Archive for July, 2012

Where have all the flowers gone?

Where have all the flowers gone?

I glanced at Bill O’Reilly’s column in the Ventura Star and luxuriated in his itemization of the virtues and accomplishments of that movie great, Ronald Reagan.  Singlehandedly, Ronnie conquered inflation, put the brakes on the employment of lazy bureaucrats, lined the pockets of the already rich, brought the economy back from the Jimmy Carter abyss, and sent Communism packing.  Quite a guy.

Which made me think back to another president who also accomplished great things.  He offered the following as his formula for leading the country.

…Labor is the superior of capital.

…Property rights must henceforth be secondary to those of the common welfare.

…A maturing civilization should work to destroy unmerited social status.

…The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been to take from one man or class of men the right to enjoy power or wealth, position or immunity which has not been earned by service to his fellows.

…The people must insist on complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs and a law prohibiting the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes.

…The great central task includes conservation of natural resources, graduated income and inheritance taxes, a judiciary accountable to changing social and economic conditions, and public scrutiny of all political campaign spending both before and after elections.

Karl Marx maybe?  Franklin Roosevelt you say.  Close, but no cigar.  Those words were spoken by another Roosevelt.  Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president and a Republican.

 My how things have changed.  On Monday, the Grand Old Party sat on its senatorial behind while campaign disclosure took center stage.  As reported by the NY Times…

Two years ago, Congress came within a single Republican vote in the Senate of following the Supreme Court’s advice to require broad disclosure of campaign finance donors. The justices wanted voters to be able to decide for themselves “whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”  The court advised such disclosure in its otherwise disastrous Citizens United decision.

On Monday, Senate Democrats once again offered legislation that would reveal the names of those who make political contributions of $10,000 or more, including labor unions.  It would also require the disclosure of the true donor who uses  a third-party to cloud his identity.

Not one Republican voted for the bill, effectively filibustering it to death.  Even the once venerable John McCain, a one time supporter of campaign finance reform and a predictor of scandals as a result of the Citizens United case, sat on his hands.

As Bill O’Reilly says…And so the ghost of Ronald Reagan hovers; just waiting for a Romney séance in order to make his presence felt.  We do indeed live in scary times.

You got that right, Bill.


Leave us alone…We’re doing just great

Bobby Jindal.  There’s a name that rolls off the tongue.  Governor of Louisiana and one-time Republican vice-presidential prospect.  Champion of the free market, conservative philosophy, Tea Parties, and Cajun food.  The leader of the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law.

With 25% of Louisiana’s population living in poverty, Governor Jindal vowed on Fox and Friends to forego any federal funds that might, god forbid, improve their lives.

Smarting from the Supremes’ decision to give the Affordable Care Act a free ride and urged on by Republicans on Capitol Hill, Bobby and other NRA supported governors vowed to retain their purity by spitting on the additional federal funds available through ACA (aka Obamacare) to expand Medicaid.  Starting in 2014, the Feds will provide 100% of the funding to add millions of people to Medicaid.  Rich lazy people earning less than $14,000 a year (about $6.50 an hour) are eligible. Three years later, the states gotta  pick up 10% of the cost.  Financially ruinous if not downright Socialistic.

But, more importantly, he rails against the intrusion on his prerogative to handle these poor folks as he sees fit.  Appearing on Fox… It seems to me like the president measures success by how many people are on food stamp rolls and government-run health care. That’s not the American dream.  We’re going to do everything we can to elect Mitt Romney; to repeal this bad law and then replace it with a more patient-centered health care reform that puts patients, not the government, in control — not the government.

Right.  After all, for a century we’ve allowed the free market relatively unfettered access to everyone but us old folks and we’ve enjoyed the results that health care capitalism and unlimited consumer choice has brought us.  Like these…

 …CNN says that during the past year, 41 percent of young adults have forgone health care and treatments because of rising costs.

…The US spends more than two-and-a-half times on health care than the average of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

…We rank 50th in the world for life expectancy (Bosnia and Herzegovina are 45th.)

…Per Amnesty International, the US spends more than any other country on health care, and more on maternal health than any other type of hospital care. Despite this, women in the US have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than those in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea.  In 2009, the US had one of the highest infant mortality rates of any developed country.

…Depending who’s counting, up to 50,000,000 people in this country have no health care coverage.  A fact that just doesn’t exist in every other developed country.

But Bobby would rather continue this impressive record of achievement by doing it himself without interference from Washington carpetbaggers.  Reinforcing this macho stance, he and other like-minded neanderthals are raising the drawbridge and refusing to implement the health care exchanges, a key feature  of the ACA.

