Category: political animal

pet peeve: people who won’t pay their taxes on principle

pet peeve: people who won’t pay their taxes on principle

somebody’s got to pay for all of this.

let me preface this by saying that this is not a debate as to whether or not you feel your taxes are too high. i, for one, have a few ideas as to how we could cut government spending, but that is another thread for another day.

this is, in fact, about those ignorant morons who try to completely get out of paying any federal taxes, whether G-d told them not to, whether they feel it’s unconstitutional (which says to me that they haven’t read the 16th amendment lately), or whether they’re just too fucking selfish to pay. i’m sorry, but if you live here, you have to do what the rest of us do. (well, most of us. big corporations manage to weasel out of paying taxes in myriad ways, which makes me also insane. but you, john q. public, don’t have an army of litigators at the ready to protect your supposed right to hide any earnings you’ve made.)

i know people think they have the right to not pay taxes, but i respectfully disagree. you like roads? you like clean water? you like junior getting an education? you like granny getting her social security check? you need to pony up, sir. otherwise, you can move. you can move to the UAE, but you might have to give up some of those rights you’ve learned to love.

in the meantime, i leave you with some creative ways of alleviating your tax burden.

1) don’t smoke cigarettes.

2) don’t drink alcohol (or conversely, start up a new hobby: home brew.)

3) don’t drive your car. bike, walk, or take public transport.

if i think up more, i’ll let you know. i’m open to your ideas, of course.

do not touch?

do not touch?

Recently, I was at elementary school, talking with our gym teacher about my son. I’ve noticed lately that the boy likes to stand on his head, flip around, and basically bounce. A lot. While team sports don’t seem to work well for him yet, some sort of physical activity would probably be beneficial for energetic little him, for me, and frankly, for the rest of the world. (You can thank me later.)

In short, I’m wondering whether gymnastics might be a way to go for him.

I hearkened back to my own gym experience. We had entire units on tumbling, on the rings, on the pommel horse. While I never did grow up to be Nadia Comăneci (and yes, I know I am dating myself, you Mary Lou Rettons out there), I enjoyed gymnastics — the weightlessness, even for just that second, before flying over the horse (and often into one of my less intelligent classmates who didn’t move away from it fast enough.) Leaping ever so carefully on the balance beam. What I would give to be able to perform those flips I once did without living in fear that I’d require traction and anti-inflammatories!

So I asked our gym teacher: when will my son’s class get to do a unit on gymnastics? His reply?

Not in this school.

Apparently, the threat of litigation has backburnered this pursuit in our public school. I was told that when a teacher spots a student, he or she may have to actually touch the child; and since movement is involved, there is too much fear that a teacher might accidentally be in contact with a child in an improper manner. And even if that contact is purely accidental, the fear of getting sued, losing your job, and having your reputation sullied beyond all recognition outweighs the possibility of teaching a child to discover this ancient athletic pursuit.

Obviously, my sympathies are ever-present with any child who has fallen victim to a predatory adult; and there’s no question that persons in power who are abusive ought to be severely punished. However, this situation makes me think about where we are going as a society. When teachers cannot teach to children because of a fear that they may touch a child and that the child, in turn, may cry foul (whether true or not), what is lost? There’s a certain communication that comes with physicality; and while I don’t advocate that teachers go out of their way to lay hands on their pupils, this scenario tells me that litigiousness has won the day.  And how sad: for I remember fondly teachers patting me on the head, hugging me, and yes, spotting me in gymnastics. I know how I appreciated all of these gestures; and I mourn the fact that my children will likely have radically different educational experiences with their teachers. There will be little touching.

There is a beautifully sad story entitled Hands in Sherwood Anderson’s masterpiece Winesburg, Ohio that concerns a dedicated teacher named Wing Biddlebaum. Biddlebaum is estranged from society for decades because he has one “flaw”: he expresses himself with his hands. The story shares that in his younger years, Biddlebaum was a teacher who never touched any child inappropriately, but who caressed his students’ heads and shoulders in a supportive manner. Unfortunately, one day, a “half-witted boy” falsely alleged molestation, and Biddlebaum was driven from another town to Winesburg, where he lived alone on the outskirts, cut off because of his hands. He feared communicating with anyone ever again, all because of his fluttering, expressive hands.

Such a loss.

