Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Help me out here. First, the federal goverment (you and me) give billions in TARP funds to banks which made bad credit/investment decisions with orders to a) clean up their balance sheets, and; b) make loans to get the economy moving, the same economy they brought to a screeching halt. Soooo, the banks tried to clean up their balance sheets by shedding the 'toxic loans' on their books, selling many back to the government (us again) through various entities with acronyms. I'm not bright enough to solve that equation. They should put it on the ACT.

Didn't they/we just use our money to give to the banks, then use more of our money to buy the same bad loans we just bailed out? Did we somehow get Madoffed on that? On a parallel path down a different hole than Alice's, the federal government was ordering the banks (nicely, but sternly) to give a break to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The banks are trying mightily to cleanse their balance sheets, but now they are risk averse, refusing many loan requests unless the risk of loss is virtually nil, i.e. a borrower has 99% equity. This posture is born of fear that bad loans may soil those very same sheets once again. Someone tell me again the rationale for banks getting to charge interest if no risk is taken. Oh, because they can.

Meanwhile, banks keep failing around the country. Hundreds more are expected to implode in the next year. Perhaps the blasts could be coordinated by the FDIC for July 4th thereby saving many communities the expense of a fireworks display. The only reason many banks haven't yet barred the doors is because the FDIC simply doesn't have enough people in its army to go in and take over. All it would take is one bank in some burg where rumors started followed by a 'run' complete with hysteria and civil unrest--pitchforks and torches. Wouldn't play well on the news. Oh, I forgot. The media wouldn't show it.

Virtually all of the sinking banks have depositors whose funds are insured against loss by the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation, better known as the FDIC. The FDIC is funded primarly by assessing its member banks a fee, though the U.S. government (us yet again) is the insurer of last resort. In other words, if the FDIC doesn't have enough money and the blossoming banks can't pay assessments sufficient to cover all insured losses, then the federal government (yep, us) will have to make the angry depositors whole. Unfortunately for banks that cling to life, the FDIC's assets are at the lowest level since the early 1990's when the last lending debacle, known far and wide as the 'S&L Crisis', visited us. Remember the RTC? It was the government entity that used our money to purchase the toxic assets from the failed savings and loans nationwide, selling them for pennies on the dollar.

Now how do you suppose the FDIC is proposing to fill its coffers so it can absorb all the expected insured losses by depositors in the teetering banks? Why it is proposing a prepaid assessment for 2010 through 2012 on the banks which have been fortunate enough to survive either by having acted prudently during the American consumer's 'Ive Got Plenty But Not Enough' era or by taking a handout from us (isn't it odd that 'us' and 'U.S.' are spelled the same?). The FDIC is not asking for a handout. Only a hand. To the tune of $45 billion. Only $45 billion. So far. It likely won't be enough to get the FDIC through the next two and a half years. And this new proposed assessment comes on the heels of a hefty assessment already paid in 2009. But hey, the banks and the FDIC are like bacon and eggs. They go together, kind of like dating I suppose. Going steady. I can just hear the new anthem of the American Bankers Association, voices raised in song, "The FDIC ain't heavy, it's our brother."

Of course, all of these machinations will leave the banks with less capital as they tithe to the FDIC which in turn will deflate the assets on the old balance sheet leading to decreased lending because that would make the balance sheet even less acceptable to bank regulators. What, oh what is a banker to do? My supposition is that the federal bank regulators will 'relax' the rules or their enforcement or both, waving a magic wand as if to say, "I'm OK, you're OK."

My head is like a top. And a very merry unbirthday to all of you here in Wonderland. Care for some tea?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Too Late

My head is about to explode. Though there was plenty of room inside it until last Fall, I've simply listened and read too much; too much about bailouts, the myriad initiatives in Washington, the thousand-plus page bills and the detritus likely to be left behind when all of the alluvia has settled at the end of the Red (Ink) River. Antipathy spills from me like the cataract of the Niagara River. The repugnance of the march through our heretofore settled life, originally unsettled by forces over which we had control, e.g. too much personal spending on unnecessary 'stuff', too much pilfering of mirage equity from our homes, not enough saving. Guilty as charged. Nevertheless, we have arrived at this point after a hysterical reaction in the Fall which led to 'leadership' in an empty suit. It turned out to be 'hope and change' alright--false hope and short change.

