September 2011

The Major Leagues of Poverty

Okay, kids. Today’s question deals with economics. How many poor people are enough? We need’um, right? Poor people. Seemingly we do. Else, why would God create so many of them? Huh? It’s just how many poor people are the right amount?

Let’s see? America has all sorts of poor people. It does. It will be real, real hard for America, however, to get into the big leagues of poor people. China and India already have that market cornered. For generations to come. Hard to compete in the Major Leagues of poverty. But America tries. It does. Now Mexico has so many poor people it exports them. Hey Now! Isn’t that exciting! Maybe that is the way to America’s brave new future – exporting our poor! Maybe to Canada! Or, Nova Scotia.

Why is America creating so many poor of late? Well, that’s the $64,000 question. It took decades for America to gut its middle class but damn if we “ain’t” dogged in our determination to be Number One in creating poor folk. God wuvs-um you know. The poor.

There are two ways to the poor house. Haha! To the poor house. Where are you going America? To the poor house. Haha! Why? Cuz we be dumb.

How dumb be we? We are too trusting. We trust our leaders to look after all of us when they are only looking out after themselves. They are. They say America needs to be more competitive with the world. If we don’t cut wages and benefits, jobs and factories will go to Vietnam. The jobs go. Wages are cut anyway. Towns die. More jobs go. Oh, and jobs go because a Chinese factory can pollute but not so much in America. America loses jobs because it’s too clean. What a dirty rotten shame. That America has such standards.

We create trade treaties. Trade treaties you say? Yea. We trade America’s middle class for cheap foreign goods. That is the real trade! Walmart is happy. And everyone makes out “they” say. Except, chickens do come home to roost. No wage increases for decades, jobs gone and a shrunkified middle class that is broke. That is progress though. Huh? Remember today’s lesson? How many poor people are enough? Don’t forget, too. God, wuvs his poor ones. He makes so many of’um. How?

We breed’um, too. What? Yea, we say to all our poor, go ahead and breed and have more poor because every sperm and egg is real special. You’re broke, no job, no prospects, no future, no skills and your little-honey is pregnant. Yet again. And again. And again. Sex is free (and fun) except later when those babies cry because things “ain’t” working out so good. But God loves’um. From afar. Don’t-cha see. God doesn’t want birth control. He wants all his poor to be born. Poor. Least that is what the faithful say. God wuvs the faithful more because He’s bring’um home. Someday.

So America’s rich has to learn a new trick. And fast. Our poor don’t keep to themselves. Unfortunately. They go public. They stand on corners with their poor hands out. They protest. They sleep on grates and make America’s downtowns smell stinky. Those poor are stinky.

You rich folk, just drive by. Continue on. And don’t worry your pretty little selves at all about the poor because God wuvs’um. All of them. Mostly in heaven though.

Republican Team America

We’ve had our innocence shattered. John Huntsman.

Irony can be a challenge to illustrate. One man’s truth is another man’s irony. When John Huntsman, presidential candidate, uttered (while critiquing Barack Obama) his “We’ve had our innocence shattered” comment during the recent Republican debate I incredulously thought he was being too clever by half. What Huntsman doesn’t understand is that Americans are now seeing up-close and personal actual Republican Party values. Graphically illustrated. And those values exclude many (millions of) citizens. Americans are coming to understand that we no longer are all in the same boat. Together.

While watching college football this past Saturday an advertisement for Russell Athletic was aired and the closing slogan flashed “Together We R.” R as in “Are” as, “Together we are.” What a joke I thought. The nation is unraveling (deconstructing if you will) before our eyes yet we perpetuate the myth of “Team America.” For a buck, of course. There is no Team America in today’s Republican lexicon. Republicans know one note and they constantly hum it, “Me, me, me, me.”

The poor Dears. Upper-end Republicans are all aghast at what they see as the introduction of class warfare. Billionaire Warren Buffet said he should be taxed at the same rate, minimum, as his secretary. “Class traitor” screamed the Republican effluent, ur, excuse me, the Republican affluent. That the wealthy should pay their “fair” share? “That’s class warfare!”

Oh, and I hope you’re following Republican efforts nationwide, at state levels, to disenfranchise the young, the poor and all people of color by introducing voting requirements to limit their actual voting. And it’s not a new idea.

A founding father of the modern conservative movement Paul Weyrich said in 1980, “Many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome - good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now.”

Weyrich concluded with, “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

To that end between now and the next election Republicans will do all they can to limit young voters, the poor, black voters, Hispanics and Native Americans from participating in our democracy. Cut back such voting blocks by 5% or 6% and election(s) go Republican. Folks the bad guys are winning.

The best illustration though is now famously recounted. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul recommended during the recent debate that those uninsured and in a coma, voluntarily of course, be “forwarded” to, oh, the Beneficent Sister’s Home of Dubious Care in Ottumwa, Iowa. No real need for death panels with Republicans. Cuz the poor already die prematurely. They were of marginal value anyway.

Since the 60s Republicans have been working relentlessly toward deconstructing the social-safety network established in response to the Great Depression as well as LBJ’s Great Society initiatives. If only, Republicans assert, if only America embraced the rugged capitalism of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, and, of course, let the chips fall where they may.

The chips, gentle reader, are the poor, the uninsured, the unemployed, people of color and the unsaved. They’ve never, really, been part of America anyway.

That Republicans so proudly champion such values, well, is anyone, still, an innocent?

A 9/11 Accounting.

What was missing from the 9/11 commemoration? An accounting.

