Archive for September, 2010

The More Things Change …..

September 29, 2010

….. the more they stay the same.

I am in a very black mood.  Look out.  I feel like my mother when she was in her eighties and she commented on the ways of the world, “This is a world going crazy.  I am not long for this world.”  Just a note: she did manage to live a solid ten years more, despite the lunacy.  This is exactly the way I feel lately: unbalanced, shocked and in disbelief of many events.

Very locally, there is a burglar in our part of the county that has hit over 80 targets in the last few months.  Last night, he hit nine neighbors within two blocks of my house.  He breaks into not only houses, but also cars, two from which he stole a couple of guns.  To add insult to injury about this scary turn of events, why can’t the NRA and its devoted followers lock up their guns?  Why does their lackadaisical ownership have to put the rest of us in danger?

Also locally, the plague of stinkbugs has invaded.  No real harm, just a creepy nuisance.

Then, on a grander scale, the absurdity is awesome.  If I didn’t witness the insanity myself, I would have never believed that Lady Gaga gave the best speech of the year, Bristol Palin is shaking her booty on “Dancing With the Stars,” and populist political candidates are gaining leverage in their pursuit of public office by stealing from their campaign chest and lying about their educational credentials — and that their constituents are falling in line and voting for those candidates.

The GOP’s and Tea Party’s accusations of socialism by our current administration is even more ridiculous.  The poverty rate is climbing and the gap between the wealthy and middle class is drastically widening .  To me, these trends signify exactly what the conservatives want, i.e. the increasing power of the rich, without a care in the world for those with less.  It is completely the opposite of socialism.  Shoot: President Obama is delivering  exactly what they want on a silver platter.  Why do they hate him so much still?

Was my mother right?  Has the world lost its mind or have I just lost my sense of humor?  I feel like an alien, living in a world of fallacies and absurdity.  Is this a symptom of the crazy uncertainty that President Obama is currently facing, or is it just lunacy?  I understand that the only certainty in life is uncertainty, but does that exclude limits on decorum, ethics and a modicum of good taste?

Thus, black as night is my mood.  I have debated whether or not I should include the following in one of my posts.  I decided to stoop to the lowest common denominator.  Let me have this luxury just once, and I promise that I will not do it again:

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

The Pursuit of Happiness

September 28, 2010

As an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University, I receive a copy of Johns Hopkins Magazine every quarter.  It is an informative periodical, chock full of articles on everything from medical breakthroughs to social phenomenon.  The Fall 2010 edition is particularly good, dealing with the topic of happiness. I was drawn to the articles related to politics.  Without comment, I have provided the links below to some fascinating reading.  Just enjoy.

“Can Democrats and Republicans Agree on Anything?”

“Happy Face, Glad Hand”

This is an article on the general misery of politicians:

Lastly, in the magazines small section titled “Quote, Unquote”, I found the following:

As much as we owe the nature of our current existence to the evolutionary forces Darwin first discovered, or the cultures we grow up in, or to the chemical states affecting our brain processes at any given moment, none of this impacts on our freedom. I am free because neither science nor religion can ever tell me, with certainty, what my future will be and what I should do about it. The dictum from Sartre gets it exactly right: I am condemned to freedom. I am not free because I can make choices, but because I must make them, all the time, even when I think I have no choice to make.

—William Egginton, professor in the humanities at the Krieger School, quoted in The New York Times’ Opinionator blog, 07.25.10.

When I speak About President Obama and the popularity pitfalls he has encountered in his first eighteen months in office, this quote becomes so relevant.  Freedom can be confining and the right to make choices carries with it great responsibility and often, unhappiness.  However, the alternative to freedom is an even deeper hell.

All three of these items I have cited remind us that everything has a price, even happiness.  But it is precisely that journey, those choices, that make life worthwhile.

Empathy Does Not Cut It

September 27, 2010

Empathy is not going to cut it, nor should it.  Not in these uncertain times.  Hell, EVERY era is uncertain.  Such is life.  President Obama’s plea that “I feel your pain” has about as much meaning to the unemployed and uninsured as does their understanding of what it like to be the President.

