Friday, September 24, 2010

Sexual Politics

The spring cleaning, 1992 project continues. Within the past 12 months, I watched Doris Day and David Niven starring in the Movie Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Heard these interesting bits of conversation that I transcribed:

DD: Interesting people don't want to meet housewives.

DN: Oh darling, you're so much more than a housewife.

DD: I know darling. So is every housewife.

That was 1960, merely 50 years ago. Things were different then, in so many many ways. For example, Joe Baegent notes:

Social Security is a raw deal for most women who have worked and paid into it all their lives.

The trouble is that the program was designed to serve 1930s-style households, where two-thirds of wives stayed home while their husbands worked. Yet nowadays, only one in five wives stays home, and two-thirds of couples are "dual earners," most likely because it takes two jobs to pay for housing, or to live the Martha Steward pie-in-the-sky lifestyle -- or at least nibble around the edges. You might think that a woman who retires after punching the time clock and paying into Social Security year after year would come out better, or at least not worse, than a stay-at-home ife who has hit retirement age. You wold be wrong though: Married working women who pay Social Security taxes receive no more benefits from Soci8al Security than women who have never paid a dime into the program.

Here's how it plays out: A stay-at-home wife who retires can claim "spousals benefits" amounting to 50 percent of the benefits of her husband. The system treats her decently because it was created in 1935, when her situation was the norm. The married working woman has a choice when she retires. She can claim benefits based on her own lifetime earnings or she can choose the spousal benefit, whichever is higher. More likely than not, because she earned less than her husband, she will choose to claim half of her husbands benefits -- the same benefit as the married woman who didn't work. ... Researchers at the National Center for Policy Analysis have come up with some startling numbers: "If the second spouse in a couple comprised of two high school educated twenty-five-year-olds enters the workforce and works full-time, the couple's expected lifetime taxes increase 74 percent, but their benefits will increase only 17 percent."

Older women depend on Social Security more than men ... They represent 67 percent of all people drawing Social Security, 27 million altogether. Twenty-four million of them live entirely on a Social Security check that is often below the official poverty level, especially those entering the program after living their entire lives below the poverty level. Only 13 percent of older women who draw Social Security have additional income...

But, let us return to Don't Eat the Daisies:

DD: Cheer up darling, The worst is over.

DD: How about you Maggie? [Maggie is their maid / housekeeper / domestic] Do you think the worst is over?

MAGGIE: It hasn't even begun.

In order for FDR to get support of Southern Senators to pass the initial Social Security, he had to agree that the program would NOT cover domestics and farm laborers. After all, they were mostly ... well, of a different skin pigmentation than the general population.

But back a bit of back and forth banter between David Niven and Doris Day serving as a harbinger for the present era of the McMansion:

DD: How come it's so big?

DN: Because we couldn't afford anything smaller.

Here's the lyrics to a Herbert Magidson (lyrics) Harold Sigmon (music writer) song popularized by Guy Lombardo: Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think), that ought to cheer us all up, while simultaneously providing food for thought. The Guy Lombardo version was on the Billboard chart (as it was then known) for 19 weeks. Ironically, Doris Day too made a recording of this tune in 1950/

You work and work for years and years, you're always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin' dough
Someday, you say, you'll have your fun, when you're a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you'll have in your old rockin' chair

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

You're gonna take that ocean trip, no matter, come what may
You've got your reservations made, but you just can't get away
Next year for sure, you'll see the world, you'll really get around
But how far can you travel when you're six feet underground?

Your heart of hearts, your dream of dreams, your ravishing brunette
She's left you and she's now become somebody else's pet
Lay down that gun, don't try, my friend, to reach the great beyond
You'll have more fun by reaching for a redhead or a blonde

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

That which we all should know

After all, war is murder you know
George Seldes

Give us this day, our daily buttered bread

All of my favorite writers, Dave Somersby, Larry Pinkney, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Joe Baegent have made this point: There are no substantial differences between the Republican and Democratic parties.

I just finished reading Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War by Joe Baegent. Here's how Joe poingniantly puts it:

Republican or Democrat, this nation's affluent urban and suburban classes understand their bread is buttered on the corporate side. The primary difference between the two parties is that the Republicans pretty much admit that they grasp and even endorse some of the nastiest facts of life in America. Republicans honestly tell the world: "listen in on my phone calls, piss-test me until I'm blind, kill and eat all of my neighbors right in front of my eyes, but show me the money! Let me escape with ever cent I can kick out of the suckers, the taxpayers, and anybody else I can get a headlock on, legally or otherwise." Democrats, in contrast, seem content to catalog the GOP's outrages against the Republic, showing proper indignation while laughing at episodes of The Daily Show. But they stand behind the American brand: imperialism. They "support our troops," though you will be hard put to find any of them who have served alongside them or who would send one of their own kids off to lose and eye or an arm in Iraq. They play the imperial game, maintain their credit ratings, and plan to keep the beach house and the retirement investments if it means sacrificing every damned Lynndie England in West Virginia.

Yes, I'll have some of that corporate-buttered bread too, please. Some jam would be nice also.

