Thursday, July 22, 2010

Serendipity of an Idea, Part Deux

In my last post, I provided two examples of the same idea in the soup of current events about our culture, our society, and how it's changing.

The two authors quoted differ substantially in their political and cultural outlooks, which makes it all the more serendipitous to me.

The quoted author from the conservative magazine American Spectator is unsurprisingly conservative, but the other quoted author is considered to be liberal. Here's a good description of his world view, from the article:

"John told me that among his favorite writers was the Spanish poet and philosopher Juan Ramón Jiménez and quoted a line from Jiménez that expressed his own sentiments: “Foot in one’s accidental or elected homeland; heart, head in the world’s air.”
Yet, both lament the same thing. Now, younger people may call that lamenting progress, and that is correct to a degree. But, is it good progress? That, I nor anyone else knows not for sure. Only time will tell.

I don't know how this connects exactly with today's big story about former Georgia USDA employee Sharon Sherrod, but I believe it does. I immediately doubted that the clip on Breitbart's Big Government website was the whole story. It was something in her voice. Sure enough, there was more. Monday night, I heard all the news channels playing along with the surface explanation, but I felt there was something differently deeper. Tuesday, we all learned the video clip was just that, and that she was really telling a story of Rodney King redemption, aka Can't-we-all-just-get-along? (which I catch myself asking all too frequently).

We also learned why Breitbart had deliberately run just the provocative clip: because it contained a racist attitude against whites on the part of Sherrod's audience as they listened to her describe how she discriminated against a white farmer at first (then went back and corrected that and helped him in the end). Breitbart has had a standing offer to pay $50,000 for video of Tea Partiers actually doing what Congressional Black Dems have accused during that march on Washington earlier this year (spitting on them as they walked up the Capitol Steps, for example)

Breitbart used this Sherrod clip to bait the NAACP, who had been accusing the Tea Party of harboring racist members. For Breitbart, this appears to be *war*, and people like Sherrod are casualties of that war, be it friendly fire or collateral damage. His response to how dare you do that is, yeah, so what? This is what you did to the Tea Partiers. Stop doing that and I'll stop, I did not start this, you did. I'm just defending the Truth in baiting your behavior, in hopes that you will exhibit the same behavior you trash us for.

Something like that, but more partisan on his end, of course.

On one hand, I do admire him. He has taken on a few of the ugly, nasty situations that illustrate how sad our race relations are. ACORN, anyone remember the fake white prostitute and pimp videos? That was, if not a Breitbart production, it was a Breitbart promotion. And it turned the tide of opinion against ACORN, forcing an eventual bankruptcy. But, now we are hearing snippets of liberal media covering, asserting now that the whole entire was fake controversy. And there is Breitbart, telling people you are missing the point. The point is how ACORN reacted. They exposed their corrupt ways, and there was nothing fake about that.

Here, we have Breitbart attempting much the same thing. And, if the standard is to show that every group has a racist element and don't just pick on the Tea Party, then Breitbart succeeded again. Anderson Cooper tried every single thing he could on his show tonight to lay the entire fault at Breitbart's door, yet there was still that pesky behavior of the audience in the clip, still the knee jerk reaction of the Obama Admin, the NAACP, and the entire press. And left exposed, many of the media decided to blame it on the Right. And even scold the Obama Admin thru Robert Gibbs for letting Fox News run the show because the knee-jerking was in fear of being skewered on Glen Beck that evening.

I guess the lesson I am left with is, when we try to force political correctness on everyone and in an unequitable way, those who comply become clones of sameness and dishonesty, and those who do not become freaks...racists, for example. Mixing in politics at best turns both sides into the equivalent of child siblings on a road trip in the backseat, aka Bill Cosby's Parenthood routine ("She's touching me!"), and at worst takes us to perhaps the brink of nastiness  I don't even wanna contemplate.

Two things happening about this time 2 years ago -- my reading Saul Alensky's Rules for Radicals and my reaction to Obama's Reverend Wright Under the Bus speech -- pretty much helped me decide to support McCain. I had the really awful fear that Obama would encourage the unleashing of racial frustrations and then let them form their own chaotic directions. And to this day I believe I was right about it, so this entire unfolding of events is so uncomfortable to me. It's not not blacks, it is also Hispanics with the border issues.

But I have problems with Breitbart's mercenary ways, just as I do with Team Obama's mercenary ways (Tea partiers are racist, violent...Congressional Repubs don't want to extend unemployment and help Americans just because the GOP wants it paid for out of the unused stimulus and the Dems won't agree to pay for it at all.)

Rodney King had it right when he asked us to all just get along, each of us as we are.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Serendipity of an Idea, Part One

Today began as any other, with me trying to get past emails and all the "click on this" links that suck the time right out from underneath me, so that I could try to finish some mail art. Finally, around 11 a.m., I had my enveloped treasures ready and set off in my car for my usual post office ten miles away.

