Friday, August 02, 2013

Nobody Asked Me, But...

It’s easy to get disheartened with the state of the nation today. We seem to be sliding back to a time when the country was superficially in a decent state, but had deep divisions and even deeper oppressions of the underclasses and minorities. Whether you were black or Hispanic, gay or a woman, you suffered enormously at the hands of the white male dominated culture.

And it seems that we’re headed back in that direction. I’m here to remind you, we ain’t.

If anything, we’re looking at the last gasps of a patriarchy that will devolve more and more quickly. But evolution, which is what we’re undergoing currently, is an incremental process.

Look to the youngest adults in our society: there lies your future. There is where we can invest, both the good and the bad, our hope.

Gay marriage didn’t come around because people of my generation changed our minds. It came about because young people started speaking up to their parents about their gay friends, and started interacting comfortably with gay men and lesbians.

Similarly, immigration reform isn’t coming about because a boatload of immigrants washed up on our shores and changed everyone’s minds. It’s coming because this is what we perceive as the right thing to do, as our kids accept their Hispanic and other immigrant friends.

Marijuana legalization is next: not because hippies woke up and realized the needle on this issue hadn’t moved in generations, but because kids these day see marijuana as a part of their experience. It’s illegal, but not hidden; it’s illegal in plain sight.

Gun control is not far behind, altho there will be more resistance here because the gun rights lobby is just fucking nuts. These folks have grown up with Columbine and Sandy Hook Elementary and Trayvon Martin and literally hundreds of other mass shootings in schools and malls and movie theatres. They get it: guns have no, zero, place in polite society. I stress “society,” because no one is suggesting that you can’t keep a gun at home for protection. But hell, even Tombstone, Arizona required you leave your gun with the sheriff when you were in town.

These are all small steps on the road to an enlightened society, and I may – probably will not – see even these steps all completed in my lifetime (and I plan to live a very long time) but they are coming, and beyond that lies a road of even greater riches of both the body and soul for all of us.

We are mere data bits in a stream of information that will overwhelm and flood ignorance. Take heart in this.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Why Poverty Happens to Good People

Lesson to learn -- it’s usually not their fault. Case in point:

Donald Cardin became a firefighter at age 20 in Central Falls, R.I., a town just north of Providence that filed for bankruptcy in 2011. He was making $60,000 a year as a fire chief before retiring at age 42 in 2007 to take care of his wife Lana, diagnosed with thymic carcinoma, a rare cancer with extremely low survival rates.

The couple relied on Cardin’s health insurance, which required no copay, to cover Lana’s $8,000-a-month treatment. Cardin worked a part-time contracting job to make up the difference between his $34,000-a-year pension and his former salary.

But that all changed in 2011 when Cardin, and his fellow firefighters and policemen, were called to a meeting at the local high school, where state-appointed receiver Robert Flanders warned them that the city would not have enough money to survive if pensions were not cut. Weeks later the city would file for bankruptcy.

“After a lifetime of service, with the stroke of a pen, Judge Flanders changes the rest of our lives and doesn’t care,” said Cardin.

So here’s a man who put in a lifetime’s work based partly on the promise that, in exchange for risking his life now, the city would help take care of him in his retirement. Nevermind that he retired at an age young enough to go find another job with a living wage and have a completely new career – which is not an easy proposition living in a small New England town, by the way, and that’s before considering his wife’s medical needs – that was the contract implied at hiring. Then, shortly after retiring, half his pension and half his medical insurance was taken away, leaving him making $17,000 AND paying $48,000 in medical bills, annually.

In a town of 19,000 people, it’s likely many if not most knew Chief Cardin, and other retirees who saw their lives brutalized by unfeeling bean counters, but you’ll notice in reading the article and doing further investigation, the subject of raising taxes never once comes up.

Until they emerged from bankruptcy in record time. They did this by shifting the bankruptcy burden off the town and onto the middle class pensioners, and increasing property taxes 25% over five years. Had it been discussed before the bankruptcy, perhaps those pensions could have been saved or at least, given a shave, not a beheading.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Manning Up

Attention, Edward Snowden: This is how you do it and maintain the higher ground.

FT. MEADE, Md. — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was convicted Tuesday of violating the Espionage Act and faces up to 136 years in prison, but his acquittal on the even more serious charge of aiding the enemy was hailed as a victory for the press and the Internet against the government's crackdown on leaks of classified information.

Manning's leak of more than 700,000 State Department cables, terrorism detainee assessments, combat logs and videos was the largest breach of classified secrets in U.S. history. Among the information was a now-infamous 2007 video of an Apache combat helicopter attack in Iraq in which U.S. soldiers fired on civilians and killed 12, including two Reuters journalists.

