Full Circle

January 31, 2010 at 2:29 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

Funny how sometimes a person comes full-circle. You can think you’ve moved-on permanently in your life, only to end-up back where you started. In my own case, I now make less money than I did back in 1980. In those days, one of my money-saving habits was that I bought used tires for whatever jalopy I was driving at an old auto garage on the east side of Dayton, called “Astro Tire.”

Astro Tire was down the block from where my one of my older sisters & her husband lived. They had recently moved to the east side because their good jobs at McCall’s Dayton Press evaporated (until the late 1970’s a huge portion of the nation’s magazines were printed in Dayton). The east side was/is the poor-white side of town, while the west side was/is the poor black side of town. Anyway, my brother-in-law turned me on to many money saving tips needed by a struggling college student; one of which was buying good, used tires.

Since before Christmas, one of the back tires on Myrtle’s Honda had a slow leak. I got in the habit of putting air in it every couple days but could tell the tire was shot. It was worn-down to where there really was no more tread than if it had been painted on. That’s a dangerous thing in any driving season but particularly during the snowy/icy Ohio winter.

So a few days ago, I bit the bullet and called around to tire shops and mega-stores for prices. But nearly $100 for a tire is simply out-of-reach now that my credit cards are gone. The memory of those good times is fading but a decade ago I was well-off enough that I charged most of my monthly expenses, then paid off the credit card bill each month so I paid no interest to the bank (the credit card companies refer to customers who do that as “deadbeats. But don’t feel too sorry for them, they still get a couple percent from the merchant on every credit card purchase). In the new millennium, since I didn’t have the income to pay cash for medical care, eyeglasses, car repair, and other such luxuries, I charged them. And then always prayed that someday, by working hard or winning the lottery, I’d have enough money to pay-off the balances (I came close a couple times). Alas, it wasn’t to be. The cards are gone; replaced by threatening letters.

I was in despair at affording a tire. Then I remembered trusty Astro Tire. I tried to find them in the telephone listing, but to no avail. I knew they are still in business because once in awhile I pass the run-down old building while I’m running errands. I would have to go there. Leaving Myrtle at home to make business phone calls, I set-off to a place I’d abandoned 25 years ago, when I finally had a great job and could afford brand-spanking-new tires for my no-longer-jalopy cars.

I pulled into what is now called “Wayne Avenue Tire” (that explained why I couldn’t find them in the phone book). The name was the only noticeable thing that changed about the place since 1980. It was still greasy, dark, & dingy. But I was greeted by a friendly & wiry 20-something fellow who quoted me a price of $30 complete for an adequate tire. Since I was the only customer there at the time, he started on my car right away. It was a sunny, 20 degree day, so I forewent his offer to let me sit in my car while he jacked it up and changed the tire. Instead, although I didn’t want to annoy him, I talked to him. This is what he told me:

The name Astro Tire went about 5 years ago. The shop has been through 3 owners in the last 5 years. Two of those owners lost the business because they were heavily involved in drugs. The latest, and drug-free, owner is not the friendly, wiry 20-something. Mister friendly, wiry 20-something is named Ray. And Ray is grateful that the owner hired him to work at Wayne Avenue Tire because Ray used to do roofing, until the construction business collapsed recently.

Ray got me on my way after about 10 minutes, which is about an hour quicker than any new tire shop I’ve been in. And, you know, even after I get back on my feet financially I think I will probably keep buying used tires.

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Goodbye, Professor Zinn

January 28, 2010 at 3:52 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

After finishing my latest post tonight, I opened my e-mail and found a notice saying Professor Howard Zinn has died, at age 87.

