Current Affairs

The Election and Its Demands (11/07/12)

I’m not as happy with the outcome of the re-election of President Obama rather than Romney, but I’m satisfied that the House remained in Republican majority. Had the Senate turned Republican as well, then that would have been an unpleasant four years. As it is, there will be the same gridlock as the past two years though the president has figured out ways around it when he wants to do so. I also feel that Romney would have been more effective in bridging this gap in partisan disagreement and might have turned the economy around.

But this post is more about something that occurred both before and is continuing on after the election, and I really can’t put it on Facebook.

With hurricane Sandy’s devastation to the New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey shorelines in particular, a New York friend is demanding that the Inaugural Ball be cancelled because 1) the money spent would be better used to help the disaster victims, and 2) she fails to see why anyone would have a big bash party while others are suffering. She is asking that we call or email Obama to insist on this.

For me, this seems an unreasonable request. First of all, it’s two months away. Not that the victims will be in much better shape by then, but still, no grieving period need be enforced. Particularly on a national event. Then there are the millions of donations and fund-raising events that have focused on these victims. The president has already surveyed the damages and promised FEMA dollars to the states affected. And, while the guest list at the Ball will likely be made up of extremely wealthy people, I don’t doubt that many of them have made generous donations already.

It’s unsettling to me that some folk feel that if they’re not okay, it’s not okay for anyone else to enjoy anything until those who’ve suffered even a natural disaster are somehow reimbursed for it or at the very least, that all laughter should cease for a while. And this bothers me in the same way that the 9/11 tragedy did: overlooking the individual heartache and loss to make it something bigger somehow just because more people were involved or a wider area was covered. Just over a month ago a local family lost its home and a man lost his life when a propane connection went wrong. Would it really be any more devastating to them if a neighborhood had blown up?

We seem to get over a single and more personal episode easily, and yet each is as life-changing to those involved as a massive destructive force. It is no more or less important to lose a single life or a single home, than it is to overcome the drama of a mass event to truly see the individual pain.


The Electoral College (11/06/12)

The only way I can see to make the electoral college system of voting work as it was meant to is to not let the labeling it confers defeat the voter.

If you are a Democrat in a designated “red” state, or if you are a Republican in a designated “blue” state, your vote is even more important. It can release the people from the shackles of being painted with a wide brush. Of the feeling of having your voting voice handed over to the party with which you don’t personally affiliate.

The feeling of despair and hopelessness comes from knowing that a preconception of your voting power is lost to you. But the fact is, is that the electoral college represents not the accurate wishes of the people, but it does represent the wishes of those who choose to vote.

Besides, the idea of being ignored by the campaign as candidates pump millions and millions of dollars into 9 so-called “battleground” states is an insult to the other 41. So much money was spent on and in these swing states that I don’t doubt it helped some of their citizens recover from the devastating recession.

I am registered as an Independent. The presidential candidates didn’t do much advertising, campaigning, or “wooing” of my vote, which is fine with me since I believe that campaign trail speeches are made by candidates to their own supporters. With the internet, there should be less money wasted on campaigning instead of the all-out funding it has turned into.


Bullying (10/03/12)

Not one comment or “Like” on this post this morning at Facebook. I’m guessing that half the folks disagree and the other half maybe felt it hit close to home.

I’d suspect it’s going to be pretty hard to teach children not to bully when adults and the media openly referred to a president of the United States as “Dubya” for eight years.


Hyperbolia and Two Wrongs Don”t Make a Right (9/24/12)

Came across this concept again in a Facebook posting this morning, that of hating haters and really, the nuance of language and escalation of emotional response because of word choice.

Hyperbolia is, of course, a word I just made up. It’s what I call the tendency of current opinion to rise to a level of frenetic energy simply caused by the use of terms that employ exaggeration.

When I ran into a comment about “hating the poor,” I stopped short. Who actually hates the poor? Maybe a healthy segment of the population worldwide and particularly here in America resent the poor (and that’s another point I’ll get into) but hate? I strongly doubt that anyone hates them.

On the other hand, evidently there are people who hate people who they think hate the poor. Now that’s a bit easier to understand. And that’s why it’s a quick and efficient way of whipping up some mob mentality and yes, hatred, against the so-named haters. Naming them haters gets people angry. Calling them resentful, well, meh. Of course we’ll forget about the fact that folks hating folks who hate….well, two wrongs, as they say. The preferred choice would be to avoid hate at all.

