Sunday, April 27, 2014

One Thing Leads To Another...And Another...And Another.

My house is total chaos and it all began because I found a vase I loved for my dining room table. I have no talent with flower arranging so I asked Brenda to help. The vase I bought cost $20 on sale. Brenda and I went to Michael's where I spent way to much on silk flowers to fill the vase. I spent way too much on place mates to put around the vase. I spent way too much on antique plates to put on the place mats. I spent way too much on linen napkins (which I had to buy two sets of because we were told by the elegant lady in the store that style now is to use double napkins) to put on the plates and way too much on napkin rings to put on the napkins.

Furthermore, when Brenda came to work on the flowers, she brought along her beloved tray of rags, cleaning potions, sponges and brushes. Brenda is my clean freak friend. She faces the prospect of cleaning with the same sense of anticipation I get walking into a casino.

I looked at her aghast and asked, "what is all that for?"

She looked back at me in horror. "You're surely not planning to put all this beautiful new stuff in a room without washing down the walls first?"

"I'm not?"

"No," she said firmly, "you're not."

So we spent a week cleaning walls before we could even think about flowers and plates and napkins. She drove me when I thought I couldn't go on but we finally finished. Then I decided to move all the furniture around which we'd moved anyway because we had to get behind it to wash the walls. I'd wanted to wash around it but Brenda said no.

"You'd know all that dirt was still back there."

"But I wouldn't care," I said sullenly.

John had to move my monster old desk/computer unit. It has to be unscrewed and taken apart and is very heavy. I'd always hated that the only place I could put it blocked part of one window (because of the piano which is now gone). Now it is in a corner and looks so much better. I also always disliked Mom's old cupboard by the doorway too. Now it is on a wall of it's own.

Of course, the things in and on the desk had to be taken out and then put back which was a perfect time to sort through it all the accumulated stuff that had landed there over time. I threw away all the floppy disks and the old Polaroid camera and stacks of yellowed greeting cards that various charities had sent Mom in appreciation for her frequent donations (having already disposed of 15 dream catchers and a dozen cross necklaces and approximately 8 million address labels). In addition, all the glassware in the cupboard had to be taken out and washed. I'm replacing one bookcase with another so the books have to be removed from each and traded around.

It has been over a month now and the leaf still isn't in the dining room table. There still isn't a vase of flowers on it or any place mats or plates or napkins.

When I put everything back together on the desk, I was proud that I'd evidently hooked everything up correctly because the computer fired right up, even the internet, then I tried to use the phone and it was dead. I called Metrolink on the dreaded cell and their test showed I had a phone off the hook but I looked and I don't have a phone off the hook. I will probably have to have them come out and they'll find some really stupid thing I did or didn't do.

Once the walls were washed, Brenda looked around appraisingly (and happily).

"You know, we really need to take the drapes down and wash them and probably shampoo the carpet too."

Obviously, she is holding the vase hostage to her cleaning fetish. If the flowers were done, I'd probably just de-friend her but as it, what can I do but go along?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Allen West Is Full Of It.


A couple of my friends recently posted a snarky little essay on Facebook by Allen West - Top Ten Reasons to Vote Democrat in 2014. 

Allen West is totally out of the reality ballpark when it comes to what Democrats believe. Since he doesn't like Democrats and doesn't respect Democrats and possibly doesn't even know any Democrats, I thought I would attempt a response from an actual living, breathing Democrat.

Top 10 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I can't wait for college football season to be delayed or cancelled because the student athletes are union employees."

My answer - Yep, you're pretty right on on this one but here's why: I think colleges have screwed the kids that actually bring the mega-bucks into their athletic programs for generations. Here is how valuable universities think sports are: Kentucky basketball coach salary = $5,387,978; Louisville basketball coach = 4,812,769; LSU football coach = $3,856,417; Alabama football coach = 45,476,738; Texas football coach = $5,353,750; Wisconsin football coach = $1,400,000. (Meanwhile, the highest paying universities pay their full professors an average of $180,000). And the kids, why they get nothing at all in return for their labors. Half the time, the schools don't even bother to give them a decent education out of the deal. This is a fair bargain how? $5,000,000 million for me, zero for you? Yep, that's how conservatives think all right.