Zinn is (was) one of my favorite authors, I often recommend his writings to my children and I also recommend them to you. He was an intellectual giant who never lost sight of human value. Because of Zinn, I learned about nearly forgotten (or more accurately “deliberately buried”) events, such as The Ludlow Massacre. We especially needed him as a voice of sanity during this time of economic calamity. He was determined to prevent us from fulfilling George Santayana’s admonition that “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

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Reactionary Dopes on Dope

January 28, 2010 at 3:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

My daughter, Pippilotta, phoned me to discuss my latest post, “Reduced-Price School Lunches Are Ruining This Country!” She related the reactionary opinions of South Carolina’s Lt. Governor, Rudolph Bauer to a Facebook site she had found some time ago, wherein participants are demanding drug-testing for all welfare recipients. Typical of Pippilotta, because she saw & disagreed with that group, she took action and started her own in which she calls for all corporate fat-cats to be drug tested (I am so proud!)

On a similar note, earlier this spring Florida State Senator, Mike Bennett proposed random drug testing as a requisite for collecting unemployment benefits. Need I tell you that I sent him an extremely indignant letter. The suggestion that unemployed citizens are in their situation because they are hooked on drugs is insulting.

A short time later, when I recounted the phone conversation to my better-half, Myrtle, she put forth the idea that, perhaps Messrs. Bauer and Bennett are addled in their thought processes because they are high on drugs. This caused the light of realization to illumine my tired brain. Yes! Why hadn’t I seen it before: These reactionary dopes are obviously on dope!

Finally, Pat Robertson’s comments make sense! I cite as a supportive example the sad case of the foam-mouthed-insane entertainer, Rush Limbaugh, whose crazy rantings were proven to be a drug-inspired cry for help.

We citizens should demand drug-testing for public figures who exhibit specious reasoning when addressing issues, advocate measures aimed at punishing those who are victims of our aberrant economic system, or especially spout ideologies that normal people thought went down when the Allies took Berlin in 1945.

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Reduced-Price School Lunches Are Ruining This Country!

January 26, 2010 at 4:24 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Take a listen to South Carolina’s Lt. Governor, Rudolph Bauer as he dissembles about impoverished children (and other things about which he knows nothing).

Gosh, what a reprehensible bird-brain. Nauseatingly self-righteous and smooth-talking. His arguments sound so appealing on the surface, yet are so wrong; for instance, somehow blaming reduced-price school lunches for poor academic performance. The possible influence of other factors on an impoverished student’s life, such as insufficient healthcare, substandard housing, or lack of access to educational aids like a home computer, books, etc., are completely omitted. Nope, if they ain’t learnin’ it’s gotta be the reduced-price school lunches that’s doin’ it!

And to top it off, he looks good in a suit. I’m sure Lt. Governor Bauer’s name will be on the list of possible Republican Presidential/Vice-Presidential candidates for 2012. But he likely won’t get far. The Republicans already have an oversupply of his type, with their Reaganesque-type hatred for the underprivileged disguised as old-fashioned-up-by-your-bootstrap American individualism and generously slathered with a layer of moral outrage. I can already guess that Bauer’s a believer in flat-out, balls-to-the-wall, laissez faire Capitalism (it goes without saying). Over there among the nutty right his kind are a dime a dozen.

This is the kind of regressive ignorance I thought President Obama would fight against. Instead, I see a headline that he’s planning a “budget freeze” for the next 3 years. I’ve seen enough in my 50+ years to know, before I even read the article, that it won’t be the military spending that gets frozen. Nope, instead it’s all that “human-services” bleeding-heart stuff. (Then I read the article. And I was right.)

Our nation is suffering the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with real unemployment inching close to 20% and all measures of poverty climbing. Our audacious President helped break the Treasury by bailing-out the banks and instituting a “stimulus” bill that was mostly pork for Congressional pet projects. And now, having done pretty much nothing of substance to help ordinary Americans, the Prez has decided to do even less for them during the next 3 years. Someone, male or female, please give this President a blow-job so he can be impeached and we can get on to the next uncaring jerk!

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Barry, Come Home!

January 22, 2010 at 5:41 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

In response to a posting on one of my favorite websites, OpEdNews, entitled “How Obama Lost His Way,” I sent the following comment:

Your essay begins from a flawed premise: that Obama “lost his way.”