The nature of the position demands that our President be safe and sound in the White House.  Quite frankly, after hearing accusations of a royal White House, I offer this: I would rather see a President treated like royalty and be alive, than a dead, man-of-the-people.  Furthermore, Barack Obama made his fortune before he ever became President.  He is an accomplished, best-selling author.  There is no use trying to hide the facts.  It appears I am one of the few who do not condemn him for his financial success.  My theory has always been that if you work for it, you deserve it.  But the level of dissatisfaction is so high in America today, that practice is no longer acceptable.

Well folks, I do believe that the top earners should no longer receive the Bush tax cuts.  Part of the responsibility of those who are better off is to assume a higher tax burden.  With success comes a wider responsibility.  Shoot: even Bill Gates believes that the wealthy should pay more taxes.  As long as that monetary success was honestly worked for though, criticism across the board is uncalled for.  The gap between the classes is growing even larger.  This is not only so with regard to earning ability, but worse, the abyss between the haves and have-nots in terms of net worth is way out of whack.

I, for one, although definitely not ungrateful or unappreciative, was downright embarrassed by Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark public schools.  Here we are, a country of untold riches, and our individual billionaires are now assuming responsibility for our education for the people.  The GOP consider billionaires to be our “small businesses”, and thus, that is the rationale behind them maintaining the Bush tax cuts.

Job availability helps, as does a decent wage.  But so does a mind-set that requires saving and above all, much less spending.  Americans need to rely on themselves more, and less on the hope that government will save them.  I give you an example in point.  Millions of homeowners are under water with their mortgages, i.e. they owe more on their home loans than their houses are worth.  This could be due to a number of factors, such as adjustable rate mortgages that were very attractive for about the first five years of ownership but then their rates soared so high as to make it untenable for the homeowner to make monthly payments.  Another factor is that as the housing bubble increased, homeowners kept taking out equity, never considering that the bubble might burst.  Even though our houses have been our best investments over the last 40 or so years, there was never any guarantee that home prices would always go up.  How could all these borrowers have contemplated that the party would never end?

Applicable to the upcoming midterm elections, this worries me.  Extreme right-wing candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, never had a traditional work life.  She used campaign funds to pay her rent and other personal expenses.  To top it off, she is now praising that strategy because she “never took a hand out from the government.”  Sweetheart Chrissie: you stole from the PEOPLE.  But her stance strikes home with her supporters, because it puts her in the same miserable financial straits as them.  The slogan of the GOP and Tea Party should be “Misery Loves Company”, even if it is just a ploy to get the electorate to identify with the GOP and get back in power.  Empathy is being used by our politicians for illegal and dishonest aims.

This is why I couldn’t give a hoot for President Obama’s empathy.  The consensus on his falling popularity is that his messaging is off, out of touch with regular Americans.  I say “Hogwash.”  I voted for him because of his intellect, unemotional demeanor and long-term agenda.  Yeah, that’s right: long-term.  Maybe God created the earth in a week.  President Obama’s going to need a hell of a lot more time to not only right all the travesties that came before him, but also to affect major changes in policy for a constantly evolving America who has ignored some dire situations for decades.  We are not the same country we were 50 years ago.  Thus, a huge overhaul is mandatory to meet those challenges.  And America thinks this should have happened all within the first eighteen months of Obama’s tenure.

Is this a great country, or what?  How optimistic are Americans when they want what they want now?  Unfortunately, Americans are also very gullible.  They are falling for the GOP’s claims that all Americans will be uplifted by their “new” agenda.  There is nothing new about their latest pledge and it will certainly not elevate the bulk of Americans to the desired levels of financial security.  Only well-paying jobs, hard work and personal responsibility can accomplish that.  It is so much easier though for Americans to fall prey to this line of thinking that supposedly would include them in the elite, blue blooded aura of the GOP.  Have any of these GOP wannabes studied the history of the Republican party, their platforms, their policies and the results of their elitistism?  When it is convenient for them, the American electorate will sell themselves to the highest bidder, no matter how false their premise may be.

