MONEY OUT THE WINDOW

 

Money out the Window?

Please note the question mark.  What follows is supposition, not fact.

BUT

For years at seven p.m., local CPTV (PBS) has been diligently sharing with us the national concerns of men and women around the world.   Judy leads off; Hari (at least for the time being) seconds her.  Monday nights are now politics;  Thursdays belong to Paul and economics.  Tuesday is Science and Miles.  There are short essays (IMHO) and brilliant Moments.  Fred tells us what’s going on in the subcontinent of India, and Africa. Malcolm brings us up to date from Europe and the Mediterranean.  Friday belongs to David and Mark (hurrah!)

And EVERY night belongs to education.

Nearly every single Newshour includes a segment about educational trial and error, about progress and failure, about experiments that promise wonderful results for children and experiments that collapsed under them.   We get essays about charter schools versus public schools.  We are treated to hours spent with the disabled, the autistic, the savants.  We visit trailblazers in Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.   The segments are cooperative, with Kaiser sharing some of the load and St. Olaf’s, St. Mary’s, St. Williams’ (in Minnesota) chipping in, too; not to mention various philanthropic organizations from around the country, or even the world.

We walk dusty paths in India with Fred, we wrinkle our brows as we listen to the earnest concern of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, we’re buoyed by the enthusiasm of young first year teachers and amazed by the sturdiness of teachers in their forties and fifties.

All of whom, and all of this air-time, are devoted to finding ways to improve the abilities of children around the world – in Syria, Brazil, China, South Korea, and Ferguson – to read, think, design, dream.

And, it seems to us, getting nowhere.

When academic rankings are displayed on our screens, the US of A generally falls in middle range – 14th to 17th – in reading, lower slightly in mathematics.

Why?

This is old-fashioned reasoning, but we think valid just the same.   Year after year Congress insists on giving funds to localities that, after all, are reputed to know their communities and their children best.  These cities and towns, these local schoolboards (now heavily politicized) are believed to be better prepared to create curricula for their students than the national government.  The very idea of a national educational standard has become anathema to our august lawmakers, as well as to activist parents, teachers, and unions.

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S.O.S. !!!

When we don’t post, we’re waiting and watching.  Sometimes we’re confused; sometimes angry; sometimes desperate. Even some times optimistic.

Watching the nation’s confusion this past week has led us to a state of possible euphoria, incredible as that sounds.

“S.O.S.” today stands for “Save Our Skins.”

We’re not quite ready to invert the Stars and Stripes in a distress call.   Only because we have a plan.

What we want most to do is unify the country, remind it of its greatness (past and present).   We want Europe to acknowledge, as it so frequently does, that without the US of A reconstruction after World War II would have been impossible.  We want NATO to be certain of the paramount role it has played in keeping both Europe and the Central Balkans (as well as the US after 9/11, AND after our ill-fated expeditions into Iraq and Afghanistan), safe and secure.  We want our government to remember, if not acknowledge, a former defense pact, SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organization), about which we can only hope Mr. Tillerson this week, and his boss, Mr. Trump at all times, need to learn.

We want the country to stand by, build upon, and enshrine the guideposts that have made this nation the world’s greatest.   These include the freedoms inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Voting Act of1966.

We want our citizens to recall with gratitude and pride our scientific victories, including of course our first trip to the moon, our National Institutes of Health, our social services (the “social safety nets”).   We once had the best and only public education system in the Western World.   Our farms fed the world.  Our wit and determination moved the world from shops to assembly lines.

Remembering all this goodness and the willingness to be responsible for the world’s peace and prosperity is a tough sell today when we look at the chaos in Washington…where “double speak” is the language of the day, and perfectly (we think) sentient human beings seem intent on stripping the countryside of clean air, water, basic public education, food and comfort for the elderly and ill – “Meals on Wheels.”

When the administration, under the guise of keeping campaign promises, doesn’t give a damn whom it  hurts, frightens, causes nightmares because it doesn’t even begin to understand the concept of “compassion,” as was so clear in the press conference Mick Mulvaney held yesterday, someone else has to.  Or many “someone elses.”  Under the rubric of keeping Mr. Trump’s outrageous campaign promises, Mulvaney and his staff have come up with a system of carrots and sticks that rely far more heavily on sticks than carrots.   And because he cannot even begin to understand the benefits of many governmental programs, those sticks are landing squarely on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the sick, the middle class.  Naturally the carrots go to those who are already overfed.

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A VERY SLIM CHANCE

Call us naive, but is it possible that the nation has an unintended chance to come together as it considers the new Republicare legislation?

