burr-haired tad down in Southern Illinois when I would hear him exhort me and my cousins with things such as, "If you're going to take a day's pay from a man, you owe him a day's work". Or, "Damn it! If it ain't yours, keep your hands off of it".

Now back then a day's work might mean square-baling wheat straw behind a mule drawn baler and flatbed wagon from sun-up to sun-down in the blistering August heat and crushing humidity of what passes for late summer in that patch of black earth known as Little Eygpt for maybe 10-15 cents an hour--if you were lucky. And, keeping your hands off something that didn't belong to you meant that you leave another man's tools alone, they were the key to his livlihood.

Last week I thought of my grandfather while I was on a week-long voyage of reconciliation and discovery to my birthplace in Alton, Illinois. I was standing in line to place my order at the St. Louis Bread Company outlet on Homer Adams Parkway. If you're not familiar, it is one of those modern chrome and bright light places offering soup, sandwiches, cute food, designer breads and pasteries...there are places just like it, under different names, all the country. They are part of the new age...I don't think my grandfather would have been all that comfortable with the concept.

OK, now we come upon the crux of this tale. The guy in front of me placed his order, paid from his pocket and took his receipt and dropped to the floor right in front of me a folded one-hundred dollar bill. And then he turned to walk away and wait for his order--he didn't notice his loss.

I nudged him and pointed down at the bill on the floor and said, "You might need that before the day is out."

Embarrassed but grateful he bent down and retrieved his money and was effusively thanking me while several women in the line were commenting with how wonderful I was for calling his attention to it.

I exclaimed that I didn't think it was really all that remarkable and that it seemed to me the only logical thing to do. This set them off in a new spasm of how wonderful and upstanding I was and how it must be my Marine training (I was wearing my Marine Corps jacket) or the fact that midwesterners are so much more neighborly than other places.

I smiled and said, "Maybe, but Ma'am, ahm frum Texas".

Despite my demurrals, the guy insisted on paying my tab while I argued that I had done nothing noteworthy to earn his generosity. Finally, just to shut them all up, I accepted.

Afterall, grandfather Martin taught me all those years ago that if it wasn't mine, I should keep my mitts off of it. So, I don't think it was a bit remarkable to help that guy recover his money...and think it's a shame that we've reached a point where people are surprised by such behavior and find it remarkable.

Thanks, grandpa!

A World at War & Childhood Memories.

Memory, childhood and a world at war:

There is a place in my memory that is hugely cavernous, dimly lit and noisy with distant sounds of shouting voices muted by hissing steam and the metallic clangs of great pieces of metal slamming together. It is the sort of place where an adventuresome and independent 5-year old decides the best part of valor is to cling tightly to his mother’s hand. Even rambunctious little boys were intimidated by St. Louis’ Union Station at its peak in 1944.

Much has been written and spoken about the Greatest Generation (the young men and women of World II), but my memory of it is much like, and inextricably tied to, that old train station; noisy, dimly lit, incredibly busy, with flashing bits of reflected impressions overloading my senses, each of them compelling and often more than just a bit frightening. It was at Union Station that I first met "the boys".

My mom and I were taking a trip on the L&N Railroad (Louisville & Nashville) to visit my grandmother in southern Illinois. We had set off on the Inter-Urban from Woodriver, Ill., to St. Louis very early in the morning.

Back then, trips were indeed exactly that — trips! We left home as the sun was rising to arrive in Union Station at mid-morning, in order to catch a midday train that would arrive at our destination in the late afternoon or early evening. Our entire journey covered no more than 150 miles. It would be an easy three-hour drive today. But then, if one had an automobile and if one could get the gasoline ration to drive it, the drive easily could take twice or three times that long. So, like so many others, we were taking the train.

My memory of the scene at the station is an impressionistic blur of khaki, olive-drab, brown, blue and white uniforms, scarlet and gold patches, silver and brass buckles and medals, and blue, orange, yellow piping, trims and lanyards. The "boys" were loud and wildly garrulous, tanned as berries and lean as wolves. The air reeked of the acrid fumes of diesel and coal fumes. Impatient black men in resplendently official dark blue suits and red and white caps hustled about importantly, directing people to their proper exits and entrance gates. Everywhere there was swirling motion, loud clangorous noise and vivid colors smeared against a canvas of khaki, while our nostrils took in strange, sweetly unpleasant smells.

All that is merely memory now. All has gone, except for memory and recollection, perhaps romanticized and certainly made hazy by time. Who, but a dwindling few, recall victory gardens, paper and scrap metal drives, collections of rubber tires and inner tubes, saving of household grease, peeling tin-foil from chewing gum wrappers to roll in large balls, winding huge balls of twine; all which somehow helped "the boys over there battling Tojo and Hitler"?

