Words that resonate

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. … Is there no other way the world may live?
-Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 1953

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Red Tape

The counter on my phone showed it was 47 minutes and 5 seconds when a live voice came on the phone. I’d almost forgotten I was on hold and it took me a second to gather myself. It was my monthly call to the State Attorney’s Child Support Enforcement office.

The latest call revealed the following:

The case is no longer in the matching stage, it is now in the updating stage. They had heard back from the court and verified the court order. Now they were updating the computer with all of the court order and case information. As a matter of fact, there was an update made September 24th.

What’s next?

Well the computer has to be full updated with all of the information. When that happens, it waits for the next payment as dictated by the court order. In this case, it’s a bi-weekly court order. Once it sees payments are being missed it starts sending out enforcement letters.

How many payments does it need to see missed?

I don’t know.

Doesn’t it show payments have been missed since June?

Well yes but the computer doesn’t count those. It starts counting from when it’s fully updated.

And when will it be fully updated?

Oh I can’t really tell you. But I’d call back every three weeks and see if any correspondence has gone out.

 

Walled In, Walled Out

Closing In On Me by Heroethic on Flickr

 

Tired today. Of a lot of things for a lot of different reasons.

Physically? That’s easy. Daughter asked to sleep with me last night. This never happens so I allowed it. This never leads to a good night’s rest on my part and I knew that going in and it was no different last night.

I lay there for a while between Daughter and Boyfriend (seriously, I have the lamest nicknames) listening to their generally synchronized but still completely different breathing. Daughter’s was mixed in with a slight whistly wheeze and Boyfriend’s was rougher with an occasional snore. Daughter’s was shorter than Boyfriend’s but they pretty much started and ended at the same time which is impossible for me to understand right now much less explain.

There’s a lot of yawning going on here.

But I’m also tired in a different way.

Why are so many people angry today? Fearful? Depressed? Anxious? Hopeless? The election insanity is not helping, I know. The economic crisis. It just feels like everyone is on the brink– ready to explode. And instead of coming together, reaching out, embracing each other, linking arms, we’re taking sides. Division, division, division. What happened to all the shades of gray?

White people here, Black People there, everyone else over there somewhere. Men here, women there. You “others” just go and hide somewhere so we don’t have to acknowledge your existence and recreate our nice little division system.

Republicans here, Democrats there and the rest of you grow a damn spine and either take a side or shut your mouth because this has nothing to do with you. Conservatives here, Liberals WAY over there, Moderates please see above Republicans/Democrats memo re: “the rest of you”. And by the way, changing your mind is something that no longer exists. It’s called flip-flopping now and it will not be tolerated, respected, or accepted.

United States vs The World. Poor vs Rich. Corporations vs People. My Pockets vs Your Pockets. Progression vs Regression. Spend vs Save. Capitalism vs Socialism. Free Market vs Regulation. Healthy vs Sick. Big government vs Small government. Rent vs Buy. Illegals vs Citizens. Baby vs Fetus. Hetero vs Homo. Stay at Home Mom vs Work Outside Home Mom. Atheism vs Theism. State vs Church. Single Parent vs Married Parent. Slut vs Prude. 1% vs 99%. Planet vs Global Warming. Custodial Parent vs Non-Custodial Parent. Religion vs Science. English vs Math. Candidates vs PACs. Fact vs Opinion. South vs North. East vs West. Blue vs Red. Manning vs Tebow. Blog vs Trolls. Star Wars vs Star Trek. Facebook vs Google+. WordPress vs Blogger. Knit vs Crochet. My Way vs The Highway.

Why are we so eager for a fight? Why are we so ready to jump? Why are we convinced someone/something is surely out to get us?

It is so exhausting but as much as I want to just let it go, the fighting is all around me and I can’t always stop from being caught up because so many times it just goes too far. We can debate but stick to the facts, not your interpretation of them. Contrary to popular belief, reality does not have a liberal bias. We can debate, but refrain from insults. We can debate but please keep your ears open as much as you keep your mouth open.

