Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Hundred Years Ago. . .

. . .your great grandparents were in their prime (do you know who their parents were? and isn't it bone-chilling to realize you may not, and that your own full, passionate life may be subject to the same oblivion but a hundred years hence?).

Please read on, fellow mortal.

Your great grandparents, probably without understanding exactly why, were standing at the portals of a momentous period we have come to call "The American Century". That century has come to an end. The 21st got started with awful news from Dade County and then worse news from the corner of Liberty and Church in Lower Manhattan, followed by even worse news a couple of blocks south at the corner of Wall and Broad just across from where a certain American General was sworn in as the nation's first Commander in Chief. Obama may be President today, but he's inherited a deflated-balloon of a nation hissing out its remaining air in a way that sounds an awful lot like the mindless drone of tea-baggers and other ill-tempered opponents to common-sense.

But hope cannot be lost if we look back on what was going on a hundred years ago, when the prospects for the nation loomed great, but when the United States, culturally at least, was unsound and notably laggard--perhaps much as it is today.

Here are a few examples of what made the papers (ref: "America's Taste 1859 -1959, NYT Books):

1908: New York Camera Club Ousts Alfred Steiglitz
They accused him of malfeasance but he said the reason was they just objected to his realism. They called him and his followers "the Mop and Pail crew", mocking their penchant for photographing the city's streets and its people. For quite some time, cubism's forward-looking works on canvas could be seen only at Steiglitz' New York Studio. Incidentally, Picasso's earth-shaking "Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon" with its distorted monstrous nude ladies with African masks was revealed to a generally horrified public in 1906.

1906: Sinclair Lewis' "The Jungle" is panned by the critics but becomes a best-seller anyway.
"I aimed for America's heart and hit it in the stomach" said Lewis. For those who don't know, "The Jungle" is a novel about labor injustice and woefully poor hygiene in the meatpacking industry. Apparently the latter descriptions were so disgusting that the public grew outraged and soon insisted upon, and got, the US government to inspect food processing and keep it at least effectively clean enough not to sicken any noticeable percentage of those who partook. Lewis had in addition hoped to spur similar outrage at the labor malfeasance thereat, but as any Mexican working in a chicken-parts factory knows, this part of the outrage never became as popular with a feasting American public.

1903: Carrie A. Nation is jailed.
Her axe-wielding quote: "You have taken me in as a lamb but I shall come out as a lion". And thus was born the movement that would eventually become an ignominious chapter in our history known as Prohibition; and concomitantly we'd see the rise of a ruling class of Gangsters in America. What Carrie couldn't understand was that you can't stop people from ingesting what they want (see above) no matter what method with which you regale them or punish them. Carrie A. Nation, an Oklahoma girl, had in her later years decided, it seems, that Demon Alcohol was the ruin of lives and families and that alcohol-bars must be cut up with axes. She may have had a point. But it is a little known fact that she was equally and as vociferously against "fraternal orders" such as the Masons, the Odd-Fellows, and probably, if they had existed, Ralph Kramden's Raccoon Club. One imagines these groups were far more influential then than now--or perhaps we just don't realize what they are up to these days (Skull and Bones anyone?). I know I haven't a clue. Having discovered this latter nugget of information, I must admit, is forcing me to give old Carrie a second look.

Finally, and this is about inflation:

1909: Holbein Portrait sells for $400,000--a scandalous sum for a painting at the time.
Now of course we would be well into the multi-millions for same. Fifty million? Maybe. But $400,000! Today you might get a weatherbeaten Manhattan co-op with a view of the air shaft for that much, provided you could convince the bank you really didn't need the money in which case they would guardedly lend it to you (still owing all that TARP money to the government).

So, while we might still may be driving the bus in the ditch, we can safely consider ourselves well ahead of our great grandparents in some ways. For instance, there is no chance they carried around supercomputers in their pockets. Nor would they have been lucky enough to be able to argue about universal health care (in an age when "dropsy" was a significant ailment).

In any case, why is everyone so excited about any of these? A hundred years from now it will all seem so quaint.

Monday, September 21, 2009

How Can Ya Be So Stupid?