The Exchange is a simple way for those seeking health care insurance to find the best fit.  And the Act allows each of the states to set up their own version of the Exchange.  Alas, Bobby’s xenophobic attitude compelled him to offer the following warning to those of who just might find the Exchange beneficial…

I’m determined to stand up and say no. It makes no sense. This is a bad law. Obamacare, it doesn’t do what the president promised. Governors have the right, now with the Supreme Court ruling. They should stand up. We’re not expanding Medicaid. We’re not implementing the health exchange.

And there you have it.  No to helping more poor folks and no to giving anyone else a way to be more intelligent about their options.   A succinct expression of why, as Bobby says, we need to dump Obama in November and replace him with someone more like Bobby, more like Mitch, more like John,…maybe more like Mitt.


Uncle Nathan

I remember this photo hanging on the bedroom wall of our West Rogers Park two-flat.  We only had two bedrooms and I shared it comfortably with my widowed grandmother who made up for the crowded condition by rubbing my back.  The eight by ten room had a closet on one wall, windows on another and a door on the third.  A corner of the fourth was occupied by the photo.

A smiling, pudgy, twentyish face filled the frame.  The photo, taken in a day when color photography was in its infancy, had been colored with pencils to overcome the starkness of black and white.  Dressed in a tie and sweater, the young man’s hair is a light red and his eyes a bit blue.  If you had a daughter, you wouldn’t give a second thought to his dating her.

Whenever I asked my mother about the young man, she’d say “that’s your Uncle Nathan.  He got sick and died.”  A few years younger than my mother, he like her had come to this country  as a teenager just before the Depression.  I’d usually react to my mother’s terse description of Uncle Nathan with mild interest and with a small pang of regret that I’d never met him.  But, under the surface, something seemed to be missing from her story of my uncle’s demise.  Just what his illness was and where he was buried were two elements that seemed unmentionable.

Many years later, after I had traded my grandmother’s company for Sweetie’s loving arms, the story of Uncle Nathan grew legs.  A darker picture emerged.  He had not simply gotten sick and died.  He had run afoul of the law, been caught, sent to prison and died there.

A July 12, 1936 article in the Los Angeles Times chronicles the adventures of Nathan and several accomplices whose names would fit nicely into a movie about Bugsy Siegel, Dick Tracy or Meyer Lansky.  Multiple robberies, an unfortunate demise, and extradition from Chicago to Los Angeles play prominent parts in the recital.  Conviction and incarceration in San Quentin quickly followed.  Case closed…but not quite.

About a year ago the State of California was kind enough to exchange a copy of Uncle Nathan’s death certificate for my $10. Clinically, the certificate announces that Nathan departed this mortal coil on April 6, 1941 just a month shy of my second birthday.  Done in by fellow inmates, he had been in the Big House four and a half years.  Twenty-four when he got there, twenty-eight when he left.  Interment at Eternal Home Cemetery, Colma, California.

How many degrees of separation?  His “Usual Occupation” was listed as “Photographer”, my brother’s occupation for many years and a hobby that occupies a good deal of my time.  Eternal Home Cemetery is walking distance from the first house we rented in Daly City.  The coincidence ends there as I have yet to be incarcerated in a public institution.

We visit our Berkeley kids a few times a year.  On a number of occasions, I promised myself that I would make a special trip to Colma to find Uncle Nathan.  Last week, I fulfilled that promise.

Sweetie and I hopped on BART at the North Berkeley station.  Fifty minutes later we exited at the Colma station, walked about a third of mile and arrived at the Eternal Home Cemetery.  Sandwiched between the Italian Cemetery, the Serbian Cemetery and Route 82,  Eternal Home is a basic Jewish institution that has been there for at least seventy-five years.  With not a tree in sight, it has a somewhat arid appearance perhaps appropriate to our middle-east heritage.

A few days prior to our adventure, I phoned the cemetery and was assured that indeed Uncle Nathan was in residence.  Section 8, Row A, Grave 23.  Upon our arrival we found the office, a room about the size of the bedroom shared with my grandmother, and the lovely Lisa the office manager.  Using a yellow highlighter, Lisa pointed us in the right direction and off we went.

Arriving at the approximate location we scoured the various gravestones for a sign of Nathan.  Twenty minutes of futility led a trip back to Lisa who, the sign announced, was off to lunch.  It was sunny and  quiet, a rare day.  We sat and absorbed the memories and electric energies in silence.

Upon Lisa’s return she accompanied us on our search.  Her records indicated that Uncle Nathan resided between Mr. Small in grave 22 and Mr. Kaplan in grave 24.  Arriving at the correct spot, there was only bare ground.  No marker, nada, nothing.  Residing in anonymity for seventy-one years and shunned by those ashamed of his deeds, we were perhaps his first visitors.

Sweetie and I looked at each other and almost as one we said “he should have a marker.”  Seventy-one years is long enough.  Forgiveness is in the cards.  And won’t Bubby be pleased.  You bet.



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