Friday, March 30, 2012

Money Talk

I was buying gas tonight and noticed a long line at the checkout counter. “What’s up?’ I asked and the guy in front of me, and he says there’s a half billion up for grabs in the lotto.

That’s a lot of gas money.  That’s a lot of food money.  That’s a lot of money no matter how you cut it.  And Americans have spent $1.4 Billion just to have a crack at it.

That would mean if we could do this every week we could reduce the national deficit by somewhere around 2035.

That’s a lot of gas money.  That’s a lot of food.  That’s a lot of health insurance and bullets and army tanks.  That’s how much in debt we are.

We’ve got to quit spending on things we do not need.

I just drove across the new “Bridge to Nowhere” in Dallas.  We didn’t need to spend Federal Tax dollars on this. (Or state money either.) Yeah, it is pretty and it is going to be a landmark. But we don’t need it.  We don’t need another war right now.  We don’t need a ton of stuff that Congress will earmark that we do.

What we need is for the US to win its own lottery. To get enough money to get us out of debt before the next century. But that ain't gonna happen.

Sorry the blog wasn’t funny.  Sorry it wasn’t biting.  Sorry.  But the truth is America is going broke faster than Spain and as fast as Italy and we don’t want to face it.

Turn off the faucet. It’s time to save.  Time to pay off the debt.  Time to quit bailing everybody out. It is time to be – conservative with our money.  How about that from a liberal?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The best things in life

This piece was originally written for The Brainz Group, an-on-line collection of loosely confederated writers and thinkers who produce a monthly blogazine based on a single idea. This past months topic was : The best things in life. I share it with you today.

The best things in life…

Are hand made…

Carved out of wood…

Cooked in a slow oven…

Tuned to an open G…

Have soft fur…

Are played by placing a needle onto their spinning groove…

Are sipped through a straw and come from Dublin, Texas (before the ass holes at Dr. Pepper stopped their production…)

Giggle before going to bed at night…

Go well with mayonnaise…

Can be dipped into with Fritos…

Come from Pixar and tell stories about Toys…

Shift with a foot pedal on the left side and brake on the right side.

Float with a beer holder in my backyard pool in August…

Are already paid for…

Come from UPS as a complete surprise because I forgot I ordered them…

Have cold noses and warm, wet tongues.

Come in syringes and make all the bad bugs go away…

Come rolled in small sheets of paper and are licked to seal close. (I guess you could either read them or smoke them…)

Are plucked from a springtime garden.

Picked from the fruit trees on our farm.

Are my three kids when they are passed out in front of a TV after a long day.

Are my three kids anytime they are back home with me.

Comes from Kentucky and is best served with a splash and ice.

Usually happen late in the evening under the covers on a cold winter’s night.

Have six-speed transmissions and come from Bologna, Italy.

Are memories from a time when I was just a kid.

Are with her.

She is the best thing that ever happened to my life.

And the best things in life are always shared with her.

That’s what makes them so good.

The best things in life…

Love to hug you.

And you love to hug right back.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Progress: Little by Little

The Littles were a big family. I know. I went to their family reunion last year.  Must have had close to two hundred and fifty people there. It was anything but little at the Littles.

There were the Littles from Texas.  The Littles from Arkansas.  The Littles from Tennessee and Kentucky and Ohio.  And the Littles for the Virginias, the regular one and the one out west.  Same’s true of the two Carolinas.  Fact is, I think there were Littles from about every state in the Union.

There were old Littles. Young Littles. Littles on the right and Littles on the left and and Littles stuck somewhere in between.  Most Littles had college educations.  Most had jobs, except the kids just graduating from college, then they were, like everybody else, they were just looking for anything. And of course, living at home.

The Littles had married into families with names like Rose, Chandler, Harrison, Murphy, Taylor, Delongshield and Higgens. There was one Little who had even married a German fellow and I never did catch his name.  But everyone called him Otto.

So why are the Littles so important?  I found it interesting that in a family this large and this spread out, they were a good representation of America. There were at least three mixed racial couples.  Two gay couples (one of the Harrisons may be too, but no one knew for sure). There were two American natives in the family and like I said a German.

They worshiped in the Lutheran church and in the Catholic church. Two families were Baptist and three were Methodist – this was the first family reunion I had ever been to where Methodist actually outnumbered Baptist.  There were several Littles on the fence about the whole God thing and two who were out and out atheists. There was even a Unitarian.

The Littles made their living with their hands. They farmed. They ran shops. They built furniture, they repaired cars and ran pharmacies and two were doctors: one the MD kind who delivered babies and the other a PhD who taught classical civilization history at a small private school in Kansas. Littles owned horses and taught riding, others owned cows and produced milk.  Three played stringed instrument s (which is why I was there to begin with) and they were quite good. One Little ran a seamstress shop and another made hand-carved toys. (Imagine that, a toy made n the U.S.A.) Three young ones worked in computers and one of them was the inventor of some video game. (He lived in California, of course.)