As an actuary, my job was: to count the sick, to count the dead, to raise the premium rates on the aged and the infirm, and to help design and price manipulative products to be sold by the unscrupulous to the unwary. Or, at least that's how I have come to tell my story, because it makes the swallowing the pill of the lost financial fortune that could have been mine easier to swallow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Portents of the End of the World as We Know it

Sometimes, you read something and say to yourself, "What's this world coming to?"

Until you remember hearing a legendary story involving a teen aged boy "shooting the moon" and dropping the load out the window of a moving vehicle. That story came from your high school days, and you also know that, if the story is true, the moon-shooting-load-dropper also grew up to be an attorney.

So, what else is new?

As reported in a local pioneer press article:

Police: Woman relieved herself, hit car

September 21, 2010


Deerfield police are investigating a strange case of public indecency and a hit-and-run crash reported Sept. 13 at Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

At 6:23 a.m., rooftop surveillance cameras recorded an unidentified woman drive into the front parking lot of the company property, 1 Takeda Parkway, then get out of her car and then defecate and urinate on company property.

Two security guards who responded said they parked their vehicle behind the woman's car, but that she put the car into reverse and struck their car before driving to the Lake-Cook Road exit. Company security reported she disobeyed two red lights on her way to the Interstate 294 tollway southbound entrance.

Reports describe the car as a red 2002 Jeep Liberty.

If arrested, the woman could be charged with public indecency, leaving the scene of a vehicle damage crash, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a traffic control device, according to reports.

The attention grabbing aspect here is that this was done by a WOMAN! Just what IS it they use in those Takeda Pharmaceuticals?

Does this story dampen the impact of one of Jerry Lembke's arguments that the stories of returning Vietnam Veterans being spat upon by anti-war protesters are more urban legend than actual fact? (He states that the only instances of Vietnam Veterans being spat upon occurred when they were walking in anti-war marches, although Ron Kovic writes of being spat upon at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami when he and several other wheel-chair bound veterans tried to take the stage during Nixon's inauguration.)

Lembke's rebuttal is short. In most of these stories, a dirty hippie chick does the spitting. Lembke says "girls don't spit."

Interestingly, former Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara writes that he too was spat on at a Washington D.C. restuarant during the days of the protest.

So it comes down to who do you believe? The real living hero, John Rambo, or some skinny sociologist?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Valley of the Gun -- an 11 percent error rate

Got a phone call today from some opinion taker. Should probably never answer these in that I don't know who is paying for the questions to be asked, nor to what use will be put the answers. The man did have my name, however. Lord only knows where he got it.

Three questions:

(1) Are you registered to vote? YES
(2) With what party do you identify yourself, Democratic, Republican, Independent? SOCIALIST
(3) Are you pro-choice or pro-life. Well, since it ain't never gonna be a choice I personally have to make, I go for "pro-choice." [And I've got several stories where the issue arose, and I was not an entirely disaffected party.]

More and more, I've come to view self-anointed "liberals" as feckless. Some rare exceptions in the political arena - Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson, Barbara Boxer, Cynthia McKinney.

Am presently reading, among other books, Deer Hunting With Jesus: Dispatches From America's Class War by my favorite socialist, Joe Baegent.

When it comes to gun control, even credible sources such as the Government Accounting Office cannot get media coverage. What never makes the news are facts such as these from the National Institute of Justice (the research arm of the Department of Justice) and GAO reports on firearms:

Citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year -- or about 6,850 times a day. Eachy year firearms are used sixty times more often to protect the lives of citizens than to take lives. The majority of these citzens defend themselves by brandishing their wepons or firing a warning shot. Citizens shoot and kill twice as many criminals as police do every year (1,527 to 606). Only two percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. By contrast, the error rate for the police officers is eleven percent.

Walked again late tonight

(edited this on October 24)

Walked again, late tonight.
Up the road, northbound, past the elementary grade school
where Carnival weekend ended earlier, at 6 p.m.,
Except for the carnies, who must take it all down,
and pack it all up, before they can trek South.

Could almost swear I heard the mysterious sounds
of the spirit voices of teenagers, too old now
to be seen at a carnival for "the little" kids.
But sensed that the spirit voices still had
a tiny longing to be there once again,
to experience the wonderment and joy that carnivals bring
to young boys maybe young girls too, when first they ride
those oh so big machines, not the least embarrassed
to be clutching very close to the side
of dad; probably even mom too would do.
Or maybe it's just me I heard - missing the days
when Adam was younger, and smaller, and I might loomed
large, like Homer Simpson, a pretty big presence in his life.

Farther north, farther beyond the school, things got
eerily quiet. No dogs barking, no cars driving by,
no skunks, no coyotes, no raccoons - to be seen,
nor to be heard. Lights out save for the occasional
home with a TV light glowing in an otherwise dark room.

Turned around to come back.
And I wondered why the Ferris Wheel is missing?
Can it really be a carnival with no Ferris Wheel?

Cloudy skies, didn't even glimmer the moon until
I got back to the school. No tangerine moon tonight,
no way no how. Chalk white moon, moon beams barely
peeking through but when they do, eerily slipping through
the darkness of cloud cover. Saw one star only.

Is it always like this when summer slips away?