THE WAGES OF WEAKNESS I

19 11 2009

PRELUDE

I’m 61. I’m White. I live in a city in the Southern US that sprawls for many miles. Its structure has been shaped by and for the car. Recently I choose to give up driving because I’ve always had a phobia for it, which has gotten worse every year, to the point that the last few times I drove I had severe anxiety attacks, and came home totally exhausted from the experience. I also have a history of depression, which put me on Social Security Disability for three years a while ago. I now have a job that comes with a very good health plan, one that is known to practitioners throughout this city because so many people here have it.

Now that I’m not driving, I’m very assiduous in finding ways to work around that detriment. I do most of my shopping on the Internet. For my frequent trips to health professionals, I’ve found a fine organization that gives ride to the afflicted.

STORY #1

Several months ago I set out to develop a relationship with a small pharmacy located about 3 miles from the downtown of this city, where I live. The listing of that pharmacy in the Yellow Pages said “We deliver.”, and that’s why I chose to use it. I had several conversations on the phone with a pharmacist there. I filled out two sets of forms he mailed me. My downtown address appeared prominently on both. I received no questions or comments from the pharmacist on any of the information I supplied. I then went happily on with my life, figuring I had the prescriptions problem well provided for.

Several weeks after that, I came home with three new prescriptions from my doctor, which he had also faxed to that drugstore. I called them the next day to place an order. The pharmacist informed me, out of the blue, “We do not deliver to downtown.” Nothing I said would change his mind, even though either he or his partner had received my earlier telephone calls and the forms I’d filled out, both of which had contained my downtown address — which, again, is located less than 3 miles from their place of business.

I wondered angrily for a while why this sudden reversal had occurred. I decided that I will never know. But I wonder: Could it have anything to do with the fact that the downtown of this city is known to be a place where many Black people live?

STORY #2

Over the last few weeks I made a couple of calls to a local audiologist, asking to make an appointment to get my broken hearing aid fixed and get an updated hearing test. I explained that I would have to get a ride there, since I did not drive. I mentioned that fact in both calls.

I showed up today and the audiologist fixed my broken hearing aid by cleaning it out. The whole interaction took no more than 10 minutes. The audiologist’s  manner was abrupt and dismissive. She then informed me that she did not have a time to give me a hearing test, and I would have to come back another day.

I was very disappointed because I knew I couldn’t come back, due to the difficulty of arranging a ride and the fact that the hearing test was just a precautionary thing. It wasn’t essential.

Then I sat in their waiting room awaiting my ride home for half an hour. I didn’t see any new customers come in. I started to wonder why I had been denied the hearing test, and complained to the audiologist’s receptionist. She said that she had put me down for a hearing test, and had no idea why the audiologist wouldn’t give me one.

I left, bemused.

Why this dismissal? As in Story #1, a health provider had denied his or her services to someone who needed them and was in a position to pay full price for them. Could the reason for that have anything to do, in this case, with the fact that during my talk with the audiologist I mentioned that I had received my 2 pairs of hearing aids free from the State Vocational Rehabilitation Office over the past 9 years? (That happened while I was coming off Disability status and returning to work.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

This is the redstate American South. I grew up here. It has a history of the most vicious, heartless racism, amounting to American apartheid. I remember things being said in my home about Blacks that, even as a child, I found vicious and cruel. In my middle-size town in the 1960s, Blacks lived in an enclave of their own, and no interaction occurred between them and Whites that I could see, except those strictly necessary for business (which did NOT include their being allowed to hold any good, white-collar jobs).

Though much has changed here since then on the surface, such a fundamental cultural wellspring as that old racial hatred does not go away in a single generation. Does it still flow here as strongly as ever, but now all unspoken, and does it explain the mystery of Story #1, and, indirectly, of Story #2?

This is Ultra Right Wing home base. The radio-host pygmies on local AM station WJBO strive daily to stand as squarely in Rush Limbaugh’s huge shadow as they possibly can. Folks who call into the shows of those mini-Rushes love to hear the hosts’ vituperation, and from time to time make it clear that they, too, take it as given that all recipients of social programs are cheats, thieves, and/or layabouts.

This drumbeat of propaganda is endless and unrelenting. The generalized fury of the local AM talk radio listeners is so thick it’s almost palpable. It has an emotional intensity way beyond what I think can be motivated by mere disdain for the awfulness of liberalism alone. But the power of xenophobia, now…THAT is strong enough to do the job!