Every day it gets louder and louder. Everyone is screaming to make this point and that point, to be seen and to be heard. Look at me! Listen to me! Pay attention to me!

When did we forget we’re not animals? Our gut instincts are about as right as often as they’re wrong folks. Why are we listening to them more and more instead of listening to each other? My gut might tell me punching your face would be the most effective way of getting you to shut up but my  mother taught me better than that. Who do I listen to? My gut tells me to blow my paycheck on whatever I want, when I want it but the people I respect tell me to at least save some of it and I’ll be better off in the long-run. Who do I listen to? My gut tells me I should work hard to get ahead and you should do the same for yourself but Mother Teresa taught me the value of working hard to get many of us ahead together. Who do I listen to?

Isolation everywhere. Bickering. Divisiveness. This whole feeling that if you see things one way, you must be crazy/uneducated/immoral/fanatical/classless/lazy/dirty/pathetic/foolish/not human.

We don’t want to accept each others differences, we just want to know what they are so we can somehow gain the upper hand.

Isn’t it interesting how the most hyped movie right now is this thing called The Hunger Games? And the central plot to this wildly popular movie based on a wildly popular book is a bunch of fights to the death? We are drawn to this concept like moths to the flame.

There can be only one.

It’s stifling. It’s confusing. We’re being forced more and more to take narrower and narrower sides.

Am I the only one feeling claustrophobic?

The Other Reason You Should Be Angry About Trayvon Martin’s Murder

I want to say I am really proud of the discussion raging across the United States right now regarding racism which has been brought on by the tragedy of Trayvon Martin.

However, I am frustrated this discussion is completely overshadowing what I see as the key to this tragedy– the fact that George Zimmerman was licensed to own a gun. Why, why, why is gun ownership still so easy to come by in this country?

We are so advanced. We spend ungodly amounts of money on defense on a national level and services like the police on local levels and yet we insist on being armed. Why? Do you honestly think your little gun is going to protect you against the top military in the world? Do you honestly think your little gun is going to do a better job of defending your family than the highly skilled local police force?

What is it going to take for this country to let it go? At the very least, can we please make it insanely difficult to get one? How is it that one must go through major steps to become a teacher, a police officer, a fire fighter, a doctor, a lawyer, a pilot, or whatever else requires licensing and yet a paranoid man with a history of violence (against police) can obtain license to own something that is specifically designed to end lives?

I am irate, like everyone else, about the police response and handling of the tragedy but the bottom line is it shouldn’t have happened in the first place and not because we’re in 2012 and still grappling with racism. Blacks shoot and kill blacks every day. Whites shoot and kill whites every day. Men shoot and kill women. Women shoot and kill men. Children shoot and kill children.

Why?

Because it is too damn easy to get your hands on a gun in this country.

Yes, talk about racism. Let’s grapple with that monster. But for the love of god, let’s not look past what actually ended Trayvon Martin– a loaded gun.

With all of the technology and all of the services we have in place, there is absolutely no need for gun ownership. Asking for a license to own a gun is simply the equivalent of requesting a license to kill.

Self-defense? There are other methods that do not take a life and they are getting more effective every day.

The number of people who save themselves because they owned a gun is negligible, especially when compared to the number of people who died because of a gun that is fired by rage, fear, shame, anxiety, intoxication, paranoia, or any emotion that pulls a trigger– none are positive.

Yes, I am angry that in 2012 there are still idiots who find other people suspicious because of the color of their skin. Yes, I am angry that in 2012 there are still people in charge who take sides because of the color of a perpetrator’s skin before considering the facts. But, I am angrier that in 2012 there are still people who can get guns– especially people with a history of violence and paranoia (over 40 calls to 911 reporting suspicious activity or people is paranoia).

We need to come to terms with race in this country but we also need to work towards tighter gun control laws so these types of tragedies don’t happen as we work towards a better tomorrow.