Top 9 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I believe oil company profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't."

My answer - Oil (energy) companies are the largest and most profitable corporations in the world, holding 7 of the top ten spots. Royal Dutch Shell took in 30.3 TRILLION in revenues with a $1.5 trillion profit. Exxon is America's most profitable company with profits of $44.9 billion last year. So it doesn't appear that $.04 cents a gallon tax is hurting them to badly. And they don't have to build roads and repair bridges and fund schools and maintain parks and on and on. Instead the oil companies USE the benefits the government spends THEIR 15 cents on.

Top 8 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would."

My answer - I don't know what Mr West would spend his tax money on if he got to keep it but I consider taxes the dues we all pay to live in a civilized society so if he'd stash it in the Caymans (a la Mitt Romney) while the government would use it to feed hungry children, I'll go with the government.

Top 7 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it."

My answer - This is a bullshit meme by the oh-we're so victimized right. Facebook itself proves that Freedom of Speech is alive and well in America EVEN if it offends people. I see lots of things on Facebook that offend me (including this idiotic screed by Mr. West) but I don't complain and I don't turn him into the the Offensive Speech police. I just scroll on by....or occasionally take them on with my own right to Freedom of Speech. 

Top 6 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I'm way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that get police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion".

My answer - Again with playing the victim card. No legislation that has been proposed would take all their guns away from Americans. We Democrats would like to see background checks on all purchases and stricter penalties for straw sales which was what was in the bill the Republicans filibustered last time around (thank you, NRA). Background checks have actually stopped some criminals from buying guns...and just maybe, saved your child's life.

Top 5 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I'm not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy."

My response - I am pro-choice that is true. This is a personal decision that I don't believe politicians should have anything to say about....especially male politicians....especially male politicians who consistently voted against the best interests of those babies once they were born. My answer to abortion is to provide all kids (girls and BOYS) with sex education and all women with free contraception to minimize the number of abortions as much as possible. You will never stop unwanted pregnancies completely and making them illegal only makes them unsafe. As for inmates, I don't care if they are comfy but I believe everyone we are responsible for should be treated humanely, up to and including not torturing them.

Top 4 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education and Social Security benefits and we should take away the Social Security benefits from those who paid into it."

My response - No one is talking about changing/limiting/privatizing Social Security except your party, Mr. West. As for illegal aliens, I think its to our benefit that all people living in America to get health care and an education. That's better for us as a country. I think kids like the Dreamers, who've lived here virtually all their lives and know America as their only home, should be given amnesty. They make our country stronger, not weaker. They are contributors, not takers. 

Top 3 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should NOT be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrats see it."

My response - Of course, this is ridiculous. No Democrat believes corporations should not make a profit. If that were so, how do you explain that right now, businesses are making record profits and the stock market is at an all-time high under Barack Obama. The fact is that industry is ALWAYS more prosperous when Democrats are in charge. You could look it up but you probably won't because what you found would conflict with your fantasy.

Top 2 Reason - "I'll vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters."

My response - You're kidding, right? We now have the most conservative court we've had since the New Deal. Chief Justice John Roberts almost always sides with the conservatives in controversial cases. It is only Justice Kennedy that keeps the conservatives from winning every decision. Not only is this the most conservative court but it is the most pro-business court ever. This is the Citizens United court that said corporations are people and money is free speech, which allows big bucks to virtually buy our elections. This is the court that said, "nah, we don't need the Voting Rights Act anymore 'cause there's no discrimination in America". This is the conservative court that doesn't even try to shield its bias, as in Justice Thomas' wife being the head of a Tea Party group.

Top 1 Reason - "we buy oil from countries that hate us but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, fish or frog."