I am with President Obama now more than ever.  I do understand the frustration and impatience with him, but he is, by far, the best we have, and that is pretty damn good.  In order to create the jobs we need, new industries that cater to our new needs must be developed, such as alternative energy, an effective education system, a plan to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and a cost-efficient, viable health care organization.  We cannot sacrifice meeting these new needs by spouting old ideologies, by avoiding innovation.  Despite the fact that change  is very capital-intensive, now more than ever we need to revamp our country, and if done wisely, the jobs will follow.  A greater share of the tax burden must come from those that make more, and that will be the one biggest way to stem government borrowing.  Investing in our future is our only salvation.  That investment includes major spending first and foremost. The single most effective method to raising that money without borrowing from the government is to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

So empathy is one consideration, but empathy is useless unless it is backed up with realism and common sense.  Americans need to protect themselves from the dribble of the GOP and the Tea Party who applaud less government intervention while supporting huge tax cuts for the wealthy, clearly two policies that are totally at odds with each other.  No amount of empathy can erase that fallacy and no amount of empathy can serve as a true safety net.  Empathy does have its place in public policy but in the end, empathy is just the icing on the cake.  Empathy will not pay the bills.  It is a political tactic with very little real effect on what ails us.

An ample dose of realism coupled with foresight and patience will go a lot farther in correcting our nation’s path and meeting our needs than  empty promises and hand-holding empathy.  The choices are hard ones; change does not happen over night nor does it come cheap.  President Obama knows this.  He speaks the truth.  The United States needs huge investments in itself and the bulk of the costs should be covered by taxes on those that own the bulk of the wealth.  Can we handle the truth, or shall we continue to fall victim to the outright lies that are being handed to the middle class so that their votes can keep the top 2% of earners at the top of their game and the politicians in their own elected, cash cow ivory towers?

Empathy is not the solution to our woes or the President’s falling numbers.  The Democrats have to admit and embrace the underlying uncertainty that pervades every aspect of life.  Then, with specific plans they must go after the solutions.  The picture, the vast amount of changes that are called for, is not pretty.  This is no excuse to ignore our needs and retain the policies of the last 4o years that really have lost much of their relevance.

Empathy is a feel-good tactic; it will not alter our circumstances.  Uncertainty will always be with us.  Our choice is to either ignore it or deal with it.  President Obama is trying to teach us to confront uncertainty, while still maintaining a positive outlook.  Impossible?  Not if we are all on the same page.  Yeah, like that will happen.

Better To Be Lucky

September 24, 2010

Congratulations, kudos and admiration for working hard, being smart, being rich, birthing and raising health children.  People are indeed in charge of their destiny.  Yet, enough cannot be said for being just plain lucky.  Lucky trumps all else.

Mind you, having good luck is not an excuse for avoiding living a decent, productive life.  It is not an “out” for escaping responsibility.  But it sure is nice when it happens.  Luck should not be depended upon; it should be considered a very nice “dividend” when it goes your way.

I am keeping everything crossed that the Democrats get real lucky in November.  This attitude does not reflect any hopelessness.  To the contrary: if we can get the voters out on Election Day, we stand a chance.  However, if economic numbers continue to get stronger, the stock market continues to climb, President Obama can make progress on the Afghanistan front and the Palestinian-Israeli discussions, there are no natural disasters or terrorist attacks, that would be very lucky.  Forget about luck having anything to offer our increasing foreclosure rates and unemployment numbers.  That is definitely unrealistic.

Let’s keep talking, fighting and above all, supporting our team.  Plus, a little luck would go a long way.

Red Letter Day For The Blues

September 23, 2010

Today some very important new rules on health care go into effect.  This landmark day will only go to prove that we lost big when we did not get a public option.

Supposedly, as of this day, insurers are to provide insurance for ALL children, whether well or very ill.  There are (at least) two problems with this new regulation.  First, it concerns children, and lo and behold, America has often treated their children as their most expendable resources.  They do not have the vote.  Thus, we can use them as touchy-feelie campaign pawns, but when it comes time to deliver, they usually get nada.  Secondly, since our insurers are all private, faced with no real competition, if they choose not to implement new regulations, they are so entitled.  Aetna, Wellpoint and Cigna  have opted out of providing policies for sick children.  Case closed.  If these for-profit companies deem the new government guidelines as detrimental to their own financial health, they just abandon the market.

