So it all boils down to this.

The GOP does not believe health care should be a government responsibility. War, prisons, executions, walls to keep immigrants out, tax breaks and subsidies for billionaires, restricting and limiting voting, these are all the governments business, but not health care. Unless that health care has to do with women’s reproduction, that of course is an acceptable place for GOP noses to go poking. Continue reading

Every year around this time I feel compelled to inventory and “use up” overstocked items in my house. I’m not sure how I end up with four different moisturizers with a 1/4 inch left, or three different kinds of aluminum foil, but the end of the year seems a good time to use one thing until its gone and make some room in the cupboard, medicine chest or linen closet.

This happens in the frig too, mainly with condiments. I think right now there are six different Asian sauces, five kinds of mustard, four salad dressings, three kinds of horseradish (ghosts of passover past), two kinds of ketchup …and a partridge in a pear tree.

If I trace it back my urge to purge started when my mom died in 2001 and I had to sort out her house. Always a bargain shopper I knew she “stocked” certain items, but the reality of dozens of tubes of toothpaste, cases of toilet paper and cans of pie filling that expired in 1982 was disturbing. I could almost understand the fact that she had saved every ATM receipt since they were invented, but looking at the amount of money she spent on bargains made me think a Just In Time buying strategy made more sense and I cut down on my own “stocking up cuz its on sale”. I also purged many, many papers from my own house that I’d been holding on to for no good reason.

A few years later I was doing laundry in my mother-in-law’s house (a much longer story there) and went to get Bounce out of her cupboard and discovered a jumble of products. So I started sorting & stacking. I’m a sorter. I know its a problem, but disorganized cupboards & refrigerators make me anxious. I literally put items in the same place in the frig (and force my family to as well) so that I know exactly where the sour cream would be if we had any. Middle shelf left.

Anyway, I start pulling things out of my MIL’s cupboard and by the time I am done I discover she has something like 20 cartons of wax paper, and a dozen rolls of foil along with many, many boxes of baggies, ziplock and the Bounce I was after in the first place. This was the wake up that made me start using up and reviewing what I already have in the house every year. Refraining from purchases until we actually need something, despite the siren call of the half-off coupon.

I’m hopeful, as I determinedly use up the body wash that was a little too sweet, that President Obama and Speaker Boehner are doing the same thing. A practical review of what we have and what we need. I am getting behind the analysis that no news is good news with respect to the silence about how the negotiations are going. There is a nearly infinite number of combinations of budget cuts, tax increases and tax “loophole” reforms that they can choose from. A veritable smorgasbord of ways to compromise and piss everyone off.

I was thinking about possible compromises they might be talking about. Maybe they’re considering cutting the $188 million a year dedicated to military music, or the $80 million a year for sport sponsorships for “recruiting” efforts. I bet boots on the street recruit more desperate high school seniors than NASCAR ads. Just a guess. Maybe if Boehner is motivated enough to keep the Lockheed-Martin F-22 fighter jet in production, despite the fact that its never worked properly, he might throw the bands under the bus, or into the NASCAR crash wall.

Or Obama could agree to raise the Social Security and/or Medicare eligibility. That would hurt the 95% the most, but maybe theres an assisted suicide amendment they could tuck in so the the old, ill poor can legally exit. They could call it Self-Deportation to Heaven. Might catch on if a major multi-national got behind it as a “green” initiative – Soylent Green Heavenly Foods, Inc.

As I finish my household inventory I wouldn’t be surprised if the federal inventory being conducted on the cliff results in tax increases with a higher threshold (I’m thinking $500,000 will go down easier than $250), a few tax loop holes closing (mortgage interest deduction restricted to one property), and an increase in medicare eligibility with a higher co-pay for high-income seniors. However it ends up, I think the federal government should be going through their cupboards every year to determine what is needed rather than just reflexively buying or cutting out of habit.

It is oh so tempting to let myself get caught up in the posturing and brinksmanship of the fiscal cliff (non)negotiations – I think Jon Setwart’s “Cliffpocalypsemageddonacaust” says it all. However, it reminds me too much of other things I worried about to no avail (the manufactured debt crisis, the endless house votes to repeal ACA,  Occupy Wall Street), so I am trying to be more detached.

Instead of obsessively reading news sites when I need to “take a break” at work I’m going to attempt to get up from my computer and walk around the block. This will be my Hanukkah gift to myself. Which allows me to start obsessing again on December 17th (post-Hanukkah), the date Nancy Pelosi said a deal would have to be inked by in order to get the paperwork done so politicians can leave DC by the 23rd. We’ll see if getting home to Church services with family (and constituents) is a motivator.

