Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A milestone or a millstone birthday?

On Turning 65.....some reflections.

It has been along time coming, but I am now officially a Medicare recipient. That happens on the first day of the month when you turn 65.
I actually attained that milestone yesterday. It has been quite a ride so far, and I'm.struggling to remain in the saddle, even if the ride is getting a little bumpier.
Along the way, I have been extremely fortunate, and extremelyunfortunate as well. There have been good times and bad, and lots of in between.
I have survived cancer (melanoma). I had an emergency appendectomy at 63, and I am still going strong, able to not only sit up and take nourishment, but healthy enough to walk fast, if not run, still dance ( a little slower)., exercise, travel, read, write, smile at life, sip a little wine, and laugh loudly at the ridiculousness of much of it.
I have also been unfortunate. I lost my wife, my best friend and love of my life in her early fifties. That leaves a huge hole in your heart that you can never really close . You just cover it, and try to move on. But it's always there. We were fortunate to have had four wonderful daughters who continue her quest and embody her spirit. For that. I am most grateful.
Balancing between happiness and heartache is always a challenge. But the most important thing I have learned along the way , as my late wife used to say, is to " Keep a happy heart". I think that is the key...maintaining a sense of the ridiculous, and trying to see the humor in the human predicament.
I find myself waxing on about the past, and eagerly sharing the stories of my life ( of which there are many).
I am grateful that ( for the most part) I can remember them, and for having a new group of recruits each semester to share them with. That's one of the great things about teaching...your kids have already heard all your stories, but your new students have not! I love teaching as a retirement avocation. Let's face it... I love to entertain, enlighten, and even intrigue, and I love an audience.
That's what keeps me vital, and hopefully undull.
I particularly like to muse about the
Life's lessons I have learned, and to share the little aphorisms that I have
absorbed along the way. My favorite one is "Hope springs eternal! ...( in the human breast).
My second favorite is "Be sure you're right, and then go ahead" ... Davy Crockett. ( My Davy Crocket pocket knife is a little rusty, but still one of my most prized possessions. )
And... My third favorite is "Don't sweat the small stuff!". Worrying only produces more woe, so embrace the philosophy of "Que sera, sera..". What will be , will be!
Thank you Fess Parker and thank you Doris Day! You have greatly.molded my life. But as much as I love to look backward, to the Howdy Doody and leave it to Beaver Days...to the Happy Days of early rock 'n roll, to the hippy happy sixties, the squirrely 70's , the productive 80's , the responsible 90's... I really enjoyed the reflective
00's, and am eagerly sailing through the 2010's., I love to look forward as well. Each new day is a blessing.
Time may no longer be on my side., but as the old Ann Murray song goes... "Time...don't run out on me!"
I want to keep my
plane flying, even as life's runways grow shorter. I always did like takeoffs better than landings.
The wheatfields of Kansas are starting to green up. The Hills of the Finger Lakes are covered in snowy white. The hair on my head is finally getting a little bit white, and the celebration of all things green is almost in sight. It's been a great, a happy, and a powerful journey so far, and I am enriched by all those whose paths I have crossed, and who have crossed my path along the way. I am especially grateful for those who have walked along that path with me, and sometimes guided me back when I got detoured. Thank you all so much for being part of my life. I am many times blessed!
And lastly, If life is like a big ice skating pond, and you never know when the ice is going to give way underneath you, the only thing to do is "Keep on skatin' " !

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our unpersuadeable relatives

How to argue politics with your redneck relatives...or not.

My brother in law is an avid Obama hater. I made the mistake of engaging him in a policy debate over tax reform. After several volleys, and me continually confronting him with the facts, he finally said, "I don't care about the facts! Obama is just wrong! Ok?

Don't confuse me with the facts... you're spoiling my theory! Well if you don't care about the facts, why am I bothering to debate with you in the first place when your final line of attack will be not fact based or rooted in reality. It will be along the lines of "your mother wears combat boots!" It will be personal and ad hominem argumentation, because the facts do not support your position.

There is an old law school adage. .."When the facts are on your side. pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law, When nothing is on your side, pound the table. " That's what Nikita Kruschev did at the UN. He literally took his shoe off and pounded the table with it! Well, look what happened to the USSR along the way. It wound up in the dust bin of history. Table pounding only gets you so far. We will bury you? Yeah right!

So, lesson learned. When you want to argue with your redneck friends and relatives, first, ask them to just ignore those "nattering nabobs of negativity" on daytime talk radio. Ask them to at least listen to the President for once. Listen to him. Just listen.

He makes sense, that President Obama. He does not make sense, that Mitt Romney. He can't even get his jargon right..."Severely conservative?"
What does that say about how , in his heart of hearts, he actually views Conservatism!

Let the Bush tax cuts expire? "That's not class warfare. That's just common sense"...Obama.
He has the ability and the willingness to tweak and fix things... Not just take a dogmatic approach. That's the essence of leadership. He's finally got a grip.

For example...the way he's beginning to define the debate. Take the issue of tax fairness. He is no longer willing to cede the stage to their agenda. and the Republicans have been reduced to name calling. The worst President ever, etc. ...the job killer...etc.