It truly is a red letter day for the Blues.  Instead of respecting and implementing the letter of the law, our private insurers use the loopholes to avoid the law.  If we ever do get decent health care coverage, it is going to take decades, despite the new law.  In true American fashion and selfish independence, it appears that the system must be dismantled before it is put back together.  First the insurers have to try to make an end-run around the new regulations: figure five to eight years.  Then, perhaps outrage will play a role, and real reform may occur: figure another eight to ten years.  This entire process could have been sped up by initiating a public option at the get-go.  However, that is not the way America works.

As a result, America has a lot more suffering to do, which is also a characteristic of the good old US of A.  The bitching and moaning is very dear to Americans and they want to hold on to that more than they want decent health care and coverage.  The number of uninsured Americans has crossed over the fifty million mark and poverty has increased at an alarming rate.  Childhood poverty is over twenty percent now.

And yet, today marks an upswing in avoidance measures rather than fixative actions.  This is not pragmatism; this is insanity.  This red letter day is going to kick all Americans right in their sad, blue asses.

No Z’s for Suzie; Lots of Z’s for Gaga

September 21, 2010

Pity the poor, pathetic senator from Maine, Susan Collins.  With the Senate’s vote on DADT imminent, the Democrats are one vote shy of successfully repealing this insulting, rights-infringing policy of our military.  Collins is going to have a hell of a hard time sleeping at night after she casts her do-not-repeal vote.  Although she is absolutely in favor of doing away with this policy, calling it unfair and morally indefensible”, today’s vote will not have her vote to repeal.

Why?  Because she is exacting an eye for an eye in protest of Harry Reid’s action to shut down a chance for the GOP senators to discuss other issues in the contemplation of this defense bill.  I find it unfathomable that Collins could ignore the constitutional rights and issues of fairness for our soldiers, millions of Americans who put their lives on the line, with one single vote of her hand all for the cause of fighting for a procedural item.  Would Collins hold that her vote is nothing personal against gay people?  She wouldn’t dare: designating gays as second class citizens is very personal.  In fact, it is about as personal as you can get.

This is what kills me: why can’t our elected officials simply vote on the issue at hand, vote their hearts and minds on the SPECIFIC proposal?  Instead, deals, agendas and earmarks always come to be the deciding factors in the debate.  What ever happened to following the guidelines of their job descriptions, i.e. to legislate  for the people?  I doubt very much that their oaths of office include the idea that they should legislate for the people only if there is something to be gained for the office holder.  Is their intelligence and depth of purpose so shallow that they cannot focus on the actual proposal on the table?

It is equally amazing to me that people like Collins find it acceptable to have our gay and lesbian soldiers die for our country but not be able to publicly voice their own sexual orientation.  Dying is okay; living honestly and openly is not.  This is why Collins is not going to be able to sleep well.  This stance is an affront to humanity at its most basic level, that of personhood.

Lady Gaga has come across my radar screen only as a passing media darling, and I never considered her “darling or gave her any thought at all.  Yesterday, the glorious Gaga gave a fifteen minute speech in Maine supporting the repeal of DADT.  In short, her words took my breath away.  Never, EVER judge a book by its cover alone.  Listen to this speech:

One is never too old to open their minds and learn something new.  Kudos to Gaga for her words yesterday.  She said what was in her heart and mind and she said it directly, involving no deals, no trade-offs.

So Senator Collins, good luck trying to catch some Z’s tonight.  Lady Gaga is going to sleep like a baby.

Shocking Relief From the Shocking

September 20, 2010

As if the moderate, business-as-usual politicians weren’t crooked and self-absorbed enough, now we have to contend with the Tea Party people and all of their rashness.  At this point, I am lost.  Is the Tea Party a force to be reckoned with or just a passing fad?  Got me.  Additional idiocy on the part of the released hiker in Iran making a side trip to tour the mosques in Oman before flying home to investigate the dire need for her release: a lump in her breast,  and then, the nerve of the Wiccan community to be upset by Christine O’Donnell’s witchcraft comments is beyond comprehension to me.  I need some distraction and thought you might need some relief as well.