We know that since last summer, Trumpies and Democrats have been unable to communicate in a civil, thoughtful, nation-building manner.  But with the unveiling of Republicare, and the massing of opposition to it from organizations medical, surgical, administrative, political – even insurancy – and the concomitant realization of Trumpies that they are being had (along with at least half the Democrats in the country), isn’t there a chance – small but real – that voters of all persuasions can see the coming apocalypse and unite against it?

Without using labels, for example, fifty-year-old men of all parties can see that they’re in the cross-hairs of the administration’s weapons as being too old to worry about.   Who cares if this group pays more for healthcare than others?  Who cares if for financial reasons they are forced to slide off Republicare for a few months to earn a little something to be able to return to its waiting arms? And by doing so face a thirty percent increase in their premiums?

Who cares if hundreds of rural hospitals and health centers have to close because funding for Medicaid is going to cease in three years?  Who, after all, needs to go to a hospital or emergency room when he or she is paying the huge sum of $4000 for insurance (that can’t possible cover the cost of what needs to be done)?

Who cares that Health Savings Accounts, at current suggested levels, can’t begin to save a family from financial disaster in the face of cancer and its treatments?

Who cares that the fabled .001 percent of healthy, wealthy and wise may get as much as a two hundred thousand dollar tax break, and that a family of four that earns fifty thousand dollars a year is effectively thrown to the wolves?

America is not full of dummies.   We watched WOMEN throw the fear of God into members of Congress on January 21st.  We understand that united and arm-in-arm, raising our voices against injustices can actually be effective.

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LEARNING WHILE WE CAN

The other evening, six of us met at a local hostelry for a pleasant early dinner with raillery and worry.  Nothing was forbidden in terms of topics, nor in terms of menu.

After varying periods of dieting (we’re Lenten, after all), our orders were huge and succulent: gigantic hamburgers (Cheese? Bacon?  French fries or home-made chips?) and tacos, filled with fish (cod) or shrimp.

Drinks time.   Red wines, vodka, and for us, Scotch.   With a proviso.  We asked for bar Scotch, the cheap stuff, insofar as we were cutting it with half a glass of water.  Why waste a wonderful sensation?

Time sped.   We heard about forthcoming travel, past holidays, the Oscar mix-up, the confusion and failure of one of our local schools.  We dipped, but carefully, into the Washington swamp.

The bill was presented.   $252.  Someone handed us the tally which was large enough for us to examine it carefully.

We checked off ordered items.  Then we noticed that our bar Scotch was billed as “Dewar’s,” $12 each.

Now, we had five witnesses to our ordering bar Scotch.  We wondered what we should do.

The restaurant was a favorite, its failures rare.   Rather than throwing three credit cards into the center of the table, we were dealing that evening in cash.  We loved our waitress.   Service had been grand.  But twelve bucks a shot for Old Rotgut?

We live well-insulated.   We could just forget the error, swallow the overage, say nothing.   We certainly didn’t want to get into a hassle.  Or embarrass our waitress who may have been held captive by the barman.  We didn’t want to appear stingy.   “You had the burger, but I had egg salad and water.”

In the end, good manners and silence carried the night.

And then we began to think about the Women’s March in Washington.   Would those revved up, determined, strong, “righteous” ladies have let this go?

When all we read about in our newspapers or online is creeping corruption and deal-making, the screwing of the American public out of time-honored customs and habits created to make life better for all levels of society – without any kind of popular mandate to excuse wretched excess and bad behavior – how could we ignore this homegrown example of profiteering?

We agreed the women marching would never have let this go by the boards, swallowed the insult to our intelligence, paid through the nose for what had not been ordered.  No, sir!

Were we too in love with what we wanted to believe about those women?  Were they carrying the weight for us all?   Should they?

Gathered at our cars in the ice-cold parking lot, we debated.  We’d been had.  We felt foolish.  We felt insignificant.  We were angry.

Each car exited onto the highway silently, carrying abashed passengers too “politically correct” to have made a scene.  This was our town.  Our eatery.  Our “friends” taking advantage.   Could we promise never again to be weak-kneed, run over, mauled?

Did we?

Responsibilty: How We Lost It

We apologize immediately.   In college, while we did study political science, it was a minor rather than a major effort.  What this means is that what follows is based on distant memory and on current atmosphere.

What we are trying to do today is track the halcyon days of Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency to the presidency of Donald Trump.  And the particular railroad we want to ride has to do with the deflowering of good manners, the ability to “fess up,” the lack of punishment at all levels of society for deeds, words, and schemes that gradually, over the past seventy-five years have come to be considered common occurrences, “the way things are.”

What brings us to this review is the current state of total irresponsibility for anything by anybody.

This we believe is not simply our own reading of life in these United States today.   Millions of men and women are now too used to watching terrible things happen to themselves and others, and thereafter understanding that no one is hauled in by a judge or a D.A, or becomes the object of a civil suit, able to accept responsibility for bad thinking and worse doing.