I’ve come to believe that the triumph of extreme right wing sentiment in the South arises from continuing hatred of Black people, an unusual number of whom live in poverty here in the South, and so are the the main recipients of those hotly-condemned social programs. Hate the program and consider it worthless = scorn its beneficiaries.

By being stridently Right, folks down here have found a way to be racist covertly.

Did I, a White man, then, get unceremoniously shown the door today due to merely being associated in someone’s mind for a moment with the hated minority group? Did the audiologist simply show me her dislike for a presumptive cheat/thief/layabout?

Or am I just being paranoid?

Even if I am, as we’ve all heard many times before:

“Just because I’m paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me!”





PALIN REDUX?

11 07 2009

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I received this collection of quotes today from a friend:

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“There was a surprising announcement over the weekend. The governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, is leaving office. She’s stepping down. Something I said?”

– David Letterman, referring to his feud with Palin

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“President Obama right now is in Russia. Obama went there because from Russia you can actually see Sarah Palin cleaning out her office in Alaska.”

– Conan O’Brien

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“I was talking to a lady here in the audience, she was from Alaska and we were wondering about this. How does a thing like this work? She steps down and she’s no longer the governor of Alaska. And we figured it out: Miss Congeniality steps up and is now the governor of Alaska.”

– David Letterman

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“A lot of public figures do this. When you have trouble, you blame the media. And today as a matter of fact, Sarah Palin was up in a helicopter shooting Wolf Blitzer.”

— David Letterman

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“Over the weekend Sarah Palin shocked the country by resigning as governor of Alaska. Yeah, Republicans aren’t sure who is going to fill her role in the party, but they are in talks with several of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

— Conan O’Brien

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“This is weird, in her resignation speech, Sarah Palin said she polled her children on whether she should resign and the count was unanimous. Yeah, even her children thought she was in over her head.”

— Conan O’Brien

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“Well, according to a new post-election survey, people want Sarah Palin to run for president in 2012. It says she’s been getting thousands of calls from people pleading with her to run, all Democrats.”

— Jay Leno

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“I have said Sarah Palin’s political ambition combined with her intellect is like putting a jet engine on a golf cart; lots of horse power and no steering capabilities. Today she proved it.”

— Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, whom Sarah Palin is threatening to sue

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“Sarah Palin decided to chuck her responsibilities but still wants to have an impact on public debate. So what does that make her, a community organizer?”

– NPR’s Michel Martin

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“Watching Sarah Palin’s press conference on Friday was like watching a drunk seal trying to land a plane, or in basketball terms (which Sarah prefers) like watching a grade-schooler try to score on Kobe while jabbering inanely.”

— Huffington Post blogger David Stemler

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“Caribou Barbie is one nutty puppy.”

— New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd

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“I think Sarah Palin is on the verge of becoming the Miami Vice of American politics: Something a lot of people once thought was cool and then 20 years later look back, shake their heads and just kind of laugh.”

— Republican media consultant Todd Harris

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Could Sarah STILL be elected to high office? Some people compare her to Reagan, who back in 1980 lots of people swore could never be elected President because he had been an actor.

But when he ran for office Reagan had never made a fool of himself like this.

…Well…there WAS Bedtime for Bonzo

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THANK GOD!

27 06 2009

(and I don’t even believe in Him)

Supreme Court Lets Stand a Central Provision of the Voting Rights Act:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/us/23scotus.html?ref=us

As someone who lives in the South and was brought up here, I can assure you that without the Voting Rights Act, the states down here would be back to poll taxes (You had to pay a substantial tax just to vote!) and open harassment of Blacks at the polls so quickly  even fast-talking Yankees would be amazed.

I grew up in the South when segregation was the law in all Southern states. I know how routine, heartless, and nearly universal racism was in Southern Whites. You don’t change a whole culture in one generation.

Even if racism is in retreat in the minds of some white people in the South, our legislators routinely provide the “lowest common denominator” of  political representation. If they were freed of the restraints of the Voting Rights Acts, those legislators would not hesitate to play to the worst instincts of the yahoo element of our Southern White folk, as they did for 100 years before the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.





