Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Political Rite.

Rite (rīt), n. Any customary observance or practice. (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary.)
Rite, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it. (Ambrose Bierce – The Devil's dictionary.)

The local newspaper recently announced that our district representative to Congress is scheduling a series of “town hall” meetings with his constituents in order to discuss his plans for creating jobs, and to listen to the participants' ideas on the subject. He holds these meetings several times throughout the year, so I feel justified in considering them “rites” under the first definition above, and it has been my experience that they also satisfy the second definition.
His ideas for creating jobs are not really ideas - they are ideology: (1) cut taxes, particularly on higher income taxpayers, and (2) cut government spending. These are the same trite recommendations which he makes in good times and bad, prosperity and depression, war and peace . . . ad infinitum. They are the prescription for any economic condition.
His mantra is, “Government cannot create jobs – only private industry can do that.” This begs the question, “What do you call the positions held by those 19 million people on the Federal, State and Local government payrolls?” (http://www.census.gov/govs/www/apes.html). And if the Federal government decides to order the next generation of fighter plane from Boeing, what do the workers on the project have, if not jobs? How about those involved in building highways or high-speed rail lines?
If his ideas for creating jobs do not constitute squeezing out the oil of sincerity, I don't know what does.
How about his plans for listening to the participants' ideas? The only way this guy listens to the ideas of participants is if they come with large campaign contributions. If you belong to the middle or lower income classes, you might as well talk to a box of rocks.
But he is not unique; on the contrary, he is typical of politicians of both parties. I realize that sounds cynical, but look at the record. The following is a list of President Bush's programs that were supported by big money and opposed by a majority of the electorate. What did President Obama do about them?

  1. Bush wanted tax cuts for all households; Obama and the electorate wanted cuts for 95% of them. Obama continued cuts for all.
  2. Bush supported large deficits. Obama continued them.
  3. Bush bailed out banks and auto companies. So did Obama.
  4. Bush and Obama supported immigration reform. Obama did nothing.
  5. Bush favored nuclear power and deep sea oil drilling. So does Obama.
  6. Bush's advisers came from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. So have Obama's.

It is not surprising that both parties court big money; the first rule of politics is get elected, which is getting extremely expensive. But when they pretend to be listening to the electorate, whether at town hall meetings or otherwise, that is a rite which falls under definition two.
My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Monday, November 14, 2011

An Open Letter To Joe Paterno

        Dear Joe,

First I want to congratulate you on your record as a coach, and on the many honors and awards you have received over the years. I especially want to applaud your stressing of academic achievement as well as athletic ability for your players. Such an effort is an important contribution toward the goal of turning out good, well-rounded citizens.
I know that you reported what you heard to your bosses, which is exactly what the law requires. But Joe, you know that as an exemplary citizen that is not enough.
I am reminded of the attack on Kitty Genovese in 1964. She was stabbed, but managed to escape her attacker for a short time. He came back 10 minutes later, raped her, and finished her off. Reportedly, several neighbors heard or saw parts of the attack, but no one called the police - If only one person had, she might be alive today.
I know this is not quite the same, but the principal is similar. Kitty lost her life, and these young boys lost a portion of their childhood.
So what was it, Joe? Sandusky was a friend? You didn't want to get involved? You thought you did your duty by reporting it to your boss? You were afraid it would hurt the team? All of the above?
I feel as if Santa Claus was caught stuffing mom's silver candlesticks into his sack after distributing the toys. Or the Easter Bunny took the garden gnome back to his nest.
To be fair, I don't understand why Mike McQueary didn't pick up a baseball bat and beat Sandusky over the head when he came across him. Mike had to know what was going on – if one sees a grown man with his penis in a 10-year-old's butt, it's as obvious as an elephant in a sock drawer – but he walked away.
Think of it this way: Put the football team on your left and the little boys on your right. Now ask yourself which is more important in the scheme of things: (1) A bunch of big kids pushing around a bag of air, or (2) The well-being of the little boys?
It's all about the kids, Joe.
Enjoy your retirement.
My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback, or at the Kindle Store.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

How To Have Your Cake And Eat It Too – Join the GOP

Who said, “. . . more spending is not what California or this country needs,” and “. . .congressional Democrats and the administration continue to insist that we can spend our way out of this recession and create jobs, but the numbers just don't add up?" A Republican? Right.
And who said, "We don't spend money on defense to create jobs. But defense cuts are certainly a path to job loss, especially among our high-skilled workforces. There is no private sector alternative to compensate for the government's investment?" A Democrat? Wrong! Both comments were made by the same person – Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif!
In the first case, Rep. McKeon was speaking about President Obama's $825B stimulus package in 2009. In the second instance, McKeon, now Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was speaking about the military budget, which faces spending cuts of up to $600B if the bipartisan deficit cutting panel can't find a compromise within the next 18 days. I wonder if he would say the same thing if one of the largest government contractors, Boeing, were not located in his home state.
This also brings up the question: Given that Pentagon spending is as large as that of the next twenty nations combined, how much do we need to spend in order to be safe from such dangerous predators as Kim Jong II of North Korea or Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe?
And getting back to the 2009 stimulus, this past August the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that in the second quarter of this year alone, the spending package increased the number of people employed by between 1 million and 2.9 million.
It seems to me that if either the Federal or state government decides to hire someone to repair a highway, dam, post office, whatever, that person has a job that did not exist before.
But not according to the GOP. Apparently if the government wants to build a war plane, the workers have a job. If the government wants to repair a highway, the workers have a . . . what?
My books, “There Are Only Seven Jokes” and “The Spirit Runs Through It” are available in paperback

or at the Kindle Store.