Shell Game

While I was watching national politics and state politics someone was deciding to get creative at the local level. In Sunday’s paper we were informed that our local property taxes are going up. In fact, in my town, the county executive wants to raise taxes 113.5%.

Are you nuts Joannie Mahoney? You want to raise taxes in Salina by 113.5%? Salina is not a town full of wealthy people. We’re so poor they won’t even put a YMCA here. Since when do we charge the least affluent people the most money? Our homes are the least expensive in the area, that’s why we have the lowest taxes.

You are using the people who you represent as pawns in your grand consolidation plan. You are manipulating us because you want to cut county costs by increasing the cost to live in the towns and villages. You want to force some towns and villages to go out of business or to consolidate services. You feel that there is too much duplication of service. While it’s true that there probably are too many subdivisions in local government, to raise our taxes when the economy is in crisis and our incomes are shrinking is wrong. We do not expect our county executive to “kick us while we’re down.” Please save your grand plan for another day when we have had a chance to recover a bit. Or come up with a new plan to get to your goal.

House Shopping XII

My mortgage has been approved. Yay! I am glad, but since this is a 203K FHA loan which includes some rehab money, my work is just beginning. Now I have to find a contractor/contractors to do all the little jobs that the house inspection uncovered, and a few bigger jobs that I feel would make the house more livable, like the entire kitchen, the furnace, the floors in the kitchen, pantry and bathroom. I want to put new windows in the porch and repave the driveway and fill in the holes in the masonry basement (little holes) (perfect critter holes). Before the closing can happen I have to bet quotes for all these jobs.
So I am haunting Home Depot and Lowes, perusing the yellow pages and making a big pest of myself. I am staying up nights deciding what I will keep in my plan and what will have to be eliminated. Please not the kitchen.
I don’t know if I can blog everyday and keep up my schedule of appointments. There may be some blank days in the next two weeks. I like writing my blog, so I will try to hang in.

Sarah Palin – What is the Appeal?

Sarah Palin holding a T-shirt related to the G...Image via WikipediaWhat’s up with the fascination with Sarah Palin, plucked-from-obscurity Sarah Palin? I just don’t get it. Yes, she’s a real live mom. We don’t get much of that in politics. She has real live children with complicated 21st century lives. I’m “down” with that too. Yes, she’s pretty and photogenic and she speaks like one of us, that is, she can use an informal idiom. She’s sassy and she can shoot a gun.

However, she doesn’t (or didn’t) know any more about politics than most of us do, although she may have comprehended the backroom shenanigans better than some of us, and she is learning every day. Perhaps the reason she understands what goes on in “the locker room” is part of the reason I don’t trust her. She must have had some money and now she has a lot more. Now it makes sense for her to be a Republican. She supposedly cancelled the “Bridge to Nowhere” or the “Road to Nowhere” or some such thing, but didn’t it get built anyway?

What exactly is all the fuss about? She is just another “small government,” give-rich-people-all-the-tax-breaks, Conservative Republican. Do so many people like her just because she is confident? Do they like her politics? Does she have any politics? She does have a lot of good one-liners? Is this just more political theater? She was a ridiculous pick for Vice President. She has had her “15 minutes.” Now the Tea Party is very taken with her. I guess she’s going to have a very long “15 minutes.” Give me strength!

Maybe people like Sarah Palin exactly because she was plucked from obscurity and therefore, it could happen to more of us.

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The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Tea Party candidates are winning primaries. I don’t like the Tea Party any better than I like Republicans because they have the same financial agenda. They want to cut taxes, but I don’t think they plan to help me down here near the bottom of the heap. They have no sympathy for people at or near the poverty level. In their every-man-for-himself world they consider us worker bees ne’er do wells and failures. In their myopic view we had the same opportunities as anyone. The tax cuts they want are for middle and upper middle class people. They think their money has been paying for our “comfortable” lifestyle.

They want small government. Since they get most of their support from private, rather than public sources, we can guess that they do not plan to do anything to hurt businesses. They will most likely get rid of social programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Their entire agenda is about holding onto more of their money. They do not feel responsible to anyone but themselves.

I do not want these selfish people in Congress even if they are part of a populist movement. However, I will appreciate that they may dilute the Republican advantage in November and I’ll hope that all will be well.

While I am writing this, I am watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a real love-hate fest which has a lot of parallels in the American political scene this past couple of years. I think the movie ends in therapy, harmony, love and cooperation. If only our government could get some of this. We don’t need less government, we need less contentious government. Put your heads together! Figure it out, please!

Books – Hardcover Fiction – September

Here are the hardcover fiction book picks from the independent booksellers at www.bookweb.org.

Star Island, Carl Hiaasen (humor), life in the celebrity fast lane
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell
Three Stations, Martin Cruz Smith (7th Arkady Renko novel)
The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman
Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart (satire)
The Rembrandt Affair, Daniel Silva
The Postcard Killer, James Patterson
The Red Queen, Philippa Gregory
I Curse the River of Time, Per Patterson
The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise, Julia Stuart (charming)
The Cobra, Frederick Forsyth

Books – September List

Of course I am way behind in my reading but I still need a September book list, because, after all, my book list is never-ending.

