Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hypocrisy in the First Degree

I watched the most Reverend Al Sharpton last night on MSNBC, ranting and railing, moaning and wailing, about the utterly unforgivable awfulness of Ron Paul and his racist newsletters. And, yes, those newsletters are pretty disturbing and yes, I'd agree that Dr. Paul hasn't been as forthcoming about them as he should be. And, according to Sharpton, Paul has never repudiated those opinions. Put it in the Reverend Al's absolutist terms ("once a racist, always a racist") and we'd have to believe that Paul should be cast into darkness for all time. Write him off! Done! Right?

But, hold on. If that's the tack we're going to take, why are we listening to Sharpton? Does anyone remember a little incident involving Tawana Brawley?

This happened back in 1987. Tawana was 15. She claimed she'd been abducted by several white men, one wearing a badge, and taken to the woods where she was held for several days, being repeatedly sexually assaulted. She was found covered in feces with demeaning names written on her body in charcoal.

An investigation was duly done. A rape kit found no evidence of rape. Tawanna couldn't describe any of her abductors. She was not suffering the symptoms of exposure that would have been expected after spending several nights in a cold woods. She had no cuts, bruises, scratches or scrapes to indicate assault.

In a commonsense world, this would have been the end of the story. Case closed.

But enter our heroes - Attorney Alton H. Maddox, Attorney C Vernon Mason and ah, yes, the Right Reverend Sharpton himself. The civil rights trio all screamed "cover up". They accused Governor Mario Cuomo, the cops and the prosecutors of failing to do their duty because Tawana was black and her abductors were white. They held indignant press conferences and incendiary rallies. They needed real people to make their case so they accused a part-time police officer, Harry Crist, Jr., and Dutchess County District Attorney, Steven A Pagones, of being two of Tawana's abductors. Crist committed suicide; Pagones was able to prove his innocence.

Seven months, 100 witnesses and untold heartbreak and taxpayer dollars  later, a grand jury found no credible evidence that Tawana had ever been abducted or assaulted.

Hoisting Al Sharpton by  his own petard, the one he now claims for Ron Paul,  should have meant that he slunk out of town, disgraced and discredited, never to return.

But is this what happened? Hell, no. In time, he worked his way back to respectability and has now been rewarded with his very own television program on MSNBC where he pontificates nightly as if he is the soul of credibility.

I have not read every word ever written about the Tawana Brawley case but, so far as I know, Sharpton has never admitted the slimy part he played in it, nor asked for forgiveness for the lives he affected so negatively.

Here's what upsets me the most: those of us who lean more toward the liberal side of things constantly criticize Fox News for its biased reporting, its twisted conclusions, its deceptive headlines. All of those things are true and worthy of condemnation.

But are we any better when we choose Al Sharpton as one of our own spokesmen? There was Bob Franken, who I usually consider an admirable journalist, debating Ron Paul's racist proclivities with Rev. Al. I don't how how he managed to keep a straight face while doing it. Wouldn't honor have demanded that he front Sharpton about his own moral failings in this regard? Evidently what is sauce for the conservative goose is not sauce for the liberal gander.

I'm a faithful reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish (http://www.andrewsullivandaily dish.com/)because, politically, Andrew is one of the most straightforward of writers, not taking the side of liberal or conservative, but just trying to be fair all around. Surprisingly, I haven't seen him call out the Reverend Al either.

It is as if we've all decided to engage in a conspiracy of silence. I don't get it.

We left-leaners always self-righteously claim the moral high ground for ourselves but putting someone like Al Sharpton front and center as our representative proves we're no better than they are in the hypocrisy sweepstakes.

 

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If I Was a Republican....

If I was a Republican, I'd support Ron Paul.  (See a Ron Paul interview on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGGOiv7sA4w. I just picked this one but there are many more, enough to give you the full flavor of who this candidate is.)

I don't agree with Paul on much. He's running as a Republican but he's actually a Libertarian. I call myself a semi-Libertarian but my instincts lean more Progressive. I believe in an activist government that tries to help citizens who need assistance, whether that is providing special education to developmentally disabled children, offering financial aid to those who have fallen on hard times, regulating corporations to protect us from their penchant for greed, passing laws that force us not to discriminate against our neighbors, be they African-American, female or gay. Well, the list goes on and on.

But having said all that, I do agree with Paul that our government has become too big, not that being bigness is bad in and of itself, but with bigness comes corruption and that's our main problem. Big money breeds big corruption and legislation by lobbyist. And that is in both parties although, like everyone else, I generally tend to agree more with the lobbyists on "my" side, like unions and environmentalists, so they don't bother me as much.

In his interviews, Ron Paul seems to be sensible enough to realize the country couldn't change on a dime. Lessening the size of government would be a long-term project but, of course, he wouldn't have a long term. In fact, he'd be lucky to have two short terms. Maybe in that time, he'd set America on a mildly libertarian course.

But maybe not, because my favorite thing about Paul is that he's an equal opportunity antagonizer. He'll provoke the liberals with his ideas about doing away with the I.R.S. (which means no money for their pet programs) but he infuriates the conservatives when he airily states that we should end all foreign aid, keep only a modest army for self-defense and stop being the world's policeman. If he ever got to be president, he'd make so many people mad, they probably tar and feather him and run him out of town on a rail.

Right now, that's our second big problem. We have divided ourselves into warring camps, sending our legislators out to jump in their foxholes, the better to lob grenades at the other side. Ron Paul might actually bring bipartisanship back to Washington as Republicans and Democrats banded together to keep him from putting his ideas into practice.

What I'd be most interested to see, if I could be sort of floating somewhere in the ozone layer watching what happened in a Ron Paul administration, would be if and where people would move. Because Paul is only interested in the feds. Any responsibilities not specifically given to Washington in the constitution would be reserved for the states so they would, more or less, be free to build whatever kind of society desired by their citizens. So, if California wanted to have a generous welfare state and Texas decided to do away with welfare altogether, so be it.  If California approves gay marriage and Texas bans it or if Texas wants to encourage all its people to carry guns while California forbids them from doing so, fine and fine. (Not sure where that would leave the gay gun-lover but these are the choices we'd all have to make).

You wonder, would the working poor all leave the the pure conservative states to find a place where their kids would have health insurance and free lunches? Probably not, because they don't do that now. Most of us just put up with the way things are wherever we live but maybe under a Ron Paul, the divide between state philosophies would grow so wide and deep, we'd find ourselves making those leaps. If that happened, who would wealthy Mississippians hire to cook and garden and work in the convenience stores when everyone has moved to California? Who would start a business in California when they could go to Texas and not pay taxes? It just might turn out that we'd have to admit we all need each other and neither side is more important than the other.

I do believe Ron Paul has absolute integrity. I don't think he would be seduced by Big Money to compromise his principles. I'd respect the Republicans if they nominated Paul. But that's not going to happen. It's going to be Nutty Newt or Plastic Mitt or Dingbat Bachman or Sanctimonious Santorum  or Huntsman Who? (Raisin' Cain is already gone) - God, help us.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

America Is No Place For Kids

Oh, God, I hate the NASCAR off-season! I look forward to the weekend now for the races just like I used to look forward to going out to the bars to hear the bands and carouse with friends. That's, of course, when most taverns still featured live music. I feel sorry for the deejay generations. You may have a lot - Ipods and laptops and cellphones and Facebook and Twitter but do you notice all that stuff is one step removed? The bands and the bars and the friends were all right where you could reach out and touch the energy.When you're young, fun should be touchable.

I never knew anyone who'd been arrested for Drunk Driving or Minor Consuming until I was in my 30's. Your behavior had to be egregious to be charged with Public Intoxication, peeing in public or something. The police didn't seem as hellbent on the drinking crimes as they are now. I also never knew anyone my age who went to jail for Possession of Marijuana. The authorities were more tolerant of kids sowing their wild oats in my era. And actually, the majority of us grew up to be solid citizens. Maybe that's why all the entertainments are impersonal now....it's safer to make connections via a screen.

On the other hand, getting pregnant was punished with immediate expulsion from school (for the Mom, of course - Daddy went right on going to class and playing football). And you'd better hope you could find a job or that your folks would help because there was little in the way of public assistance. If you kept your baby and couldn't care for it, The Welfare would come and take it without so much as a by your leave.

Society has flipped in the opposite direction on unwed pregnancy. Now the cops will gleefully swoop an underage drinking party, hauling everyone into jail,  while the schools pat little Mama on the head and the Division of Family and Children's rule about removing children from abusive and/or neglectful parents is that the child's life must be in immediate danger.

So have we gone too far in both directions? Do we really want a large percentage of our youth to have criminal records before they reach adulthood due to drinking or smoking (you can even be charged here for possessing regular cigarettes if you're underage). How about suspending their driver's license instead? Most kids value their freedom to drive more than they fear going to jail. In fact, going to jail is almost a rite of passage these days.

And God knows, I wouldn't want to go back to expelling or shunning pregnant moms but on the other hand, can't we at least make it clear that there are real consequences to having babies before you're ready? That means something besides beaming with satisfaction at the sight of a 9-months-along 15-year-old to register our disapproval. We do still disapprove of babies having babies....don't we?

Kids didn't stay kids as long when I was young. That's because they could go get a job and become adults. Now, of course, everyone has to have at least a high school education to get any job, even in a factory. I've worked on many an assembly line and trust me, you don't have to be able to diagram a sentence to hit the button on a punch press. And it isn't necessarily dumb kids who don't fit in at school. Joey could be the most reliable and talented set-up man you ever had even if he washed out of Social Studies.