One of the Littles had worked in the White House, but I forgot for which President. She ran statistics for the political side of the business.  After the stint in DC, she went to work for P&G doing research for soap. (Which gets you whites whiter, Tide or Cheer?)

So at one point it got quiet, right before we were to have the afternoon meal, and the matriarch of the family, Willa Mae who was close to 96 was handed a mic and asked to say a few words. I loved what she said.

“We’ve done it.  We have made it through another year.  We only lost Hurbert.  [I think that was her brother.] So we did good.  And look at all the young ‘uns.  My how we have grown. Don’t know how much longer I’ll be making this little get together, so I just wanted to say this. Take care of those around you.  Love them. Treat them with kindness and be decent to them. Don’t let quarrels spoil your friendships. You are family. We are Littles. And remember, you are very lucky to be here, right here, at this place, at this time, under this sky. Have fun and come back next year. I know I am gonna try. “

Got thinking about her address to the Little nation and I thought, you know, that would be a good salutation for all Americans.  To take care of each other.  Love one another and be decent and kind to each other. After all, we are one family. We are Americans. Yes, and we, too, are very, very lucky to be here. Right now. At this time.

I want to thank Willa Mae for reminding me of that. All too often I get caught up in the turmoil of the day and the headlines of the hour and I don’t take time to wish all of you a good day.  Even when I don’t agree with you, I respect your right to be wrong. I respect your right to say it as you please.  And I respect your right to disagree with me. And most of all, I like you. You’re part of my extended family. Together, we are Americans. For good, for bad, till death us do part.

So as Willa Mae suggested, let’s have fun. I know I’m gonna try.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A simple argument for the Affordable Health Care Act.

Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito appear to be against it.  So, it must be good.

I just hope Kennedy has the cojones to break from the pack of four and vote for what’s right for America.

So here is the logic breakdown I don’t get. If you are going to drive a car on our public roads, it must meet Federal Highway Safety Standards.  That means air bags and seat belts and a certain amounts of lights and other safety devices, as well as emission controls. That’s before you ever turn it on. You want to use a car on the road? It’s got to do these things mandated by the Federal Government.  That is the law.  In the states it gets even more controlling. Must wear a seat belt, must have a license. Must have insurance and the car must be licensed and inspected and so on and so forth.  Those are state laws.  Mandates.

We live with it and go about our business and no one is yelling that is socialism. It is just a practical way to manage our ever-growing traffic chaos.

Now, if you want to use the healthcare system in America, the government says you must have insurance.

I do not see the difference in logic.

To take part in a public system, you must obey certain rules and regulations.  We’ve done it forever.  Why now is it so devise?

Here’s why.  It is what America needed and the political right is mad that they didn’t get the legislation passed on their watch.  It was, after all, a Republican bill. ObamaCare came out of the Republican think tanks in conjunction with Big Insurance and the AMA to keep us away from socialized medicine. It started under President Reagan. President Obama saw that it was good and pushed it forward and now the right is furious.  They are calling him every name in the book and their logic is “You can’t mandate what people do. Not in America.”


We’ve been doing it for years.

Try this: drive without a license, don’t have insurance and take the tags off your car.  When you are stopped declare the ticket you get unconstitutional.  See how far you get in traffic court.

Good luck.

Affordable Health Care for America is a good thing. It is the right and just thing for our country to do. Requiring people to carry insurance is a necessity, to make sure everyone is enrolled and covered. And it was the insurance industry’s idea. Not Obama’s.

Here’s my prediction:  the vote is going to be 5 to 4.  And it all depends on how Justice Kennedy votes. See you this summer and keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Red states vs blue states vs green states...

For my urban friends, you may not follow some of this, but hang in there, I promise there is a message (of sorts).

In parts of this country you got your blue states and your red states.  And you got your orange and green ones, too. And I’m not even talking politics, here.  I’m talking something much more serious.  I’m talking about tractors.

That’s right in some areas, you got your blue Ford Tractors or your Red CASE IH tractors or your orange Kubota tractors (they are the new kids on the block) and of course, you’ve got the mean green of  John Deere. And if you are on a Blue farm, you’re not going to see any red machinery. Heaven forbid.  Same is true of a Case International Harvester farm – a blue Ford or green Deere just isn’t going to be there.  We are talking brand loyalty of the highest order. (Great dealership networks and replacement parts have a lot to do with this, but still a farmer or rancher has a brand they are loyal to and that’s it.) I know a John Deere farmer who’s got Deere tractors, combines and even a riding lawn mower.  You even think about driving something orange or blue onto his land and he’ll shoot you.