I am talking about the so-called "working class" in this country. More narrowly, the white, self-identified "working stiffs" who probably don't belong to a union. Many are blue collar, some are gray collar, some certainly work in cubicles like girls at their sewing machines a century ago, very few are college educated, and nearly all have seen their economic prospects eroded--no, washed away--in a dam-burst of corporate exaltation and profit since the days when their first insidious hero, the now-underestimated Tricky Dick Nixon first bestrode them with a so-called "Southern Policy" that made the Republican party a manipulator of souls.

This post is inspired in part by Timothy Egan's "Working Class Zero" article in the NY Times today. But I have blogged of this working-class disconnect (or mis-connect) before.

My premise is that the American working class is easily in competition for the dumbest in the world, if "dumb" indicates an unquenchable thirst for doing what is diametrically opposed to one's self interest.

For instance, these sad Tea-Party buffoons that showed up in Washington last week: what was their purpose? Waving placards the collective sentiments of which ran the gamut from hate to contempt and back again to hate, they prompted me to ask myself if they had any clue what their actual message was, or if they knew what any coherent message might be. Did any of them seem to have a notion about what in public policy might in practice make their own lives better? Not a one, it seems. Much of the rhetoric was overtly racist (and many thanks to the Man from Plains for being plain-spoken about a very deeply shameful fact that even Obama wants to shrink from: that millions of American loathe him and his beautiful family because of the color of their skin). Race-hate seemed to be the message that got the most attention, whether the Tea-Baggers wanted it to or not. This alone makes my skin crawl, but let's not get too hung up on that just yet.

I imagine that astute observers around the world, especially those who've striven for "workers" over the long decades, including unionists, non-American centrists from large, industrial nations, socialists, and perhaps, if there are any who aren't thinking about nuking their neighbors due to their own brand of moronism, Communists, must be marveling at the overwhelming success the ruling class (roughly speaking) has had in dividing and conquering the peasants and serfs in the United States.

Where else are people who desperately need government regulation to keep themselves from being preyed on by giant conglomerates, instead spewing hate at "big government" and waving the flag for Capital? Where else are people who struggle to pay bills on the family Caravan deluded into thinking their taxation-policy should be in line with the taxation-policies that benefit those who pay with pocket change for their Bentley? Where else are people first robbed and cheated by a rapacious health-care industry literally from the cradle until the grave, then found crowding the airwaves with screeching-points written for them by the public relations experts employed by that very industry? Where else are people proudly betting their livelihoods and the livelihoods of their children on policies touting "self-reliance" and "faith" and "freedom" when what they are handed, once the race is run, a ticket worth little but an insecure, dead-end job in which they are totally dependent on plutocratic whimsy, not a nickel's worth of real assistance from their ermine-coated clergy, and a way of life constricted by prejudice, gun-violence, lack of access to facts, and only the mobility to traverse the lonely highways looking for the next town and the next job and the next mortgage?

For now, I will leave-off any discussion of the toxic form of Christianity that has taken hold of so many of these folks, for that is a subject both too deep and too complex to share space with any other. It is also a most wearying subject, and thinking about that plus the racist idiocy of the Tea-Baggers has left me in need of either a good strong drink or a restful nap.

I would like to say our nation can continue like this, with about forty percent of the country's populace living on a moonlet untethered to fact or any semblance of enlightened self-interest, but I don't think it can. The smart people won't always have an Obama to elect (and even he's got troubles in this environment); and it is in the cards that somehow, some way, a demagogue pandering to these Tea-Baggers will get put in the White House, and then heaven help us all.

Oh, wait. That already happened. I forgot, for a second, that George W. Bush had been President for eight most regrettable years. I guess I am afraid the next time it will be worse.

--Renaissance

Thursday, September 10, 2009

That Lady that Drove the Wrong Way on the Parkway

For those of you who live either far away from the Hudson Valley or have been sailing 'round the world in a one-person craft the past couple of months, I am talking about the woman who got onto the Taconic State Parkway going in the wrong direction with a carload full of kids, drove several miles in the wrong direction (in the fast lane of oncoming traffic), then crashed and killed everybody in the car including herself and a couple of others in an oncoming car.

They said at first she had been "disoriented" and had called her brother (not her husband) and he had told her to stay off the road. She didn't listen.

Then they said she drank a half-gallon of vodka, smoked several joints and was as wild as a polecat when she got on the highway.

In either case, the result was a near-incredible tragedy the horror of which one struggles to contemplate.