Well, I guess it's a lot to expect the country to provide jobs to 17-year-olds when we can't even create enough positions to keep their parents employed.  When there are way more jobs than people, employers bend the rules to let people in. When there are way fewer jobs than people, employers use any excuse to screen people out.

I feel sorry for today's 17 to 20 year-olds who don't have the aptitude or dollars to go to college (and even many of those who do will start their work life, if they can find work, with a choking burden of debt). We don't have patience with them.

And we don't have jobs for them for them to go to so they can't afford to start families and take their place in society as grown ups. No wonder so many children are being raised by the taxpayers. I knew many a young single Mom who went to work at General Tire in my town and raised her kids with dignity. The General Tire plant is abandoned now. A thousand plus decent paying positions went along with it.

So, really, America has no place for these kids. They're a glut on the market and a thorn in our side. Don't take that drink. Don't smoke that joint. Don't cruise the strip; don't hang out at the malls. Here - take this video game and go to your room.

 

 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where Is America's Sense of Self-Preservation?

I graduated high school in 1964. Back then, the parking lot at my high school was filled with good old American steel and good old American names - Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Dodge. One friend had a Studebaker and another, an ugly old Nash. The wealthiest and luckiest guy in school, car-wise, had a Corvette.

I'm from Indiana. Back then, our car companies and our steel mills were booming. And so were all the vendors that supplied them. You could go to any factory in my county and have a good chance of getting hired on the spot for a job where you'd end up assembling brake hoses or clutch facings or wiring harnesses or.....

Okay, I know people my age tend to look back with rose-colored glasses but it seems to me those were rose-colored times for American workers, and by extension, the rest of the country as well.

Many years later, I had occasion to visit Youngstown, Ohio and what I mostly remember from that trip was the acres of closed and deteriorating steel mills. By that time, the plant where I once worked taping wiring harness had moved its facility to Mexico.

Another decade later and I was employed as an administrative assistant at a high-end real estate agency in Carmel, Indiana. Our salespeople were the elites of their field. Our clients were what today we would characterize as the one per cent, or at least, the five percent.

My (used) Mercury Marquis was one of the few American cars in that particular parking lot. Our successful brokers preferred prestige foreign jobs like Mercedes and BMWs and Porsches. I argued with them about that sometimes. My point was they were biting the hand that fed them by not supporting American workers and that would come back around to bite them - in the butt. Their comeback was that our particular clientele were immune to what happened with the blue collars. Couldn't I see, they asked earnestly, that fewer jobs means cheaper labor and cheaper labor is a positive thing for the economy? "Whose economy?" I asked.

Now, eleven years into a brand new century, we know the answer to that question, don't we?

America has pursued the policies my co-workers at the real estate office believed in to their extreme end. Our manufacturing base has been decimated. American stores are filled with goods and food produced outside the U.S.  All right, so occasionally, we suffer from their lax quality control. What's a little Salmonella among friends? The people who answer our calls to customer service are answering us from India, often in barely intelligible English, never mind that they call themselves Barbara or Bob.

Now, with our unemployment so high, we liberal types are begging the politicians to legislate a jobs bill that would include rebuilding America's infrastructure, thus killing two birds with one stone, providing Americans with wages while also making desperately needed repairs to our bridges and buildings. At least, by God, constructing things that are made of bricks and mortar would have to be done right here in the good old U.S.A.

But hold the phone, not so fast. We have now learned to our dismay that our assumptions are oh-so-wrong. California has embarked on a gigantic construction project - rebuilding the earthquake-weakened San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge at a cost of $7.2 billion. If you think, that would produce lots of jobs for lots of American workers, you'd be wrong because the bridge is being built in China. Yes, China.

According to the New York Times, Americans will pour the concrete road and assemble the bridge components but 3,000 workers at Shanhai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company (steelcutters, polishers, welders and engineers)are building the bridge itself. It is done in pieces which are then shipped the 6,500 miles to Oakland. Want to know how much the typical Chinese worker earns? $12 a day, often for working 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., seven days a week, while living in a company dorm.

California declined to apply for federal funding to help with construction costs because they would have most likely come along with "Buy America" provisos and we wouldn't want that, would we? Instead, the state floated bonds and will charge tolls to recoup costs. (Thank you, Governor Schwarzenegger. Your wife was not the only one you screwed over.)

So let me get this straight. California estimates they will save $400 million by having the bridge built in China. In so doing, they decided not to apply for federal funds which would have defrayed some of the construction costs and also denied jobs to at least 3,000 Californians who would have paid taxes to the state (and incidentally, bought numerous products from California merchants with those dollars). When the bridge is complete, Californians will pay tolls to help recoup what California paid to China. Do we honestly think Californians came out ahead in this deal?

And if you believe this is a one-off, think again. According to David Barboza who wrote the article for the New York Times, in New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the New York subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium.

All this from a country that tops the FDA's list for food rejection. China has sent us contact lens solution infested with parasites, toothpaste tainted with diethelene glucol (a chemical used in engine coolant), fish that claims to be monkfish but is, in reality, puffer fish (which harbor a lethal toxin), pet food containing melamine (a chemical used in fertilizer) and other foods contaminated with human excrement and rat feces, insect bodies and animal hair.

So, yes, this is exactly the nation I want producing the steel and assembling the parts and pieces for a bridge I have to cross. Good luck, Californians.

I have read so often that America is going to hell in a handbasket. The people who say so have various reasons for believing this is so. But if America is really going to hell in a handbasket, it is because we have lost our capacity for self-preservation.

 

 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Being Thankful is a Choice

Happy Thanksgiving to all. My pumpkin pies are made and the turkey is in the oven. My kids are here from Florida. I picked them up at the Indianapolis airport yesterday. That's all good and makes me happy. On the other hand, Mom, who is 92 years old, fell in the bathroom and hit her head on the door sill. As a result, she looks pitiful with a big black shiner. That's not so good.

And that's pretty much the way life is, isn't it? Whether you're in the mood for giving Thanks depends on which end of the spectrum you decide to concentrate on. Most of us have many things we can be grateful for but almost all of us have other things that worry, sadden or annoy us. The only decision we have to make is how thankful, or not, we decide to be.

My husband's grandmother always used to tell us - "oh, I've had a wonderful life!"

"You have?" I always thought, "it doesn't seem so wonderful to me."

Carrie was married in a time when husbands were the rulers of the households and so it was with her. My own husband told me that his Grandpa was a grouch and a hardass. He made all the decisions in the family and nobody, not his wife or children, dared question those decisions.

Carrie, of course, stayed home and took care of her three children. She never learned to drive. The family was relatively poor or at least they seemed poor from my vantage point now. When her husband died, he left the house to one of the daughters with the proviso that she always provide a home for her mother because he didn't believe Carrie was capable of handling her own affairs. So for her entire life, Carrie was under someone's thumb - a father, a husband, a daughter.

I asked her once if she'd ever had the urge to assert her independence and she looked at me like I was crazy. "Independence?" she said, "what would I have done with it if I'd had it?"

So what did she see that was so wonderful in her life?

Well, she told me how much she loved hanging clothes out on the clothesline. She said sometimes she just buried her nose in a damp shirt to drink in that satisfying fresh-washed smell. She loved hearing the sheets snapping in the breeze and the feel of the sun on her back. The little pants and dresses made her smile thinking of the children who wore them and Ed's work uniforms meant appreciating a man who worked hard every day to provide for his family.

Her idea of high excitement was taking the children to the (long gone) amusement park several miles out of town in the old Model A. The children would grow progressively more excited as the traffic got busier, the music from the midway grew louder and the Ferris Wheel came into view.  She said she'd always remember the shouts of barkers and the smell of cotton candy drifting in the air.

She lived in the same house almost her entire adult life (paid for because Ed didn't believe in credit) and so did her neighbors. The women who stayed home during the day were a community - coffee-klatching with one another in between cooking and cleaning and doing laundry.

Carrie didn't have a television until late in life and I don't think she ever read. I doubt if there was much time for reading anyway. Sometimes she listened to the radio while she sewed.

She loved watching the trains, drawn by huge steam engines, pull into the station and the aroma of the homemade bread she pulled out of the oven of the little old stove she was still using when I knew her. She took great pleasure from the trumpet vine erupting in flame across the back porch roof and the fragrance of the huge bouquets of  lilacs she brought to put in a vase on the kitchen table.  She looked forward to mass at St Bernard's Catholic Church every Sunday and to family reunions at the park in the summer.

Compared to today's women, Carrie seems to have lived a narrow, stunted life, un-realized and unfulfilled. That's my view but it wasn't hers. When I think of her now, I think of a woman who had decided to be thankful for what she had instead of bitter for what she didn't have. It is a lesson we all need to learn from time to time.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Paying Homage to Power

It's always about power, isn't it?Power and the intrinsic value we place on it. We must retain some prehistoric strand of DNA that dictates our willingness to suspend judgment of those high above us in the pecking order, to willingly bow to their superiority in return for their protection. And, of course, since females and children are most often the weakest members in the human food chain, it is they who are most often offered up as sacrifices.

The word protector can have a multitude of connotations. In nature, it is elementary. The stallion is the literal protector of his band; the alpha wolf is the protector of his pack. In return for this protection, the stallion and the wolf demand, and receive, submission from their inferiors.

It appears people are not really very different. To us, protector can mean the protector of our souls, as in the case of a high religious figure - the protectors of our nation as in Kings and Queens - the economic protector of our family as in an abusive father or even the protector of an institution we hold in esteem that is near devout.

We know that too much power corrupts. The holders of the power come to believe they have a right to make immoral choices for what they convince themselves are moral ends.