Originally posted on Smartly.

in memory

in memory

my friend and former colleague gene steuerle lost his wife in the plane that hit that pentagon. in response, he started an organization , which has since merged with americans for informed democracy, an organization that empowers young people in the United States to address global challenges such as poverty, disease, climate change, and conflict through awareness and action. AIDemocracy promotes just and sustainable solutions at the campus, community, and national level.

guilty pleasure monday: i believe in love (dixie chicks)

guilty pleasure monday: i believe in love (dixie chicks)

yes, i know. this from the girl who isn’t a country fan.

i always get a bit wistful this time of year. part of it, of course, stems from the recognition that it’s the end of summer and my kids are off to school again… and i am not. part of it is due to the fact that it is the end of the jewish year and the start of the new one (rosh hashanah, for my non-red-sea pedestrian pals.) and the big unavoidable part, as you can gather, is from the fact that september 11 is not far behind.

9/11 is forever burned into my psyche. remember, we had a plane hit the pentagon here in arlington, a plane carrying a friend’s wife and so many, many others. i have written before about the day; it’s something that will never fully evaporate from my consciousness.

but it’s a lot of screaming about what is being sited near that hallowed ground where thousands of lives were lost that has me so sad right now.  a lot of people in this nation are making a perilous leap of hate: they seem to think that the acts of a group of people should be blamed on all people of that religion. that a group of murderous zealots have managed to cause people to hate all muslims is sad. it’s wrong. and it’s unamerican. while i personally wonder whether building such a center so close to the site of the Twin Towers displays a certain insensitivity to some of the families of 9/11 victims, i believe that if they have followed the laws and have gone through the proper channels, the group is within their rights to do so.

but the issue has moved beyond the community center. this situation has highlighted the fact that some americans are broadbrushing all mosques and muslim endeavors as somehow dangerous; and this not only does a great disservice to the millions of our fellow peaceful muslim-americans, but i fear that it also helps to motivate religious zealots with bad intent and justifies their actions.

and i fear all religious zealots.

so yes, today, i selected a country song. if i can keep my mind open about all sorts of things, then maybe others can, too. see, i believe in love: love of my family, love of my friends, love of my nation, love for the people of the world — even those who would hate me for my gender, my religion, my political beliefs… whatever reason.

i hope others believe in love, too.



every day, i drive through an area called seven corners. it’s a crazy confluence of roads, each sort of crashing wildly into the next. i have tried to count how many corners are actually there; but it takes too much concentration to simultaneously count and navigate through the area, so i’ve never actually figured out just how many corners there truly are in that intersection from hell.

this summer, there are two homeless men who work the streets here. an african-american man has the strip beside eastbound route 7; a caucasian man walks the strip on an access road that feeds into both 7 and ultimately route 50. both have signs that state that they are homeless vets. they have replaced the lady who walked this street last summer; i remember her vividly because not only did we give her money for her family, but BC insisted that we find help for this lady. (i called both social services and the nearest homeless shelter; of course neither could help her.  indeed, despite the fact that she was on that narrow strip of land day in and day out, they said that they could not locate the woman if they wanted to. it was a difficult lesson for BC; that agencies are not prepared to go looking for specific people, like lost pets, to bring in from the heat.)

i only drive on the access road the one man has claimed as his turf. this morning, i dug into my purse and gave the man some change; as i held it out, his rough hand gently scooped it out of mine. he blessed me; and i wished i knew more about how he ended up on this narrow plot of land in the early morning heat.

i often wonder about the stories behind each homeless person i encounter. there was a man i befriended 20 years ago who was on my walk from union station to my office. he had a teenager and was not happy about living on the streets and what that did to his relationship with his son. i would often give him some of my lunch, as i didn’t have much money to spare back then. as the months wore on, my friend started showing up with flour all over his pants and shirt. a local group was teaching him to work in a kitchen, and he was very excited about his baking classes. i cheered him on each day until one day, he was not in his usual spot. i never saw him again; and i always hope that somehow, he was able to take the skills he was learning and get back on a solid path to a life of  comfort and stability.

i fear this is not usually the case, though, with the people i see on the streets.

i have seen homeless people bathing in the fountain below the Capitol building, where only hours later, throngs of tourists will stick their hands and legs to cool off in the Washington heat.  i was once chased, along with a friend of mine, by a homeless man who snapped and went from friendly to threatening; he chased us all the way into the ladies room at union station until somehow, he was mercifully diverted. i often remind myself that homeless people are people like any others; most people are okay, but there will always be the liars, cheats, and people with serious problems in the world. these folks just have the added problem of no safety net to catch them and no place of their own in which to lay their heads at day’s end.