Me, I am not buying the drunk-as-a-skunk business. I know we'll probably never know, but there's got to be more going on (a stroke?) when you are observed getting into a car sober (full of kids), then make a call that you're not feeling well, then commit a colossal and fatal error (or not!) that seems to have bordered on the far fringe of madness.

Can I picture the Long Island mom with her and her neighbor's kids in the car, chugging the hard stuff and smoking like Bob Marley somewhere between the exit for Poughkeepsie and the one for Garrison? Frankly I cannot. It doesn't "feel" plausible--that's all I can say about it.

I think the cops wanted to "solve the mystery" in a big hurry and so they did. I'm not saying there might not have been alcohol in her and I'm not saying there might not have been THC in her. I'm saying I can't imagine how she could have gotten that drunk and stoned that fast, and that this made her drive the wrong way on a parkway for several miles until dead.

They should probably exhume the poor woman and get some further testing done. And my heart goes out to all those who lost someone in this epochal automobile tragedy.

--Renaissance

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Yesterday I Saw an Orange Leaf

A friend of mine who grew up in the Midwest says that after living here in the Northeast for several years, he observes that on September 1, the light changes, the air changes, and everything about summer begins to wane rapidly.

I still keep trying to tell myself it's psychological conditioning (back to school--all that stuff); but there is always, for me, a wistful quality to early September and I believe my friend's insight about the angle of light, coupled with the onset of no-longer-deniably shorter days, has something to do with it.

I have already blogged about how winter excites in me a seething hate bordering on that of the birthers for Obama. I have unfortunately allowed that hate to overflow into a near-dislike of everyone's favorite season (fall) on grounds that it is simply an early phase of winter and harbinger of much worse to come (weatherwise).

Now that we have been handed a summer generally so wet it might have been able to confuse the Creature from the Black Lagoon into relaxing on my front porch thinking he was still underwater, I feel like I must fight to deny fall any toehold--the better to forestall the onset of the great unhappy freeze that reduces the Northeast to a soggy, sad excuse for staying indoors and looking at art and watching movies instead of, say, roasting kielbasa over a propane fire.

Hence my denial of all signs of the arrival of a season not called summer but that inevitably seems to follow it in the seasonal cycle. Perhaps perversely, I have therefore grown keen-eyed in my scan of the summerscape, looking for signs of decay. For several days into September I saw no change. Even a patch of new grass seed I had recently laid had sprung and grew thick and yet wispy like the hair of a green young angel. Even until today there has still been no thought of needing a thing called "jacket".

But yesterday, on my way back from the County Fair up in the Hudson Valley, I spotted, quite suddenly and in a place it had certainly not been noticed the day before, a tree with leaves beginning to turn orange. I caught my breath. Summer was beginning to fail me--faithless, green summer now beginning its long swoon to the crackling ice and black sucking mud and the dark, unforgiving days of winter. In summer, people can picnic in the woods. In winter, people who are stuck in the woods freeze to death. Freeze to death! Winter is an indignity not to be borne without strong resentment.

And now we are on our way. The leaves have (in the Hudson Valley anyway) begun to turn. Before we know it, we'll be trying to keep our ears warm (a ridiculous notion!).

I am determined to remain in denial for at least several more days. I think I can last until the twentieth of the month. Then, kicking orange leaves with my boot, I will have to think about raking them and piling them and to begin counting the long days until spring.

--Renaissance

Friday, August 28, 2009

Where is California's Car Genius?

Or genii as I am pretty sure the plural is written.

It has long been evident (to me at least) that part of the reason the American car industry has crashed like a Mastodon on thin ice is because it looks for its creative spark in, of all places, Detroit.

I don't have anything against Detroit. I wish it were a better place. It happens to be a bad place--one of the worst cities in the United States. Does anyone with world-class creative juices, connections, or even just iPod-like coolness live there, or want to live there? I know I am going to sound parochial by saying it, but I suspect the answer is "no". Or if they do live there, they are hurting to leave (didn't Madonna grow up near Detroit--and scrammed as a youth for a flophouse in the junkiest part of Manhattan?). You will argue that it produced tailfins and huge engines and large success for many years. I will say I agree, but that the Pinto and the Aspen and the Suburban have long buried that glory in a mound of disgraceful and now very disfavored automotive junk.

