Monday, December 13, 2010

In Defense of the Top 1%

I am not rich. I am not poor. I am middle class. Neither upper or lower middle class, I am simply middle middle class. As an academic librarian, higher education's social worker, I have no reason to believe that I will ever elevate myself beyond my middle middle class standing. I have no talent, no non-librarian marketable skills, no gift for the entrepreneurial. I have more than what I need in life and a lot less than what I want from it. I am one of those "mass of men" whom Thoreau described as living a life of "quiet desperation." That being said, I don't think it's right to punish the rich for being rich.

Democrats believe otherwise. They think it's good - even noble and righteous - to punish the wealthy, in this case, by not extending their tax cuts, tax cuts Dems think every other American should retain. It is selfish and un-American to deny one group of individuals the same benefit being doled out to the majority. Liberals would normally claim such a situation discriminatory and would rant until blue in the face about the injustice of it all, but since the rich tend to be conservatives they are now more than happy to uphold the injustice of it all. Discriminating against the top 1-2% of our society is still discrimination, and it is hypocrisy like that which drove me away from the Democratic Party.

The rich are an easy target because we envy them. We know we will never be their financial equals, and so out of spite we look for ways to get back at them. I don't know anyone in this country, however, who wouldn't trade places financially with someone making over $300,000 a year. That's what we all work for, isn't it? To make money? And yet some insist on punishing those who just happen to be better than the rest of us at making money. It's not the fault of the wealthy if you pursued a career in a field our society doesn't appreciate enough to allow you to make over 300K. Blame your fellow riff-raff for that! Also keep in mind as the Dems salivate over sticking it to the wealthy that in a lot of instances, we, the oh-so-downtrodden, helped to make the rich get rich by buying their products, going to their concerts and games, eating at their restaurants, and enjoying their movies. It's not only bankers and Wall Street CEOs who we would punish. You explain to Oprah, Tom Brady, Regis, George Clooney, and Lady Gaga why they should pay more in taxes because we like what they do.

The idle and the incompetent don't become rich, and so it is that somewhere in the history of every wealthy family is someone who worked very hard to EARN a fortune. I thought that the ethos behind the American Dream was that if you worked hard enough, opportunity and fortune would follow, and yet here we are on the verge of punishing a small minority of people for accomplishing that dream. Sure, there are some whose fortunes were made bilking, cheating and swindling others, but to judge all wealthy people by those few is no different than proclaiming all poor people deadbeats who prefer living off welfare to having a job simply because there a few who are just like that! This idea that "working Americans" are everybody but the wealthy and thus more deserving of tax breaks is laughable. The rich work, too, sometimes harder than you and me, sometimes not, but they work nonetheless and shouldn't punished for it.

BTW, it should be noted that the same small group of Americans that the Dems want to punish for making money is the same small group that donates almost $2 billion more than the rest of us combined to assist those in need. Perhaps it is just because they have more money to give to the less fortunate but there's nothing saying that they have to donate anything at all, and yet they do. (see Table 9, page 12).

I will never be rich. Mine will most likely always be a life of financial mediocrity, resigned to entertaining but never living out fantasies of a more affluent lifestyle. I'll never have a yacht, London flat, private airplane, swimming pool, or gardener. I'll never be able to afford to travel to Venice before it sinks. And I'm not going to hold it against those that do have those things and can visit Venice (especially if they take me with!). Tax cuts for everyone or tax cuts for no one.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Death Sentence

Over the past several days, HomeAgain, our pets' microchip company, has sent out "Lost Pet in Your Area" email alerts featuring at least three cats who went missing. Each cat had been declawed. Short of finding their way home or being found those three cats don't really have a chance. Since they have no front claws they can't climb trees or fences to escape dogs and they can't really defend themselves against other cats. Their ability to catch mice, insects and other animals that might help keep them alive is severely diminished. Add to that the fact that overnight temperatures in the Atlanta area have been in the 20's with highs during the days being in the 40's, and their prospects look grim.

People who get their cats declawed don't value their cats. Or, rather, they value their sofas and lounge chairs more than their cats. There's no knowing if any of the lost cats were declawed by their current or previous owners, but somewhere along the line someone thought so little of their cat's life that they paid money to surgically remove the cat's first line of defense. Anyone with an iota of common sense knows cats are the ultimate escape artists, and no conscientious owner would have placed their cat in the situation now facing those three lost cats.

As I type this my right index finger is throbbing from a nice gash Jackson inflicted on me last night. Despite routinely clipping his front claws since he was a kitten there's no way to count the number of scratches my hands, arms, knees and legs have endured over the past 11+ years. The other weekend Ida had to once again cut fraying threads from a $400 chair that Lucy likes to sleep on - being too fat to jump up on the chair, Lucy claws her way to the top. In fact, we don't have a single piece of furniture that doesn't bear the tell-tale evidence that a fully-clawed cat lives in our house. Of course, it all could have been avoided had we each had our cats declawed, but we never placed our material things or our own inconvenience over the well-being of our cats. The value our cats bring to our lives far exceeds the cost of every piece of furniture in the house and every tube of Neosporin we've had to buy. I can always get another sofa or chair; the cats, on the other hand, can't be replaced.

I feel sad for the owners of those cats - losing a pet is heart-wrenching. But I feel more for the cats. Cats are tough, resourceful animals, and though lost, cold and completely out of their element those three cats would normally have a fighting chance. However, thanks to people, they don't have any front claws, and so the odds are now against them. People who have their cats declawed are cruel, irresponsible, and selfish.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Any Volunteers?

USA Today recently reported on how charitable Americans are with their time and money. Not surprisingly financial donations are down; however, the number of people volunteering is trending upwards. A long-time financial contributor myself and but usually a step or two behind the trendy, I'm happy to say that I, too, can now be counted among the volunteers.

In October I started volunteering at a cat shelter, Furkids. In some ways it was a selfish decision. I finally came to accept the reality that I am never going to be a humanitarian, a Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Duke or Sloan, and that the only thing my name will likely adorn will be a grave stone, a very grand one, mind you, but a grave stone nonetheless. Humbled by this epiphany, I began thinking of how I could make a difference in the world, and naturally cats came to mind. I toyed with the idea of helping people, like supporting literacy efforts and teaching immigrants conversational English, but helping people is why we have churches, right? So, cats won the day.