My response - We are drilling more in America than we ever have. Our exports of foreign oil are less than they have been in decades. Nothing is allowed to stand in the way of Big Energy. They can perpetrate gigantic spills that despoil our sea coasts, our wetlands, our rivers, our neighborhoods and walk away with a slap on the wrist. They can engage in fracking that scientists now assert causes earthquakes ("too bad, so sad, get used to it neighbors") and most likely leak pollution into the water table. They dig mines then walk away from silted up creeks and bare mountaintops and dead miners. They hold their contaminated waste in ponds that leak and ruin whole stretches of rivers, not to mention poisoning the water of large sections of cities. They tear up the land to plant giant pipelines to carry especially nasty tar sands oil even though the people who live near the path of the pipeline protest again it. They bag up their radioactive waste and dump it in public places rather than dispose of it properly. So, it isn't only beetles, gophers, fish and frogs (you forgot birds, otters, turtles and numerous other forms of wildlife) who are risk. People who get in the way of Big Energy's agenda are endangered too.

Gee, Fox News printed Mr. West's little essay on their blog. Do you reckon they'll do the same for my response?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Clive Bundy - Welfare Recipient


Strange how people tend to have knee-jerk reactions regarding political issues. The very same people who piss and moan about lazy welfare recipients (particularly those who remain dependent on the government for generations), can't wait to load their weapons and head off to Nevada to stand with Clive Bundy against the evil, tyrannical feds.

I wonder how much research any of these folks have done on Bureau of Land Management-issued grazing rights? Do they think the rents charged by the BLM are fair? Do they even know how much they are? This is our land, don't forget.

The fact is that if you lease an AUM (the amount of land needed for one cow and calf for a month) from the states, you will pay approximately $12.30 (in 1998, probably higher now). The fee to lease a similar amount of private land averages $11.l0 (1999). The amount to lease that land from the federal government? $1.43.

And Cliven Bundy hasn't even paid that for 19 years, his theory being that his Mormon forefathers grazed that land for generations, before there was a Bureau of Land Management, and he should be grandfathered in for free grazing rights in perpetuity.

So, why is there a U.S. Grazing Service anyway? Well, it all started back in the 1940's when public lands were open to anyone who wanted to use them. The result of that, as you can imagine, was that everyone did - until the land was degraded to the point that cattle were starving due to lack of forage. So what did ranchers do? Why, they went crying to Congress to "do something" to help them. In response to their requests, the U.S. Grazing Service (which became the Bureau of Land Management) was set up to lease individual sections to ranchers (for extremely low rates) so only their cattle would be on that land instead of competing with every Tom, Dick and Harry who owned a cow.

Today, only about 20,000 ranchers hold permits to lease federal lands and guess what? Most of them are not ranchers at all. Big corporations, like Hilton, hold some, as does the mega-wealthy Ted Turner. The United Arab Emirates rents land from us, along with big investment companies.

And these leases do not benefit American taxpayers, they cost us!

They cost in money and also in the degradation of the land itself. Look at the picture above. Does this look like primo pastureland to you? No, it doesn't - but this is what the fight with Cliven Bundy is all about. Putting too many cattle on this kind of land results in over-grazing so that eventually, the only plant left is sage brush. Also, cattle naturally tend to congregate around any scarce source of water so that it becomes a muddy mess, despoiled by urine and feces.

Cattle compete with wildlife for the use of this land. For instance, we now only have about 37,000 wild horses (where there used to be 2,000,000). The BLM keeps rounding them up and selling and/or butchering them because they are a threat to the cattle. Cattle push big grazers like deer and elk farther and higher to find forage. Many ranchers (although not all) despise wolves and bears and cougars, all of whom see cows as a food source themselves.

Tourism and recreation actually contribute far more to western economies than cattle leases. For example, in the Central Winter Ecosystem Management Area in the Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, cattle leases are worth about $46,000 annually. Meanwhile, deer and turkey hunting brings in over $1,300,000. In the same way, tourists come from all over the country, and spend money, for the pleasure of watching wild horse herds running free in the west.