CUBICLE HELL

20 06 2009

Friday Night I Wrote This:

“As I left work (the last worker to leave, by chance), on my way to the door I passed through the gray and disorderly space left behind by people who do boring and/or irritating things for most of the hours and days of their lives. I felt great pity for us all. Cubicle dwellers are the modern equivalent of the millworkers who sweated their lives away for peanuts a hundred years ago.

I’ll never understand how they stand it. I’ll never understand why they don’t rebel, like the more educated portion of the people of Iran are doing now. Working Americans live in “the richest country on earth” (as our media propagandizers never tire of telling us), and these same workers watch on their TVs every night those Americans not incarcerated like them fling money around like water for fun, and destroy peoples’ lives in the process. They accept it all.

I guess the Poor have always done this. My fellow Poor, modern American variety, are kind and friendly to each other as they serve out their life sentences in their little gray cubicles. Maybe they make a statement of a kind by doing that.

But I think it’s more likely that “the most social animals on earth” (as I have heard humans called), simply accept whatever pecking order they live in as natural, without ever thinking about it. They only rebel when society become so oppressive that they can’t kid themselves any more that its structure is fair.”

On Saturday, I Think I Know

How They Stand It:

1. Most go home to families, unlike me, and forget the day’s work as soon as they enter their front doors. During the day, when they’re stuck at work, the knowledge that they have no choice but to go on enduring the boredom and irritation if they and their loved ones are to survive economically keeps them numbed.

2. Many never saw any other way of life growing up, so they never question their working conditions at all.

3. A lot never question the standard American ideology: The USA is “The Greatest Country on Earth.” And we alone have “Freedom”, and “the American Dream.” Moreover, the USA is totally a meritocracy, so we all have the “Opportunity to Get Ahead” and realize that dream.

a. So those whose jobs offer good prospects of advancement know that they are on the right track in doing their boring work, and they buckle down!

b. Ditto those whose bosses have DECEIVED them into thinking that their jobs have good prospects of advancement.

c. And the rest have to conclude, if they’re still sitting in little cells shuffling papers, then it must be their own fault, and they should just shut up and endure it.

4. Some like the work! (I even like a small part of mine.)

5. Some are not smart enough to do any better-paid work, and they know it.

6. A lot know that they are smarter than their work, but also know that for various other, apparently-unchangeable reasons they CAN’T do any better-paid work.

a. Of these, a minority (unlike me) are temperamentally able to accept and live with perpetual boredom and wasted brain power in return for economic survival.

b. And the rest aren’t, so they suffer each and every day of their working lives.

7. And some, of course, are simply people born with a sunny temperament who are not bothered by much of anything.

My personal problem is that I belong in the 6b group.

The problem of America, IMHO, lies in groups 2 and 3. In their thoroughly-propagandized heads, they are still living under the ancient “root hog or die” economic regime that now prevails only in underdeveloped countries.

These group 2 and 3 folks, who I think make up the majority of us, do as they’ve been taught to do in order to live in a world of perpetual scarcity. They ignore the vast sums generated by this society and then squandered on unneeded military junk, and they also dutifully refrain from envying or coveting the vast wealth of their betters.

No “spread the wealth” for them!

So, for a lot of us, no hope of escape from drudgery either.





OH I WISH I WEREN’T IN DIXIE!

9 06 2009

You have to live in the place for a few years and watch our legislators in action to see what an ignorant and mean-spirited place it is:

10. Our governor’s ideology-driven indifference to working people doing its inevitable harm (but not, unfortunately, to his political career–yet):

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/legislature/49055021.html

9.  On the first page of the Internet version of my local paper 6/18/09. Note that Randy’s sports chat is first under “Today’s Headlines”. The picture speaks for itself.

Live, from Omaha, Advocate sportswriter Randy Rosetta is participating in an online chat about LSU baseball today at 1 p.m. The red-hot Tigers are one win away from the College World Series, championship series. To ask a question in advance, fill out the form on the chat page or check back at the scheduled chat time to join the conversation.

8. Anyone remember “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in Fantasia?

Four former governors of Louisiana met yesterday with our current right-wing twerp ideologue governor to remind him that it would be unwise to ruin the state’s higher educational system in his zeal to cut the state budget.

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/47814247.html

7.  Unemployment Compensation? We don’t  need no stinkin’ unemployment compensation!

From public radio show, “Marketplace”:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/04/pm_ants/

“Employers pay the taxes that fund unemployment insurance. States set the tax rates. And lawmakers are often under pressure from business to keep those taxes low.