It's a no-kill, cage-less shelter with about eleven good-sized rooms where the cats hangout on elaborate cat trees and shelves, and I would estimate that there's well over 100 cats total. I'm generally assigned a room or two to clean litter boxes, refresh water and food bowls and sweep and mop the room. It doesn't leave a lot of time for socializing (industry speak for petting) the cats, which was my true desire when I started but I'm OK with that. The world needs its ditch diggers and this shelter needs its litter scoopers.

This isn't my first volunteer gig. When we lived in Ithaca, Ida and I both volunteered at the Cortland County SPCA doing pretty much what I do now except the cats were all in cages. I got sucked into running for and winning a seat on the Board of Directors, thinking that I would be even better positioned to do some good. Man, was I an idiot. Small town politics usurped every meeting, and frustrated that we hadn't done a thing to help the animals, I stepped down and never looked back. I'll do most anything for cats...except work with small-minded people. If I win the lottery, I'll start my own shelter and/or a ranch where disabled and disadvantaged kids can ride horses and care for other farm animals. Until then, I'm satisfied with the grunt work of keeping the cat rooms clean.

Lest you think I care for animals more than I do people...oh, wait...I do care for animals more than I do people! But I'm not completely lacking in compassion for my own. This year I donated to the Haiti relief efforts, helped Ida serve dinner at a Ronald McDonald house, collected and redeemed yogurt tops to fight breast cancer, and for the past three holiday seasons I've donated to the Atlanta Food Bank and Heifer International. This year through Heifer I gave the gift of honey bees. It's not nearly enough to get a building wing, street corner, or elementary school named after me (they'd probably spell my name wrong anyway), but that's alright. I can only do what I can do and hope it makes a difference to someone...or something.

Here kitty, kitty, kitty...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

T, as in Tango...

In the spirit of giving thanks, you should count your blessings if you have an ordinary name. Based on 41 years experience, I can say that having a name that, according to the Social Security Administration, is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of recorded births is more a burden than an asset. Clearly there are times when a unique name has its benefits, like when people google you they don't get millions of hits (mine yields 774) and Facebook searches usually don't result in over 400 possible friends. My name, then, makes me easy to find. Those benefits, however, are out numbered by the hassle that comes with not being a Steve, Mark, David, John or Bill.

For instance, I have never known the pleasure of finding my name on any merchandise. I challenge you to find (and document) a "Thad" key chain or license plate. If I want my name on something, it has to be custom made. People also seem to have difficulty pronouncing my name. My 10th grade biology teacher called me "Tad" the entire school year. I tried to correct her in the beginning, but eventually gave up. I mean, it's not that difficult a name to pronounce: TH + AD = Thad. Phonics, people, phonics. Non-native English speakers are exempt from my annoyance since "TH" is not always pronounced "TH" in their native tongue. I also have to deal with the apparent difficulty of spelling my name correctly. The following are real-life variations I've experienced:


It's as though no one wants to believe that you spell my name, T-H-A-D, so somehow P-H-A-T makes more sense to them. As a result, it has long since become habit for me to immediately spell my name upon uttering it, even when meeting people in person: "Hi, I'm Thad, T-H-A-D." To save restaurant hosts and hostesses the trouble, I often give them a different name and hope that I remember that I am now "George." I also always wonder about those who ask about my name, "Is it short for Thaddeus?" Sigh. I wonder if those same people ask, "Oh, is 'John' short for 'Johnathon'?" I once started a new job at a restaurant where a cook was disappointed that I was white. THAD, he explained, is "a brother's name" and I think he was tired of working with a bunch of white guys.

It's not like THAD is that unusual of a name. A few more notable THAD's than myself include:

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen (think BP oil spill)
Sen. Thad Cochran
Thad Jones (jazz musician)
Thaddeus Stevens
THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense)
Thads (a missionary group)

I don't begrudge my parents for naming me as they did; in truth, I've come to like my name quite a bit, despite the hassles. Once it sinks in to their brains, most people remember my name even if they don't remember me, and I'll be eternally thankful they didn't name me, SUE.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back on the Chain Gang

Sometimes when I take Boo to the park there's a prison work crew picking up trash, blowing leaves, emptying trash cans and doing various other jobs to keep the place clean. It's a sight I like to see, and I think it's too bad prison work crews aren't used more often. In fact, I don't understand why I don't see one every day.

Prisoners are a dime a dozen. According to the Dept. of Justice, there were over 1,613,656 prisoners at the end of 2009. That's more than the populations of some our mid-major cities. Clearly there's no lack of orange jumpsuits behind bars, so why don't we put them to work doing those jobs us non-felons won't do?

Liberals argue that prison work crews are dehumanizing, a form of cruel and unusual punishment. I, on the other hand, contend that they represent one of the better rehabilitation methods. Work builds character and the harder the work, the stronger the character. If you're in prison you're probably lacking in character and could use a little boost, so a little hard work might do some good. More work crews would also give more prisoners something better to do with their time than sit around and stew and fight and kill each other. Military leaders of old knew the value of keeping a standing army busy by building walls, digging trenches, cutting downs trees and so forth because the work helped to maintain discipline. Working out in the open in full view of the public and cleaning up after said public also brings with it a certain amount of humility that any good felon could use. People who have committed crimes for which they are imprisoned should feel a sense of shame, and they don't get that hanging with the peeps in Cell Block C. Besides, work crews could be a good deterrent of juvenile crime - no adolescent I know wants to be seen picking up trash on the side of the road. The law is not for breaking and if you break it, you pay for it.

Always eager to show how tough they are on crime, conservatives argue against work crews because they think letting criminals out for any reason is being soft and somehow jeopardizes pubic safety ("Will someone please think of the children?!"). I argue that given the amount of money tax payers invest in corrections, you would think conservatives would be more willing to get something out of it, like clean roadsides and parks and new hiking trails and roads. Many of those services conservatives like to cut funding for can easily be taken care of by prisoners that tax payers are paying for anyway. Have drug offenders and other non-violent criminals do city jobs while those more inclined to violence can work the swamps, mountains and deserts. And if an offender escapes while fixing a trail in the Catskills? Most criminals are not survivalists and would succumb to Mother Nature.