In the final analysis, the genius of our democracy has been the ability of the American public to see through the smokescreen, and to make sense of it all. The American electorate is the ultimate jury, and while they are occasionally swayed by the passion of the moment, it is a dispassionate analysis of the facts, and the search for truth, justice, and the American way which is their ultimate measuring stick . It is just that, at times, the smoke screen becomes so thick, it can cloud their reasoning, but when, and if the thick smoke settles, the American people will see through the fog of pure politics, and will do the right thing. Trust the voters. When all seems lost in a cacophony of negativity..trust the voters to figure it out, and they will.

So , to the 1/3 of the electorate who are not persuaded by the facts , I say, God bless you! I choose not to argue with you. It matters not because your mind is made up, and you are unpersuadable.There is another old adage. "never get in a wrestling match with a pig. The pig will squeal, slip away, and enjoy it, and you"ll just wind up with mud all over you".
I am not going to waste my time.

To the one third who agree with me, I say thanks. Hang in there.

To that middle one third, who will listen to reason, who are fair minded, and just want to do the right thing...hear my plea!

It is that portion of the electorate to whom the President must speak His mantra must be "Let me persuade you with the facts. Let me appeal to your passion for common sense solutions to our problems. Let me engage and enlighten you" . If he does, and if he speaks in a direct, clear, and common sense way...if he truly channels Harry Truman , not Adlai Stevenson, in the final analysis,, all will be well.

Keep your language simple, clear, concise, and direct, Mr. President. Keep saying things like " If everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody plays by the same rules, then everybody will get their fair share. " That is the American way.

Thank you, Mr. President . Keep talking truth to the American people. The curmudgeons will think it's hell. But we, the people, will know the difference. And our unpersuadable relatives? Oh well, we’ll love them anyway!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Of Demons and Dragons

As the old saying goes, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Assuming that to be true, , the question then becomes, what does mega money do to politics?, i.e. mega money in the form of undisclosed million dollar donations to SuperPacs, which are supposedly independent of political candidates. Will such an infusion of cash to mega money pacs sour that mother’s milk, and sound the death knell for our American political system as we know it?

The challenge we face involves the kind of money which is rooted in a form of Sorcery, trying to cast magical spells over an unsuspecting electorate. Under the Super pac system, we never really know who is churning and turning the wheels behind the powerful veneer of that great and glorious wizard of mass media, advertising. For all we know, “Citizens for a brighter tomorrow” could be funded by the American Association of Witches, Wizards and Warlocks. Their true identity is inscrutable. They poison the process, and diminish voter participation,. They succeed in denigrating an opponent to such an extent that survival is almost impossible after being “carpet bombed” by their Super Pac ad blitzkreig. Negative campaign ads work. Sadly, but inevitably, this will lead us to government not of , by, and for the people, but government of , by, and for the Oligarchs.

Oligarchy. I know. It sounds a bit queer. Like a mythical word from a bygone era...Oligarchy...a governmental system run by a small group of very rich men who manipulate the electoral process to their own ends, and whose agenda , not the agenda of the American electorate, predominates. We are clearly on the road to Oligarchy, if we aren’t there already.

It is as if we have been taken over by a group of powerful dragons whose mystical monied manipulation of the common folk is undertaken by the fire breathing force of mammon which has become their archer. If a small group of billionaires can buy our elections, our democracy is at an end. We will be left with the illusion of a democratic system which is in fact controlled by the masters of the SuperPac world, whose hegemony will be unbridled, and whose dominance of the political system will be complete.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the USSC has paved the way for this tragic scenario with it's rulings in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, which hold , inter alia, that money is equivalent to free speech and that corporations are people whose political voice cannot be shackled by restraint on the gross expenditure of money to further whatever corporate goals they champion.

It is a sinister and unparalleled perversion of our political system, and it cannot go unchallenged. The highest court in this country is directly responsible for this travesty, and only that court can save us from the fate which they have consigned us to. A constitutional amendment might be the long term solution, but we can't wait that long to face the demons that this decision has unleashed. Immediate action , and intervention by the courts is necessary to stop this dragon like behemoth before it fissures and cracks the very foundation of the Commonweal.

It is pure folly to think that these Super Pacs are independent of the Presidential campaigns. It is clear that their actions are highly connected and any Prosecutor worth half a grain of salt could get to the bottom of this charade with a few subpoenas and a Grand Jury empanelment. Why wait until after the election? Why not act now,? What magic can we summon to slay these demons before their dastardly deeds are done, and we are subservient to their every whim?

How can we unmask them for what they are, and seek to enjoin their expenditures as violative of not only the spirit and intent of the law, but it's actual prohibitions as well? The courts are the answer. If we have to get an expedited hearing before the Supreme Court on the legality of such Mega Money Super Pacs as constituted, prior to the election, so be it. Our system has moved quickly before to decide momentous issues in a matter of weeks , instead of months and years. In support of that argument, I need only cite one case.... Bush v Gore 2000 !

An expedited investigation is not only justified, but duly warranted by the dire straits our democratic system finds itself in. Who will step up to the plate, to save the Republic? Will you answer the call AG Eric Holder, or leave it to one of the state AG's like Bo Biden or Eric Schneiderman? Someone needs to slay this dragon soon before the Oligarchic trolls hold sway and have it entirely their way. It’s just that simple.

What say you Attorneys General? There is precious little time to waste.