May 03, 2007

The Tale of the Long Fall

It has been quite some time since I'd last posted; and with good reason.

Thanks to my ernest desire to discover exactly how hard it is to shingle a roof, I discovered a nifty way to ellicit the loving and doting nature of my wife.


Yeah, buddy, you read it proper.

After an extreme amount of cursing, sweat induced halucinations and cursing that will surely send me to the land of hotness, I was almost done with my roof. The shingles were mostly removed. And that's saying something, cause the previous owners, in their most anti-zoning rebellious behavior, decided it is better to have two layers of shingles separated by a thick, tarry layer of bitchathane (u either know what I'm referring to or u don't), followed by another two layers of shingles that were about 30 years old. Let me tell ya, I wanted to strangle the former owners cause there isn't a roofing shovel made that can tear that kinda shit up. Nope, it was all by razor knife and hand. In short, it was a fucking nightmare to get about 7 squares of this crap off my roof.

And what do I discover under this mess, but, hard insulation. No 5/8" plywood or other such sheething to properly nail the shingles to, not even any furring strips to act like sheething. In short, no fucking wonder my roof leaked.

So, here's what a typical roof should look like:
bitchathane or some other water barrier
sheething or furring strips...preferably sheething
interior roof, otherwise known as the ceiling

And, here's what mine looked like:
shingles - 2 layers
shingles - 2 layers
1.5" hard foam insulation
interior roof

Notice something missing? Yep..and definitely one of the most fundamental of layers. There's this crazy concept of fixing a shingle to the roof so that it fucking stays affixed when there's inclement weather. And let me tell ya, we get our fair share of inclement weather here in New Hampshire. So, when you try to nail a shingle to some foam, guess what, that shingle is gonna move all over the fucking place...hell, it might even grow some wings and fly the fuck off your roof! But, even if it doesn't make like a crazy chicken, the whole time it's moving around, it's creating a bigger and bigger hole in the bitchthane and the foam insulation. Before you know, you've got a leaky fucking roof. The previous owners, in there infinite wisdom, thought, "Hey! Let's save some money and just put a new layer of shingles down." I bet it cost them three times as much money and the roof still fucking leaks. Now I have to deal with it. Can you tell I'm pissed at the previous owners?

Ok, ok, so I got the shingles off, but, on one of the few weekends I have left before the truly cold season starts to hit, the weather turns decidedly....gloomy. Of course, water starts to drip into our lovely log home...creating nice little stains on the ceiling. Great! Something else I'm gonna have to fix. My wife, being the concerned little lady that she is says, "Is there any way you can put a tarp up there?" I respond that it's a little too slick to be safe up there on the roof. But after a few more minutes and a quick inventory of our bucket situation, I decide I have to do something about the water coming in the house cause we don't have enough manpower, nor receptacles for the beautiful torrent of rain inside our home. I get dressed and grab the tarps.

I shimmy my way up the ladder..a solid 25 feet in the air and commence laying the tarps. Now my roof is a two slope thing. Near the edge, the pitch of the roof is quite shallow so it's easy to walk around up there. However, midway between the eave and the ridge, the slope changes to, "wow, I almost need crampons" to climb around up here. I managed to lay ALL the tarps down, ending with the last one at the ridge. So there I am, blue shingle all the way to the eave and I'm at the peak of the ridge. Those of you that have roofed, or have an excellent ability to visualize my decidedly cryptic writing can virtually tell me the rest of this story.

There I sat, and I thought to myself, maybe I should get down on the other side of the roof; it's only an 8 foot drop to the ground and there's no tarp over there, so I should have some decent footing to get down. But, hell, I've been doing this for the better part of a month and I've climbed up and down that ladder and climbed around this roof, that surely, nothing could go wrong. So, I decided to go down the way I came up. But, just to be safe, I'll s t r e t c h down to the transition from steep slope to shallow slope while holding onto the ridge with my right hand. My feet are just mere inches from the transition. So, surely I must be safe?

