The Wall

Wall National Post

The wall. We all spend way too much time thinking about the wall. I wish we never heard about the wall. I hate the idea of the wall. I hate the cost of the wall. But what I hate most about the wall is that we are expected to build something this expensive that most of us do not want because of one old coot who can never admit that he might be wrong. He can lie about things we heard him say and tell us that he never said those things, but for some reason, he cannot employ the old switcheroo about building the wall. The meaningless mantra keeps repeating like a bad refrain, or a bad taco (if there is such a thing).

First of all the numbers of migrants seeking asylum is not big enough to warrant spending 5 billion dollars, which will easily turn into 30 or 40 billion dollars. We are a big country populated by only about 350 million people. Even if 300,000 people wanted to come in, as they did in a recent year, that is a tiny percentage of our overall population and we still have plenty of room for more people. Building a wall is overkill. It is a solution requiring no imagination or knowledge or creative thought. It’s using a sledgehammer on a tack.

We have immigration laws, but we also have a bottle neck at the border which creates chaos. We can’t process more than a few immigrants at a time. No one qualifies for instant asylum. There are courts and paperwork and waiting periods. Why isn’t there a bigger processing center at our southern border if people need such detailed processing. Instead our southern border looks very much like our northern border with Canada, but it doesn’t function like it. We don’t have caravans of anxious people presenting themselves at our border with Canada because Canada has a stable government and a healthy economy. People who come from South American countries are also our neighbors, but we treat them like invaders. Why? White supremacy? Racism? Our inability to sort true asylum seekers from criminals, or predict who will be criminalized once they are here?

The problem with a wall is that, although it is built to keep people out, it can also be used to keep people in. The Great Wall of China is so ancient that we can romanticize it. It’s a wonder of the ancient world built so wide that there is a road along the top. I’m guessing lots of poor people were enslaved to build that wall. It was designed to keep out the Mongol hordes or something, which I think it didn’t even do, but now it delineates a northern border in China that you can see from space. It has most likely been used to keep people from leaving China for longer than it was ever used to keep people out of China. Castle walls were built to keep out invaders but there are many stories of people who died of starvation while waiting out a siege inside a walled city or town. Three words: the Berlin Wall. The very idea of a wall makes me claustrophobic, although not as much as it would have before there were airplanes, which laugh at walls.

Back to our old man, Trump, who knows that America needs to shore up Social Security. Here is a man so selfish that he wants to take health care away from people who need it because he supposedly believes that it should be turning over profits for private business. He is one businessman trying to make nice with other businessmen because he would like to be in their good graces, or something, I guess. Assigning motives to this man is not usually very difficult. You only have to look for what benefits he will get from a particular decision.

We all suspect he is putting the funds for the wall over the funds to save programs like the ACA that benefit the American people in order to wreak Republican vengeance on behalf of the GOP, who have screamed bloody murder about Obamacare ever since it was enacted (in a non-bipartisan way, because that was the only chance Obama had). We all also suspect he is doing this to stick it to Obama, because it rankles that he is admired by so many. But excuse me, doesn’t that just make we the people pawns in a ludicrous power game that one person seems to be playing all alone.

Politicians used to think twice before ending a program as successful as the Affordable Care Act, but Trump keeps taking it apart piece-by-piece and he is quite willing for us to see that we have no value in the grand scheme of things. This ability to focus like a laser on his own personal interests allows him to insist that we take 5 billion dollars that could be better spent to stop children and seniors from dropping off a humanitarian cliff and spend it to build a wall that will not solve our immigration problems.

As for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they have constituents to answer to. They know what Democrats want them to do. They are not authorized by the people who elect them to say yes to money for a wall. I am proud of the way they have supported their constituents, which I see as all Democrats, and that they are not talking about compromise. There are times when compromise is the correct path, but with a egomaniacal president and a rabid, off-the-rails Republican party this is definitely not the time to deal. This is the time to form a really effective wall of our own; a wall of no. We cannot afford to compromise with a party that has the very worst set of policy ideas and has been stubbornly clinging to those same terrible policies for decades. If we come up against a reformed Republican Party that will be open to change the Democrats can find their flexibility once again. As for me I think, just as the wall is not worth building, the Republican party is not worth saving.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – National Post

Lawlessness of Trump’s Immigration Actions

wall with immigrants MSNBC.com

Clearly immigration actions under Donald Trump were going to make most of us cringe. We began with the wall that Mexico was going to pay for, for which (surprise, surprise) they refused to pay. Then some prototypes appeared along a section of the border which we were supposed to be inspired by, but they all looked alike and none of them looked like the “beautiful wall” that Trump extolled while campaigning. Since then we the people have pretty much been threatened with government shutdowns to extort payment for Trump’s wall on and off since the inauguration.

Early on, we had that overnight immigration ban cancelling the arrival of refugees who had completed our complex vetting process and sending the Resistance to airports with signs. Bans were signed into law and declared unacceptable almost in the same week. I.C.E. began arresting undocumented immigrants or refugees as they left work, or even while they were working. They began profiling passengers on trains and buses and asking to see ID’s. Asking we the people to show our papers is so “gestapo”, not at all what we have usually done in our democracy, besides being a violation of our civil rights.

Then we had immigrant children separated from their parents while seeking asylum at the border with Mexico. We had the image burned onto our brains of children in cages on mats with thin metallic space blankets for cold comfort. Some were as young as two years old. We were shocked (although I can’t think why) to learn that no one saved the names and contact information that could reconnect children and parents, probably because such reunions were not expected to ever take place. It is even more startling to conclude that 45 was not expecting we the people to express any negative reactions to child separation. He seemed to believe that all Americans either hate immigrants, or that we all fall for his fear-mongering.

Now we have a couple thousand young people who came to America unaccompanied by a parent living in air-conditioned tent barracks in Texas, living regimented lives and looking forward to what (being deported after talking to a judge) (lifetime imprisonment)? What must daily life be like for those children? Who could possibly think that things could get worse?

Immigrant train New York Post

However things can always get worse and as soon as we saw the newest group of migrants walking from Honduras and Guatemala and saw the reactions of our President, we knew that there would be some kind of conflict at the border. He was never going to let those desperate travelers into America. He began the fear-mongering in earnest claiming ISIS fighters were hiding in the center of this chain of people, that people walking hundreds of miles with their children were actually gang members come to kill Americans in the streets, that they were “grabbers” who were not related to the children who seemed to be with them.

We heard his order to deploy American troops to the Mexican border, but we were told that because of posse comitatuslaws the troops could not use military tactics, because the states had the power in these matters. When some of the immigrants got angry and stormed the border, which was being barricaded by troops and border agents with riot gear, troops (because policing in any form cannot stand for insurrection or disobedience) had to escalate. So then we had the newest abomination of mothers and children running from tear gas lobbed into their midst by American soldiers. It is very fortunate that Tijuana has been forthcoming with housing and food for these people who came seeking a better life. But it doesn’t soften the fact that we tear-gassed babies.

tear gas at children WaPO

There are pockets of people throughout the US who are opposed to immigration. Some are convinced that immigrants are taking jobs that should be filled by Americans. Others object to making our benefits available to people who are granted asylum or refugee status; benefits that are supposed to only be temporary until immigrants are self-sufficient. Some refugees have been so victimized in their country of origin that they may require disability supports for life. We are not feeling very flush ourselves these days, and with government threatening to cut our benefits, we are in no mood to share, even sometimes with our fellow Americans.

But don’t you sometimes feel a bit helpless to effect any change in Trump’s immigration ban and sometimes feel some pity for these parents and children seeking a better life? Doesn’t it strike you as un-American to lob tear gas at unarmed families even if they are being a bit demanding about being allowed into the country. They did walk an awfully long way and I doubt they had daily news flashes about what was waiting at the end of their journey. Doesn’t it make you start to thinks that there have to be better ways than this to make sure people only enter America legally. If we had a bit more flexibility we might not have to charge them with a crime for entering at an unprotected spot on the border when they can’t get in at a legal entry point. The use of force often escalates into the use of more force until mayhem occurs and guilt and regrets follow.

Many experts on immigration claim that immigrants do not take American jobs; rather they fill positions that Americans do not wish to fill. It is perhaps true that some immigrants do take desirable jobs and some do not, but since we are supposedly at full employment and, since there are many jobs that are unfilled, I think we can spare a few jobs for people who find the quality of life in the nation they are willing to leave unbearable.

I heard people interviewed at the border saying that they came to America seeking work. The optics would certainly improve if we stopped treating immigrants at the Mexican border as enemy combatants who must be tracked until they can come before a judge to decide their status. Instead immigrants could be issued a work visa and paired with an employer who will agree to sponsor them. It is demoralizing to we the people to experience this constant cruelty and conflict at a border we have shared with Mexico for several centuries. It is equally difficult to believe that the only method for keeping radicalized immigrants out of America is to keep all immigrants out of America. This is so clearly connected to white supremacy and nationalism that it brings us right back to the goose bumps that signal the “gestapo” tactics we hoped to never see again.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – MSNBC.com, New York Post, Washington Post

Lead Poisoning Not Limited to Flint, Michigan

syracuse lead paint The NewsHouse

Recent reporting shows that lead poisoning is not limited to the city of Flint, Michigan, although that is certainly a particularly egregious example because it was something that did not have to happen and it did not happen before 1978, when the use of lead paint became illegal; it happened in the 21st century. Lead appeared in the water in Flint when government made a decision to switch the source of water piped into that city without having any testing to examine the quality of water from that new source. They put the poorest people in their community at risk to save money and we all know how that has worked out. I’m guessing they spent more, and will spend even more money for many years, than they ever saved.

Now we are finding high levels of lead in the blood streams of young children who live in public housing in older American cities where there is housing built before 1978. Assumptions were made that Housing authorities had remediated the lead paint in most city housing and therefore testing for flaking, peeling lead paint, or lead paint dust was only being done in properties where problems had appeared fairly recently.

After lead poisoning was found in Flint, children’s blood lead levels began to be taken more seriously in other cities. There is no legal level for lead in the blood. Even small amounts can affect brain development in toddlers and young children. If the paint chips are lying around children often enjoy crunching on them as they have a sweet flavor. I have a vague memory of actually ingesting such a chip sometime in my childhood. When a young girl in NYC was found to have blood lead levels that were much higher than the danger level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) testing on the two apartments (mother and grandmother) where she spent the most time (public housing apartments) tested high with a common test for lead paint. However, the city typically uses a different test which often gives false negatives, because remediation is costly and they like the results of their less reliable test better.

After Flint the federal government got stricter about testing for lead paint and NYC has complied under Mayor Da Blasio. “Once inspections for lead paint were resumed it was found in 80% of the 8,300 apartments tested. A new round of visual checks found peeling paint in 92%. If paint is peeling there is most likely lead present in the paint. For years the city had ignored the blood tests of children with high lead content. Had they paid attention these children would have served as a great early warning that the problem had not been remediated effectively.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/18/nyregion/nycha-lead-paint.html

Syracuse, NY, with a high level of poverty has a similar unaddressed lead problem in public housing. Gabriela Knutson, writing in a publication at SU called Off Campus says,

“But what one doesn’t see on this morning is the way the area is one of the highest in the city of Syracuse for high blood lead levels in children. In the area surrounding Delaware Elementary School, as well as the areas to the west of it, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of children have a blood lead level higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

This number is the standard created by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) for the highest level of blood there can be in a child’s body before causing damage. In the City of Syracuse, an average of 11 percent of children exceed that number. Syracuse.com reports that 600 children were poisoned by lead paint in 2017.”

You can find almost the same number in any older rust belt city in America including Buffalo and Rochester, also in New York State.

https://www.thenewshouse.com/off-campus/child-lead-paint-poisoning-in-syracuses-impoverished-neighborhoods/

Conclusions:

Besides this very serious problem of peeling and flaking lead paint, public housing is often in dire condition and landlords are often able to show that fixing problems like rat infestations and insect infestations and decaying structural elements would be prohibitively expensive (cut into their profits) and would also just reoccur because of the problems poverty causes the tenants of these properties. Standards are lowered. Year after year properties in decline are rented for far too high a monthly rent, subsidized by all of us, and only problems that cannot be covered up by cheap, quick fixes are addressed. Often even the more in-depth projects do not renovate the property as a whole, but only the most unacceptable aspects of the property.

These problems cost all of us lots of money in terms of children who are left with learning disabilities and who must be given support for the rest of their lives and in terms of the mental toll living in substandard conditions takes on parents and children, a toll which weighs down an entire city. If the Democrats we send to Washington don’t attempt to fix this I doubt that anyone will. It is a maze and deciding who bears the financial responsibility for projects that end substandard housing subsidized by HUD once and for all is problematic when some housing paid for publicly is owned privately. Even when the housing is publicly owned deciding who pays for what, what must be torn down and replaced, what can be brought up to code, and then how we will keep it all in good repair is impossible unless we also address the poverty that will most likely recreate the conditions that plague public housing.

Money, of course, is at the root of all the problems of cities – the flight of the middle class to the suburbs, the flight of industry, the low tax base. We can’t just throw money at the poorest sectors of our cities either. Solid planning must create a plan that is realistic and doable. Such designs also cost money. As a priority though, it seems we need to focus on lead paint and lead poisoning in public housing once again and keep that focus until the problem is really solved, not swept under many a government carpet in many a cash-strapped city.

More sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/nyregion/new-york-today-understanding-the-risks-of-lead-paint.html

https://www.consumerreports.org/lead/lead-paint-still-poses-a-safety-risk/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/millions-of-older-homes-still-have-lead-paint-on-the-walls-make-sure-yours-is-safe/2016/10/31/4e8f7f04-8437-11e6-92c2-14b64f3d453f_story.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/nyregion/nycha-settlement-court-ruling.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/26/nyregion/inside-public-housing-fix.html

https://www.syracuse.com/politics/index.ssf/2018/10/what_will_dana_balter_john_katko_do_about_lead_poisoning_in_syracuse_children.html

https://www.syracuse.com/health/index.ssf/2016/06/lead.html

 

Goliath and David: Verizon Fios and Chewy.com

verizon-fios-router-logo-stock_1020.0

I had two business dealings in two days, one with a big corporation, a Goliath so to speak; the other with a much smaller internet company, a sort of David if you will allow an analogy that is both Biblical, and a recent pop culture TV title, used on the Survivor series. The Goliath in this scenario is the multimillion dollar business, Verizon Fios; the far smaller business, the David, is an internet company that supplies pet owners with food and supplies in the mail, Chewy.com.

I spoke to Verizon Fios a number of times because when my last two year contract ended my costs went up, a lot. Probably many of you agree with me when I say that there is very little to watch on television these days if you opt to stay with a cable provider. If you are a sport’s fan, cable TV may be indispensable. But I generally like figure skating, the Olympics and the Super Bowl and that is about it for sports.

Movies and news are my favorite choices. Movies are disappearing behind various paywalls. On cable the same movies repeat again and again, and they are movies I love, but I don’t want to watch them constantly. I have an Amazon Fire Stick but everything is not licensed to Amazon. When I counted I actually found that I was only watching 19 channels out of the huge number of channels that are advertised (but which no one can access without paying enormous fees). I wanted to negotiate my monthly fees downward. I was given a few options. I finally settled on a package that cost $160 a month (still too much). I agreed to sign a two year contract which took $5 a month off the price and or earned me a Nest doorbell, I can’t remember which.

I usually paid my bill on the ninth of the month so when they took their payment on the fourth I got a bit nervous. I called Fios and finally worked my way through the automated labyrinth to speak to an actual person by which time I was a bit snippy I’m sorry to say. I explained that it upsets my budget if they just take out a payment on any old day they want. I must know what day the money will disappear from my bank account and it needs to stay the same every month, unless someone lets me know ahead of time. This, however, turned out to be the rudest agent I have ever spoken with and he was no help at all. He was mean. I received an email in the next week that told me they would take my next payment on the 30thof the month. Since I had already made a payment in this month (on the fourth) I had to call back and quit autopay. I do not want to make two payments in one month. Apparently, when I was finally connected, this time with a young lady, I made mistakes in describing the details of my “plan”. She actually laughed at me.

After these two upsetting experiences with customer service, I decided to leave Verizon Fios and go to Spectrum, although that prospect did not excite me either. They are almost as expensive and I am sure they will work their way up. But at least they were polite and connections were made very efficiently.

Then I had to cancel my plan with Verizon and I knew they would give me a penalty for vacating a two year contract. I was hoping they would waive the penalty fee but I was informed that the charge will be $305. Yikes! Spectrum advertises that they will pay the penalty fee to Fios for me. We’ll see. There is probably some kind of trick to it that I don’t know about yet. I asked the agent at Fios, who this time was very nice, to see if Fios will waive the fee but I am guessing the answer will be no. So great big Goliath company, totally impersonal and bound by rules agents can’t break without permission, and permission is rarely given.

IMG_0428

This is my sweetie cat, named Gomez by the children she originally belonged to (who were probably watching The Adams Family). I recently had to put her to sleep for reasons I will not describe in detail as it would embarrass Mz Mezzie, as I called her, if she happened to be looking down on us and if she could read. Mz Mezzie had lived with a family in a rental where she was illegal and for a number of years she had spent most of her time outside. Even when she came to me she spent most of her day on the back porch, never wandering from the yard. She was not used to using a litter box but I would not make her stay outside if she wanted to come in. Her long hair made her unhappy with the usual kitty litter which is small and got stuck in her toes. I used a litter called Yesterday’s News (newspaper pellets) which she came to accept for a while.

This litter was so heavy that I had difficulty getting it in the house. That’s when the clerk at the pet store told me about Chewy.com. This was helpful because Chewy delivered to my house. We added another expensive litter that smelled like grass to help my little outdoor kitty. When I had to put her down last week I had just received a shipment of that expensive grassy-scented litter. I let Chewy.com know that my pet was no longer with me, because I did not want to keep receiving pet-related emails. They told me that they would credit the last bag of litter I purchased back to my account and they did it, that very day. Today I looked out the window and saw a van in my driveway. I watched the driver walk to my back door with a package. I was amazed to find that what he had for me was a floral arrangement from the people at Chewy.com with a sympathy note. Now that’s my kind of business.

IMG_0866

I want everyone to boycott Verizon Fios and buy their pet products from Chewy.com. Of course I am not the boss of anyone but this would offer each of these companies, the Goliath and the David,  what each deserves. Thank you Chewy.com.

chewy-opengraph.20170505

Onerous Fundraising Duties

Cubicles - Vox

The onerous fundraising duties faced by our people in Congress are a real factor in limiting the amount of policy work they can accomplish and the quality of the legislation that comes out of committees. While I am opposed to the floods of special interest money unleashed by the Citizens United v FEC decision that turned our elections into money wars, elections always have been expensive. But the term in the House for elected Representatives is only two years and then they must run again. This makes it necessary to constantly build the war chest for the next election. Because of this money merry-go-round we are not getting full value in terms of thoughtful legislation from our Representatives or even our Senators (who serve for six years).

I have been following the bills and House Resolutions that move through the House of Representatives daily when the House is in session and there is so much that is trivial in this daily work product. It is sometimes difficult to separate the trivial from the more consequential because all votes are given the same sort of weight. Clearly a bill to name a post office takes less time to execute than a budget matter or a bill like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (which took less time than usual because the opposition party had no power in the 115thCongress). Perhaps if our representatives in both houses of Congress were relieved of some fundraising duties they would have time to pass bills that actually address the needs of the American people.

The people who represent us in Congress have staff people and interns who probably send out all those emails and letters to constituents that arrive daily in our mailboxes, both digital and real. Even so, they have to oversee their reelection campaigns, they have to call big donors and fundraising is time-consuming and often requires a personal touch in terms of events that must be attended and speeches that must be made and hands that must be shaken. Obviously we cannot relieve members of Congress of all of these more hands-on duties. However the Democratic Party can try to find ways to trim the amount of time spent on fundraising by those who are serving in Congress and people who are not in office but are party leaders can take on more of the fundraising. It’s a trade-off. If you want more in terms of quality legislation or policy then some of the tedious repetitive chores must be taken over by others or terms of House Representatives must be for longer than two years (hard to do because it calls for a Constitutional amendment).

John Oliver does a great job of telling us the details of Congressional fundraising although his analogies are often hair-raisingly “blue” (he is on HBO, nothing is forbidden).

https://youtu.be/Ylomy1Aw9Hk

https://www.newsweek.com/john-oliver-last-week-tonight-congressional-fundraising-443675

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Vox

 

Democrat’s First Priority

brainstorm-Merriam-Webster

I have been thinking about what item should be the Democrat’s first priority. I would like to see Democrats focus on problems of poverty, both urban and rural. I would like to see America deal with substandard housing, substandard pay, food deserts, opportunity deserts, IT deserts, lack of supports for workers with children, addiction, and with making sure that we find a way to provide good health care for everyone. I also think a case by case reappraisal of the needs of people serving long sentences in jail for fairly minor crimes needs to result in freedom if sentences are unfair, if sentences are the result of poverty, or if sentences seem racially biased. These issues are all related.

We need to tackle infrastructure but we don’t need to make that our first priority. We can put up with a maintenance program for now. We hardly know what our infrastructure needs will be in the not-so-distant-future. But our cities and towns are in need of our immediate attentions. It would be beneficial also to put a group to work deciding and publicizing how the Democrats want to tackle climate change if they get voters to back them in 2020.

We have a big problem and our problem is money. Corporations once lived in our communities with us and they contributed to the tax base and the quality of life. We can no longer rely on absent corporations to fill these economic needs. Corporations must now be bribed to locate in our cities with tax breaks and PILOTS. We have come to count on groups like Catholic Charities and other religious charities to take care of people with disabilities and people who are poor and/or homeless.

These corporate folks just don’t seem to understand that the expenditures they made on our cities and towns were the very things that made America look so good in those old days they keep yearning for, and, further, that investing in our cities and towns once again would probably produce similar results. I don’t understand why these leaders aren’t challenged to bring their innovative minds, their education, their intelligence to bear on finding ways to get America ticking again instead of relying on one old con man to do it for them.

Republicans just cut the tax base all over the United States in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which gave huge cuts to businesses that we need to look to for assistance with the health of the American economy. The GOP gave these enormous tax cuts to the very people who have been distancing themselves from America, who have taken their profits away to tax shelters. There is no money to find new ways to tackle poverty. Everyone is pinching pennies. The states cannot invest in their citizens without funds. The cities and local government are often in even worse shape. We also have enormous national expenditures on military matters and security matters, although we are not actually on a war-time footing.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget is pretty much a done deal. I hope the House Dems will study our federal budget very carefully along with our tax structures and find some ways to bring some balance back to the distribution of tax receipts and expenditures. Since it will be difficult to get anything through the Senate it would be a good year to knuckle down and get innovative about finding ways to get more tax dollars to local governments.

It would be a good year for designing new poverty programs to replace those that were designed for another decade when cultural realities were slightly different than they are now. Having a set of bills based on really enticing ideas for tackling urban and rural problems would be great for reelection campaigns in 2020. Showing ways that lifting up some of us would lift up all of us would be the gravy on the mashed potatoes. (Sorry it’s Thanksgiving.) I am thankful for the 2018 election results, for all the hard work of the candidates and their supporters, and for the dedication of those at the core of the Resistance. In fact our new people in Congress have local roots and could ask for the participation of the passionate Americans in the Resistance movement in generating ideas.

I know we have a lot of issues and they all seem like priorities and Dems will have to stay tuned in and react immediately to threats against immigrants, the press, and anyone who is under attack by this administration. But some good old-fashioned research, combing the practices that actually have been tried in small towns or in cities and then making lists of approaches that have worked would be time well spent. Brainstorming sessions around stubborn problems areas with someone recording the mix of ideas that emerge, both good and bad, might produce some out-of-the-box approaches.

Thinking what we can give to schools and neighborhoods instead of how we can keep them under control could offer ways to change negative attitudes, adopted for self-protection, into the curiosity and interest that young people usually exhibit when they are learning things they want to know. Let’s lavish some care on people who have been neglected, overcharged and underpaid.

Paul Krugman talked about this in today’s (11/20/2018) NYT about the urban/rural divide offers this caveat:

“We can and should do a lot to improve the lives of Americans in lagging regions. We can guarantee access to health care and raise their incomes with wage subsidies and other policies (in fact, the earned-income tax credit, which helps low-wage workers, already disproportionally benefits workers in low-income states).

But restoring these regions’ dynamism is much harder, because it means swimming against a powerful economic tide.

And the sense of being left behind can make people angry even if their material needs are taken care of.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/19/opinion/economy-trump-red-blue-states.html

I’m sure that everyone has a priority list for the new Democrats in the House and I, for one, would like to oust a bad leader first of all. However we are assured that tossing out the “tosser” (Harry Potter reference) is practically an impossibility (too bad we didn’t win the Senate too) (too bad voters sent both Ted Cruz and Marcia Blackburn to harass us). Let’s hear your lists now – we have until January to solidify our priority lists. But I think I am right on this one so you will have to put forth really good arguments.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, Merriam-Webster

A view form the cheap seats.

Thought on Veterans Day 2018

Cny Vets parade and Expo

It’s Veteran’s Day, 2018 when we remember the real people, men and women, who had to put their lives on hold to defend our nation, our values, and our way of life. There was pride in this and love of America that gave our soldiers and our citizens a sense of community and common purpose. While wars were killing men and tearing them away from everything they loved about being alive, they were also forging bonds between soldiers that seemed unbreakable. Until the Vietnam War the nation bonded also to offer a united front of love and gratitude to our fighting forces. Even in the Vietnam War someone could protest the complicated and questionable reasons for the war and still love family members who went so far away to fight in a war that was tearing Americans apart at home.

My dad did not go to war. He had an eighth grade education. He had very flat feet. An army “runs on its feet”. He also was the sole support of his parents and of his brand-new wife, my mother. And he was employed in a war industry. My sister and I were born while most men were still in Europe or fighting in the Pacific. My father’s personality was never complicated by having to live so close to death as many others had done. But his life was complicated by the guilt he felt about the rather mundane roots of his good fortune and he was always sidelined by not belonging to the fraternal orders created by and for veterans. Vets did not talk much to their wives and children about the war, but they did seek the comfort of the company of other soldiers.