Then there is Hector Reyes. Hector runs a family farm in the north central Texas area and has for years.  I knew his kids at the University of Texas about a billion years ago.  They have all grown up and moved to big cities like Lulling and Guthrie or even Alvarado.  All but one.  Charles staid behind to run the ranch.  And, as I understand it, to start a vineyard on part of their rolling estate. I saw Charles not long ago and visited with him out on his land.  There I saw red tractors sitting next to blue ones with a green combine and a yellow Case Bulldozer.  I mean it was a veritable rainbow of farm equipment.  Why they even had an orange Kobota tractorette for cutting their rather large front lawn and heaven forbid, for close work, a Honda push mower.

This just isn’t done. It’s almost un-American. I asked Charles about it and he spit a big wad of brown tobacco juice on the parched soil (this was before all of our recent rain) and said, “Don’t matter to me what color they are outside, long as I got Chevron inside.”

“Chevron?  As in gasoline?” I asked.

“Gasoline. Diesel, lube and oil.  Chevron makes the best products on the market today, hands down.” He spit again as if for emphasis. If it is running on our farm, it’s got Chevron inside it.”

For a moment I thought I was in a Chevron commercial. Then I asked, “Didn’t it used to be Gulf around here? Big orange and blue circle. That Gulf?”

He agreed it had. “They bought Gulf a few years ago. But the stuff that goes in the tractors and in the engines, it is still the same. Call it what you like.”

We talked some more about what he had been doing since college and I asked him how it was he did undergrad work as a Longhorn the got a agri-science masters at A&M. He smiled and said he just wanted to infiltrate the enemy a bit. (I am not sure which school was the enemy. But I let it go.) He told me they were expanding their grape production and had several wineries buying grapes from them – some from as far away as California.  Imagine that.  California buying Texas grapes.  “Also we are raising grass-fed beef,” He said nonchalantly. Something my wife is really interested in.  So much so, that we’ve switched grocery stores.  She grew up in the Cincinnati area and was brand loyal to Kroger, but now we march down the aisles of Whole Foods. Which creates new problems for me, since I no longer can find my favorite brands and I have to learn all new brands afresh.

There is tension in the Crawley household when it comes time for grocery shopping.

So, I asked Charles who was buying his grass-raised beef. He said, “Got us a big contract with Whole Foods out of Austin.  Good folk.” And I thought my wife would smile at that.  Then he quickly added, “Got a new contract with H.E.B. and one with Kroger, too.  Business is good.”

And there you have it. Brand Loyalty.  It is more about what is inside the box rather than the box itself. I guess.  I still prefer my tractors blue and my cereal from General Mills. But you get the point.

As for Whole Foods, if they just had the coffee creamer I liked, I’d be happy. Oh yes, and the dog food Sadie gets, too and the picante sauce and the steak rub and the….

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A quick word or two.

I knew a guy who made it all the way through college having just read the Cliff Notes of all the major books he was suppose to ingest for his degree in English.  You remember those yellow pamphlets that promised you a decent understanding of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Emily Bronte, Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. You name it and he read it – in abbreviated form.

He used to joke at the apartment house that they were Allen Notes, not Cliff notes. His name was Allen.

And he was a high B student.  He once told me he wasn’t interested in “As”. He was interested in getting in and then out and getting a job. His degree was in English. He was, and I suppose still is, a really good writer.  He just was lazy and didn’t want to read all the assignments. So what does he do after graduation?  He decided to teach, which meant eventually he would probably get a masters.  He did.  And he used the same system getting a masters degree.

Hello academia, we have one who slipped through the cracks.

I saw him not long ago.  We sat and had a cup of coffee at a Starbucks and exchanged stories about our lives and our children and everything we had been doing over the past half-century. And he said something to me that made me sit up and take notice. “John, I’ve been readying some of the classic I missed in college.  I have been reading the actual books.  They are fantastic.”

“I tired not to act shocked. “What’s your favorite so far?’ I wanted to know.

“War and Peace..”

“What?” I nearly chocked on the hot coffee.  “Do you know how thick that books is? How did you ever make it through it?”

“You just read one word then the next then the next and before you know it, you are into the story and it just unfolds before you.”

“But you were Mr. Cliff Notes.  Mr. Short Cut To a Degree In Literature. I can’t believe you are reading not just books, but Big Books.”

“Yeah. I’m going to tackle Milton or Dickinson next. Something English.  Maybe Shakespeare this summer.”

I was flabbergasted. “How’s work going?” I asked.  He grinned. 

