Off the Clock Make It All

Trayvon Martin

The situation in Sanford, Florida has gone completely off the rails. As the public players do increasingly crazy public things in public, it is important to remember that the teenage boy who did nothing wrong is quietly disappearing from the story.

And Face the Strange

The unnamed university sent out an email describing in cold, technical terms that its employees should come to work this morning, weather or no weather. This was followed by the city declaring that only emergency vehicles should be on the streets, so everyone stayed home and a good thing that was: once a road into the city was cleared, the ambulances and helicopters ran to the two hospitals all day. Even so: people gathered on the bridge, the flooded highway and in the parks to see for themselves what the rain had done and the river was doing.

Yesterday, as the eye of the storm sat over us, Pete and I got on our bikes and rode over to the family stores. Rainstorms have typically not been kind to the buildings that house the stores and this one was an outright bastard. We could tell the basements had been flooded differently, one more than the other, and both were draining. Boxes that’d been left on the floor were wet and there were too many of them for us to do anything to help the situation. Discouraged, we rode over to a house we’d promised to look in on and found that too had a full basement, draining after a flood. It was fortunate for us, then, that the catsitter arrived and though we had keys she plainly wanted us out. We rode over to the bridge over the river, where the flood raged and a carnival atmosphere prevailed. We took pictures that astound us still – and we were there.

We also went back last night to see the progress of the river’s recovery and we were not impressed. Though we walked this way and that, we could not find a clear, safe path to the unnamed university. I called Gianna, my boss, who lives three blocks from my house and whose picture window is safety glass for a reason, and told her there was no safe way across the river that wouldn’t end in a ditch on the back roads. She called this morning to say the head of the libraries had decided there was no safe way across the river, period. Thus, I had the first snow day of my illustrious career that involved no snow whatsoever.

This morning, we got on our bikes and went back to the bridge. For the first time, we could see the road along the river was under the river as it was currently constituted, horrible pun unintended. The water level had fallen remarkably, perhaps as much as ten feet, but the river is tidal and officials are saying tonight that by morning the level might be higher than last night’s. That would be very bad news for commuters. Pete and I are fairly confident we may be able to cross the river on bicycles in the morning – probably. Our housemate drives one of those rescue trucks for AAA. We haven’t seen him since Friday afternoon.

I had such a good snow day I made compound butter of sage and rosemary from my garden with a little lemon juice. In the winter, smeared under the crisping skin of a roasting chicken, this butter will remind us of the snow day at the end of summer.

They Were Calling It Your Cocktail Dress

Last night, Pete and I watched as the State Assembly fucked over 1 in 7 New Jersey residents by gutting public workers’ pensions and cranking up the heat on health insurances. The “debate” was broadcast on NJN, our state’s PBS station as I understand it because a vote was due later on whether or not the legislature would allow Governor Christie to sell NJN to WNET, a New York station. The specifics of that perplex me because I thought WNET came out of Newark, but I might be wrong about that part; suffice it to say the NJN people looked nervous on-air. Anyhoo, many members of the assembly cannot count public speaking as one of their magical powers and most speeches were incoherent. Some were better, heartfelt and distraught. Some made no fucking sense whatsoever as blue collar Democrats from urban areas struggled to explain why fucking over poor and middle class people was the right thing to do. One speaker from Camden couldn’t even finish a sentence without contradicting himself, so great was his cognitive dissonance. But this motherfucker took the motherfucking cake:

If this guy offers to "help" you, feel around for the knife in your back.

That’s Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, Democrat of the 6th District (Hamilton). He was the sponsor of the bill joining Republican union busting and Democratic need to please father figures by punishing women and minorities. Here is his statement, which he read to the assembly almost verbatim. We’ll get to that almost in a minute. Can I get a witness?

New Jersey’s economic reality cannot be ignored.

“As of the July 20, 2010 report from the Division of Pensions and Benefits, the post retirement health benefit deficit was $66.8 billion. On the pension side, the combined unfunded liability as of June 30, 2010 was $53.8 billion.

“These are real numbers that play a large role in our property tax problem, and these numbers are reality because for decades people from both parties failed to do the right thing to keep these systems strong for our public employees.

“As difficult as this is to ask people in this economy to pay more, this legislation will finally fix the fragility of this system.