Now on the topic itself, that of people resenting the poor. That’s understandable if completely misplaced. No one likes to see things handed out to others that are inaccessible to those that could almost but not quite afford them. This same principle could apply to the resentment (I hate to call it hatred) of the rich currently in vogue.

Years ago, decades actually, I watched a documentary on welfare and listened as a young mother of two explained that she was caught in a rut. She wanted to work but a minimum wage salary, less taxes and little compensation for two children would be giving her less income than welfare paid. I applaud this woman for both her honesty and her smarts in doing the right thing for her children. I applaud the wealthy for taking all the tax breaks they are offered. That’s the intelligent thing to do.

What’s broken is not society or its people, but government regulations that are clearly maintaining the gap between rich and poor. Why is minimum wage so ridiculously low? In the last 40 years I’ve seen housing, cars, milk, bread, everything go up about tenfold. Yet minimum wage when I started working was $1.25 an hour. If it had kept up with the cost of living it should be about $12.50 or thereabouts.

And the wealthy? While people bitterly rant about their not paying their fair share, you have to keep in mind (besides the fact that they earn their income, whether we think so or not, as long as someone’s willing to pay them X amount) than 10% of $22,000,000 is $2,200,000. That’s a lot more than paying 20% on $50,000, ($10,000). Yes, ratio-wise it’s a big chunk and the one making $50k is likely to feel it more but still. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that the government via the IRS tax code allows deductions and loopholes that the wealthy taxpayer would be nuts to not take.

Therein lie the problems and solutions to government processes, believe it or not, are likely far, far more effective than trying to get each half of the country to hate the other.


The Latest Gaffe (9/17/12)

Yes, I listened to the Romney video.

To blame the poor for taking advantage of what the government hands them and to support that platform is the same as blaming the rich for taking advantage of what the government hands them and to support that platform.

Oh, wait a minute…people do.

It’s the rules and regulations that need to be changed, to stop the government from enabling abuse of its own best intentions.


Politics and People (9/06/12)

I can easily see myself considering voting for a Democrat this election–but not Obama. His method of steamrolling over half the Americans who disagreed with him on the healthcare reform act which included lots of things having nothing to do with healthcare and which handed guaranteed premiums to the big insurance corporations, his agenda of putting his own priorities above the people’s (whose desperate need of jobs and mortgage assistance of some sort was greater than health insurance), his caring more about children of illegal immigrants than hard-working Americans, and his continual bashing of Republicans particularly on the day when he lost complete control as the House went Republican, his too easy acceptance of credit without a balance of accepting responsibility for blame, his use of drones, his demonizing of Bush’s war while  a strong proponent of his own in Afghanistan, his childish campaign rhetoric against Republicans, wants something very, very different.

Do I like Mitt Romney? Not particularly. And it’s got nothing to do with his wealth. As a matter of fact, a quick look at estimated net worth figures of several people convinces me that how someone handles their personal finances is an interesting indicator of what they’ll do with my money–and explains a lot about the last four years. The Republicans haven’t been able to come up with an inspiring candidate for a while in my estimation.

One of the best slogans I’ve heard lately is something to the effect that gridlock is bad, but a consensus on a stupid idea is worse. But this is probably the deciding factor for me: I’m really into hope and change right now. Too many people have lost their jobs, their homes, their hope.


I Don’t Hate The Rich (9/06/12)

Easy to blame a faceless villainous group and create mob mentality against them; better to look at things realistically. This is an interesting perspective on the 1%.

And I certainly am nowhere near wealthy or upper middle class, maybe not even middle-middle class. But I find myself defending them because others are doing their best to exhort me to hating them, calling it unfair, unequal, and worse. But I was taught to take responsibility for myself and to help others when I could.

Its become a political campaign cry, one that sounds good and people feel they can relate to. But from this “hate the rich” category we have to selectively ignore many folks who are the good guys. Oprah Winfrey, for example, is someone we all admire and love. Her average income in one year equals Mitt Romney’s total net worth. We  don’t mention Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, because they’ve been technological geniuses and gave us Microsoft and Apple.

And the relativity of “wealth” is vague. To some, income over $100k a year would be considered rich. To many more, a savings account would be feeling rich. What’s the difference between making a million dollars a year or making twenty million? I don’t know and I’m not likely to find out.

How do you scream about somebody else’s money then have a $40,000 a plate dinner in your campaign? Isn’t that sort of exclusionary? Evidently there are plenty of folks who can afford that and are willing to pay it out for political reasons. That’s fine. It’s their money, their choice. It has nothing to do with me.