Manning becomes one of only two people ever convicted under the Espionage Act for making classified data available to the public; the other, Samuel L. Morison, a government security analyst convicted in 1985, was pardoned by President Clinton on his final day in office.

I would expect President Obama to do something similar on his way out the door, and Manning will not have to rely on the kindness of totalitarian dictators to eke out a survival existence, the constant threat of either retaliation by the US government or continuous monitoring by his “host” ever looming in the background.

The Manning verdict seems pretty fair: found innocent of aiding and abetting an enemy of the United States, but convicted of stealing and releasing classified information. We may agree with the spirit of what he did (or not), and we may welcome the exposure his information has gotten, but the law is the law. At least Manning, this frail looking Marine, stood up and took responsibility for what he did.

Which is why I’m persuaded to believe that Obama will end up pardoning him. It’s the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Your STFU List for Today

I’m tired, I’m pissed off, the Bag of Salted Rat Dicks I work for is trying to cause trouble for me, and I’m on deadline, so posting is a bit of an exercise is getting ahead of the curve.

Anyway, I realized this morning there is an entire list of people who need to shut up and go away. Dig a hole, climb in and sew it closed behind you. Get dropped in the middle of a tundra naked and alone. Close the door, and bolt it shut.

1) Anthony Weiner – JUST! SHUT! UP! You’re toast. Your candidacy is dead in the water. You’ve humiliated your wife again (altho she must have had plenty of warning which speaks really bad about her, as well.) I wanted to believe your comeback. Hell, I was ready to vote for you, along with tens of thousands of other New Yorkers, and elect you mayor. I wanted the reformation to be real. You may have had Bill Clinton officiate at your wedding, but you ain’t the Big Dog, the greatest President since FDR. You just ain’t.

2) In a similar vein, Eliot Spitzer – Dude, I will vote for you, but you have to get out of commenting on the mayor’s race unless you plan to switch races. By your own admission, you aren’t a saint and you made mistakes. If you expect us to forgive and forget, you have to lead by example.

3) Sarah Palin – Go away. Your fifteen minutes were over five years ago, except in your own slow spiraling descent into the black hole of obscurity that is your fate (that obeys the laws of physics, by the way: time does slow down near a black hole.) And you lied. The McCain campaign let you shoot your mouth off enough times that you shot McCain in the foot.

4) Mitt Rom…Romney? RomBot? Romalomadingdong? Whatever… -- OK, so you know how there’s videotape of you quoting you at length? Go lend a shoulder to your would-be queen wife, Ann. She’s been crying since last November.

5) Brooke Goldstein – Never heard of her before? Don’t worry, neither have I. Neither has anyone else. And with any luck, you don’t need to worry about this wanna-be Ann Coulter. She needs to dye her hair blonde and grow a set first.

6) Maureen Dowd – Huma Abedin is too, errr, mewling, to leave Weiner? Really? HILLARY’S Chief of Staff?

7) Sydney Leathers – Girlfriend, the NY Post is NOT your friend. Your time is up, you lost the story a week ago and with a body like this, you won’t even get the inevitable Playboy offer. Sorry, hon. You’re done.

8) George Will – Because African American single moms lent money to Detroit at usurious rates, and are sitting at home on the couch, clipping bond coupons, I bet. ARGH! SHUT UP!

9) Rand Paul – Not in my town, Brillo-top.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes

Well, well, well…this is a refreshing change of heart:

ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRCRAFT — Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked.

What? No “Burn in Hell!”? No “God hates fags!”?

Whatever is religion coming to?

God, is what.

Yes, there are plenty of things from yesterday’s Papal press conference(!) that we can criticize, such as the “investigation” into a monsignor on his staff on pedophilia charges, but this position, seemingly unqualified and unconditional, leaps off the page.

People of all colors, creeds and orientations struggle to find meaning in life. Even atheists have been known to try and answer what is essentially a spiritual dilemma: What’s the point?

For me, for this Christian, the Pope strikes the right tone about religion. It’s a voyage of self-discovery. It’s about finding a place for one’s higher power in one’s life, because let’s face facts, there are times you need one, and wish you had one. Maybe it doesn’t answer your questions or solve your problems, but a god or goddess or enlightened plane or what have you help you get ready to get through and then past a crisis.

Many of my friends, scientists and realists, are atheist (or at least agnostic) and I respect them for that, but a lack of a system of faith is, well, still a system of faith, since none of us can ever really know the answer to the ultimate questions we all have.

Even Francis has tacitly endorsed atheism. It’s not about holding a book or hands folded in prayer, it’s about how we all behave towards one another.

On that point, I believe we can all find common ground.