“Since I started reading books, I’m a much better teacher.”

Imagine that.

Then it struck me. How many of us in whatever walk of life we are traveling, have taken the short cut. – the easy access – have shaved a few corners? Yet, when we sit down to tackle our life’s work and we do it right, there is a great sense of joy that comes from those accomplishments.

English Lit for Dummies is not my idea of earning a BA or an MA from a university. But at least my friend has a teaching job, which he is dedicated to and truly loves and has discovered the joy of what was actually in those books.  He discovered that there was a real power to the art of placing one word right after the next in a certain context and delivering a message with style, substance, character and rhythm.

I sipped on my coffee feeling a bit proud of my old buddy becoming legit after all these years.  It was like coming out of the closet and saying, I’m illiterate, teach me to read.  It took a lot of courage for him to admit he had skimped and just gotten by.  But now he was a reading addict. “So, Allen, what are you going to be doing this summer during break?”

“Oh, I got a job editing for Spark Notes.”

And the circle goes on…unbroken.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


 How much voter fraud have we had?

How much welfare fraud?

How much worker’s compensation fraud?

How much Medicare fraud?

We have enacted laws that that make sweeping changes in the way one can get welfare, Medicare, worker’s compensation, and even new, harder ways to get voter IDs…all because of the hysteria surrounding the notion that the world is caving in on us.  America is about to collapse.

Here’s some insight.  It is not.

But let me ask this question. How much fraud have we had on Wall Street?

Got kind of quiet in the room. 

We have been overrun with it.  Yet, you let a Congressman suggest regulation changes covering the SEC and Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce and Fox News stands up and all but accuses that person sponsoring such legislation of being a  socialist. ..or worse… a democrat.

So we had Fox News doing an expose on the voter ID law and all the problems states were having controlling who could and couldn’t vote (at last check only the Republic of Arizona had actually filed any complaints with the Federal Election Commission on irregularities in Federal elections and that is because they think anybody who can speak Spanish is a communist outsider;) and Fox was telling us how the voter ID program was going to fix all of this. It was going to stop this rampant fraud.

Key word: rampant. As in everywhere.  As in going to destroy America. Hysterics.

Later in their ‘news’ segment they took on a congressman from Ohio who wanted to see that Wall Street gets proper policing when it defrauds the American people. Un-American bastard he…according to Fox.  How dare he try and stifle free enterprise with more governmental control, more red tape; making it harder for good American companies to make a killing (I’m sorry that should have read profit.)

Hummmm? Anybody else see the hypocrisy in this?

We are going to try and limit voting booth access to the poor, the Hispanics and blacks. And we’re going to do it with more governmental red tape and bureaucracy.  But let Wall Street step out of line and nearly run us into the Second Great Depression and any legislation that attempts to police them is called into question.

You are either going to have government or you are not. And if the government is not here to protect the people, then what is it here for?

Which brings me to my next question.  The same conservatives who are fighting all this governmental intervention in our lives, who are marching for less government, less red tape, more personal freedom…they are also the ones who want to control contraception. They want to say who can and who can’t be married. (Some even want to say what we can and can’t do in our own beds behind our own closed doors…but I don’t want to cause hysteria here.)

Now, does anybody see the hypocrisy in that?

What America needs right now…more than anything else…is a big does of common sense.  It doesn’t come from the left.  It doesn’t come from the right.  It comes from Americans who are tired of seeing our freedoms trampled upon by state legislators and US Congressman trying to stop the hysterics: politicians who are pandering to a small, loud and obnoxious religious right in our country that is as dangerous as the militant hard-line fundamentalists in Islam. They are cut from the same cloth. (Oh that hurt.)

Why don’t we just balance the budget, bring the soldiers home. And plan for our national well-being. Maybe we can even cut the taxes some, while we’re at it. Sorry that’s not very exciting and there are no sensational headlines associated with it. Just going about doing the job we should be doing. Taking care of each other – taking care of our country – and paying the debt down. Keeping an eye on our own boarders wouldn’t be a bad idea either, instead of worrying what the hell is going on half-way around the globe.

And not listening to the hysterics.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So no one wanted to play the Freedom Game.

Not one person from the right wanted a free shot at the blog with their own biting editorial…Not one. Hey, it was free, if you come up with the most freedoms that Obama has taken away from us.

What I got was a goose egg.

No conservatives who shout out from the top of any precipice they can find, at the top of their lungs, that Obama is stealing our freedoms…not one entered.  A lot of my friends on the left and from the center did.  They were also supportive and knew what I was doing.

I did have one woman tell me. “ Just Google it.  All the things he’s taking away from us…you’ll find them there. All of them.”

Wow…a treasure trove of data as it were.  So I went and looked.