Most of this anger is carefully directed at corporate heads and other politicians. I like to look at the Forbes list of wealthiest (celebrities/people under 30/sports figures, etc.) and damn if the corporate heads don’t fade in comparison to rock stars and athletes.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Sounds right to me.


Feeling Bad  (9/05/12)

Just came out of a parking lot onto a main street and stopped in the left hand lane at the light. A young woman, dressed in printed sweatpants and a light pink hoodie holding an umbrella stands on the divider, within arm’s reach of drivers. In her other hand she holds a sign that reads, “Please Help.”

I didn’t.

There were several things going through my mind in that 30 second wait at the light. She looked undeniably sad and hopeless in her facial expression. She had a half-full bottle of an expensive juice at her feet. The mismatched clothes were almost overdone in looking planned-out poor. The umbrella was new. My wallet was in my hip pocket and not that easy to get to without taking some time. She wouldn’t look me directly in the eye.

The light changed and I took the turn quickly, embarrassed by my assessing the situation rather than simply digging out a couple bucks as quickly as I managed to turn the corner to leave her behind. I’ve never assessed someone’s need before; I simply gave something, whatever I could. If it was a scam, so what? How much am I out?

Even when I rethink my decision I can’t tell myself I did the right thing.  What convinces me I was wrong to not believe her or at least take the chance?

She wouldn’t look me directly in the eye.


 Ageism: Still Alive and Kicking (902/12)

Facebook posts most often disappear from history within an hour or so. Its a mini-version of the news media and operates much the same way. Posts are meant to be an immediate notification and commentary on the topic is offered as opinion so the poster is covered by that detail. The fact is the subject matter, the post is opinion, and the purpose is to create response, in many cases, one of outrage.

And we all get sucked into it regardless of our best intentions.

I recently posted (along with a slew of others) on the subject of a political campaign speech made by Clint Eastwood (you know, Rowdy Yates, Dirty Harry, not to mention all those super cowboy movies and involvement in California politics) that was unusual to say the least. But the vicious onslaught by the left on Eastwood was focused on him personally, dismissing him as possibly senile, drunk, rambling and old.

One in particular bothered me. This, from a college professor:

Clint was dumb but old…

Evidently, though age discrimination is covered by law, as are other forms of discrimination such as race and gender and sexual preference (though preference is a silly word since it’s not a preference at all but a natural orientation). However, ageism is not covered by political correctness and therefore, those who would get in an uproar over other forms of discrimination have no qualms about giggling about old people and their quirks.

I’m all for freedom of speech and am probably against being politically correct (even the term irks me–why do it for political reasoning?) though am an advocate of manners and consideration of the feelings of others. Somehow the remarks on and generalizing of people based on age doesn’t seem to bother most people. I’ve always enjoyed the company of the elderly and so maybe that’s why unkind remarks about age bother me more (though I too have a sense of humor and laugh with friends over age jokes) when they’re so blatantly passed off as fact.

My personal litmus test for “politically incorrect” or unkindness of such a remark is to switch the word “old” to a more favored and trendy source of ire:

Clint was dumb but black…


Cleo was dumb but a woman…

Now doesn’t that show the comment up for what it was?


Worshipping at the altar of Roland Barthes (9/01/12)

Though behaviorally a follower of almost all the rules and scholastically an A student throughout, I’m not one to blindly accept what I’m told. I’m the child who secretly tests for herself if the stove is hot. I played devil’s advocate before I knew what it meant. Risked (and got) a week’s detention in high school since I believed that culottes were, if anything, more an impediment to teenage lust than a skirt. Loved the word skeptic and promptly became one. Fought the notion of Barthes’ stance that the reader owned the writer’s words.

So yes, I’ve been stubborn, but once the principle has been proven to my own satisfaction, it becomes a more natural part of my point of view.

Then again, it’s still difficult for me to not react when I take something one way and see how different someone else can take the same set of facts, the same words, the same video, in such a different manner. I’m not talking twisting words by the press or pundits–which is why I don’t bother reading their analysis of the news. I’d rather see or read something and make up my own mind. I do go and read others’ opinions sometimes, to help clarify, but realize it’s necessary to read a huge amount of commentary coming from all directions, not just mine to confirm.

Then again, again, aren’t I just doing what Barthes has claimed and I accuse others of doing? Influencing each experience with my own previous experience and built-up slant on things?

Yes. Just as everyone else. And I guess that’s why the same thing will always be different.

