The News

These last few days I have read the newspaper, cover to cover.  Death, starvation, destruction and war games.  And economic chaos, too.  And political polarization and the concomitant demonization of the “other”.

Today, I have been humming One Tin Soldier, an anti-Vietnam War song from the 1970s.  I didn’t remember all of the lyrics, but I did remember the prize that everyone in the parable is bickering over, killing over and claiming rights over.  It is worth a listen (click on the hyperlink) and read the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7jHp7OchP0

(by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter; performed by Jinx Dawson and Coven in the movie “Billy Jack” (1971))

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley-folk below.

On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.

Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”

Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

Just Give Us Something To Talk About

A friend who is slightly paranoid about being known as a friend of blogger (and ergo, SPOBFOB) and I were discussing (and, might I add, solving) the world’s ills over lunch.  It is so frustrating when two people make major breakthroughs in world peace, economic policy, and moderate reformist politics and no one will let us see the President.  We wouldn’t have made him take notes (he is the President); we know enough about protocol (we could write the book) to bring a short-form and long-form memoranda setting out the action points for achieving these huge global steps forward.

Not only did SPOBFOB and I have important problem solving breakthroughs, but we also took stock of the freak show that comprises the leaders of our nation.  Let’s face it:  Men like the game — thrust and parry, if you must — of negotiations.  Women want to get the damn thing accomplished in the least amount of time with the most impact. Sure there are women who are impossible to deal with in these situations (Michelle Bachmann, par exemple) but by and large, you don’t hear women say, “let’s say this and see what they come back with” when you know full well that “saying this” will only lead to vengeful behavior and reverse any constructive negotiations up to that point.  We rarely make grand pronouncements that make compromise impossible because our egos are in the way.  Just sayin’.

Maybe President Obama would not like to think that he is pretty much in the same camp as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell when it comes to purposeful and constructive negotiations.  Ok, so the answer is that the White House would slam the door on our advance team.

I was despondent because here we had answers and no one who would listen.  I mentioned having a cable talk show and SPOBFOB came up with the brilliant idea of naming it the “Alternate View” because we look at the world quizzically and with our heads tilted, as if we were trying to understand really edgy art.

[So, this is where I go off on one of my tangents and SPOBFOB has no responsibility for anything that follows:]

We can invite our friends and family to come on the show.  They represent a varied and seasoned cross-section of America.  Ok, the liberal, urban/suburban, well-heeled and over-educated America.  So, there would be wide national appeal.  (Ok, that would be in the sovereign nation of No-Where-istan, a state of my mind (see prior blogs).  But, I digress.)

Everything would be fair game, from:

  • did anyone really think Justin and Selena were anything but a media creation?
  • to: should you home school your children in places where the gay liberal communist agenda has not fully infiltrated main stream public school education?
  • to: should fertility treatments and surrogacy be tax deductible for same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is legal?
  • to: who is the sanest person in the Tea Party asylum? and is that like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  • to: whether quinoa is subversive grain that could reduce America’s dependence on hamburgers?
  • to: how to keep skin from sagging without surgery?

And everything else anyone wants to cover.

 

Where do we go from here?

I have this terrible feeling that I, along with everyone else in this country, am being sacrificed at the altar of hubris and zealotry.

“Take no prisoners” is a way of waging war.  It is not a way of governing.  True believers and purists on both sides of the aisles are important counterbalances, but they cannot dictate the future of our nation.  Even Grover Norquist said letting the Bush tax cuts (which affect me) expire and closing tax loopholes are not “new” taxes (phew, because if repealing subsidies for corporate jets is so problematic in these times of George W. Bush deficits, then let’s all join hands and drown ourselves).  Shouldn’t the true believers be swayed?  I guess it is a new, virulent strain of true believer.  One that speaks to God directly.  It must be a local call because the long distance charges alone could bankrupt a person.

For those who invoke G-d and destiny in the argument surrounding the raising of the debt ceiling, I send this quote:

“Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with your God.”

This is the answer to two questions posed in Micah, Chap. 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you? What are you supposed to do to live faithfully with your God?”

Why am  quoting scripture?  Because I am that desperate for the extremists to take pity on us and our nation and make some hard and dare I say, PRACTICAL, decisions.

I understand taking a hard line in the abortion debate, in the capital punishment debate and in the war debates.  These are about potential life, actual life and the taking of life.  But, in the money debate?  I think you can tell what God thinks about money by who has the most.  So, let’s not bring God into this.  Let’s be honest.  It is about political gain and power. And that is about as un-God-like as you can get.