I'm not advocating that we abuse or exploit our prison population by forcing them to work in unsafe conditions. Even the most loathsome of criminals has inherent rights and they must be respected. Still, that doesn't mean that they can't help the society they wronged by doing it some good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

To Read or Not to Read

Here's another stereotypical librarian characteristic that doesn't suit me: I don't love to read. I'm not the person you want to ask to recommend a good book or a favorite author, and if you ask me, "Have you ever read...," the answer will most likely be in the negative. It's not that I don't read or that I haven't read. I mean, I do have a degree in English Literature and you can't really get one of those without reading a lot of books and poems and plays. I'm not big into articles either. I used to read The Economist from cover to cover, but I partially did that out of obligation: I didn't want the paper the articles are printed on to go to waste. So now I subscribe to the online version and occasionally read it when I remember how much I'm paying for it.

Reading takes time and I don't have a lot of free time. There's always something that needs to be done, whether it's scooping litter boxes, battling the lawn, walking the dog, spying on neighbors, cleaning up hairballs or vacuuming. Reading is a luxury, and it's just not in my nature to sit idly by and read when stuff needs to be done. Reading is not for the industrious at heart. Yes, the implication here is that reading is for the lazy. There's an old saying in food service: "Got time to lean, you got time to clean." If you've got time to read, you've got time to be more productive. Chop, chop!

Also, I read non-fiction almost exclusively and that takes time and mental effort. With fiction, you don't have to think very much and can just breeze through a book. I recently broke and read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," finishing it in about two weeks time, which is good for me. Non-fiction, however, demands your attention, requires you to don a thinking cap. I've been making my way through a biography on Elizabeth I since January or so. Fascinating stuff, really, but the chapters are long, the text dense, and the pictures are too few in number. I love the challenge of non-fiction, but I generally only finish two or three a year. Next on my list: The First World War. Thrilling, eh?

My reading also requires a monastery-like quiet. Since the books I read require me to think, I need to concentrate and music or conversations impede on my ability to do just that. I can't go to Borders or even a library because my mind will hone in on that one voice or song on the other side of the building and it will eat at my brain, like that worm in the Wrath of Khan. Ironically, screaming children don't bother me when I'm reading. I tune them out quite well, perhaps because 1) they aren't mine, and thus not my responsibility, and 2) I don't understand what they are screaming. To me, it's all one long but loud stream of gibberish. Apparently, I can deal with gibberish. But not fiction.

So ends this entry, because, like reading, if you have time to write about yourself, you have time to take the dog for a walk. Oh, and here's my Amazon wish list if you want to get me something this holiday season. Granted, I won't finish it until 2015, but don't let that stop you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

If there's a stereotypical librarian characteristic that I possess, it would be a predilection for quietness. Despite my best efforts, noise in all it's insidious forms is unavoidable, and so for people like me moments of silence are rare and to be savored. Imagine, then, my surprise at my own unease when for the first time in almost two years the quiet of morning was not broken by a barking dog.

I think Chico had bionic hearing because he heard everything. You literally couldn't open a window, empty the dishwasher or step on a leaf without eliciting a loud series of barks from the other side of the fence. The barking was tolerable but annoying, especially in the morning when the world is supposed to be quiet and calm. Morning is my time, and Chico's booming barks caused a disturbance in my Force. That first post-Chico morning was unsettling, though, because the barking, I came to realize, had become part of the morning, and then suddenly it was gone. I had come to expect it, and I miss it.

I miss the neighbor kids, too. Where once there was high-pitched Spanglish echoing off the trees there is now silence. Their front yard is destitute of bikes, candy wrappers, and empty juice boxes. The house is empty and impersonal. Honestly, I didn't think I would miss Louis and Uriel (everyone calls him Pollo or Chicken). Many times their physical presence and the noise they made intruded upon me. Who knows how many episodes of "PTI" I missed so that they could play our Wii! Still, I miss hearing one or more kids yell, "Mr. Thad, can we play?" as I pull into the driveway. Granted, I usually said "No" or told them to wait and ask Ida, but I miss it just the same.

Those left behind usually have it harder than those who leave. Those who leave have some sort of adventure to look forward to, whether it be new house, job or life, while those left behind are stuck with the same house, job and life, minus you. I've done my share of leaving. Since 1994, I've lived in five different states, with 4.5 years being the longest I stayed put in one place. February 2011 will mark about five years in Atlanta, my longest tenure anywhere since graduating from high school. So, I'm not used to being the one who is left behind. It kind of sucks.

It sucked for Chico, too. He was abandoned without food or water. He never did get much attention, but suddenly no one was there for him at all. We fed him, gave him water, and called Animal Control, who in turn posted notices on a door no one was going to be opening soon. Word got out and one night the neighbors returned with a small bag of snacks for Chico, and then they left again. A week after he was abandoned, Chico was gone, supposedly taken by our former neighbors to Animal Control. I haven't seen him on their list of available dogs and suspect I never will.

We don't know who will be our new neighbors, and there is a certain amount of dread lingering over that unknown. What if they have a dog that barks just as much, if not more than, Chico? Maybe they'll be renters who don't look after the property or perhaps they'll be young folk who blare their music well into the night. Or worse, graduate students. Then again, maybe they'll be nice people. It's been two weeks since the family left and one week since Chico disappeared, and I'm getting used to the silence, although I imagine it won't last for long. It never does.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Anniversary?

I haven't had a drink in three years.

There were no emotional ultimatums, no medical or court orders, no religious conversions, no stupidities of excess that prompted me to set aside my 20-year old way of life. I'm sure a hangover had some say in the matter, but that particular teetotaling influence rarely lasts longer than the weekend, so it wouldn't have counted for much. No, I basically woke up and decided to quit.

I once went three months without drinking but a Kentucky Derby party isn't any fun without whiskey, several mint juleps, and a hat, and so ended that dry spell. I now watch the Derby quietly at home. This time, however, quitting took on a new life, thanks to a sleep disorder and a television show. I needed to see a doctor about my insomnia and I knew that I needed to be alcohol-free if anything good was to come it. A sleep test ultimately determined nothing wrong with me physiologically and a cognitive psychologist said I just needed to make more time for sleep. I quit seeing her. Well, then, back to drinking! Not so fast.

A&E's "Intervention" scared me straight. First of all, if I had a problem it wasn't nearly as bad as it is for the people profiled on that show, and I didn't want it to be. Second, the very idea of being surrounded by crying family and friends telling me how much they love me is one of the worst things I can imagine happening to me. If I can avoid emotional outpourings, I will, even if it costs me a beer.