And that’s just what happened here. [a Southern state. Are you surprised?] Remember the “ants and grasshoppers” fable? South Carolina’s a grasshopper; it failed to save for an economic winter. Back in 2000, its trust fund was more than $800 million in the black. Business leaders worried that money, money collected from employers would be diverted to pay for other state programs. So the legislature cut taxes, and the unemployment fund headed down, down, down.”

________________________________________________________________________

6.  Sock it to me, you big strong insurance industry, you!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/09/mary-landrieu-opposed-to_n_213211.html

________________________________________________________________________

5.  Think of the rich people (6/02/09)!

This one’s complex: Back in 2002 a Louisiana state representative named Stelly pushed through a change in the state income tax that made it more progressive. I was amazed. He must have been a closet liberal.

Now we’re back to the usual. Last year the Louisiana Legislature rolled back one of Stelly’s changes, making our tax law be kind to the rich again. In this newspaper story they reject any going back on that, though this year the state has an unprecedented budget emergency.

Louisiana, thy name is Guatemala!

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/46681172.html?index=14&c=y

_________________________________________________________________________

4.   Amazingly, this one (pushed by the state dentists’
organization) failed (5/20/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45456832.html

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3.   Extended unemployment benefits in a recession are actually
BAD for us (5/19/2009)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45411062.html

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2.   Bill to allow guns on campus (5/18/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/opinion/45268152.htm

These Louisiana folks either think they’re living in the West in the 19th Century, in which case they’re fools, or want to, in which case they’re dangerous throwbacks.

_________________________________________________________________________

1.   State tax holiday for guns proposed (5/19/09)

http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/45373872.html





WHAT IS CONSERVATISM, EXACTLY?

16 04 2009

I’m a liberal, but, despite that, every once in a while, as an exercise in empathy, I try to imagine being a conservative. At those times I never know what to (imaginarily) think, especially as my first, fundamental conservative political principle:

Is it  “I hate taxes [and am one of, or simply love, the Rich]!”

Is it, “I love the Lord [and/or my gun]!”

Is it, “I am strong and don’t need government help. Stop giving all that stuff to the weak!”

Is it, “I want an empire, just like the empire that belonged to dear old Rome”?

or, finally, is it

“Damnit! I demand that things quit CHANGING all the time!”

Never having been rich, and certainly not loving those who are; not believing in the Lord, or owning a gun: being weak, not strong; and finally having read enough about the Roman empire not to like the idea of living in another one — I am forced to choose the last of the above sentences as my hypothetical conservative rallying cry.

And I think that last position is really what a lot of American conservatism comes down to in the end, especially as espoused by other oldsters like me. We grew up in a world that operated and thought in a certain way. We internalized that way as the “normal” way of the world, and when the world, many years later, now insists on deviating from that normalcy we get bewildered and angry.

I expect to have ever more occasions for such bewilderment and anger as I (hopefully) age further.

Meanwhile, there is a lot more to the various strains of conservatism, and those strains interact and conflict in many different and interesting ways. For a very good, brief description of the strains (In both senses!) of conservatism, please see the following article, which is a bit critical but in my opinion analytically accurate:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/the-five-strands-of-conse_b_187675.html





PLAGIARISM IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

6 11 2008

Lovingly Lifted from David Trom on Digg:

“Dear McCain and Caribou Mom:

If you manage to steal this election too we’ve decided we’re leaving.
We intend to form our own country, and we’re taking the other Blue
States with us. In case you aren’t aware, that includes California,
Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois
and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the
nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New
California..

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of
Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get
WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole’ Miss. We get 85% of America’s
venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds
of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair
share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian
Coalition’s, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of
single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war,
and we’re going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If
you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids
they’re apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and
they don’t care if you don’t show pictures of their children’s caskets
coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs
turn up, but we’re not willing to spend our resources in Bush’s
Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the
country’s fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92%
of the nation’s fresh fruit, 95% of America’s quality wines, 90% of
all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and
soybeans (thanks Iowa!), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living
redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools
plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88%
of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92% of
all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the
hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all
televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the
University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was
actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we’re
discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that
evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and
61% of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals
then we lefties.

Finally, we’re taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed
they grow in Mexico.”