I am overwhelmed with data, self-serving Tweets from politicians, shreiking demagoguery, daily dissembling, adroit artifice, and the hubris of paternalistic politician bloviators who condescend to the point where I want to vomit. These people have set themselves apart as a separate caste, a place where the rules that apply to you and me simply have no applicability in their parallel universe. I am naively amazed as each day dawns to find that, despite numerous polls to the contrary, the national nitwits continue to believe we are all too stupid to know what is best for us. Some of us are not.

All of this aside, the cynic who lives within me daily whispers more loudly that the time has long past for anyone, elected representatives or the rest of us great unwashed, to stop the madness. The train has left the station. The horse has escaped the barn. The toothpaste cannot now be put back into the tube. Well over a majority of the trillions (000,000,000,000) of dollars 'we' spend every year are earmarked for either established, ongoing government programs or for interest payments on the national debt. Interest payments. So, not only have we been living irresponsible lives personally, but also vicariously. We've been content to watch Rome burn a second time. Statistics show that we have grown a national conscience in the past year. We have ceased our reckless ride through the retail jungle. We have increased our savings rate. It doesn't matter.

The National Debt keeps rising. Its avoirdupois is so enormous that we cannot see around it whichever way we look. The bloat of the Federal Government has proven time and again that it channels Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. It's great at giving orders and making threats, but, it is simply too fat to get up and address crises like Hurricane Katrina, the largest natural disaster in the history of the planet. Too damn fat. Once we get past the primary reason for a federal government--defending our borders--isn't responding to the dramatically unexpected a primary reason we send our blood money to the IRS each April?

Yet, here we are. We have arrived at our destination only to find that our country spends billions (only) of dollars every single day for interest on the debt. Billions. Every day. And the number is heading north. Quickly. What could be next? What indeed. Look what we've left our kids.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's the money, Stupid!

Am I the sole soul who's had his fill of the incessant chronicling of the Brett Favre saga? All summer we were forced to listen to breathless reporters decree "he's coming back", "no, he's staying retired" like a tired track on a scratched CD. When Favre had played that tune long enough, the pontificators became cynical and began criticizing Saint Brett. Now that brought him into training camp at just the right time so as not to do the hot, hard work with his teammates. What a leader of men. Enough already. But no. Like a Fruitcake of the Month gift, it keeps on giving all year long. Now we have to listen to the apologists explain why he didn't lead the NY Jets to the promised land of Super Bowldom last year. He was hurt, but supposedly the Jets didn't tell. Now the NFL has fined the team $100,000 for its artifice. The new storyline is how he is agreeably taking second billing to Adrian Peterson, the second coming of running backs. Enough.

Isn't this easy to decipher? Maybe I just don't get it, but my take is that no matter how much scratch a guy has socked away for that rainy day, who is going to turn his number 4 jerseyed back on a figure north of $10 million and closer to $14 million? For five months work? I mean for goodness sake, Brett must have lost a little as the rest of us did during the recession that we're coming out of right now. Oh, not for you? Me neither. Do the math, though, for Brett. Fourteen large (really large) can take the sting away better than, say merthiolate or Bactine (ancient bacteria fighters).

Moreover, while I sit here listening to "Telstar", can someone explain why Favre isn't pronounced 'favor'? Kind of like Gil Faver (or was it Favre) in the old TV show "Rawhide" where Clint Eastwood got his start. "Through rain and wind and weather . . . keep them little doggies by your side." How was that for a segue?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Poor is 'Poor'?

It's amazing isn't it how a single word can take on a meaning more grandiose than what we might find in Webster's New World Dictionary for example? During the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, we were made nearly drunk as daily we were forced to drink from the cup of kindness proffered on behalf of the 'poor'. We were regularly lectured that we must help the poor, must rescue the poor, must insure the poor, must muster the moral righteousness to lift up the poor. Sounds good, doesn't it? Well it used to before our own pockets became shallower as a result and the poor remained poor. How could that be? I mean Americans are already the most generous of all the world's citizenry when it comes to charitable giving and I suspect that enormous sums are contributed to the 'poor' each year in some form or another on top of the plethora of government assistance on the federal, state and local levels.