She’s out of the game. Even some of her friends stated they thought if you were going to say that the sitting President was stealing our freedoms, you needed to have some concrete evidence.  I don’t know why they think this, Rush never does.  Hannity either.  And that goof ball Ann Coulter hadn’t had a hard fact since the Civil War.

Come on conservatives, this Obama guy is destroying America.  How?

Where are the freedoms he is stealing from us?

So I waited.  Twenty-four hours I waited.  Contest over. 
Score: Hard-ass stupid know-nothing right wingers  –Zero/America 100.

We win.

So shut up.  Shut up the talk about how this guy is driving us into the ground.  Not so.  Quit winning about your liberates being robbed.  Not happening.  And he’s not even after your guns, God forbid!

You don’t want him for your next President…that’s fine by me. I can accept that. Vote for the other guy.  That’s the way we do it in America.  What we don’t do, is pass around unsubstantiated lies and innuendo.

Oh yeah, one other thing. – no more freaking birth certificate bullshit, either.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The freedom game

Just had a guy on Facebook write that Obama must go.

I found that interesting.  So I asked why?

He said because he’s taking away everything from America.  That was a pretty broad statement so I asked, “Like what?” I mentioned that our taxes were lower, and that the recession is over and unemployment is back on the right track and thanks to the President’s hard work, we have an Affordable Healthcare Act that gives universal coverage to Americans for health insurance for the first time in our country’s history. (BTW he did it using the free-enterprise system in case you are just itching to yell “Socialist” right about here.)

So what has he taken?  I asked the question,  He replied,  ”All our freedoms.”


Like what?  Name the freedoms he has taken from us.

I waited.  Nothing.  I asked others of the same cloth.  Nothing.  (I thought as much.  It sounds like something the Mouth Limbaugh would say haphazardly and scores of idiots think it is the gospel. “He’s stealing our freedoms.!!!”)

There is this mounting attack on Obama for trying to wreck America. He’s trying to undermine 200 some years of solid GOP rule in the land…What?  Oh the GOP hasn’t been around that long.  Hum.  Well the God-fearing evangelical forefathers thought we needed…what?  Oh they were Deists not evangelicals. Hum. You sure they weren’t Muslims? A lot of them had beards. Even Lincoln.

Seems that old Obama is just another President trying to run the country from the center. And those on the far right are grasping at anything they can throw at him to take him down.  And they will say anything.

Like Obama is stealing all our freedoms.

You believe that?  Write this blog and tell me what they are.  Freedom of religion?  Nope.  Freedom of speech?  I don’t think so.  Freedom to be stupid in a public forum– he is obviously letting that one slide.

So tell me…what freedoms has Barrack taken from you? (Can’t count anything that has to do with the Patriot Act, that was a Bush law…but I will give you five points for it, since Obama renewed it.)

I’m waiting.  What freedoms has our President taken from you?  Most correct answers win. If you win, you can write an editorial and I’ll publish it on my blog. Free.

But I need some entries.  I’m waiting.

What freedoms have you lost in the last three years?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eye gotta code in my node

I watched the flowers and the grass and the leaves today and wondered – no marveled– at the magic of spring.

Everything comes to life fresh and alive. The smell in the air hits my nose and I suddenly sneeze. Hay fever. Ugh

Because of such my blog is very short today. It is an

ode to hay fever.

One quick breath
A sniff…I inhale
Spring’s fresh scent
On my nose is impaled

One quick whiff
And I am gone.
Hay Fever has got me
And trapped me alone

We wrestle in
tight grasps
fighting to the death
we will go

Hay fever is winning today,
Allegro…please don’t go.

Hay fever…Hay fever I hate you so
I love springtime and the flowers
But this pollen’s-I just don’t know.

My nose is raw
My eyes they cry
My head aches and
It’s no damn use

Hay fever has won again
Get the noose.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bowling for Dollars

I thought I’d tackle something truly controversial today. In the past week I have wrestled with race, war and reproductive rights. Today it is the NCAA’s turn. I want to change college football.

So I was watching one of the thirty-two hundred games of March Madness the other night when it struck me: we could do this in football real easily and make it huge. Make it bigger than the stupid bowls.

I mean first, let’s look at the NCAA football bowl series. We’ve got the Fried Alligator Gizzard Bowl that matches the third runner up of some unheard of Mid-American conference with the last placed Big Ten team, so long as none of their players killed anyone during the course of committing a felony for the preceding year. And so on and so forth.

But since our model is March Madness, it is “win and you’re in and loose and you can snooze”, it makes for great theater. And great theater makes for good TV, which has huge audiences and so on and so forth.  You get the point – BIG MONEY.

