March 2011

Riding With The Horseman.

Is the expression “lobotomized Republican” redundant? Or, merely synonymous? If you hear of an individual claiming to be a Republican, is it polite etiquette to inquire how the surgery went? Or, do you ask of an individual who recently had a lobotomy, “Was that a requirement to vote in Florida’s Republican state primary?” Do you see my problem? I’m leaning to redundant.

I’ve been thinking about “unintended consequences” of late. I’m preparing for an April 12th speech at the Winter Park University Club. And Republicans come to mind.

So too, why is America always at war? I was going to put “seemingly” between America and war as in “Why is America, seemingly, always at war?” But there’s no seemingly about it. America is always at war. At least since the end of WWII. No country on the planet has been in as many conflicts as America since 1848. Why?

There are any number of explanations. And some of them are noble and good. Killing Nazis was a necessary act. Many Nazis needed to die for that horror to end. America’s intervention in the Balkans in 1995 was a good thing. But Europe—I mean, really!—should have shouldered that one entirely (militarily) on its own.

We’re a warlike people, all protestations to the contrary duly noted. Part of the problem is the size of the American military itself. It dwarfs the rest of world’s war-making capability. Why?
As recently as two weeks ago Secretary of Defense Gates while speaking at West Point said, “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”

Yes, remarkable as that was (calling for restraint), even the military at times says, “Uncle.” Yet . . .

You then have the civilians (Once Bush, now Obama and his militant Valkyries!) who grab America’s war machine (the U.S. Military)—and with the encouragement of all the suppliers (vendors, consultants, procurement officials, research labs, government bureaucrats, military contractors, congressmen, the entire military-industrial complex)—they deploy our boys willy-nilly, helter-skelter into this or that conflict. Why? Because we can. Brazil isn’t bombing Libya. Japan isn’t bombing Libya, nor China or New Zealand.

The nations of the world—combined—do not have the capacity to war like Uncle Sam. We are the Gold Standard when it comes to waging war on the world.

Three wars in oily Muslimland!! Hells-Bells, the first Crusade in 1096 wasn’t that ambitious. Three of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse now ride for America! They are on constant retainer, always saddled, always ready. America whips the pale horse.

Oh, it’s a cruel world, Chris. But for Uncle Sam’s power (Meddling. Is that part of the American “exceptionalism” argument?) the world would be a far worse place than it already is.

I might buy that argument but for the mayhem and sorrow America’s aggression has repeatedly inflicted from the end of a barrel or from 40,000 feet. From Latin America to the Philippines, from Vietnam to Iraq.

We war with such ease (with no sacrifice on the homefront) and now our nation finds itself broke, both monetarily and in spirit. Cut the military in half over 36 months—invest the difference rebuilding America.

Turn guns into plowshares.

On The Sublimity of Localized Tsunamis.

Boy! The world seems to be deconstructing before our eyes. The Mid-East in flames. Japan leveled by earthquakes and tidal waves. Nuclear meltdowns to follow. Drought in Ethiopia. America’s economy on the ropes. Greece, Portugal and Spain one euro from default. A narco-state forming on our southern border. Pirates off Africa. Iran transiting warships through the Suez Canal. Wars. Lunacy. Mayhem. What next? Plagues? Boils? Locusts.

Just another day for humanity. But importantly, the richest 5% of Americans are responsible for 37% of consumer spending. And it’s increasing! Whew! Thank you God, for the rich. Seriously. Us hoi polloi, well, how would we occupy our time, our minds, if not from living vicariously off the detritus of Charlie Sheen’s life?

I, for one, enjoy immensely reading about, speculating on, discussing the ebb and flow of humanity. What would the world be if the Israelis and the Arabs weren’t chewing on each other’s bones? If Catholic priests weren’t being “perp” walked? If Wall Street and their banking toadies weren’t this moment creating questionable new financial instruments to hose the next generation of rubes? Or, right here in Orlando. How funny (and interesting) it is that we take our scarce tax revenue to construct a $500 million arena for a billionaire. And call such largesse “in the public good.” Which public, again, is that? Are we a stitch or what? Or, that the expensive arts facility that is contemplated for construction downtown won’t help our local arts groups one iota. Really. Honestly.

You’re so 20th century, Chris! I know. I still buy books and CD’s and I am researching the purchase of a new turntable for my 500 plus albums I haven’t played in the 15 years since CD’s became the “norm.” Today, I’ve music to plug.

But first, my hat is off to the WUCF 89.9 FM radio station. It’s the rare community treasure. It’s art. It plays real jazz. Not that soft jazz pabulum that passes as some radio fare these daze, music so banal it is little more than saccharine, vacuous “air” candy for the ears.

I was recently listening to the excellent Kayonne Riley, WUCF station manager and midday radio host. She played Melody Gardot from her album “My One And Only Thrill.” Kids, this is a fabulous album if you have a taste, at all, for the romantic. From beginning to end, it is the music you so wish you heard when first getting to know the love of your life. Suh-weeet.

I am also listening to “Alone Together” by Clifford Brown and Max Roach; “Kruppa and Rich” featuring Gene Kruppa and Buddy Rich; and “We Insist – Freedom Now Suite” with Max Roach, Coleman Hawkins and Abby Lincoln.

Okay, I have to reiterate a music plug from 2010. Order these three Ben Webster albums: “Ben Webster for Lovers” and “The Soul of Ben Webster” and “Music for Loving.” Webster plays such a soulful tenor saxophone that I can only describe it as breathy harmonies cascading sublimely down. And baaaacck up.

Here’s a great date night package. Pick-up some grapes, cut watermelon and cheese. Pick-up two bottles of Schramsberg. It’s like drinking liquid air. Chill in the freezer. Put on Webster and Gardot. Laugh. Get naked. Be silly.