Notice I said "If I had a problem." Family and friends alike were rather surprised when I began requesting Diet Coke instead of Coors Light. No one ever said, hinted or implied to me that, maybe, perhaps, I should stop drinking. Either they're all heavier drinkers than I was (which seems reasonable) or maybe what I thought was a problem really wasn't. The closest I've come to "relapsing" in three years is taking occasional sips of diluted champagne during toasts and a couple of Dixie-cup sized drinks of some Peachtree City concoction. We have two bottles of Vodka in the house that Ida sometimes breaks open when I'm out of town and a bottle of Jack Daniels next to the Craisins. The temptations are there but I remain steadfast. Is there a problem?

Every decision in life carries a set of pros and cons, gains and losses, and my decision to stop drinking was no exception. Among the gains are not worrying about the state of my liver; lower Applebee's checks; coherent thoughts followed by reasonable actions; playing Scrabble; the whites of my eyes are actually white; and, yes, no hangovers.

My losses are marked by the things I miss. Of course I miss the buzz, but I also miss things like the companionship and social nature of drinking; really enjoying "Cops"; popping open an ice-cold tall boy, or three; and drinking during the holidays. I miss cold beer, red wine, margaritas, Seagrams & Sprite, gin & tonics, spiked eggnog, and Bloody Mary's. I miss scotch!

I've said that if I make it to 45, I'll start drinking again, but that's four long years away. Seems kind of extreme, four more years. Then again, I kind of got a streak going here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wabbitt Season! Duck Season!

Hunting season is in the air and it seems there's no shortage of enthusiasm for it. Despite supporting such anti-hunting organizations as Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, Humane Society of the United States, and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I actually don't oppose hunting.

Hunting is a necessary evil. Because humans like to kill off all the predators, many animal populations, especially those of the deer variety, have exploded, and so without hunting many more deer would starve, get hit by cars, die by disease, and end up where a deer shouldn't be, like in a convenience store. When we lived in Ithaca, NY, I often heard locals say that if you lived there long enough, you'd hit a deer. Fortunately that never came to pass, but we did see one get hit before our eyes and we came upon another one right after it'd been smashed by a minivan. The minivan drove off, but I got out of our car and pulled the deer's warm body from the road. Death by a hunter's bullet is far more humane and respectful.

Let me be perfectly clear: I do not hunt nor do I support all hunting. I oppose all "hunting" that involves 4x4 vehicles, GPS, private game parks, packs of dogs, baiting, the Internet or any other method or that device gives the human an undue advantage over the animal. I oppose bow hunting because of the suffering the animal endures as it often labors hundreds of yards before dying.

Hunting should be about the thrill of the hunt, not the thrill of the kill. People who feel the need to kill another animal are trying to compensate for their own inadequacies and probably shouldn't be allowed to own a gun. They are the idiots who drink to shoot, who "hunt" with sub-machine guns or handguns, who pay "guides" thousands of dollars to go to a ranch in Texas to shoot an animal that's native to Africa. They don't hunt; they kill. They are this woman.

A real hunter, as any moderate conservationist will tell you, cares about the land and the animals. They hunt to be outdoors, hoping to "bag" something but just as satisfied if they don't. They don't trespass and they don't exceed quotas. They respect the animal they hunt. They are old school, and I sense that there are fewer and fewer of them.

I don't buy into all the propaganda that's spewed to justify hunting. It is not a family event. BBQs, picnics, birthday parties, wedding, funerals, and holidays are family events; not tracking down and shooting dead an animal. Nor can you convince me that more than a handful of hunters are out there trying to feed their family. That's a sketchy way to get by and the family would be better off if someone just got a job. Hunting is no more a sport than poker or chess, and despite what the State of Georgia wants me to believe, hunting is not a God-given right.

Some day I'd like to don the bright orange of hunting season, carry a rifle and track down a deer or elk or even a bear. I'd raise the gun to my shoulder, set that animal in my sights, and pull the trigger. There wouldn't be any bullets in the gun, of course, because I don't have a hunting license (or a passport, now that I think about it) and I don't kill for sport. It's just not something I do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Dog's Life

This weekend saw the passing of Otis, the canine companion to some friends of mine. I never met Otis, but I know how much he meant to them and one can't help but be heartbroken. He wasn't simply a pet, an animal, a legal piece of property; Otis was a companion of immense proportions. He was sincerely and deeply loved.

Unfortunately the same can't be said for Chico, our neighbor's dog. Chico is a big mutt with a booming bark. He's well-fed, has shelter from the heat and storms and he has a huge yard in which to run. But that's about all he has. Days pass before I see or hear him get any more human attention than what it takes to feed him and to tell him to be quiet. Our neighbors have three boys, and I'm convinced that when we got Boo, they, like children do, nagged and nagged until they, too, got a dog. For the first month or so, Chico went everywhere with those kids, even making visits to Boo. Chico got bigger, though, and lost that puppy appeal, and two years later, he lives alone in the backyard, 24/7. The boys don't play with him anymore and when guests come over he's tied to a tree with a 6 ft. lead, often for hours. Completely unsocialized, Chico is now a nuisance, barking at most every sound and charging the fence when I'm in our backyard.

I often marvel at how by sheer luck and through no effort of our own the quality of one's life can be vastly different than that of another. To simply be born in this country means your quality of life is manifestly greater than that of millions in other countries. The poorest American will have a better life than his equal in Nigeria or North Korea, not because he earned that better life but because he was lucky enough to have been born here. The lucky and the unlucky.

Otis was lucky, Chico is unlucky. Through no fault of his own, Chico is resigned to a solitary, loveless life. The kids say they are moving at the end of the month to a smaller house, and if that's true, I'm not sure what the future holds for Chico. He's not adoptable so if he goes to a shelter, he'll be euthanized. He'd make a good guard dog but the life of a guard dog is not much better than that he lives now. I fear he'll go to dog fighters. Untrained as he is, Chico would be a bait dog. Chico's fate appears uncertain, and I can't see it ending happily.

My brain understands why there are so many Chicos out there: culture, education, finances, the Bible, speciesism. My heart can't understand, though. All dogs, all companion animals, all animals, really, should live a life like Otis did, and if a person can't or is unwilling to provide that life, then they don't deserve such a companion.

I like to think that there are more dogs out in the world living a life like Otis did than there are those living Chico's life. It's estimated that Americans alone will spend nearly $47.7 billion this year on their animal companions and pet products is one of the few industries that actually grew during the recession. Clearly to many Americans our animal companions are family and are treated as such. It's just sad that's not the case for all of them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's a Date!

