Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Frankenstorm II

While Hurricane Sandy has been downgraded and has spent most of its damaging power, its effects will not be easily forgotten.  Dozens killed, millions without power.  The shore areas of multiple states swamped and reconfigured.  While the rain and heavy winds in my neighborhood were not as severe as in some, my daughter has had no school all week, and many businesses remained closed even today for lack of electricity. 

In my previous post, I mentioned that I expected some water seepage.  We had a bit more than seepage however, as the front sump pump could not do its job due to our loss of electricity from Monday evening until Tuesday early morning.  This resulted in the necessity of my bailing out the sump pump hole by hand every 90 minutes or so.  Eventually, I gave up and let the water settle in an area of our basement that has seen water in the past.  This area is separated from the rest of the basement by an eight inch step and I figured that the water was not flowing so much that it would rise above that level.  Strangely, once I fell asleep, I dreamt of battling water in the house.  

As they say, be careful what you wish for as you might get it.

Which brings us to the upcoming election.

In 2008, we were still in the grips of the financial meltdown.  The stock market, along with so many 401K balances, was still dropping.  The housing market was dead in the water.  We were seven years into two wars in far-away lands, and still had not caught the mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy that spurred our overseas military involvements.  Unemployment was rising, and most employers were predicting  further layoffs. 

To be honest, I considered it a no-brainer to vote for hope that America might turn its fortunes around by changing the direction of its policies, as did the majority of Americans who voted that day in November 2008.  And perhaps that was the danger.  We elected someone who promised that he would change everything for the better.  We assumed that by pulling the Obama lever that day, the bleeding would stop, the sun would shine again, and all that was wrong would be right.

For my part, I believe the president tried extremely hard in the face of all that needed to be fixed, and made a good amount of progress.  But was it enough progress?  Did we wish for him to fix it all, without understanding that our role did not end just by making that presidential choice?  Did we do enough to help him, support his drive to increase the number of Americans with health care insurance, stand behind his proposals to reign in Wall Street, encourage his efforts to protect our natural resources from unregulated drilling and digging, advocate for him when he attempted to end Don't Ask/Don't Tell and other forms of homosexual discrimination and defend his proposals to provide contraception and family planning choices for women. 

Or did we jump off the bandwagon of hope and change because the road was not free of bumps and obstacles?  Did we truly believe in his vision of America, or merely vote for him because he wasn't a Republican.

I think it is important to know how you answer these questions, before you vote next week.  If you expected then, that merely pulling a lever would make your life OK again, without any belief in the candidate or willingness to do your part, then it won't matter who you choose next week, you will be disappointed.  The fact is, no one person can solve America's problems.  It will take all of us, engaged in adult conversations, making the hard choices with the knowledge that everyone will need to do their part. 

Like so many observers of this election cycle, I see much more excitement in the Romney supporters than on Obama's side.  But it appears that as much of that fervor is directed to remove Obama from office as it is to elect Romney.  If you believe that by choosing Romney there will suddenly be jobs, good paying jobs, that gas will drop to $2 a gallon again, that all the countries of the world will bow down to our will, that terrorism will be crushed by our superior military might, and that we can all pay less taxes while still reducing the debt, without losing the benefits our government provides us, you risk falling into the same trap that has many Obama supporters second guessing their choice in 2008.  Our own individual responsiblity to solve Ameria's problems doesn't end in the voting booth, regardless of who you choose on November 6th.

Again, be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it.

Monday, October 29, 2012


After a gloomy day yesterday, made worse by the Eagles horrible showing against the Falcons, today is day one of Frankenstorm.  Surprisingly, no work for me today as all the wine and spririt stores in this area are closed.  I can tell you, this will not pass without many negative comments from those already against the state's control of alcohol.  The good news is that our sales for the weekend were much higher than normal so perhaps everyone thought ahead and purchased their favorite comfort drinks early.  The bad news is that those people who must buy alcohol everyday, and unfortunately there are many, will be disappointed when they slosh up to the door today (and probably tomorrow) and find it locked.


We have a history of getting water in our unfinished basement despite the presence of a sump pump at either end.  A few years ago we made the investment in one of those "dry basement" companies, and have had virtually no problems, but two days straight of wind and rain may make this the exception that proves the rule.  Still, compared to the dozens of people that have perished in other countries, the fatalities that will occur in America, the loss of home, the loss of treasured possessions, and the probable loss of power that will occur to thousands of people, I will be happy to only have a bit of seeping water.