Any tsunami’s will be local. Suh-weeet.

How Will I Know?

I distinctly remember the first time I caught a young Whitney Houston singing “How Will I Know.” It was a mesmerizing 1987 performance that showcased her beauty and voice. The song resonates with me to this day and I’ll laughingly sing the title words to myself whenever questioning what I am being told.

How will I know if the GOP’s really hosing me? How will I know?

I am at a loss as to why anyone with a half a brain-on votes Republican. Let’s review the last Republican gubernatorial election in Florida. Rick Scott was the candidate. In 1997 Rick Scott resigned as CEO of Columbia/HCA amid an FBI probe into his company for massive Medicare fraud. The company subsequently paid a record $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines. Let me repeat, that’s $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fines.

Let’s review Scott’s qualifications to be the Republican governor. Either, 1.) Scott was crooked as a barrel of guts and deftly prevaricated to avoid culpability and prosecution or 2.) Scott was so incompetent as CEO that he had no clue his corporation was committing massive fraud.

Explain how either of these scenarios prepares him to be governor. Crook or incompetent? Hmmm? Scott deftly played the electorate. He repeatedly asserted that he took responsibility for what happened (Whatta stand-up guy!) but then played the Sgt. Schultz (Hogan’s Heroes) card, “I knew nothing!”

It’s quickly become a joke. No one admits voting for the man. I actually knew two people who voluntarily said—UNBELIEVABLY!—that they voted for George Bush’s second term as president. But no one claims to have voted for Scott.

How will I know if the GOP’s really hosing me? How will I know?

Folks, do you ever doubt for a minute whose interests Republicans are really looking out for? C’mon! Really?

Here’s an idea. Let’s give developers, with no environmental oversight, a blank check to convert public state park lands into private golf courses and high rises. Republican state legislators John Thrasher and Pat Rooney proposed just such a “business opportunity” before the light of public scrutiny crashed their idea. Think: over-turned rock/cockroaches.

HEY NOW!! This is just good ol’ Republican environmentalism. Why not replace Florida’s natural habitat with turf that requires heavy watering and chemical pesticides. It gets better. Our competition-is-sacred State Republicans recommended no-bid contracts for their friends. Suh-weeeeet! I just love Republican-style capitalism, don’t you?

How will I know if the GOP’s really hosing me? How will I know?

When Newt Gingrich runs for the presidency and announces that his many marital infidelities were “partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country.” I cannot make this stuff up. Yes, the Newtster married his high school geometry teacher. Yes, that’s right, his teacher. Years later he abandoned that woman in a hospital room where she was recovering from cancer surgery.

Newt’s second marriage ended while he was having an affair with his now third wife.

Guess what? Remember when Republicans were holding impeachment hearings and “sheet sniffing” President Bill Clinton, well, who was the sanctimonious, righteous GOP voice of indignant moral outrage? Our very same Newt “Doing-it for God & Country” Gingrich who was, by the way, deep into, hmmm, an extra-marital affair.

How will I know if the GOP’s really hosing me?

We all know.

By The Busload.

Gloria Steinem made the observation on Bill Maher’s TV show that the Righteous Right love life from the point of conception to birth. I laughed out loud. From the point of conception to birth. Hah! And then it’s every child for herself.

While serving on the Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando board of directors I’d visit the old office on Colonial and there were always several pinched and pious protesters wailing about the sanctity of life and how egregious it is for American women to actually “own” and make decisions about their bodies. Don’t-cha just love how Republicans are all about getting the onerous government out of our lives, off our backs, but somehow when it comes to a woman’s uterus, well, they’d hypocritically set-up a national registry, if allowed, for our daughters to register their uteruses as state-managed property.

At one time there was a bait and switch operation doing business next door to the old Parenthood offices. If you didn’t know the difference, the signage would suggest that you could walk in and get birth control and family planning assistance. Far from it. They’d offer to help the woman if she was contemplating ending her pregnancy through abortion. They offered counseling. Do you know what the woman actually received upon delivery? Did she receive financial support? An educational trust fund for the new child? Decent housing for mother and child? A sustained diet of nutritional food? No, she got a two-week supply of Pampers. That’s it. Is that a hoot or what? “Good luck, Girl. Here’s your Pampers!”

These same self-righteous folk who rant and rave at a woman when she is, arguably, most vulnerable, well, where are they when the wheels fall off a life and a family is thrown into poverty?

Twenty percent of America’s children live in poverty. One in five of our children, America’s children, are living in poverty. The walking wounded. America’s shame.

I hope you watched 60 Minutes Sunday night. It featured homeless children, by the busload, in Seminole County. BY THE BUSLOAD! I am not easily brought to tears but they did well-up as children discussed on camera their lives living in a car or day to day in cheesey motels. The show portrayed beautiful, eloquent children, themselves brought to tears. From hunger. From guilt. From fear. From shame.

Seminole County Schools now have bus stops at motels and our children line-up for transportation to Casselberry schools. Not a few kids. Lines of children whose mother (or father) has lost her job, her home and is reduced to living out of a motel room, that is, if they are lucky enough to scrape together a few dollars to “move” out of their car. One incredibly mature girl talked matter-of-factly about “living” in a Wal-Mart parking lot (in her family’s car) and cleaning herself in a Wal-Mart bathroom before going to school. This is Seminole County. Not Mexico. Not Somalia. Not rural Alabama. Seminole County, Florida.

To those so concerned with the unborn, have the moral consistency to show equivalent compassion (and action) for “life” after birth. And to Governor Scott and our Republican legislators, your hypocrisy will be front and center as you eviscerate a woman’s fundamental right to choice while gutting state programs for the poor. What gutless cowards. You are Florida’s shame.