And reports this year suggested that the six two trillion teams invited to a bowl game, well, few people cared.  Even if you attended the University of Somewhere, you really didn’t care to watch another bowl game, when they were playing No-Name State.  Both teams were 5-8, just a little better than say, the Dallas Cowboys. TV viewership was down. Way down.  Down so low that it has the NCAA brass worried.  ABOUT MONEY.

So here’s my plan. This is so easy it just reeks with problems.

You play a ten game conference series.  The top sixteen teams go to a national playoff starting just after thanksgiving. If you do the math right – and I have –that gives you a four week playoff that culminates on January 1 for a national championship game.

Some will say, too hard on the student athlete. What?  These are the same kids who just a couple of years before were playing in state high school playoffs and loving it. No, that excuse won’t do.  And get this. We’ll pay the players on the teams who make it into the playoffs a thousand dollars each per game. Just to cover their time, expenses and to share a bit of their sweat in the big money pool.  NCAA outcry at this will prove once and for all that the schools are doing all of this for money. THEIR MONEY.

16-8-4-2. Four weeks. Four games for the two finalists.  Winner take all. Losers go home. It could be bigger than the Superbowl, especially if you keep Madonna off the screen at half time.

The top college teams in the land, playing for the big trophy and no one can sway the votes over an entire season. (Well, they can, but if you do it right, each team’s win-loss record along with an index based on their opponents’ won-loss record will even things out.)

So what am I forgetting?  Oh yeah, the advertisers who sponsor the Fried Alligator Gizzard Bowl.  The Alligator Foundation of South Florida or wherever. Pick a game and sponsor it. Plenty of real TV time for advertisers who will have real sets of eyes actually interested in the series.

It can be done.  And NCAA, you can make a lot of MONEY out of it.

BIG MONEY.  After all, that’s what college sports are all about.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Twist on Oliver

We just celebrated St. Paddy’s Day in the M Streets here in Dallas on Saturday.  A billion drunk people came and threw up in our yards and hurled in our streets and had a rather loud, but peaceful good time. They do it every year to celebrate the driving of the snakes out of Ireland. And now they have driven the snakes out of East Dallas. 

This year, the one-day riot and parade  seemed more managed than ever…even with our own family getting a parking ticket for having a car parked parallel in our own driveway.  Another story and one for the courts later this month. We were seated in the backyard and the cop could have simply asked, “Your car?”  And we would have said yes and he would have walked away.  But like I say, the courts will here this one later in the month. Stand by if I lose I have the headline all ready “ Justice Denied!”

But as I awakened on Sunday morning, I heard cleaning crews moving along our streets, picking up the empty containers left in the grass and along the curbs and the cups and cans that had somehow missed the more than one hundred trash receptacle that lined our neighborhood streets.

I drove away from my house heading to a local ATM because my kids were home from college and well…you know…That’s when I saw him. Pushing his grocery cart along filled with aluminum cans. 

Oliver Gold.

If you’re a friend to this blog you will remember my feature on him in  “Cardboard People” published in February. Oliver Gold was a down-on-his-luck guy who didn’t seem to have anything going for him. We got him a hot meal; a place to sleep and then someone in our group secured him a job. Yet here he was, at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning pushing a shopping cart along, as happy as could be, humming some Presbyterian Hymn about salvation and Moses. Presbyterians always had the most diverse musical lyrics of any group I knew, short of the Unitarians, who just sing about rocks and trees.

As I looked at him I feared all our work had been in vain. I stopped my car and rolled down the window. “Oliver what’s the haps?”  He smiled when he recognized me and pushed his cart toward me.
“John. Good to see you,” he exclaimed. He stopped twice and picked up a Silver Bullet and a Budweiser container and tossed them into the growing pile of metal collecting in his buggy.  “Business is good after yesterday.”

“Oliver, I thought we found you a job.”

“Oh, you did, John. You did.  But I’m unemployed each weekend, so to make a little spending cash I hustle the beer cans.  Good money in recycling, John.  Good money.”

We talked for a few minutes and I asked how he had been doing and he said life was treating him okay. He was holding down his job and the boss seemed to like him.  The weekend endeavor was earning him some extra spending money and as long as he could keep it hidden from his ex, then life would be good.

I had to get to the bank and he had to continue his rounds. And as I drove off I thought of all those people who thought of him as a beggar and a drifter.  But here he was on a Sunday morning, working the trade.  Doing business.  Keeping the American dream – in some tiny way – alive.

Business is good, Oliver.  The business of seeing people get back on their feet.

He’s not a cardboard man any more.  Today, Oliver Gold is a recycling mogul.  One basket at a time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let's not close our eyes.