It baffles me as history has reported that FDR eliminated the class of 'poor' with public payments under the welfare system. It was a redistribution of wealth from those that had to those that hadn't. It was initiated in the 1930's when far more of the latter existed than did the former. Apparently it didn't work. What interests me about all of that is what happened in America before that framework was established and even after. The ones we sometimes euphemistically refer to as 'the less fortunate' were mostly cared for by churches and local communities in the early part of the 20th century and continued through the 50's and 60's. Nothing worked.

In any event, I've been boning up on the 'poor', poring over article after opinion as the case may be, attempting to understand the concept. I've learned that 'poor' is like an onion. I kept peeling back layers in my mission to reach enlightenment. For some time now, I have considered myself on the nation's 'tuition poor', a parent who monthly contemplates how to balance tuitions for three kids (mercifully one is now gainfully employed), i.e. make the payments. Somehow, the rabbit comes out of the hat, though there are many days when I think that the ranks of rabbits is thinning and the chapeaux less plentiful. Nevertheless, I am daily confounded by the drumbeat that I am one of the 'rich', 180 degrees from the 'poor'. Funny, I don't feel rich, though I am employed, we have a comfortable if not palatial home, cars that aren't of recent vintage, but are usually operable and food on the table. I suppose that passes for 'rich' in these polarizing times. All these unconnected threads pull together to form the covering of The Few Things I've Recently Learned About Poverty.

And I'm lead immediately to the U.S. Census Bureau. The bureau has been much in the news of late, all relative to ACORN, it's 'partner' for the 2010 Census. Of course, last week elected officials were like turtles in a pet shop, climbing all over each other to see who could most loudly disavow ACORN, to get their hands on the basin in which lay that baby as it was tossed out the window with the bathwater of government support following recent scandals. It's not ACORN, however, that concerns me, at least not for the moment. Regrettably, ACORN is like an acorn. It will germinate and live to fight again under the name of PISTACHIO perhaps. I digress.

Robert Rector in National Review Online recently explained that for "nearly three decades, in good economic times and bad, Census has reported more than 30 million Americans living in poverty." Rector's response to this revelation is difficult to refute. In the past year alone, we the taxpayers (not 'the Government' as is the nameless, faceless ogre) have spent $714 billion on "cash, food, housing, medical care," and social services for the 'poor'. In one year. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that $714 billion could pretty much take care of the poverty issue--in one year. Do the math. If I did it correctly (no sure thing), that equates to $23,800 for each person in "poverty" just for the past year. Not bad, especially if it inured to the benefit of a "family of four" as we now know to be the benchmark for everything. The multiple for that symetrical family is $95,200. Wow! And isn't that tax free? No wonder Rector postulates that a full 40% of those classified as 'poor' own their own homes complete with many of the trappings (e.g. plasma TV's) assumed to be the sole province of the 'rich'. What be the cause then of this mass of poverty? Rector argues that out-of-wedlock births and dysfunctional families are to blame. Perhaps. No reasonable person can deny they are factors, but then again, reason has been lost in this nation, common sense has become uncommon indeed.

Relative to Rector's conclusion, I would offer only this: My understanding of the system is that a mother receiving 'welfare' is penalized by a reduction or loss of benefits when the father is in the home and their combined income is too 'high'. What kind of logic is that? It's not. It's insanity. It's counterintuitive, counterproductive and runs counter to any legitimate platform to fix the problem. There is no denying, none, that absent some kind of abuse, a family operates better if both parents are in the home. The result of this systemic lunacy is, of course, to provide a twisted incentive to have even more children so as to increase monthly income, dooming yet another generation to come of age believing that this is all it deserves. I'm cynical enough to believe that it's done purposefully in order to secure political allegiance to those beneficent souls that screech about helping the poor. I think the politicians who foster the system like it just the way it is.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The formerly formidable St. Louis Pamphlet, I mean Post-Dispatch has a plethora of nuggets from its nearly empty mine today.

First up, for those of you located in distant climes, is the follow-up to yesterday's local story about a boy beaten up on a school bus. The entire sordid episode was videotaped by a security camera. Yesterday, the thrashing was termed 'racial' by the local police, amazing in light of the fact that it involved at least two black youths beating a white schoolmate while others cheered on from the cheap seats. Today, of course, the story has been downgraded from racially motivated to 'bullying'. Police Captain Don Sax said his original comments about the attack were "premature". My take on this about-face is simple: An attack on a white kid by black kids cannot be 'racially motivated' by definition. Such a thing as reverse racially motivated mugging doesn't fly. Apparently it cannot exist, at least not in Belleville, Illinois. But perhaps I'm being 'premature' in my comments. Oh, and the school district's response other than booting two of the miscreants: suspend the bus driver. What a country.