but i still wonder. i don’t know what i would do if i were in that situation. and as the economy fails, i suspect increasing numbers of people find themselves in this position.  friends who have come to visit DC often ask me whether there will be any of those people near their accommodations; they want to shield their kids, or they don’t want to be bothered by panhandling, which i certainly understand. but with the economy tanking, i wonder how many of those people will be coming to towns and villages which were formerly considered havens away from our big city distresses?

because in the end, couldn’t we all be those people?

guilty pleasure monday: this land is your land (woody guthrie)

guilty pleasure monday: this land is your land (woody guthrie)

oh, the subversive little song they taught us at school!

apparently, i am not the only one in the world who can only take so much of kate smith warbling G-d Bless America. legendary man of the people woody guthrie was absolutely annoyed by the never-ending airplay of this (admittedly classic) song and took matters in his own hands, writing this land is your land in 1940.  most grade school kids can recite the first verse in their sleep; i remember we had to learn a verse or two more in my day. there are, of course, two verses often omitted, thanks to some sort of printing mistake in 1945 (so THAT’S what they called it back then… i smell conspiracy!)

the first:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

you stick it to the private property man, woody! that stanza has a grandchild:

and then, there’s this:

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?

wow. they never taught us those ones in school.

those latter lyrics about hungry people give me pause.  so many people today have lost their homes, their jobs, their standard of living. many more are in danger of doing so. i’d say that most americans historically looked at it as a sort of us or them situation; being poor was something other people did, and they did so because they were lazy. i’ve never felt that way, of course; but now, i think plenty of other people who are in that boat are realizing that it often has little to do with your motivation and a lot to do with economic realities.

for starters, you shouldn’t buy a home if you can’t afford to do so. programs that let unqualified home buyers go out and buy homes anyway were a gamble that eventually made everyone in this country a loser.  do i think these unqualified home buyers ought to be homeless? of course not. but i’m sure more unscrupulous people made some of the iffy-er economic entanglements too good to resist.  i remember when BS and i were looking to purchase our home. we had saved and tried to live within our means for a long time; and when some real estate agents dangled some absurdly dazzling numbers in front of our eyes regarding how much home we could afford, we dug in our heels and said no. we had done our own calculations, and we had a number with which we were comfortable. we knew we couldn’t go higher.

clearly, not everyone was able to do that.

and wall street clearly needs some better rules and even better enforcement of them. completely stealing from the other 98%:

  • Consumer Protection: Create an independent agency to protect consumers, not bankers. A strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency must be independent of Wall Street and other federal agencies, such as the Federal Reserve.
  • Rational Risks: Stop banks from taking excessive risks with your money.
  • National Economic Security: End “Too Big Too Fail” by setting limits on how big a bank can be, which will end our current system where the five largest banks control more than half of the nation’s deposits. You can help by supporting small, community banks at home
  • Disarm Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction: Stop Wall Street from taking advantage of families with defective products like subprime mortgages.
  • Market Transparency: Make banks disclose what they are betting our money on by making exchanges open and fully transparent, and by forcing big banks and credit card companies to offer clear terms consumers.
  • Accountability: End taxpayer bailouts and force banks to clean up their own mess.

i couldn’t have said it better myself. thanks, guys.

but it still gives me pause. where did our common sense go? if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is; so why did so many americans fall for so much of this smoke and mirrors game?

i wish woody guthrie were here to walk across this land today. i wonder what he’d think?

guilty pleasure monday: america the beautiful (ray charles)

guilty pleasure monday: america the beautiful (ray charles)

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

every year on memorial day, i think about the sacrifices men and women have made for our country. sure, i gripe a bit about other things, too, like the rolling thunder people who take over our area for the long weekend.  but i have several family members, living and now gone, who are veterans.  and i am proud of all of them, and i am proud of all the people, young and old, who have chosen to protect my rights.

and i get really tired nowadays about hearing the old crap that’s continually trotted out as supposed common knowledge: that because i disagree with the war in iraq that i somehow don’t care about service people.  it’s actually because i care about service people that i am disgusted with what has gone down as one of the worst military blunders, in my view, in american history. (and we have had our share of those, sadly. you don’t have to look far for them. vietnam, for starters… bay of pigs… i could keep going here…) first and foremost, these are our people — someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s mom or dad, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin… these are people who have stepped up to the plate and who have pledged to protect our nation.