What will break us finally? Columbine didn’t do it. Virginia Tech didn’t do it. Trayvon Martin isn’t doing it. The countless stories of shooting murders and fatal shooting accidents that appear in your local newspaper don’t do it. What then? And why should we wait until that sort of tragedy to take place before we move to action? Hasn’t there been enough bloodshed already? Haven’t enough black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native American boys and girls been buried already?

Brain Dump: Recession Edition

Luxury vehicles in Affluent Neighborhood getting their daily hand wash

Something about this recession is bugging me but I’m not exactly sure what it is. I sort of feel like I’m playing with a connect the dots puzzle that’s missing some dots and possibly has some dots in the wrong place. It’s times like these I wish I’d followed my dreams to go into journalism. But, I didn’t.

So, instead of investigative journalism, you’re getting a brain dump of the things that bother me.

Is it just me or is this recession/depression full of stories of the lower and middle classes struggling, losing homes, and jobless? Where are the stories of the rich losing their fortunes?

One of the popular theories of the Great Depression was that inequality was the root cause of the depression. From Wiki: “According to this view, the root cause of the Great Depression was a global over-investment in heavy industry capacity compared to wages and earnings from independent businesses, such as farms. The solution was the government must pump money into consumers’ pockets. That is, it must redistribute purchasing power, maintain the industrial base, but re-inflate prices and wages to force as much of the inflationary increase in purchasing power into consumer spending. The economy was overbuilt, and new factories were not needed. Foster and Catchings recommended[33] federal and state governments start large construction projects, a program followed by Hoover and Roosevelt.”

Companies are sitting on huge piles of cash. I’m not just thinking about Apple and their $76B in cash reserves. Check out this quote from a MarketWatch article: “A MarketWatch and FactSet Research review of second-quarter regulatory filings shows that as of June 30, the overall amount of cash and short-term investments for 24 of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average had surged 18% to $256 billion from a year ago.”

I literally live on the borderline of one of the affluent suburbs in Miami. Let me give you some statistics from CityData on the differences:

  • Affluent Neighborhood has 94% of their homes occupied. Miami has 90%. In Affluent Neighborhood, renters make up 34% while in Miami, renters make up 65% of the population.
  • In 2009, the Median Gross Rent in Affluent Neighborhood was $1,388. In Miami, it was $838.
  • In 2009, 35% of households in Affluent Neighborhood had incomes of $100k and up. In Miami, it’s only 7%. As a matter of fact, in Affluent Neighborhood there were 2,616 households with incomes of $200k and up. In Miami, there were 2,661. Miami has more than ten times the number of households in Affluent Neighborhoods.
  • In Miami, 21% of households are run by single parents. Only 7% of households in Affluent Neighborhood are in the same situation.
  • In Affluent Neighborhood, 41% of females 25 years old and up have a Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate. In Miami, it’s only 12%. To contrast, in Affluent Neighborhood only 37% of males 25 years old and up have a Bachelor, Masters, or Doctorate. In Miami, it’s 12.4%.
  • 43.1% of residents of Affluent Neighborhood speak English at home. In Miami it’s only 25.4%. Not surprising when 59.5% of Miami’s population is Foreign-Born and of those only 41.6% are naturalized citizens. Compare that to only 37.9% of Affluent Neighborhood’s population being Foreign-Born and of those, 64.3% are naturalized citizens.
  • The unemployment rate among males in Affluent Neighborhood averages 7.4% while in Miami it averages 10%.

Ferrari sightings like this one are a daily occurence for me driving through Affluent Neighborhood

In Affluent Neighborhood, one of the most prestigious car dealerships sits a block away from at least two more luxury vehicle dealerships. They’re not suffering. As a matter of fact, they’re expanding to include McLarens in Fall of 2011. You know—the car with a starting price tag of $229,000 for their base model with zero options. In Miami, car lots are mostly abandoned, shuttered, or demolished.  Some have been converted to empty strip malls.

My newspapers are rich with stories of unions being forced to big concessions, libraries possibly being shuttered, programs being slashed or shut down, and huge payouts to local government officials among termination either via layoff, retirement, or being fired for violations not to mention six figure salaries for new hires in the top echelons.

What’s going on?