I noticed the following dates on my nifty National Wildlife Federation calendar:

9/9 is Rosh Hashanah
9/10 is Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan)
9/11 is Patriot Day

Interesting, don't you think? In a time of limited optimism (Middle East peace talks) and despair (rampant Islamaphobia) the stars have aligned themselves in such a way that we have a Jewish holiday followed by the end of an Islamic holy period followed by a day to remember those who died in "Christian land." It's too bad we can't schedule a day each year when all these religions could just get along, or "coexist" as the bumper sticker pleads. Maybe something like "Get Along Day" or even "Coexist Day," a day where every person of every faith just sets aside their beliefs and fists for 24 hours. One day out of 365 will not, I think, put your deity out too much.

I'm not so naive that I think all people will get along or that we even should get along all the time. Peace is always elusive, but we should try, we should always keep trying. The extremists, the people of hate, they don't want to try and they don't want you to try either. It's the extremists in Israel, Iran and the US that dominate the agenda. They get the press, the attention, and then the small-minded among us start to think like them, and before you know it you got kids growing up in households that don't want to accept that other people have lives and cultures as valid as their own. Those kids become the oppressor's or terrorists or TV/radio show hosts, and it all becomes one nasty cycle of intolerance and violence.

The chances of these three events happening 1-2-3 like this again are slim, so we should make the most of it and maybe for the next three days hope that no one burns a Quran or bombs a marketplace or demolishes homes with a tank. If you can't muster up the tolerance within yourself to do so, then do it for those we honor on Sept. 12, the Sunday following Rosh Hashanah, Eid al-Fitr, and Patriot Day: that'd be Grandparents Day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Very Superstitious

I was really happy to see August go. It seemed extra long and hot this year; the mosquitoes and bugs were relentless; and Glenn Beck got way too much attention for someone who knows so little. I was also happy to finally be able to change the months on my calendar and see what animal graced September. The blood sea star staring up at me had lost its charm half way through August, and yet as much as I wanted to, I wouldn't look ahead to see what September had in store for me. See, I believe that looking ahead to the next month means that I assume that I'll make it to the next month, when, in fact, I might not. So, I choose not to tempt Fate and opt to bide my time until the first day of each month to change my calendar.

Harry from "When Harry Met Sally" chose to read the end of a book first so that he knew what would happen in the event he should die before finishing the book. That's certainly one approach I could take - check out all the months once I get the calendar - but I think that just gives Fate, God, Karma, Wakan Tanka, Zeus or whatever even more of reason to cut things short for me. I mean, if I know that December is a polar bear, then what's the point of actually letting me see December? I choose not to give them any more reason than they already have.

I do cheat sometimes by looking at the thumbnails on the back of the calendar; still, I don't know if the Black-Footed Ferret is May or October. I only know he'll appear at some point that year. Technicalities like that are important. So is the anticipation of waiting.

Otherwise, I'm not all that superstitious. I routinely walk under ladders, seek out black cats, and I don't understand the spilt salt thing. I don't break mirrors because they're expensive, especially now that I'm boycotting both Target and Wal-Mart (where's the principled consumer to shop?!). I only buy lottery Quick Picks. There's no lucky shirt in my wardrobe and I can't think of a single routine of mine that's conducted to specifically ward off bad luck or bring me good luck.

I do carry a rosary in my pocket whenever I leave the house, so maybe I'm more superstitious than I want to believe. Despite having never been confirmed or accepted the authority of the Church or even taken the time to learn what all those beads mean, it doesn't make sense for me to carry a rosary...but I do...religiously. Seems harmless enough and no rabbits had to part with their hind feet for my peace of mind. I like rabbits; I wonder if there's one in my calendar.

September is a keel-billed toucan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Few Books That Mattered

After reading about the resurging popularity of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, I got to wondering about books that influenced my life. I'm not just talking good reads here; there are too many for that. I'm talking books that impacted the way I thought about the world and/or how I lived my life. As good reads go, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my favorite; still, it didn't profoundly influence or impact me one way or the other. These books did:

Atlas Shrugged
I didn't really know what this book was about when I started it; I just wanted to know who John Galt was. Now I know, and even though I haven't finished it yet (700-some pages down, only 300-400 more to go), I don't think I'll be able to look at our society quite the same again.

Cadillac Desert
This book altered how I thought about the availability of water and the existence of cities in the Southwest and southern California. I once told Ida that Las Vegas was "against everything I stood for," and it still is, thanks, in part, to this book.

God's Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote
The photo of a dead coyote pup burned out of the den has haunted me since I read this book as a teenager.

Monkey Wrench Gang
A band of eco-warriors fighting to save the desert. Today they are called eco-terrorists, and I still support them. A spiked tree is a living tree.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Anyone not read this in elementary school? This fictional tale of rats escaping from a life of certain death for the sake of human science was the foundation for my life-long support for ending animal experimentation.

On the Road
In the fall of 1991, I randomly picked On the Road from my roommate's shelf, laid back in a hammock, and embarked on an amazing adventure, both in the novel and in real life. Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and The Subterraneans followed, but by the time I started Desolation Angels, I'd moved past that life. But what a life it had been!

The Razor's Edge
Larry turned his back on the material and found happiness and inner peace. Only Thoreau's dictate to "Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!" has had a stronger influence on my life.

The Religions of Man
If more people took time to learn something - ANYTHING - about other religions they might actually see that the similarities out-number the differences.

Robert Kennedy and His Times
RFK had his flaws, but more than any politician before or since, he tried to do the right thing, not the expedient or political or prudent thing, but the right thing. I try hard to do the right thing, but I also know that the right thing to do is not always the best thing to do. Still, I try.

They Marched Into Sunlight
Changed how I imagined war, the soldiers who fight it, and what it really means to protest.

Honorable Mention:
Absalom! Absalom!
Fast Food Nation

Friday, August 6, 2010

Turning Over a New Leaf

There are a lot of things in this world that make me angry. For brevity's sake, let me just group them into very broad categories: inconveniences, disrespect, and idiocy. Pretty much all that makes my blood boil can be assigned under one of those categories, and it seems not a day goes by when I don't find myself mentally -and sometimes verbally- railing against my fellow man. It's true that I'm well on my way to being a grumpy old man. I'm okay with that, though, being old and grumpy, and I look forward to the day when some punk kid calls me the same while I hurl profanities at him for not picking up where his dog left off on my lawn.

