an H-E-N-D

H-E-N-D?  Human-engineered, natural disaster.  Hurricane Sandy.  I would have called it a man-made natural disaster, but that sounded too oxymoronic (however, true).

And it would confuse the morons who don’t believe that humans are at least, in part, responsible for climate change.  Ok, I don’t have to be insulting, but let’s just leave it like this:  it has to better for the planet if we don’t dump toxins in the oceans or let toxins loose into the atmosphere.  If we were as gentle with the world as we expect our loved ones to be with us, then maybe we wouldn’t need a political-scientific war of words.

Since I am not good at the big theories, let me tell you about a small, unintended, consequence of H-E-N-D Sandy:  Dad’s care.

With power outages predicted, one of Dad’s children or children-in-law needed to be with him, even though he had a home health aide.  Why? What if he fell, or became confused and agitated, and the phones were down, how would the health aide — who cannot leave his side — get help?  What if, as happened, no one comes to relieve the home health aide because everyone is stranded?  One home health aide couldn’t leave for 60 hours; no one could get to Dad’s house to relieve her and she had no way of getting home.  We needed to be there to let her sleep and help with cooking and minding Dad.  And Dad needs minding.  Especially at night.

We are lucky.  Dad didn’t lose power.  We live nearby.  We married good, kind and loving people who were willing to treat Dad like their own dad and take shifts in Dad’s care.  I slept there twice; HOSOB once.  POB and SOS were there during the day.  SOB had to be in her hospital because other hospitals were evacuating very sick people to her ICU.

But so many of the elderly or infirm in this country are not so lucky.  Their children don’t live nearby.  They can’t come to the rescue in a disaster.

I bet a lot of people went without medications, good food, and proper hygiene during these past three or so days.  And I bet they were frightened.

So, don’t think about this on a global scale.  Think about your neighbors, whether they are elderly or the children who couldn’t fly to their parents’ rescue.  Then, think about your gas guzzler car, your over-processed food, your bottled water.  Then, consider how you (and I) contributed to the crazy weather patterns that made H-E-N-D Sandy an epic disaster.

When breaking the law is just business as usual

I have at least 3-4 bad parenting moments every day.  But my aim is to teach SOS that life is governed by a set of rules:

  • if you do something, then you live with the consequences;
  • never, ever, implicate someone who is innocent;
  • if you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler;
  • if you feel guilty at night, then you need to apologize to someone in the morning;
  • if you’ve done something bad, you have to own up to it and try to make it right; and
  • if you lie, it only postpones the inevitable reckoning and aggravates anyone who would have been sympathetic to you.

SOS asked me about LIBOR and what exactly was being manipulated.  I tried to explain it simply and, to be honest, I was marginally successful (that is to say, inept).

I have been thinking about the Federal Reserve’s expressing concern 3 or 4 years ago, the Bank of England’s having to answer to Parliament, and a venerated international banking institution’s being rocked to its core.  And, there are many banks under scrutiny.  Then I read an article about the cheating, self-dealing and insider-trading done by Wall-Streeters that are just part of business as usual.

This week, I paid a sick amount of money in life insurance, long term care and disability insurance.  Am I a schmuck?  Are all these institutions houses of cards waiting to collapse and shatter my dreams and hopes of providing for my family?

I am tired of people cheating with my future.  If you want to mess up your life, hell, it is your life.  But when what you do affects POB, SOS and me, just be careful never to meet me in person, because, if you are putting my family at risk, I am capable of anything.  Anything.

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.


Hitting the roof

Ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, even the Republicans, Boehner himself, have acknowledged the catastrophic nature of our nation’s defaulting on its obligations. Yet, lawmakers are trying to leverage our need to raise the debt ceiling to exact political points.

Yes, lawmakers think they can play brinksmanship with our future.  The mere fact that our politicians would keep the world — and us — in suspense until August will erode our creditworthiness abroad and the global confidence in our economy.  We think of us as a society where our word is our bond.  Well, look in the mirror.  It isn’t pretty.

Imagine how you would view a country so divided in their “parliament” that one side is willing to risk ruin to have its way — slash and burn tactics.  So, just because we are the United States of America, you think we can mess with this stuff, without ramifications?  If you do, you are arrogant AND crazy.

Am I good with so much debt? No way.  I pay my credit cards on time.  I can afford my mortgage and could pay it off tomorrow. I believe that a person, a family, a country must live within its means.  If we need to spend more, then someone needs a second (part-time) job.  We didn’t do that and fought two wars and gave tax cuts to people like me who never asked for one, didn’t need one and didn’t want one.  So, now we have to live with the consequences. And I am willing to pay more in taxes to clean up George Bush’s and Trent Lott’s and Bill Frist’s nightmare.

It is important to note that the GOP — under whose governance drove us into this debt hole — is the party that is playing it to the bone.  Not because they are arrogant; but because they are hypocrites.   And the hypocrisy is so galling that it makes me want to go to the Congress and shout: “WORRY ABOUT US AND NOT YOUR POLL NUMBERS, YOUR JOBS AND YOUR POWER!!!!!!! FIX IT NOW.” If there is a report of a middle-aged lunatic screaming in the House of Representatives, you’ll know that I may be off-line for a while, in federal custody.