Next up in the continuing series of "Too Much Time On Your Hands" are candidates Lori Weinstock of suburban St. Louis, surpassed only by D.J. Grothe, vice president of the Center for Inquiry, whatever the hell that is. It supposedly promotes "science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values" according to Grothe, an apparent atheist who lives next door to the store. As a sidebar, what exactly are "humanist values"? Psychobabble. In any event, these two are upset bordering on apoplectic because Tom Collora, a 40-year employee of local grocer Schnuck's Markets dared hang a crucifix on the wall of the customer service area in a store he manages. Just to be clear, I don't own a crucifix and I'm neither Jewish like Ms. Weinstock nor Catholic like Mr. Collora nor atheist as is Mr. Grothe. Frankly, like Rhett Butler, I don't give a damn what any of them are. My question is why this entire episode is considered 'news'.

Ms. Weinstock was "startled" when she saw the offensive religious object. She opined that grocery shopping "should be welcoming to all and exclude none." What a revelation. And here I thought grocery stores wanted everyone to come so they could make a profit. Mr. Grothe, however, ratcheted the rhetoric to new heights (or lows as the case may be). I'm not kidding with this quys quote: "It's just another example of the disrespect that those without religion . . . get in our society. It's bad taste and bad for business. Who wants to (shop) where someone else's faith is being pushed down your throat?" Is this guy for real? What, did Mr. Collora try to give Grothe a sample of some nice brie with a rosary tucked neatly inside? What happed to his voice of "reason"He says it's "another example". What's the first one? My suggestion to Ms. Weinstock is to lighten up. For Mr. Grothe, perhaps he should have an 'A' tatooed on his forehead. Then we can see him coming and hide any religious paraphenalia so as not to offend his righteous sensibilities. Oh, and shop somewhere else, Mr. Grothe. I suppose Andy Warhol was right. The two of them just used up their fifteen minutes of fame.

Then of course, the event for which we've all awaited on the edge of our collective seats: The official reprimand of Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) who foolishly lost his head and said "You lie" in response so some spillage by the president in his lecture to Congress last week. It was clear that it would come, but once again someone had to make it a racial issue. Just had to. Henry Johnson (D-GA), the highest ranking black member of the House of Representatives castigated his colleague saying in part "there's a fringe element that has staked out a racial position towards (Blacks) that never has been open for public display". What? I don't in any manner defend Wilson's boorish behavior, but racial? What kind of inductive argument is that? Is Johnson's view that it is somehow ethically or morally wrong to declare a black person a liar under any circumstance without it being racially motivated? Or perhaps only if it's about a black president. Good grief.

Finally, was the 2008 election the swan song for ACORN? The avalanche has begun, but I'm not certain it can be sustained. The Census Bureau has turned its back and the Senate has voted to prohibit HUD from giving any more housing money. Partisanship aside, ACORN is apparently riddled with thugs who used just about any means to help secure the election of President Obama. The voter fraud it perpetrated was widespread, but a blind eye was turned by those who sacrificed their ethical responsibility to shine a spotlight on such behavior. I'm less than convinced that the organization has a stake through its heart yet. Until then, it could germinate into another tree. Beware.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Pick 'em ups

I've had an epiphany. Or perhaps just a run-of-the-mill revelation. In either event, I may be the bellwether on this critically important matter and am acting with celerity in hopes of staving off a modern-day Apocalypse. I do this for all Americans, not just All-Americans. Drum roll, please.

Through a recent analysis of traffic patterns in the mid-West, kind of mid-South, kind of mid-Southwest, I've concluded that this country is on the cusp of another War between the States, Civil War 2.0 if you will. Yes, you read this correctly. Based on the tinkering with the EPA regulations and the updating of the CAFE standards through 2015 by our peerless legislators in Washington, D.C., while not imminent, a potentially serious conflict is just over the horizon. The sole question is whether it can be averted. Color me with a glass half-empty.

What, you might ask, could trigger the repeat of such a horrific chapter in American history? What could the conflation of the automotive industry and federal regulations have to do with a Civil War 2.0? Ah, the answer is at once simple and complex: Pickup trucks.

