Archive for September, 2010

Just the facts, Ma’am

Jon Stewart wants tens of thousands of people to join him in Washington on October 30 to speak softly and carry a small stick.  Bring back sanity to the political process and to those who rejoice in their insanity.

To show you how bad things are, Jon has a clip on his Daily Show web site  purportedly showing some of the worst political ads in the current zany season.  I watched one featuring Jimmy Donn for Congress.  There’s this guy standing near a punching bag.  He says “elect me and I’ll go to Washington and punch Obama in the balls!”  Then he whacks the bag a few times.  End of ad.

After lifting my jaw off the table, I decided to write a blog about it.  I Googled “Jimmy Donn” figuring he must have a website.  Turns out he’s a producer on Jon’s show.  It was a gag.  And I swallowed it.  Dummy.

Proved that I can believe anything.  Here I am, this supposed smart guy.  Been there, done that.  Old enough to know better.  Whatever.  Don’t you believe it.  I’m as messed up as the next guy.  So what makes me think that sanity, logic and understanding will play any part in the current election season?

For example, why would I think the media would beat on the Tea Party solutions to our problems?  Because there aren’t any.  Nada.  Oh, a couple maybe.  Reduce taxes for one of the least taxed countries in the world.  Reduce spending except for their social security, their own health care and the military.  Everyone else can whistle Dixie.  Especially the 44 million poverty stricken folks.  Try harder you guys, they say.  With a little luck and no help from Uncle, you too can be in the upper two percent of the population earning more than $250,000.

For example, why would I think the electorate would vote for people like Republican congressional candidate Dan Debicella of Connecticut who claims the stimulus bill didn’t save or create any jobs (in opposition to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office statement that the stimulus reduced the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 percentage points.)

For example, why would anyone believe the Republican Pledge to America that claims the only part of the economy that has expanded is government.  In fact, government employment has fallen and private sector jobs have gone up by over 700,000.  Or that jobless claims continue to soar when they are in fact below their highest levels.

For example, why would anyone vote for Sharron Angle who wants to unseat Nevada’s  Harry Reed.  Sharron’s ad says Harry voted to give “special tax breaks to illegal aliens.”  In fact, Reid sponsored a bill in 2007 that made it clear that illegal immigrants remain ineligible for tax breaks.  Oh, if that isn’t enough, Ms. Angle, a staunch proponent of the privatization of Social Security, said on August the 12th that she thought Social Security should be phased out in favor of a system resembling the one created in the 1980s by right-wing Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

For example, and to show that Republicans aren’t the only zanies, why would anyone believe  Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida who falsely accused his opponent Daniel Webster of a lack of patriotism and a big fan of the subservience of wives.  The opposite is true.

Yes, why would anybody believe that stuff?  Because we saw it on TV.  And we were too lazy to check it out.  We had better things to do.  Like whine, complain, and moan.  And throw our hands up in despair.  Woe is me.  It’s a lost cause.  What can I do about it?

Well, if you’re a Democrat or an Independent, try this for starters.

“You know, maybe his speeches aren’t as exciting as they used to be, but Obama’s done a lot.  Not as much as I’d like.  Not as much as he promised.  But it’s something.  And it’s a damn sight better than the Old Guy, the Snow Queen, the Bronze Bomber, the Kentuckian and their nay-sayers would have done.  So I’m gonna do whatever I can to see that we keep the Obama guys around. And I might even drag a bunch of bucks out of my wallet and send it where it’ll do the most good.  And for damn sure I’m gonna vote on November 2, maybe twice.”

After you’re memorized that you might even think about joining Jon Stewart on October 30.  But carry a big stick.

Make no exceptions

The morning started out peacefully enough.  Dragged myself down the hill to Help of Ojai, a little early expecting the Highway 150 road slurrying to delay me.  But it was even too hot for slurrying.

Checked out the tires, arranged the seatbelts and cleaned windows on the Help bus.  The birds had been particularly active over the weekend.  Tuned to KUSC, maneuvered out of the lot and drove north on Signal Street.  I passed the bowl reconstruction, the occasional parked car limiting the street to one and a half lanes, and arrived at the always-red light at the corner of Ojai Avenue.  So far so good, even without my morning coffee.

Heading north, the Signal/Ojai Avenue corner is virtually a blind intersection.  The post office blocks your view of westbound traffic (including pedestrians) while the theater severely limits any idea of what’s headed east.  I nearly always refuse to make a right turn on the red for fear of a fender bending  holocaust…or worse.

I am a reasonably conservative driver.  More so as I age.  Even more so with the bus.  Last thing I need is an accident or ticket.  Might lose my job and have to go on the public dole.  Wait, I am on the public dole.

The light turned green.  I cautiously began my re-entry.  Whoosh!  From the sidewalk on my left, using the crosswalk, moving at the speed of light against the red, came an apparently invincible bike rider.  Cheating death because it was me dragging my fanny, rather than someone else who was three minutes late to his first meeting of the day.

Flashes of letters to editor extolling biker rights, motorist crudity and the unfairness of traffic laws applying equally to all.  Another hapless young man flattened by someone in charge of a three ton behemoth.  What might have been.  Sharrows notwithstanding.

 Yes, I know that this unthinking biker was the exception.  Just like bad drivers are the exception.  But death makes no exceptions.  And neither should we.

 

Starve the beast

Drove the bus on Monday.  Pretty much the usual routine.  Charley in his wheel chair going to the cardiologist.  Joann in her chair off to school.  Bridget to Oak Tree house makes it a trifecta of wheeled conveyances.  Neatly topped off by the lunch bunch with assorted walkers and canes.  A good morning for them and for me.