The good news, also, is that with our advanced weather technology, we have warning before a storm of this magnitude arrives.  Imagine even a few hundred years ago, let alone a few thousand, when we were at the mercy of such natural disasters without the benefit of time to prepare.  This same storm with its exact wind speed and rain content, would have been far more disastrous to those living in the time of our founding fathers.  Even today, in 2012, there are people born in places and situations where the weather is what you see when you walk out your door.  Again perspective.

The wonderful part of tragic events of this type, is that when trouble strikes, we all pull together to help each other.  More than once has it been said that you measure the greatness of a people by how they face adversity.  There will be tens of thousands without power, perhaps hundreds without homes, and sadly, dozens who will have lost a loved one.  Yet all those victims will find solace in their families and their neighbors, and will find support from those untouched by this storm, good hearted people in other areas of America doing their part to help those in need.

If only we could extend that sense of help without reward into other issues of the day.  Is it because we don't see the emergency of our present times?  Or are we paralyzed by the complexity of our problems?

When a hurricane hits, we know which items we need to provide for its victims.  But what do we do when our middle class is struggling to live from one paycheck to another?  When the poorest of our fellow citizens do not have access to a quality education, health care services, healthy food, or the means to obtain those basic requirements? 

There is no one to blame (despite the occasional use by certain "religious" people to blame disasters on "bad" Americans) for a hurricane.  Most of us consider it an external threat, something beyond our control, so we rally together to counter its damage.  Yet as we approach election 2012, all we hear is how one side, be it liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, is at fault for our problems so, of course, all we need to do is vote for the other side and everything will be OK.

Perhaps someday, hopefully soon, we will grow up.  Just like providing water, shelter, clothing, etc for the vicitms of the storm that is upon us will occur despite any differences we might have, so too, solving our national problems, whether they be financial or social, will require us to put aside perspectives that focus on our differences, and embrace perspectives that embrace commonality.     


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Closing in on the election

To be honest, I am tired of this interminable lead up to the presidential election.  While I read that there are still tens of thousands of people who have yet to decide for whom they will vote, those I speak with about the election have long ago decided on their candidate.  I didn't even watch the debates, my level of "let's get to it" having risen so high.

Still, I occasionally see a news item or receive an email from a friend that sparks an idea, and leads me to my computer to post, yet again, another blog about politics.

In this case, it is the belief that we vote for the party which gives, or says they will give, us, individually, the most. 

To be more precise, conventional wisdom says

Those getting a government paycheck will vote for Obama.  These are the alleged 47%  of Americans who are on welfare, unemployment, social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, disability or some other form of entitlement program that provides a check or low cost benefit. 

Those involved with earning or running companies making millions of dollars (the 1% that Occupy Wall Street labelled in the past few years) will vote for Romney.

That leaves 52% of the country to decide the outcome.  But since Obama already has 47%, even if he only gets 10% of this group, he wins going away. 

Since most major polls have the election a win by less than 4% one way or the other, it appears that conventional wisdom may be off the mark.

So, for those of you who are still on the fence, here are some reasons to vote for Obama or Romney.

If you are on social security and medicare, vote for Obama because he has not proposed any changes.  On the other hand, vote for Romney because he will change it , after you no longer need it, so that your children and grandchildren will not be beholden to the government for their income or health care.

If you are on welfare or unemployment, vote for Obama because he will make sure you continue to get your checks.  But, if you are on welfare or unemployment, vote for Romney because he has promised to create 12 million new jobs so you won't need welfare or unemployment.

If you are sick and having trouble getting health insurance, vote for Obama as the Affordable Care Act will give you some choices in the near future.  But if you are sick or struggling to find health insurance, vote for Romney and move to Massachusetts because he already created a successful universal health care system.

If you are planning to enter the military, vote for Romney because his foreign policy appears to focus on military action to prove America is always right.  But if you are planning to enter the military, vote for Obama as he has been removing our soldiers from the front lines so you have a better chance of surviving your enlistment.