Yes indeed, the plain vanilla as well as the fully loaded pickups are the key. Like 76 trombones, Ford Tough F-150's, Like a Rock Chevy's and Ram Tough Dodges will lead the big parade. The various Honda's, Nissan's and Toyota's follow close behind. The research is ongoing, only anecdotal at this juncture, but a preliminary conclusion is inescapable, simply unavoidable. The day will come, sooner rather than later, when pickup owners will unite, rise up and say in a chorus that will echo from sea to shining sea: "NOOO. We will not give up our trucks. Never. You cannot legislate away our right to have pickup trucks. We draw a line in the sand. Here we make our stand. Our cause is grand. Strike up the band." No fife and drums for these hardy, intrepid souls, men and women alike.

While traveling to through Missouri and Oklahoma recently on pilgrimage with one of my daughters to college in Texas, I looked over on I-44 and noticed a couple of pickups and then some more. In order to accelerate the passage of time (yes, I realize that such is impossible), I began counting the number of vehicles that passed between pickups. I did this for two hours. My daughter confirmed her suspicion that her dad may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Nevertheless, my scientific mission was a 'go'. The results were well past surprising as you will see.

The largest number of vehicles between pickups was 22. The next largest was 14, then 10 (twice). Other than those four anomolies, the numbers were much lower. Mind you this was on an intersate highway, not on some two-lane back road goin' noplace. Multiple times I spied two and even three of the ubiquitous trucks close together like a pack and in one instance, there were four. There were GMC's, Ford's, Chevy's, Dodge's, Toyota's, Nissan's and Honda's. I even saw an old Datsun for you folks who remember when Nissan wasn't Nissan. And for you guys from the '60's, I'm certain I saw a Ford Ranchero. Or was it a Chevy El Camino? After distilling the data, my conclusion was that pickup trucks accounted for about 20% of the vehicles on the road. One in five? Surely not, I thought. It must be just on this highway, perhaps only in Oklahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain. But no, the trend continued down I-35 all the way to the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex--even in the metropolitan areas. Moreover, after flying home the next day and hopping on I-55 for a 2-hour trip south, lo and behold the data collected in Oklahoma and Texas were consistent with those as I closed in on the Bootheel of Missouri (where they love me, where they know me, where the show me--thanks, Sara Evans). Eureka! The evidence had clearly entered the realm of empirical.

So, to the thrust of the hypothesis; as per the norm, one of the left arms of the Federal Government doesn't know what one of the right arms is doing. What an octopus the government has morphed into or even multiple decapi (de' cuh pie)(if that's not a word it should be). In this case, eight isn't enough. You see, the EPA has its mileage standards and the NHTSA has promulagatd the CAFE standards. Don't you just love government acronyms? Do you think there's an Acronym Czar? In any event, the CAFE standards are as much as 10 MPG higher than the EPA ratings. As far as I can tell, the way all of this will devolve between now and 2015 won't affect pickup truck owners--IF the average MPG for the national fleet of light trucks conforms with the CAFE standards. That is an enormous 'IF'. In translating the laws and digging through like an archeologist, it appears that the manufacturers must collectively manufacture a sufficient number of 'green', light trucks that get high enough mileage to offset the red, white, black and blue trucks that only get 15-22 miles per gallon. R-i-i-i-i-ght. That will be top priority for the drawing boards. Uh huh. Which company will blink first and build trucks for the weekend cowboy and cityfied high school kids? And what about the EPA standards? Hell, I may have this all wrong, because it's impossible to sort through all of the government mumbo jumbo and I'm a damn lawyer. Any of the Washington bureaucracies, including the Federal Aviation Administration for all we know, may revise the definition of 'light truck' between now and then. Brewers do it with beer all the time.

