Thursday, December 20, 2012

No PC Here

The cashier at the department store was obviously shocked.  She looked about to see if anyone had heard what I had said, hesitant to reply.  Eventually, certain she was out of earshot of any of her co-workers and other customers, she responded in almost a whisper.  I felt bad for her, but not for what I had intentionally uttered.

We live in a time when we are expected to always say and do what is considered politically correct.  Unfortunately, in my case, the do part is easier than the say.  It's not that everything that crosses my lips is intentional or well thought out, but in this instance, my remark to the cashier was deliberate and well-intentioned.

Even more unfortunate is that fact that she, as well as almost everyone in the retail world today, was instructed to never, under any circumstances, repeat the words I had spoken for fear of alienating someone.

Was what I said so terrible that she reacted as if some state secret had suddenly been revealed?  No.  Was she overreacting?  Maybe just a little, but it was her job after all.  And it was apparently the norm, since I have received similar reactions (maybe not as extreme) in other stores.

What did I say?  Just two words, that are considered today to be politically inappropriate: Merry Christmas.

I don't know about you, but I have seen no calendar with the words Happy Holidays printed on the date of December 25, nor do I expect to in the near future.  Beyond that, who knows.

I, never concerned about being PC, shall continue to say with sincerity Merry Christmas to one and all.

First It Was The Twinkie

It has been called one of the worst mass killings in United States history.  No fewer than 26 people, 20 of them innocent children, gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School, by a young man bearing not one, but at least three automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

The weapons didn't belong to him.  They were acquired and registered to his mother, who he killed before going to the school and unleashing his fury.  Why did he do it?  We'll never know for certain, since the gunman took his own life.  We are told that he suffered from Asperger's syndrome.  And there is some question as to whether or not he had been properly cared for.

But we do know one thing: politicians of all stripes have come out calling for at least a dialogue on the availability and ownership of semi-automatic assault weapons.  President Barack Obama was quoted as saying: "These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change."

That quote and others brought unintended consequences--a run on gun shops across the country by people apparently fearful that they would soon be unable to acquire these weapons.

I found it highly amusing when apparent adults stormed grocery stores and supermarkets in their quest to buy and horde all available Hostess Twinkies once the manufacturer of these little yellow cakes of sugar announced it was closing its doors.  I wondered at the time about the shelf life of these delectable items.  And I tried to recall if there had ever been a run on anything else.

But there is little amusement to be taken from the reports and sights of people buying items whose sole purpose is to kill people.

These assault weapons were not designed nor manufactured for the purpose of hunting game.  No, they are not meant to bring down Bambi's mother or dad or Brer Rabbit to put food on the table.  They serve one purpose and one purpose only: to defend against and/or kill an enemy.  In the hands of law enforcement and the military they are a valuable tool and should remain available to those sworn to protect and serve.

Some gun shop owners have reported people buying not one, but two or more of these weapons.  Why?  Have assault weapons now fallen into the same category as the Twinkie?

And the real concern here is whether or not these weapons remain with the properly licensed buyer.  Once the guns leave the shop, who is to say that they won't fall into the wrong hands, as was the case in Newtown.

Does the average citizen really need this sort of weapon?  Are we to interpret the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution as saying the more arms we possess the better?  I think not to both questions.

I suggest that if not an outright ban on the sale and possession of these killing machines, then there ought to be a limit on the number a single individual can own.  This latest buying frenzy is nothing short of lunacy and needs to stop before there is another Sandy Hook, perhaps perpetrated by a mentally unstable copycat.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lightening Rods and Listening

After the outcome of Tuesday's presidential election, I have a couple of suggestions for the Republican Party in the wake of two consecutive unsuccessful campaigns for the White House: Stop grabbing lightening rods and pay attention to what people are saying and what's going on around the country.

Sure, things like the United States economy are important, but so are the rights of its citizens; things like women's rights to make their own medical decisions.  Forget the lame attempts at commercials featuring obviously paid actors worrying how they will talk to their children about the huge deficit (like their children's eyes won't glass over when they broach the subject).

And here was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney bemoaning the fact that Florida was in dire straits, while that state's governor was on CNBC touting Florida's business fortunes.  Didn't you wonder why he wasn't climbing aboard the GOP bandwagon?  And the gall of wanting New Jersey's governor to take time out from the disaster that left thousands devastated from the destruction the most recent storm.  I mean, really?  And you were miffed that Gov. Chris Christie offered a warm welcome to President Barack Obama who showed up to pledge the nation's support in time of need?  Please.

