Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is It Irony-or Something Else Entirely?

I try to keep an open mind. Always have. Even about politics, about which I feel quite passionate at times. I know that there us corruption on both sides-no one needs to try to convince me that there is bribery and short-sightedness, and narrow mindedness on the left as well as the right. But I've been considering this essay for some months, and have waited til now to write this because I have been looking for some equal oddities on the left to the ones I will list here-I just can't find them. Perhaps if any of my friends on the right should read this, and know of some comparable ironies, you will let me know. I promise to keep an open mind. Promise.

1. I'm starting with one I've discussed with friends before. Many of my conservative friends like to complain about the poor-(though they also make clear that in this case, they do mean minorities) raising their children on public aid, and continuing to have children, even though needing public assistance should be a sign that one cannot afford to "properly" raise those children-providing for their food and shelter, and medical needs. Ronald Reagan, who used subtle racial tactics to win in 1980, turning the south away from democrats for the next many decades, also coined the term "welfare queen." Everyone I know who subscribes to this class warfare approach saw the picture in their minds instantly of a black woman with multiple children in tow, getting a larger welfare check for each one, driving a Cadillac, and no two of the children had the same, or a present father. Books were written at the time to dispel this myth, including one called "Myth of the Welfare Queen," but the idea persists. Which makes it seem odd to me that the right is against the funding of Planned Parenthood. I do understand the abortion issue; only 3% of Planned Parenthood services cover abortion, so the argument that funding Planned Parenthood is "federal funding of abortion" is wrong and dishonest. The purpose of Planned Parenthood is contained in the name-it is a service provided to help women and poor families who can't afford family planning services to access them. They off free or low cost birth control pills, educational services and women's health services. The education and birth control is the major key to why the conservative desire for defunding makes no sense. Study after study has shown that when women are educated and empowered to choose family size, they have fewer children. So, funding Planned Parenthood should provide a conservative dream come true-fewer welfare queens having baby after baby paid for by public money.

2. About a month ago, junior senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, made some comments that new regulations on coal companies to protect coal miners would prove too costly. On its surface, this comment makes sense coming from a tea-party darling like Paul. The tea party presents itself as "Joe Six-Pack," who is tired of government intrusion into the lives and choices of individuals and business. So, less regulation is better, right? Well, not for Joe-Six Pack. He is the guy in the mine who dies of black lung disease when he is 42, or when the mines collapse and he is trapped with several friends, no oxygen and poisonous fumes. It is definitely good for the people the tea party purports to hate the most-the East-Coast elites who never get their hands dirty, but make millions on the backs of working class stiffs-like Joe Six Pack. That is certainly what the fat-cats who run the coal companies want to hear their legislators say, "Read my lips-no new regs!" If those guys had their druthers, they would provide no health care at all for the guys who give us the source of over 50% of our electricity we love so much in this country. The lack of push for help for the working class from the tea party makes no sense to me at all...until one looks into their books and sees how many super rich far-right activists fund the tea party. Yes, Dick Armey-I'm talking to you. If the rich righties pay the tea party to push for legislation that works against the people's interests, doesn't that negate what the tea party says is stands for?

3. Speaking of the new conservatives: Ever since President Obama was elected, the republicans have suddenly become very anti-deficit. We do have a huge deficit, everyone knows it, and I do think blaming it on George W. at this point is an exercise in absurdity. That said, part of the reason the deficit sprang up like a corpse flower under Bush is because he sent our soldiers into two wars that he didn't bother to write into the family budget plan. Now that president Obama has sent us into Libya, and said basically the same thing when he told us about it, Bush can no longer be blamed for our budget shortfalls. But I think there is a language problem here. I'm not sure that most people really understand what is meant by a "deficit in the trillions." What it means is that we are spending more than we bring in. By a lot, and it is creating a debt. That means money we spend on a credit card, and we won't be able to hold on until we're dead to have it paid off because a nation's debt never goes away. We need the money we bring in to cover our household expenses, which are great. True, we can cut funding for Planned Parenthood and health care for people who retire without large pensions to sustain them. If this were an American family, someone would be looking for a part time job because there is not enough to help pay the bills we owe on what we've borrowed and take care of our regular obligations. Therefore, revenue must be raised. There is no logical argument to be made any other way. None. So republicans want to cut money to the old and poor (they want to pull the plug on Grandma!) And President Obama says he will go along with that. Why? Because that's what he does-goes along with the ugly, cold and hateful in order to keep his poll numbers up. (So, how's that working for ya?) He doesn't want the drama of ugly fights, or people in congress going before the "liberal media" and calling him a socialist, or saying that he's "anti-business." But I digress. We must raise revenue. Must. Gas prices are about to be higher than they've ever been-.25 away, and rising weekly. Higher gas prices mean higher food prices-food has to be transported, and trucks use fuel, therefore, higher prices going to the store. Higher fuel prices mean higher electricity, so the grocery store passes the cost of transporting their product, and keeping it safe to us. We've already spent the last 20 years with our incomes going down, while the richest have spent it with their incomes going up. Corporate profits have been obscene for ages comparatively. So the only way to increase revenue is to raise taxes on the wealthiest, and eliminate the loopholes that allow multi-billion dollar corporations to pay no taxes. When Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan was criticized recently, someone (I think it might have been Senator McConnell of Kentucky, not sure though) claimed that his plan "eliminated the loopholes that allowed General Electric to get a" "ginormous" refund from the IRS. "YOU LIE!" The only way to do that is to rewrite the tax code, which Paul Ryan didn't touch. He wrote a budget plan. Bottome line, we must improve our bottom line. We cannot do that without raising revenue, and the middle and lower economic classes in this country can't take anymore of the weight. Our backs are breaking as it is-even those among us fortunate enough to have a job. Taxes on the wealthy and giant corporations must be raise. The argument that this will cause small business to be broken by the burden, and prevent them from creating jobs is a non-starter. There are ways to protect small business and and the merely "comfortable" class from being harmed. Don't play games with our heads-find a way to make enough money to pay the bills, and still live a decent life. That's what real Americans do every day.