And so, in a twisted perversion of the act of confession, a pontiff protects the Holy Church by giving up its most helpless members rather than rooting out the rot inside. And those who have invested their spiritual  faith in the man's infallibility refuse to condemn him , unable to bear the spiritual damage that undermining him and the church along with him, would cause them.

And a beloved coach, along with others, colludes to protect the Holy Football program (and by extension, the Holy University) by refusing to act in the face of a heinous crime against a child. The anal rape of a 10-year-old boy by a grown man, who, incidentally, also founded a program for disadvantaged youth in order to have easy access to his victims - all facts known by insiders. And yet, the majority of us reserve our protests for the firing of the coach! (In the ultimate irony, the man who failed to protect children is named Paterno and called, affectionately JoePa).

The various Royal families are not, so far as we know, engaged in such horrific behavior. The perversity lies more in the homage bestowed upon them as if they were inherently more worthy to be approached with bows and curtseys than their subjects. In the face of their own economic difficulties, their supporters willingly tithe to uphold the Holy Family and allow the royals to retain  their lavish, unearned lifestyles.

We cannot seem to get beyond our anachronistic legacy of siding with power. If you look at the judicial make up of counties, you will find that they all have one or more courts devoted to financial claims (because merchants, doctors, lawyers and landlords must have access to recompense, don't you know?) while many fewer of them have courts expressly designated for crimes against children. That's not to say there shouldn't be small claims courts, only that we place a heavier weight on one side of scale of justice based on the status of  those affected.

It has ever been so, this freely offered reverence to those on the pedestal above us, and it doesn't appear that it's going to change any time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, November 7, 2011

How Important Are You?

If you saw a fertilized egg in a petri dish, would you truly believe it has exactly the same importance as you do? If a fire broke out in the lab and only you or the test tube could be saved, would you honestly think the firefighters should draw straws to decide who to rescue, both you and the zygote being of equal value and all?

Or let's put this another way - the choice is between saving your 3-year-old or a fertilized egg. If you tell me that you had to think about it for even one millisecond, I'd say you are mentally unbalanced.

Put into the most basic terms, that's the debate that will be settled in Mississippi on Tuesday when the "Personhood" amendment comes up for a vote. It appears now as though this legislation will pass. The Mississippi Constitution will then define persons as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

What this does is essentially relegate women to the diminished status of baby-bearing factories. Not only will the fertilized egg be as important as it's mother, it will be more important. It's rights will supercede hers.

Abortion will be illegal under any circumstances whatsoever -  whether the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, no matter how young the mother may be, even if her own life is endangered. It will outlaw most forms of birth control. It will put severe limits on in vitro fertilization by banning the practice of harvesting many eggs to ensure pregnancy takes place. It will make criminals of women and doctors for performing or undergoing commonplace health-saving procedures.

In other words, if Mississippians pass the Personhood Amendment, they have made a hard-eyed comparison and determined that tiny blobs of tissue outweigh living, breathing human beings on the scale of life.

Except I don't think many of the voters who will vote "yes" on Amendment 26 did make a hard-eyed comparison. They are voting off the tops of their heads without considering the tragic ramifications their vote will cause in the lives of real people.

The sad 13-year-old pregnant due to incest. The terrified woman carrying the by-product of a vicious rape. The ill mother whose fetus threatens her own health....and by extension, the well-being of her other children.

And you have to wonder about some of the other unintended consequences of this amendment.

Will pregnant women and test-tube zygotes now have to be considered in the Mississippi census? Will freeze-dried eggs count as exemptions on their parents' taxes? Can a woman who miscarries be called before a tribunal to determine whether her actions contributed to her miscarriage? And who is going to police all of this? Is Mississippi going to form a Pregnancy Patrol to pry into the personal lives of families?

If these laws pass (six other states have considered, or are considering similar legislation), we will become as repressive as China, only in the opposite direction. The Chinese government plays Big Brother to its families to force them to have fewer children; the U.S. will be Big Brother to force them to have more.

 

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

According to the U.N., our poor old tired Earth just hit the 7 billion human mark. They don't know for sure, of course, but that's the estimate. Seven billion of us! Our species seems to have been programmed with an unstoppable urge to procreate. Our DNA tells us to send our progeny out there to represent our bloodline into the far future. That was all fine and dandy when there were millions of us instead of billions but we might want to reconsider that "go forth and multiply" dictum about now.

Our intelligence has increased over the centuries but our common sense hasn't grown along with it. It used to be that Mother Nature and natural selection played their parts in the population equation. A famine here, an epidemic there and our numbers were kept to a manageable balance. In the modern world, the tens of thousands wiped out by a tsunami have been replaced, somewhere on Earth, even before the water recedes.

Self-regeneration trumps self-preservation in the over-population sweepstakes. We will bring new life into the world regardless of its prospects. Born into a filthy, teeming refugee camp? Born into a country where its likely you'll be slaughtered by a genocidal dictator? Born into poverty and homelessness. No matter. The birth is the thing. What happens after, not so much.

Religion plays a role, for sure. The Catholic Church orders its members to refrain from birth control. To the clueless old gray men ensconced in the serene luxury of the Vatican, a baby born every nine months sounds about right and the less likely you can provide for another child, the more your God demands that sacrifice, at least according to His infallible stand-in.

Fundamentalists have much the same mind-set. They place a fertilized egg higher on the scale of human sanctity than the egg's mother or father or siblings. "Every human life is precious," they intone, although all you have to do is look around to see that if there is a personal God, he hasn't exactly bought in to the the preciousness of individual humanity. In fact, the fundamentalists themselves haven't either, as they are generally opposed to the kinds of social programs designed to help those underprivileged used-to-be fetuses.

In case you hadn't noticed, it is mostly males who are in the forefront of dictating our attitudes about child birth. Male Catholic priests. Male fundamentalist ministers.  Mormon men who see their women as child-bearing vessels. Arabic men who consider their women subservient property. South American men. African men.

But it isn't fair to pile all the blame on men. Women too have a compulsion toward nurturing a child,although to give them credit, except for those like Octo Mom, they are usually content with one, or maybe two. I think there are few woman who truly desire 5 or 8 or 10 children.

For most, it has to be their very own infant so they will undergo endless stress and expense to become impregnated - tightly scripted intercourse via calendar, fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization. We are like people who go out and spend hundreds of dollars to buy a purebred dog, ignoring the millions of adorable puppies that are euthanized every year in shelters. Not that one, this one. So much for the sanctity of life.

So, it is onward and upward to eight billion and where she stops nobody knows.

 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

What the hell is the matter with people? We're in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans are unemployed, losing their homes, without health insurance. So in a statement on par with Marie Antoinette's famous edict about the lower classes, Victoria's Secret gives us the....ta da....multi-million dollar bra.

Two and a half million to be exact. This year's Fantasy Bra contains 142 carats of white and yellow diamonds along with other precious stones. It will be worn by Australian supermodel, Miranda Kerr, in the Victoria's Secret Christmas Dreams and Fantasies catalog and in the Victoria's Secret fashion show.

In a gesture toward the realities of  economic life in 2011, this year's $2 1/2 million is sharply lower than the value of the fantasy underwear of previous seasons, several million dollars less, in fact.

And granted, no one has ever bought any of Victoria's precious gem-laden undies. I read that they are taken apart and presumably, recycled. Re-cycling, now that's a good thing in an era of austerity.

But, still, isn't this just the ultimate thumbing-your-nose response to the Occupy Wall Street types who are livid about how the one-percenters are living large at the expense of Americans on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder? "Let Them Wear Diamonds!" We are furious about failing schools and crumbling infrastructure and higher gas prices and under-handed mortgage bankers and corrupt politicians but maybe they can draw our attention away from all those petty concerns as we stand in slack-jawed admiration of a multi-million dollar, diamond-bedecked bra.

It has always been so. The affluent over-reach. As long as the mortgage holders and the investment bankers and the CEO's (who are the counterparts of the gentry of pre-revolutionary France) are willing to maintain their lavish lifestyles while still sharing some of the goodies with the middle and lower classes, we are satisfied to let them have their way with us. We don't even ask for a lot - a job, a house, a car, decent schools for our kids - but as always, in the end, they want it all.

NO, to higher taxes even though many of them got rich or richer on the supposedly onerous taxes of Bill Clinton (and even as they boo-hoo about the deficit). NO, to giving up any tax subsidies for corporations, like the oil companies, that are already swimming in excess profits. NO, to regulations, old or new, although the mining companies, the oil companies, the banks, the utilities, the insurance companies,  the pharmaceuticals have proven over and over that safety for workers or fairness for customers is waaay far down on the list of their priorities without a governmental watch dog overseeing them. NO, to the the very idea that perhaps they should be just slightly more loyal to America and Americans by not shipping their jobs to nor buying their resources from repressive nations like China.

Instead, we get a freakin' $2.5 million bra. Aw, ain't it cute? Makes me forget all about my pending foreclosure. Not!

I don't expect them to take us seriously because they never do. In brutal regimes, despots end up like Moammar Khadaffi, beaten and shot by people who've had all they can take.

We are much more polite here. Our leaders will dismiss the protestors or convince the media to do it for them ("spoiled lazy kids, dirty hippies, trashy lowlifes, druggies, sex in the park, etc, etc.")  Oh, sure the police will arrest some to show them whose boss but they won't be tortured. Some local governments will deny them licenses to assemble and/or march. The Establishment will join hands to protect the status quo.

They'll close their eyes and hope we just fade away - the union workers who staged the sit-ins in the Wisconsin Statehouse, the spreading Occupy Wall Street movement, the blog-writers, the foreclosed, the unemployed, the uninsured, the students burdened with loans that will take half a lifetime to pay off.