“This bill will bring property tax relief, make benefits sustainable for the working families who rely on them and preserve collective bargaining for future negotiations. This protects both taxpayers and worker rights.

“It’s now our responsibility to safeguard these systems and make sure the problems that led to this legislation never happen again. That is our obligation and commitment to New Jersey property taxpayers and public servants.”

Yes, all that extra punctuation should go to a good home, but not mine: I have cats and a groundhog to feed, what with that GINORMOUS pay cut coming my way, courtesy of Louis Greenwald and other quisling Dems. I was discussing it this morning with Siobhan.

Tata: It was absolute torture to watch the speeches on the assembly floor. Many of those people should not have skipped public speaking – or any kind of speaking – classes in high school. Greenwald was particularly odious for his repeated claim that he was saving the pension system and benefits by gutting them. But what signaled to me that he is slime was when he turned to the gallery and said to the unions in an overly emotional manner, “This is not your fault.” Because I heard, “Baby, why did you make me do that to you?”

Siobhan: But he was saying “Baby, it’s not your fault that I have to hit you, but you have to take it.” That’s such a different torture and belittling technique, because, see, it’s not his fault and it’s not yours, it just has to happen!

It is my fond hope that Democrats up for re-election call my house for votes and support, because I will happily explain why they will get neither. Further, I hope working people help Greenwald seek other employment opportunities in November, since he is a vile substitute for a human being who should be shunned by decent people for what he has done.

Time To Play B Sides

I started the day with back pain I didn’t have time to deal with, so I stayed in bed for a few hours. That felt pretty good, but when I’m at home, something happens and next thing I know, I’ve been whirling like a dervish for an hour and a half. This morning’s something was the gear-stripping arrival of the lumber delivery truck, which I saw and heard through an open bedroom window. It was stupid and impulsive of me, but I leapt out of bed, scattering two indignant little black cats, and ran to the bathroom to splash water on my face before running outside to cheer on the lumber guy. I leaned on the porch rail and applauded as a smiling man pulled three 2 x 10s from the truck and lay them on the sidewalk running the length of the gravel driveway.

After an ice storm last winter, I sailed off the top of the back stairs and went bump bump bump to the concrete and later the treads developed portentious soft spots. Thus, I was goddamned overjoyed to see a different future in the old Magic 8 Ball. Stairs! Traction! Going about my business uninjured! Then I had to lie down.

Sing To the Morning Light

Lovely Topaz, a bit under the weather.

The bad news is coming too fast for me.

James Goddamn O’Keefe.
Newt Fucking Gingrich, literally.

In other news, David Broder has gone to his reward. He was a dull villain. Though I don’t believe in Heaven with angels pling-plinging on harps or Hell other than a Monday morning at Motor Vehicle Services, I do hope poor Mr. Broder is buried in a tie-dyed t-shirt and a Nehru jacket.

Further, Chuck Schumer quit being a corporate whore for a whole day.

This morning, I should’ve gone back to bed. I mean, if you didn’t accidentally brush your teeth with Aspercreme, you’re miles ahead of me, brother. Hint: don’t do that, it is icky and you look for Allen Funt all day.

Ooh, if you see Mr. Funt, tell him to say hi to that dirty hippie David Broder.

There’s A Chance That You Won’t

Oh for crying out loud, Hell’s frozen over and Richard Mellow Scaife says something not vile.

Republicans wrong on Planned Parenthood

Is that a monkey flying out of my butt?

Now the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives – urged on by conservatives opposed to abortion – has voted to defund Planned Parenthood.

On this issue, Republicans and conservatives are dead wrong.

Wait – is that beggar riding?

Abortions are a minor aspect of Planned Parenthood’s mission to provide reproductive health care, education and other services to Americans, regardless of income.

More than 90 percent of its work focuses on preventing unintended pregnancies that almost inevitably lead to unwanted, neglected and abused children.

In Pittsburgh and across America, Planned Parenthood offices help people to make better decisions about whether to have children. They help to arrange adoptions for women or couples unable to raise a child but unwilling to end a pregnancy.

Most of their clients are poor Americans who cannot afford birth-control measures that cost as much as $1,500 a month.

Flying pigs are actually a GIANT PAIN to clean up after.

Of course, no one wants teenagers to get pregnant. Yet far too many do — and they need reliable, honest advice about what to do next. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only reliable source of that advice. For many others, Planned Parenthood is the only safe, reliable source of counseling to avoid getting pregnant in the first place.