A moment later I discovered something I wish I'd know as a child: Tarps make damn excellent slip-n-slides when wet.

Upon letting go of the ridge, I picked up speed quicker than a Jack rabbit in a humpin' contest. I went flying off the side of the house, flapped my arms as best I could, and landed in a somewhat parallel position to the ground. And. Man. Did. That. Fucking. Hurt.

I broke my wrist. I broke my back.

I spent the next day at the hospital, all jazzed up on Morphine. And let me say, I was a little disappointed with the drugs. I'd rather smoke weed before taking any of that shit again...well, at least if the intent is to alter my mind.

It is now a good time since that occurred, way back on September 23, 2006. My back is fine, and I'm even a bit sketchy on telling people I even broke my back, cause it's an insult to people with broken backs to say that I broke my back. It was a simple compression fracture and I just had to wear a brace for 8 weeks. Needless to say, I was back up on the roof the following weekend trying to get that damn thing zipped up. It wasn't easy, but I had two of my good buddies helping me since I couldn't bend over, and only had one chicken wing that worked properly. In the end, I had to hire a contractor to come in and finish it up. That's a whole other story too. Let's just say that I hate contractors. Low life, thieving bastards, the lot of them.

In any case, I'm better now. I had a plate and 10 screws installed into my right wrist. It was kinda cool to set off the metal detectors at the airport. And then had all the hardware removed because my right hand constantly hurt. Now, it's all good. I made great friends with my left hand and learned that my wife takes really good care of me when I've taken a flying leap.

There's one really good lesson here and it was posited by my best friends and mentor, Kirk S. Gillis:

"Jerry, for as long as I've known you, every time you've stopped to ask yourself a question as to the best course of action, if it was you and only you involved, you've always made the wrong decision."

So, I guess for some reason, I feel that I can take excessive liberty with my own person, but when it's others safety, I take no risk. Maybe I should treat myself with a little more respect.

Nah, fuck that.

September 14, 2006

The Maintenance Intense Love Affair

Okay, so I own a log home. And I love it. It's cozy, comfortable and has that lodge feeling that everyone just loves.


Owning a log home is a serious pain in the ass. Mind you, I've learned a great deal from owning a log home, but I never wanted to become a scholar in log home maintenance, and yet, I have no degree in this lowly field.

It all started after our first, blissful summer in our lovely little home. The previous owners had "preserved" the wood using the time tested technique of simply applying a 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and turpentine to the logs every 2 years. Well, the house is over 30 years old and it's survived all of those New England winters, so it must have been at least adequate.

Well, sure, but not really.

This lovely little mixture, of which they left me plenty, doesn't protect the logs from the harsh UV raining upon us day in and day out. The result? Black logs. Not only black, but the outer 1/4 inch had been so UV damaged that it had converted into a strange type of cellulose sponge that just LOVES to hold water. You heard it right Bub! Water and wood...well, let me just say that there are tons of lovely little 6-legged creatures that view that mix as a huge, freakin' dinner bell. Needless to say, I've spent the last FOUR years experimenting with ways to remove that outer layer of wood. I've tried chemicals (TSP, CPR which works great but my logs are BLACK), pressure washing and straight sanding.

Straight sanding is the quickest when you have damage like mine.

The CPR is awesome...basically a potent (high molar value for you chemist types) mix of hydrogen peroxide. It's not just for teeth and bloody owwies! I'd put this stuff on and it would foam like a horny, rabid dog! The black would just start pouring out of the wood, but yet it was still not right. So I would SCRUB...and I'm not talking about no pansy assed scrubbing, I'm talking about sweating your balls off scrubbing. This method worked quite well, but was damn hard to make any progress. But since this was the very first thing I'd tried, it worked and I was sticking to it..for a while at least. Plus there was one added side effect: I discovered, because of my vigorously high pressure scrubbing, that my second floor joist had been invaded by a sizeable colony of carpenter ants and some other foreign creature that had turned the outer 4 inches of log/joist to a papery pulp. Eeeewwww.

