Monday, December 31, 2012

Higher taxes…it's about time

No Republican in Congress has voted for a tax increase since 1990.

That's not fiscal responsibility, it's insanity.
Inflation in the U.S. has averaged about 2.7% every year since 1990. It's hard to believe, but prices in general are up more than 80% in the last 22 years.

The stuff that governments buy or pay for, like Medicare health costs, highways, bridges, armies, food inspections, education, snow removal, and all that other stuff, gets more expensive every year.
Yet, Congress has repeatedly cut tax rates in the last two decades.

Our federal deficit has been growing every year.
Yet, Congress has repeatedly cut tax rates in the last two decades.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been going in the wrong direction on taxes.

We all want all the stuff and services that government provides. Most of us want to reduce the federal deficit.

It's about time that we start raising taxes on everybody.

OK, we'll exempt the very poor.

But let's be honest, a lot of folks who make less than $250,000 need to pay more taxes too.

And the very wealthy need to pay a much bigger chunk of their fair share.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Republicans forcing "fiscal cliff" dive?

It's appalling.

Yes, yes, of course it's true that both Republicans and Democrats are refusing to reach an agreement to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" disaster that is looming over America with a deadline tomorrow (Dec. 31).

Yes, yes, it's also true that the Republicans are the ones throwing the wrenches in the works. The blame is all theirs if the hated (by some) tax hikes and hated (by some) spending cuts all happen on January 1.

Let's just say it straight: the Republicans at this point apparently want the "fiscal cliff" disaster to happen, so they can claim that they're riding to the rescue of the country by approving tax hikes on the very wealthy.

It's obvious, at this point, that too many Republicans don't want to sign on to a negotiated compromise package  ---  heck, the GOP backbenchers wouldn't even pass their own Speaker's deceptively partisan proposal in the House.

Our government is in disarray. It's not functioning. Members of the Senate and the House are fatuously failing to do what's right for America right now, and yet they know they're going to do some version of it within a few days, after a politically-motivated delay.

It's appalling.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The wisdom of Charles F. Kettering

"Nothing ever built arose to touch the skies unless some man willed that it should, some man believed that it could, and some man willed that it would."
American inventor, engineer

This guy made your life easier and smarter and healthier.

He held 186 patents. He invented the electric starting motor for cars, developed Freon for air conditioning systems (he built the first air conditioned house in America in 1914), and he patented the incubator for premature infants.

Kettering developed ethyl gasoline, diesel engines and early solar energy systems. He made a lot of money doing all this, and in 1945 he helped to found the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Re-read his aphorism above....he reached high, and he had a long reach.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The wisdom of Winston Churchill (part 4)

"Diplomacy is the art of telling plain truths
               without giving offense."
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
British prime minister during World War II

We need more diplomats who can tell plain truths.

Mostly, we need to hear more plain truths from everyone.

Do you know where your child's head is?

When you take your family to the zoo, you need to remember to tell your 6-year-old that he has to take a step back when the camel starts to swallow his head…

I mean, most grownups know this, I least I think I've always known it, but kids might not think, at first, that there's anything weird about having their heads inside a camel's mouth, so you have to make a special note to remind them before you start the trek through the Large Mammal section…

And here's a tip:  Always make sure your child's head doesn't smell like hay or carrots.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The wisdom of David L. Thompson

David L. Thompson was a brave New Yorker who went to war to serve his country after the shots were fired at Fort Sumter in 1861.

He marched with about 110,000 of his countrymen, to Antietam Creek in Maryland on September 17, 1862. On that grisly day, nearly 23,000 men fighting under blue and gray flags were killed or wounded in vicious, up-close combat…

"In a second the air was full of the hiss of bullets and the hurtle of grape-shot---the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red. We heard all through the war that the army 'was eager to be led against the enemy.' The truth is, when the bullets are whacking against tree trunks and solid shot are cracking skulls like egg-shells, the consuming passion in the breast of the average man is to get out of the way."
                                 David L. Thompson, Company G
                                 9th New York Volunteer Infantry

A salute to Mr. Thompson and all those like him who have served our country.

A deeply respectful salute to all those in the American armed forces who went to war and weren't able to get out of the way.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"All I want for Christmas is……"

Buying Christmas gifts for me isn't a complicated process. Just gimme a book, or a Barnes & Noble card, or a library card….

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The "Lincoln" movie…

I finally made it to the cinema to see "Lincoln" with Daniel Day-Lewis.

It's compelling, I want to see it again.

I'm pretty sure you'll be like me, you'll learn more about the 13th Amendment to the Constitution than you ever knew.