I have long sought to find the argument that would encapsulate my feelings toward the extreme Christian Right in this country who would use every means possible to usurp Roe V. Wade. Not challenging it head on, but making it nearly impossible to enforce with legislative side shows and tap dances at protecting the unborn.

Thanks to the state of Pennsylvania and their governor, my argument was handed to me on a silver platter.

          More than 10 state legislatures are considering or have passed bills forcing women to receive an
         ultrasound before having an abortion. And Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering one of 
         the most far-reaching ultrasound bills in the nation. 

           Gov. Tom Corbett (R) reaffirmed this week that he supports the anti-abortion measure so long as
           it’s not obtrusive because women could simply close their eyes during the procedure:

That’s correct, the governor said for women just to close their eyes. They didn’t have to look. 

My reply is then, “Well, Governor Corbett, if they close their eyes how can they possibly see the educational images you are trying to share with them.”  Seems like your logic just went flying out the window.

Maybe, it has nothing to do with educating a young woman about what she has inside of her after all, but rather, about humiliating her at a time of a most personal decision.

And that is the crux of the entire fight.  It is about humiliation of American women. It has very little to do with protecting children. If you think it is not about humiliation, what do you call the proposed Arizona law that would require women to tell their employers why they are on contraceptives?  Really?  Now granted that comes from Arizona where the entire state legal culture is just slightly above a rattle snake, but still that is only about humiliation.  Only.

My wife’s employer has NO right whatsoever to know what medications she takes and why.  That is between her and her doctor. Only. Even John McCain is trying to tell Republicans this “silly war” has got to stop.  He knows what is coming.  The end of the GOP as we know it. Barry Goldwater also of Arizona tried to warn us years ago about the escalating problem of the zealots of the Christian Fundamentalist Right and the ruin they would cause the conservative movement. He knew then, just as McCain knows today.

And all this legislative posturing is not about protecting children, either.

After all, state legislatures across America have slashed childcare and infant medical care to the bone. The US has the most expensive health care in the world but ranks #29 behind Slovenia, and #30 for infant mortality. (and in case you’re looking for it, that is nowhere near the top of the list.  In fact, it is way, way down the list.) – the point is, legislatures don’t care about the un-born, because they don’t care about the new born. If that is a child in the uterus in the first trimester, then it is a child when it comes out.  It should have as much protection after birth as it has political clout before birth. But it does not.

And that is what boils my blood. God-fearing men standing up and telling women what they should be doing with their own bodies and “Oh by the way, we’re going to cut medical care for needy children.”

It is hypocrisy. Of the worst kind.

What the state legislators and the congressmen in Washington D.C. care about is that the far right has money and votes. And that keeps them in power. 

You let the far right anti-abortion foes waver, you let their funding dry up, you watch a retrenching from the polls by their voters, and you will see legislatures and our own congress vacate this stupid argument in a New York Minute.

This entire argument is about power.  And it is being fought on the backs of women in America.

When Governor Tom said that women should just closed their eyes and don’t watch, he was also talking about something much larger than a transvaginal ultrasound. He was metaphorically speaking of the decay of women’s rights and the right to privacy in our land.  “Just close your eyes to what we are trying to do to you and your rights.”

Having a wand thrust up inside you because Rick Perry or Tom Corbett think it is a good measure for saving lives, is nothing short of big government intervention in a person’s private life. And to think conservative froth at the mouth at this very issue every day.  No more big government in my life!

Well, this is a good place to start.

No more government intrusion in the lives and the vaginas of U.S. women. How about it conservatives?

By the way Governor Tom, 64 percent of voters in your state oppose requiring transvaginal ultrasounds. Might take a long look at that before you close your eyes.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I pricked a nerve. I'm glad.

Yesterday, I struck a nerve.

I have received literally hundreds of emails and twitters and comments about the Race issue.  (112 at the writing of this blog.) I thank everyone who sent in comments and who responded to the article. Almost all (notice I said almost) came from people who agreed with me that race should be left behind.  That we should again strive to be one people: Americans.

But (remember I said almost), I did get two specific letters that convinced me writing the blog was important.  One came from an old college friend now living in Florida. He writes, “I can’t believe you have gotten so left-wing.  You write like a communist. Love all the black people you want, Larry (that’s what they called me in college) but they have no business running our country.”

The second email came from a woman I had debated about this very topic twice before, She resides in that precious parcel of land we refer to lovingly as East Texas. “The fact that our president is black is not a problem. You made it a problem raising the race card (Notice from the original blog I wasn’t the one who raised it, I was merely responding to the awful bumper sticker circulating the web).  …those people want more and more authority and control.  They don’t want to work and they want us to support them and all their illegitimate kids. Before you know it, there won’t be room left in our country for us.”

I rest my case.

Pray for America if you believe in God.  Pray for America even if you don’t believe in God.  That’s how bad it has become.

Again I ask you, forget race. Let us concentrate our energies not on our colors, our religions, or our creeds – but rather concentrate our energies on finding solutions that will make America a better place for ALL OF US to live.

Race should be dead in America. This is 2012 not 1955.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The race is over.


After this picture was posted on Facebook, I became involved in a discussion the other night with a guy about the racial implications of this year’s election. My viewpoint is that since President Obama’s election in 2008 it has all been about race. The week after he was elected a good friend of our family was on the phone with me ranting about the “n” in the White House. I couldn’t believe it.  Okay, I said, this guy’s side lost the election and he is pissed off.  I’ll give him a few months to cool down.  But he didn’t. He is still riled up about a black man being our leader.

There have been racial slurs at both the President and the First Lady. There have been distasteful bumper stickers.  There have been snide comments about the “boy” in the White House. There have been comments from Hannity, Linbaugh and others.  But then came the comment that floored me.

A good friend of mine was watching TV the other night and a news teaser for the ten o’clock news came on and it showed the first family boarding their helicopter on the way to Camp David or somewhere.  This friend of mine spouts off, “We’ll have to sell Camp David at a discount now that the Darkies have slept there.”

I was dumbfounded. This was a college-educated, bright, successful businessman whom I have known for decades. To hear this type of comment coming from him, I realized the hateful and insulting things that must be coming out of less-educated and not-as-bright-folk in the hinter land. But we’re not finished.  His wife says, “And that first lady. She’s not fit to be seen in public.”

This was the third such attack I had heard or read from folks I personally knew about the First Lady. Now, you may not like the President’s politics, but the First Lady has held herself up as a good example of a fine mother and devoted wife, as well as caring public figure who is concerned and doing something about the health and nutrition of our children.

But I forgot. SHE IS BLACK. 

That was the underlying message all of these people were saying.  A black woman didn’t belong in the in the White House. Nor did her husband belong in the Oval Office. All based on race.

I shook my head and wondered how we had gone so far backward in this country.  So, for grins I listened to Rush Linbaugh the other day, just to see what was spewing forth from the Mouth. No wonder America is in need of new moral direction. The man reeks of the dark ages. Let us return to the 1950’s and segregation and put women back in their place where they belong. Only God-fearing White men should be in control…and on and on and on.

Don’t agree with my politics, and don’t take a stand with me on social issues and don’t back my no-war policy just because you read me and like me.  I want you to make up your own minds on those issues. There’s plenty of room for everyone to stand on solid debatable ground out there.  Make up your own mind. But there is one thing I wish you would all do.

Forget about race.
Forget that the President is black. Forget that the First lady is black.

In fact forget about what race any of us are and instead, let’s concentrate on the fact that we are one. Afro-Americans, Caucasian -Americans, Baptist-Americans, Jewish-Americans Muslim -Americans, Atheist-Americans…we all have the same last name…Americans.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Poems by Clare de Fontroy

Living as an expatriate in Paris during the Great Depression and World War II, this daughter of Afro-American slaves penned poetry about her up-bringing in the harsh days of the South as it was falling during the civil War.  The first is about Confederate troop coming into her yard as a little girl and she sees they are buy boys, her own age, conscripted to fight in a war they little understand. The second poem is about recognition for her and her people in Europe at a time when they could not earn a penny in America. Her work can be found in the House Next Door.

               Two Poems by Clare de Fontroy

                         The yard

They came into the yard today.
All dressed in gray.
All dressed in gray.
Children. Boys.
Just my age-
Led away to fight a war
Led away to save a cause
Children with not a toy gun
But with the fire and
With real brimstone.

They came into the yard today
All dressed in gray
All dressed in gray.
Boys just like my brothers two
Led to kill the Yankee man
Led to die—- that was the plan
Children not with a prayer of their own
But with fire
 and loathsome brimstone.

They came into the yard today
Some were dying.
Some were crying.
They had but one march to make.
Back to where they’d come.
Small boys heading home
With real guns
And real wounds
And fire
And brimstone.

I asked my mamma who they were
And she covered my eyes and said
not a word.

They came into the yard today.
But soon they were gone.
But soon they were gone.
Their march was done.


Seasons for Russians.
    Seasons for Jews.
   Seasons for Arabs and
  Seasons for you.
There comes a time and a place for everyone.
For me.

Someday they’ll thank me.
Thank Michael Angelo.
Someday Mozart
And Wild Bill Coty and Buffalo Bill, too.
Someday they’ll know them
Someday know

Season for the black man
Seasons for the Lost.
Time for everyone.