But he isn’t lost. There’s no doubt that he’s precisely where he meant to go. He homed-in like he was laser-guided. He started the sell-out before his inauguration and it has continued up to this very moment.

In spite of we voters clearly expressing desire for fundamental “change” and “reform,” B.O. has very visibly dithered, blocked, and obfuscated-away any hope of such happening (with the help of his fellow Republican/Democrat whores). He carefully chose advisers who are known to represent everything opposed by the majority of Americans and he staunchly continues all the worst policies of the past years and even defends them. After he puts in his 4 years, he’s likely looking forward a hefty pension, lucrative speaking engagements, and a nice book deal. Heck, President Palin will probably call on him to help out with the next disaster fund-raising operation (from which I’m sure he can pocket a bunch of bucks).

Obamapologists, please listen: I know it’s a tough thing to face but Barack Obama is probably the biggest bait & switch in our political history. The plutocracy tricked us into electing this closet neo-conservative so they could finish looting our nation. B.O. isn’t under some magic spell cast by the Tim Geithner crowd, he doesn’t have some master plan to outwit the reactionaries and suddenly get all that “change” he promised, and he isn’t going to do an about-face. Making excuses for him only enables him.

Instead of pleading, “Barry, come home!,” we better start making plans for running viable 3rd party candidates.

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The Most Dangerous Idea?

January 21, 2010 at 6:28 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

On Monday I tuned into public radio in the midst of a speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. I have no idea when or to what audience he was talking. King had just completed a humorous anecdote about Japan, illustrating that all places are geographically connected into one world. He then emphasized that technology has made all places in our modern world more connected than they have ever been (and think of how much more we are connected 50 years after King’s time).

Then the Reverend went smoothly into making his ultimate point: not only is every place part of one globe, all humanity is part of one “brotherhood.” And because of that oneness, everyone deserves the opportunity for a decent life.

There my train of thought veered onto a sidetrack where it remained for several hours. I thought of the roster of those who had taught the essential oneness of humanity and that we must treat each other kindly. But more than that, probably because this mental journey started with MLK, I thought of the ones like him, who because of their growing number of followers actually looked like they could really turn the world around, and were struck down by assassination: Ghandi, Jesus, John Lennon, John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X (in his later years). So passive resistance, the Peace Corps, treating our neighbor as ourselves, all those ideas survived but the ideas and momentum that should have followed were lost.

I now believe if a leader did come along who genuinely worked toward compassion, fairness, and understanding, and they started to influence a significant number of people- they would be killed. I’m embarrassed to be so cynical. But honestly, do you think that, too?

I don’t see such a pattern of death for those who preach intolerance, division, greed, or even brushing ones teeth after every meal. The pundits will tell you this pattern is just coincidence, that there is no conspiracy involved. Well, it sure looks like one. And why would such a long-range, long-lasting conspiracy exist? Maybe its because presenting the idea of oneness (and all its accompanying virtues like tolerance, selflessness, etc.) is the most dangerous idea of all. And who does it endanger? Why, those who profit from keeping the majority of humanity down, of course.

And the only suitable label I can come up with for those who keep humanity down is: “evil.” But it seems so old-fashioned and smacks of those yucky fundamentalists.

In the past couple years I have sometimes half-seriously joked that I didn’t believe in evil until George W. Bush became President. Until then my contemporary American experience was that evil was something from the history books, like Stalin or Caligula, or something far-away on the other side of the world, like “Papa Doc” Duvalier. Other bad people and situations were caused by ignorance or misunderstandings- just a temporary lack of good or difference of opinion, but not active “evil.”

And meanwhile, through the decades I saw so many good leaders drop like flies. And each loss made the world a little worse for the majority of humanity and a little better for a tiny, elite minority. Finally, as the evil has closed-in, I can no longer deny it. And the only thing any of us can do about it is to practice peace, love, and understanding on a personal basis while we await a leader who will work to make things better. And when they show-up let’s hope we can keep them safe.