We remembered (and honored) those who died and make no mistake, their deaths were unnecessary but I continue to be amazed that so few Americans ask, “Why?” What is it about America that compels Muslims to kill themselves (and us) in suicide missions? That simple fact should compel all of us to wonder what drives young Muslim men, lads who might be wooing some comely, almond-eyed Scheherazade, boys who might be so in love with life (and living) that dying for any cause repugnant. But that does not seem to be the case.

Asking why is a controversial question. It suggests that those who died were somehow culpable in their own deaths. That is a ridiculous connection. The specific people who died on 9/11 were innocents slaughtered but that does mean we, as a nation, should not examine what motivated the 19 Muslims to want to kill us (and themselves in the process).

Americans, as a people, are an ignorant lot. We frequently elect presidents (and legislators) who are woefully uncultured nativists. Many do not study history beyond the simplistic platitudes concerning our Founding Fathers. Worse, we think of today as having no antecedents; that today arrived in a vacuum disconnected from any cause and effect.

Why didn’t the 9/11 hijackers target Brazilians, the Chinese or South Africans? Why Americans? And your answer would be?

I’ve asked this question before. How many troops does China have stationed in Islamic nations? Incidental to the answer of “no troops” is the uncomfortable realization that China pays what per barrel of oil? China pays the same for petroleum as America without the added surcharge of our dead military personnel and a $3 trillion bill of indebtedness.

Osama Bin Laden was clear in his statements regarding what he found offensive about America (the West). He clearly wanted American troops out of his holy land of Saudi Arabia. He wanted American troops out of Islamic countries, period. He disapproved of our liberal, secular culture. He aspired to construct a modern day caliphate governed by sharia law. He disapproved of America’s support of Israel.

Our nation has mucked around in the Middle East for decades, supporting oppressive regimes, clandestinely involving itself in the internal affairs of Islamic nations—deciding winners and losers. For what? For oil. And for ego. Because we’re the noble Americans who cloak our intrigue under the guise of promoting democracy and capitalism. That might sell in Little Rock but for any reflective Islamic nationalist, America is an oppressive, imperialist nation, no different from the 19th century Russians and English (and others) who once played “The Great Game” in The Middle East.

America was struck on 9/11 because we are a meddlesome imperialist nation with an unfortunate history of Middle East involvement. We were struck because America represents modernity (change) in an area of the world administered by men with 12th century mentalities and beliefs. We were struck because we are the “Big Dog” on the world block and successfully striking America, unfortunately for us, garners the biggest bang for the buck.

It is for the women of the Middle East that I mourn, for whom I empathize. But it is not America’s moral responsibility to ensure their emancipation.

Bring our troops home. No more American forces (or meddling) in the Middle East.

That would be a reasoned final 9/11 accounting.

It Ain’t Necessarily So.

You can feel good and not be. It’s one of life’s little ironies. It is.

Last Thursday, an hour before a scheduled luncheon with my good buddy, Nancy, I was informed that I required surgery to excise cancer from my neck of all places. Nancy, just back from upstate New York had a stack of books to return to me. One was Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck. I almost laughed out loud. This had me immediately considering was it irony or mere coincidence that on the day of my diagnosis such a book, on loan, returns like the proverbial bad penny. Haha. Too funny.

I hadn’t anticipated that what ailed me was cancer because I had been told (over the phone) that my biopsy had come back as inconclusive. This had peeved me no end. I expect nebulous results from “scans” but stick a needle in and extract that pound of “flesh” and, well, how much more of me is required to determine the facts of the “matter?”

One aspiration was, indeed, inconclusive, the other, however, was thyroid cancer (very treatable). The doctor (my fourth), giving me the news, said I wasn’t told because “We like to tell patients such news in person.” Such a comfort.

And what, Chris, were you thinking when you first heard the news? My mind had raced to a joke in the “The New Yorker” from years ago. It shows a chap stripped-down to the waist, facing forward with both of his hands on the wall (like a criminal standing before a police car). Discreetly behind him is the stereotypical physician, stethoscope around the neck, and he’s holding a set of pincers and he’s deftly, delicately extracting the man’s wallet from his back pants pocket. The punchline has the doctor asking the patient, “Does it hurt now?” Haha.

I’ve reached my exalted age without ever having availed myself of medical insurance. As a result I am somewhat of a neophyte when it comes to the arcane practices of securing healthcare. I begrudgingly have medical insurance only because my wife insisted. And I mean, insisted. (Yes Dear, you were right.) The insurance I have means that I won’t lose my home in order to have medical treatment. But, let’s briefly discuss the deductible.

Okay kids, what are the first words out of your mouth when you’ve been told you’re cancerous? When you’re prescribed yet another diagnostic test or procedure? You might reasonably ask, “Is it necessary?” Or, “What will we learn?” Or, “Are there any downsides or side affects?” Or, “What will it cost?” Haha! That’s a real funny one. What will it cost?

No, the first words out of your mouth anytime anyone prescribes anything is, “Is it out of network?” I learned this the hard way. $1,600 to be exact. My biopsy was unnecessarily out-of-network and it will cost me that amount because my insurance company doesn’t pay for such out-of-network procedures. I didn’t think to ask. Not only that but it doesn’t apply to my deductible. Haha.

My more conservative readers know unequivocally that I am a dumber than a box-of-rocks liberal. Just how dumb is Jepson? Well, I just answered that question for them.

“Hello! Anybody Home? Think McFly. Think.”

Two tattoos for your chest, kids. “DNR” over your heart and “Is it in Network?” on the right.
Sound medical advice and free. Enjoy.