Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks - Revised Two Years Later!

Exactly 2 years ago I wrote this piece about Thanksgiving.
The country and the world have made tremendous changes since then.
My life has changed in many ways as well but many of the thoughts and wishes have not.
The post below is mainly a reprint with fresh comments noting the changes since 2009 in deep blue.

Thanksgiving week is greeted with many different emotions throughout this country and it is the official/unofficial start of a traditional holiday season.  Although this year many stores hurting for sales had their Christmas trees and decorations out before Halloween!

In the past we celebrated the day and or weekend by having a Thursday dinner with friends and family and then getting to sleep early so we could get up and bust some doors at a local retailer.

Those who eschewed the "Black Friday" crowds in favor of a more restful day off might play with their kids or sit around a fire and talk.  (You do remember sitting and talking, right? NO, NOT TEXTING - TALKING!)  No change there!

The stores start putting out their 'countdown' calendars letting us know in no uncertain terms how many shopping days we have left until Christmas. The pressure builds. I think they chose Christmas because it was always easy to subtract from December 25th instead of having to figure out when Hanukkah was. (I think it's early this year!)  Nope - It's right on time as the 2 holidays coincide - A rarity that is sure to fire up and focus a friendly frenzy of feverish shopping. (Too many "F" words?)

Every year this is a particularly bad time for those among us who are suffering from depression. The sight of others being happy tends to exacerbate anxiety and the bad thoughts occasionally culminate in tragedy around the end of December.  
We should all be on the lookout for anyone we feel might fall prey to feelings such as those because with the economy in the dumps there may be many more than in previous years.  
And with the economy continuing to be in the toilet for all but the well to do please keep an eye out for loved ones, friends and acquaintances who may be suffering silently.  Don't let them become a statistical footnote to the recession.

I have suffered through my own year of living dangerously as I was a victim to economic pressures at my old job. Luckily I am not smart enough to get too depressed. But seriously, it is not good and it is important to lend a hand where possible.  My hand was finally received by my new employer this March and I have been working ever since.  I am not earning at the level of my past employment but far more than my unemployment.  I hope others can join me soon.

Personally I could never consider doing myself harm. As my mother used to say, "I could never commit suicide, I'm way too much of a coward!"  No change there!

So in the spirit of this post and going against my Eclectic Curmudgeon title allow me to list a few things of which I am thankful for. I hope you will add your own to the list.

I am thankful that:

... I still have my father around as he nears the 92nd anniversary of his birth.
He will be joining my family for Thanksgiving dinner. (I'm driving.)  Sadly this has changed.  My incredibly kindhearted dad fell victim to a fall just before his 93rd birthday and entered peaceful eternity on April 13.  Aside from his family many disabled vets will miss him dearly.

... I am also picking up my (few years younger) mother-in-law (That's right, I said mother-in-law! Get over it.)  
She is still vibrant and living on her own as a snowbird. But for full disclosure I will not be driving her this year. :-)

... My wife is a good intelligent woman and she still has her job.
 She still works for NYC full time but is classified as a part timer so benefits can be withheld.  Hey Bloomberg didn't get to be a billionaire by accident!

... My two children are healthy and beautiful. (I dream of their bright futures regularly.)  
This will never change.
AND they are both finished with the money pit of college - Whew.  

... I still have much of my hair although more and more of it finds its way onto the brush every 
day.  YUP!

... I have most of my health, 'nuff said.  

... I can still see very well. (And it only cost $700 for the glasses!)  
And several hundred for the exams etc. Luckily the costs are covered by my insur, wait, uh, oh well never mind.

... I have some good friends. (Are there truly any other kind?)  I could always use more and this year I lost some really wonderful ones.  So call me, we'll do lunch.

... I can still finish the Sunday Times crossword puzzle - usually without too much help.
 Surprisingly ditto - although I sometimes lack the patience to actually do it!

... I am able to find humor in the strangest of places which is good since more places are strange these days than ever before.  

And most of all I am thankful that I can put all these things down on this blog, because maybe, just maybe someone who doesn't think they have anything to be thankful for will find something here that they missed. And if I can save someone from being miserable then I will be even more thankful.