Both Christie and Florida Gov. Rick Scott were talking but the GOP wasn't listening.

In the case of lightening rods. consider the vice presidential running mates selected by the campaigns of both Sen. John McCain and Romney.

First, look at who was tabbed to be a heartbeat away from the presidency should something happen to McCain:  the moose-hunter from Alaska, then Gov. Sarah Palin.  Yeah, like that was a smart decision.  Can you imagine how the rest of the world would react to her shrill, high-pitched rantings?

Maybe someone in McCain's camp thought that was a good idea, but it's hard to imagine the senator had much to do with the choice.

Then, rather than meet the Hispanic issue head on and name someone like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to join his crusade, Romney's camp picked an even more polarizing U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, whose ideas threw the fear of God into retirees, who worried that their Social Security and Medicare entitlements would be in jeopardy.  And while both Romney and Ryan pledged to repeal so-called Obamacare, neither offered an alternative health care plan.

Former President George W. Bush understood and could relate to some degree to the growing Hispanic population and did fairly well with that constituency.  At one point McCain crossed party lines to propose a plan to deal with illegal immigrants. But McCain's willingness to deal with the issue was quickly overshadowed once Mama Grizzly Palin came aboard.  And that discussion became lost in the fiscal rhetoric of the Romney campaign. 

So here's the deal.  In the future, the GOP needs to avoid lightening rods.  They are dangerous to a candidate's political health.  And, pay attention to what's really going on in the country; listen to what is being said and be cognizant of what really matters to people.  Oh, and try to be more inclusive.  You aren't and haven't been for some time.

Will these suggestions pave the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?  Maybe, maybe not, but what's been tried in recent campaigns haven't.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We the "People"

After today, election 2012 will be just another entry in the history books.  And I don't know if there has ever been a more tiresome, hate-filled race as that between the incumbent, Barack Obama and the challenger, former Gov. Willard Mitt Romney.

The hate didn't pour into the race from the contestants; it came from the nameless contributors to the super-pacs, who stand back unaccountable to anyone for their false claims.  These people turned the race into a $2 billion event, an obscene amount considering that both Obama and Romney bemoaned throughout how people were "hurting" in America.

Hurting?  Really?  Would either of them recognize real hurt?  Romney certainly wouldn't, since he never experienced it. Obama lived it in his early childhood, claims to know the pain felt by the hungry and unemployed, but one has to wonder how vivid those memories are.

But all of that aside, it would be nice if the new Congress, as one of its priorities in the coming years, addressed the one issue that made this presidential race as costly and full of vitriol: the definition of "people".

The United State Supreme Court ruled a while back that corporations are "people", thereby giving them the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to what became known as super pacs, those faceless entities that could say anything, do anything, contribute any amount to any candidate and stand unanswerable to anyone.

But are these corporate organizations really "people"?  I think not.  They don't operate under the same rules of bankruptcy as Average Joe, for instance;  they don't pay at the same tax rate as the majority of individuals, and their tax obligations are greatly minimized by the allowed deductions that are not available to Average Joe.  And when a corporation is sued, little pain is felt by the "people" within that business structure.  In fact, the protection from lawsuit is one of the primary reasons corporations are formed.

All of this aside, the only way of changing what has become a campaign finance free-for-all is for Congress to say to the mega rich: "Stop it.  Your corporate largess is no longer welcome.  We are legislatively determining that you are not 'people'.  Your contributions will be under the same limitations as Joe Average."

What would that accomplish?  Certainly campaign season would be shortened due to fewer funds available for travel and advertisements, and the mute buttons of television remotes would not be worn out from overuse during political commercials.  (Okay, so the last point was maybe a little factious.  Sorry.)  More important, the playing field would be closer to level for not only the candidates, but also voters. 

Yes, I recognize that the campaign field is never completely level.  Let's face it: we're a nation of haves and have-nots, even though we are reluctant to admit it.  If you want to run for national office (even statewide office, for that matter) you better have quite a few bucks in the old war chest.

What are the odds of Congress doing anything to more accurately define "people"?
Probably more than a million to one, considering most of them are millionaires who have benefited from the court's ridiculous ruling.

So the campaigns of 2012 will have ended by tonight.  Let the mid-term battles of 2014 and presidential election campaign of 2016 and the flow of money begin.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Proving Independence

When their campaigns were just coming out of the box, I was fairly certain that U.S. Sen. Scott Brown would retain the office won in the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, despite the fact that he was the first Republican to hold that office since Edward Brooke's election in 1966.

