Tag Archives: musing

The Other, Other 1%

1 May

I keep getting messages in my Email in-box from politicians asking for money to help them in their efforts to fend off the Koch brothers and their millions of dollars that they are pumping into this next presidential election. Thanks to the Supreme Court and their decision that money donated does not imply in any way that a service or favor might be required by the donor…no matter how much is donated.

And this comes from a Supreme Court that has 2 members who regularly support and attend Koch brother foundations and think tanks and 1 with a wife who works for one of their organizations…so they should know all about whether or not money can influence ones way of thinking…. shouldn’t they?

Anyway, the bad news is that the Koch brothers are said to be planning to spend up to 1 billion dollars supporting the Republican candidate of their choice. That should make quite an influential impact on their chosen candidate…don’t you think?…even though 5 of the supposed greatest thinkers in the USA (The Supremes)…don’t think so…even a little bit. That seems a bit naive for supreme thinking wouldn’t you say?  And how are we or anyone else supposed to know that money hasn’t changed their minds..let alone the minds of greedy, opportunistic politicians?

Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have to resort to asking for 10 dollars at a time to try to catch up to the Koch’s spending. And Good luck with that! Because the really sad news isn’t so much that the Koch brothers are going to spend 1 billion dollars trying to put their chosen candidate into the White House. The saddest news is that 1 billion dollars represents only 1% of the Koch brother’s total wealth!

1 billion dollars to them is like a 500 dollar donation to a person who earns 50,000 dollars a year or a thousand dollar donation if you earn 100,000 dollars. Well sort of because after you make that 1,000 dollar donation you won’t still have 99 BILLION dollars left!

Just imagine what the Koch brothers can do in a country that worships money at the alter of greed. Imagine what a rich foreign country or international person of power might eventually be able to do here in our most free and material world…

So for all intents and purposes,…We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

And We’re Off…

10 Jan
On the very first day of the new Congress, the new Republican majority took steps that could very well damage the foundations of Social Security. In addition to providing benefits to retired senior citizens, Social Security  also includes a disability-insurance program for those who want to work but can’t due to health reasons. And sometimes when the disability-insurance program runs short on funds, Congress transfers money from elsewhere in the Social Security system to prevent benefit cuts. The transfers are needed every now and then to keep the money flowing to the proper recipients depending upon those who come and go within the system. These transfers have never been considered out of the ordinary and in fact it has been done by Congress 11 times over the last seven decades. That’s an average of once every 6 years or so…
Apparently the system’s trustees are expecting the Social Security disability-insurance program to face a shortfall next year, and are expecting Congress to do what previous Congresses have always done… but…What the new (and improved?) Republican policy says is that transfers must from now on “improve the overall financial health of the combined Social Security Trust Funds.”  Experts say that because of the new and rather vague language used, it would likely mean any reallocation would have to be balanced by new revenues or benefit cuts.” Because a “transfer” of funds doesn’t necessarily mean an “improvement” of funds…does it?
Republicans are saying that this new language is meant to “improve the overall financial health” of the Social Security system but it may just also provide a loop hole (and who in Congress doesn’t love a loop hole?) to clear the way for proposed Social Security cuts, which would be consistent with congressional Republicans’ goals based on their recent past attempts to make cuts, changes and reductions within the Social Security System.
So, If the disability-insurance program is starved of funds then people will inevitably have to face Social Security reductions of one kind or another. Already multi-employer pensions funds, which cover about 10 million U.S. workers, have seen reductions in pension benefits proposed and approved by Congress in last December’s budget spending bill. And if you are a member of a public pension program than you know that a recent and popular government tactic has been to starve your pension of funds by simply withholding promised and negotiated contributions to your fund.
This government policy of trying to break our retirement programs and then declaring them broken and in need of fixing is not only very disturbing, but most definitely immoral, and most probably illegal. But the bigger and more disturbing question that I have is…why? Why this attack on the working poor and middle classes and their promised retirement incomes? First job displacement in the recent past, then wage stagnation in the present, and now proposed reductions in our future pensions?
We already know that our Congressmen and women are bought and sold by big monied interests and as a result are doing their bidding but what are they up to now? Have they been heavily investing in Nursing Home Futures? Or are the banks pushing for a future of more “Reverse Mortgages” because selling the underwater kind just didn’t bring in enough ill gotten gains?
So what’s the deal? Does anyone out there know? I’d like to hear your thoughts because this new Congress is off and running and I sincerely hope we are not all trampled in the process…and then cast off because we are not “financially healthy”…or rather broken…as in broke.

The Sound of Silence?

26 Oct

I just can’t seem to help it! Perhaps I am just watching too much TV (like most Americans) but today as I was switching through channels I inevitably crossed paths with Fox (how many channels do they have, anyway?) and their crap just seems to fly out at you like a broken sewer line so you can’t help avoid getting covered in their excrement just by passing by. Anyway, their lead news story came blaring at me just as I was about to click to the next channel…

“How much did the White House know about the Obamacare website disaster and why have they been covering it up? This story today and all night…exclusively on Fox News!”