It has come to my attention, however, that I am not quite old yet, chronologically or mentally. In fact, I'm quite a young 41, and if it weren't for my graying and balding and bad back most folks would take me for, oh, 39 or 40. I do have a bad attitude for only being 41, though. Over the years I've let those things that make me angry make me angrier and more bitter and, well, I'm really too young to be chasing kids off my lawn, shaking my fist at people texting while driving, reporting covenant violations or watching FOX News (in truth, I've only done one of those - can you guess which one?!).

It's time I try and re-focus my attention to those things in life that are life-affirming, like knowing that for every dirtbag that tries to kill his dog with a hammer, there are many people who would like to do the same to him if given the chance; that for every parent that abuses their child, there are thousands of social workers trying against huge odds to give kids a better life; that for every jacka** who thinks herself too important to get in line like everybody else, there are little kids shhhhing people in movie theaters; that for every U.S. citizen who is too lazy to vote, there are people in this world who risk losing life and limb in order to have a voice; for all the religious bigots spreading hate and fear, there are people of deep faith and kindness reaching out; for every ignorant Glenn Beck there's an intelligent Jon Stewart somewhere; and for every 40-something who has just about lost faith in humanity, there's someone else out there who hasn't. Man, I hate that last group of people...but I think I'll try and be more like them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Greatest

There's no Triple Crown chance this year, and so the Belmont Stakes will be just a blip, if that, on most people's radar. I love horse racing simply because watching horses run, whether it's around a track or on the plains, is quite simply one of the most moving of experiences. Grace, muscle, power, poetry, natural beauty. It can move me to tears.

Lest you forget: Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, and it was his performance at the Belmont that cemented his claim as the greatest thoroughbred to run a race (some consider Man-O-War the greatest). If you've never seen that race, you can watch it here. And to put that horse and that race into context, I also recommend watching Part II of ESPN Classic's tribute to Secretariat.

"Secretariat is widening now! He's moving like a tremendous machine!"

Sends chills down my spine.

Monday, May 24, 2010


So, "Lost" is over and the blogs are buzzing with reviews of the finale. Personally, I liked it a lot, and I had to go looking online to see if I could get some of my own questions answered. While browsing through comments posted on USA Today's site, many fans agreed with me and thought the finale "rocked" while others thought it the "worst ending ever." It's to be expected. But the posting that really caught my eye was this one:

"SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME OUT HERE. Half the comments on this page are by Lost fans and the other are by people calling the show tripe, or calling the fans of the show the masses. Why? Why, do you get on here and do that? I really want to know what the point is of bashing the show or its fans. Everyone has something they like, just because you dont doesnt mean you need to be a dooshbag (sp). I also notice the people who bash the show NEVER say what their interests are. For the record, I loved the show and enjoyed the finale."

I couldn't have said it better myself! What IS the point of bashing the show and its fans? I suspect those people are the same ones who lashed out in high school and who counselors tried to make excuses for by saying they had low self-esteem rather than just admitting that they were bad seeds. Why do so many people get their jollies criticizing people for liking something they don't? It's not like it adds to the discussion. To me, it's just ignorance and stupidity. Personally, I can't think of a positive thing to say about this whole vampire obsession that people have, but I'm not going to go onto some blog or discussion board and start bashing those people and the shows they like just because I don't like what they like. To each, their own, and if you don't like the fact that I loved "Lost," that it gave me hours upon hours of great, quality entertainment, and that I'm kind of depressed that it's all over, then, please, just shut your trap.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Brother, can you spare a dime?

I've spent my adult life anguishing over what to do when someone asks me for spare change.

In high school a young social activist suggested I just offer to buy the bum (my words, not hers) a cup of coffee instead of giving money that he'd probably use to get alcohol or drugs. It was a great idea except that I wasn't inclined then (and am even less so now) to share a cup of coffee with someone I didn't know. I'm bad at making small talk, unless you want to hear about cats.

I later held that if what the bum really wants is to get loaded and that's what will make him happy, then let's do away with the whole cup-of-coffee charade and help him on his way. I'm no social worker, I thought, so who cares if the money I give makes his life worse in the long-run, just as long as it makes him happy now. I always respected the bum who told me outright he needed money to get beer. Still, it didn't seem right contributing to their delinquency.

Then one day I heard the theory that people begging for money were actually angels in disguise and my willingness to give would be noted by said angel and the cumulative total of my deeds would be addressed at St. Peter's Gate. Now that prompted me to give! They asked for change, I gave them a percentage of that night's tips, and I did it with a smile. Even though I doubted the existence of God back then, I was smart enough to cover some of my bases, just in case I was wrong. The problem, of course, was that it was Boulder and there was a bum on every corner. Some of those homeless souls were quite young, and it was then that I learned that many of the "homeless" were just lazy-asses who could make more money begging for money than actually earning it. Simultaneously, I began to think that surely not every legitimate bum could be an angel, and seeing how I couldn't afford to give money to each one that asked in the hope that one would be an angel and I'd get a good mark, I cut back on my alms giving. I decided it was a sleazy way for God to judge me and I stopped my giving despite the fear of eternal damnation.

I later found myself in Eugene, OR. Eugene used to be where Gateful Dead groupies stayed until the next tour, a town inundated with white, dreadlocked, pot-smoking bums with no further ambition in life than to mooch off of society as long as possible. Lacking a firm spare-change philosophy to guide me, I was a prime target. Every 7-11 I went to, every trip to the grocery store brought me in contact with perfectly healthy young men and women who accosted me and demanded I give them some of the money I'd made that day cooking french fries and flipping burgers at Red Robin and serving dinner at an assisted living home. If I told them to get a job, they replied that they wouldn't work for The Man (I guess that's me) and they wanted to remain free to live life on their own terms. I made just enough money in those days to pay rent, stay current on my student loans, and to buy my own weed and beer. I gave them nothing but contempt.

Austin wasn't much better, especially since being a slacker was in vogue when I got there, but by then I'd lost almost all sense of charity towards the real and supposed homeless. I did once buy cat food for a young woman who actually wanted to get her cat some food but didn't have the money. I reached over and gave the cashier $5.00. For once, I witnessed genuine appreciation...from the cat. In Austin I would formulate a spiritual philosophy that didn't involve angels, pearly gates or circles of Hell, and my social awareness moved from the plight of people to that of animals. I cast aside all presumptions of being my brother's keeper and decided to let him fend for himself. But I still voted Democrat. That was over ten years ago.