but what exactly are they protecting our nation from in iraq?

i can understand going after terrorists, and frankly, the mess that is afghanistan is partially due i think to our half-hearted attention to that part of the world. i agree there are times when our military stands strong in the face of horror; and that’s a part of the world where we should have been looking all along.

and now, it is all such a colossal mess.

i can’t believe it is yet another memorial day, and we are still in iraq. we still aren’t making a dent in afghanistan. pakistan is nuts. and we are no closer now to finding osama bin laden.

well, maybe there is a segment in this country that finds me unpatriotic. but it is because of the sacrifices and hard work of my immigrant grandparents, it is because of all that my parents have taught me, and it is all because of the world i want my children to inherit from my generation that i disagree with the military direction of this nation.  i disagree loudly. i disagree deeply. and i will disagree patriotically.

and you can bet that i know that i can thank a soldier for that.

history never repeats

history never repeats

And there’s a light shining in the dark
Leading me on towards a change of heart

i’ve just read an interesting blog post over at mediumhistorica entitled representing colonial politics in modern america: the tea party movement  and the need for a federalist response. i do not remember how i stumbled there, but i’m intrigued by some of the ideas i read in the piece.

the author notes how modern politicians tend to demonize big government, linking our Founding Fathers as champions of small, decentralized government:

Essentially, our modern interpretation is that Washington, Revere, Hancock, Adams, Jefferson, and any man who fired a gun at an enemy in a red coat, meant for us to be free of a cumbersome bureaucracy.

he further picks up on the idea that the tea party movement has similarly linked themselves to the dudes who dumped the tea into boston harbor because…well, wait. they weren’t protesting taxation. they were protesting, as i recall, taxation without representation. (and that’s not fair.)

it inspired me to crack a history book or two. (and not one forcefed to schoolchildren in texas.)

yes, back when our nation was still in kneepants, the venerable thomas jefferson (now apparently no longer making appearances in texas history books, natch) and james madison created a little thing called the democratic-republican party, a crew that ultimately split into…wait for it… the two parties we know today as democrats and republicans. among other things, this wacky crew was into state rights.  they opposed another funky bunch, led by alexander hamilton, called the federalists.  federalists were into a strong central government, a military, a central bank, among other things. people like john adams were federalists…and george washington, though an independent all his life, was known to be on the federalist side of things.

(yes, that george washington. you know, father of our country? dude who slept here and there and everywhere? a federal government isn’t always a bad thing, and george knew it.)

If colonial America did not put faith in the success of a powerful and central government, we would not be a united country today enjoying the wealth and success that we have come to assume to be the antithesis of governance. On a side note, it was the same mentality of eschewing central government which persisted to protect “States’ rights” as a means of preserving slavery. This famously led to the Civil War; in which the progressivism and stern governance of Lincoln saved the unity of this country.

obviously, anyone who stayed awake during high school history (and i did, mr. heffernan, wherever you are!) knows how the constitution came about and how both federalists and democratic-republicans both got their ya-yas out, getting bits that afforded a centralized federal government but with plenty of states rights concerns thrown in for good measure.

but the federalists eventually faded out of view. the author continues on to theorize how somehow, we went from founding fathers who were into a strong, centralized government to people being branded nazis and socialists if they appreciate a certain level of a federal entity. you know, like the tea baggers do?

The true history of the Federalist Party and early United States needs to be better represented in the social and political spheres of American life today. I think the real silent majority of today acknowledges the benefits of central government, but remains silent because of the stigmas America places on left-wing thought (see:pinko). Perhaps the American left also needs a nationwide, progressive, grassroots organization – like the Tea Party Movement.

interesting. i couldn’t agree more.

happy just to be nominated

happy just to be nominated


thanks so much for nominating two of my posts for the just posts of 2009 award!

peace train


guilty pleasure monday: millworker (james taylor)

voting is over now, and winners have not yet been announced. but check out the page — there are some really amazing thought-provoking posts up there.

it truly is an honor just to be nominated.

i feel good

i feel good

…and it’s all thanks to you, president obama!

i am not surprised by the lineup of state attornies general who are preparing to go to war over this law, though i have already called and emailed the attorney general in my state to cease and desist with his efforts. (i’m sure the intern charged with reading those things  is probably laughing his or her a$$ off at my verbage.) i don’t want my tax dollars wasted on a groundless and absurd effort to get rid of a law which frankly benefits me and all americans. but i’m sure these folks want to put on a good show (they are, by and large, mostly elected officials) for the portion of the electorate that brung them. which, in my commonwealth, would not include me.