"Look, here," they'll say, "look how the pretty diamond bra shines and sparkles."

Let them eat cake.

The only thing it won't occur to them to do is look for real answers, not if it means giving up even the tiniest portion of what they believe is theirs by divine right. If we want it, we'll have to take it - at the ballot box, via boycotts and sit-ins and strikes, by words written and shouted, with songs and tweets and posts and signs.

We have different slogans and some of us are more, um, graphic than others.

But in the end, it all boils down to wanting the same things - homes, jobs, healthcare, decent futures for our children.

I say, let the revolution begin.

 

 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears

Oh, man, having worked for a Sheriff's Department for 12 years, my sympathy is with Muskingum County (Ohio) Sheriff, Matt Lutz. Having over 50 dangerous wild animals loose in his jurisdiction was a no win situation for him. He was bound to get grief either way he went.

If he ordered his deputies to shoot to kill the lions, wolves, bears, tigers and monkeys let loose by their suicidal owner, Terry Thompson, the animal lovers were going to go nuts. Since it was falling dark, if he took the second route of tranquilizing the animals and they got away until the sedative wore off, later attacking someone, he'd catch even more hell for allowing his people to be put at risk.

He went with Plan B and sure enough, Facebook has erupted with horror and fury. The misguided animal aficionados are ready to tar and feather the sheriff. But, it's easy for those who don't have to live with their decisions to be positive about what should be done in any situation. They don't have to consider that some small child, whose family may not have gotten the news (there actually are people who don't watch television or listen to the radio or play on Facebook all day) might be out playing in the yard, easy prey for wild animals, made aggressive by the stress of freedom and left unfed by their dead owner.

Or for that matter, not kids, but cows or cats or dogs or horses. Are they not just as important as lions and bears? If it was your beloved pet disemboweled by a 300-pound tiger or your prize show horse slashed to ribbons by a lion, you might not feel so kindly toward the predators.

In the end, Sheriff Lutz did what he had to do. His first priority as sheriff is to be responsible for the safety of his citizens and their property.

We all wish it hadn't had to happen. The thought of 18 rare Bengal tigers being slaughtered is heart-breaking. With time, rescue efforts to capture the animals might have been mounted but the sheriff didn't have the luxury of time and so he acted, which is what sheriffs are elected to do.

I think of the deputies I worked with. They were a mixed bag of personalities, as any collection of human beings tends to be. Some of them would have hated having to kill these magnificent creatures. But most of my deputies were hunters. Some of them would, no doubt, have been thrilled by the thought of tracking down and shooting an animal they would never come in contact with in the normal course of events. Still, that excitement would have been coupled with the conviction that they were acting to protect the public.

The larger tragedy here is the looseness of Ohio's laws regarding the keeping of exotic pets. The state has the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by wild animals of any other. In spite of that, in April Ohio Governor John Kasich allowed the state's ban on buying and selling exotic pets to expire.

If the PETA types want to funnel their upset into something productive,  perhaps pushing for new legislation to prevent people like Terry Thompson from maintaining cages full of lions and tigers and bears is the way to go.

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fading Away

IndyCar suffered a horrendous crash on only the 12th lap in Las Vegas. Cars flew over other cars, cars flamed out on the track, cars went airborne into the catch fence. What was supposed to be the series' championship finale resulted in tragedy instead - the death of one of their most beloved and talented drivers, Dan Wheldon. Dan, who left a wife and two small children, was 33 years old.

I've always envied people, like race car drivers, who know from childhood exactly what they want. I've always thought that finding your passion early on is one of the greatest gifts life can bestow upon you, whether that passion is a place, a person or an occupation. And if that passion gives you success as it did with Dan Wheldon - IndyCar champion and double Indianapolis 500 winner - so much the better.

I've known people who, practically from the cradle, knew that their mission in life was to be a cop, a pilot, a teacher, a musician. I've known people who met their soul mate and never lost that feeling through richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. I've known people who came upon a mountain, a farm or a beach and knew they had found the place they would live for the rest of their days.

That never happened for me. I counted them up once, (and this was several jobs ago), and came up with 39 places I had worked. Many of them were totally unrelated - butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Or rather, secretary, realtor, punch press operator, chicken housemother, bartender, insurance agent, bookkeeper, legal assistant, blood-drawer. I got jobs and when I got bored with them, I drifted off to something else (this was back in the day when that was possible). I was married twice and divorced twice. I've lived in Charleston (SC), Houston (TX), Denver (CO),  Springfield (Il), Indianapolis (IN), Los Angeles (CA) and San Diego (CA) as well as many smaller communities across the U.S. I've lived on farms, in houses, apartments and hotel rooms, atop mountains and beside rivers and in the middle of large cities. No place made me say, "this is it, I'm here to stay".

None of those people, places or professions inspired a Eureka! moment for me. In the end, I was always ready to move on, to try the next thing.

I've always wondered if, as the old rock lyric declares that "it's better to burn out than to fade away". Dan Wheldon burned out doing what he loved more than anything else - going fast. Racers know that their professional mistress is dangerous, and perhaps even deadly, but they do it anyway so they must believe the reward is worth the risk, and they willingly take their chances.

I'm 65 years old now so it appears, I'll fade away. If I die doing what I enjoy most, I'll probably have a heart attack while pecking away on this keyboard. I have lots of small, treasured moments but no great over-arching triumphs in my memory bank. If I could go back and live my life over would I trade some of my 65 years for the exaltation of experiencing a grand passion like Dan Wheldon?  Would you?

 

 

 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Wall Street VS. The Tea Party

Some people call Occupy Wall Street the left's version of the Tea Party and I think that is generally accurate. The strangest thing is that these are two groups that draw from roughly the same strata of society - the middle class and working poor - but while both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party believe America is seriously on the wrong track, they are diametrically opposite in what they believe should be done to correct the situation.

As near as I can tell, the Tea Party sees government as the problem. If it would just get out of the way, taking a "let the chips fall where they may approach, free market capitalism would soon put things to right. The worthy would succeed while the undeserving would fail, putting the U.S. into a kind of "survival of the fittest" mode. Tea Partiers are obviously much more confident in their ability to navigate the trials and tribulations of lay offs and illnesses and predatory lending than the rest of us. Is that because they tend to be more devout in their religious beliefs and assume that God will protect them? But if God's will is the dictating factor, then why bother forming a movement at all? Just have faith and leave it up to Him.

The problem with Tea Party thinking is that it has never proven out in our entire history. Prior to the income tax, the super-rich plutocrats spent their dollars on magnificent mansions and lavish parties, luxurious railroad cars and fabulous jewels. Essentially, we had an aristocracy based on wealth and a vast underclass who toiled in mines and factories and on farms with no protections from the whims of their bosses. They could be fired at will, made to work long hours with no breaks or vacations, thrown out in the street if they got sick.

With a few notable exceptions, the mega-affluent use a significant hunk of their money to influence (influence is a polite word for "buy") politicians to ensure that the laws will protect their interests and make them even richer at the expense of the lower classes. That is simply a fact of life.

Between 1949 and 1979, America went through a more egalitarian phase. During that period, the top one percent never raked in more than 12.8 percent of the nation's income (which still made them plenty rich). That figure was 10% when Ronald Reagan became president; it had risen 15.5 percent by the time he left office. When George W Bush was elected, the One Percenter's share had grown to 21.5. In 2007, it was 23.5.

In the 1949-1979 era, America's middle class was growing and prospering, helped along by labor unions. Factory workers could buy home and cars and send their kids to college. The government passed laws having to do with work place safety and overtime pay and unemployment compensation.

But somewhere along the way, under Presidents and Congresses, Republican and Democrat, we lost our way and America began to tip drastically in favor of the rich. Since 1980, America's total income has quintupled. The middle and lower classes collected almost none of the benefit but for that exclusive Top One Percent, it has resulted in an trillion dollar annual increase. Today, the Top Ones own 50 percent of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The bottom 50 own .5 percent. The Top One Percent own 40 percent of all the nation's wealth while the bottom 80 percent hold only seven percent.

Now along come the Occupy Wall Streeters. They think America's economic system is askew too but they have different ideas for how to fix it than the Tea Party. They believe government has to be part of the solution and should be in solidarity with the people rather than being a Wall Street toady. OWS doesnt have a bullet-pointed agenda. They simply want the people and the politicians to start thinking and talking about a fairer vision for America that might include rewriting the tax laws so the rich pay their fair share, federal spending on jobs that would also shore up our infrastructure and educational system, protecting social security and medicare, strengthening collective bargaining and limiting financial protectionism for corporations.

As in, was no bank or banker criminally complicit in the great meltdown we experienced thanks to the giant mortgage scam? Did it just sort of happen with no one at fault? Evidently, at least, our regulators never found any evidence to suggest that anyone should go to jail or even be charged with the mildest of misdemeanors. The government simply stepped in to bail them out and sent them back out to start over. Wall Street had the grace to look a little sheepish for about ten minutes, before embarking on another round of obscenely over-the-top CEO compensation pay-offs.

By and large, Americans are not into class warfare (from the bottom up, that is - no so, the other way around). Allow labor a way to make a decent living and they won't complain much. They don't waste time envying their betters, generally believing the rich probably got where they are via intelligence and hard work. You have to really push their backs against the wall before they wake up and begin to believe they are being systematically screwed over. That's where we are now.

I hope these protesters persevere and don't give up hope because you can be sure the corporations and the super-rich will be fighting back with every advantage they have and that's a lot. It includes unlimited dollars, lobbyists, politicians, and a media which generally conspires with them to make the Occupiers look like a bunch of fools and dufuses. Example, Erin Burnett on CNN - http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2011/10/03/erin-seriously-protesters-wall-st.cnn#/video/bestoftv/2011/10/03/erin-seriously-protesters-wall-st.cnn.