Malathion to the rescue!! But what about that joist? OMFG!! I had a "professional" come out and provide me with an estimate of what it would take to fix this 3 foot section of joist...I about crapped myself when he said it would be at least $28000. He didn't even offer to blow me!

Needless to say, I didn't entertain this guy's special brand of nuttiness but instead turned to my trusty resource, the Internets. Sorry, had to throw in some GWB speak there. Well, it basically came down to saturating the shit out of the joist with a borate mixture that would help prevent any further infestation and then drilling holes in the log about every 4 inches and putting in these nifty little chemical rods (more borate and copper I think) that end up getting leeched into the wood in a petrifying type of way, so they actually provide some structural rehabilitation. As for the big, nasty hole that was exposed to the outside, I sanded it down and made a notch that got filled by a piece of another log...essentially facing the damaged log with a piece of log siding that was about the same depth. In any case, you wouldn't even know it was there. My cost? About $200 for the chemicals, impeller rods and adhesive/caulk that I used to make it all work.

Well, that took 1 summer and I'd only finished 2 and a half walls with 5 more walls to go, and 2 of those walls were 2 stories...needless to say, at the rate I was going, I wouldn't be done for a long time, not to mention I really don't want to spend my summers doing this shit. I put up some 6 mil plastic over the exposed and untreated wood for the winter. What a fucking nightmare that was...nothing like the sound of heavy plastic blowing against the wall in the middle of winter. I had truly made it back to the trailer, while living in a log home.

The following summer, I had the bright idea of using a pressure washer to blow away the damaged parts of the log. This worked caused the wood fiber to swell with water and fray. So I'd have to pressure wash followed by some sanding using a disc sander. It seems faster, but not really. It is less strenuous though and that's a plus. I make it through another summer and have finished 3 more walls, with 2 more to go. I've also managed to put the 3 coats of stain on..there was no way in hell I was going to listen to that plastic for another winter. The house is really starting to look killer, but man has it been expensive and time consuming.

The next summer, I begin to completely blow off doing any work. I'm sick of this shit. I wait until OCTOBER when I have a week off between jobs and get an entire wall sanded and stained. I didn't screw around with the pressure washer, just used a disc sander and 16 grit discs. Yep, you heard it right, 16 grit Buddy! That's like gravel glued to some paper. It worked so fast, it was hard to believe I was ever silly enough to not just stick with the old fashioned method: sanding. I also rented a cherry picker since this wall was on a sloping grade and it made my progress so much quicker. But just four days of rental left me $1000 poorer in my savings account.

This summer, I got the remaining wall sanded in one day. I haven't worked on it since and am planning to get it this weekend, then I'll be done.

Did I mention that my roof is leaking and in a fit of caffeine induced enthusiasm, decided that I would rip off my shingles. It's now almost October, and I have only the big blue shingle up there.

Crap. And did I mention that the former owners didn't know dick about roofing?

I'll save that for my next the mean time...raise your glasses to the girls with hot asses!

March 17, 2006

Wake Up!

Ok, I am beyond pissed.

Here's why: Pussy Democrats Fail Us Yet Again!

You see, so many of my fellow citizens don't see it happening:

That subtle sucking sound of a country being converted into a fascist, tyrannical, fuck-fest of religious zealots filled with hate and power hungry wolves who ate the Constitution just like they'll eat your children.

Our Democratic representatives in Congress, wallow about in their fear and self-loathing while the masses burn with an intense anger that will only be directed at Them; the ones in DC. They have abandoned us, mewling about that they need to be tough, while the entire time they blatantly demonstrate they are not fit to clean bedpans. They are pussies with spines of...of..well, they don't have spines. I guess those got stolen along with the 2000 election.

Our Republican Benedict Arnolds, legislating away our Constitution in order to protect a self-proclaimed felon. "But what of our Dear Leader, he can't be held accountable!" I tell you here, now, that accountability will come.