So, cutting through all this, where are a great majority of the pickup trucks licensed in this country? Exclude Southern California because it will either be broke or under water when a major earthquake occurs. Exlcude Florida because with the mess Governor Crist has made of the property insurance market, one hurricane will wipe it out as well. That leaves mostly the red states. Or are they blue? I can never get that straight, so let's just call them a nice shade of violet. Whatever they're called, if the gubment attempts to enforce these standards, thereby depriving truck buyers of their inalienable right to a nice extended cab, multi-purpose, 4X4 pickup, I'm thinking all hell will break loose. Texan's won't go easily. Oklahoman's have been through the Dust Bowl and are tough. Missourians will rise up and declare "Show Me". Arizonan's and Michiganders, Dakotans and Mississippians, Coloradoans and Carolinians, Kentuckians and Wyoming cowboys among others will just say "No". And when Congress addresses this uprising with the 'Red Neck Roundup Law' declaring all used pickups to be 'clunkers', the confiscatory language will require seizure and destruction--of the vehicle and gun racks where applicable. Hoo boy. Civil War 2.0. And it will be about states' rights just like the first one. But it won't just be some southern states. General Robert E. Lee is rolling over in his grave, whistling for Traveler and gittin' ready to rumble.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wee Men

I've long been proud of my partial Scots-Irish heritage. After reviewing the history from whence I came, I clarity as to why I am who I turned out to be, i.e. clannish, averse to top-down government, uncomfortable with authority that seeks to rule without having character. Long before his election in 2008, Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) penned a book called Born Fighting that illustrated how the Scots-Irish evolved and then emigrated to America to escape European monarchies. As a group, they were largely responsible for the Western migration and settling of that part of America. Oh, and they also were a huge part of the grunts who fought the wars from the Revolution through the Civil War (which was primarily about State's rights by the way) and beyond. I have been proud to be descended from these proud people--until recently.

I realize this is old news (if there can be such a thing) but on August 20th, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill (Kenny? If not 'Kenneth, how about 'Ken') announced that convicted terrorist Abel Basset (Hound) Ali Megrahi was to be released from prison and returned to Libya on "compassionate grounds". Huh? He was convicted of coldly murdering 259 passengers on a Pan Am Flight and 11 more on the ground in Lockerbie. So, the Scots need to have compassion? The stench of a dissembling government stooge was immediate, the fettor overcoming anyone with sense enough to know that this explanation was reeked of some sort of 'deal'.

Making the entire episode into another nightmare for the families of the victims, Megrahi returned on a private jet to a hero's welcome in Tripoli. Too bad the Marines weren't on the Shores of Tripoli or the entire country would be a memory. As the days following this stunning announcement sped by, the initial skeleton of a 'compassionate' act began to flesh out. Or is that be flushed out? I think the toilet connection is poetic. What a surprise.

The U.S. government knew about it and protested. Strongly no doubt. Very strongly. Really, really strongly. Now that's a surprise considering we've apologized to every other country in the world for our lengthy past transgressions, so why not add Scotland and Libya? Lo and behold, it turns out that English PM Gordon Brown in London was likely behind it all and guess what? Yep, it was about money, oil, politics. Is there a difference? Once again, paternalistic governance reared its head to let us all know that the special class of people called politicians, wherever they may be, crawled out of the same foul-smelling sewer, methane gas wafting around them. Doesn't matter which party, which country. They are all the same. Strip them bare and there's nothing there--all empty suits.

So where is the outrage on our shores on behalf of the scores of Americans slaughtered? Does our President, our Congressman, everyone wish not to divert attention from their pet projects? Oh, I forgot, they're still on 'holiday' calling us "mobs". Pitiful. Ronald Reagan should have finished the job in Libya in 1986. Remember when he sent American fighter jets there in the dark of night even though the Frightened French Frogs (they of the unused weapons and White Flag Factories) wouldn't allow us to cross their airspace--what a surprise. Nevertheless, the jets did a surgical strike on some manufacturing facilities. The message was, "You are a third-world pissant country. Do not screw with us again or we will blow you off the face of the Earth." Old Gadhafi or Khadaffi or whichever of the 17 ways his name is spelled got the message. There wasn't a peep out of him for years. Now he's emboldened to take on the West and what is the answer? By going along, we tacitly apologize for past wrongs. Sure Moammar Moron o mar or whatever. We'd love to take a ride on your magic carpet, General. Pathetic. Where is President Reagan when we need him?