4. I have stopped looking when I see Donald Trump on my TV. I'm not going into all the arguments against him-they are well known and documented. But it scares me when he talks about going into Libya and "take the oil." Do we really need a rich imperialist running our government? Is being a deceitful jerk and a bully the best we can do for president? Haven't we learned lessons from annexing countries for their resources? It never works out well for the empire in the end. Never. Like it or not, Libya, Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and China are all sovereign nations. We do not have the moral authority to invade any of them for their oil, or any other resource. It's not ours to take. Just because we have no control over our addiction doesn't mean we are allowed to rob the drug store for our fix. If it was (once again) a poor heroin addict suggesting violently attacking someone to get his next hit of his drug of choice, he would go to jail. Trump, on the other hand gets taken seriously as a presidential candidate? Help me a little here-I don't understand!

5. Speaking of Libya. Have we spoken of Libya enough? Probably not. Especially from the perspective that keeps haunting me. I grew up in the Viet Nam era. The war ended when I was a sophomore in high school, and I've had relatives and friends who fought there, scarred for life. There are very few Americans that I know who have ever been taught about how we really got there. We went there to help our allies, the French. Who had invaded and colonized what later became known as "French Indo-China" for its rubber trees. This was before our insane craze to find ever more uses for petroleum products lead us to invent synthetic rubber-which may have saved many trees, but has not helped with our need for ever more petroleum. The Chinese wanted the French to leave Vietnam back in the 1940s. The French are our allies. We help our friends, even to keep their empires. So we sent in "advisers" under Eisenhower. Then Kennedy, then we entered a full-scale "police action," or some might call it a "war." We were there long enough to lose over 50,000 young American lives, and then to leave, bringing the wounded and the walking wounded home to disrespect and neglect. The United States only gets about 3% of its oil from Libya. That's all. The argument that we are skirmishing there, and sending in drones and so forth for humanitarian reasons is mooted by the plea I heard one week after we started bombing Libya from Ivory Coast that we please send help because a vicious dictator was killing his own people. It is also rendered moot by Sierra Leone, Darfur, Syria and others. So if we are not there for humanitarian reasons, we are there for one of two other reasons-either we have a national defense reason, or it has to do with resources. But Libya does not provide many resources for us, so that one doesn't work. Oh, wait-the French. They get much of their oil from Libya. We are helping them to keep their access to cheap oil (I guess they need the petroleum in order to make synthetic rubber since that whole colonializing French Indochina went so terribly wrong.

6. Barak Obama is a socialist. He is trying to take over the country for socialist reasons, and proof of that is that he is appointing people with the title "Czar." This one blows my mind completely. Didn't the communists march the last Czar and his entire family, including his children, to the woods and shoot them all? How can someone be both a communist and czar-happy? Not to mention, every president since Roosevelt has appointed people and given them the title "czar." Every one! To be sure, Obama has the most. But second behind him? George W. Bush. The only one who didn't have any czars in his cabinet since the 1940s was George H.W. Bush. Why not? Because the ones he nominated weren't approved by congress. Another proof that President Obama is a socialist is that during the campaign he made a poorly arranged comment about "spreading the wealth around." Now-most honest people admit that they know he is not a communist, and he did not in any way mean taking the profits from every American endeavor and spreading it around equally to every American. He was referring to tax rates for the wealthy, and to the vastly increased chasm between the salaries of CEO's and their lowest paid employee. It used to be about 40%. No one would argue that the owners who start companies should make the same money as those who work for them. No one-not even the most left-leaning American one can find. But to have grown from 40% to over 400% is insane. Those lowest paid employees are having a rougher and rougher time just getting by without losing their homes, or going bankrupt because of medical costs. The top CEO's get bonuses more than 100 times the lifetime salaries of the lowest paid employee in their companies. Those executives have long since lost the ability to understand what it is like for the real workers who make them so wealthy-even the executives who might have pulled themselves from poverty to wealth. All that Obama meant was that perhaps the gap between the two salaries could be a little smaller. If he were an applicant, perhaps on a second or third interview, it would be clear that what he was talking about is really a benefit the company might provide-profit sharing. Not taking the wealth away from the top and spreading it equally to everyone. Just simple profit sharing. Every move he has made since has demonstrated quite clearly that he is not a communist or a socialist. And the only excuse for anyone who still calls him that is that he/she wants to make people afraid. And a large number of the people afraid of Obama are of an age for whom the word "communist" is still the nastiest word in the English language.

7. Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Perhaps Mark McGuire, whose last game with the Cardinals I was present for. They beat Cincinnati. These guys have all been accused of lying to congress. Barry Bonds was found guilty of lying to a grand jury, but many baseball players of the era of the 90s and early 21st century have had all their games tainted by the whole scandal around the use of "performance enhancing" drugs. It's a sad state of affairs, certainly. I wish that I could now be as excited as I was that day in Sept. 1998, when I was on a plane to Casper, Wyoming, and the captain came on the speaker and announced that McGuire had just broken the home run record. The thing about the charge of lying to congress? How can any congressman sit with a straight face and accuse anyone EVER of lying? That's like Newt Gingrich leading the charge against Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky while Gingrich himself was having an extra-marital affair. Lying to CONGRESS? What a joke.

I try most of the time to avoid conversations about politics with my family. For one thing, most of them are extremely conservative. But even the ones who lean a bit to the left are not as much "political junkies" as I, and so the conversation can be tiresome for them. But recently, without taking a left/right position, I was talking about Libya to one of my sisters. I said to her, "You know, you and I, regular people, have to learn from our mistakes to get through life. Why can't our elected officials do the same, and stop making the same mistakes over and over again?" One more piece of advice I'd like to give to everyone out there in the public eye if I had the chance: If you see a microphone, assume it is always on.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm Sorry-What's The Date Today?

I saw mayflies in March. This week, I've seen junebugs every day, and it is only the first full week of April. We've already had two days of temperatures of 90 F. I've always loved summer nights. Sometimes on a summer night I like to sit outside and feel the balmy breeze, and enjoy the summer sounds and smells, and I just feel languid and serene. This is not a normal state for me, and on the few occasions when I get to enjoy it, I really enjoy it. Well, in between slapping the mosquitoes and scratching their bites. (Mosquitoes love fat chicks, and my legs are a wonderful, glowing target.)

Last night I took my dog for her last evening walk. I decided to break up the pattern a little-always good for both of us. I usually take her out off-leash for her walks around our gated apartment complex-I'm a naturalist, and I think every dog needs some off-leash time to play and sniff. Sometimes I regret it. The first thing that happened was that my "good best friend," Abigail, spotted a neighbor cat in the bushes, and of course, she took to the chase. I smiled at this long standing tradition of nature-dog sees cat, dog chases cat, cat hisses and runs. Dogs keeps chasing, cat runs up tree. Dog stands on two legs, front paws on tree, staring at cat until something comes along to distract her. I called her, and we took out another direction, to the back portion of our property, which is divided from a wild field by a property long fence. The fence is covered with vines and leaves, though there are some spots where the fence is not at ground level, and Abigail can easily slip under, which is worrisome, as we have seen and heard coyotes in the field. She would be a tasty meal for one of those other canids. Usually my concern is ignored completely if she sees a rabbit on our side of the fence-she is gone, and then the rabbit disappears into the brush. Tonight Abigail understood me when I said, "Don't go there!" But there was something strange-other than my little dog understanding English conversation. The balmy wind was so pleasant, the night was fairly clear, so I could see lots of stars as we walked. The big field has a little creek, which is lovely to hear, but sad to see in daylight because of all the trash people throw in it. But I heard the chirrup of crickets toward the creek. I love that sound; it just adds to the summer night ambiance. But I noticed a smell. I couldn't quite place it, but it was very pleasant and familiar. We kept walking. I suppose several of our neighbors were out earlier because Abigail was finding plenty of smells to center on. The smell I caught grew stronger, languid and heavy, as we walked toward the south. I finally realized what it was, but didn't think it was possible-honeysuckle. It is WAY too early for honeysuckle to inhabit our nights. I didn't see anything walking south, but when we got to the end, and turned toward the north to walk back, I did see the vines on the fence in the opposite light, and the honeysuckle vines were covered with blooms-covered! My inner smile came out as I saw those welcome visitors of my favorite summer nights. I hope they haven't bloomed too early.