January 2012

Romney The Flexible.

What I saw I no longer see.

I changed my mind in other words. Bad idea if you’re a Republican. To change your mind. Why is that? Why is it a bad idea to reconsider an “issue” and based on new information to change your mind? Why is changing your opinion so repugnant, so threatening to Republicans?

Core principles it is argued. If one has core principles, one doesn’t change one’s mind. Mitt Romney is worrisome to Republicans because, it is feared, he has too flexible a backbone. That he has few core principles. Some Republicans are concerned that Romney is really a moderate posing as a conservative and that he affects such a hardnosed pose only to secure the Republican Party nomination. I believe that is essentially accurate, that Romney is flexible, that he is a relativist (realist) passing as one of the faithful.

Consider the question of abortion. Abortion rights are one of those “litmus” issues for conservatives, as it is for liberals, such as myself. I would not consider voting for an individual who would restrict a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body. It is such an essential right, more inherent, more basic than even the right to vote. Ask yourself this. Which would you give up last? Your right to vote? Or, your right to control your own body? The irony abounds.

It is immensely laughable in liberal circles that the Republican Party espouses freedom from government intrusion and regulatory oversight yet thinks nothing of injecting the state (image intentional) into America’s uteruses. And why is that? Because you are female. Because the government knows best what is good for you, girl. Fertile? Pregnant? Have babies. Birth control? You trollop! The government knows what you’re good for. You’re the vehicle of life, metaphorically/literally speaking, and regardless where “YOU” are at the moment (impoverished, sick, in school, alone, etc.), you will deliver. Or, else.

Perhaps if American women incorporated their uteruses Republicans would then leave them alone. Corporations, to Republicans, have more rights than America’s daughters.

You know what? I, personally, am not going to have an abortion. Men by nature of their anatomy should take the backbench and butt-out of this conversation. It is our daughters who will make such decisions. Republicans salivate before the capitalistic myth of the self-correcting marketplace—that if we would only leave it alone—yet, perversely, they think nothing of instituting regulatory oversight over our daughter’s sexuality. Is that hypocrisy? Irony?

Why do we think so little of America’s women that we do not trust them, at an individual, private level, to make decisions that are good (appropriate) for them? Male legislators in Tallahassee or Washington know what is best for America’s daughters? Is that possible? Or, is it tyranny?

Less than 20 years ago Mitt Romney supported a woman’s right to reproductive choice. He was a middle-aged, pro-choice advocate. Fast forward to 2012 and he cannot spit out his anti-abortion bona fides fast enough. Why is that? What changed? Romney wants more (the White House) than he is willing to risk (lose) over principle. Or, perhaps, no principle was involved. Yes.

You can argue when life begins (I believe at conception) but it is the next step where the real debate begins. And I place my vote with America’s daughters to get it right. For herself. By herself.

History and Histrionics.

He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown (Newt Gingrich?)
He’s gonna get caught
Just you wait and see
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?)

The Coasters

That’s a good question. Why’s everybody always pickin’ on Newt?

Better yet? Who’s doing it?

Why, it’s that nasty ol’ Northern liberal media elite!

And who they doing it to? Why, the Newster! And all those poor misunderstood good’ol’ boys and their big-haired women. Confederate crackers through and through. Moon Pies and moonshine. Rebel flag and rebel-yelling goobers who feel belittled, bedeviled and besieged. They get no respect for their “tradition.” Their way of life. Their religion. Or their region! The holy South! Where noble, free men once died so slavery might endure.

Newt Gingrich played the “media” card during last week’s South Carolina Republican debate and the attending crowd—poor besieged dears—ate it up. They rose to their feet and hooted and hollered their roaring support. Just who do those media elite think they are? You tell’um Newster!

Condescending, intolerant bigots! Why it’s a new day, in the New South! Home of the Republican Party! Exactly! Home of the Republican Party. Let’s briefly examine why that is.

The South lost the Civil War in 1865. It, the remnants of the Confederacy, instituted Jim Crow and for another 100 years the South’s black citizens were marginalized, exploited, terrorized and hung from trees like sides of beef. The Democrat Party, which ruled the South, willingly participated (led) in this violent injustice and resisted any attempts at desegregation. In 1948 Southern Democrats began exiting the party because of a civil rights platform plank adopted by the Democrat Party. The Dixiecrats were born. In the mid1960s President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, secured both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. As a result, President Johnson sadly observed, “I’ve lost the South for the Democrats.”

In 1972, Republican President Richard Nixon initiated the political policy called “The Southern Strategy.” It was designed to aggressively win over disaffected Southern Democrats to the Republican Party. Disgruntled over giving civil rights (Horrors! Equal Rights!) to blacks, fearful of lawlessness, and resentful of the perceived government overreach, Southern whites flocked to the Republican Party and resurrected the holy banner of “states rights.”