If not for Margaret Sanger’s vision and bravery, many poor Americans would have no place to turn for birth-control measures and counseling or for other health-care services.

To take that away makes no sense.

It’s interesting that Scaife’s arguments in favor of Planned Parenthood are mostly the same ones the forced birthers use against it. I didn’t see that coming. He does tell us why the compass needle is pinned on S.

My grandmother was a friend and a supporter of Margaret Sanger, one of America’s earliest, most effective advocates of birth control.

I met Sanger several times before her death in 1966 and was impressed by her intellect and her commitment to many issues, not the least of which was enabling every woman to be “the absolute mistress of her own body,” as she put it.

In other words, Scaife feels secure in his authority. He is his favorite right kind of people. This generosity extends to Grandma and by extension, to a friend of Grandma’s who met his right-kind-of-people criteria. I don’t particularly love how Scaife got here, but he’s wiped his feet and left his attack dogs outside.

In other news, Siobhan just said, “What I’m saying is that if you were just a little more of a self-centered sociopath, you wouldn’t have these issues. Is there a pill for that?”

Maybe. If Scaife’s found an antidote, someone else is poisoning the water supply.

No Warning, No Pension, Nobody’s Tears

The more I listen to our brethren on the Right blather, the more clearly I hear Oingo Boingo. Note to conservative and Libertarians: Elfman is not singing your praises.

Via Jill, Blue Girl’s got your hot response to selfish talk and dangerous fixation on the deficit.

The fact of the matter is, Social Security is not only not responsible for our deficit woes, it is independent of the deficit and it is solvent for decades. Period. Full stop.

That CBO report finds that the Social Security trustfund, without changing a thing, will be able to make full payouts through 2039 – it should also be noted that the full payout projections have been pushed downward by the economic downturn of the last couple of years, and those numbers should start moving the other way as the economy recovers. And if that isn’t the case, we have a lot bigger problems than Social Security coming down the pike.

And even if the trust fund were to run out, Social Security would still be in pretty good shape. First of all, the trust fund is a relatively recent creation. It was establisned in 1983, three years before the baby boomers started turning forty, to deal with the demographic bulge headed Social Security’s way in 2011. That last boomers will retire in 2029, ten years before the trust fund is currently projected to be depleted. Essentially, when the trust fund runs dry, it will coincide with the fact that it’s mission will be, for the most part, complete. It will have eased the strain caused by the retirement of the baby boom.

The depletion of the Social Security trust fund is not a pending disaster, it’s by design. The fact of the matter is, in case you are one of the people in this country to whom facts matter, Social Security is a self funding entity, independent of the general fund. It funds itself entirely through payroll taxes, and so long as payroll taxes are collected, retirees will get their checks. The only way that changes is if Congress acts to stop collecting payroll taxes or to outright abolish the program.

Faced with that reality, those who oppose Social Security tend to go into “yeah, but…” mode and clutch at their pearls while they try in vain not to hyperventilate over a projected $4.5 trillion-with-a-t hole in Social Securities budget seventy five years down the road.

But this, too, is a faulty argument because a very modest increase – 1% or less – in the amount of payroll tax withheld from workers wages would not only fill that hole, it would put the program on a sound footing “indefinitely.”

They really stick their fingers in their ears and sing “la la la la la! I can’t hear you!” when it is pointed out to them that $4.5 trillion is about the same cost, over the same period of time, of permanently extending the Bush tax cuts to the top 2% of earners.

There’s more. And you really should care.

In My Heart I Do Believe

The other night, Pete, my husband of 5 to 25 with time off for good behavior, set up the turntable in the attic, where we on an almost nightly basis use ancient exercise equipment while watching Rocky & Bullwinkle. Thursday, Pete discovered the cats had rewired the speakers through some sophisticated use of tools and a fine howdyado; Pete had re-rewired the speakers with gimlet eye and spiteful so-there. In other words, you would not have believed the metaphor pileup when I climbed the stairs and sat down on the rowing machine while the turntable and the speakers blasted Pete’s favorite Pete Seeger record and Talking Union. The music was very loud until I cranked up the rowing and hollered the words to Which Side Are You On? The latter song is good for pacing and breath control, but while you are really exerting yourself, be careful singing We Shall Overcome, for one thing because you are going to think of some very serious shit and schlamiels in suits and inexplicably out of clown shoes. Get a load of the hot steaming stupid:

L to r: Johnson and Rhodes, both unclear on the concept of Non-Violence.

Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department’s general counsel, posed that question at today’s Pentagon commemoration of King’s legacy.

In the final year of his life, King became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, Johnson told a packed auditorium. However, he added, today’s wars are not out of line with the iconic Nobel Peace Prize winner’s teachings.

This is what it sounds like when a true believer picks a name out of the Famous Dead People Hat and turns that famous person into someone he or she simply never was, but who approves of the true believer. This is like Tony Blair had hinted Gandhi went in for a little imperialist adventure now and then. This is like the American Cattlemen adopting Francis of Assisi. This is like the bishops saying Jesus wouldn’t mind a little child molesting. Dudes, if there was a Jesus and he was who you say he was, you are in the deepest of deep shit FOREVER, NO BACKSIES. And Mr. Johnson? What part of non-violence and economic justice condones war?

In King’s last speech in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968 – the night before he died – King evoked the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, Johnson noted.

According to the parable, a traveler was beaten and robbed and left for dead. Two other travelers passed the man as he lay alongside the road – one was a priest. Both ignored the man and continued on their way. Finally, a Samaritan traveling the road showed compassion and took the stranger to an inn and saw to his care.

In his speech, King drew a parallel between those who passed by the man on the road and those in Memphis who at the time hesitated to help striking sanitation workers because they feared for their own jobs.

Johnson said King criticized those who are compassionate by proxy, noting the civil rights leader told the audience in Memphis that night, “The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ The question is, ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?'”

I hate to break it to you, Mr. Johnson, but helping striking sanitation workers reach an agreement for decent pay, benefits and working conditions is not the same as dropping bombs on defenseless civilians in a country that can’t be bombed back into a Stone Age that has yet to happen, and you simply cannot extrapolate from a speech about justice that the speechwriter would support an unjust and illegal war. Or you can, but please put on the clown shoes so we know you’re not trying to pass yourself off as a big thinker. You’re certainly not much of a comedy writer.

Volunteers in today’s military, he said, “have made the conscious decision to travel a dangerous road and personally stop and administer aid to those who want peace, freedom and a better place in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in defense of the American people.

“Every day, our servicemen and women practice the dangerousness – the dangerous unselfishness Dr. King preached on April 3, 1968,” Johnson told the audience.

…because if that’s not funny, perhaps it’s because hundreds of thousands of people have been administered to death, much like in that war Dr. King objected to in life.

Think About the Sun

Jon Stewart, once again, shows us how it’s done.

There is one detail we must observe. When the towers came down, an unmistakable cloud of debris, smoke and human remains rolled away from Ground Zero. We saw it. We lived under it. We could smell everything about it and knew what it meant. I’m sitting 35 miles from Manhattan and almost everyone I knew was sick and we knew it was from that cloud. At some point I can no longer recall, Christie Whitman told the media the air was safe to breathe. I didn’t believe that. I don’t see how anyone could have, but you will never hear one of the first responders say anything about this. The lie was ridiculous and transparent. In a legal sense, admitting they knew what everyone knew might invalidate health insurance claims. It shouldn’t.

The exact opposite should be true. We should see that knowledge and the first responders’ going on anyway for what it was: greater courage than most of us possess. We owe them a greater debt than we can repay and the least we can do is take care of them.

All the Time They Want To Take

As I watch the Senate, the House Dems and the White House wrestle and rant over a bad deal that will, no matter how successful or full of FAIL politically, help almost no one and actually harm a great many people. A lot of ink will be spilled no matter what bargain is struck, but thirty or forty years from now, we will see that this moment was a turning point for our country and by extension the world. Once the safety net is torn out from under us, there will be nothing to prevent millions of elderly Americans from starving, and this is now going to happen. Until recently, I thought horror and human decency might save us, but no. If you voted Republican, you voted for the vile soulless monsters who will make this happen, and if you voted Democratic, you voted for the spineless tools who will do nothing to stop it. We will all be to blame. We will pay for this for decades to come.

In other news, with a simple diet, exercise and meditation, we might get to hang onto minimum wage jobs long enough to put our grandchildren through useless make-believe community college: the new American Dream.