Oh, yes, and they have the Tea Partiers too don't forget.

Meanwhile, I think Wall Street itself is laughing at all of us because we're doing what we always do - the working class battling each other while the One Percenters go right on with doing what they do, which is looking out for the big Number One.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Three Shades of Discrimination

I belong to three groups against whom it is still acceptable to discriminate. I'm a) overweight, b) a smoker and c) an agnostic. Thank God, I don't want to run for president because any one of those labels would be enough to doom my campaign, much less all three of them.

Two are synonymous with weak-willed self-indulgence - smoking and obesity. Smoking is, of course, beyond the pale in 21st century USA. You can drink, even to excess, and no one will hold it against you. It's the American way. People will probably even find you amusing. Adultery - no big deal (although I think a woman would have a harder time getting away with it than a man) . It's all that macho testosterone, don't you know? Manly men sometimes just can't help themselves.

In a complete over-reaction to the effects of our evil habit, we smokers were first chased outdoors, then our allowable smoking areas were moved farther and farther from whatever facility we were at and finally, we were banished entirely from the property. You can no longer smoke at all in my airport - not in the terminal itself, not in the parking lot, not in the cow pasture that borders the other side of the runways. Same with my local hospital. Evidently, even seeing us from a distance is enough to inspire gasping indignation in anti-smokers.

My obedience to these dictates goes only so far. I will smoke in my car. That's still my property even if it is in your damn parking garage so the hell with your "thank you for not smoking" signs.

And then fatness. We saw the kind of narrow-minded criticism Governor Christie got when contemplating a run for the presidency. Gene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post took it upon himself to lecture Christie on his size in one of the most holier-than-thou, judgmental pieces of drivel I have ever read. At the end, he advised the governor to eat a salad and take a walk. It's enough to make you want to drive your car to Long John Silver's for a grease-drenched meal of deep-fried fish, fries and hushpuppies in rebellion to his sanctimony.

Of course, our society has been obsessed with weight for decades, not underweight, of course, just over-weight. We worship at the alter of emaciation as portrayed by the sweet young things on t.v. and the movie screen (who probably depend on pills to stay that way). We can't wait to place our order when the spokesperson tells us how she became a skeletal size 2 via NutriSystems. And then we are shocked, shocked, when our daughters become bulimic and/or anorexic and/or suicidal trying to live up to this unrealistic image.

Our culture equates obesity with mental dullness, lack of energy, slovenliness. The media and entertainment worlds promote this mindset with their depictions of overweight characters. It simply isn't true. Chris Christie is one of the brightest and most vital of the (almost) GOP candidates, a field which includes a number of the less intellectually endowed despite their svelte shapes. We are more prepared to overlook idiocy if it comes in an attractive package.

And finally, religion. My belief that I don't know the answers and I don't think anyone else does either would be a deal killer for sure if I ever ran for office. Saying that Jesus may or may not have been God's (whoever and whatever God is) son is not allowed. You must profess an unyielding faith in Christianity to be our president.

But...if you say that you find what the Mormons espouse to be approximately on par with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in believability, you'll be looked at with horror. That's how I see it though. In my book, to be a Mormon, you have to be either a dissembler to take advantage of the many benefits Mormons bestow upon their (male) followers or you have to be brainwashed. Those are the only two possibilities.

Not that other denominations of Christians aren't perfectly capable of believing two impossible things before breakfast. My own Catholics, for instance. The infallibility of the Pope? Seriously? When history tells us that some popes have been arrogant, selfish, dishonest, fanatical and even downright evil in some cases.

And all this at a time when history also proves that some of most publicly devout public officials have been the worst sorts of hypocrites.

I don't care if my president smokes. I don't care if he or she is fat. I don't care of he or she believes in any particular religion or none at all.

I just want my president to do a good job as the leader of this country. Beyond that, I could care less.

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Apply for this Job if You Need a Job

Thank God, my days of job hunting are over forever!  I always thought there was a special place in hell reserved for what we called Personnel Managers back in the day, now more likely known as Human Resource Directors. They always made it sound as if you had the job in the bag so you went home, cleared your calendar and camped by the phone, waiting for the call that never came. Three weeks later, you'd get a letter saying, "we appreciate your interest in our company but we've found someone who more closely meets our needs."

Funny, how it so often turned out to be the superintendent's son - whom they knew they were going to hire from the git-go. They just held interviews to "go through the motions".

Or, perhaps, you never heard back from them at all. They just let you arrive at your own conclusions, as your mood tailed down from joy to doubt to despair, depending on how badly you needed the position.

I always wondered if they enjoyed the power they held in being able to toy with applicants or if they were simply unconcerned about the effect their actions had on others.

So, I guess, in a perverted sort of way, employers are actually being kinder to desperate job seekers by telling them right up front that if they are already unemployed, don't bother applying.Why give them false hope?

Yes, it seems that some employers don't want to hire you if you're already out of work. It implies something negative about the kind of human being you are, something distasteful and, well, it makes you appear to be a bit of a deadbeat. Obviously, if you were desirable, someone would already snapped you up, wouldn't they?  Never mind that we're creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What would you guess that most of the employers who take this position are Republicans because Republicans have the most unbelievably fucked-up attitudes about working and workers? It's no problem for them to believe two, or more, conflicting ideas at the same time.

1) We should not extend unemployment benefits because that encourages people not to look for a job;

2) But companies should have the right not to hire the unemployed, thus ensuring they'll need their unemployment benefits longer;

3) Corporations are the "job-creators" so they should be given big tax breaks so they'll have more money to hire more employees;

4) Never mind that we already gave them tax breaks and they didn't create any jobs with those dollars;

5) But we're sure it will work the next time because where we went wrong was not rolling back regulations to go with the tax breaks;

6) In the meantime, let's cut public assistance to the people who are struggling to survive because their unemployment checks are running out and they can't replace them with a real paycheck because of the reluctance of companies to increase hiring, although they they wouldn't get hired anyway because they're unemployed;

So, in theory, the best way to fill a position is to snag an employee from another employer, who will steal from another, who will steal from another. Sort of like musical chairs. If a job disappears for good, the unlucky person left standing will not get another job because they're unemployed. In the end, only the same dozen Americans will be trading the same dozen jobs amongst themselves.

Yes, I know, stupid and irrational but damn, trying to figure out where the Republicans are coming from drives you to irrationality.

What do you suppose they think will happen to all those laid-off people when they end unemployment extensions,  reduce public assistance and refuse to hire the non-working? Will they just dry up and disappear like so many puddles on a sunny day? And then, Employers, who will buy the cars and refrigerators and carpet and prime rib and plane tickets you must sell to survive yourself?

 

 

7)

 

 

 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Execution American-Style

Well, they did it. Georgia executed Troy Davis even though there appeared to be subtantial doubt about his guilt. His trial was based on the testimony of witnesses with no forensic evidence to back them up even though it has been proven that human memory is notoriously unreliable and can be easily manipulated. Seven of the nine witnesses have since recanted.

Davis even offered to take a polygraph but the State said no. God forbid, if it indicated that he was telling the truth - what a monkey wrench that would throw itno the works!

There were other weaknesses and errors of judgment in Davis' case but you can read them all in a million different websites so I won't go into all that.

It is enough to say that the state of Georgia seemed bent on killing a man who may or may not have been guilty. It is almost as if guilt or innocence was beside the point by execution time. They'd had their trial, got their conviction and sentence and, by God, they were going to proceed regardless of any later questions.

I am not opposed to capital punishment. I have always believed that some people are like cancerous tumors on the body of society. In those cases, society has the right to surgically remove them to protect itself from their malignant poison - if, and this is the big if, we are absolutely sure we have the right person. Being kind of sure or fairly sure or sort of sure isn't enough to execute someone. That's what reasonable doubt is all about. Unless we are 100% positive, then the death sentence shouldn't be an option. A humane community errs on the side of caution when it comes to putting its citizens to death or, at least, it should.

Of course, the prosecutor will try to convince the jurors that there is no reasonable doubt. The problem is that most poor and/or minority defendants rarely have access to equal justice. They aren't O. J. and taking their case won't garner their attorneys face-time on television. Their public defenders tend to be young and inexperienced or old and tired. Some of them are cynical. They just want to get the trial over with and collect their fees so they urge a plea agreement that may not be in their client's best interest. Furthermore, they aren't allotted the funds to compete fairly with the State in matters like hiring investigators to search for exculpatory evidence or hiring experts to analyze forensic evidence.

In most cases, the accused aren't paragons of society. They may have grown up in a ghetto with little or no adult supervision, gang members as their role models  and a sub-par education. They may "look like" criminals and sometimes they are.  And on the other side are the police officers who are trained in how to present themselves on the witness stand, people the public consider heroes and authority figures.

The conservative south is the worst, of course. The bloodthirstiness of  the kind of people who cheer when Texas Governor Perry states unequivocably that he's never suffered a moment of indecision or remorse for being the "killingest" governor in the U.S.  is shocking to those of us who might be able to imagine allowing an execution to proceed under certain circumstances but not without some measure of soul-searching and psychic trauma.  By contrast, Perry and his supporters seem to consider taking another man's life as blithely as they would swat a fly.

And these people claim to be religious. They proclaim that life is sacred to the one they call Almighty. Isn't it they who should insist on every possible safeguard with the possibility of calling off an execution should there be any doubt at all that they might be ending an innocent life instead of someone like me who isn't even sure there is a God who cares what we do?