On August 3, 1980, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan traveled to Philadelphia, Mississippi to give his first address after receiving the Republican nomination. There he gave his now famous “States Rights” speech. Why there?

Fast forward 32 years and you have yet another Republican presidential candidate playing the race card, pursuing the “Southern Strategy,” by characterizing President Obama as the “Food Stamp” president, a not-so-veiled slam against black Americans and our first black president. What a coincidence that Gingrich in 2011 described Obama as displaying “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.” Here’s a breakdown for you who are “code” ignorant: Kenyan = Africa = Black = Obama = Un-American. That Newster! Such a subtle Southern dawg!

So as our South Carolinian Republicans whooped & hollered over Newt’s feigned outrage at the “elite” media for having the temerity to ask him to comment on his second wife’s assertion that he, in essence, is morally unfit for office, well, out came Newt’s “heartfelt” indignation of discrimination and bias. And all those put upon Southerners jumped from their seats and they may as well have broken into a rousing Gone With the Wind like chorus of “D-I-X-I-E!”

All I can say is, know your history and check the histrionics.

E Pluribus Unum Extinctus.

Free market capitalism has always been a government subsidized, bubble-inflating, swindlers’ game. By the exploitation of the many, a ruthless few have amassed large amounts of capital by which they dominate mainstream narratives and compromise elected and governmental officials, thereby gaming the system for their benefit. Phil Rockstroh

Ah, the American Dream. It is much in the public eye these days what with the realization that our Middle Class has been shrinking the past 30 years. That and the fact that more and more of America’s wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, um, pockets. And that much of that wealth shift is a result, not of changing global labor markets or disruptive technological innovations but of a collusion between America’s moneyed class (and their smarmy lobbyists) and Washington (and state/local) politicians. They’ve created laws, tax codes and regulations that favor the few over the many. E Pluribus Unum Extinctus.

It is hard for me to understand why Americans are such a complacent lot in light that so many are being hosed by so few. Complacent and confused. The confusion stems from the fact that we believe deep down in the goodness of our democratic souls that government is actually working for “all” of us. Oh, it is. But it’s working in a way that heavily favors the few over the many. Please, now apply President Reagan’s completely discredited “Trickle-Down Economics” to yourself and your family. Like what you’re left with? We are as fatted-cows complacently led to the slaughterhouse via the election booth. Moooo!

Part of the problem for many Americans is the challenge of understanding just how “rigged” our system has become. At every level of governance. And I’ve a local example that illustrates the problem.

Right now, today, the city of Orlando is planning the demolition of the old Magic basketball arena. Built with your tax dollars (contrary to the argument that they’re tourist-related tax revenue) the building was deemed obsolete and unprofitable. Regardless of the civic/aesthetic value system that constructs public buildings only to tear them down, willy-nilly, much as you would a temporary shed in your backyard, the larger question remains, why subsidize a billionaire’s private toy (a basketball team/franchise, in this instance)?

Orlando (city/county governments) felt justified constructing a $500 million new arena to replace the old. The DeVos family (said billionaires) kicked in approximately 12% of the cost with the remaining money (85%+) coming from our local tax revenues. Oh, the politicians will say, Jepson, you got it all wrong. We’re funding this half-a-billion dollar building with taxes secured from visiting tourists. It costs you (Orlando/Orange County) nothing. And, anyway tourist tax revenue can only be spent in such ways (to increase tourism).

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Why subsidize billionaires. Why invest public revenue for the benefit of billionaires? And why restrict tourist revenue in such ways? Man makes the laws anyway he/she sees fit. Period. End of story. To say we’re going to subsidize billionaires because our hands are tied, well, doofus, untie your hands.

Imagine if we had invested half-a-billion in local arts. Or Cops. Or teachers.

But, my critics will say, “We need a professional sports team cuz Orlando aspires to be world class!”

Tell that to our collective civic ego every time a millionaire Shaq or Dwight Howard says, “I love ya’all but trade me out of this two-bit market!”

Game On! . . . the “capitalist” way.

And the swindle continues.

Stuck In The Middle With You.

You may ask yourself, my god, what have I done?

Lyrics from “Once In A lifetime” by David Byrne

I was at a genuinely swell party last Saturday night at a stylish Baldwin Park address. The food and beverages were spread out over four rooms with drinks available by a glittering pool. I kissed the hostess and hugged the host.

I mingled. I chatted. I could not resist. While standing next to the dessert table (in the designated dessert room!)—and while eating brownies without even the good manners of placing them first on my plate—I asked the five folks who were generously piling sweets on their plates if they thought the Republican presidential debates would have the net affect of giving the election to the Democrats—so obviously asinine the GOP candidates, so infantile their beliefs, so absurdly simplistic their proposed policies.

One woman, taking my prompt, looked-up from the assorted delicacies and cautioned against any such confidence. In a quiet voice she suggested, in so many words, that the American electorate is not particularly bright, that “we” could be likened to that famous quote erroneously attributed to P.T. Barnum that “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I nodded approvingly.

