Thursday, November 11, 2010

We live among heroes. A Veteran's Day tribute.

On most Veterans Days, I write about people of a previous generation. There's my father's brother, a young Marine who never made it off Iwo Jima. Or Jenny's father, a lieutenant in the 82nd, dropped into Normandy on June 6th.

This year, I want to salute a new generation. This is Karin, Jenny's niece. She's a new recruit to the US Army. Last year she enlisted on the same day that her son, Little Jon, signed up.

She comes from a tradition of service. Her brother, Big Jon, is a blue steel warrior, a combat arms officer who it is my privilege to school at the pistol range every chance I get. Which isn't often enough.

Her older sister has served in the State Dept. for decades and her younger sister, Katherine, is studying to be a nurse.

Service to others. That's what Karin and her siblings represent and they carry on a family tradition that goes back to the Revolution. It's in their DNA and I am proud that they call me Uncle David.

So, on this Veteran's Day, I salute Karin, her sisters and her brother. Thanks, kids, for letting this old dogface be part of your family.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Truly dark days are upon us children.

Now there's a shortage of peyote.

I think it's Glenn Beck's fault.

How else do you explain his show?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

They should have hired a Mexican to take the test.

Well, this certainly explains a lot about last week's election.

A conservative group in Oklahoma, and that means that they don't wear brown shirts to work, but would if they could, thought they would celebrate the Constitution by asking a bunch of Oklahoma high school students to answer questions that every immigrant has to answer to become a US citizen.

And how did the little Sooners do? Only 2.8% passed. Yeah. As the kids say, epic fail. Turns out that OK students aren't so OK after all.

But the questions must have been tough, right? I'll let you decide. Can you answer these ten questions?

1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
7. What are the two major political parties in the U.S.?
8. We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
9. Who was the first president of the United States?
10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

"It's depressing," said Brandon Dutcher, vice president of the group who funded this little lesson in despair. "If these survey results are any indication, we are very much a nation at risk."

These were high school students. High school. And only 23% could name Washington as the first president. Jesus Christ, kids, he's on the fucking dollar bill.

The only question that a majority of these kids could answer was number 6. Yes, a whopping 61% of them could identify that giant body of water to the east.

Oh, and how do the immigrants do on this test? 92.7% of them pass.

And we wonder why tea baggers can't spell.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Tea Party Rant.

So, the Democrats got their asses handed to them on Tuesday. I'm not happy about that, but I can't say I'm surprised.

At the risk of becoming that old man who claims that everything was better in the old days, because it wasn't, there is something significant that we've lost.

We used to have the courage to see beyond today. We used to believe that watching your neighbor suffer in hard times was like saying to him, "Your end of the boat is sinking."

We rebuilt our former enemies with the Marshall Plan, one of the most humane, smart, and foresighted government expenditures of tax money in this nation's history.

We educated an entire generation of men through the GI Bill, a spending of taxpayer money that came back to us seven-fold.

We financed the moon landings, Interstate highways and the Internet, all things that made us richer, smarter and more advanced than any nation in history.

We saw our grandparents in poverty and made Social Security a way for them to retire with some independence and dignity.

Today, our political zeitgeist is all about balancing the budget by cutting taxes and cutting spending. It resonates because it's simple and easy to put on a bumper sticker. But we know from experience that it doesn't work. Why? Because the problem is too complex to be solved by bumper sticker ideology.

The country I grew up in was one where every able-bodied male had an obligation to serve because, in my father's words, "that's the price you pay for living in a free country."

We used to be a place where people grudgingly paid taxes, in Ike's time up to 91%, because we all knew that better schools, a healthy workforce, and a sound infrastructure were the foundation of a strong economy.

When I was a kid, we heard people say, "no kid should go hungry in the richest nation on earth." We knew, without saying it, that one day those hungry kids would grow up to be angry adults. And besides, they were kids. It was the right thing to do.

We have, in the past 30 years, become a pinched and stingy society where people are scared that somewhere, someone is getting something for nothing. Higher education in California used to be free and the system was the envy of the world. Now, students graduate owing tens of thousands of dollars to bankers.

This is Republican progress, encouraged by people like the Tea Party movement, a political party that is part astroturf, funded by invisible billionaires like the Koch brothers and part willfully ignorant people who don't see that their Social Security checks and Medicare payments are the only things keeping them from a diet of ramen and dog food.

Seriously, I don't recognize my country any more. It's not the great nation it once was. I don't know whether I'm angry about this or just sad that our political engine has been hijacked by corporatist oligarchs who have duped enough people to keep them in power. Maybe it's both.

But I'm trying to let politics go. I'm trying to listen to more music, spend more time with my wife and friends, and most of all, turn off that fucking TV.

The tea partiers wanted to take their country back. Great. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. Let's see what you do with the responsibility of governance.

But first, you might want to work harder on your spelling.