You know the world is tilted in the wrong direction when I am trying to “protect” God’s good name from God’s self-proclaimed followers.  As far as I can tell, they are frauds.

 

Weiner, Whiner, Weenie

And another one bites the dust.

It is all so stupid.  I don’t care about Weiner’s weiner.  I don’t care about for Sen. Craig’s gay liaisons.  I don’t care about Gov. Sanford’s Argentinian fiasco or Schwarzenneger’s love child(ren).  I don’t care about Bill Clinton’s dalliances. Or Al Gore’s ooky come-on lines with the spa masseuse. And Dominique Strauss-Kahn can have all les liaisons dangereuses possible.  Those are PRIVATE matters until:

  • Sen. Craig, who was virulently anti-gay until his actions showed himself a hypocrite and in serious need of counseling.
  • The governor of South Carolina was unreachable for a time without transferring power to the lieutenant governor (even if that guy is a psycho right wing nut).
  • Bill Clinton lied under oath when he was president, and therefore head of the executive wing that includes the Department of Justice.  It was just about sex until he committed perjury.
  • Al Gore just showed himself to be gross and awkward in an alleged encounter with a masseuse that makes even the words “suave” and “debonair” cringe.
  • DSK allegedly did not have non-consensual sex.  (It is a crime.  Whether or not he was set up, “no” is “no” assuming the housekeeper said, “no” (ou “non”).)
  • GOP representative Mark Foley sent inappropriate emails to underage senate pages and should have been jailed.

The list goes on and on.

Anthony Weiner is a hypocrite.  He also said something really scary: he did not know the ages of the females with whom he was corresponding.  THAT reckless behavior together with his self-righteous attitude toward anyone who doesn’t share his Progressive political perspective and his inability to accept responsibility from the outset bears on his fitness as a leader.

Weiner has been hoisted on his own petard and burnt.  He should slink away and get counseling.

I don’t hate men (and I love POB (partner of blogger) who is a woman) but I just don’t get it.  Is it a power thing?

I teach my son, “You do it, you live with it.  You own up to what you’ve done. Try to make it right and learn from it.” But I can’t compete with these idiots who show that you have a 50-50 shot at holding onto power and prestige if you deny, deny and deny.

The one guy who deserves re-election?  The GOP representative who showed his bare chest to someone on email or some chat room and became the GOP sacrificial lamb.

 

The New Me (In the Test, Day 7-ish)

It is hard to describe how I feel as I watch the events unfold around the world, but let me try:

say you are in a bath (reading a book, sipping red wine in the hypothetical awesomely fabulous Manhattan apartment) and you pull the stopper to let the water drain.  At that exact second, you hear a big BANG from somewhere.  So what do you do?  You put the stopper back in the drain and shiver a little.

Powerless and with shivers of fear.  (FYI:  I don’t live in the hypothetical fabulous apartment, I am drinking an unfortunate Sauvignon Blanc (I don’t even like white wine) and I have no time to expand my intellectual acumen (maybe when my son is 10).)

In truth, I never thought anything was out of my control until TLP (the little prince) was born.  Now, I worry about the world after I am dead because (I hope) he (and his children) will still be alive. THAT makes what we do now even more important.  Because we all know that the harvest reaped in two generations will be directly related to the seeds we sow now.

My mom always believed that if you can’t change the big things, then start with the little things, but you must always, always, strive to repair the world (tikkun olam) — תיקון עולם

Here is the difference between Mom and me.  Mom just did things.  I, first, need a whole new outfit and work-out regimen.

Did you think I could stay so serious and not deflect my fears, hopes and dreams by lapsing into (sometimes, forced) humor?  DO YOU KNOW ME?

Sooo, deflectors are engaged.

One has to have strength to repair the world, no?

Ok, so let’s critique my old gym regimen, also known as, NP2 — “no pain, no pain”:

  • 3 times a week, get on the stationary bike for 30 minutes, but quit after 25 minutes.  Don’t even break a sweat.
  • Think about doing sit-ups. Hyper-ventilate about the anxiety of dealing with my expanding midriff. Suck in my stomach and do something else.
  • Do push-ups because I actually can do them.  And not the girl-y ones, either.
  • Do back muscle exercises because I don’t want to stoop too much in my dotage.
  • Talk to some people, less now that some gym friends have moved to other locations.
  • Notice the time and realize I have to get home.