And the families of the murdered confound me. It is almost as if they want a death for a death and it doesn't really much matter if it's the right death. I honestly believe if it was my son or father who'd been killed and questions arose about the supposed perpetrator's guilt, I'd want to call a halt until I could be convinced. Because if we were wrong about Troy Davis, then the real murderer got off scot-free and another victim, just like my loved one, died in his place.

 

 

 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The World's Worst Farmer

I bought an electric pressure cooker months ago but only got the nerve to actually use it yesterday. Ever since I exploded a pressure cooker full of green beans years ago (necessitating a complete repainting of my green polkadot kitchen cabinets) I've been intimidated by these appliances. But I love chicken gizzards and the only way to cook chicken gizzards is in a pressure cooker so....I bought one.  And my gizzards turned out fine, although I had to guess on time because the cookbook that came with the pressure cooker didn't include gizzards. (Imagine that.)

Thinking about my exploded green beans got me to thinking about other failures I had as a beginning farmer. When my husband and I bought the farm at Possum Holler, he was freshly back from Vietnam with an urge to go to ground. I just wanted horses and cows and chickens and dogs and cats and rabbits and.....

Our neighbors, who were real farmers, laughed at us for calling Possom Holler a "farm". But we were armed with a book called "Five Acres and Independence" and a new subscription to Mother Earth News so we were ready to jump into self-sufficiency.

My first livestock purchase was buying my son a gold pony. This was the fulfillment of a dream, one step removed, as my entire childhood had been spent wishing for a pony. The only problem: John wanted a mini-bike instead. He ignored the pony so she spent her days breaking into my neighbor's soy bean field, eating his beans, getting me in trouble.

My husband bought me a beautiful blue merle Collie for my birthday. He'd been de-barked by his previous owner. A friend gave us six Muscovy ducks. Muscovy ducks don't make any noise when they quack.Visitors who pulled into my drive must have thought they'd gone deaf when confronted by an obviously wildly barking dog and six crazily quacking ducks....and total silence.

I bought a milk cow (after my husband forbid it) from an old farmer/preacher who said, "this 'ere ole cow is so gentle, your lil chile cud milk'er." But, after she had her calf, she wouldn't let me get anywhere close. Meanwhile her udder continued to swell until it was the size of a beanbag chair. I kept her in a 2-acre pasture that mostly consisted of a blackberry-bramble covered hill. I went to Tractor Supply and bought a lasso (discovering that new lassos are as stiff as wire). I asked my husband for help catching her. He said, "cow? what cow?'

I tracked her up the hill and down. My entire body was one long scratch. Finally, the calf collapsed in exhaustion and Mom stayed with him so I was able to snub her to a tree. I milked her on the side of the hill, bracing the bucket with my foot. As soon as I was done - oh, that lovely white foamy milk! - she aimed a wild kick. The bucket smacked me in the knee, then flew down the hill, drenching me before it went.

I limped back to the house, soaked to the skin  in milk. Jim was sitting on the porch, grinning. "Hey," he asked, "how's it going with your cow?"

Jim (a tool and die maker who did everything with precision) built a chicken park for our new chickens. It was a perfect park with every post exactly equidistant from every other post. He had just stepped back to admire his work when the the cow came racing down the hill with me, once again,  in hot pursuit. She headed directly for his new project and crashed into it. The chicken wire caught in her horns, pulling all his posts from the ground. She busted through our gate and continued down the road with the chicken park banging along behind her, heading for the highway.

I paused long enough to look at Jim, who said between clenched teeth - Get. Rid. Of. That. Fucking. Cow." So after I finally caught her, I did.

We raised a pig from a baby. His name was Chauncey. When it was time to send him to be butchered, the guys from the packing plant couldn't get him loaded in their truck. Jim got into the bed and whistled. Chauncey trotted right up the gangplank with complete trust. As the truck pulled out, Jim and I sat on our back step and bawled our eyes out, hating ourselves. When the pork came back, all nicely packaged, we sold it to a neighbor.

The first year garden was trial and error. We didn't know how many tomatoes each plant would yield so we planted 40. We could have opened a small cannery with the results. We tried giving them away but everyone in the country already has tomatoes.

We raised rabbits then discovered that neither of us could bring ourselves to butcher them. "You were a soldier, for God's sake," I told Jim.

"Exactly," he said.

He enjoyed gardening, which meant raising things instead of butchering them....and owning and operating a tractor and driving a battered old pick up truck.

In spite of our spectacular screw-ups, we loved those years on our little farm. We never got over feeling every egg we found was a small miracle. And the ones the banty hens hid from us were equally as pleasurable when they emerged from their secret nests followed by a Pied Piper-lines of downy chicks. Or when the calico cat proudly showed us her new kittens. Or when the Collie, previously a pampered showdog, could be sent to fetch the calves to the barn. The son eventually got his mini-bike and I bought myself a horse although thanks to once having been thrown and drug, I could never make myself get on him, so I walked him up and down our road. Our neighbors sent us their special molasses cookies and jars of honey and strawberry jam.

Some times things are good even when you're not very good at them.

 

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Come In Guns A'blazing, Mr President

Well, we're getting close to the president's big speech on job creation. Much discussion on television and in newspapers and around the 'net about what his proposals should be. Most of his base wants something big, not just playing around the edges. That would be my preference too. Make a bold statement. Pick a fight with the Republicans. Dictate a battleground on which to fight the next election. Go in with guns blazing to set a tone. Because that's all you're going to get out of this speech.

If you're still harboring hopes that any actual policy might result, you might want to consider changing your name to Pollyanna. Okay, I got the yearning for change and hope we could believe in and the heartfelt desire that Obama could get all our congresspeople to sit around holding hands and making S'Mores together that carried the day in the last election. Being an old political warhorse, I didn't believe it, but I got it.

If you still believe, then you're a cock-eyed optimist, with the emphasis on cock-eyed.

Obama may as well take some chances in this speech because the Republicans are going to say no to all of it anyway. If he says, the grass is green, they'll swear it's red....and call in the same scientists who back them up on climate change to testify. If he says two plus two is four, they'll claim it's nine....and bring the charts and graphs to prove it.  If he says Mary had a little lamb, they'll declare it was a little woolly pig....and do it with a straight face.

The Americans who voted for Obama in the naive expectation that he could magically sooth the savage beast that is today's Republican party (did they not pay any attention to Bill Clinton's impeachment?) should certainly have come to their senses by now and so should have Obama himself.

The Republicans aren't interested in bipartisanship to help the economy or put Americans to work, folks. Not if they'd have to share any of the credit with the president. They've got the next election in their gun sights. Better for everything to stay bad until then.

We should have been talking about job creation for at least the last two years. Instead, they bogged us down with a fight to the death over deficit reduction even though they have to know that providing jobs causes the most positive kind of deficit reduction. Well, positive for working people, not necessarily positive for the party that wants to take over the White House.

So their answer to the unemployment problem? Lower taxes and de-regulation. Seriously, de-regulation! Oh, so, that's why businesses haven't responded to the tax breaks with which their Republican cohorts have showered them by increasing their hiring? It's those damn regulations that keep them from it. Give me a fucking break.

I know being a warrior isn't Barack Obama's natural style. He prefers cool, calm, rational discussion...and that's fine when you're dealing with rational opponents but he's not.

So, it's back to the drawing board for a speech that is full of fire and creativity and, yes,  some threat as well. You're never gonna' make your enemies happy, so at least do something to please your friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Marijuana - The Premise is Wrong

I had lunch at Market Street Grill the other day and ran into the Sheriff and one of his Detectives. We chit-chatted for a while. I told him I disagreed with a recent interview in the local paper in which he stated that we should not consider lessening the penalties for possessing marijuana. Told him I thought it should be legalized, regulated and taxed.  That would help the country's deficit since pot is one of the largest cash crops in the U.S. It would mean that every joint sold would reliably be what it claimed to be, just like every shot of Jack Daniels is the same as every other shot. I said if I was still in the market for getting high, which I'm not, I'd much prefer smoking to drinking, all things being equal.

Both the Sheriff and the Detective were adamant that I was wrong. Their main objection to marijuana is that it is a "gateway" drug, leading to ever worse addictions. The Detective stated this as an absolute fact.

He is probably 25 years younger than me. I was out running around in the 60's and 70's. Back then, society and law enforcement were tolerant of weed. You could almost light up in front of a cop and he (all  were "he" then, of course) would simply shrug and wave you on.

I told my Detective friend that he would be surprised at who smoked grass back in my day. It was people who are now his banker, his lawyer, his doctor, his secretary, his insurance agent, some of them are even cops! They smoked in their youthful, party days and now they don't. It didn't lead to snorting cocaine or shooting up heroin or injecting meth.

Did some people I knew become "potheads"? Yep, some of them did. It made them dreamy and shiftless and unproductive until they decided to back off. One of them is a college professor now.

Did some people graduate to harder stuff as the Detective indicated? Yes. But some portion of the population are addictive personalities and they will find their fix no matter what laws are in place. For some some addictive types, moving on meant coke or speed but for most in my circle, it meant becoming full-fledged alcoholics.

Of course, law enforcement is invested in the drug war, so I suppose you'd expect them to hold a hard position against legalizing any type of drug and be able to cite the reasons why. In my opinion, it is more likely that if marijuana is, in fact, a gateway drug now, it is because we put people in jail for possessing it. It isn't the pot itself that is the gateway, it is the incarceration. It is condemning youthful users to undeserving criminal records. It is forcing them into the company of others who truly are hard-core abusers, people who will teach them how to navigate a more dangerous world and make it seem desirable. It is inculcating in them a distrust of society, the legal system and law enforcement, all of which caused them untold pain for a minor transgression.

