Wednesday, May 31, 2006

First in an Intermittent Series

Every once in a while I need to vent about some old saying about which I'm tired. Here's the first one:

"Money can't buy happiness."

Why is it that I've never heard that from a poor person? Of course money alone can't buy happiness but it doesn't follow that happiness and poverty go arm in arm. The freedom from worry and want is as close to happiness as most people can imagine. They'd take it. They don't dream of the pointless excesses that the wildly rich seem to see as their due.

Oh, and by the way, if money is such a burden there is a solution. Get rid of it. Give it to the charities of your choice. Throw it out the window. "Sell all you have and give it to the poor."

Becoming poor if you're rich is much easier than becoming rich if you're poor.

So, in my hearing at any rate, retire the saying. Just admit that you've got yours, plan to keep it, and might just be saying to hell with everyone else.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cynical or Real?

For generations we Americans have said that we're beacons of democracy. The current rationale for the war in Iraq is the spreading of democracy. Here at home, however, laws are being proposed and, in some cases passed, that have the effect of supressing the number of eligible voters who will be able to register and, in some cases, registered voters who will be allowed to continue to vote. These laws target the poor and/or elderly voters and the groups, like the League of Women Voters, who toil to register them.

That doesn't look or smell democratic. Rather it both looks and smells anti-Democratic. Lily Tomlin was inspired when she said that no matter how cynical [you] become it is hard to keep up. Parents who are alcoholics or who take drugs have a hard time preaching the evils of the same to their children. Behavior counts for more than words.

Our biggest and best tool for spreading democracy abroad would be to spread it at home.

Maybe I'm just cynical.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What Makes an Expert?

This is just a short post with something that's been bothering me all day.

This morning I saw an interview with a woman author who has an article in a current magazine on successful blind dating for women. Her qualification, proudly stated, is that she's been blind dating for more than twenty years.

Doesn't that make her a failure? It seems to me that a success would be a few blind dates (at most) and a long-term relationship.

Just asking.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Legislate What You Can't Sell

This past week end the Minnesota legislature passed a bill funding a new Twins stadium with a sales tax increase for those in Hennepin county and exempting that increase from a legally required referendum.

That got me thinking. Why do so many groups want to legislate what they can't sell? Can't sell the new ballpark? Legislate it with an exemption! Can't convince people that abortion is wrong? Make it illegal! Don't want contraception even within a marriage? Pass a law! (Yes, Virginia, there is such a movement to overturn Griswold and they're gaining traction.) Got a problem with same-sex marriage? Get a constitutional amendment! I could go on.

Of course the vast majority is at odds with each of these proposals according to numerous polls.

The Constitution starts: "We the People..." Isn't it too bad that legislators have forgotten who their employers are? Isn't it too bad that their employers have, too?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Wanted: Adults as Legislators

I see that we've had an exchange between Senators Feingold and Spector that included the "See ya" and "Good riddance" debate points. I spent eleven years teaching high school and never saw debate at this level. My students left that kind of discussion in either primary or middle school depending on their maturity.

I'd like legislators to act like role models rather than petulant children both so that real children will consider elected office and so that the perception of our legislative bodies rises above that of a school yard. I've seen more reasoned exchanges in telephoned text messages.

Please note that the castigated exchange is between a Republican and a Democrat so I'm not playing favorites. Please also note that if this were just an isolated incident it would be funny. It is, rather, the norm and that, sadly, demeans the body in which it occurred.

I want adult legislators. I want to agree with their positions on issues too but I want adults. Please?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Today is an unusual day for this spring in Minnesota. The sun is out (we've had so much rain that I've thought about a trip to Arnie's Used Ark Emporium), the temperature is north of 65, and there's a light, pleasant breeze.

I just got back from running an errand and the mass of drivers on the road, who could be driving the limit and enjoying the trip before the insanity of rush hour begins, were hurrying about as though every moment that they "wasted" in this unbelievable weather cost humanity irrecoverably. Darting in and out, moving five miles to go one mile, speeding, cursing, they were all just generally wasting the potential of a beautiful experience in the Midwestern sun.

Which, I wonder, is the greater waste: an extra few relaxing moments in the pleasant weather with the window down or the expense of energy, both physical and spiritual, is rushing to something that will be forgotten by the trip home?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Maybe I Was a Day Early

Yesterday I wrote about being tired of a lot of things. Maybe I was a day early.

How's this for irony. Today, the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the papers carry a story of a case in which the N.A.A.C.P. is suing over an Omaha plan for racially identifiable school districts.

My first thought was, admittedly, Omaha? But then I remembered that the Board in question more than fifty years ago was Topeka.

When will we understand that the only way we'll ever get along is if we get to know one another. The problem with gating ourselves away isn't that we keep others out but that we keep ourselves in. We suspect most that (or those) that we do not know. That (or those) that we know we do not suspect of misdeeds rather we know.

Like I said, I'm tired of fighting the same battles again and again.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

From the Perspective of the No-Longer-Young

Perhaps as a result of getting older, I'm getting tired.