A couple—whose eyes immediately averted downward—quickly loaded-up their plates with Bonbons and the like and hastily made for the exit. They were going to have none of this! Hrumpf! Who is this cad? To suggest that the Republican nominees are asinine, infantile and simplistic! We thought this was a party!! See if we RSVP next year!

Folks think that when I tear into Republicans that I’m blind to the shortcomings of the Democrats. But my gawd, not even my father (Mr. Republican) would go for these clowns. I think Rick Perry has even embarrassed Texans, which takes some doing. (Please recall George Bush.) Rick Santorum, if he ran the world, would outlaw birth control. That is the “pill!” What a joker! C’mon Ricky, not ever woman wants ten kids, whatever the number you’re working on. Amazing, isn’t it ladies, how men would ban birth control. If only. If only men were the ones getting pregnant. They might not be so cavalier in requiring women to have babies until their teeth fall out.

All of the candidates have swallowed the Grover Norquist/National Chamber of Commerce Kool Aid concerning taxes and government regulations. Taxes . . . Bad! Regulations . . . Bad! Government oversight . . . Bad!

If only the marketplace was liberated, was free to work its bountiful magic. If only Ayn Rand’s Objectivism was the prevalent economic system, all would be “right” in America. (Oh! And don’t forget! God likes a good return on investment, too!)

The Gilded Age of Excess never happened in America. Teddy Roosevelt never felt compelled to break-up monopolies. The Great Depression never occurred. America, today, is not inexorably moving to more wealth concentrated in fewer hands. And Noah loaded dinosaurs on the Ark.

Sometimes we have epiphanies. Humans are capable of change. I hope enough Republicans arise Election Day in a cold sweat and say, “My god, what have I done?” To my country. To America.

I’m not holding my breath.

Rather, let’s all hum along to these classic 1972 lyrics, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

Much more apropos.

Musings on Happiness.

I recently had dinner with friends whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time. I’ve been down with cancer the past few months and hadn’t been out and about as much. There’s nothing like a little surgery to put a stagger in one’s step. I’m on-the-mend, thank you very much, but the next day I received an e-mail from one of my dinner compadres asking, “In spite of all the things going on in your/our lives, are you/we unhappy? Notice I didn’t ask if you’re happy.”

Asking whether I am unhappy or happy is a distinction I do not see but it left me wondering, “Did I appear unhappy?” Was I noticeably different in my outgoing persona? Was I unusually subdued or particularly reserved? Heaven forbid! I reflected on that possibility and determined that the question was more philosophical in its intent? Was I unhappy? Were “we” unhappy?

As context is everything to me, such questions can only be framed with “compared to what?” I actually think about the “specifics” of happiness, perhaps more than the average lad. Imagine a happy time in your life. That moment inevitably passes, what then are you? What are you when you are not happy? Are you pre-happy, post-happy or just in-between bouts of happiness? Is life about moving from distinct moments of happiness—which constitutes 34.6% or 47.3% or 58.9% or 15.1% of your life—to your next instance of elation? Is contented (moooooo!) the same as happiness?

And all this begs the question, what is the meaning of life? And where does happiness fit into that equation? Happiness, per se, didn’t move to the first tier of serious philosophical consideration until, oh, about the 18th century. It was codified in America’s Declaration of Independence when Thomas Jefferson wrote that the pursuit of happiness was a self-evident truth. Arguably Jefferson was speaking to/of a “public happiness” but regardless, his self-evident truth has become the raison d’être of modern living.

The pursuit of happiness? Hmmm? Must happiness be pursued or is it possible to achieve happiness by just being? Is that an intellectual possibility? “There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so?” I particularly enjoy beauty. Flowers give me joy (happiness) strictly from their beauty (color, balance, harmony, form, etc.). No pursuit necessary. But I do tend my garden.

I am a hedonist, unapologetically so. Human beings are sensation junkies. Everything we know and are relies on our senses to convey. Yet scientifically, mere observation changes the equation. (I like to watch, Eve. Hah!) Is happiness then only a derivation of our “subjective” perceptions? Ah, the $64,000 question. And the answer is yes, unequivocally so.

Have enough food, adequate housing and sufficient “meaningful” relationships, toss in health and satisfactory intellectual/artistic pursuits and the modern individual is left, many times, to consider the meaning of it all. Which is where some of us find ourselves.

Life intrudes. Mythologist Joseph Campbell said that we must, “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of life.” On the surface that seems incongruous. For as much as happiness is a worthy pursuit, life and its accompanying sorrow always intrudes. People die. We waste away. Some expire before “their” time. Many self-destruct. We all participate in our collective idiocy/destruction (as a species).

Happiness is no more the human condition than sorrow.

But we try. Damned, if we don’t.

And I love humanity for that. Happy New Year!