I’m glad we have a week break between Hanukkah and Christmas this year. We celebrate both in our little atheist household, so it gets to be a bit much when they overlap. My husband is not big on decorations, although he does tolerate the tabletop Christmas tree because it means something to me. Because he was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic our daughter gets an amalgam of holiday traditions as we both choose only the bits we like and make up everything else.

For Hanukkah we light the Menorah and put out eight small presents for my daughter. I know non-Jewish kids get all jazzed about the idea of 8 nights of presents, but in our house at least it is not the major haul of their fantasies. I think the excitement for her is that they sit wrapped on the buffet so she can touch, shake and choose what to open each night. One is always a “gift certificate” to our local independent bookstore where we all choose new books, and then go for french fries & milkshakes at a favorite restaurant.

To her dismay I have a rule about no Christmas decorations overlapping with Hanukkah decorations, unless the calendar forces me, so we will not put up the tree until the 17th. And down it comes on New Years day. And of course, like all good Jewish/Catholic/Atheist families, we go to a movie & get Chinese food on Christmas day.

That reminds me, I don’t think I have 8 presents yet. 48 hours to finish my shopping, find the blue wrapping paper and see if the leftover Menorah candles melted over the summer.  Then I can start working on the Christmas gifts.

Tis the season to think about money. With the fiscal cliff and the holiday shopping ads competing for attention, I keep asking myself “How much money is enough?” It seems most people wish they had “just a little bit more money” irrespective of wants or needs. Is that the threshold I wonder, being able to buy or do anything you want no matter the cost? Warren Buffett can do that and he eats at McDonalds everyday.

If you are a member of the 1% what do you do with all that money? Buy more houses? Go more places? Give it away through charitable contributions? If you have that tremendous level of wealth, why shelter and protect it from taxes so you can have more? It really doesn’t make sense to me. Much of debate around taxes baffles me but nothing more than Grover Norquist and The Pledge.

Norquist is a lobbyist who, anointed by Newt Gingrich back in the 90’s, has helped orchestrate the GOP march to crazy town with his Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Year after year Republican politicians signed it promising to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and to oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.” No rational discussion, no compromise, just no. Sound like the 111th and 112th Congress to anyone else?

I am heartened to see that fewer GOP lawmakers have signed his pledge this year as we face the fiscal cliff. If they’d found their spines last year the Super Committee might have worked. But still, the stranglehold of conservative “values”, “smaller government” and “bigger military” might be loosen a bit. In return, Norquist will attack republicans who break his pledge as he protects the “special interests” of the individuals and corporations who fund his lobbying. What a system.

I still haven’t figured out the magic number is – how much money would make me feel like I didn’t have worry about money, I could do what I want, that I’m rich. I can only conceptualize it as chunks at the moment. Things like – a new car every 8 years or so, my daughters college education, travel vacations, upgrades to our house (my kitchen is a makeover shows wet dream.) Nothing extravagant but hard to quantify because I suspect that once the kitchen is fixed, I’d want a soaking tub in the attic, then replacement windows, and new landscaping…

So the number would keep changing.

Maybe I should just buy a Powerball ticket. And if I win the $360 million jackpot I wouldn’t begrudge the feds their $90 million, or the state their $21, because there would still be an insane amount of money left. Is $250 million (~Romney’s net worth) my magic number? Lets find out.

I have been ploughing through a five-inch stack of newspapers this weekend. I insist the newspapers be set aside for me to read if I can’t get to them that day and, since I have been traveling for work lately, I am a bit behind.

My rationale is that if I haven’t read it yet its still news. I do read the fluffity USA Today in my hotel room so I am not in a complete news void, but I like to know a) what is going on in my town and b) what the local paper has to say about national and international news. Not much on most days, but these are my people.

Still, I compulsively read the entire paper everyday. Except for the sports section which I consider to be elective like the classifieds. I pay very little attention to professional sports (or college or HS) unless something extraordinary is happening that everyone is talking about. Then I will get up to speed because basic human interaction demands it.

It can be an interesting exercise to read the news this way. For instance, I read what was in retrospect a lousy analysis of the Wisconsin recall election followed by a baffling four-page spread on the marines. Turns out there was something called Marines Week in town which made the in-depth explanation of MRE’s more understandable if not actually news. Its important to keep the papers in chronological order.