Tired of the general aches and pains of life, yes, but also tired of:

fighting the same battles every day and, seemingly, making no headway.

fighting battles again that I thought had been already won or lost.

fighting deceit and seeing it gain daily.

watching injustice grow and concern about that fact diminish.

hearing the constant screech that the victim is always at fault.

continuing to "rage against the dying of the light" but watching it die anyway.

weeks of overcast days with little relief.

watching real problems go unaddressed while the focus grows on things that matter little, if at all.

Maybe I'm just no longer young, but I'm tired. Could I get a new set of problems, please?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Immigration: The Long Term Approach?

I think I've figured out the administration's long term approach to the immigration issue and I'm impressed. Now stay with me:

The Energy Department is trying to force contractors away from guaranteed pensions in order to save money. The Congress is looking to block the plan. Now over the past twenty-five years or so, the idea that labor costs at all but the highest levels should be cut and re-cut has become business gospel and the Energy Department is merely jumping on the bandwagon. The trickle-down theory has proven to be a swollen-river up theory instead.

How does this reveal a crafty, subtle, and sure-fire immigration plan? Simple!

If we can only make the jobs here less desirable than those on the other side of the border by slashing wages and benefits and maybe even locking people in to work completely off the clock, then we can reverse the flow. I see massive numbers of Skips and Buffys (Buffies?) slipping over the border in search of a better life.

Perhaps it'll be the border with Canada where the government still seems to feel some obligation to the citizens as well as to business. How backward and quaint!

In either case, immigration problem solved. Crafty, guys, crafty.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Immodest Proposal

There has been a lot of furor of late about immigration especially illegal immigration. Should we prepare a path to citizenship? Should we have guest-worker programs? Should we arrest them and send them packing? I have a question and an Immodest Proposal.

First the question. What should we do with those who change allegiance from the U.S. to another place? In other words, are those who choose citizenship in another country traitors? Do they retain the rights of citizenship they gave up?

Now a few points and a brief proposal.

Corporations are, legally, "persons."

Many corporations have re-incorporated in other places like the Cayman Islands or the Bahamas.

That re-incorporation would seem to make the corporate "persons" citizens of those places and no longer citizens of the U.S.

The illegal immigrants at the center of the current sturm und drang largely have jobs and pay taxes.

The corporate expatriates do so to avoid taxes and other obligations but want all the benefits of U.S. "citizenship" and more.

The Proposal? Let's treat everyone the same. I want foreign corporate green cards or they're illegal immigrants, too.

Those with jobs who pay taxes should have, and take, a path to citizenship after appropriate penalties for the broken law(s). Those who don't want the obligations, taxes included, are deadbeats and we should show all such "persons" the gate.

Perhaps the one in that proposed fence?

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Puzzlement

The King in The King and I refers to things that he doesn't understand as "puzzlements." I was reminded of one of my own puzzlements this past weekend.

I attended a session at my church which was, in part, a report on a membership survey. One item thrown out with notably little comment and no reaction was that across the nation the higher the income the lower the amount given. Since my church is in a high income area our giving is low. In fact, and a slight murmur went through the crowd at this, our giving is lower than the pitifully low national average for our denomination. It is, in fact, 60% of that average (0.72% as opposed to 1.2% of income).

Here's the general puzzlement. Why do those without give more than those with? It isn't denominational. It isn't religious. It is across the board in the U.S. Could it be because those without are all too familiar with need while those with are too familiar with accumulation?

It is a puzzlement!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Signing Statements for the Masses

Since Ronald Reagan presidents have used something called a signing statement to clarify their understanding of the bills that they sign into law. This morning's New York Times points out that the current President Bush has used them in place of the veto to declare his intention to ignore that which he has signed.

I think that we ought to adopt this policy for all. When we sign mortgage papers, credit card bills, car purchases or leases let's include a signing statement to the effect that we do not feel bound by the requirement to pay and that we expect nothing to happen as a result of this action. The car, house, whatever is ours! No money down, no money ever!

If George can do it, why can't we?

Just a thought...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Doing Right Instead of Being Right

The New York Times reports that the governor of Mississippi will not grant a posthumous pardon to Clyde Kennard even though the governor admits that Kennard was wrongly accused and convicted of inciting another man to steal chicken feed (not something small, real chicken feed). He was trying to integrate the local college and, in that time and place, that was a capital offense for a black man and Kennard was black. There were also plans to kill him but imprisonment of a year for every $3.57 worth of feed was, apparently, preferable.

The governor will not give a reason for his decision other than a spokesman's statement that the governor hasn't issued any pardons and won't start now.

It hardly seems ethical to me (much less moral) to not do the right thing in the interest of showing that you were never wrong. It wasn't the present governor who made the decision to imprison Kennard but it is his decision to keep Kennard's reputation behind bars and, incidentally, do no good to that of his state just so he can say in his re-election campaign that he's so tough on crime that he's never issued a pardon (even for a deceased, innocent man).

Isn't doing right important anymore? Are people to be condemned for making changing based on new information? When did rigidity become a virtue?

I have certainly changed in the last fifty years. I wish that the governor of Mississippi (and many others) would proudly make the same claim.