The amendment is surprisingly concise:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It was speedily endorsed by the states and was finally approved on December 6, 1865, when Georgia ratified it.

It was the first step of Lincoln's plan for "reconstruction" of the South after the Civil War. Too bad he never had the chance to implement the rest of his program, which would have been considerably more reasonable than the harsh and careless policies adopted by the Radical Republicans after the assassination.

A side note about the movie: Wow, it was dark at night in 1865. Gas lamps and candles don't throw much light. It was shadowy indoors after sunset, and, to our modern sensibilities, gloomy. A little creepy…

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Boehner's GOP majority slinks away….

According to Reuters, about 60 of the 234 Republicans in the House would have voted "No" on Boehner's failed "Plan B", and most of the rest were reluctant "yes" votes.

This is not respectable minority leadership by the Republicans.

We all know that we have to raise taxes as part of the very important determination to get federal spending and revenue in balance. Congress will never ever cut enough spending to do the job without tax hikes, because Americans want most of the federal government services and benefits that we presently have.

Look, plain and simple, too many Republicans in the House were just afraid to vote to raise taxes on ANYBODY because they didn't want to have to stand up for it at the next primary election.

That's not vision. That's not leadership. That's just sloppy, dangerous, self-serving ideology.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on the poor

Boehner's "Plan B" would raise taxes on the poor.

Why hasn't this bombshell been the headline for the last several days? If your income is under $200,000, "Plan B" would have RAISED your federal taxes.

Look, I'm not going to waste time complaining about the disastrous and disingenuous failure of the House Republicans to do anything that's even close to being good government for America and Americans.

I'm complaining today that Boehner's "Plan B" would have raised taxes on folks earning less than $200,000, and THAT hasn't been the big story this week. For instance, folks in the $10,000-$20,000 income bracket would have had to pay an average $262 more in federal income tax next year.

The Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers on "Plan B" and I saw this semi-obscure story on Yahoo Finance on Friday morning.

Boehner's "Plan B" notoriously raised tax rates on the very wealthy making $1,000,000 or more. We all know that.

But it also eliminated deductions and tax credits that help low-income taxpayers, like the 2009 enhancements to the child tax credit. Where did  you see that detail reported in the news media or by the cable TV talking heads?

Because of the abandonment of the tax credits, the Boehner "Plan B" actually would have RAISED federal income taxes for the average household reporting up to $200,000 in income. And the biggest bite, in percentage terms, would have been on those in the $10,000-$20,000 bracket.

The Republicans of course planned to raise taxes for millionaires by an average of $72,360, and households earning $200,000-$1,000,000 would have seen a tiny tax cut of a couple hundred dollars.

The Republicans deliberately planned to raise taxes through the back door for everyone else.

Which income group are you in?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Open carry for Miss Jeppers?

Some gun advocates are openly calling for administrators and teachers in our public schools to be armed, allegedly as a defense against a future massacre like the one at Sandy Hook that killed 20 first graders.
This idea is damnably obscene.

I don't want to hear that the best we can do for our six-year-old children is to say:

"Kids, we love you so much, we want to keep you safe in school with your teacher, so what we're going to do is give Miss Jeppers a 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol and an easy-draw holster, so if a bad man breaks into your classroom with big rifles, Miss Jeppers can slap leather, drop to one knee and pump two or three slugs into his chest so he won't hurt you."

We love our kids more than that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The wisdom of Woody Allen......(part 2)

"If it weren't for problems, the work day would be over by 10 a.m."

Woody Allen, aka Allan Stewart Konigsberg  (b. 1935)

That's assuming you get in on time, which of course sometimes is a problem….

But otherwise Woody's statement seems to be right on the mark.

Hit problems with three times the resources you think you need to fix them, and watch many of them go away…..

Monday, December 17, 2012

Some people have too much money….

Well, at least one person has too much money.

One of the two pianos used in the classic 1942 film Casablanca was auctioned last week by Sotheby's for $600,000…..and jeez, it's only an upright.

An anonymous Japanese collector sold it.

Somebody with too much money bought it. I guess he or she has the jones for old pianos.

Of course, it's his or her money to do with as he or she pleases.

If I had that much unneeded cash to toss around, I'd think of something different to do with it.

Oh heck, I might buy 60,000 books to distribute to poor kids…

Or maybe 600 mules for poor farmers somewhere…

Plow it, Sam.

$4.4 million for a shirt?...........

Sunday, December 16, 2012

1 gun death every 20 minutes…

I said my piece about guns and gun control yesterday, read it here. For me it's this simple: too many guns, too many dead people, let's do something about it.

Today Nicholas Kristof says his piece about guns and gun control in the Sunday New York Times. Read it here.