Must Fox report everything that President Obama does as though it is part of a conspiracy? They have treated every moment of his presidency as though it were a planned terrorist attack on the United States formulated and put in motion at the very hour of his birth some 52 years ago.

In 1983, 90 percent of the American media was owned by 50 companies. Today, 90 percent is controlled by just six corporations: General Electric, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. These large media conglomerates are continuing to get bigger and bigger and even in the era of the internet traditional media still dominates.  A 2012, study by the Pew Research Center  found that 55 percent of those surveyed said they got news from television and that people still spend more time on average getting news from radio than online.

If these conglomerates continue to get bigger our exposure to diversity of opinion, in a country that is about as diverse as any country can get, will become more and more limited. According to the FCC’s own data, women own fewer than 7 percent of television stations and racial and ethnic minorities own just 3.4 percent. That’s an amazing statistic when you take a moment to really sit and think about it.

Whose voices and opinions are we listening to? When you consider the statistics mentioned above, we are most definitely NOT listening to the opinions of every day, commonplace, hardworking Americans.

If this media trend continues then what will be the alternative to the opinionated, narrow minded and biased media outlets of our future?

Silence?

Which One’s the Referee?

7 May

One day in school I was standing outside my door waiting for the bell to ring when suddenly a fight broke out in the hallway. Two students, seemingly from out of nowhere, began slugging it out right in front of me. Without thinking I did what any good referee would have done and stepped into the middle of the clinch and separated the combatants with my arms. Thankfully the students in question were flyweights and not heavyweights or I’d probably still be there, crushed like a slice of sandwich meat between two hoagie rolls.

Anyway, I tossed one of the students into a row of lockers while I pushed the other up against my classroom door, holding him there while yelling for help. A teacher always has to yell for help in a situation like this because the other students in the hall will never offer any assistance whatsoever. Those who aren’t closing in to form  the traditional spectator ring are too busy microwaving their popcorn in the hopes of settling down into a nice long championship bought.

And if it’s two girls fighting? Forget about any chance of help…The cheering mob will become the very best Hollywood paparazzi with their cell phone cameras and iPods all a twitter in the hopes of catching an impromptu topless ingénue to tweet around the world…

But again I digress…for security soon arrived and the fighters were removed to their corners while the disappointed crowd broke up and went off to class. But my own students were in awe of me for the remainder of my class period as I was now the old man who still had “skills” and I must admit that it felt good to have stepped into a crisis and to have prevailed with the use of quick wits and brute force while helping to avoid a larger brawl. (And with no guns!)

And later that day the building principal came up to me to offer his approval, support and praise for a job well done. However, he then offered me a word of caution…

“Be careful out there, he said. Apparently you broke up a fight between two rival gang members and now they might be out to get you. Watch your back!”And with that he was off bounding down the hallway to no doubt spread cheer among another unsuspecting colleague.

One of the things that can make being a teacher difficult and exhausting these days is that sometimes doing the right thing can somehow be the wrong thing.

Driving Miss Distracted

24 Apr

 

My dad loved to drive. I think for him nothing represented freedom more than being able to get into a car and go…and he loved to go anywhere at any time. And back in those days, driving was just about all one could do in a car. You got behind the wheel, maybe opened the window (because air conditioning was a fancy extra in those days) and put on the radio (and there weren’t many stations so you didn’t have to worry about changing it all the time) and off you went.

And my dad loved the radio as a driving companion and we could always tell when he was just about home because the sound of his humming (he never sang along) preceded the noise of his car  as he turned the corner into our street. (and cars were noisy back then too)

Now however, things have noticeably changed when it comes to cars. They have become multi-task space stations for inner space travelers. Does anyone ever open a car window anymore? Even the dogs who travel with their owners demand climate control these days.

And have you noticed how taking out one’s phone is now a mandatory  prelude to the happy motorist’s opening of the car door?

Now-a-days when I’m driving in the car I not only pay attention to the road but I also try to pay attention to what the driver in front of me is focusing on… just in case I need to anticipate something I haven’t anticipated before.

I have seen drivers chatting on their phones, dialing their phones, programming their phones, texting on their phones, tweeting, reading their Nooks, doing crossword puzzles on their Kindles, fighting with their multi-disc CD players, watching DVDs, Searching for the proper station on their 100 channel pre-programmed Satellite radio… writing notes, putting on makeup, styling hair, Blackberrying (is that a verb now?) Multi tasking with iPads and iPods while balancing a Starbucks’ double shot mocha latte.

Yesterday, I sat behind an automobile after the light turned green for so long I swear the driver could have been baking a casserole!

All I can say is thank god that whenever confined to a small space, looking out of the front window is still a common human habit… and something that most drivers still like to do! Yikes! Where would  we all be without curiosity and the basic instinct to wonder where we’re going?

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