If you run a business, vote for Romney because he will remove all restrictions on your ability to make money.  But, if you run a business, vote for Obama because he will provide the regulatory staff that you can bribe or take to lunch so you can side step the regulations.

If you run a Wall Street traded business, vote for Romney because he will allow you to create any financial vehicle you can create, give as much money as you want to gain the favor of those in Washington, and pay as little corporate tax as possible.  But, if you run a Wall Street traded company, vote for Obama because your stock has regained virtually all of its value since the beginning of the recession and your company probably has millions of dollars it its coffers (unless you already spent it on a super PAC endorsing Romney).

If you are a woman, vote for Romney because he will decide for you that you should bear a child regardless of your circumstance, will make sure you are encouraged to stay at home with the kids by fighting same pay for same work, will protect you from the stresses of upper management responsibilities by keeping those binders closed, and will even provide more money in your pocketbook by making contraception illegal.  But if you are a woman, vote for Obama because he will not infringe upon your pursuit of happiness via your reproductive rights, your opportunity to earn what you are worth, and your freedom to get in on all those cool Trojan comericals. 

If you are homosexual, vote for Romney because he will save you from the the agony of divorce which afflicts over 50% of the heterosexual community.  But if you are homosexual, vote for Obama because he has already given you the right to defend your country without denying your identity, and believes that two consenting, tax paying adults should marry whomever they choose.

If you believe that God favors America, that all other religions are second to Christianity, that eternal life can only be achieved through the salvation of Jesus Christ, vote for Romney because the evangelical community supports him.  But if you believe that God favors America, that all other religions are second to Christianity, and that eternal life can only be achieved through the salvation of Jesus Christ, vote for Obama because Romney is a Mormon not a Christian.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Letters to the Editor

Every once in a while, I read my local (weekly) paper online.  I generally glance through the main headlines in an attempt to keep up with the local doings, and then check out the "letters to the editor".  Invariably I will comment on one, especially those which claim that the current Obama Administration, or next one should he win in November, will mark the "end of a free America", or the "last hurray for capitalism in America" or some such blathering. 

Yesterday I read a letter from an older reader, (she referred to her grand kids and great-grand kids) who
seemed truly upset about our current president and his lack of love for America.  She sincerely believes that he (and his wife Michelle) hate America, and that another four years of him as president will mark to end of freedom in our country.  She points to his going to church and listening to Rev Wright's sermons, his initial disdain for wearing an American flag pin, his attendance at flag burnings (not sure if this is an actual fact), and his going around the world apologizing for America.  Her final comment is that she has seen many threats to America in her life, but that Obama is the worst.

What is as interesting to me as her perception of how horrible Obama's term has been are the five published comments to her letter.

Two were in complete agreement of her sentiments.  Two were of the exact opposite opinion, and one asked the question/challenged the readers of the paper to submit a letter that actually used facts to support their argument as opposed to "spewing idiocies". 

And that, my friends, is the problem with our current political perspective.  Hate the other team, love our team.  All their ideas are lunacy, anti-American, anti-freedom, racist and inhuman.  All our ideas are pragmatic, job creating, prosperity building, and God approved.  And those without allegiance to either try to stay above the fray, pointing out how illogical the blind faith to either party can be.

It is as if we have fallen into a world where all the most bizarre sports cliches have become our country's mantra for discussing the real issues of our time. 

I added my viewpoint, and have copied and pasted it below for your consideration.  You may want to read the letter (link is above) and the comments before reading my comment so that you have a reference point, although I am sure that you can infer the references without much effort.

Also, I readily admit that I am biased in my viewpoint of this current election.  I believe that the current Republican economic theory of trickling down the leftovers from the top has hurt America, and the American middle class, and should not be adopted again.  I believe that the current Democratic plan to help level the playing field by establishing a can't go below tax rate for those in the top 5% of wage earners will stop the flow of America's wealth to those few Americans.  I believe that making contraception and family planning services more available is a way to provide more freedom for our young women as they navigate their child bearing years, and decry the resistance by Republican and/or certain business leaders to same pay for same work.  I am against sending our young men and women to the far corners of the world to "promote" democracy, when the real reason is to maintain a bloated military industrial complex that gets almost one out of every three discretionary dollars from our federal budget.  I am against the pretense that if you don't say God in every other phrase that you utter that you our anti-American but am also distressed at the lack of Christian acts in our country where a politician can get applause when promising to end funding for PBS, where the poor and elderly are referred to as "those" 47% who are only seeking a handout, and where the selling of guns and ammunition has become a national past time since the election of our first African American president.  I am against a "Defense of Marriage" Law that defends marriage by making it illegal for certain law-abiding, tax-paying Americas to get married. 

But I don't think Mitt Romney is some type of horrible man who only cares about his personal wealth and those of his ilk.  I meant it when I said that regardless of who wins, we will have a man of integrity in the White House.  It is OK to disagree, vehemently even, but to slander, lie, bend the truth until it is unrecognizable, and assassinate the character of someone who is making the monumental decision to put his personal life on hold to serve our country in its most difficult and challenging position is a sad statement about our culture. 

To me the choice of who can best lead America is obvious, but it is OK if you think the exact opposite if you present facts and logic to justify your decision.  Unemployment is high plus too many Americans are underemployed, or have to work two jobs in order to make ends meet.  Our national debt is out of control, and we haven't had a true federal budget in 3 years.  America is less respected across the globe than the previous two generations.  Cite those problems, and we discuss and debate the whys and hows and perhaps reach some common ground and some real solutions.

Tell me my candidate hates America or is a rich bastard, and there is no where to go from there.

Here is my comment to above mentioned letter and published comments to that letter.

I am neither an illegal border jumper, dead, or on welfare, and I have voted in every presidential election since 1976 when I turned 18 years old. I voted for Obama in 2008 and will do so again in November so does that make Woody's comments mute? As for Daisy, unemployment has slowly been dropping and inflation is non-existent so I am not sure from where she gets her facts. The truly sad part is that there are many people on both sides of the political aisle that have ideas that could address our country's problems but instead of working together they engage in ridiculous finger pointing and blatant fact bending making it that much harder for the electorate to make the right choice.

The good news is that despite the prevalence of sound bites in place of sound policy, America is still the place to be for opportunity and freedom, and despite the fact that many voters don't have a clue, there will be a man of integrity and vision in the White House for the next four years. Which man we choose is yet to be determined but at least we have the precious right to vote and choose. Let's work together to help each other make that choice and stop all the grade school playground name calling.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sick Day at the Dog Park

I used a sick day today, first time in quite a while.  I probably shouldn't have worked the late shift Monday night until 9 PM, then 10 PM to 4 AM at the second job, then 7 AM to 3 PM on Tuesday considering my ongoing battle with this cold, but I needed to do so to attend my daughter's water polo  senior night.  Of course, the senior night activity was well worth the effort even though I was on cruise control after only 90 minutes of sleep.  So many memories of my daughter, Rachel, flooded to the fore of my wife and my collective memory. 

Swim lessons at the Y, summer swim team with the other little Gators, the first ever winning swim season, little girls turning to young ladies, the switch from swimming to water polo in high school, those same little girls kicking and scratching their way to the first winning water polo season.  And the other parents who also brought snacks, wielded stop watches, kept score, and reffed from the bleachers.

Many tears and smiles at the ceremony.  The end of an era for us, the parents.  The beginning of a new life for our daughters. 

Since I didn't work today, I relaxed at home and watched movies while dozing.  Around 4:30 I took the dog to the dog park so he could run around without me having to run with him.  It was a mild day and the park was jammed.  Dogs of every size and breed, barking, running, sniffing each other's butts.  Dog heaven, one might say.

At one point, I heard one "mommy" say to her pet, "go ahead and play with the other dogs", a comment not unlike one I made and heard so many times when taking my kids to the playground when they were young.  But then I thought, is that always true?  Do we always encourage our kids to play with the other kids, or only when those kids are similar to our own? 

Don't get me wrong, we are all guilty to one extent or another of "protecting' our children.  Whether that protection takes the form of the white flight to the suburbs of the 1970's, or home schooling, or even the subtle messages we send about our children's friends who look different, we rationalize these prejudices in the wrap of being good parents. 

I know, kids and dogs aren't the same.  But still, wouldn't it be nice if, just as we don't give it a second thought when our labeagle (lab and beagle mix) plays with a retriever, or poodle or pit bull, we looked less askance at our kids when they brought home someone with a different skin color, religion or sexual preference. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thanks, and the Debate

Another big gap since my last post.  I mentioned that I had worked 12 days in a row finally having a day off on Sept 23rd.  From there I worked another 12 days straight until this past weekend.  And, of course I am working a 2nd job, 3 nights a week from 10 PM until 4 AM, so it all added up to me getting sick late last week.  Nothing serious, just a horribly sore throat and a hacking cough. I have been waiting for the stuffed up head and drippy nose but nothing yet but I am sure it is on the way.  Still, my wife and I managed to spend a lovely weekend at the beach.  The highlight of which was falling asleep in the sun with the waves lapping gently onto the shore on a sunny, perfect, blue sky, Saturday afternoon with my wife dozing in the chair beside me.  A memory that will last forever.

Anyway, despite my lack of posting, my "audience" has been growing of late.  My bog had over 1600 hits last month, a full 50% more than any month previous.  And this month is on pace to equal that total even though this is my first post. 

So, a big THANK YOU to my loyal readers.  I know you could all fit comfortably in one of those half sized yellow school buses, but thank you just the same.  I suspect that some of you are sharing my blog with friends, and perhaps this is why my "hits" are increasing.  (Mike, I suspect you of this, thanks)  If so, I am glad you feel that my words are worth sharing and that you continue to check my blog for new posts.  I have also noticed an increase in my foreign readership, blasts of interest from the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.  It truly amazes me that I can sit at my desk in Perkasie, PA, post my thoughts on this blog, and have those words read by people who don't know me in lands I have never been to or may never see.  The incredible power of the Internet to shrink our world, make us all closer, and perhaps more aware that we are all riding together on this big, blue marble as it races around the universe.  

Due to my burgeoning illness, I did not watch the debate last Wednesday.  By all accounts, Mitt Romney "won" hands down.  President Obama looked tired and uninterested.  Perhaps he was feeling like I did.  If so, I am sure he will make a better showing in the next round.  But if he is just tired, tired of the pressure and enormous responsibility of the presidency, then perhaps it is time for a change. 

I often wonder how a president, a CEO, or anyone with the responsibility to make life and death decisions, how those people justify their choices when they send young men and women into battle or close factories to increase profit.  I know I would struggle with such choices, not that I wouldn't be able to make them, but that I might not be able to live with them once made.  Does it take a special mind set that can set aside the knowledge that ones decisions can so negatively effect their fellow Americans, and instead focus on the larger picture, the bigger, hopefully more positive outcome?  We all studied Machiavelli and learned about the means justifying the ends.  Is it a prerequisite that a president must truly believe in that maxim in order to make those life changing decisions?  If so, perhaps President Obama does not have that internal strength while through his time as CEO in the private sector, Mitt Romney does.

Notwithstanding everything else I have written in my past blogs on this matter, my concern for the future should Romney have the chance to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, my disillusionment with our current form of capitalism where the resources and wealth seem to be flowing up towards those with the most and away from the middle class.  Despite my truly deep seated belief that a Romney Presidency will be bad for hard working Americans like myself, and especially for those unlike Mitt Romney, the poor, and the disadvantaged, and those without the benefit of rich parents and/or white skin, I wonder if President Obama has the conviction to make his vision of America come to pass.  The guts, if you will, to fight for his beliefs despite the fact that many will challenge him along the way, and that some will be hurt by the decisions he makes.   

I used to believe, fully, that we need men and women of strong moral character to lead our nation.  That those with the understanding that every American, from the richest to the poorest, the smartest to the dullest, the most ambitious to the laziest, that every American makes up the land we call America, contributes to the traits that make us very good at times, and misguided at others.  But perhaps, pure evil aside, we need less morality and more Machiavelli.  We need leaders to focus on those that can make us great, and forget those that hold us back.  Leaders who can funnel our shared resources to those that know how to make money and pay less taxes.  Laws that protect profit rather than the sick and old.  Policies that throw the flora and fauna of our planet under the bus so that we can have more shopping malls.  Regulations that allow more digging in the earth and more smokestacks to belch so that we can have cheap energy to get us to those malls.  Decision makers that can look past the hardships of the few and make sure that those with the most continue to see green lights ahead so we can return America to its rightful place on the world stage. 

Certainly Ayn Rand would be happy.