Our government, both Left and Right no longer serves any of us. The Right has become the bully, talking of good and walking us into Hades. The Left, like an abused wife, always thinking her abusive husband will change if they'd only not complain as much.

Our government has long faltered and has become more blatant and callous about it, but you and I no longer matter. The only thing that matters is power, money and greed. They do not hear our patriotic voices, rising in chorus to protest the evil they wring from our good names.

Things must change or the people will rise...and it may not be pretty.

January 25, 2006

He Couldn't Manage a Baseball Team, So Why Did Anyone Think He Could Manage a Country?

The Washington Post Finally Puts Its Critical Thinking Cap On
Bush the Incompetent
By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, January 25, 2006; Page A19

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government's special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, "by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy." At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That's when you'd think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq's reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq -- indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn't require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.

Initially, Part D's biggest glitch seemed to be the difficulty that seniors encountered in selecting a plan. But since Part D took effect on Jan. 1, the most acute problem has been the plan's failure to cover the 6.2 million low-income seniors whose medications had been covered by Medicaid. On New Year's Day, the new law shifted these people's coverage to private insurers. And all hell broke loose.

Pharmacists found that the insurers didn't have the seniors' names in their systems, or charged them far in excess of what the new law stipulated -- and what the seniors could afford. In California fully 20 percent of the state's 1.1 million elderly Medicaid recipients had their coverage denied. The state had to step in to pick up the tab for their medications. California has appropriated $150 million for the medications, and estimates that it will be out of pocket more than $900 million by 2008-09. Before Jan. 1 the Bush administration had told California that it would save roughly $120 million a year once Part D was in effect.

California's experience is hardly unique. To date at least 25 states and the District have had to defray the costs to seniors that Part D was supposed to cover. What's truly stunning about this tale is that, while officials may not have known how many non-indigent seniors would sign up of their own accord, they always knew that these 6.2 million seniors would be shifted into the plan on the first day of the year. There were absolutely no surprises, and yet administration officials weren't even remotely prepared.

No such problems attended the creation of Medicare itself in the mid-1960s. Then, a governmental agency simply assumed responsibility for seniors' doctor and hospital visits. But, financially beholden to both the drug and insurance industries, the Bush administration and the Repsublican Congress mandated that millions of Americans have their coverage shifted to these most byzantine of bureaucracies.

This is, remember, the president's signature domestic initiative, just as the Iraq war is his signature foreign initiative.

How could a president get these things so wrong? Incompetence may describe this presidency, but it doesn't explain it. For that, historians may need to turn to the seven deadly sins: to greed, in understanding why Bush entrusted his new drug entitlement to a financial mainstay of modern Republicanism. To sloth, in understanding why Incurious George has repeatedly ignored the work of experts whose advice runs counter to his desires.

More and more, the key question for this administration is that of the great American sage, Casey Stengel: Can't anybody here play this game?

December 23, 2005

Big Lies in Support of 'tator Bush - Dick that is

This has got to be the most dishonest, intellectually bankrupt, egotistical Presidency in the history of history.

There is a reason for the 2nd Amendment...this is it.

By Eleanor Clift

Every holiday season, we on "The McLaughlin Group" hand out news awards. Some categories, like "Biggest Winner," are easy (My choice was Chief Justice John Roberts, with the oil companies as runner-up). Others are a struggle to fill, like who to insult with the “Overrated” award.

In compiling this year’s list, I had the highest number of entries for the category, “Biggest Lie.” I chose the White House declaration that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent. They were the principal participants in the effort to discredit former ambassador Joe Wilson because he had raised doubts about one of the pillars of their argument for war, namely that Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium to make a bomb.

Another favorite—heard all the time from the White House—is that “everybody saw the same intelligence we did.” Members of Congress don’t see the President’s Daily Briefing (one of them was the glossed-over pre-9/11 document that warned “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the U.S.”), and they didn’t see all the qualifying caveats about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, or the doubts about the credibility of the sources the administration was relying on.