I have had the habit for awhile now of preferring talk radio to music when I drive locally, and it was this habit that spawned my love-hate relationship with Rush Limbaugh, whose radio show is on here from 11-2 weekdays. I say love-hate because I strongly belief that El Rushbo is out for no one but himself, and while he may make a lot of sense surprisingly, one always should be on guard for what I call his Rushbo Mumbo Jumbo (his little plots of mischief helping no one in the end but his reputation among his rabid fans, his ego and his bank account). Let's just say, I respect the many good points he makes, but not what he wants to do with them most times.

So, on today's show, Rush pre-empted his regular script to ooh and aah over a new article in the latest American Spectator called "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution" written by Angelo M. Codevilla.  Basically, the author describes our current political partisanship not so much as Dem vs. Repub, but as The Ruling Class vs. The Country Class. Dems, being the party in power currently, but whose majority has eroded to a minority after only two years, are the R Class; and those of us who are disillusioned, pissed off, saddened, and otherwise void of Hope and Change, who are now the majority, are the C Class. And there is a humongous divide and disconnect between the two Classes that could not be more impossible to bridge if it were in a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy.

You can read the article linked above to find out more in detail (it's a good article, easy to follow and I found it authentic and identified with it immediately). I read it as soon as I returned home.

One notion struck me deeply in it, and because I cannot dare paraphrase it well enough to do it justice, I'll quote the paragraph that contains the jist of it:
Never has there been so little diversity within America's upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America's upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and "bureaucrat" was a dirty word for all. So was "social engineering." Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday's upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.
I knew when I read it that this was a kernel of an idea that I'd never really explored before but has the tonnage of an bomb. But as often happens, I mentally filed it away to access later on, and continued reading. I knew I agreed and that there was much more there. But I needed to marinate it a bit.

Then the mail came and with it, my latest issue of Texas Monthly magazine. Last month had such a good cover story about Texas writer Larry McMurtry and his novel Lonesome Dove. So, when this issue featured a cover story on another Texas writer, John Graves, whose classic novel Goodbye to a River is sort of a cult rite of passage for wannabe student writers (and I was one of those in my younger day), I just gave up on doing anything else, got my coffee and cigarettes, settled down outside on the porch in my rocking chair and had a very satisfying afternoon smoking, sweating and drinking in the issue cover to cover. I also enjoyed reading a riotous article by Kinky Friedman about his advice to our gubernatorial candidates in the upcoming November election, but I'll leave that one for another day.

So, I am almost to the end of a very good interview with Graves by 37-year veteran TM contributor Gary Cartwright (and he's now retired, unfortunately...this being his last regular contribution), when a paragraph in this article hits me like a ton of bricks. Cartwright had asked Graves what his feelings were about Texas today. Again, my paraphrasing would not do it justice, so here are Graves' words:

Maybe it's a sign of old age, or decreptitude, but I'm not very optimistic about the future of this country... People here, they weren't what you'd call an admirable hunk of American society, but they had their own ways, which I got used to. They were a distinctive variety. But that's all been wiped out. It used to be that the differences among people were big, and those differences always interested me greatly. But now I find alot of sameness. I don't like the way things are shaping up.

He goes on.

Difference in modes of human work, play, manners, language, and even appearance have fascinated me forever, and I have come to believe that these differences not only hold rich and interesting color and drama but are a stout force in the possibility of humankind's endurance on this planet, for as Darwin knew, variety fosters survival.
I'll end this for now, but has the coincidence or serendipity of this idea struck you as it did me? What are your thoughts? Does DeTocqueville's wise observations about what makes an American come to your mind as it did mine? Did Orwell knock at the door as well? Part Two tomorrow....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On the Butt Crack of Retirement Age Reform

Yup, that's me. I'm sitting right on the butt crack of retirement age reform as of this moment. In 6 months, I turn 55, which by all accounts so far is the golden minimum protection age. *So far* meaning, that could certainly change. But as long as they don't change the current laws before March of 2011, or make them retroactive to before then, I stand a good chance of escaping having to wait to get SS benefits until I'm 70.

Since I don't work right now because of disability, that's gonna be a loonnngg wait. Even longer because I was a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and therefore do not qualify for SS Disability. I may have to go suck it up and get a job and somehow barely hang onto it long enough to qualify for the ever-elusive benefit; then, hope I luck out and successfully fight to get approved for it, with a lawyer of course. Since I'm really not supposed to work, though, and I cannot even fathom being able to hold down a steady full time job for longer than a week, that would be a small miracle.

Up until now, I thought I was doing the right thing by not gaming the system. But, I've been following the D.C. chatter this past week about SS reform ideas being kicked around, and I'm fearing that I may need the Disability income to offset not getting my SS benefits when I'm supposed to. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Ohio Congressman John Boehmer has been echoing Florida Senatorial candidate Marc Rubio this past week, saying that if he were elected Speaker in November (if the GOP takes the House, he probably will), then he will push for raising the retirement age and well as means testing for wealthy Americans. If you read my last blog post, you know that I wrote that I favor both of those. But now Boehmer is talking about 55 being the cut-off age and I'm like, WHAT? That's only about 10 years to adjust to that, and that's not enough time. Completely unfair!!!! I dunno, is he on crack? Jeez!