The Sheriff and Detective believe that smoking marijuana is the contributing factor to higher crimes but actually, it is the consequences we inflict that are the real cause.

Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. We should treat the two the same.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Danica Patrick - You Go, Girl!

Well, what we've all known was going to happen is finally official: Danica Patrick is coming to NASCAR. Lots of fans, including me, are thrilled and excited about the only woman who has won an IndyCar race, come closest to winning the Indianapolis 500, finished higher in one of NASCAR's top series than any other (a 4th at Las Vegas in the Nationwide race).  Now we'll get a chance to see what she can do running full-time in Nationwide for JRMotorsports (as in Dale Earnhardt, Jr) and part-time in Sprint Cup for Stewart-Haas Racing (as in Tony Stewart).

Immediately after the announcement, the Twitter feeds lit up. Not so surprisingly, a lot of the good old boys are petulant and negative about a girl invading their territory. (And the good old girls too, for that matter. It's also not unusual that women are often harsher on their own sex than men are.)

It's not that they don't support women in general, oh, no, it's just this particular woman. They love them some Jennifer Jo Cobb and Johanna Long and Chrissie Wallace - the perpetual backbenchers (not necessarily because of lack of talent but lack of sponsorship). You know, they can bolster their non-sexist creds by playing up their affection for the non-threatening females.

They dislike Danica because of how she got where she is. She's sexy and beautiful and she's played on both those attributes. She posed for Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition and she made risque ads for her sponsor, Go-Daddy.com. Danica is the exact opposite of the often caricatured butch female athlete. She's tiny and feminine. When not on the track, she dolls up in make up and long curls and high heels and be-sequined, low-cut dresses.

She's taking a ride, I'm told, that would better go to some worthy kid running on a dirt track in Podunk but, oddly enough, NASCAR fans who scorn Danica's path into auto racing as undeserved, nevertheless cheer on the boys who got their slots through inheritance. Dale Earnhardt, Jr son of Dale, Senior (who was the son of Ralph). Kyle Petty, son of Richard (who was the son of Lee), Dale Jarrett, son of Ned Jarrett. Steven Wallace, son of Rusty Wallace. And just coming on the scene, Austin and Ty Dillon, grandsons of team owner, Richard Childress (who both appear to be excellent drivers but can anyone deny they'll have had a head start by being given the best of everything by Grandpa?) I could go on and on naming drivers whose entry into NASCAR was bequeathed to them. Did some of them go on to earn the honors they received? Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that they were on a glide path to their dreams from the start unlike that kid from Podunk.

Or Danica. She didn't have that option so she had to create it through guts and determination and yes, chutzpah. To me, that's even more admirable and honorable than using families and connections.

She beat the men at their own game by using what our male-dominated society has deemed important. It isn't women who worship at the alter of  tits and ass, it's men. Danica just took that persona and hung it around their necks like an anchor. "This is what you want from me, fine, I'll give it back to you in spades".

Okay, maybe this isn't her attitude at all but it is mine. Men set the standard but then when women actually use it, they cry foul.

Too bad. Probably if Hillary had looked like Danica, she'd be the president today.

 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Is This the God You Believe In? Really?

There's a new post going around on Facebook. It goes something like - a little boy asks God why he allows bad things to happen in schools and God sadly replies, "because I'm no longer allowed in school".

I realize the post is trying to make a point but I'd be a ashamed to copy it. Is this wimpy God, who accepts his rejection with his head down and his tail between his legs, really the Supreme Being you, as a Christian, believe in? If not, why do you want to give the impression that you do, even as an ironic statement?

Have we really gone so far down the road toward seeing everyone as a victim that you even want to present God himself in that light?

For Pete's sake, People, if you take your own Bible literally, yours is a God of power and yes, wrath - willing to kill off a whole generation of male babies, sending plagues of locusts to wipe out entire crops, turning a woman into a pillar of salt for looking back at her home, killing all but a few living creatures in a flood -  all without a moment of remorse. Does this sound like a God who would submissively stand outside the school house door, meekly accepting his fate? Wouldn't that God inflict the Supreme Court with a scourge of agonizing boils instead?

The fact is that if what you believe is true, your God has always allowed bad things to happen - at school and anywhere else he deemed necessary. It isn't your place to assign reasons for that, especially when your reason portrays a God who has been handcuffed and shackled by earthly authority.

This is all a farce anyway because God isn't banned from schools. Your children can pray any time they like. They can send as many pleas to God before the big test or the big game as they choose. They just have to do it in private. And, ah, that's the rub, isn't it?  Certainly you believe that God hears all those silent prayers but that's not enough. What you actually want is for everyone else to have to join in whether they believe in a different God or no God at all. Even at the risk of weakening his image by posting nonsense on Facebook.

 

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free At Last!

I walked out of the office on Monday for the last time without a qualm. Yes, I'll miss some of the people I worked with. Maybe, I'll even give a thought now and then to some of my more memorable clients, wondering how their situations turned out. But then, once I found them attorneys (or more likely, didn't find them attorneys), I rarely knew the final resolution of their cases anyway. All those desperate mothers....all those furious fathers....all those sorrowful grandparents. I'm more than ready to walk away, having gone far beyond my quota of heartrending stories.

Retirement feels like one of the great plateaus in life, like graduating school or getting married or having children. I actually sat and tried to write down all the places of employment I've had in my life but it was an impossible task, one I gave up on fairly quickly. I always envied the stable people who lived in one town and married one spouse and worked at one profession but that definitely wasn't me. I've lived a will-o-wisp life that included two husbands, many states and innumerable jobs.

I've bartended and filed and drilled. I've baby-sat chickens and made pizzas and underwrote insurance policies. I've soldered and sold real estate and secretaried (or in later years, administratively assisted) high school principals, industrial relations managers and deans of Arts & Science, mayors and sheriffs and prosecutors. I've punch-pressed and performed blood draws and peddled sweepers. I've had titles like Paralegal and Plan Administrator and Womens' Advocate, all of which sounded more important than they really were.

I started my working life with manual typewriters, calculators and cash registers. You corrected errors by erasing, totaled figures by pulling an arm at the side, made change in your head. I learned to operate a switchboard by means of plugging in cords. When I worked for Aetna Insurance, our production rate was monitored by accumulating the little tickets that were paper-clipped to each endorsement. I got my first computer in 1985. It send my column to New York at the heart-stopping rate of 1200 baud.

When I began working, the minimum wage was $1.05 and you accepted that all your bosses would be men. All the librarians might be women but the Head Librarian would be a man. Every teacher might be a woman but the Principal would be a man. Postal clerks might be women but the Postmaster would be a man. When I first bar-tended, women weren't allowed to sit at the bar in Indiana. Doctors were mostly men and so were lawyers. When the first women marched and sued and burned their bras (which never really happened but it is so much a part of our belief system, it might as well have, rather like Al Gore saying he invented the internet), they were scorned as rabble-rousing "women's libbers" but today's women should appreciate them for the changes they brought about.

In all those years of doing all those jobs, it seems as if you'll never reach the end of the road until, finally, you do. All that remains is the one calling that has brought the most joy and the one title that brought the most pride, which is Writer. But it is all the deductions made from all those other paychecks that allow me to focus now. The dream that is left is making the transition from Columnist to Novelist.

Onward and upward to new challenges.

 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Out of Balance

The most important element of a successful society is balance. Since the beginning of time, life has been a tug-of-war between the Haves and the Have-nots. I don't expect this to ever change unless we become much more highly evolved than we currently are because most of us don't think in long-range societal terms but in short-term personal ones.

Henry Ford thought that the ideal ratio between management salaries and production worker wages was seven percent. Thus if the punch press operator made $7 an hour; the vice-president in charge of sales made $49 an hour. That gave plenty of room for executives to be rewarded with what was considered affluence in their era.

Today, the ratio of pay between the board room and factory floor is roughly 344 per cent. In other words, lunch bucket employees now have to work almost a year to earn what the CEO is paid in a day!

In the on-going struggle between the Haves and the Have-nots, the Haves almost always win. In fact, I can't think of a time or a place where they didn't ultimately prevail. Even in countries overtaken by revolution, whose new political leaders rallied under the cause of "power to the people", the end was the same, no matter what political ideology was professed. Did "the people" gain power in Cuba? Did they gain power in Russia? Nope, the new Haves might have had different faces than the old Haves but unfortunately, their greed and lust to accumulate power and wealth resulted in the same old-same old behavior.

Most Have-nots are satisfied if they can live their lives with some semblance of security. Give them enough to feed their families and provide a decent home, send their kids to school and have a few little perks on the side and they generally won't make waves. The Power People can go about their business of buying influence and running the country pretty much as they please. Just keep your corruption at a tolerable level. Give your employees a little pat on the head now and then in the form of a raise or an extra holiday or even just a freakin' plaque to commend them on their attendance and they'll hang right in there with you.

The country runs most smoothly when there is a large contented middle class. That was the case during most of my working years. The Auto Workers and Steel Workers were the elite of the blue collars but the rest of us made enough to buy cars and make house payments and go on vacation now and then.

But the collective Haves, by their very nature, are never satisfied. They always want more and resent having to share. So employers discover that they can hire temps in place of permanent employees and save on benefits. They can mandate overtime rather than expanding their work force. They can hold their workers up on give-backs on their hourly rates. They can renege on the pensions and health insurance they promised their retirees. They can force out the 50-Somethings (and thus, save oodles on health insurance costs). And if all that isn't enough, hell, let's send the jobs to Mexico or China or India where workers are happy with slave wages and we don't have to be bothered by our demanding American employees at all!