So I need to work on the next step a bit: tolerance. And admit that I can be just as big a jackass as the next guy.


The Original PC (9/01/12)

That’s “politically correct” and it’s really just the new word for good manners in not calling out people because of race, gender, handicap, etc. But that etcetera does not yet cover age discrimination nor reference.

The Republican National Convention this year highlighted this oversight more than ever when eighty-two year-old Clint Eastwood spoke and was promptly called “old” with all the derision and bad jokes that folks who would shy away from had he simply been female or black could muster. Of course this was from the opposite party platform, the folks who with all good intentions created the term “politically correct.”

It’s disheartening to say the least. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the elderly. With grandparents who didn’t speak very much English, I missed out on much I might have learned from them. Despite communication that doesn’t require words, there was so much they could have told me, I’m sure, about their experience in coming to America in the early years of their marriage, about raising their children in a world new to them. But it did make me more aware of the experience and knowledge that older generations had to offer and I took advantage of the opportunity as much as I could.

To watch the tape of Eastwood’s presentation, after the bombardment of twitter and Facebook spewing of sarcasm and scorn, was just another eye-opener for me.

I’ve never believed in politically correct as it often is just a frosting to cover a bad cake. And I advocate free speech and people’s rights to say what they want, how they want. But I also believe in manners, and respect and the thoughtful avoidance of hurting others with words.

If people would look at what they say, replace “old” with “female” or “black” and reread what they’ve written, maybe they’d understand what I mean.


Sex, Lies, and Politics (8/30/12)

First off, I’m hiding from twitter and Facebook and political controversy there and too lazy to open a new weblog up for this, this wondrous presidential election campaigning.

Evidently, the Republican National Convention was punctuated by some fibbing, particularly by Paul Ryan in his vice presidential nomination acceptance speech. Too bad; I kind of like Ryan despite some of his personal beliefs and stances and the one thing I liked about him was he seemed like a stand-up kind of guy.

Now this is all hearsay since I didn’t watch any part of the convention on TV. I mean, come on, it’s been a centuries-long joke about campaign speeches and if i want to learn anything of the candidates, the campaign speeches are the last place I’d tune into. I’ve no doubt that the Democratic National Convention will produce a bunch of whoppers as well. It’s almost come to be expected. But should it still be so?

What does intrigue me is that it should become harder in this day of internet technology and databases and instant access to archival information that folks aren’t more reluctant to maneuver, manhandle, twist or outright lie about easily verifiable facts. That’s what interests me.

There are several possible reasons. Could be that they’ve taken a position of “the best defense is a good offense.” That often works. Could be a lack of ethics. I see lots more of that lately. Plagiarism is more easily forgiven and the blame instead placed on stress and the difficulty of getting ahead in academics or in the job if you depend on your own abilities under such tremendous pressure to achieve.

Maybe it’s the failing belief in religion, in an almighty power. After all, what’s to fear from another man who you can easily outwit. Or pay your dues and still get ahead. Without promise or threat, and believing we’re all so super special just in being alive, the risk of getting caught is worth the prize. Or our tendency to reassign blame. To avoid direct responsibility: it’s guns, it’s society, it’s his/ her teachers, it’s mom (who of course, was herself failed by society).

Could be Barnum’s “you can fool half the people all the time and all the people half the time…” Could be another from the world of entertainment: the reality show. Survivor, Big Brother. Encouraging and rewarding devious behavior.

Could be the bald-faced lie that has a 50/50 shot of working. In all my years, I’ve never seriously taken campaign lies or even official lies as hard as I did when Clinton, staring right into the camera that made it so much more personal than had he been up on a stage, say to me (and millions of other Americans) “I did not have sex with that woman.”  Or maybe it goes back further to Nixon, again looking right into the eye of the camera, saying, “I am not a crook.”

Maybe it’s become obvious that these things, when confronted, can be admitted without recourse. Oh well, yeah, gawrsh, you’re right. I mis-spoke (mis-spoke wasn’t a word when I was young; we called it a lie or at the very least, a mistake).

Maybe it’s a case of being forgotten soon enough, since our media is always bombarding us with more drama daily. So for a day you look like a liar. Then it’s buried in more politics. Too bad George didn’t try lying about the cherry tree. At least he’s been remembered for telling the truth centuries later. What if he’d lied and claimed innocence? My guess is that it wouldn’t have even survived his own lifetime.

Oh, there’s no sex in this post. I lied just to get your attention.