Fiction

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
The Long Way Home by Robin Pilcher
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The Language of Secrets by Diane Dixon

Non Fiction

Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit by Andrew A Rooney
The End of Overeating by David A Kessler, MD

I Don’t Get It

I can’t believe we are planning to elect people because they did NOTHING! The House of Representatives has sent bill after bill to the Senate to help the economy and every bill gets stopped in its tracks. Every attempt by the President to hire people to fill posts related to the economy gets stopped in its tracks. How can we tell if Obama is a good President if Republicans sole purpose in Washington is to prevent him from accomplishing anything? Why would we elect people who care so little about America or the American people that they will not try to stimulate our economy? How can we pay off our national debt if we don’t grow our economy? Why do we want to “tighten our belts” if we don’t have to? If you elect people who cancel my Social Security and then won’t take care of me because it might be considered socialism, I don’t know how I’ll survive. Why would we continue tax cuts for rich people who have not done one thing to help us get through hard times?

While it might be helpful to elect Republicans to the Assembly in NYS so we can see Sheldon Silver take a step back I still don’t think, after listening to Republicans talk, that I can vote for a Republican even for what could be a good political reason. Please don’t go backwards. Keep the Democrats in the majority!

House Shopping XI

I have sought out a mortgage for my “1860” house and have been waiting patiently to hear whether I am approved or not. I assumed that if you were preapproved you would automatically be approved but apparently such is not the case. From time to time my mortgage guy e-mails me a piece of paper to sign. I print it, sign it, scan it, and e-mail it back. Sometimes the bizarre language used in the contract gets the better of me. It sounds as if I am signing my life away. Then I have to call my mortgage guy for reassurance before I sign. Because this is a 203K it is quite complicated and so there are more papers than usual.

I went over all my credit reports in the spring, but since then someone has slipped in a derogatory event on one of my credit reports, which, while not true, is holding up progress. My mortgage guy says we are on track. Each time I talk to him he makes a new prediction about when the deal will be done and he suggests the results will be positive. But I am starting to wake in the middle of the night again. This has got to be one of the longest real estate deals in history. Maybe today will be the day. I am trying to pretend this is just an ordinary day, but it’s not, it’s 9/11 and I don’t know if I even want my mortgage to be approved on this day. I guess by now I just want it to be approved on any day.

“Modern” vs. “Tribal” Societies

Can modern 21st century democracies coexist with tribal societies? We are certainly obsessed with our tribal global neighbors. I consider Afghanistan a tribal nation and Iran, and Iraq and most of the Arab nations. I believe that most countries freed from the Communist Bloc have reverted to some very ancient tribal rivalries despite their current form of government. And I consider many African nations to be somewhat tribal in nature with some being very tribal in nature.

There is definitely a clash of cultures between modern democracies and societies which are basically tribal. First of all, in the latter there is no tradition of strong central government and cooperation among tribal groups. Often, in fact, there are ancient and difficult-to-resolve animosities between tribal groups. These tribal cultures tend to be very patriarchal. Women do not play any political role and are often used as emotional “chips” in power struggles between tribes. They are defiled in ways that degrade a tribal group and are pawns as men try to punish and destroy one another. These acts of defilement undermine tribal and family unity, turn tribal groups into refugees and crush whole tribes for generations. Even in less extreme situations woman cannot take on the same roles they have in most “modern” societies.

Religious differences are very prominent in tribal wars and hostilities. Groups are assigned to a sort of hierarchical caste system, in which a group traditionally “dumps” on the groups that are lower down in the hierarchy.

Even though a country like America could be described metaphorically as tribal, the groups in America are, for the most part, too assimilated to be described as actual tribes. Most of Western Europe also does not fit the tribal model, nor does much of South America. India is perhaps still somewhat tribal, with some Asian countries qualifying as tribal and some not.

We are having a very hard time coexisting with countries where the actual political structures are tribal. We want to change these countries. They are anti-modern, in other words, they are antiques, seemingly supporting political relationships which are no longer appropriate in a world which values equality of opportunity, which values women equally with men, and which, purportedly, values all religions equally. It is difficult when there is not one leader to deal with or when the leader does not represent all of the people. Old techniques like “rattling your saber” or using “bluster” to scare the rest of the world to death do not go over well because we have to take them seriously and respond, perhaps even militarily.

There is no room for petty prejudices. There is no room to hold on to past hostilities. We expect everyone to mend their fences and extend their courtesies to each other and get on with the business of business, producing and consuming and tolerating as good 21st century global citizens should. But we might be dreaming. Can we coexist with tribal societies? For now, I think, we must, but they will try to dominate and we probably will be called upon to defend our hegemony from time to time.

So Far Away

I know I already had an encounter with a brainwashed conservative nut at the auto repair shop but yesterday I had another one at the doctor’s office. This woman moved to town from Long Island. She has travelled. She is fairly sophisticated and somewhat well-off. But she is a FOX news clone. Why?

Yikes! I have never encountered such an effective news apparatus. This woman is very upset. She really believes Obama is a socialist. She spouts off about health care gone awry, but admits that she has such great health care that she doesn’t have to pay a cent. She is so worried about losing our freedoms and the government getting too big and taking over everything that she is making herself sick and will need her great insurance policy.

I hit her with all my best arguments but she said it was making her sick to her stomach and she couldn’t talk about it anymore. Well that was OK with me because my stomach was starting to ache again and I couldn’t talk about it anymore either.

How did we get so polarized in America that we can’t even speak with each other? It’s a little bit scary. I think we’re being manipulated, and some of us are being manipulated more than others. I think that woman was the one being jerked around, but she thinks it is me. Maybe if we turn off our TV’s and begin to think for ourselves we will close the gap.

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