I think we have to raise the debt ceiling, not only because the credit of our great nation is at stake, but because it makes sense.  And, although I am an unabashed and unapologetic liberal, I am conservative in my investments and my rationale for raising the debt ceiling is, to my mind, steeped in the rudiments of getting out of debt and on a sustainable course.

It is, perhaps, counter-intuitive that a shirt-maker in bankruptcy should be allowed to borrow MORE in order to pay workers to stitch together the pieces of cloth so that they become shirts.  Scraps of cloth are worthless; however, a completed shirt sells for something.  That differential is presumably more than the amount borrowed.  The net effect is that there is a meaningful exit from bankruptcy where the assets of the company are maximized to pay off debts and re-emerge on sounder footing.

We have many fights ahead about just how we re-emerge from this mess a stronger nation, indivisible, with liberty, FAIRNESS and justice for all.  Let’s give ourselves some breathing room, for our sakes and the future of our country.

You may disagree with me on principle (IFOB (Italian friend of blogger) and JR (old friend from Camp Wingate/Camp Kirkland): go at me) but you can’t disagree with the necessity and exigencies of the circumstances — with a no-win choice, you must choose to raise the roof.


Dear Paul

Dear Paul:

I am not a Ryan, but I know members of your extended family. 

I know you come from such a good family, with strong community values based in religious precepts, like the one about taking care of the poor and the stranger.  Or the other one about not putting a stone in the way of a blind person.  And even though Rabbi Hillel said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” that is totally in sync with the Christian Bible.

Here’s the big problem with your budget:

No amount of spending cuts is going to get us out of the hole caused by waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan and, now, Libya. 

Paying for these requires tax increases.   (Remember when the GOP just put the Iraq and Afghanistan tabs on the credit card and, oops, forgot to put these line items in the budget??????) 

Cut all you want from social programs, etc.  Go on.  

But one year from now, when the deficit is still essentially as large as it now, there will need to be a tax increase on all Americans. 

All you will have done is gutted the social compact that each generation has with another:  we will not leave those vulnerable in our society — the young and the old — to fend for themselves.   The very social compact that makes America great.

What are you thinking?

Politics, Politics

Ok, the rant is building, building, building . . . here it comes!!

I liked the State of the Union address.  The President could have touted that he saved the car industry, that he kept the country from economic free-fall, that the US and Israel disrupted Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but he didn’t.  I think he should have because America needs to remember all that he has accomplished.   But that is because I am partisan.  I think he struck the right tone as willing to make principled compromises. Besides, he had one hour to say all things to all people.  Hey, now that’s a reasonable expectation.

The sign that he did a good job was that he was being pilloried by MSNBC, CNN and, even without watching it, FOX.

Oh, and, apropos of nothing, Speaker Boehner has a bad body colorist.

In the GOP retort, Paul Ryan said investment is a code-word for spending.  It is not.  There is no code. Investment is spending.  When I invest in real estate, stocks, etc., I am spending money, with an eye toward making a good return on my investment.

So, the three things that distinguish the GOP and the Democrats is who should do the spending, on what and how much.

I believe in spending on education and innovation.   I believe that these will provide a good return on the money invested.  The GOP believes that investment should be made by private enterprise.  How private enterprise would have developed the Internet and GPS or will develop high speed railways and clean energy without government grants is beyond me.  And should we abolish public education?  No, but the GOP wants to starve it so that the little money spent on it would be a waste.

We pay the least amount of taxes of the industrialized nations.  Before WWII, tax rates had some people paying 80%.  So everyone, chill out on taxes.  Remember the GOP spent willy-nilly (not a usual phrase for me) on two wars and kept it outside the budget so that the American people wouldn’t know.  So, now, NOW, we have to worry about taxing the top 2%?  Did you ask me?  If you did, I would tell you to keep my tax cut and buy some muzzles for the Tea Party legislators.  Now, that is a good investment.  Do you think it is really tea?  It is a dry weed-like substance.  We should try rolling that “tea” and seeing if smoking it give us delusions of intelligent impact on the national discourse, too.

Paul Ryan seems like a lovely guy but I was distracted by his perfect hair and a little freaked out by his Biblical references. And why is your part half way between the middle and one side?  Isn’t that radical?

Rep. Ryan said something like our regulations were fine, it was just the corporate and governmental evil-doers that stole our prosperity.  But, wait, that happened BEFORE President Obama was president.  Remember, that Decider guy?  Yeah, that one.  He was running the show.  And, wait for it . . . he is a Republican!!!  Omigod, how embarrassing, Paul.  Still, with that gaffe extraordinaire, your hair did not move.

And, will you stop about small government?  There are 300 million of us.  We need hordes just to pave roads and administer social security and Medicare, run the military and veterans benefits.  You don’t mean to scrimp on these things, do you Paul?  You even referred to the days of Lincoln as an example of small government.  Those crazy, high energy, innovative days when were no fair labor laws, children worked 14-hour days, no food or product safety laws and, oh, yes, no truth in advertising or disclosure by companies.  So we could die in the factory, die from rotten food or poisonous products or lose our life savings to corporate con men.  And, as a student of history, you know that our nation went through boom and bust cycles every decade because of the inability to regulate the unbridled greed of speculators and market makers.