Sen. Brooke was the first person of African American heritage to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and served for two terms.  He considered himself a moderate Republican, much like Sen. Brown who professes his independence, able to work across party lines.  And, in fact, Brown has occasionally demonstrated his independence from his GOP colleagues.

His opponent in the race, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, has been continually hammering away at Brown, maintaining he is for the "big guys", whereas she is for the middle class.  So far her strategy has proven successful, if you measure success by being able to garner the support of organized labor.  I don't know how much orgainized labor's support is worth these days.

I still believe Brown will prevail, but he'll make people of the Commonwealth more comfortable if he pulls a Lieberman, as in U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.  Lieberman, a longtime Democrat, failed to gain his party's nomination in the 2006 primary, but gained re-election as an independent.  He continues to caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, but is no longer tied to the apron strings of the Democratic Party.

If Brown were to bolt the GOP upon re-election he would be confirming his claims of independence and probably gain more power in the upper chamber than as the junior senator from Massachusetts.

Hey, Massachusetts and New England has long been an area of political firsts, so why would it be such a bad idea for Brown to show his independent side?

Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Does Willard Have A Ben?

We're probably not going to see much of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's given first name between now and election day in November 2012, and for good reason, I suspect.

I don't know how many people recall the 1971 horror film "Willard", but there was nothing good that could have been said about the loser by that name.  Oh, sure, there were probably those among us who felt sorry for the main character, a social misfit with an affinity for rats, who lived in a large, once stately mansion.

Willard's favorite was the larger of all the rodents, who he named Ben.  This rat was assigned the task of gaining revenge on Willard's boss, who had killed Ben's companion, Socrates.  Once the deed was done, Willard abandoned Ben, only to be tracked down by the end of the film and become victim to the rat.

Now I'm not saying Willard Mitt Romney is someone who enjoys being around rats, though there's not much good I can say about some of his most ardent backers.  And for his sake, I hope none bear the first name of Ben.  Or if there is a Ben among his supporters, my advice would be to hold him close, don't abandon him.  Payback could become a bitch.

Just sayin'. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maybe the World is Flat

Okay, so the Republican race for nomination as candidate for the presidency has become the singular issue of  how far to the right each can move.

First, we had Rep. Michele Bachmann and the awe shucks governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who apparently proved that the world is indeed flat, moved so far beyond even the reaches of the Tea Party that they dropped off the earth.  Both were at one time front-runners in the GOP that has seen more twists and turns than auto racing's grand prix.

Former Congressman Newt Gingrich made a strong run to the front of the crowd, but something slowed him abruptly, moving him to the back of the pack despite the tens of millions of dollars that flowed his way from Las Vegas.  He showed there are limits to how much baggage we're allowed, and that just because you think you're the smartest person in the room doesn't mean you should serve as the leader of the free world.

Then, along came former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and his seemingly endless wardrobe of sweater vests, who has demonstrated his ability to test the outer extremes of conservatism.  There are no limits to which he'll go, perhaps knowing deep down that he'll eventually drop off the edge.  Hell, his own state turned him aside in his re-election bid to the Senate.  Which makes me wonder what it would have been like to have Santorum and his vests going up against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her pantsuits.  Just sayin'...

Of course, we have the so-called establishment candidate, Willard Mitt Romney, former Mr. Lots of Things, with a boatload of personal wealth.  Unfortunately, he's tacking perilously close to the edge of the abyss, risking whatever support he has just to be able to stand up and say: Hey, look at me!  I'm the true Mr. Conservative.
Perhaps the brightest bulb in the lot, Congressman Ron Paul, who has made few protestations of ultra conservatism, comes across as more of a libertarian, with no shot at winning the support of either the far right or left (or even the middle, for that matter).  He seems content to play the role of the little puppy dog, constantly nipping at the heals of his fellow Republicans.  To them, I'm sure, he's little more than an annoyance.  To anyone taking the time to listen, he's definitely the you-can-take-me-or-leave-me, this-is-what-I-am, no-window-dressing candidate.  It's kind of refreshing, really, even though he has no real shot at the nomination.

One thing is certain.  At the end of all the conservative one-upsmanship, there's still a strong possibility of a yet-to-be-named candidate who'll out-conservative them all, maybe even former Alaska Gov. Sarah I-can-see-Russia-from-my-house Palin.  This would prove beyond a shadow of doubt that despite the adventures of Christopher Columbus the world is indeed flat.