Now, here is a little factoid that I realized while reading about his remarks. He completely avoids listing raising the amount of wages that are subject to FICA tax. According to recent research, 50% of Americans support raising that ceiling, including the high wage earners who would be affected by it! 50% may seem like a low percentage, but when it includes the very people who would have to pay the tax, it means there is support for it. But typical Republican that he is, he doesn't even put that on the table. You can bet that Team Obama will, though. And, thank goodness for it. Cuz, the ceiling has not been raised in decades, and hey, my own husband exceeds it most years. When that happens, it's time to raise the sucker, trust me.

Furthermore, a whopping 78% of Americans oppose raising the retirement age and only 2% believe that SS is the cause of the deficit woes.

Man, if they take this issue on, there is gonna be one heckuva cat fight over it, and you may see me on the big screen nearest you right up there on Capitol Hill, clawing Boehmer's eyes out. Meow! winkwink

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Posting Again!

I'm Baaaack!

I do hope that none of my dear blog readers have heart conditions or are otherwise adverse to shock, because I'm posting here again after 6 months AWOL.

To be honest, I am considering closing down this blog, but since I had't been able to decide where to move, I let it sit dormant.

However, recently I have made progress on my plans to open a blogging round table for political centrists and moderates. We hope to get it going live in August, so until then here will I share snippets of both my life personal and political. And after that, we shall see.

While I was *away*, I stood back and did a lot of political thinking. I wanted to see if I could possibly make my peace with President Obama. And I actually went a long way towards that end, but in the end I could not cross that line. I remain skeptical towards much of what his administration and his Congress are doing.

In the meantime, the Right has been acting in ways that make them even less attractive to me. I still cannot figure out for sure if the Tea Partiers really are ultra-conservatives, as both the Left and the Right want us to think for differing reasons.

As more and more special elections around the country are being held, it does appear that the Tea Party candidates are the most conservative on the ballot and this frustrates me. I was initially attracted to the movement at first, thinking it might be a good spot for moderates, but every day puts more doubt on that idea. It also frustrates me that it appears that the anti-Obama vote may now be fractured and split instead of cohesive and powerful.

So, I've been reading books these past months. Let's see, I first poured through Amity Schlaes' The Forgotten Man in record time for something so technical, detailed and historical. To me, it was just short of fascinating. Very good read. I gained a different perspective on some of the key players from the Great Depression Era. I also saw the FDR years from as objective a perch as possible, instead of Saint FDR or "that man" aka The Devil. Her take on him was refreshingly dispassionate.

I think that the two biggest things I learned from reading it was that there were a shocking number of Communist thinkers in his administration, and that Social Security was basically set up as a pyramid scheme to raise government cash flow through taxes, a scheme that ended up working quite well for people who really needed it for quite a long time.

That's right. We all learned in school what its official objective was, to be an insurance against old age destitution. But in reality, it was a grass roots concept that was seized upon in order to bring monetary inflows to our Treasury, and its official concept was only secondary. I'd never known that, and it is an excellent example of FDR's almost ruthless embrace of whatever was needed.

I've done a lot of research over the years on Social Security and why it falls into the red so much. And I know that, had Eisenhower's Congress not been the first raider of it to fund the building of the Interstate Highway system, and had subsequent Congresses not raided it for various and sundry other reasons, it would be perfectly sound and solidly plump, even without means testing or retirement age raising, and with its parasite programs of disability and survivor and children benefits. In my book, it's not a failure at all but a remarkable success, and I figure that our federal government's general fund owes it back a heck of a lotta moola, so payback's a bitch.

It's just that, back when FDR pushed its inception, that was only an ancilary reason for it. Even more reason for miracle, the people embraced the official mission like a life raft in the ocean, and SS is probably the one success of FDR's that's the most consistantly touted. All because it made a great ruse for greedy government appetite.

Makes me wonder then what the *real* unofficial reason for health care reform is, if the taxes are raised up front for it well before the benefits are expended. Whoa, a little deja vu, perhaps? It does give me pause to consider the possibility that FDR is being copied today, but SS was small potatoes compared to health an entitlement program. It doesn't compute for me that government health care will ever become the self-sustaining program that SS became, or much less a program so cash-rich that it could be borrowed from. So, if FDR's ploy is indeed being copied, it's either really bad judgment on the part of Team Obama or really unethical scamming. Either way, not good news.

Not good news, because many pundits are just giving up on continuing SS, the latest reason being our debt service. Well, lemme just say this now: over my dead body, people. Separate the disability program from it, means test it (it's an insurance program, not a guaranteed pension annuity, and it always has been, we've just been more generous with it than we should have been historically), raise the retirement age for younger workers and eliminate the stupid early reitirement option that makes most people think they must retirement at 62 or even 59. But, don't you dare eliminate it for those who need it to live on.

Think about it this way, long and hard: before SS, most elderly Americans lived with and off their children if they had no retirement of their own. And those children were burdened with that financially and emotionally, with the only break being they usually had 5 or 6 siblings to share the burdon with. Today, with smaller families and the elderly living longer than ever, is that what you really want to look forward to? Living with your mother until you are 60? Like I said, think about it. A ten percent tithe on income is a small price to pay for independence, don't you think?