The Black Bra

I had lunch with 2 of my unmarried friends.
One is engaged, one is a mistress, and I have been married for 20+ years.

We were chatting about our relationships and decided to amaze our men by greeting them at the door
Wearing a black bra, stiletto heels and a mask over our eyes. We agreed to meet in a few days to exchange notes..

Here’s how it all went.

My engaged friend
The other night when my boyfriend came over he found me with a black leather bodice, tall stilettos and a mask.
He saw me and said, ‘You are the woman of my dreams.
I love you.’ Then we made passionate love all night long.

The mistress:

Me too! The other night I met my lover at his office and I was wearing a raincoat, under it only the black bra, heels and
Mask over my eyes. When I opened the raincoat he didn’t say a word, but he started to tremble and we had wild sex all night.

Then I had to share my story :

When my husband came home I was wearing the black bra,
Black stockings, stilettos and a mask over my eyes.
When he came in the door and saw me he said,

“What’s for dinner, Zorro?”

And here’s one simply for “shock value”:

I’m sure  that you have seen pharmaceutical advertising in  doctor’s offices on everything from tissues to  note pads This one should get First  Prize….


Middle Ground

September 18, 2010

In the recent GOP primaries, there have been a number of Tea Party candidates who have won their GOP contests.  The Democrats are ecstatic about those outcomes because they believe that these extreme right wingers will lose big to their Democratic opponents in November.   I am not so sure about that.

Personally, I would have preferred to never have heard of people like Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell,  Sharron Angle or Carl Paladino, but I did not have that option.  I would feel so much safer if these fringe demagogues had never come to the party.  Do these new faces represent a real need for change, or are they political instruments that breed intolerance and unrest?  Are they just inexperienced, right-wingers, basically new faces, ready to take their places in a government that is supposed to be representative of America-at-large?  After all, wasn’t our government built upon the premise that ordinary, everyday people should hold leadership positions?  How come, then, it is okay for these far-right wingers to rise up through the ranks of elective office but not so for our sitting President, who is routinely chastized for his socialist and elitist (aren’t they opposites?!) policies, as well as his unique upbringing?  Aren’t these Tea Party mavens rejecting and criticizing in our President exactly what they are pushing themselves?   Their overwhelming message is that President Obama is an outsider, that his history paints him as way out of the mainstream of the American vision.  It couldn’t be a cultural factor, now could it?  Is middle ground a political concept that is in danger of falling victim to extremism?  Is it an excuse to actually impinge on our rights?  The Democrats should should be a lot more worried about what can happen at the polls in November.

We have always had certain fringe elements on our political radar screen.  However, the fear that this fringe will become the majority is a possibility we must face.  We have always had those blocs that cry out for less government in our lives, a stance usually coupled with restrictive rights for those who have less.  It is no secret that their proclamation of states’ rights usually means less rights.  Economics has always driven political ideology and today’s recessionary situation is no different.  Thus, we are seeing some far right conservatives, fired up by a strict, imposing religious element, taking advantage of the frustration of Americans in a financial bind.  Out of hopelessness and frustration, Americans are falling for this strategy without realizing that it could backfire on them in areas they couldn’t even imagine.

One element that runs through this ideological and political war, and it is much bigger than just an “undercurrent”, is the cultural revolt.  Above all of the criticisms of President Obama, the opposition’s comments always refer back to his birth, upbringing, educational credentials and religion.  Really though, the GOP is furious that a black man won, and decisively so, the highest office in our land.  This is the real danger of the escalation of the fringe groups: they will talk a good line of economic issues, but in reality they have intentions to alter our social and cultural values.  Christine O’Donnell, the GOP Tea Party candidate for senator in Delaware, expressed this war on civil and cultural rights when she said the other day that morality can definitely be legislated.