He mentions that OSHA publishes five pages of federal safety regulations about ladders….about 300 people die each year in ladder-related accidents.

About 30,000 Americans die of gunshot wounds every year.

Kristof mentions an anonymous Facebook follower who said "It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Kristof makes a realistic point: we're not going to abolish guns entirely—but if we require background checks on every gun buyer, and sharply limit multiple gun purchases, and make automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines illegal, then we can make a big dent in the number of people who are shot and killed every hour of every day.

And maybe we could make sure it's a long, long time before another crazy kills 20 first graders in their schoolrooms.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Too many guns….

Everything I write now is posted on my website:


Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut….it's not too disgusting for words.

Try these words.

Imagine 20 dead kids sprawled on the floors, with bloody bullet holes in their little bodies.

Imagine 6 dead adults crumpled in pools of blood right next to them.

Imagine the legally smiling face of the legal gun dealer who's going to sell a legal gun to the next crazed mass killer.

Imagine yourself letting this happen.

We're going to let this happen unless we start doing something different.

If you're not going to do something about it, you're not going to do anything about it.

Too many guns.

Too many dead people.

Too many tears.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Health care reform…the ups, the downs

Seems like a whole lot of Republican-led states have decided to let the federal government run the "health care exchanges" that are mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Only 18 states have set up their own exchanges, says The Washington Post, the other 32 just shoveled all or part of the job off to the feds.

Hard to understand the reasoning here….many of these Republican leaders blasted away in public against ACA, "government intrusion" in health care, etc., and now they're rather casually giving away control to Uncle Sam. Isn't that a little cockeyed? They're INVITING the federal government to take charge?..........

Oh, wait, somebody just whispered this is a continuation of the Republican blocking move, Republican governors don't want to take responsibility for any part of ACA…

In my mind, maybe it's just another example of politicians letting ideology get in the way of common sense and what's good for the people they represent.

I support the affordable Health Care Act, I'm happy to see the federal government in control in states where the Republican leadership has done everything to block ACA implementation...

Health care reform, coming slowly…

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Workin' 9 to 5.....NOT

As you start thinking about whether you should dust off Uncle Terry's eggnog recipe this year for the holidays, just take a minute to think about this:

Only 44% of Americans are working full time. The Gallup organization says its November survey shows that well under half of American men, women and children—God bless us every one!—are in the full-time workforce.

If you include the millions of part-timers, about 59% of Americans who are 16 or older are working (and paying their payroll taxes).

Those of us who aren't working should give a respectful salute to those who are!

Let's salute workers everywhere who are making our world go 'round!

And let's salute non-working retired folks everywhere who did their stints in the salt mines (or other career fields) and who are now enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Now, if only Congress would get its act together and start doing the work it needs to do to boost our national economy and help create jobs for those who want them…

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar, R.I.P.

Ravi Shankar (1920-2012), R. I. P.

Pandit Ravi Shankar is gone. If you were fortunate, like me, to hear him play his sitar in concert, then you can easily recall the pacific thrill of listening to that marvelous musician and watching his marvelous fingers on that marvelous instrument. 

I saw and heard the music man—he was born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury—at Lehigh University many years ago with his very talented daughter, Anoushka. They made beautiful music.

When I was very young I wrote poetry inspired by a piece Ravi described as "Bhimpalasi, a most beautiful raga of the late afternoon…" It was one of my first poems, it came easily to me….listen to "Bhimpalasi" here

Ravi got together with George Harrison in 1971 to play the first blowout star-studded benefit concert, The Concert for Bangladesh. The audience applauded after he finished tuning his sitar, and Pandit Ravi Shankar politely invited them to "wait until I play something." If you've heard his voice, you can imagine the utter civility of his words…

Ravi Shankar. Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I can't brain today...

I can't brain today….

Yeah, no kidding, I have the dumb.

It's hard to put it into words.

Give me a minute…

Do not spindilate, y'know?.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Will Madonna run for president in 2016 ???

Will Madonna run for president in 2016  ???

Yeah, I know, ewwwwwww!

But seriously, speculating about the one-time Material Girl's chances for the White House is just about as useful as guessing whether Hillary will run, or whether Rubio will be the GOP's champion…

No one knows who the Democratic and Republican nominees will be four years hence, and no one can make a good guess…too many variables, too much time….

Now if old Hillary wants to make a public announcement saying she's throwing her hat into the ring, I'm all ears……if Marco wants to make it official right now, I want to know that…

But I'm promising myself that I just won't pay any attention at all to the endless pundit speculation and blogosphere gossiping about who might run and who might win, it's all bellywash, it's nothing but ignorance wrapped up in ephemeral bloviation…..