Bush is good at stating the obviously untrue. “We do not torture,” he declared despite ample evidence to the contrary from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Vice President Cheney went to Capitol Hill repeatedly to lobby for the U.S. right to torture, capitulating only when the vote went against him 90 to 9. Sen. John McCain, who was tortured when held prisoner during the Vietnam War, took on Bush’s No. 2 and stood up for democratic principles. It’s a wonder Cheney has any credibility left after assuring the country in May, “the insurgency is in its last throes.”

The revelation that President Bush authorized spying on American citizens without warrants is a late entry to the year’s “Biggest Lies” list. Bush says he bypassed the law because of the need for speed. He may believe that, but the facts say otherwise.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 established a special FISA secret court designed to act expeditiously. The executive branch can tap anybody’s phone and not even get a warrant until 72 hours after the fact. The FISA court isn’t picky; it’s only turned down five requests out of 19,000 in its quarter-century existence. Bush publicly and proudly says he will continue to break the law. The Washington Post reported that one FISA court judge has resigned in apparent protest, and the others are asking why we have a secret court when it is ignored.

Bush’s explanation is riddled with lies. He says our enemies are watching and threatens The New York Times, which broke the spying story, with legal action. It takes a vivid imagination to believe that Osama bin Laden and his buddies are keeping up with the niceties of FISA courts and would otherwise have no idea their phones might be tapped. Bush says he talks to Congress all the time and that there was plenty of congressional oversight. Not true. The Gang of Eight (leaders of both parties in the House and Senate, plus the chair and ranking members of the Intelligence Committees) were forbidden to take notes or discuss what they were told with colleagues or staff. Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s hand-written letter to Cheney expressed uneasiness about the program. Rockefeller couldn’t have its legality evaluated by staff. He couldn’t even have the letter typed because of the secrecy. That hardly qualifies as congressional oversight.

The cavalier attitude toward the checks and balance of a democratic society is a pattern with this administration. Bush and Cheney regard Congress and the judiciary as obstacles, not as equal branches of government. The polls show that a majority of Americans no longer trust this team, which is why Bush and Cheney are hitting back hard at their critics. If they lose this round over spying, the spillover effect will be devastating for their war policy and on any domestic agenda they hope to salvage. We have no mechanism to deal with a president who has lost the trust and confidence of the American people and has three years remaining in office. Impeachment is a nonissue; it’s not going to happen with Republicans in control of the House and Senate.

What will happen is more open insurrection on the part of senators—both Democrats and Republicans. Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito are scheduled to begin the first week in January. In the weeks since being named by Bush, there have been a series of stories about Alito’s early writings as a member of the Reagan administration. Alito wants us to believe he was a callow young thirtysomething who advocated far-right positions to curry favor for a job. The White House is telling senators that Alito didn’t mean all those things he wrote about disregarding privacy rights and overturning Roe v. Wade—another big lie. No wonder this year’s list was so easy to put together.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

December 20, 2005

Activist Judge?

Taken from The Narcosphere

Judge in Scooter Libby, Sibel Edmonds cases is redacted in action
By Bill Conroy

What do two of the biggest national-security news stories of the century — the Valerie Plame leak scandal and the legal case of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds — have in common?
They both are being presided over by the same federal judge in the District of Colombia, Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee to the federal court and a man who appears to have a few well-kept secrets of his own.

All federal judges are required under ethics rules to file what is known as “financial disclosure reports.”

The disclosure statement filed by Walton, which was obtained through the dogged efforts of a conservative watchdog group called Judicial Watch, is curious in what it does not reveal. Remember, this judge is arguably handling two of the most sensitive and potentially far-reaching challenges to the free press and the public’s right to know of our times.