We know Maureen Dowd of the New York Times  as a funny, edgy Op-Ed writer.  She wrote of the hypocrisy, meddling, rights violations and outright racism of the ultra-conservatives.  Specifically, she wrote about Newt Gingrich:

This article is absolutely scathing and after I read it, I was ready to designate Dowd as a national treasure.  By not acknowledging the war of culture underlying the far right’s platform, the American people are setting themselves up for an even bigger disaster than their pocketbooks.  Will the mainstream GOP adopt this exclusionary stance, or will they admit that the proposed economic austerity is just a veil for social and cultural restrictions?  And will the people recognize this as well?

The loudest complaint about these Tea Party candidates is that the GOP has lost any middle ground, their moderate faction.  Democrats are also critical that the President is too close to the center, not progressive enough.  I must admit that our previous governments of moderation have botched things pretty badly.  Perhaps this bi-partisan unhappiness is something more than just a knee-jerk kind of reaction to our recent decades of government; perhaps there is some validity there.  However, the alternative must be considered.  A severe turn to the right or the left could drag down this country even more seriously than we have been so far.  Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post makes an excellent case for a centered, healthy government being a necessity for a like economy:

One issue that is contrary to common sense is the GOP’s as-yet refusal to end the Bush tax cuts.  They and their Tea Party cohorts scream for less spending and deficit reductions.  Yet at the same time, they have closed minds to revoking those Bush tax cuts that, according to actual numbers and expert opinion, are the single largest revenue loss to our budget.  Not one of President Obama’s proposals, i.e. health care, stimulus, middle class tax cuts, etc. come even close to the amount of funds that could be available by cutting taxes to America’s wealthiest.

The advent of Elizabeth Warren to head up the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, although currently as an “adviser” and not a permanent assignment, has both Republicans and Democrats running very scared.  That is a good thing.  Warren is a tough cookie, dedicated to honest financial standards and a solid supporter of what is left of our middle class.  She will play footsie with neither party.  Her appointment could be the most significant hire of this administration.  I can’t wait to see her hold firm to her principles and fight for fairness for all Americans.  (For more Yo Mama on Elizabeth Warren, go to:

Finally, a word about our President.  He is not a socialist.  He is not a lefty.  Hell, I don’t think he is even a progressive.  He is the epitome of the center (with a definite conservative bent).  He is middle ground.  He has earned his characterization as an intellectual, a man in control of his emotions, a decent human being and, I daresay, a statesman.  He has never, not during the Presidential primary, general election campaign or in his time in office, stooped to the lowest common denominator of civility as too many of our other elected officials have.  Read Andrew Sullivan:

Sure: he is top banana now and that alone is reason enough for him to stay above the fray, not to sling mud, FOR THE SAKE OF ALL AMERICANS.  He has never forgotten what his role is and who he is working for. And he has fulfilled that role with dignity, sacrifice and moderation.

In a country as diverse and segmented as ours, perhaps moderation is the most productive course of action.  It is our anchor.  We need to unite, not divide.  We must include, not exclude.  To use economic policy as the supposed template to legislate social and cultural extremism is as old as the hills.   To use a person’s differences to justify their own quite exclusionary and narrow agenda, the Tea Party/GOP candidates represent the height of hubris.  Nevertheless, it is a strategy that we must take seriously.  A victory in November for these people is not as far-fetched as we would like.  The recent primary turnout numbers suggest that only a miniscule electorate showed up to vote.  Yet, the voters who did show were the most extreme of the right-wing.  Moderates did not bother to make the trip to the polls.  Thus, on Election Day, we must make the effort to vote and get as many people as possible out to cast their ballot.  Extreme conservative candidates often win when the center fails to show up.  Middle ground: we could do a lot worse.

Hey, middle ground
A place between up and down
He could be safe and sound
Oh, to know middle ground*

*lyrics by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Maine Catch-Up

September 16, 2010

The last of the summer in Maine 2010.  I am playing catch-up since my computer got repaired.

Morning, Glory.

Benjamin River boats.

Take A Hike

September 15, 2010

Imagine: a list of the twelve best places to take a hike, and Iran is not one of them: