Saturday, November 5, 2011

Is there no sanity anywhere?

A news article was just posted on the www that mothers are now selling lollipops which have been repeatedly licked by their children who have chickenpox. The idea being that another child who licks the pop will get the disease and develop better resistance to it than from an immunization shot.

There is also an AP news article that's a few minutes old which notes that "Most of the unemployed no longer receive benefits". This is news? Those who are unemployed and not receiving benefits haven't even been counted as unemployed since back in the Reagan administration.

And yesterday, I read an article preparing us for the new poverty stats due out on Monday. The criteria to determine poverty looks at food stamps and other such assistance programs as income. WHAT? Such programs might be keeping folks out of extreme poverty, but without them being counted the number of extreme poor would be much much higher.

We need to stop using tricks to make someone, anyone, look good.
We must start a political revolution and get measurement yardsticks back to a position of truth, and not truth by omission. Let's get a real understanding of where we , as a country, stand. We need to push for this, write letters about this, and get it into topic debates by presidential candidates. Otherwise, government will continue to use 'make it better' tricks.

By the by, the current definition of poverty is a family of four with an annual income below $22,314 dollars per year. Forty six million of US received assistance from food stamp programs in August.

Such programs, of course, are about to go under budget cuts by Republican Tea Bag fiat. The US government has two weeks to pass the 2012 budget in time to avoid a government shutdown. And just weeks after that, if budget cuts haven't equalled a figure set during the summer showdown, unemployment, disability, food stamps, and other programs will undergo draconian cuts automatically. No one is saying anything, but the shit is getting very close to the fan.


Thursday, November 3, 2011


There's a lot going on just now. The community radio station here, of which I am a co-founder, has been engulfed in an internal struggle. Over the last two days, two, and perhaps three, board members have resigned. It's a long story. Suffice it to say that I spent 4 hours or so yesterday writing emails. My entire morning today, starting at 6am, and going past 12:30pm, was spent doing much the same. At the moment, I am tired, cranky, dispirited, depressed, and very, very angry.

I had intended to examine the statistic released today that 1 in 15 Americans now lives in extreme poverty, the "poorest of the poor". 1 in 15. Look around you. Count. I had expected that I would contrast that information with the statistics also released today regarding American Companies which were making huge profits while paying no taxes - for as many as 10 years. In a row. And if you look at the last three years, of the 280 most profitable US companies, 30 paid "less than zero" in taxes. 

In today's mail, I got a disturbing looking envelope. Collection agency type stuff.  See, in trying to get enough money to pay my rent and eat on the 28 to 30 hours of work per week I am getting, I am discontinuing my health insurance and going off all of my medications. On October the 24th, I had my last appointment with my prescribing therapist/doctor. Before my appointment began, the  office manager pulled me aside for a moment. It had been awhile since I last made a payment to my bill. It was now $668.00. I was shocked. I had never received a bill for more than $10 to $20 dollars. The office manager looked at the paperwork and said that the insurance company had turned the amount over as I hadn't reached my $1,000 dollar deductible. After that, I almost broke down in my appointment because of the bill. It was, needless to say, a distraction while I discussed tapering down the meds without having to buy more. The collection agency looking stuff I got in the mail today was indeed a collection agency bill to collect the $668.00 The doctor's home office had sent the bill to collection the day after I told the therapist that I couldn't afford to continue any longer.

And then tonight on the news, was this horrible footage of a father whipping his daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy. The longest clip was on CNN. It ran about 40 seconds. The entire beating (caught on tape) lasted over 7 minutes. I started shuddering and twitching. I used to be beaten like that. As it turns out, the girls' father is a family court judge and didn't think he had done anything wrong. The news stories are also full these days with stories of bullying. They haven't seen the connection yet. It's all behaviour intended to break the spirit, to establish dominance, to express frustration. All I will say at this point is that I still have problems from those beatings. The scars they leave are very deep. I've been on the verge of tears since I saw the footage. All I want to do is hide in a darkened room. Like I did when I was a kid. Like I still do today.

I am once again approaching a breaking point.
I'm really not sure that I have what it takes to get thru all of this one more time.
When does it all go away? I'm 61 now. I'm tired of fighting myself.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Residual Effects

Have you ever worked retail? Have you ever wanted to kill a customer, or at least beat them around the head with your cane? Last night (Halloween) this fellow, all too obviously not from around here, came in with his family. Two freaked out sullen kids, a wife that kind of reminded me of a demure Cousin It. The younger child, a girl of about 6, was wearing a mask. They group headed straight to the Halloween candy display, grabbed several bags and approached the counter to purchase them. As I was ringing up the sale, the father beamed as he gave the little girl the bags of candy and proclaimed "This was the quickest Trick or Treating we've ever done".

Yesterday there was a new poll which caught my attention. It asked what president you would like to see in office to deal with our country's current financial and job problems. The overwhelming choice (36%) was Ronald Reagan. FDR placed second at 29%. Thomas Jefferson placed third at 14%. Reagan was chosen by a crowd that was 68% Republican, 16% Democrat and 34% independent. FDR, meanwhile got 16% of the Republicans, 43% of the Democrats and 26% of the independents. Okay, I am frightened and horrified now.

Also in the news was an announcement that MF Global had filed for bankruptcy protections. The brokerage firm was in the process of being sold when a $700 million discrepancy in the books was discovered. CEO Jon Corzine had no comment. It was confirmed this morning that the brokerage had used customer money as their own. The best guess at the moment is that the missing funds were used in an attempt to save the company - which purchased massive amounts of European debt, betting that it would recover. It hasn't. If this sounds kind of familiar, it's because Mr. Corazine was the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He was ousted from that role in 1999. He had been the primary force behind taking Goldman public. His earnings from the IPO were estimated at $400 million dollars . You remember Goldman Sachs, don't you? That's the firm that made $4 Billion from betting on the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. It was one of the bank-brokerages at the heart of the 2008 banking collapse.

Frightened yet? Mr. Corazine, between Wall Street employments, was a Senator and them Governor of New Jersey. Wanna notch that up a bit? Other former top Goldman Sachs people include  include Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson both of whom served as United States Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.Then there's  Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada since 2008, and Mario Draghi, governor of the European Central Bank.

I can just hear these guys; "This was the best Trick or Treats ever!".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween - now with Heat!

I got out of work early yesterday (Sunday). Not long after I got home, the electricity went out for about 45 mins. When the power came back on, the heating unit worked for awhile, and got my room up to 65 degrees before conking out again. It gave me a clue towards a temporary solution, so I had some heat last night (the coldest night yet this season). The people who installed the unit came by this morning and are fairly certain they know what's wrong. The question now seems to be whether or not there is a part in stock or if it has to be ordered. With any luck, I'll have heat and hot water again today or tomorrow. In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Here's a little something to frighten the town:

 And then, for the rest of us:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat for UNICEF?

Back when I was about 4 and 5 years old, when we kids went out on Halloween, many of us also held up a donation box while asking, "Trick or treat for UNICEF"? The idea originated with the wife of a Presbyterian minister from nearby Philadelphia.  Mary Emma Allison had seen a UNICEF booth collecting funds to send powdered milk to children in need around the world. WWII had been over for 5 years when she started with her own children and little Presbyterian Sunday School kids from her hubby's congregation. At the time , children were starving in Europe. They remained so until I was at least 8 years old. But by that time, I'd long stopped raising coin for my fellow less fortunate children. After all, it turned out that UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) was a Communist front. Oh, the shame of my earlier wicked ways.

It was a year or two after the UNICEF fiasco that I was warned by Aunt Lorraine to go through my trick or treat haul carefully. There had been a story on the news that someone had put razor blades into an apple. You just couldn't trust people anymore. What was this world coming to?

One year, after Dad had the house on Lakeview Drive built, it was my turn to host the Halloween Party. I have a little bit of it on 8mm film. I really must try to get that stuff digitized... In the home movie, you can see us marching around (musical chairs, maybe?), bobbing for apples, drinking cider,. Oh, my God, cider. I just loved apple cider. One of the villages north of Swedesboro (which was the "big" town where the farmers market - a commercial enterprise - was located). Swedesboro had had the post war population boom and finally made it to 2,000 people - which officially put us on the map as a 'town'. Anyway, just north of Swedesboro on Kings Highway (the King of Sweden actually had marched down Main Street - but that's another story) was Mickleton. In the center of the village was a blinking yellow light at the only intersection around. If you turned right and drove about 100 feet, you'd be right at Mrs. McCaffrey's cider mill. Attached to the main house was a side barn area. Inside was a giant round wooden cider press. You could smell fermenting apples as you marched up to a spigot, held your glass gallon bottle to the tap, and let it go. Ahhh, the pleasure of it all. By local standards of the time, it was practically a hedonistic experience. And this was real cider. Take it home, put in a cool place, and if you don't get to it within a couple of days, "mother" would start rising. It was becoming hard cider, on its way to vinegar. You don't see gallon glass jugs much anymore. But on the rare occasion I do, I'm right back at McCaffrey's usually on the days I got to see them turn the mill press, powered by a configuration of rope attached to a small horse, walking in circles around the vat.  It's all gone now. I think the apple orchard was plowed over for housing. I heard that the mill itself was sold and has been rebuilt elsewhere. Ah, well.