So we are expecting a city with a wretched recent history, zero creativity and all the verve of a bag full of jello and marshmallows to come up with the next great automotive idea? Don't bet the house on that. Don't bet a nickel. They may be able to build them there--but they sure as heck don't seem much able to design them there.

That's where the Golden State comes in. After all, where would Detroit be without Los Angeles to buy Cobalts and Magnums and Azteks by the boatload? How many cars do Californians buy a year? I don't know--but it is a sick number I am certain. So why don't the folks up along Sand Hill Road recruit the next Bid Daddy Roth and come up with some butt-kicking car ideas and ramp up a company kind of the way they did with software? Kind of like the dreamers in Hollywood came up with Titanic and Coraline and the cinematic version of Chicago? How about combining the best of California--entrepreneurship, a taste for the greener choices in life (and I don't mean just money) plus the old razzle-dazzle--and putting that considerable energy and money and brainpower behind a new automotive industry?

Do I think it can happen overnight? No. Do I think that in twenty years we'd be driving 150mpg cars that look like Excellence on Wheels, and for which the world will clamor (the way it does for software and movies)? I do.

I know California's not exactly in great shape these days either. But on its worst day, it's got about a thousand percent better chance of coming up with a winner than the Glyptodonts in Michigan who've spent the last forty years lying and dying and losing and snoozing.

--Renaissance

Monday, August 24, 2009

How Does Anyone Stomach the Purchase of a New Car?

I am driving a car with a hundred thousand miles on it. I happen to like it and take pretty good care of it. It's one of those 4-cylinder ugly-cute hybrids that the Japanese seem so good at making, and you can pretend it's an SUV on some days but you don't have to pay for all the gas you'd need if you had the real thing.

One day I thought I'd see about getting a sedan from the same company--I like sedans, too, and I like it when they are pretty sleek and pretty good on gas. So I went to a dealer whose name seemed to profess a propensity for being Friendly, not expecting them to be anything but ordinary and somewhat on the slimy side.

I came away with my convictions intact: I find it hard to believe that anyone can stomach the purchase of a new car except very rarely or when one really needs to do so.

Of course, I started my research on-line and found out that leases were going off at two-twenty nine a month and that my car had a blue-book value of around sixty-five hundred bucks. The amount owed to the bank was a little less than that amount. Perhaps perversely, I wanted them to take my car instead of the up-front fees they usually ask for (a couple of grand) to get the lease started.

Maybe this is what doomed the transaction from the start. But I got the distinct impression that the dealership expected to relieve me of my vehicle for considerably less than it was worth, sell it for considerably more than it was worth, and still make me pay full freight on the lease. Why not?

The offense is in the way this transparent unfairness is often tricked up by car dealers. I think they believe their customers must be idiots (because buying a new car is inherently stupid?--I don't know).

It started with the salesperson telling me that a certain "he" had said my perfectly presentable car was "in rough shape" and that they couldn't come anywhere near blue-book. When I pointed out the difference in dollars and cents, I was told that "he" would not "insult me" with an offer that approached the blue-book value. Also, that the blue-book "didn't really follow the market", which was an amazing thing to say about the industry-standard price guide.

I figured this combination of reverse terminology and outright denial of fact must be part of the not-so-subtle bag of tricks the salesperson deploys to confuse the buyer. It confused me, but only in the sense that I wasn't sure if it was a trick or if the salesperson might be running low on batteries somehow. The resultant lease offer was fully more than a hundred dollars a month more than my research had suggested it might cost (and what the company's national advertising campaign proclaimed).

Then came the math part. "Even if I could get you another thousand" on the car, it would only bring the price down by thirty dollars. On the other hand, if I paid them two thousand up front, the price would come down by at least a hundred dollars--a three-to-one ratio in their favor.

I asked what happened to the two-twenty-nine, since we weren't even close. "Where did you see that?" It was as if I had brought in a dead rat and had asked to have it appraised. That it had been seen in a "national advertising campaign" was treated as if it had been transmitted to me by aliens in a heiroglyph unreadable in the car-dealership domain.

This led me to the conclusion that they had no need to sell a car to me, and I shook hands with their salesperson and left.