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Unbought & Unafraid

January 18, 2010 at 5:12 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), was first elected to the Presidency in 1932. He was elected in landslides to 4 terms as president and died in office during his 4th term, after leading the nation through World War II. If he hadn’t died he would likely still be president. The Republicans passed a constitutional amendment after his death limiting Presidents to 2 terms. The rich people hated him and the common people loved him. And why wouldn’t they? He saved them from the utter despair of the Great Depression that was brought-on by the greed & corruption of unfettered Capitalism. His “New Deal” saved Capitalism by tempering it with a strong-dose of regulation and a touch of Socialism. He was born rich but understood the regular people. He had compassion, possibly because polio crippled him as an adult (it usually struck children) and left him without the use of his legs. His wife, Eleanor, was a strong-willed, independent woman who vocally & visibly assisted him in his quest to re-make American society.

Democrat FDR took office after 12 years of 2 Republican presidential administrations. During the 1920’s the country enjoyed a free-wheeling, zooming economy that ended in the devastating crash of 1929. Republican economic ideology called for leaving business alone to do its thing and leaving the people on their own to take care of themselves no matter what. So the government did very little for 3 years as the economy spiraled into ruin.

You think Obama has it tough? When FDR took office unemployment was about 37% for non-farm workers (in some cities it reached 80%)and those who were still employed took one wage cut after another, the average income for families had gone down 40%, crop prices had fallen 60% and 1 million families had lost their farms, 17% of mortgages were foreclosed, international trade had dropped by 75%, industrial production had fallen 45%, severe drought killed the crops throughout the middle of the nation, 5,000 banks had failed, there were 2 million homeless wandering the nation. By the day of Roosevelt’s inauguration, every bank in the nation was closed because the economy was nearly at a halt.

FDR knew there was no time to waste. He immediately set-out to bring “Reform, Relief, and Recovery” to America. His inaugural speech pulled no punches as he said, “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. . . . The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization.”

On the very day he took office, he had his entire Cabinet sworn-in, ordered all banks closed for 4 more days while reform legislation was drafted (that was done 5 days later!), and called Congress back into emergency session in 5 days. After he got Congress back he wouldn’t let them go until he passed more reform: of government (he cut the pay of many government workers to balance the budget), of agriculture (to “restore vitality to the demoralized farmers”), of partying (Prohibition was repealed). FDR was determined to “provide…relief to as many people as soon as possible.” So the jobless were to be employed on government projects (that’s where a lot of the infrastructure came from that later caused the economy to boom). Legislation was passed to stop home foreclosures, bring electric power to the rural population, and help workers share in the coming prosperity through fair labor laws. Within his first 100 days, FDR passed 15 major laws and gave 15 speeches to Congress. So, unlike the present occupant of the White House, FDR was more than just talk.

The economy immediately began to revive, but it was a slow crawl back to the pre-Depression level. In 1936, FDR ran for re-election. Here’s an excerpt from one of his speeches. This is what a President who cares about Americans, is unbought, and unafraid sounds like

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Are People Waking Up?

January 15, 2010 at 10:07 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I see that a few days ago the senior George Bush (that is H.W., President #41) went to a pizza parlor where he was confronted by a customer who called him a “murderous, Zionist piece of sh*t,” warned him that “you won’t get your New World Order,” and asked him if he’s happy about “the millions of deaths” he’s had a hand in. The heckler was quickly escorted out by the Secret Service before he could inflict further hurt feelings. “Poppy” Bush is not, after all, used to coming face-to-face with outspokenly disgruntled citizens. In his world, his limousine simply drives on past any protesting crowds, the journalists immediately fawn when given an opportunity to ask questions, and even opposing politicians keep a civil tongue when speaking to his face. Do you think H.W. has ever heard anyone tell him, as this man did, that “people are waking up” to what he has helped do to them?

My first reaction to this news was one of offense at the heckler’s bad manners. I was raised to be a mild-mannered mid-westerner. My 4th generation Methodist mother taught me to be polite and never, ever hurt anyone’s feelings, especially in public. I believe most Americans are still guided by those principles. They would never publicly humiliate someone, even if that person is one of the chief architects of our nation’s present ruin. On the other hand, if things are to get better we must honestly look at the problems and their causes. Our leaders deserve to be called-out about their disastrous decisions and corporate-owned media isn’t going to do it. So, upon further thinking I have concluded that what the heckler did was necessary & courageous.

In the interest of fairness, I must confess that my decision is colored by my dislike of Bush #41. Unlike Bush #43, he’s smart. But he’s a pompous windbag; born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a deep, cynical, & manipulative disdain for the common folk (whom he ingratiated himself to by faking a fondness for pork rinds & Grand Ole Opry music). He was one of our more lackluster Presidents. And I felt this way before his bird-brained son came along to cement the name “George Bush” into the annals of national disaster. The only positive opinion I have of the man is that at least his Gulf War didn’t involve taking over Baghdad & occupying Iraq forever.

Here’s some of what I know about H.W. Bush:

By 1986, oil prices were sliding and reviving America’s economy from its worst slump since the Great Depression. H.W. took off on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East kingdoms. To Hell with regular Americans, he wanted to talk the oil sheiks into raising prices because his oil industry buddies were getting hurt (H.W. was a former oil man). I vowed then and there that I’d never vote for H.W. for any office including Dog Catcher.

While he was President the economy went into the toilet (it’s a Bush tradition). After a long spell of trying to ignore it, H.W. sauntered into action. His plan to fix the economy was simple: He would visit a local mall and encourage the yokels to step-up their spending. He would set a good example by purchasing socks. Unfortunately, in the store he showed how out-of-touch he was with the real world by having never before seen a bar-code-scanning cash register. I guess one of the family servants had always done H.W.’s shopping.

H.W.’s grandfather, George Walker, and father, Prescott, made considerable money doing bank lending and investments for the Nazis. In fact, in 1942 the U.S. government finally stopped them by seizing some of their assets under the “Trading With the Enemy Act.” H.W., in turn, is father to some notable crooks. His son, Neil, was one of the main beneficiaries of the Savings & Loan industry collapse of the 1980’s (paid for, of course, by the taxpayers). His son, Jeb, was also heavily involved in shady business dealings involving ripping-off Savings & Loans, and he helped his big brother rig the 2000 Presidential election. His eldest son, George… uh, I’m not even going to go there.

When he was CIA Director in the mid-1970’s, H.W. funneled huge amounts of money to drug lords, such as Panamanian President, Manuel Noriega. Later, as Vice President, H.W. was likely the guiding force behind the Iran-Contra Affair, that’s the one where the CIA sold Central American cocaine in U.S. cities and weapons to Iran, then they took the money and used it to illegally fund rebel groups in some Central American countries. Oh, I almost forgot… in 1989 President #41 sent U.S. troops to invade Panama and capture his old partner, President Noriega. Rumor has it that Noriega was threatening to blow the lid off his chummy relationship with H.W.

I could go on but I’m getting tired of typing. Let me just end by saying to those inclined to feel sorry for dear old “Poppy” that he certainly has not felt sorry for you and your loved-ones. In spite of his genteel bearing, he has spent decades selling good Americans down the river.

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Financially Naked

January 13, 2010 at 6:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

Amid the chaos generated during this year’s healthcare reform debate, all the attention focused on those lacking health insurance. I heard nothing about those who have insurance coverage and still find themselves financially naked when in need of health care. Recently, a family friend recounted the following experience that I believe resonates throughout America’s working class:

Our friend, I shall call her Maya, has worked 30 years as a secretary for a county legal agency. Her gross income was once in the mid-thirty-thousands but during this past year budget cuts have forced her to endure two pay cuts totaling 20%, along with a forced furlough without pay of 4 hours per week. From her plummeting income, she pays $250 per month out of her paycheck for health insurance. She is divorced and she and her 8 year-old daughter live in a comfortable but small suburban home.