Yeah, yeah, I know there are all sorts of classified, clandestine geopolitical issues and maneuvering going on behind the scenes. So what. America is still the most powerful country in the world and it can't (won't?) put its foot down to defend the memory of those victims and their families? Why are those who died any different than those who perished in Pennsylvania, Washington and New York on 9/11? They're not. But the response was. Does anyone really believe that the Washingtonians didn't know exactly what was coming? That the responsive news releases hadn't already been vetted and approved? Can't these politicians (such a dirty term now) ever just stand up and do what's right without always having some ulterior motive that they hide from us because they believe we're too stupid to understand? No. They can't. As a caste they are condescending buffoons. Throw all the bastards out, everywhere, in every damn country, including my bastards.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mother's Day Redux

When I last wrote about my mom the night of August 14th, I was blissfully ignorant of how my life would so sadly change once again. Not twelve hours after I signed off, Mom's doctor in Michigan stunned us with the news that she was riddled with cancer--everywhere. Never was there a hint over the past several years. The battle with emphysema, the struggle to breathe was the challenge. Not Cancer. We flew her home in an air ambulance and she went directly to the hospital in Cape Girardeau. Over the next two days, my five brothers and sisters assembled there with my dad. From the time the doctor told us, Mom lived nine days. Nine. They were days filled with us standing vigil, increasing doses of morphine for Mom's pain given by caring, compassionate nurses and finally planning a memorial service. We were all exhausted from the daily emotional drainage. It was an eerie, painful reminiscence for me. I'm just plain tired of losing the women I've loved most in life to the beast called Cancer.

Mom was a woman who lived life on her own terms. An only child of a lawyer father and a mother who graduated from the University of Missouri Journalism School, Mom was raised by an extended family after her dad died when Mom was only five due to lingering effects of a WWI injury. She went off to Hollins College in Virginia to be 'finished' after attending John Burroughs School in St. Louis and then returned to complete her degree at Washington University.

She and Dad were married in November 1948 and had their own 9/11 (no disrespect intended) when my brother Tucker was born 9 months and 11 days later. I arrived 13 months thereafter. Two more siblings quickly followed, then a miscarriage, then another and another. I was always uncertain the last two were exactly planned. Thinking about it now though, I am less than convinced that any of us were. Perhaps Mom and Dad never discovered how it kept happening. When Mom announced she was pregnant with my brother Clayton, I was 13. The thought of my parents doing it was mortifying--and I had to tell my friends at school.

Ours was a home of barely controlled chaos with family and friends coming in and out through a revolving door of the large, somewhat kempt abode where all were welcome. There were no 'class' distinctions, no caste system, no religious or racial intolerance. Kids loved to come to our house because we had one of those 'milk machines' like restaurants had. The milk was plentiful and really cold. All were treated as family, so they came often even though Mom's culinary skills were suspect at best. She could grill a mean cheese sandwich and a special was Campbell's Tomato Soup. Past that, however, things descended rapidly. Ah, the memory of the pasta smothered in the thin, warmed V8 Juice. What did we expect? She was out of tomato sauce. her theory was 'heat plus groceries equals food'. Who could argue with that?

I've long thought that Mom's parenting style was 'benign neglect', but not in a perjorative sense. Parents in 'the good old days' didn't interfere in every single aspect of their children's lives. Mom and Dad may have stretched that a little. They let plenty of rope play out and only yanked back when any of us were about to fall off a cliff. I still have the scars from the rope burns--a lot of close calls.

Each of us managed to survive it all though and go on to happy and productive lives. We blessed Mom and Dad with 18 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren with number 12 due in October. More to come. All the while, Mom worried, cringed at the late-night phone calls, but never overwhelmed us, smothered us. I called home maybe twice a month from Colorado during college. Kids today call twice an hour. Our parents allowed us to fall, to fail, to arise, to grow up. My five siblings succeeded. At a minimum I was provided the opportunity. I did at least come of age.

Mom was smart, stubborn, opinionated and suffered fools madly. She was also kind, generous and stood up for things that were right. She had great character. She loved our dad, us, her friends, playing bridge, drinking coffee and spending time at our home in Michigan. No one will ever fill her chair at the dining table. She soldiered on through the last few years and defied all medical prognosticators. Then, like the dust of a thousand warriors coming over the horizon, came the stinking bastard Cancer. Before it revealed its nightmarish, pernicious head, Mom had refused to stop, refused to give in to anything despite her infirmities. She was determined to squeeze every single day she was alotted. And she did.

Finally, mercifully though, Emily Dickinson's words rang true. Because Mom refused to stop for Death, it kindly stopped for her.

We miss you Mom. Here's to a life well-lived.