Archive for April, 2013

The Sequester is Over

Thank goodness our elected representatives pay attention to their constituents.

Members of Congress took it upon themselves today to ease their own discomfort and at the same time quiet the wrath that came down upon them by the flying public.  Air controller furloughs have ended and all is well in the nation’s airports…for folks with money.

Airport passengers, having had their fill of overpriced bottled water, hard-shell seats designed for alien beings and delays that cut into their work and play schedules, took over public address systems and announced that they were mad as hell and wouldn’t take it anymore.  Prominently heard above the din were rants that focused on the sequester, a Rube Goldberg plan that had been designed and implemented by folks who never thought it would affect them.

Ah yes, there is joy in Mudville again.  Senators and Congressmen can get back to what they know best, raising money from rich people who, they have been bluntly reminded, are not to be trifled with.

A nearly unanimous Senate and ninety percent of the House said with nary a whimper “oops, my bad.”  They can surely be excused from not anticipating the consequences of their actions since they only had a year to think about it after they adopted the poison pill, hara-kiri approach to running the nation’s affairs.

Now that five percent of the public can get back to their Boeing 727 seats and reach their destinations with a minimum of discomfort, perhaps those who are less fortunate than the flying public can learn something from that experience.

For example, seniors who will, as a result of the sequester, have their Meals on Wheels delicacies reduced to bare subsistence levels might think about taking a bus to Washington, invading the Senate cafeteria, and, like John Belushi did in Animal House, start a food fight.

Children who can no longer participate in Head Start programs might consider a field trip to Dulles Airport where they can plant their cute bodies in the middle of a runway and teach themselves the true meaning of representative government.

But some good might come of all this.  Piece by piece the sequestered funds will be restored.  Today, air controllers. Tomorrow, seniors and little kids.  Next week food inspectors and potholes. Congress can act like the tooth fairly.  Leave a broken life on the Capitol steps at night and get a wonderful surprise in the morning.

No need for our elected representatives to think.  They can just wait for the next body to be presented to them.  And vote accordingly.


A Tree Grows All Alone at Libbey Bowl

I opened an e-mail from Anna this morning.  One of my favorite people at the Ojai Music Festival office, I always enjoy hearing from her even when she’s asking for money.

I had all but forgotten that Sweetie and I had donated some bucks to the building of the new Libbey Bowl and had asked to be recognized through the adoption of one of the new trees gracing the site.

Anna’s e-mail informed me that some plaque-snatcher had either absconded with or trashed the memorializing plaque.  And we had never even seen it, never had the pleasure of meeting our tree.

I’m sure that our no-doubt glorious tree had enjoyed the company of the fancy sign with our names on it.  After all, what better way to spend a relatively unmoving existence than wondering who those folks were whose names stood in close proximity to its ever-expanding trunk.  Could they be famous people?  Surely they must be tree lovers.  But sadly, over time, the tree wondered why they never came to visit.

Braving the elements, struggling to send its roots to a more stable location, and listening to what at times must have seemed like discordant sounds emanating from the often strange-looking performers elevated above the seated multitude, the tree remained confident that its plaque-listed donors would eventually reveal themselves. And it would finally have a good tree hug.

Maybe it might, god willing, happen during the upcoming Music Festival.  Surely, they would come then, seek it out, introduce themselves, wrap their arms around its trunk, and marvel at what they had wrought.

I shudder to imagine what probably happened to dash the excitement that the tree must have felt in anticipation of the visit of its benefactors.  What put an end to one of its fondest desires.

It was dark.  Night, a time for the tree to rest and ingest oxygen after an exhausting day of absorbing carbon dioxide and producing the life-giving breath enjoyed by humans.  Disturbed by the approach of an unidentifiable specter, the tree wondered who might be roaming the park at this late hour.

Nearer the specter came.  Stopping before the tree, it slowly looked left, looked right, looked behind.  Reaching down at the base of the tree, the specter grasped the plaque.  The tree exploded with fear.  It expelled a silent tree scream.  Those are my friends.  They are coming to visit.  Don’t take that plaque.  They’ll never find me.  I’ll be alone.  Please...

Wrenching the plaque from its moorings, the specter listened and understood the tree’s pleading.  The specter looked at the welcoming umbrella of tree leaves, the smoothness of the graceful trunk, and proceeded to harden its heart.  It curled its lips into a sneer and malevolently twisted the plaque, rendering it into unrecognizable, useless, junk.  Dropping the detritus at the foot of the tree, the specter looked up and said I hate you, those who brought you here, and what you represent.

The tree, a sentient being serving only to enrich the lives of others, did not understand the specter.  But you do.

sad tree

90% isn’t enough

When I was on loan to the State of California in 1982, I had the pleasure of attending an interview with the then state treasurer, Jesse Unruh.  Prior to that, Mr. Unruh had been speaker of the Assembly.  And a bit prior to that he had been a believer in the democratic process.

The six of us sitting around the table were regaled with colorful stories about how the system operated.  Having the opportunity to ask pointed questions, one of my colleagues said “Is it true that you can buy a senator or assemblyman?”

Not missing a beat, Jesse said.  “Absolutely not, but you can rent quite a few.”

No better example of that profound statement was displayed in the United States Senate today when a minority of bought and paid for senators laid waste to a gun control bill that ninety percent of Americans yearned for and supported.  A law that might have made a difference in preventing the future deaths of five-year-olds while they eat milk and cookies in Mrs. Green’s kindergarten class.

Ninety percent of America believed it was good law, not perfect, but a dent in the mindless pursuit of guns that have no useful purpose other than entertainment and death.  And, for some people, both of those pursuits walk hand in hand.  It was those misbegotten people who would have been inconvenienced by a law supported by ninety percent of us.  A law far less restrictive than registering a car, obtaining a driver’s license or applying for a credit card.

Ninety percent of Democratic senators voted for the law while ninety percent of Republican senators voted against it.  Just in case you’re counting.

You’ve got to wonder who these elected paragons of virtue represent.  Oh, silly me.  Of course, the NRA.  In defense of their right to collectively thumb their forty-six noses at us, maybe they were misled by the NRA.  Lied to.  Lied to by an NRA that loudly proclaimed that the law would establish a national gun registry.  When in fact, the legislation expressly prohibited it.

Or maybe the forty-six were merely unimpressed by the effectiveness of the legislation.   As Republican Senator Charles Grassley, voting against the curbing of mindless violence, said following the vote…“Criminals do not submit to background checks now. They will not submit to expanded background checks.”  Bravo.

“It’s almost like you can see the finish line, but you just can’t get there,” said Andrew Goddard, whose son, Colin, was shot but survived the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

It’s enough to make me think that Jesse Unruh was right.  That things never change.  That the mindless minions will continue to be manipulated by people who have enough money to pay the rental.

What’s  a life worth anyway?  Outlaw abortion and arm the outlaws?  What a world.

Jmmy Stewart



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