So, excuse me if I don't see Cliven Bundy as a great freedom fighter and I think the Tea Party types who read the biased right-wing blogs and go rushing to Nevada to take up arms in his defense are fools. Ditto, the people who post on Facebook about how they are on his side without knowing all the facts.

As far as I'm concerned, Clive Bundy is no better than that single Mom who collects food stamps, the one conservatives hate so much.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Playing By Different Rules


We Democrats are the Pollyanna party. We skip through life trying to see the best in people. We want to fix everything so our neighbors are happy....or at least housed, clothed, fed and treated for their medical conditions. Our hearts hurt when we see anything mistreated, whether that's a child, an elephant or a forest. We consider taxes the communal dues we all pay to live in a civilized society....and if you're lucky enough to have to pay a lot of them, that's a good thing for you. We think poor people are mostly that way through misjudgment or misfortune and not simply because they are grasping, greedy users out to get our stuff. In fact, many of us have a "there but for the grace of God, go I" attitude toward the poor. We think any two people who love each other should have the right to marry because no group gets to define marriage in the way that reflects their particular beliefs. We think that, over all, immigrants (even undocumented ones) do America more good than harm. We hate war and it takes a lot for us to agree to invade another country. September 11 was enough to bring us around but Iraq wasn't.

And you know what? We Democrats think we are winning the political war because we have the hearts and minds of many more Americans than the Republicans do. A majority of women agree with us, as do African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, the young....and all these groups are growing as the Republicans' base of the elderly, the ultra-wealthy and white males is shrinking, or at least, not expanding.

That does look pretty positive for the Democrats, right? But, hold the phone, because this is only the view from the surface.

The Republicans aren't even trying to compete on that playing field. They really don't care if their unwillingness to vote on immigration reform pisses off Latinos. They don't care if their refusal to pass Equal Pay (not to mention all the other War on Women issues) makes women unhappy. They don't care if their reluctance to update the Voting Rights Act upsets African-Americans. Do their views on the unemployment extension or a minimum wage increase or veterans benefits or "entitlement" programs like Social Security and Medicare disturb the unemployed, the poor, veterans or senior citizens. Oh, fucking well.

They have an entirely different agenda that really doesn't include voters.

First, they got a huge head start on that agenda by winning the 2012 elections as massively as they did. Because of it, they were able to re-write the congressional district maps, ensuring that Republicans could hold onto the seats they won for at least the next ten years. Democrats running for House seats got over a million more votes in the last election than Republicans but Republicans still won the majority because of the skewed make-up of congressional districts. And Republicans have even further plans for maximizing these advantages. Several states currently held by Republicans are considering going to a winner-take-all system for presidential elections which would minimize the votes cast by big city voters (Democrats) and enhance those cast by rural residents (Republicans), giving more of their electoral votes to the Republican candidate.

The Republicans' second big advantage is having a Supreme Court with a conservative majority biased in their favor. This is the Supreme Court that gave us Citizens United and more recently, McCutcheon v FEC. These are the "corporations are people" and "money is free speech" decisions which ensure that mega-rich individuals like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and the shadowy networks they bankroll can outspend citizens' groups and literally buy state elections without having to reveal themselves.

The right-wing Supremes are also complicit in assisting the Republicans by gutting a key part of the Voting Rights Act while congressional Republicans stonewall Democrats who want to pass an updated bill.

Next, an explosion in voter suppression legislation in red states contributes to Republican ascendancy in those states. More stringent voter i.d. which many elderly and poor don't possess and can't afford to obtain. Shorter early voting hours which mean some working people can't get to the polls or hours-long lines so that others simply give up and go home. Making it nearly impossible for students to vote on their campuses. Cutting the number of voting machines and polling places (while placing them in distant and inconvenient locations) in Democratic districts. Putting intimidating "poll watchers" in blue districts to "challenge" voters. Putting up threatening and misleading billboards to discourage people in minority neighborhoods from voting. ("Voter fraud is a felony - 3 1/2 years, $10,000!") All this despite the fact that there is not and never has been a significant voter fraud problem in America.