Think of that and these two phrases during this holiday season:

'Save a life; save the world'
'It is better to give than receive.'  (I'm a 40 regular with a 34 waist medium build & I love vodka.)

May you have the best of all worlds.

Have a Happy Bird Day! (And a Happy Holiday Season)
Have a Happy Bird Day! (And a Happy Holiday Season)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'll Respect You in the Morning

Those of you old enough to remember the Robert Klein routine hinted at in the title will understand that there are many things people say that are clearly not true.
And the people who say them know they are lying but they rely on the naivete of the people to whom they are speaking to get away with, well whatever.

So in the spirit of that restless legged stand-up old timer I hereby submit:

Things Americans seem to accept without question that are inherently unfair and clearly untrue:

1 - Paying insurance companies tremendously high premiums for coverage is needed to ensure that I am covered for all illnesses.
       The coverage we pay so dearly for does not kick in until an equally unfair deductible is met and a Co-Pay is given at time of service.
We seem to allow without thinking that we should be giving money away with no true belief it will ever be used for our well being to large corporations who in turn wish to make that feeling a reality by hiring intelligent people to find loopholes in their own policies or write them in in the first place.
Just what exactly is a deductible or a co-pay or a co-insurance?
Simply put they are inherent future revenue streams that insurance companies bank on should a policy holder have the nerve to try to access the fruits of their policy.

Voting for a politician because he or she states they will stick up for your rights and because their beliefs most closely resemble yours on a majority of issues will ensure you have a friend in government.
     And then re-electing them when they prove to have lied because you believe their promise that they will do so this time!
By nature we have been a forgiving society and somewhat naïve when it comes to questioning authority or those in power.
We are not comprised of a mentality rampant in so-called third world countries where the people not only think their leaders are corrupt but they know for a fact they are!
Sadly those people cannot have ‘Occupy’ movements, or at least have then and survive to talk about them.
Luckily we have freedoms written into our constitution that protect our rights to congregate and dissent and do so openly, at least for now.
But as we continue to elect politicians who are of the ‘in name only’ variety we move closer to a police state where elections are a mere formality and a small few control and rule the country.
We already have a tiny percentage of citizens controlling the conversation who have successfully moved all the playing fields to the right and beyond.
How else could a civilized nation be talking seriously about turning a once free woman’s uterus into a crime scene?
These same small minded individuals stir up unreal fears and campaign to outlaw Sharia Law in America while trying to push women toward the path of wearing Birkas.
With regulations being proposed and even placed on ballots for supposedly religious people to vote on that will vilify a pregnant woman who has a miscarriage and possibly send her to prison we are heading not only down a dangerous path but back to the dark ages.

We have the best health care system in the world and changing it would lead to socialism.  This is true because we are told that by a great many of our leaders and some television personalities.

With so many of our citizens simply dying due to limited access to health care how can anyone say something as blatantly false as that, let alone believe it?
When people propagate lies they must either be doing so for personal gain or an increased level of power over their world.  Or maybe they are just plain evil.
Evil does exist and in a truly intelligent futuristic world that kind of evil would be considered a mental disease to be treated with the best level of care the society could muster.
Unfortunately in our world that type of person is not considered diseased but rather the leader of a sect as in the Westboro Baptist so-called Church.

A person by virtue of his or her standing on the ladder of celebrity should be considered intelligent and all knowing as befits the level above others on that ladder.
     We see and hear hate filled speeches coming from polarizing figures on the radio or the web or any broadcasting medium attempting to pinpoint the cause of all our problems and point their despicable fingers in that direction.
One named Rush or former good actor named Mel come to mind, although using the word mind in connection with these two seems far fetched.
And in a true ‘Physician heal thyself’ way those people are generally the worst offenders.