Enter the other day when I stopped at a street corner where a woman stood with the ubiquitous cardboard "Homeless and hungry. God bless!" sign. Though more critical of society than I once was, I am socially softer than before, and I looked at her and then my spare change. Time was of the essence for soon the light would change. She walked down the shoulder and stopped just ahead of my car, looked at me and gave a plaintive wave. She was older than the other woman who haunts that corner, gray-haired. My mind raced.

She's faking it.
Maybe, but she's older.
The lottery is tonight and if I give something to her now then karma might reward me later.
I don't need that change, just give it to her.
I wish she'd quit looking at me.
I am not responsible for her.
Ask the guy in the Escalade.
No, I will not fall for the sad eyes.
C'mon light, turn green.

The light turned green and I left her to solicit change from someone else. Yet even before completing the turn I felt guilty for not having given her something. I was mad at myself for not only not giving but for also feeling guilty about not giving. I guess I should be happy that I haven't gone completely over to the dark side and I feel compelled to help. I want to help those who truly need help, not those unwilling to help themselves. I don't want my generosity to be taken advantage of or to be taken for granted.

Yeah, I can spare a dime; I'm just not sure if I should.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It appears yet another segment of society is (yawn) feeling victimized. Some airlines are raising fees again and this is causing many travelers to feel a bit put out; in fact, it's being described more as "outrage." Although born with a champagne appetite, I live on a beer income, and so I, too, don't like the idea of paying any more money than I have to in order to fly. However, I have to side with the airlines on this one.

I'm sorry to break this to the outraged but travel and especially air travel is not a right, human or God-given. It is not enshrined in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that you have a right to travel by air as cheaply as is convenient for you. Airlines, on the other hand, have a right as designated by our capitalist society to make money. Their goal is the same as any for-profit company, large or small, global or local: profit. Just because they provide a service that we feel we can't do without doesn't mean they don't have the right to charge more money whenever they want for that service. Many restaurants (rightly) charged for water during Georgia's drought but I don't recall hearing about any outraged diners. Movie theaters nationwide charge more for admission to 3-D movies and yet there was no end to the lines to get into see "Avatar." Where was the outrage when the US Postal Service raised the price of stamps? If businesses like restaurants, movie theaters and the USPS can impose fees to make more money without a lick of consumer outrage, then why the fuss when airlines do it?

The only way this particular bit of traveler outrage can be justified is if the airlines were nationalized because then we, the people, would own a sense...and it wouldn't make sense to be charging ourselves extra fees. Of course, the government could step in and establish some sort of price ceiling or limits on certain fees. But that would be Socialism, wouldn't it, and if Americans think that government-run health care is Socialism and thus un-American, then, well, I'm sure they wouldn't want the government having anything to do with lowering the costs of flying home for Christmas (especially since Socialism is apparently "godless").

There are other means of transportation open to travelers. Buses go all over the country and provide ample opportunity to get close to your fellow Americans. Trains have sleeping, dining and viewing cars for your pleasure. The automobile can get you anywhere in the US that a airplane can go and more. Wait...what's that? You say those other means of travel aren't convenient? Oh, oh...I see. Well, I guess flying is like shopping at 7-11 or Circle K: you pay more for the convenience.

If you want to enjoys the fruits of capitalism (and you know you do!), then you have to pay for it. So, buck up airline travelers and keep your unfounded outrage to yourselves.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Defense of Curling

OK, I've had it up to here (my hand is over my head) with all the curling bashing. Seems some arrogant, closed minded Americans (Bryant Gumble, for one) don't think it's a true sport (it's a game, they argue) and that curlers aren't athletes. Using the same criteria, I argue that the following are not sports and the participants not athletes:

NASCAR (or any form of auto racing):
I drive every damn day and I don't think it's the slightest bit sporting. I'm sure that driving cars at that speed is not easy and that it takes a bit of talent and strategy to win. Probably not much more than what I need to get through Atlanta traffic every day, though. And no one can make fun of curlers' supposed lack of athleticism without taking a look at doughy Tony Stewart. That chubby can barely get in and out of a car.

I love golf. I love to watch it and play it; I'd play every day if I could. Still, hitting a little ball with a titanium rod takes no athleticism at all, just a little skill. OK, a lot of skill, but it takes a lot of skill to be a curler, too. Golfers aren't all that athletic, either. Sure they have to do a lot of walking, but they don't even have to carry their own clubs. Us poor golfers do, but not the pros. Before Tiger came along it was all a bunch of pot-bellied white men playing the game, and even with Tiger in the game you can't call golfers real athletes. Seen Phil's belly lately? How about cigarette smoking, alcoholic, wife-beating John Daly? Sure, he's slimmed down, but he's no athlete.

Fun game, but all one really needs to be a good bowler is skill, nice shoes, a good ball, and a strong stomach.

Bass Fishing:

Why is this even on TV? An intelligent person wouldn't even begin to think of poker as a sport, yet, sadly, many Americans do just that.

Skateboarding on snow. Nothing more needs to be said.

Other notable non-sports based on the "curling is not a sport" argument: ping pong, badminton, ski jumping, luge, fly fishing, billiards, diving, shooting, hunting, rodeo, darts, jarts, horseshoes, polo, equestrian, and all the supposed X-games. I reserve the right to add more as they come to mind.

I don't know much about curling. In fact, I only watch it when the Winter Olympics rolls around, so it's safe to say I don't follow the sport. But I do appreciate it for the sport that it is and the talent and skill it takes to play it. I guess that's what separates me from the likes of Bryant Gumble, David Letterman, Frank Deford, Jimmy Kimble, and many others: an ability and willingness to appreciate the finer things. And curling is fine.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Game over, Mr. President. Game over.

It's over for President Obama. Yes, I know he's only just starting the second year of a four year gig and that his fortunes can change; thing is, I don't think they will change. My crystal ball is clouded by depressing headlines and overly verbose pundits, but I can still see for miles, and unless we find Sarah Palin back on the GOP ticket, I predict Obama will be a one-term president.

It's not that I think his policies and/or decisions are the problem, although his first year could have been much better. He ruined a good chance at health care reform by tasking Congress with that responsibility instead of taking the lead himself. Man, that was a mistake. His waffling on Afghanistan showed too careful of a deliberation, bordering on weakness; still, he should get credit for finally doing the right thing and sending in more troops. His trip to Copenhagen was a waste. Guantanamo is still wide open, and his efforts to make government more transparent remain to be seen. I won't even start on Ken Salazar.