We lived in a city when I was born, and we learned the story of why my parents, already older than most couples in those days, did not have children for almost three years after they married. They married in 1941 and my sister was born in 1944. My father worked nights. My mother worked days. The busses they were on passed each other in the morning and they would wave and get on with their next piece of business, either sleeping or working. They were very poor as they both gave money to their parents. Once they began having babies they did not stop. Two of us were the same age for 5 days with not even a whole year between our births. Soon we had seven people living in a two-bedroom city apartment. By then everyone was home from the war. Housing boomed, but my Dad was not a vet.

Finally, Dad found a house for us in a small town that was almost rural but destined to become a suburb. We had fresh air and frog ponds and empty lots to roam. We had bikes and skates and although we never had enough bedrooms, we did not feel cramped in these early years. The babies kept coming though. When I was around eight I began to see the effect war had had on those who fought it.

Next door to us, a tiny house sat so far back from the road that it was right next to our back yard. In this house lived Mrs. Crabtree.  Mrs. Crabtree scared us children to death and I’m sure that our boisterous play outside her windows annoyed her no end. Occasionally she would experience some kind of psychotic break; she would open her front door and stand in the doorway in her slip and tell off the neighborhood. She would rant and rave, and we came to believe that she was a sort of witch, a person to fear and tiptoe around, except that a “clowder” of children have a hard time remembering to keep it down for long. Later, as a teen, I learned that Mary Crabtree was a soldier in WWII (actually a nurse) and that she had a metal plate in her head covering the hole in her skull from when she had been hit with mortar. She drank to deaden memory and pain. My dad was kind to her and we felt guilty that we had been so clueless.

Across the road was another house of strife, a mom and dad who drank and fought their way through the days of their silent children’s lives until one child fought back and exhibited signs of rebellion, which never died out and caused her to choose things that were harmful, and led to her early demise. The father in this family was a vet. We all met these parents many times and we did not find them unfriendly. The mom and other moms came to visit around our dining room table because my mom was tied down by children. But the men never came to visit my father, although they did not shun him. Dad just did not fit in. My Dad did not drink. This across-the-road dad was a drinker. When the fighting at home reached a crescendo that was intolerable, he left for the VFW and the comradery of fellow soldiers.

So two examples of what war can do to those who fight it, lived their lives before my eyes, and finally, after the Vietnam War we as a nation began to talk about treating the problems of physical and mental adjustments that men (and women) had to deal with after wars. Those vets I knew fought in a war that we were proud to fight in, a war against a monster who could not be allowed to spread his hate any further than he already had done. The problems vets faced became even greater when soldiers had to come home to a country that did not support the war in which they had just fought.

Just this past week a vet used his skills with a gun to kill young people enjoying themselves dancing in a country bar in Thousand Oaks, California. We are not good at helping vets who are mentally twisted by the things they are asked to do in a war.

And yet we go to war time after time. There are always seemingly valid reasons to subdue a leader or a nation that thinks taking on the world will allow this leader or nation to dominate a larger chunk of the world. People will continue to go off to war unless we begin an era of all robot wars, or all drone wars. (It is quite different to be the nation that sends a drone than it is to be the nation that receives a drone however, and as drones become more common our own nation may become a target for drones.) Even in the case of robotic war or drone wars, soldiers will still be necessary I am guessing. In fact, soldiers who send drones to kill distant bad guys sometimes also kill innocents, and we are finding that this has mental repercussions despite the fact that the soldier is not in physical jeopardy.

Well this is a weekend to remember all of this. It is a time to remember how wars make it possible for family members who are at some distance from a war to live in relative safety. It is a time to remember what soldiers sacrifice to fight for us in wars. It is a time of gratitude. It should also be a time to teach ourselves better ways to help warriors heal when they return home from wars. Short of wiping memory it may be impossible to be totally unaffected by fighting other humans in a killing war. Perhaps all we can hope for is to ameliorate the problems of those who seem to be affected the most by being sent into situations that require you to kill or be killed.

Veterans Day is also a perfect time to remember to do all in our power to keep our world at peace.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search, CNY Vets Parade and Expo