Monday, November 22, 2010

Familial Love

Much as my upbringing and the "family values" people made me despise the word "family," the celebration of my son's marriage this weekend culminated in an experience of familial love such as I probably never felt before. The tribal, invidious elements were absent and instead I felt bathed in the love that others felt for one whom I love.

Loving one's child is, at its root, narcissistic. One's offspring begin life as repositories of wish-fulfillment impulses: he will fly where I merely jump up, she will be the beautiful person I have never been. And so on.

Yet a child, of one's blood or of another's, in one's home or in one's classroom or in any of the contexts in which children find themselves relying on adults, with all the unreasonable and one-sided demands that children unwittingly make, is the first lesson in truly loving, truly letting go of self for another, not merely out of duty, but with pleasure.

What adult does not die to save a child with a smile on his or her face? This is at the core of the sometimes harsh and fierce human species.

We kill many other species for food, to gain room for ourselves, even for sport. (Don't fool yourselves, self-righteous vegetarians: vegetables and fruits are also living species we kill.) From there we take it to tribalism, totemism, group selfishness and war: my people are better than yours, my family deserves more than yours.

Even if at the core of all the human family lies the strife deemed necessary to survive, there's no question that the good feeling of being nurtured and protected by one's family, clan, nation and planetary unions can be expansive and peaceful. This is what I gained this weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

But She's a Commoner!

William, William, William! What's gone wrong with that boy? The Prince of Wales marrying a commoner ... why it's the end of the British Empire!

Did the heroes of the RAF fight the Battle of Britain in those dark years when the Empire's future seemed measured in months rather than a thousand years, just so some rapscallion prince could go run off with the first lass who held his hand in college?

No offense to Kate Middleton, but it's not done. William's great-uncle had to abdicate the crown when he got similar ideas.

Before Kate considers lying in the royal matrimonial bed, she should think of England, as Queen Victoria's contemporaries were so fond of advising.

As to Prince William, he should heed my advice and consider a marriageable royal. I have assembled a suitable list from among the 44 nations that still have a monarchy.

Consider one of the following:
Princess Maria Laura
  • Princess Maria Laura of Belgium, six years William's junior, the oldest daughter of Prince Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este and Princess Astrid of Belgium. She is currently eighth in line to the Belgian throne. Just look at her, her face is made for one of the classic old royal paintings -- or the coinage of a country or two. Do I see a new dominion for the King of England, Scotland and France?

Princess Alexandra
  • Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg is the fourth child and only daughter of Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg. Her given names would be a mouthful: Alexandra Joséphine Teresa Charlotte Marie Wilhelmine. But then, but imagine those petite and pouty lips saying them --  breathy and slow. She seems to hide passion behind a demure exterior. But granted, at 19, she may be a bit immature for William.

    Princess Madeleine

  • Princess Madeleine of Sweden, Duchess of Hälsingland and Gästrikland, has the distinguishing characteristic of having been born only 11 days before William. She is the second daughter of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia and was featured by Forbes Magazine as one of the "20 Hottest Young Royals" in 2008. A keeper. 

    Princess Iman
    • Princess Iman bint Al Hussein of Jordan, the daughter of the late King Hussein and reigning Queen Noor, comes with a crown already. Plus William and Iman would have loads to talk about: the princess attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2002 and served in the Jordanian army soon after.

    • HRH Princess 'Azemah or HRH Princess Fadzillah of Brunei, just a few years younger than William are daughters of the famed Sultan, so imagine the dowry! And they seem to be party girls, too. Not to worry, those guys are their brothers.

    My matchmaking research is done. All William has to do is heed the call of the Empire.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    What If We Don't Need the Unemployed?

    Here's a thought: what if the 10 percent who aren't working on a paid job, just aren't necessary to the economy. Sure, we need their consumption. But we're all so productive that fewer people need actually work.

    Not proposing this as a final conclusion, but as the theory of an economics layman.

    Insofar as this employed — knock on wood! —observer is concerned, right now the problem is that there are lots of things being made on which fewer and fewer people feel comfortable spending money. That’s why savvy people, such as Economics Nobelist Paul Krugman and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, are worried about deflation rather than the government's deficit.