How many others remember peanut butter that had to be stirred, Cracker Jack toys made of tin rather than "real" metal, cheese that came in wooden boxes that later served as the frames for home-made radios, kites made of newspapers, string and school paste, stretched tightly on crosses of slender tree branches?

There are other, later, memories, too. How many remember VJ Day and how people came out on their porches and cheered, or shouted, or fired a rifle, shotgun or pistol into the air; or merely stood silently with tears streaming down their faces? Who remembers how some cried for the joy of those who finally would be coming home, while other wept for those they would never again see?

Of all my memories, the one with the most clarity is how we neighborhood children were turned loose to run and race along the sidewalk on our tricycles and scooters, yelling and screaming, and how our terrible-tempered, child-hating, shift-working next-door neighbor, Mr. McMillan, called several of us over to his yard and handed us sticks so we could pound on his tubular metal lawn furniture, adding to the din and bedlam. Somehow the moment was too much for him, too out of character. For, while we kids pounded and shrieked, he ascended his porch and went back inside closing the door and drawing the curtains and the pull down shades.

There are other memories. Memories of how it was when the "boys," my uncles and cousins and neighbors and their buddies and buddies of buddies, came home. How some of them strutted and preened for their gals, and others limped along on canes or crutches. There are memories of shirts with empty sleeves pinned to the shoulder and of empty pants legs pinned to the waist. Some were happy and full of hope, while others were quiet and withdrawn. All were different than when they had first left. Perhaps, some were those same garrulous soldiers that I had seen at Union Station a year or so before. No matter, the boys were home and the future was full of hope.

Those boys and girls, the young men and women of WWII, were very different from you and I. I can’t tell you exactly how, but they were.

They’re leaving us now. Each day, there are fewer and fewer among us. Respect them, love them and revere them, because when they are entirely gone our country and our world will be the less for it.

10 November 2009

Happy Birthday Marine!

Lieutenant General Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller - In Korea, when told by his adjutant that the regiment was surrounded by the Chinese, his reply was, "Good, that will simplify the problem!"

234 years ago, following an act of congress, the United States Marines began recruiting in Philadelphia at Tun Tavern, a combination bar and brothel. And, to this day, it is said that good Marines are never far from either.

Marine Corps Birthday: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

Ask any Marine. Just ask. He will tell you that the Marine Corps was born in Tun Tavern on 10 November 1775. But, beyond that the Marine's recollection for detail will probably get fuzzy. So, here is the straight scoop:

In the year 1685, Samuel Carpenter built a huge "brew house" in Philadelphia. He located this tavern on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The old English word tun means a cask, barrel, or keg of beer. So, with his new beer tavern on Tun Alley, Carpenter elected to christen the new waterfront brewery with a logical name, Tun Tavern.All U.S. Marines are gung-ho.

But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps.

Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world. Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.

The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist; it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew and grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952 the Commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. For example, Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine. Among the many such mandates is a solemn reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps. Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today.

Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.

08 November 2009

Diversity is not to be tolerated--It is to be Celebrated!

There is a perverse streak of ugliness in the current political and cultural wars waging throughout America. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it is new or particular to the issues of our day such as health care reform or attitudes toward people of differing sexual preferences. Mistrust of strangers and intolerance of difference and demand for conformity have always been a source of violence and ugly behavior in the quest for national unity.

These things have always been there. Strong feelings coming out of political or cultural conflict have been by expressed acts of violence throughout our history...witness H. Rap Brown saying, "Violence is as American as apple pie". But, there is something new and frightening about how these things get expressed in today's climate. And, the level of acceptance of that which should be abhorred and shunned,

With utter impunity people show up carrying sidearms at Presidential events, letters to the editors of newspapers carry barely veiled calls for violence against strangers who represent a point of view which differs from that of the writer. Decent people are shouted down, threatened and intimidated by ugly displays of hatred and threat. Fear and loathing, once kept to one's self, now are trotted out and put on display as though they were merit badges or medals of achievement. And, those with the vilest and most extreme displays are venerated and looked up to as "leaders" of those afflicted with mob mentality. Again, this is not especially new. It has always been there. But what is new is the level of acceptance of such behavior by people who should know better, people who call themselves Christian.

I would suggest that differences are not to be resolved by one powerful group--particularly those groups who choose Christianity as their base. For in their worldview is it not true that we are all created by "God" and if this should be true, would not our differences be gifts from that "God"?

Oh yes, there are those in that crowd who would hurry to claim that they are "tolerant" of differences. I would suggest to them that differences are not to be tolerated, but rather, to be celebrated! I fear that what they do not realize or are unable to grasp or accepts is that unity comes not from conformity but, rather, from reconciliation and understanding.

All of which, of course, is damned hard work.

But, remember this. Remember this and grasp it to the bosom of your soul as carefully and with as much nurturing as you would a newborn: When we welcome and celebrate strangers, we may very well be welcoming angels.