And then I headed back up the hill.  KCRW’s Warren Olney in the background with Which Way LA.  I like Warren.  His style is non-confrontational, but incisive.  He tries to hide a liberal streak, not very well.  My kind of guy.

The subject was the Census Bureau poverty statistics in our rich nation.  44 million people below the poverty line.  One in seven of us.  Twenty percent of all children.  You qualify if there are four in your family and you earn less than $22,000 a year.  $1,833 a month.  If you spent it all on food, each meal would cost about $5.  With nothing left over for rent, medical care, cell phones and Starbucks.

Warren spoke with Beverly Damore.  She is with St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix and serves the needs of three-quarters of the same state that brought us their own version of immigration reform.  Beverly’s food bank has doubled in size the last two years distributing 72 million pounds of food annually to 500,000 Arizonans.  Many of her customers say “I used to be a donor, now I need your help.”  Or, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

Stephen Moore, chief economics writer for the Wall Street Journal thought it tragic that so many people were in need.  When asked if the current government safety net programs should be continued, he said “I’m not familiar with most of those programs, but I am an expert on unemployment benefits.”  Continuing, “We need to get people back to work and unemployment benefits stand in the way of that objective.  When people get those benefits, they are less inclined to take any job that comes along.”  He topped it off with ” The government stimulus programs haven’t worked.  The Reagan tax cuts did.”

Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute chimed in.  “I agree with Steve.  In normal times, unemployment benefits do postpone the worker’s need to jump into the first thing that comes along.  But one of the explicit purposes of those benefits is to make sure that people seeking work and available jobs are properly matched.  But this isn’t normal times.  There are five workers for every available job.  And, by the way, the only problem with the stimulus programs is that they aren’t big enough.”

Jason Perkins Cohen of Baltimore’s Job Opportunity Task Force added, “Few of the people we see are sitting home because they’d rather not be working.”

Which brings me to tax cuts.  I won’t bore you with details.  Enough to say that Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for two percent of taxpayers and take the money to help some of the 44 million folks we just talked about.  Now I know that a 3 percentage point increase in rich folks’ marginal tax rates is likely to be devastating.  American industry will grind to a halt.  Business owners will cease to expand their companies because of the horror of paying extra taxes on their increased sales volume.  And their annual vacations will be geographically restrained to this hemisphere.  What has this world come to!

So maybe the Snow Queen was right when she said…”the way to stop unnecessary government spending is to starve the beast.”  All 44 million of them.

Libbey Bowl-The work goes on

For those of you who are intimately involved with the reconstruction of Libbey Bowl (and for those who may be just lookie-loos) here’s a 360 degree panorama of the site as of September 10, 2010.  All you have to do is scroll around on the site just like you were standing in the middle of it.

Click and Enjoy.

Libbey Bowl Pano

Time to Forgive

It’s hot and Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday.  Figures.

Ever since I was a kid, people would say “don’t worry, it’s always hot for the holidays.”  I believed them.  I thought it was some kind of cruel punishment in addition to the retribution promised us in the synagogue.  And then a few years ago I checked the weather records and found that it wasn’t always hot for the holidays.  I told folks about it.  To no avail.  Their minds were made up.

We spend a lot of time on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur asking forgiveness.  Forgiveness for deceitful acts, wanton lust, greed, lack of charity, fear of strangers…it’s an all-inclusive list.  You name it, we got it.

There are those, like me, who journey to the synagogue but once, maybe twice a year.  There are many more who plan to go but find a reason to stay away.  And then there are others who say “duh, what day is today?”   So after much thought and as my first charitable act of the Jewish new year, I’ve decided to do it for them.

For John Boehner…please forgive him for that glorious tan while the less fortunate have to live in the dark corners of our world.

For Mitch McConnell…please forgive him for standing in the way of just about everything while waiting for his turn in the spotlight.

For Charlie Rangel…please forgive him for thinking he could get away with it.

For Sarah Palin…please forgive her for making a mockery of the political process in her pursuit of wealth.

For Meg Whitman…please forgive her for spending a hundred million dollars on a run for an office that nobody really wants, while at the same time turning right, left and center depending on the way the wind blows.

For Jan Brewer…please forgive her for lying about beheadings, the crime rate and the appearance of sea monsters in downtown Phoenix, and using those lies to agitate an already confused electorate.

For Glenn Beck…please forgive him for using his considerable dramatic skills to first alienate everyone to the left of Ghengis Kahn and then, courtesy of  a holy revelation, proclaim that this country’s salvation can come only through God.

For Newt Gingrich…please forgive him for demonizing Muslims in pursuit of his political agenda.

For Michele Bachmann…please forgive her…where do I begin?

For Antonin Scalia…please forgive him for believing that his fundamentalist view of the Constitution relieves him from being compassionate.

For Hamid Karzai…please forgive him for skilfully playing the United States for the suckers we are.

For Tony Blair…please forgive him for publishing a book.

For George Bush…please forgive him for a war we didn’t need, spending like a drunken sailor, setting science back a decade or two, and laying in the weeds while other ex-presidents contribute their not inconsiderable talents.

For Barack Obama…please forgive him for thinking that he could bring civil discourse back to an ever polarizing political process, settling for second best, and forgetting what made him so attractive to us.

For Lou Piniella…who thought he could bring the Cubs into contention and broke my heart trying.

And for those who’ll throw the current bums out in November in the hope of something better…I forgive you.


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