    But suppose, just suppose, that the 10 percent of the workforce that's been on the bench for about a year is never going to work again. There are certainly many jobs that are never coming back, ask a linotypist, if you know what that is or someone who still calls himself that.

    What then? Are we just going to go up to them, hand them a Luger like in the World War II movies, and walk away secure that they understand they’re supposed to do the "honorable" thing and shoot themselves?

    Wait! Don't shoot yourselves yet. We need your consumption. Wouldn't it make sense to accept a high structural unemployment and instead fund a portion of the population as consumers?

    As someone on the hiring side of the table employer, I remember the high-employment 1990s as a nightmare in which anyone who had a pulse could get a job. If you weren't in a Fortune 500 company with gazillions, you had to hire from the bottom of the barrel, as I realized when a candidate's reference suggested I call her parole officer.

    Notice how courteous customer service folks have become since the recession started? They're the motivated folks who want to do a good job, or who understand the connection between treating customers well and holding onto one's job.

    Why not subsidize the grumpy folks who really hated their job to stay home and shop online, pumping money into the economy and keeping the rest of us chugging along? Or am I missing something?

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    War is the fault of all the soldiers who wage it

    What's so great about military veterans, particularly those who weren't drafted? They chose that line of work. They got paid. They got and will continue to get benefits at our expense. And they gave us, the United States, a terrible reputation all over the world. 

    Why not honor teaching veterans or medical veterans or veteran bus drivers? How come these folks don't get subsidized housing and medicine for life, like the killers in uniform?

    Why just honor people who trained in how to kill and (many of them) went ahead and killed? How did actions that led to deaths of many, many people living in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan "serve" the United States?

    Buffy Sainte-Marie was right when she wrote,

    He's the universal soldier 
    And he really is to blame. 
    His orders come from 
    far away no more. 

    They come from him. 
    And you and me. 
    And brothers can't you see.
    This is not the way we put an end to war.

    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    The problem with the Tea Party are the winks and nods of impunity to vent every insane, ugly, unedited and unspeakable brain fart

    Living lo these many years as a white person in a majority black city, I witnessed the word "busboy" disappear after riots and the "n-word" reassert itself in full ugliness after Ronald Reagan became president. The problem with electoral swings to the right is the nods and winks that implicitly validate hateful speech.

    Since the alleged conservative "Reagan revolution," the Republicans have proven themselves far bigger spenders (on useless things like war) than the Democratic Party ever dreamed of (on useful things such a social insurance and education). The Republicans have not banned abortion, despite all their bellyaching and they really don't want to: they'll lose the base once they do.

    George W. Bush's government intervention in the economy was a far larger and swifter infusion than anything Barack Obama eeked out of a (Democratic?) Congress.

    So, I'm not really worried about the Tea Party.

    Governing is much, much tougher than speaking out against the horror of masturbation out in the hustings. By the time these so-called rebels land in Washington, they'll be bought and paid for, and if they aren't they won't get anywhere. We've always had the best Congress money can buy. That's not changing.

    The real difference between Republicans and Democrats at the street level. The Democrats use put downs so clever that most of their targets don't even get; and, sure, they really should cut that out. But the Republicans are the perennial schoolyard bullies and when they reign out comes all the silly and not so silly name calling.

    How far, really, is shouting to the first black president "you lie" from calling him a "n-----"?

    So out comes the rumor mongering. In 2009 it was "death panels," most recently it's the absurd claim that President Obama's trip to India costs $200 million a day (brought to you, no surprise, by Rupert Murdock's New York Daily "News").

    That's what gets me.

    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    The Pew Uncharitable Mistrust-sowing anti-Hispanic Center Is at it Again

    The Pew Charitable Trust's "Hispanic Center" is at it again, spreading venomous misinformation about Hispanics in the name of high-minded "research," in a report titled After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lose Jobs. In fact, the title is wrong and most economists would disagree with it.

    Consider the comment from the Immigration Policy Center, whose research, along with that of others, shows the very different reality that "immigrant and native-born workers are not interchangeable, nor do they compete with each other for some fixed number of jobs in the U.S. economy." There is a mountain of research to show this.

    This is not a first offense for Pew, either.

    In early October, they published a report titled Latinos and the 2010 Elections: Strong Support for Democrats; Weak Voter Motivation. Yet Pew's own data show that 66 percent of Latino registered voters talked about the immigration policy and six-in-ten (58 percent) of them said they were absolutely certain they would vote. Where's the weak motivation?