We have a majority rule political system in America that is the best and most envied system currently in use in the world.
     Those are great patriotic words and were they accurate we would truly be the envy of the world.  But sadly the words are a mere smoke screen obscuring reality.
This one is actually easy to disprove by looking at Congress and noting that once the Republican Party became the minority in Congress they stopped allowing anything to get done. They did so by utilizing the childish tactic of covering their ears and humming so they couldn’t even hear the majority.
And since they won the House of Representatives by using that tactic they felt emboldened to continue using it until they had removed any semblance of fairness from DC.
To wit: There are 100 elected officials in the Senate and as anyone familiar with first grade math will tell you that means 51 votes on any issue would constitute a majority; but not in America and not now. Counter intuitively in order to get something through that body of planned inaction you must receive 60 votes or more!

When Americans speak to foreigners who do not understand our language if we say the words louder they will finally get it!
     Do I really have to explain this one away?

While waiting for a tardy elevator pressing the button with increased rapidity will cause the cabin to arrive sooner.
     As with the one above, seriously?

The Earth is approximately 6,000 years old.
     Right, and I just celebrated my 1 month birthday!
With rocks found all over the planet that have been shown to be at least a million years old can people really believe this ridiculous notion?
Do they dress themselves in the morning?
Can they really have graduated from one of our schools?
If so I need the names of those institutions to make sure they are removed from any accreditation system and certainly from getting any federal funding. They are obviously theologically rooted and must be called churches!

As long as big business is regulated we are safe from any fraud or from any harmful products hitting our shelves.
     If regulations were all we needed then we wouldn’t need police or agencies such as the FDA.
Businesses have long played the role of cheese lover in the cat and mouse game of regulations. Agencies are constantly trying to build better mouse traps to no avail.
As one of the executives at Gerber once said when asked if they should pull an awful tasting baby food from the shelf, "Who's gonna complain?"
As long as we have fraud minded greedy wealthy CEOs and board members who want to be greedy wealthy CEOs we will never be able to have a big enough mouse trap.
And even when caught these immoral law breakers weasel their way out of any convictions by bribing those in power to look the other way at best or bail them out at worst!
Bernie Madoff is an exception but don’t think there aren't tons of others waiting and watching in the wings trying to learn where he went wrong so that they can perfect the scheme.

When companies or corporations are found to be breaking the law and convicted of doing so in a court of law the fines levied against them will be paid and the bad behavior will cease. After all that’s the law.
     And Santa will bring joy to the world all year round!
Remember the movie about Erin Brockovich entitled surprisingly, “Erin Brockovich?” The movie chronicles her struggles to bring PG&E to justice for dumping carcinogens into the Earth thus polluting it and threatening the lives and livelihoods of thousands of innocent Americans.
The movie is from 2000 and therefore concerns the illegal acts of that corporation from earlier times.
It should surprise no one that after being found guilty of performing that anti-human dangerous dumping act they have yet to pay a fine or be totally brought to justice and the plume of carcinogenic liquid is spreading and ruining more lives and killing more people.
Rather than clean up the area and thus save lives these bastards have spent nearly a billion dollars to forestall any further legal action!
Rather than do the right thing that would have ultimately cost less and made them look good in the eyes of the public they chose to appeal!
In the corporate world it is all about winning no matter the cost, and if a few or a million lives are lost along they way, well fortunes of war. After all, they had a choice of where to live, nobody forced them to buy homes over our current and future dump sites!

We are too trusting of authority and either that or our definition of authority must change. Until that time we are all going to be treated as naïve fools only to be led to our slaughter after we cast our vote for the wrong candidates every November.
Stop accepting – start learning – Become involved. You’ll ultimately be glad that you did.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is it Really the New Normal