My favorite part of the paper, after the insane letters to the editor of course, are the comics. I save these for last as a reward for reading about debt crisis and failing public schools. I am a bit OCD with the funnies as well and read all of them even the ones I hate. I save Doonesbury and read it last so I can savor it. It also helps me recover from Mary Worth and Family Circus.

A Karen Findley-esque performance art piece could be constructed from all the dysfunction found in the intersection of Charlie Brown, Beetle Bailey, Mary Worth and Judge Parker. The paper once tried to phase out Judge Parker and Mary Worth by taking them off the comic pages and placing them in the classifieds. A firestorm of protest from the over 80 crowd got them back to their rightful home. Where they remain in perpetuity. And where, because of personal issues beyond my control, I am forced to read them every day.

Now for the mile high stack of New Yorker’s I have been neglecting…

I am sick of New Hampshire.

Last week I was sick of Iowa.

Mainly I am tired of hearing “voters” talk about the New America they want. A place where states rights rule and federal government means the military.

Who are these people and why do we continue to allow them to dominate the airwaves, newspapers, social media and Internet?

I can’t fathom what the next step might be for US politics when everything is currently reduced to a sound byte. Nuance and complexity are eliminated from public discourse and I am not sure they exist anymore in negotiations that are supposed to result in compromise. Where do we go from here?

Listening to a New Hampshire republican state rep gloating

“If you’re dependent on government money to make your life comfortable, you’re going to feel pain. If you are an American who believes that you can stand on your own two feet, this is going to be a renaissance.”

What does he really mean by that? Is it code for welfare recipients? Folks on disability? Researchers who receive federal grants? The FEMA money that New Hampshire got for its last snow storm? The government makes life “comfortable” in innumerable ways…

I understand the Republicans and Libertarians have a pathological desire to reduce the Federal Government, but I am not convinced this broad brush is intended for things that impact them directly.

There was another story about an Republican voter who was unemployed for nearly a year and he was railing against government expansion , debt ceiling and so on, EXCEPT he thought Congress should increase the unemployment benefits for people like him.

Do people even hear themselves?

I don’t want to be cynical about US politics. I think its a work in progress as it was intended to be. But I would like to see some path being forged that will get us out of polarization and away from simplification.

I will let you know if I happen to find that map.

The full comment “Well of course you know that, because you’re so political”, was said to me after I explained a joke someone made about the Department of Energy. It wasn’t that esoteric, it was a Rick Perry reference and most people in the room got it. I made the mistake of remarking ‘it was all over the news’ and got the political comment.

I don’t consider myself a political junkie, but I do pay attention and get my news from sources other than Jon Stewart or Fox News. On the other hand, I can name several heads of state that are not monarchs, and know who the secretary general of the united nations is, so maybe I am “political”.

Not long ago I had a different friend accuse me of never doing anything frivolous. I don’t think she thinks this is a bad thing on its face, but it was clear from the conversation that I make her feel inferior somehow because I don’t consume pop culture the way she does.

It all started because I didn’t know Jennifer Aniston was pregnant. (I always figured a pregnancy is none of my business until I get a birth announcement in the mail.) I protested that I do in fact read the occasional “O” magazine or Real Simple, and was informed that those are practically work. Seems I need a Yahoo feed to really know what’s going on in the world.

This struck me as the kind of anti-intellectual sentiment that pops up in the media every now and again. Especially in an election year. Not that I call myself an intellectual. Actually I can’t think of a single “label” I call myself. More to the point, it seems like people view the fact that I don’t watch “E!” or read People magazine as some judgement about the fact that they do.

The only time I care what media anyone besides me consumes is when it’s time to vote. Maybe that’s why I’m considered “political.”

I feel like its kind of hard to miss big news like the Penn State scandal (which will have repercussions across higher education if not US society) or the EU debt crisis (which we are feeling here already). But I can’t really ask folks questions like ‘Don’t you read the newspaper?’, or ‘have you tried NPR instead of the “drive time show?’ because that sounds like a judgement about their media consumption.

But I am curious.

If I am considered a political, intellectual because I read books and pay attention to non-celebrity news, what does that make everyone else? I bet that sounds all judgmental doesn’t it?

It’s sort of like when people find out I’m a vegetarian. They get defensive about what they are eating, or aggressively insist that I can’t be healthy. Yeah, me and roughly 400 million other vegetarians are all starving to death while suffering from scurvy. I digress.

This is another bizarre situation. My being a vegetarian, is not a commentary on your steak. Nor is my reading the newspaper meant to induce guilt over your Live! with Kelly. Enjoy.

It will be 11 months before I give a flying…fig how people get their news & info. Then we can talk about how political I am.