(incidentally, if you’re in VA and would like to share your views with the attorney general, you can find him here.)

anyway, i want to share why i think this admittedly somewhat imperfect law is still the best freaking thing since sliced bread.

1) eliminating pre-existing conditions for kids immediately and for adults in 2014. unless you have what would be considered a pre-existing condition, you would have no idea what this means to a person, to a family.

i have often joked with BS that i married him for his sugar-daddy health insurance. of course, back then, i didn’t have a pre-existing condition. now, of course, i do.  if for some insane reason he lost his job, i would personally ding my entire family’s ability to get health insurance unless his next employer offered insurance without any sort of pre-existing condition clause.

this idea has hung over my head for four years now like an ominous cloud. when i first came home from the hospital four years ago, when i should have been focusing on getting well, i was instead completely wigged out at the prospect that should i ever need to get my own health insurance, i could not any longer. my family’s health was in potential jeopardy simply by virtue of being related to sickly me. how would i provide for my children’s medical care? it truly made me sad. it truly made me feel helpless, captive to a condition that i didn’t create for myself. it’s just in my genes.  and the only way to have a fighting chance at wellness was a therapy that cost upwards of $10,000 every four weeks. without insurance.

now, there’s a law on my side.

2) lifetime caps on medical coverage goes bye=bye: yes, those of us who have freakish illnesses that don’t simply require us to take an aspirin and call someone in the morning rack up an impressive set of bills, even with health insurance. honestly, no one ever expects to get sick; but when it happens, it happens. and if it happens with a hospital stay or lengthy and expensive treatment options, eventually, one wonders whether one will hit that point when his insurer and he will have to part company. someone i love had a fairly innocuous surgery, only to go into kidney failure, a coma, and infection hell and end up in the ICU for three months. (he’s better now, fret not.) that sort of thing hits the hundreds of thousands of dollars. in a lifetime, stuff happens, and you amass these costs… it’s not pretty.

but what is our choice? let people die? sorry, mrs. jones, but we can’t pay for your cancer treatments anymore. you’ve really fought hard over these past 5 years, and you’ve beaten certain odds impressively. but you’ve hit your cap. you’re done now. good luck and goodbye. GOOD LORD, it must never come to this. but i suspect for some people, it has.

and now, G-d willing, it won’t.

now a lot of people are up in arms over having to have health insurance. honest to G-d, people, you’re required to have home and car insurance by law. yeah, maybe it’s state law, but probably because that’s how it panned out at the time. who the fuck CARES whether it’s federal law? if you need to be prepared to pay somehow when your home is destroyed by fire or your car takes out another person’s car, then why the HELL shouldn’t you be responsible to have insurance about a certainty: you will one day become ill. maybe seriously. i, for one, really hoped for a public option to make things even easier for people who truly cannot afford insurance.

oh, right. it’s socialism, requiring people to buy health insurance.

let me give you a little lesson, john and jane q. teabagger. THIS is what socialism is all about. (i know it has some really big words, and i know because glenn beck isn’t providing his own special narrative that it might be difficult to understand. but i have faith in you: give it a go.) guess what: no one has taken private health insurers out of the loop. you know, health insurers are companies trying to take part in that great concept you know and love called capitalism? barack obama won’t be out there, lining people up and pushing them into some government clinic. it will still be your doctor, your country, your world.

and yes, i know the economy is awful right now. but if i have to hear one more bit about small companies possibly dying on the vine because now they have to provide their employees health insurance? well, maybe it’s that great capitalistic system telling you that you ought not be in business.  i mean, so you should be essentially using other people to make money for yourself — but not take care of them? i’m, sorry, but i don’t think so. this is a new cost of doing business. (and i’m sure a lot of you will find tax lawyers who will, in turn, find loopholes so you can escape this somehow. i’m counting on it.)

there are failings in the law, to be sure. for one thing, as i mentioned, i wished for a public option. while it wouldn’t directly benefit me, it benefits all the people who might not otherwise have the wherewithal to be insured. and i would be smacked upside my head by my BTD if i didn’t mention tort reform.

but hell. it happened. and i’m hoping that we, as a society, have not sunk to the depths of caring only about ourselves.  i’m thrilled beyond words that our elected officials — at least, SOME of them — actually put their necks on the line for something bigger than themselves.

and i feel good — really, really, good — for the first time in a long time.

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