I may hang on to my car for another hundred thousand miles. It may be less insulting to my pride to drive around in a dented old rustbucket than to feel the chill of car-dealer slime applied liberally about my head and shoulders any time soon.

So my question remains: how can anyone put up with it? No other type of transaction is ever as rife with chicanery. How do they sell even a single car except to the careless, desperate or innocent? I will continue to ponder.

--Renaissance

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Howard Stern: What a Chump!

Remember "The King of All Media" with his easy sneer and his Quivering sidekick, making fun of big boobs and retards and minorities and talking about dicks and farts and occasionally about politics as if anyone cared what he thought about anything but the way he described the nether cheeks of any of a dozen visiting whores and cum-bunnies?

Remember how he was always picking on the easiest targets, and how he always got away with sneering at people who were truly different by hiding behind his self-professed ugliness, gratuitously his Jewishness, and the platitudinous Negritude of his helpmate?

Remember how he seemed to be the voice of every teen boy and undersexed twenty and thirty something male in the whole wide universe? How he made it seem, if you squinted hard (really, really hard), that it might be cool to be a wisecracking nobody with no friends and nothing better to do than snarl and chuckle and hope that some chick will do something dirty for you without you having to pay?

Remember his front-page battles with the mean-old government that wanted to keep him from cursing on-air? And then how he figured he'd get the last laugh by doing his show the way he'd always wanted to do it? On satellite radio? With, like, twelve people listening?

Well, I am sure he's sulking all the way to the mouse-click that shows him his hefty bank balance, but can it really be the case that in a very short time indeed, he has become totally, utterly, incontrovertibly irrelevant?

When was the last time you heard anyone--I mean anyone at all--mention good old Howard Stern? Does he still have a show on satellite radio? Is there such a thing as satellite radio anymore?

Isn't it wonderful how the world's biggest jackasses so often end up tripping over their own big floppy egos and landing face down in a lonesome puddle at the end of the field where nobody's watching anymore?

If only Rush Limbowel would go where Stern went. But he's never made the mistake of overestimating his viewers. He knows they wouldn't bother to buy into some cockamaimie monthly service plan just to hear his drivel.

Poor Howard. Where do you suppose he stands on the Health Care issue? I'm sure he'd think of something dirty to say about it. But it's too late. Nobody cares what he says. Not one person.

--Renaissance

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ALL POETS ARE THIEVES!!!

Some poets, not all, are social behaviorists. Confined to paper are countless psychiatric observations and self-analyses in the poetic medium that supersede some of the impressions and theories of psychologists, therapists, and anthropologists. But the poetic terrain is not an exclusive domain for saber-sharp diagnoses and deliberations on the varieties of human experience. I would wish to recruit all artists, regardless of their field or vision, to begin a push towards renewed interrogation of human folly in the form of splenetic, crude, and darkest satire.

While we at the moment derive great entertainment from political and social satire these are mostly television-based and intend to poke fun rather than stab violently. Jonathan Swift! The age has great need for you! There are people who die in car accidents because they are chatting on their cell phones and not paying attention to the road; train conductors who kill themselves and passengers because they were texting; teenagers and adults alike who devote more time to video games and sudoku than they do discussing their deliberations of the world; a culture of attention deficit disorder growing more adept at inattentiveness and amnesia; an electorate which still in the main believes in its leaders and thinks "Change" is a jingle by which one washes one's laundry. Swiftian spears need to be thrown and hit their targets dead-on. If the subjects are killed or otherwise are compelled to reform their misbegotten ways, all the better. The Age of Harsh Satire must commence now! J/C

Friday, August 14, 2009

In Support of Poets

I am in full agreement with the economic analysis put forth in the most recent All Poets Are Thieves posting.

I moved to Manhattan when no one (apparently) wanted to be here and got an admittedly rather crummy apartment for a hundred and fifty dollars a month. If that same apartment today were not ten times as expensive--maybe more--I would be shocked.

Today, the notion that one is young, ambitious, creative and pretty broke yet able to find a home in the canyons of the great City of Dreams, is chimerical. Even as rents fall by fifteen and twenty percent (at most), the city, and especially Manhattan, is still held in a white-knuckled grip by landlords (and co-op owners and condo-owners to a lesser extent)who seek crazily to drive every penny of profit out of each and every livable space between the Battery and Spuyten Duyvil (and beyond).