Simple examples: the mini-crash (although the effects were “maxi”) of 2007/2008.   Banks, realtors, manufacturers: automobile companies, loan officers, trade organizations.   What has happened to those who took advantage of the moment and skated free thereafter has also become – to the public –obvious and unsatisfactory.   It costs comparatively little to admit “a mistake was made” and to be fined by the Federal government (where does this money go?) upwards of millions of dollars without ever once admitting “wrong-doing.”  Paying off the Feds is far cheaper than being hauled into court on individual cases and squandering a fortune on attorneys to appear before juries whose sympathies are with the plaintiffs, not the defense.

Even Wells Fargo evidently found a bargain by “fessing up” that some of its low-level employees (it’s always the low level employees who are blamed and, thereafter, fired) hustled customers to open accounts they neither needed nor even knew about.   However many millions Wells Fargo was forced to pay was chicken feed for a company sitting on billions of deposited dollars and real estate securities. All they had to do was wait a few days and then open a massive PR campaign, apologizing (of course) and promising “it” would never again happen.  (Brooklyn Bridges were sold all across the nation.)

The point we are making is that business and industry are getting away with “highway robbery” but alas they are seen to be doing this without being penalized in any meaningful fashion.  Time passes and they are free to start all over again.

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IT’S A TRUE FACT!

Redundant, we know.

But we’ve heard how close friends – and even family members – walked away from each other after the recent election results, after the even more recent preliminary skirmishes between the administration and its public.

For the past few years we have been posting on Facebook, as well as on our blog, political ideas for people who want to push back and begin conversations about the path our nation seems to be taking.  To help us with our computer woes, we’ve had wonderful help and guidance from the technician who weekly records us for Community Access television and on our local NPR radio station.

This fellow is a Republican.   So are we, although considerably lower case.  He’s married and has a child in our local high school, about whose progress he is not happy.   As we listen to his recitations of school board ineptitude and classroom trauma, we’ve asked (we hope) sympathetic questions and propounded the occasional solution.

We get on.   He was critical of our pieces about the primaries, their results, and the election itself.  He became more critical as we began asking rude questions of his new leader, his new cabinet, the new approach to foreign affairs, the demolition to come of both the ACA and current immigration policy.

Last week he accused us of propagating “fake news,” of using unsubstantiated statistics.  We thought about this and decided we would rather be right than hard-nosed, so this week after our taping, we took out our pen and a piece of paper, and asked him for his statistics on voting patterns.  We figured it would please him to know we cared enough to admit errors when they occurred and tried to make our points of view accurate and responsible.

At first he seemed content.  We could recall his statistical groupings and were ready to write them down with their corresponding numbers of voters in each camp.  Democrats.  Republicans.  Nonvoters.  Unaffiliated voters.  Voters who chose to pull a lever for “minor” candidates.

By this time, disgusted with both Democrats and criticism of his new leader, he had stopped listening and/or reading about politics generally on radio, on cable, on network television.  Nonetheless, he was game to correct our own figures, and began by asking where we got one particular number we had used several times.  Realizing we were sounding like the Donald (who watched “the shows,”), we replied that the figure was one we had seen, read, heard in all media.

“The media,” said he, “is not telling the truth.”

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CHAOS

This week’s over-used word, CHAOS.

And chaos follows directly on the heels of the President’s claim that he was running a “fine-tuned machine.”

The chaos we want to address today is that within the House of Representatives and the Senate.  Some commentators have termed these bodies supine, which means lying down.  Well, they certainly are.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Priebus have all, in the past week, laid down the “law.”  The law in this case is simply:  “Oh yeah, and what are you going to do about it?”

A corollary to that law is equally simple:  “No, as a matter of fact, we’re not going to stop ignoring rules and standards.  They may have applied in the past to others but never to us.”

Who’s going to stand up and gainsay this legislative stampede?

How did the US get into a position where approximately 39 percent of Republicans who voted – against the 60 percent who either did not vote or voted in favor of other candidates – have their heels on the necks their countrymen?

The answer, as far as we can see, is the Chaos Theory.  If no one knows what’s going on,  if no one knows on whom to count as an ally, if despite the dramatic statements issuing from the President as he signs executive orders (which is all he’s doing these days and holding rallies to maintain his “sugar” high), nothing is actually being transacted –  if insurance companies, hospitals, the well and the sick cannot figure out where they stand in terms of their own incomes, lives, and chances for survival , if our august representatives have been terrorized into realizing that their jobs and abilities to feed their own families depend on bowing and scraping to the Donald,  if Republicans of good will and moral fibre cannot bring themselves to examine and investigate the many questionable activities of the administration….then what can we expect?

And just who, pray, is the “they” Mr. Bannon promises will never give us our country back without Armageddon?

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