    Then they followed up with this one: Illegal Immigration Backlash Worries, Divides Latinos. What's their "division"? Some Hispanics would like the immigrants to pay a fine. Still, they all agree on helping them stay in the United States. To which I'm sure Pew would say: Don't bother me with the facts, Cuate.

    If I had a dime for every newspaper editor since 1980 who wanted me and other Hispanics I've known to write the "Hispanics are Divided" story, I'd be rich! Even better is the one about Hispanics and African-Americans at each others' throats: another story that has no evidence behind it.

    Pew, like Anglo newspaper editors, loves to hire some pliant "Chico" to get ethnic cover for their anti-Hispanic bull.

    Pew's reports, including these, almost always have a Spic Hispanic name in the byline. In one, they were so desperate they credited "C. Soledad Espinoza, Intern." We're publicizing high-falutin' research by interns now, Pew?

    Somewhat more credible is the repeated credit given to Mark Hugo Lopez, the associate director of the anti-Hispanic Center. His boss, the center's director, has -- oh, surprise! -- an Anglo name.

    So what's "Hispanic" about this center other than its target? (And I say "target" as in bull's eye on our backs.) And what is "charitable" or has anything to do with "trust" about what is little more than a classic inheritance tax dodge set up by the heirs of oilman Joseph N. Pew, Jr.?

    Wednesday, November 03, 2010

    Could we do worse if we had a public service lottery?

    Imagine no more congressional elections. No more donations to cover campaign expenditures and buy congressional votes. No more whining and name calling; no more oversimplified debates calibrated for the lowest common denominator.

    Instead, a national lottery would select, district by district, citizens obligated to serve in the House for two years and in the Senate for six. This would be a service combining elements of jury duty and the military draft.

    If you got picked, it would be mandatory to serve. Barring serious illness or distress, you would have to leave your job and take on the work of the congressional seat for which you were selected.

    Citizen lawmakers would be paid the same salary they were making before being selected, with cost of living adjustments. They and their families would be housed at public expense, like the military, while in Washington. There would also be a fund for travel home and expenses of office. There would be no gain, and their should be no loss.

    Their obligation would be to study the issues before the nation, propose solutions and vote, the same as members of Congress today. They could pick and hire advisers, just like members of Congress today.

    Sure, there would be some crazy ideas (aren't there many today?). Yet if we couldn't trust 500 or so citizens chosen at random to collectively come up with something more or less workable, then forget the idea of democracy. Yes, democracy, because representatives of the people would be in charge, with fewer blandishments and pressures than they face today.

    Given the fact that Congress has been essentially a club of primarily white, male millionaires from the very beginning, this would be a significant step toward democratization. A Congress of people like you and me, chosen at random.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Write in Adrian Fenty for mayor of Washington, D.C.

    if you don't want Josh Williams to puppeteer Vincent Gray.

    Monday, November 01, 2010

    Before You Vote 3

    The Grand Old Party wasn't Lincoln's creation for nothing: it was and remains the stronghold of the financiers of major industry of the North. Reagan was really from Illinois, The Bushes were really Connecticut Yankees, put-on Texas drawl notwithstanding.

    Nixon was actually from a part of southern California where I'm told that folks have not heard a new idea they like since indoor plumbing. But he couldn't become president without a sojourn as a Wall Street lawyer.

    Let's face it: the Republican Party is and has always been at the service of the top 5 percent of income earners who own 60 percent of the wealth in this country.

    Family values? Ask divorced Reagan and Gingrich (who brought the papers to his cancer-ridden wife). Ask former congressmen Henry ("Pro-life constitutional amendment") Hyde about his "youthful indiscretions" in his forties.

    Heterosexual? Oh, where do we start? In the men's bathrooms of the Minneapolis airport or in the texting to young male interns?

    Pro-life? The Republicans promised to end legal abortion in 1980. It's still with us after Reagan and two Bushes and congresses with Republican majorities in both Houses.

    So please, no more saying that the Republicans are about anything else than making sure those at the top pay far less than their share and burden us with far more of the work and cost of keeping our society running.

    The GOP is the party of naked, opportunistic greed at our expense.