There was a time when I could suck in my tummy, arch my back a little and my stomach would be flat and my breasts “perky”.  One cannot leave on memories of prior glory.  Starting tomorrow (because I am drinking wine and might hurt myself if I tried it out now):

My new, Spring, regimen, also known as SPB2 — “some pain, but buff”:

  • Buy some new outfits for my new gym state of mind.
  • Do Michelle Obama arm exercises because we all deserve to look like we could go sleeveless on national TV.
  • Do something cardio for 40 minutes. And actually break a “glow” but no sweat because I am becoming more genteel (and eccentric) as I age.
  • Stop watching the TV because next year Oxford English Dictionary will declare “pundit” a synonym of “idiot” and people who watch pundits “vidiots”.

I promise, Mom, in the midst of my self-absorption, I won’t forget about tikkun olam.  For your grandson and your great grandchildren.  For everyone’s children and grandchildren.

תיקון עולם

The Test: End of Day 2.

Ah, ’tis the Spring of my Content.  (Apologies to Willy Shakespeare.) Because the Test continues.

COB (colleague of blogger) felt bad that I thought he was stacking the deck against my being upbeat for one month (the Test), so he was in and out of my office all day saying cheery and pithy things.   He also wants to be known as THE COB, because there can be no other colleague who merits mention in the blog.  Well, he is right about that.

I am trying, really.

But there is so much static interference.

Yet, I didn’t curse the man who crushed my arm by swinging open a door and catching my arm. The EXCRUCIATING pain only lasted a few minutes and the bruise is not so bad.  So, I remain cheery and hopeful and am spreading that karma like a boomerang, I tell you.

I am waiting for POB (partner of blogger) for our Wednesday night date.  I arrive early and sit at the bar. The drunk man at the other end (who is talking too loud to be ignored) is pontificating to his poor date about 1888 Germany being an example of an evolved society. Funny, how it devolved into chaos and demagoguery in just a few, short decades. But I digress.

Ok, so I am being grateful for all that I have and now I hear the drunk man claiming that, although he is Caucasian, he is Indo-European because we all descended from that part of the world.  So, now he gets to go off on Indians and Europeans.  Whoa.  He needs to stop, because even I am offended and our family fled Germany and Central Europe.

But using his theory, he can rail on whomever because we all came from Adam and Eve.  He, on the other hand, definitely came from apes or, possibly, the ever-adaptive rodent family.

Ok, a history book is committing suicide every minute this guy speaks.

I am good with his being pedantic, insufferable, and patronizing because I am focusing on the good in the world notwithstanding the current chaos. So, THE COB, you haven’t won this bet yet.  I am in a good place.

But I am drawn again into his conversation because his date is countering his ramblings with a little fact checking. Mobile Google is awesome. She is in solid fighting form now that she decided there is no future in him.   So, if I could paraphrase, “Dumb@ss, you got your facts from reenactments on the History Channel”.

He realizes, too, that this date is going nowhere.  So, he says he is rich. Dude, you need the wealth of a Saudi prince to save this date and she sounds like she has too much pride for that anyway.  Good for her.  Tragic for you.

Now this is adding to my month of contentment and karmatic equanimity.  Boy meets girl, gets drunk and offends everyone within earshot.  Girl ditches boy with facts, fabulous diction and perfect grammar.  Boy tries to get girl back with money.  Girl gets the check.

In full disclosure, I negotiated a clause in the Test that I could think about the people, not only in Japan, but all over, whose lives have ended, or been upended, by natural and man-made disasters.  So, in the midst of my ramblings, I don’t forget about them and their suffering.  I hope that relief comes in time.

The Test

COB (colleague of blogger) is tired of my doom and gloom. (Really?  I thought it part of my magnetic personality. . . .)

And that, in and of itself, is shocking, since COB was discussing that the end of the world could occur on December 21, 2012.  Something about the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus and planetary alignments. Not that COB BELIEVES it, or anything.  But he was just putting it out there.

Probably to stack the odds before he dared me to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  ONE MONTH.

In case you didn’t read carefully enough, I was challenged to be hopeful and cheerful for one month.  (COB is a poker player and probably has side bets on whether I will sink into despair in 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 2 weeks.)