Oh, yes, sign me up, Paul, for your vision of America.  Or I guess I could just go to a third world nation for the same experience.

No pulse

Dick Cheney has no pulse.   Another fact that points to his being Satan.

He had a new procedure (read about it in the Huffington Post — Dick Cheney’s procedure) that inserted a pump that essentially overrides the heart.  As if he had one to begin with.

Let’s set aside whether he should be eligible for a heart transplant at his age and physical condition and whether it is right of the living to go hunting and shoot his friends.

Who in America can afford this procedure without insurance?  He had a pre-existing condition.  Luckily, he is wealthy and has a government health plan that will pay for him.  What about a 69 year-old factory worker? 

The health care overhaul is designed so that we don’t have to choose whose life is more valuable.  So, health care reform is the exact opposite of the “death panel” lies and propaganda. 

In fact, those who oppose health care reform don’t want to kill the Grandpa who is rich like Dick Cheney but they will let the Grandpa who is a retired factory worker die.

New Year’s Resolutions

I am feeling pressure to make New Year’s resolutions.

In order to meet with social approval, they must be lofty, require some form of ascetism (as in, give up chocolate), be kumbaya in nature (donate more time and money) and not be too challenging to those in ear shot.

But I am not so generous, socially conscious or loving.  I am in my ME moment.

So here are my unsociable New Year’s resolutions:

  1. I will make sure every sweating person at the gym wipes off the machine after use or I will call out that person.
  2. I will eat chocolate once a day — and not that healthy dark chocolate stuff, but the milk chocolate with some hazelnut goo inside.
  3. I will spend money on “glam” things — going gray naturally requires more accessories than one might think.
  4. If you ask my opinion, I will give it to you.  So, chances are, if you are asking my opinion, I am going to tell you not to do what you want to do.
  5. If you look like hell, I will tell you.  Even if you don’t ask.  Let’s call that “my idiosyncratic charm”.
  6. I will try to do a head stand.  No world peace.  Just something manageable with six spotters and a personal trainer.
  7. I will drive into the countryside to reaffirm my disdain for bugs and other things “natural”.  I will come home to NYC and kiss the dirty pavement.
  8. I will love my family — the ganza mishpocheh — and friends more and deeper than last year.
  9. I will do something totally cool and groovy.  (Stay tuned.)

Happy New Year everyone.  Be careful what you say to me or ask me in 2011.

~ Blogger

Zero sum game.

The lame-duck Congress finished a busy month that had me on the edge of my seat.  Really.  I believe in New START, DREAM Act, 9/11 First Responders Bill, and the repeal of DADT.  I was glad for the middle class tax cuts, but enraged over the need for tax cuts for high-income earners (and I am a high-income earner) because it contributes to the deficit that faces a fast-approaching day of reckoning.

Think what you will about these initiatives and deals, but one thing upon which I hope people of good will can agree is that the passage or defeat of any legislation is not a “win for Obama” or “win for the Tea Party” or win for [fill in the blank]”.  It is about us, our country and our future.

Someone told me something transformative years ago.  In a loving relationship, it should not be about who is right, but rather about whether both people are happy (or okay) with the outcome and remain committed to each other.  A loving relationship is not a zero-sum game.

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Sens. Reid and McConnell, please consider our national interest ahead of ideology, what is best for our country rather than best for your political futures.  It is okay to have an “evolving” view; I promise I won’t call you a “flip-flopper”.  Stagnant views are short-sighted and doomed to defeat.

Most of us learned not to throw mud in the sandbox when we were five.  Time you all learned, too.

Captive audience

We all have experienced the hassles and indignities of air travel these days.  And, of course, the screaming babies, the smelly row mates, the loud talkers and the drunks have also challenged our coping mechanisms.

But on my flight this morning, I think I witnessed a new high in lows.  Two young women friends are seated in the same row (behind me), one on the aisle, and the other by the window.  A stranger is sitting between them.  The two friends are chatting loud enough so they can hear each other, and as a result, as can everyone seated in nearby rows.

The young woman on the aisle said to the stranger, apparently pointing to her friend by the window, “we’re friends, so we’re just going to talk over you.”  STOP THE MUSIC.  Whaaaat?  As if what is good for her is good for a stranger?

The stranger offers to switch seats and the young woman says, “No, I need an aisle seat and my friend needs to be by the window.”  So, what you are really going to talk over this poor woman?  As it turned out, yes, yes, they were.

I thought to say something but then decided that it is not my job (although it is my secret thrill) to correct every display of atrocious manners.  Some wrongs will have to sort themselves out without my uninvited intervention.  The real reason is that I am not sure whether reprimanding another passenger for crimes against civility would cause the TSA to take me forcibly from the plane.  And I really wanted to get to the office, get some things done and get home to my family at a reasonable hour.

So, I put in my ear plugs and fell asleep.