This did not happen in a vacuum. Certain large areas of Manhattan were, for a long enough time, a bargain for the creative minds that powered it--until there were enough of them to crowd out the junkies, thieves, creeps, drunks and filthy whackos that used to lard the populace and help keep the whole place somewhat on edge and somewhat undesirable to those seeking a proper, hassle-free lifestyle. Many of those who arrived as broke creatives became loft-owners and wanted nothing less than a hassle-free lifestyle and then fully supported the various crackdowns and price-runs that eventually created a city that now resembles the city of old only in its pace and its linear height.

So many of the old charms (yes, charms) of Manhattan are now gone. Small, cranky shops that could be found nowhere else are now nowhere to be found. Does anyone remember places like Magickal Childe where you could buy henbane and skulls, or 13th Street Lumber where you could buy pieces of wood small enough to carry home yourself? One could go on--the loss of diners, the loss of bookstores, the loss of non-chain-store coffee shops, the loss of cheap junk shops with really cool stuff in them--in essence, the loss of uniqueness that made Manhattan a place where one could manage to live well and cheaply and just beyond the clutches of landowners and great corporations that had moved to the suburbs.

Manhattan today, even as it suffers a severe economic downturn, is no place for the young dreamer of little means. Today's rag-tag dreamer has become a victim of a previous generation of dreamers' success. This is terribly sad. But young dreamers will find their own places--some have gone to the Hudson Valley for instance, and some to still-marginal sections of the boroughs (not including Williamsburgh which is well-trodden and unjustifiably expensive). Manhattan will be the richer, but also much the poorer--and certainly far, far less interesting.

--Renaissance

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009

All Poets Are Thieves!!!

Dateline, Tri-state Area (NYC, NJ, CT)...

I enjoy misnomers, especially when they are used by me. No, Virginia, not all poets are thieves and some are quite affluent, by birth or art endowment. These types don't need to steal literally or be tempted to do so. But many writers whatever the material shapes of their imaginations must peddle their wares and lives in quiet or noisy desperation. They do not necessarily wish to join the ranks of the financially comfortable and very few would be inclined to steal a penny, a pen, a penthouse, what have you. For any artist any decade, any century, it is, in general, tough to survive the world and striving with expenses and extra-artistic labors to make ends and odds meet can be a genuinely disconcerting life-long condition. Comparatively, it might have been easier in past decades, say, the seventies, to live cheaply in the tri-state area, the waters have always been rough, here, there, everywhere. Yet now it is more difficult and Mayor Bloomberg, if his vision of New York City as a haven for the aristocratic elite and no one else can be related back to classical philosophers, is like Plato, inadvertently* banishing the poets and all other artists to the margins or the sub-suburbs.

Manhattan is treacherous for the creative mind not equipped with a hefty check book and some neighborhoods seem peopled with the folks e.e. cummings warned us about: "...the Cambridge ladies who live in furnished souls/are unbeautiful and have comfortable minds..." For "Cambridge," think "Soho" or most other neighborhoods south of 96th Street. One can only hope that Poet's House, Stanley Kunitz's marvelous institution, can redeem the upper end of Battery Park City, when it relocates there very soon from 72 Spring Street in what real estate developers call "NoLita" and poets call "lower East Side." The new location is one of the unpoetic spaces in Manhattan so I hope its presence can miraculously bring beauty where now only the nouveaux riche and Wall Street execs prance about the corridors of their eco-friendly luxury condos in unbeautiful ungestures to culture.**

* I do hope Bloomberg is not intentionally wiping out artists or the working-class. What's your take, o reader?

** The other half of Battery Park City, Gateway Plaza and downward, still has charm, some fine people, and persevering sense of cosmopolitan self.

J/C

Friday, August 07, 2009

Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Abject Failure of Existing Government Health Care

We know it mostly as "Medicare" and it's for old folks. It doesn't cost anything. It's run by the government. By all accounts, it is a 100% failure.

In fact, by every account I know of, it is universally lethal. Have you heard of any old person ever having survived the onslaught of Medicare's pill-slinging, hipbone-setting, cardiac-massaging minions? Of course not. Every single old person under its care ends up dying. This is a great tragedy--an American holocaust. But of course no one--not even anti-government teabaggers--dares talk about it. This is because everyone knows that one day, they too will end up in the deadly clutches of Medicare. Evidently they are hoping their silence will buy them an extra few years before, in its mysterious, inexorable way, Medicare oversees their death.