I think it is funny that people are talking about the end of the world being in 21 months away, since Japan lies devastated (and its nuclear rods laid bare) by an earthquake and then tsunami, Libya is in civil war, Bahrain and Yemen are in chaos, the Ivory Coast is a bloodbath, we are in two wars, our deficit is out of control, the recession hasn’t ended for most Americans and we have a dysfunctional Congress, and on and on and on.  Sounds like the end of days now.

BUT, I digress, comme d’habitude.

Back to sweetness and light and kumbaya.   A dare is a dare and I have my pride.  So, forget the images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Forget images of breadlines during the Depression.  Forget the daily carnage for an acre or two of oil fields.  I am going to be happy, hopeful and cheery, Gosh darn it.

So, here is what I did today to make good on the dare:

  • When I was at the gym, I didn’t tell the stinky man that he was curling my nose hairs, as we took turns on the same machine.
  • I made sure that all elderly, infirm or pregnant people on the bus had seats.  (Yes, I know I am too pampered to hang with humanity, but the recession hasn’t ended.)
  • I swore to POB (partner of blogger) that I would take a time-out from the 24-hours news REcycle, where the object is to scare us more than to provide information.  (Note to self:  If Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper is at the nuclear power plant in Japan, it can’t be releasing THAT much radiation.)
  • I kissed and hugged my son, as I asked G-d (and whomever else with power over these things) to protect him from the chaos.

Not bad for my first few hours of Blogger-High-On-Happiness.

Charlie & Co.

For the record, I have never seen Charlie Sheen in anything, at least to my recollection.  I have only seen clips of the recent media circus surrounding the disintegration of his connection with reality. 

Why are people following him on Twitter?  Why are people tuning in? 

No one interviews a homeless, psychotic person.  But the media is making money on ad revenues by showing Charlie talking about being a warlock and transversing the space-time continuum.  Why?  Because people tune in to feel better about themselves by watching a TV star dive head first into mental abyss.   Just my theory.

This reminds me of an old tale about a media circus surrounding a young girl’s fallinto an abandoned mine shaft or water well.  Everyone was so busy getting the news story and the hard-luck backstories of the townspeople, that no one bothered to save the little girl.

And if that is true, both Charlie and we need serious medical help.

Protesters in Egypt

I am following the events in Egypt.  As I understand the situation, there was long simmering unrest about the irreversible decades-long slide into poverty and human indignity.

Then, the harshness of life for one-third of the country crossed a line.  People took to the streets no longer fearful of the repressive regime because there was nothing more to lose.

I hope, naively for sure, that there is an orderly transition to representative government.  But not a government that looks like ours;  the government must be authentic and legitimate within Egyptian history and culture.

I think about these protesters and then I think back to the 2000 election in the US, where the voting irregularities, and finally a Supreme Court decision, effectively awarded the election to George W. Bush even though Al Gore won the popular vote.  Americans didn’t take to the streets.  Why?  Because we were rich, comfortable and had too much to lose by unrest.  Hey, I was angry but I didn’t really do anything but talk.

If we knew then what our nation would look and feel like 8 years later, would we have, should we have, taken to the streets to protest the fraud and the Supreme Court’s ruling?  Still, probably not.

And even thinking we might trivializes the determination and the courage of the protesters who are standing up against poverty, repression and hopelessness.

Fitch Downgrades Egypt

“Tarek El-Tablawy, AP Business Writer, On Friday January 28, 2011, 2:20 pm

CAIRO (AP) — Fitch Rating on Friday revised down its outlook for Egypt, dropping it to “negative” as mass protests in the country turned violent, engulfing the capital and other cities in the most serious challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s regime in years.

Fitch said it was holding steady Egypt’s other ratings, including its long-term foreign currency issuer default rating, which was held at the investment grade BB+.”

*******************************************************************************************************

As an aside, rating agencies generally condoned the “froth” and the bubble that almost ruined us financially.

So, here is the picture:  Egyptians are taking to the streets against its government, the military is locking down cities, airports are closed, the opposition leader is under house arrest and Fitch downgrades Egypt’s “outlook”.  But Egypt’s debt paying ability is holding steady, thank G-d.  That totalitarianism for you.   Because even though people are protesting and dying for change, the bills still get paid and the palace is still resplendent.  And no situation is negative until the financial markets say so. I think that is what we have learned from these last three years.

I wonder how many people are reading the articles about the protests, etc., and how many are reading about the financial impact on debt holders.  I don’t want to know the answer, because Jack Nicholson was right in a Few Good Men, I can’t handle the truth.