Nine months ago, her daughter was helping wash dishes when a glass broke and gashed her hand in a one inch line from just under the little finger into the palm. It was bleeding “like a fountain,” so Maya wrapped a dishtowel around the wound and rushed her daughter to the nearby “urgent care” facility.

Once there, Maya wrote a check for the required $75 co-pay before her daughter could begin the 45 minute wait for treatment. Maya adds the detail that she didn’t actually have the $75 dollars in her checking account but hoped to borrow the money and get it into the bank before the check arrived for payment. Anyway, after 45 minutes a nurse took Maya & the little girl into a room for treatment. The nurse relieved the bloody hand of its towel, rinsed it with water, quickly wrapped the hand in gauze, and told Maya that the hand needed stitches. However, to Maya’s surprise, the urgent care does not do stitches, so the girl need to be taken across town to the childrens’ hospital. No part of the $75 co-pay was refunded.

So Maya set off to the hospital emergency room, where she was made to pay another $100 co-pay up-front before treatment. Then began a 6 hour wait until her daughter got 5 stitches.

Later, the hospital bills arrived. Maya’s share of the expenses after the co-pays came to $540.62!!! It took her 9 months to finish paying these bills.

Someone, I forget who, pointed-out that Americans don’t need health insurance they need health care. In its present form, health insurance coverage very often is of little or no actual help. Fifty percent of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills and 68% of those bankruptcies are people with medical insurance. Many times I take solace from those fact when I become frightened of having no health insurance.

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Musings on Polytheism

January 13, 2010 at 4:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today in my “Human Image” class at the community college I attend, our professor gave a lecture on polytheism in ancient civilizations. She approached this subject with an almost apologetic, mocking tone. To me, it seemed she was afraid of offending the monotheists in the class (and I highly doubt that anyone in the class is a polytheist) by speaking such “Blasphemy.” I’m not dissing her as a professor. She is s friendly, intelligent woman who is passionate about what she teaches. I just got the impression that she had, on many occasions, been accosted or disrespected by students for even mentioning such ridiculous and ancient ideology.

So, then I got to thinking about polytheism. I’ve always been interested in Greek Mythology (I’m taking another class about Mythology in Literature this quarter.) It just seems like anything goes in these stories. I’m not professing to be an expert on theism of any nature, or mythology, but something just appeals to me in a religion that creates stories about their main god coming to earth as a bull to seduce the ladies. Zeus was quite the playboy, apparently.

I suppose what I like about these gods is the fact that they had human attributes and were thought  to visit Earth and interact with their “subjects” in a fairly routine manner. Back in those days, you always had to be on your toes, because you never knew which god would fall in love with you, and what form he would take to seduce you. Letting your gods experience human emotions such as love, anger, jealousy, regret…..these are all things that make him/her seem more attainable to you. Instead, what we have with our current god is an untouchable force who resides another dimension. He is absent in most human affairs, silently judging, but making special guest appearances to grant a touchdown for a football team (from what I’ve heard, god is responsible for most winning touchdowns. Jesus also pitches in sometimes, when the stakes are very high.)

Another thing that appeals to me about polytheism is that the gods did not provide the moral or ethic blueprint for human kind. They had one rule “Don’t piss us off, and we won’t send a massive flood/earthquake/etc your way.” These gods knew that humans should have the common sense to not act like barbarians. They didn’t need to send down some list of rules that regulated how people should act, think, and feel.

I wonder though, if those trying to please these ancient gods were more cohesive as a people because of their mutual desire to keep the higher beings happy. It seems now most people are “into” religion for the salvation of their own personal soul, not for fear of widespread natural disasters and starvation.

Do you think the world will one day revert back to polytheism?

Also, this is my first post on the ColonelGirdle blog.  I am new to blogging and would appreciate constructive feedback. 🙂 I am still new to the writing for others to read, so I may not yet make my ideas as clear as I’d like.

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