The worst part of Medicare is that everyone gets it. If you were poor and uninsured at 64, you are, when you turn 65, still poor but also in the deadly grip of Medicare. And you have no hope of survival. Seniors, frightened and intimidated by the certain death awaiting them at the hands of Medicare, say nothing. The quietest among them accept the care for many years--and survive sometimes to celebrate their one hundredth birthday. But no one survives much past their centenary.

Who knows how long seniors might live without this deadly government program? A hundred and ten? A hundred and twenty-five? A hundred and seventy-five? Five hundred? Have we no right to find out? Of course not. The government has made certain there are no survivors.

Take heed, America. The silent acceptance of Medicare by seniors is evidence enough. They are too frightened to tell you what it's like to have free medical care from the government--too scared to tell you that it will eventually kill you.

--Renaissance

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

If I were in My Home and. . .

If I were in my home and, having shown I.D. to a policeman or woman proving I lived there and was not wanted on an outstanding charge, I would expect them to leave on the double and issue a public servant-like apology for having wasted my time. I would expect to accept their apology, but, while it might be nice of me to be nice about it, I would be under no legal restraint to keep my mouth shut in any way, shape or form.

Of course the charges were dropped (in Cambridge, against Professor Gates, if you have been skindiving in Tuvalu for the past week)! "The Cambridge Police acted stupidly". Obama got it right the first time (he usually does).

This may be about race as much as anything else, but to me it is more about a citizen's constitutional right to privacy and the limits of police power.

The police were right in investigating the 911 call. As a citizen, I would want them to respond to a possible break-in at my home. That said, the citizen is under no obligation to be polite in his/her own home in order to avoid arrest. This is where the cops got stupid.

Of course Gates was unwise to have been shouting at the police. Of course the police account is at odds with the facts in a manner supporting police rectitude. These are human beings looking out for themselves.

But here we must stand fast against an obvious tramping upon a citizen's right to privacy. A policeman no longer in pursuit of a criminal on private property has no reason to be present upon said private property. Much less should he/she have an expectation that the citizen owes him/her some sort of "respect" or even "politeness". And especially not so as to avoid arrest.

The notion that the Cambridge police felt endangered by Gates in a manner requiring the application of handcuffs, or that there was "tumultuous behavior in a public space" beggars belief. Once the cops had seen his ID as proof of residence, it was time to go--with a handshake or under a hail of invective. The citizen in the case had no responsibility to politeness towards anyone, and that included the police.

Anyone dragged out of their own house in handcuffs having done nothing but perhaps yell at a cop has a right to be awfully annoyed. I am bound to wonder what will come out of Obama's post-racial cocktail party--I hope it includes an admission from the cop that he really ought'n't've arrested the guy.

--Renaissance

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ALL POETS ARE THIEVES!!!

Today I read of a certain esteemed poetry foundation/academy/institution (I'll keep them anonymous for their sake and mine) which just awarded several young poets cash awards as seed money to further launch their careers. The amount to each budding bard was a cool $15,000. Yes, $15,000. As a poet myself, I am a little bewildered about how one would spend this cash cow newly grazing in one's purse. The notice of the winners mentioned that the money could be spent in any way. So, established is a poetry prize for which poetry is not the primum mobile of the endowment.

Were I to construct a poetry-financial portfolio, I should invest in gold-enameled pens, red carpets in every room of my apartment to feel as if I was "Versifier of the Year" (for every year), and perhaps subsidize my copious imagination which costs a lot in this dour day and augue-riddled Age. No, I'm frankly against money emollients for poets unless to aid the aged, the infirmed, or for those encountering recent financial or existential difficulties. Although conceptually more money in the midden might seem a saintly arrangement, especially by some of the hand-to-mouth word-mavens I know (I'm not on the poverty line but I see it slicing across the stanza-steppes and poesy-plains), it would institutionalize the work and I never see such cosseting or incarceration (which is it?) as salubrious to craft. Recall Samuel "Dictionary" Johnson's rejoinder to his faux patron, Lord Chesterfield, and be cautious of transactions with Moloch. J/C