I'm going to do the smart, healthy thing:  ignore it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

The wisdom of Bobby Knight

"The will to succeed is important,
            but what's more important is the will to prepare."

Bobby Knight (b. 1940)
Legendary NCAA basketball coach

Good ideas: grab the ring, walk through the open door, live your dream, try one more time

Better ideas: get the best seat on the merry-go-round, figure out which door to open, stay awake to plan your dream, prep now for a second try later, look farther ahead, get strong, get ready

What to do when you're on the right track.....

Try one more time, says Thomas Edison

Francis Bacon on "opportunities"..

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dave Brubeck (1920-2012), R. I. P.

David Warren Brubeck, 91 years. American progressive jazz pianist and composer, died December 5, 2012.

Dave Brubeck was an active musician to the end of his life. You really can't like jazz if you don't like at least some of Brubeck's work. Or all of it. Take your pick.

I read through some of his biography, here's an interesting item: he served under Gen. George Patton in Europe in World War II, mostly as an Army musician….his "Wolfpack" band was the only racially integrated unit in the American army. Good one, Dave.

I wonder how "Take Five" sounds when it's scored for massed harps? Click here for the earthly version from 1966, with Brubeck on piano and Paul Desmond on alto sax. Desmond wrote the sax melody.

Dave Brubeck. Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The wisdom of Will Rogers (part 3)

"Even if you're on the right track,
        you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Will Rogers (1879-1935)

Get a move on!

…and by the way, there's more than one right track…..

another taste from Will Rogers

and more Will Rogers....

Monday, December 3, 2012

The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Our lives begin to end
      the day we become silent about things that really matter."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

A good start would be to say out loud, right now, what MLK said.

Then do it again.

In the 18th century, Edmund Burke said it this way....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"A glee for Christmas"…..

"Nowell sing we…"

"Green groweth the holly…"

"Gloucestershire Wassail…"

"Sweet was the song the Virgin sung…"

"A glee for Christmas…"

When was the last time you listened to music that was composed by England's King Henry VIII?

Do you happen to recall the last time you heard music and song that was first performed about the time that King John signed the Magna Carta (1215) and the last Crusades were getting under way in the 13th century?

Perhaps you missed yesterday's tender offerings by My Lord Chamberlain's Consort at Trinity Episcopal Church in Bethlehem, PA. The concert was part of the Moravian College Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

It was indeed "A glee for Christmas"….the Consort performs medieval and other early European music that is cheering, friendly and by turns delicate, robust, quiet, hearty, and, you know, hold the heavy metal please…

Pat O'Brien, the Consort's lutenist/cittern player, mentioned that in the 14th and 15th centuries there most likely was a lute hanging on the wall in every barbershop and tavern, so anyone could grab it and play and sing for anyone who would listen…hey, that sounds downright neighborly…

I imagine that some of the boys headed down to the King's Arms Inn or maybe to the Sign of the Laughing Donkey on Friday nights to drink ale and get up on stage for the air lute contests…..

King Henry could compose and play this kind of music with some skill.

The Consort makes it look easy, and they love what they're doing, every minute of it.

I loved it too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You didn't rebuild that…..

There's always bold talk about rebuilding during cleanup of major storm damage. Many thousands of homes and businesses, and miles of highways/bridges/utility lines, were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Governments, business owners and homeowners in several states have already begun the daunting and terribly expensive cleanup chore.

And of course there are calls from every quarter for government assistance, disaster relief, temporary free housing, low interest loans….

In other words, the folks and the regions that were devastated want everyone else to help pay for restoration and rebuilding.

I'm certainly not opposed to that in principle. I think an important advantage of being part of a society is that everyone pitches in to help after natural calamities. That means, of course, that government assistance comes into play. And of course, government assistance means your tax dollars and mine are being spent to help those who got hurt.

Just for the record, I think any homeowner or business owner should be required to have sufficient private insurance to cover the costs of rebuilding after a devastating storm hits. Hurricane insurance will cost about 13 cents a year in Kansas, and flood insurance will cost about the same in the Berkshires….

And I also think that the folks who are handing out the government aid to those homeowners and business owners should remember to say, from time to time, "you didn't rebuild that."

President Obama was right when he talked during the campaign about our social, economic and physical infrastructure that is essential to our manufacturing, our commerce and our lives, and when he said to private business owners "you didn't build that."

For those who will drive on new roads and new bridges, and for those who will receive government aid to get back on their feet after Sandy, it's fair and it's important to say "you didn't rebuild that all by yourself."

Storm costs and global climate change....