For various reasons we humans find it easier to cope with adversity if it has a name.  I guess it's rooted in our 'misery loves company' psyche.  But just giving something a name does not make it any less painful or dangerous.
People died in the millennium before ours due to causes unknown. We now know many of those deaths were due to cancer.  So now we know.  But they're still dead!
For years we have been hearing about the 'new normal' from economists and pundits.  The use of the word 'normal' explaining how our faltering economy is basically here to stay certainly does not make it easier for the so-called 99%-ers.  These are the people who are stuck in low paying high stress jobs, that is if they're lucky, and on unemployment or worse if not.
The new normal is actually a way to explain how the uber rich of our country have quietly and unceasingly usurped power by any means necessary.  These people have become inordinately richer while the rest of the country has gone down the tubes.
The gap between the top 1% and the rest of us has widened to the point that they no longer consider us as even necessary.
Oh of course some of us are needed to buy whatever product they are selling or use whatever service they offer but the bottom line is with over 7 billion sheep in the herd the shepherds know there will be a whole lot of grazing going on somewhere.
And the flat earth's global market will provide plenty of opportunities for them.
The one thing we Americans always had going for us was our culture of education and the freedom to do what we wished to do within the friendly open confines of the law.  We were the envy of the world and people wanted to come here and join in the celebration.
We all figured that if you got a college education and worked hard you could live the American dream.  But we forgot that in order to dream you generally sleep and that's what most of us did, we slept.
And while we slept at the wheel a growing number of opportunistic financiers and their friendly politicians slipped into the driver's seat.  They figured out a way to harness the dreams of the sleepwalking masses turning them into realities for their own use.
Little by little they changed laws and altered regulations.  And every change altered the playing field a touch more so that any cash they made they kept.  And their cabal grew more wealthy and more powerful.
And the more power they had the more others wanted in.
But the club was kept exclusive and the entry fee was what some religious types would call 'your soul.'
While this was going on the public, the soon to be forgotten middle class was fed the illusion that they could make it to the top by hard work and perseverance. (Click the above link to read a great article from the Atlantic magazine.)
Advertisements showing the good life; politicians stumping with phrases like 'lower taxes' and a better economy to come; radio and TV personalities making believe they are 'of the people' all polluting our minds aimed at sending us back to sleep.
Ssshhhh, don't wake the sleeping bear.
The funny thing is that whenever someone hears the words, 'Lower Taxes' they think THEIR taxes will be lowered!
It is so absurd as to be laughable.
It should be obvious that in order to run a country you must have some capital, some revenue, somewhere, an influx of cash as it were.
And normally that comes from a general fund comprised of donations, generally mandatory and known as taxes.  That is how a civilized country continues to grow and prosper.  And the more you have the more you can and should pay.
One of my fantasies has always been to owe and pay over a million dollars in taxes.  Of course I would be known as a schmuck to every Republican in the country.  That would please me even more!
According to many economists the only people who will make it in the near future will be the highly educated, the ones with more than a BS degree from college.
These people will still be sought after to work with the overlords of the global economy while the rest will have to scrounge around for the lower paying scraps left behind.
And along with this new normal comes another enigma, and this one is far more insidious than one would have imagined 100 years ago.
In order to keep their power the top 1% of the wealthiest in the world must have politicians in their pockets.  After all without them  making laws and regulations all they have accomplished would erode and they might lose a billion here or there.  And pretty soon you're talking about real money.
So the they pay for ad campaigns and fund huge rallies to get the masses, those sheep of the country to vote against their own best interest.
There are more registered Democrats than Republicans since there are more people in need of what the Democratic party stands for.
The Grand Old Party clearly is all about big business and large multi national corporations.  And when they say lower taxes they do not mean it for the average Joe on Main Street but the average billionaire on Wall Street!
And yet many Republicans get elected, far more than should and that means many people are voting for their own downfall!
I have often used a wonderful saying from the show 1776 in which Mr. Dickinson a Representative to the Continental Congress of that year says that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor.
And that reality is why they continue to vote for men and women who truly don't give a rat's butt about them.
Another phrase we all must heed is, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!
I will not go through all the historic reasons why Republicans have been bad for the middle class and the American economy as a whole, that is your job - educate yourself!
The enigma is that in order for the more educated of our leaders to stay in power they must keep a majority of Americans uneducated.  Sadly that appears to be working!
But one point about our friends in the GOP needs noting.  Their policies of getting rid of teachers and going after any group or union that has shown itself to be comprised of members who vote Democratic are clearly aimed at keeping future generations uneducated.
And that is the plan.
That is the new reality, the new normal.
Or at least it is until the majority of Americans wake up and smell the stench coming from the right side of the aisle and realize it ain't coffee!