In the Plamegate case, a top White House aid, Scooter Libby, has already been indicted and additional indictments may be forthcoming (Karl Rove?). In addition, a bevy of insider journalists in the media-center establishment have been subpoenaed to testify in the case, and one, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, has already done jail time for her initial refusal to identify her sources on the story.
Edmonds was fired from her job as an FBI translator after blowing the whistle on alleged espionage being carried out by a fellow FBI employee. She was prevented from pursuing a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed in 2002 (based on alleged violations of her civil rights) because of the state-secrets privilege claim, a claim upheld by Judge Walton. That claim essentially shut down her ability to present evidence in the case under the smokescreen that it would jeopardize national security.

An appeal in the Edmonds case was recently rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. She now has a separate case pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. Ironically, in both cases, Judge Walton was randomly assigned to hear her complaints at the District Court level. Walton also has randomly been assigned to hear the Plamegate case involving Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

So given the high-stakes poker being played in both these cases, one civil and one criminal, why has no one in the establishment press bothered to ask what is contained in Judge Walton’s financial disclosure statement? After all, his investments and financial backers would be of keen interest in gauging his ability to hear these cases in an unbiased manner, right?

We already know that Walton has been a Bush-team insider for years. He grew up on the hardscrabble side of life in a steel town in Pennsylvania, and by his own admission was arrested three times as a teenager and even witnessed a stabbing while participating in a street fight. After beating the odds and making it through law school, he rose quickly in the Washington legal establishment, earning an appointment from former President Reagan to a District of Colombia Superior Court judgeship. He was later taken under the wing of the self-styled man of virtue William Bennett, serving as a top gun in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy during Bennett’s tenure there. Then, in 2001, current President Bush appointed him as a federal judge in the District of Columbia.

So it would be natural to suppose that Walton has some loyalty to the Bush administration, but that alone is not proof of bias with respect to the Edmonds and Valerie Plame-related cases.

Still, Edmonds points out that the way Walton landed on her original whistleblower-related case (the one the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear), as well her currently pending case, does seem a bit more than a cosmic coincidence.

“Walton was the original judge on my case (the Supreme Court case), when we filed our case (in District Court in Washington, D.C.) in July 2002,” Edmonds says. “Another judge was assigned to it, then, mysteriously and with no reason, it was transferred to another judge, and then again, a few weeks later, it was transferred to Walton.

“Walton is now assigned to my (new) case, … another random one.”

So Judge Walton seems to be in a critical role in serving as the point man in the federal judicial system for two explosive cases — the Edmonds civil case and Libby’s criminal case — both of which have vast implications for the White House and for the country in general.

So shouldn’t we know who’s buttering Walton’s bread in terms of financial backing? Why have ethics rules mandating such disclosures, if the information is not disclosed in cases, such as these, where the stakes are so high?

Well, it seems, at least according to the only document that Judicial Watch could shake loose in its public-records quest, that Walton doesn’t think so. His financial disclosure statement, the one released for public inspection through Judicial Watch, is completely redacted, every line of it.

Take a look here for yourself.

Now, ask yourself, why would that be, and what might lurk in the shadows of Judge Walton’s fiscal closet? If there nothing to hide, then there is nothing to lose by shedding some light on the retractions, is there?

But let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s probably all fine -- just a safety precaution, as the following excerpt from a 2004 Government Accountability Office report explains:

"The Ethics in Government Act requires judges and other federal officials to file financial disclosure reports as a check on conflicts of interest. However, given potential security risks to federal judges, Congress authorized redactions of information that could endanger them. This redaction authority is set to expire at the end of 2005."
That has to be why the big boys in the media have ignored this issue to date, right? After all, there are some things that take precedence over national security and the outing of covert CIA operatives.

If not, and these redactions do not, in reality, protect Judge Walton's security, but rather only his dignity, then we have to wonder why our fearless media leaders have been content to graze on other appetizers.

But not to fear, I'm sure if there is cause for alarm, we'll hear the media-pundit elephants charging through the fields toward this alfalfa patch soon.