And while Management is doing all that, Business jumps whole-hog into the screw-the-people pool. Bankers devise slick tricks to sell bogus mortgages. Insurance companies write the small print to exclude pre-existing conditions...and they get to define pre-existing. Pharmaceutical companies sell pills for $10 a piece that cost them a penny to produce. Instead of 50 ways to leave your lover, credit card companies compete to come up with 50 inventive ways to raise your interest. ("You let your library book go overdue, we're raising your rate!" - whee, isn't this fun?) The predators further lobby the ever-buyable Congress to make it more difficult for their prey to go bankrupt to escape from the entrapment of  massive medical bills and usurious credit card fees and ballooning mortgages.

Until, finally, the Have-nots are on the floor with the boot of the Haves on their neck.

But what the Haves always forget is that the relationship between us and them is symbiotic. Each side needs the other to prosper. If they no longer require our services as employees, we are still necessary as consumers. When we are dumped out of the labor market, we no longer buy cars and clothes and carpet. We no longer go to movies or stay in motels or attend sporting events.

Now, instead of paying our way, we're a drag on society. We're collecting unemployment insurance and living in subsidized housing and buying our food with food stamps. Our kids are in the free lunch line and we're going to the emergency room when we get sick.

We're paying less into the coffers of our country and state and county and city although we're taking more out of them.

It's a vicious freaking circle but in their arrogance, the Haves don't see that, believing as they do that everything begins and ends with them. Because of their selfish short-sightedness, consumer confidence is down, the Dow is dropping and the deficit is rising. Unemployment is at 9+ per cent (with the "real" rate being closer to 16).  Our houses are worth less than we owe on them. The newly-graduated are burdened with backbreaking loans.

And we, the Have-nots, are getting angry but here is what seems to be somewhat different in the U.S. in 2011 than I ever remember before. It used to be that a majority of the working class supported one another. Thus, unions struck and picket lines weren't crossed. Poor people marched and their fellows cheered them on. The Have-nots voted for politicians who seemed sympathetic to their causes.

Today in America, we have a militant and influential Tea Party crowd who have thrown their lot in with the Haves. They have more sympathy for Bill Gates and his onerous taxes than they do Joe Six-Pack on the unemployment line (even though, ironically, Bill himself doesn't think he pays his fair share of taxes). They side with Management against the Unions. They decry entitlements in favor of survival of the fittest.  "Down with Social Security! Bring back the Poor Farm!"

To me, their beliefs are in total opposition to their best interests. Have they never been unemployed and frightened for the future of their family? Have they never been sick and scared and without insurance? Do their parents not depend on Social Security to live a dignified old age? Would they let their children go hungry before they stooped to accept food stamps? Are they so sure of their own superiority that they don't believe they could ever end up in that place or do they believe that the over-$200,000-year crowd will reward them for their fealty, like the Squire who gives an extra helping of porridge to the peon who betrays his fellows in their revolt?

So, once again, as so many times in history, society is top-heavy in favor of the Haves. As we should know from past experience, our economic situation will remain dismal unless we change that equation. For that to happen, both the Haves and their Tea Party sycophants have to believe that is a desirable goal. I don't see any signs of that yet.

 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jimmie Johnson, MSNBC and the New York Times

I'm a liberal-leaning, Democrat-voting, social security-collecting female. I don't drink beer or hunt deer. I don't belong to the NRA or the Tea Party. I don't camp out or ride a Harley. I'm in favor of gay marriage. I'm pro-choice.  I live in the flatlands of the midwest. My ancestors never ran moonshine as far as I know. My absolute passion is NASCAR. I think the sexiest sound in the world (right in front of screaming guitars) is the roar of 43 engines starting. I think there is no thrill like seeing your driver (which in my case happens to be Jimmie Johnson) take the checkered flag. I jump up from my chair and scream like a teenager when that happens.

NASCAR is the second most watched sport after the NFL. At the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis two weeks ago, sportscasters decried that "only" 128,000 people showed up. Isn't this a larger crowd than ever attends the Super Bowl? Or the World Series? Or the NBA playoffs?

So, in light of this, how's come the television stations I watch most frequently and the newspapers I read most often act as if NASCAR doesn't even exist? Is it because NASCAR isn't politically correct enough for Morning Joe? Does the New York Times accept the generalization that all NASCAR fans are booze-swilling, low-intellect rednecks (as opposed, of course, to those pillars of intelligent rectitude - football fans?)

Is that why they will go into detail about curling contests and tiddley winks trials and cheerleading championships and mention nary a word about NASCAR? It doesn't appear that the more left-leaning of the news stations are especially enamored of any form of auto racing but they will occasionally stray from stick and ball sports to give a word to Formula One or IndyCars, which I guess, they consider the aristocrats of motorsports.   But, NASCAR? It takes a really horrendous wreck to get their attention and then it's covered with a sort of "can you believe the Neanderthals who enjoy this stuff?" superiority that is worse than ignoring us altogether.

Perhaps, it is because NASCAR appears on their competitor station, Fox Sports, but if so, that is a narrow-minded attitude for a professional news organization to have. A sport is a sport and deserves to be covered in proportion to its number of fans no matter where its events appear. Does NBC pretend football doesn't exist because the games are shown on ABC? (I may have this wrong but I neither know nor care).

Last year, I paid special attention after NASCAR's last race in Homestead-Miami where our champion was declared. That happened to be my driver, Jimmie Johnson, and it happened to be his fifth consecutive championship, a feat no other NASCAR driver has ever achieved.

Surely, surely, this would be a news-worthy story, even for Morning Joe. I mean, come on, for Pete's sake, Joe Scarborough is a southerner, proudly hailing from the Redneck Riviera of Florida. His son attends college in Alabama. You'd think that would be enough to get him to suggest to his producers, "how about devoting a sentence to NASCAR?" but nope, they'd fall all over the winner of a spelling bee before they saw fit to honor our champion. (The same guy, by the way, who was named Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press).

This presents me with a dilemma. I despise Fox News, believing as I do that their reporting is so biased as to be a total farce. They screw over my side of the political equation with such regularity that I don't believe a word they say.

On the other hand, the stations I'm more inclined to watch for news are equally as prejudiced against my sport which makes me distrust them as much as I mistrust Fox.

Ditto the New York Times.

A news organization is either "fair and balanced" in ALL areas or its not fair and balanced at all.

 

 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Our Priorities are SNAFU

Well, well, well, in the middle of all the hysteria and hoo-hah about raising the debt limit ceiling, we hear that the HSBC banking group is planning to lay-off 30,000 employees....and what do you think happened to their stock? Why, it went up 4 percent, of course. If that doesn't tell you that Wall Street and Main Street have very different visions, I don't know what would.

To me, average American in a red state small town, that is the single most telling statistic in all the tsunami of political information we've been subject to in the last few weeks. People like me sit here and watch the disappointing job figures, the continued high unemployment rate (actual rate = 20 percent - not the 9 something the official figures say it is) and feel despair about what Wall Street celebrates.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle love the phrase - "the American people want...." which they then follow with what they want. But I believe that what the American people want is jobs, something that appears far down on the priority list of most of our representatives. Some of whom want debt reduction; some want no new tax increases; some want more revenues; some want less government spending; some want to protect the poor and elderly. Oddly enough, the one thing that would give them all what they desire is putting Americans back to work.

More workers means more tax revenues even without raising taxes, thus improving the deficit. Higher employment means more consumers so sellers would sell more and also pay more taxes in a cycle of improving fortunes for everyone. An expanding work force would mean less government spending on social welfare programs, freeing more dollars to go toward the hard-core poor and the elderly.

It seems to me that our first priority at the start of this recession should have been a mega-jobs program,  jumpstarted by federal dollars. Not only would it have provided paychecks, it would have meant desperately needed improvements to our infrastructure as well. (Unless we just enjoy the entertaining spectacle of bridges collapsing beneath us, of course). The initial salaries would be spent to buy houses and cars and refrigerators and go on vacations, thus causing contractors and car manufacturers and refrigerator producers and hotels and restaurants and airlines to take on new employees themselves, adding more salaries to the economy.

And if we want to give tax breaks to corporations, it should be in the form of rebates for every job they add to their payroll (in America, that is) along with other creative incentives for increasing their workforce.

All this seems so elementary that I figure there must be personal for-profit reasons that our representatives don't want to do it. Maybe we should form a working people lobby and pay them off like the big pharmaceuticals and insurance companies and banks do.

To be fair, some of our politicians did speak out for job creation policies but they were in the minority. A jobs program as a way back from recession never even came close to making the cut. First, we had to rush in and spend billions to save the banks, then we switched to deciding that the deficit was The Issue. Thank you, Tea Party. How fucking short-sighted can you be?

The plan that now looks as though it will pass (at this writing, the House has passed it and it seems a foregone conclusion that the Senate will do the same) will do nothing for unemployment. If anything, it will make it worse....which will mean more people on welfare, on medicaid, not spending on consumer goods, losing their houses, not being able to send their kids to college, not going on vacation. And when the Super-Committee is named and starts looking to wrench more deficit reduction out of the economy, they will include the military, and what do you want to bet those cuts will be mostly in the area of personnel and not the pet programs in the districts of our congressional representatives. So then the ex-soldiers will be added to the unemployment rolls too.

I was a Hillary supporter during the primaries because I wanted a warrior for my president and I thought she would be one. I guess we'll never know about that (although her courage about speaking out as Secretary of State indicates that I was right) but we do know for sure that while Barack Obama may have a lot of good qualities, a warrior he is not. And so we end up with this pathetic piece of legislation that won't do a thing for the American working class....but, hell, we should be used to that by now.

And, meanwhile, I guess Wall Street will see more companies shedding workers and rejoice.