And when all else fails, Republicans simply ignore the rules. If you follow what is going in the states, you know that Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio and others have used dirty tricks that are breathtakingly egregious. Gaveling a voice vote closed and declaring a winner without counting or holding the vote in the middle of the night or adding contentious legislation onto their budget which had never been done before (Ohio) or adding it to a motorcycle safety bill without telling the Democrats (North Carolina) or not honoring a recall election by the voters (Michigan) or changing the rules about filibusters in mid-stream (Texas).

So, the political war in America is being fought on two different battlegrounds. While Democrats try to convince Americans to vote for them based on shared valued and ideas, Republicans concentrate on finding ways around voters.

Which side do you think will prevail in the end?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Conspiracy-Minded America

Diego Garcia - Is Malaysia Flight 370 Being Held Here?

Americans have always loved conspiracy. In my lifetime, I can remember conspiracy theories about JFK's assassination (which I actually never believed the American people got the real story about that), the "we-never-really-went-to-the-moon-it-was-all-staged-at-a-studio-in-Hollywood theory, the George Bush was responsible for 911 theory (because those towers had to have been blown up from inside!), the levees at New Orleans were purposely breached during Katrina and the this-one-or-that-one-isn't-really-dead theories.

And the American government has done a lot to create its own monster because they've lied to us so many times. The C.I.A. is just one big, giant lie factory and the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA have become the same. It's difficult to believe a word they say.

Still, in recent years, conspiracy has become a cottage industry in America, particularly with the election of Barack Obama. In the throes of of Obama Derangement Syndrome, his haters have become convinced that he 1) isn't an American, 2) isn't a Christian, 3) is a secret Muslim mole bent on the destruction of America, 4) Obamacare is actually a secret weapon meant to turn the U.S. into a socialist nation (you can pick your theory as to Obama's true political leanings - from one day to the next, he is a Nazi, a fascist, a socialist, a communist, the anti-Christ...). He has instituted death squads and even now, there are FEMA camps ready for the military (the ones who side with him anyway) to capture his political enemies. I guess they are just waiting until he confiscates all our guns. I'd say, he'd better be getting on it if he's going to get that done before his term of office is up......unless, of course, he never intends to relinquish power!)

It's amazing how those political enemies still have courage enough to post all the shit they do about Obama, right there on Facebook, risking kill squads and concentration camps, to bring the American people The Truth. Wow, we surely are the home of the brave!

The latest conspiracy is about Malaysia Flight 370 which disappeared three weeks ago with 239 on board. Since, then we've had false alarms and futile searches but we still don't have a clue about what happened despite ships and planes from several nations scouring the sea where it would have been likely to go down. And, of course, once again, the good old USA is the villain.

Now, there has been a supposed communication from one of the passengers, Philip Wood. The picture from his cell phone is black but it purports to show information which indicates that the plane is at a U.S. base in Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. Here is the text of the message:

“I have been held hostage by unknown military personal after my flight was hijacked (blindfolded). I work for IBM and I have managed to hide my cellphone in my ass during the hijack. I have been separated from the rest of the passengers and I am in a cell. My name is Philip Wood. I think I have been drugged as well and cannot think clearly.”

(Incidentally, in case you're curious, other journalists have testified that is is uncomfortable, but possible, to secrete an Iphone in your anus. I, myself, am not that dedicated so I can't back them up first-hand.)

The next question is: why would the U.S. want to hijack this plane? The answer posited is that among the passengers were several specialists in high tech surveillance and weaponry, mostly from China. Our government wants to interrogate them for information. And then what? The most common belief among conspiracy theorists is that we will kill those that have no value and imprison and enslave the rest.

So, there you go. Believe what you will. I guess if you buy into death squads and FEMA camps, if you can accept that our president is a Muslim traitor and our previous president blew up the Twin Towers, it isn't that much of a leap to give credibility to our the idea that our government would hijack a plane with 239 passengers on board.