The Obama administration is pretty bad at public relations, too. The president had to bail out the banks, but the White House did a piss poor job of explaining why. "To big to fail" is not an answer. It would've been better if they had said that if we didn't bail out the banks many more people would lose their homes and jobs and life would be pretty miserable for a longer time. How come we only hear about how most of the banks have paid back their loans with interest in the Money section? I would think they'd want that all over the news. Obama's PR people are failing him.

It's really the forces massed against Obama that will make his presidency resemble Jimmy Carter's, one of failed promise. The Party of No has the momentum, and despite all the talk about bi-partianship they have no desire or need to work with Obama and the Democrats. They have the upperhand and don't need to budge, so Obama will need to concede more and more to them in order to get anything done, resulting in victories for the GOP. The GOP is far more unified, far more energized, and far nastier then the Democrats. Another prediction: I foresee a second Republican Revolution this November.

Obama also has to contend with an American public that is fickle and short on patience. The economy went sour on Bush's watch but because Obama foolishly promised to make things better in the first year of his presidency, John Doe now blames him for the whole mess. I wasn't a stellar student of the dismal science, faring better in Micro- than I did in Macroeconomics; yet, I learned enough to know that economies don't turn around in one year (and that the second ice cream cone is not as good as the first - point of diminishing returns). Unfortunately for this president, Americans as a rule live in the short-term, with patience for the long-term being un-American. Americans lack the ability to see the big picture. We want quick fixes and immediate results, and you just don't get those in economics. Or soccer. The economy will rebound and jobs will be created and unemployment will drop, but not in time to save Obama (but in time for the GOP to take credit for it).

The Democratic Party isn't helping the president either. They still have a majority in Congress and they can't agree on anything. They should review tapes of the Bush years to learn how to support a leader. Loyalty doesn't have to be blind. Showing a little backbone and relegating Sen. Lieberman to the political backwaters and removing Howard Dean as DNC Chairman might help a bit.

Obama must also contend with an alarming unity of ugly discontent. It's not just the usual FOX News and Limbaugh groupies and the Glenn Beck flunkies that hate Obama simply because; Independents and moderate Democrats are increasingly joining their ranks. Honestly, I don't know what they want, but they're passionate and vocal, and that spells trouble.

We all knew that Obama couldn't bring the political skill and experience Hillary Clinton would have brought to the office. He only got my vote because she was too polarising and wouldn't have been elected president. Nonetheless, I felt warm inside when he took the presidency. Maybe it was hope. Fast-forward a year and his administration is floundering and showing few signs that it has any staying power.

You might say that it's too early to predict an early retirement for Obama, that I'm being pessimistic, only seeing the bad. Perhaps. If my team is losing, I am prone to turning off the TV before the game is over, before the last pitch is thrown, and because of that I've missed a few great comebacks. Only a few. Some will remind me that Bill Clinton's presidency was doomed after his first year and yet he bounced back. To that I simply reply, "Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton."

There is a ray of hope in that my record as a teller of fortunes is spotty (particularly in horse racing), and I actually hope I'm wrong this time.

But I don't think I am.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook is FREE!!

I'll keep this one short and sweet: Facebook is FREE, so quit complaining about it.

You don't like the changes or the ads? Get over it; it's FREE. FB's privacy policies not good enough for you? That's what you get when something is FREE. If you want more assurances that the photos you uploaded to a server you didn't contribute one penny to help purchase and which you pay nothing to maintain won't be used in ads or whatever, then It's that frickin' simple.

FB is FREE. You have no right to demand anything of or ask anything from the FB Powers that Be. Why can't you just be content with the fact the FB is awesome and it's FREE? It doesn't have to be FREE, you know. They could (and probably should) start charging monthly fees, but you wouldn't use it then, would you? If you paid a subscription, then I think you would have a foot to stand on when demanding changes; however, you don't have to subscribe to FB because it's FREE and so you have nothing to stand on when complaining about what FB should or should not do. You're acting like a spoiled child.

Facebook is FREE. Quit complaining.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moral Outrage

Like most Americans, I am "outraged" by the bonuses that many bank executives will purportedly receive. It sickens me, and if I think about it too much I'm sure I'll get an ulcer. But that's my moral outrage speaking. One aspect of my personality that I've battled with all my life is to not let my moral outrage get the best of me. It gets in the way of reasoning, and though I may not always be reasonable, I tend to let Reason dictate. Which is why I began thinking this morning that if those people excelled at what they were supposed to excel at (presumably increasing profits), then they should be compensated for a job well done. It's only logical.

I bet if the scale of the bonuses wasn't so high, then none of us would care. We get outraged when we hear about people raking in six or seven figure bonuses, but no one seemed outraged when I got a performance bonus several years ago. After taxes it amounted to barely $100 a month, but it was a bonus nonetheless. If we're going to get all high and mighty about bank executives and their bonuses, it only stands to reason that our outrage should be directed towards everyone who gets a bonus. Our moral outrage, however, thinks it wrong for the rich to get richer, even if they earn it. Ironically, our collective moral outrage seems to disappear when unions force companies to pay employees to not work or to not work well.

The fact of the matter is that our society has decided that some professions are more important than others, and as a result the people in those professions generally get paid more. We need doctors and lawyers, for example, and so that's one reason they make the good money. Banks, too, are critical to our society; if we all kept our money tucked away in our mattresses, our economy, our so-called way of life, would die. So there's no logical reason why bank executives shouldn't get bigger bonuses than those in non-critical librarians.

The reason some of the most important jobs in our society - teachers and social workers being among my top 10 - don't get the salaries and bonuses they deserve is that we, the American people, don't value them nearly as much as we value the people who heal us, who interpret the law, and, yes, who manage our money. Oh, we all like to say how important education is but when push comes to shove and we're asked to vote on a tax increase to support our schools, the majority of us suddenly decide our money is more important than our schools and we vote no. In all the cities and liberal college towns I've lived in, I've never known a tax increase to support public schools to pass. Never. Not in Boulder, not in Eugene, not in Austin, not in Chicago, not in Ithaca, not in Atlanta. THAT gets my moral outrage all in a tizzy!

So, my Reason tells me that the bonuses to be doled out to the evil bank execs is fine, and if I listen to my Reason, I'll not get that ulcer and will probably live longer. It's silly to get all bent out of shape over the amount of money someone I don't know makes or doesn't make. Let them make billions and all the power to them if they get bonuses for making those billions. In the end, it means nothing to me. Thanks, Reason.