In the mean time, let’s keep this whole messy topic between you and me, for now. We wouldn’t want to stir up any disharmony inside the Washington press-corps insiders’ circuit. They’ve got future cocktail parties to attend….

November 18, 2005

I Want My America Back Too

As if providing more grist for the mill weren't bad enough...

By James Moore

As congress busied itself last night with cutting programs to the poor to pay for more war and Bush tax benefits for the wealthy, I found myself thinking yet again about the America where I grew up. In spite of our differences in years, our current president and I were coming of age in a nation thriving with prosperity and optimism.

Mr. Bush's father went out to West Texas with a $500,000 grubstake in his pocket from his father the US senator and built and oil company. My dad, home from the same war, had failed miserably trying to grow cotton on someone else's farm in the Mississippi River bottomland in Arkansas. He gave up and went north to the car factories of Michigan. My mother, who was an immigrant, thought that marrying the handsome American in the uniform meant she was bound for Dixie and a life of sipping mint tea on a veranda. Most of what she knew about America had come from the movie "Gone With the Wind." Instead, she found herself crowded into a shack with her in-laws and she spent nights staring at the southern moon passing between the wall and ceiling slats.

A big man, daddy quickly got a job on an assembly line in Flint, Michigan lifting bumpers out of a metal press and stacking them on wooden pallets. Although she already had three children, Ma went to work as a waitress at one of the short order restaurants surrounding the automobile manufacturing complexes. Their tenth and eighth grade educations did not provide them with much more potential. They worked until they could not stand. Eventually, the needs of their six children for food, health care, clothes, and an education far outstripped their ability to provide. Things got worse when daddy endured several years of hospitalization. Ma, though, never gave up in those years and continued carrying hamburgers and open-faced sandwiches to the tables of laborers who left her nickel tips to supplement her $60 a week paycheck.

Fortunately, I was living in an America that realized there might be as much potential in my future as there existed in the son of the oilman out in the desert of West Texas. My country, my government, filled in the spaces that were left empty when my parents' efforts fell short. While George W. was honing his irresponsibility in West Texas in advance of leaving for prep school in the east, my brother and sisters and I were turning to the government to get us food, education, and health care. It's not what my parents wanted; nor did we. We were ashamed. But had no choice. Eventually, though, I got to attend a university because my country offered Basic Educational Opportunity Grants and National Defense Student Loans to those who qualified. And not a minute of any day passes where I am not thankful for where I was born and the fellow citizens of my country who gave me such an opportunity. The fact that I ended up being the author of books and journalism critical of a president trying to take away similar programs from a new generation also seems to me somehow distinctly American.

Last night, 220,000 people were cut from the Food Stamp program. And Democrats considered that an accomplishment. States will now be asked to seek co-payments from Medicaid beneficiaries to supplement a shortfall of federal funding, and congress wants to cut funding for state programs aimed at child support enforcement. No one even seemed particularly disturbed when they debated taking 40,000 children off of the student lunch program at the same time their parents were being dropped from Food Stamp rolls.

The context for all of this goes unnoticed. While we hand out no-bid contracts to Halliburton for billions of dollars we are trimming the budget in the Spaghetti-Os of impoverished children. Food Stamp recipients are being forced to pay for the president's latest $50 billion in tax cuts. Medicaid patients have no choice over a co-pay that will help our president and our congress pay for the current war without end. One estimate I read indicated that the first round of funding for the Iraqi invasion, which was $84 billion dollars, was enough to pay for full health care for every man, woman, and child in America for one year; no deductions, no co-pays. We are not just wasting lives in those ancient deserts.

Capitalism is not a perfect system. Effort does not always produce results. Some of us fail, regardless of how hard we try. The question for our country is whether we ignore the people who have fallen into the ditch or do we stop and give them a hand. And do we turn our backs on their children even though they had nothing to do with the circumstances in which they find themselves? And what do we lose if we walk away from them? There is no way to measure unlived lives or unrealized potential.

I want my America back.

Me too James. Me too.