The Toilet Bowl

Don’t get me wrong. I sit glued to the TV during the end-of-the-year orgy known as the Bowl Season. I have yet to learn how to watch more than one game at a time, however, try as I might. But, let’s get serious: 35 bowl games in about two weeks is enough to make the head spin and the stomach turn over even if one weren’t gorging himself on chips and warm beer. The bowl games are now appropriately named after their corporate sponsors  and I am waiting for the Kohler/American Standard/Eljer Toilet Bowl to be announced soon. That one I want to watch!

But the “Bowl Season” is a symptom of something terribly wrong. The big-time collegiate athletic picture in this country smacks of greed, hypocrisy, and dishonesty. I say that as a devoted game-watcher and former small-time collegiate coach. Seriously folks, what on earth does this have to do with educating young minds? Answer: nothing whatever; it’s about fielding a competitive team in basketball of football, keeping the alums happy and the undergrads diverted so they don’t realize that their money is being squandered on what their parents mistakenly think is a four-year degree that will give their kids upward mobility. Bollocks! It’s all about having fun and getting into a bowl game — even if your team is 6 and 6. It makes no difference. The point is to get on TV and see your school’s name on ESPN.There’s money to be made, so don’t let education get in the way. Money for some, at any rate. But it isn’t money that improves the quality of education.

All of which simply confirms Curtler’s Law, which states that the quality of education at a Division I school varies inversely with the success of the football program. And I must add that as a Northwestern alum I worry that they are winning football games of late. In the end it’s not about education: it’s about success on the field. If the money that is now pumped into Division I athletics, especially basketball and football, were spent on academic scholarships think of the dividends it would pay. But that’s not going to happen because the temptation to sell the university’s soul for big bucks has been too much for several hundred universities around the country, very few of whom will ever see the money roll in. Just think of poor little cousins trying to keep up — like South Dakota State University.

Things are already rotten in the state of academia all over the country, at every level.  In the typical American college or university, for example, curriculum is incoherent and priorities are skewed; the students themselves, pumped up by an unwarranted sense of entitlement and ill-prepared for study, are busy planning the weekend’s next party. But at the Division I level it’s even worse: faculty are caught up in the publish-or-perish frenzy that directs their attention away from their students; classes are crowded, and students must sit in auditoriums while being taught by graduate assistants who have their own agendas and are therefore unwilling to push the students to do their best. These problems are compounded by the sports mania. What the large, Division I universities do not need is the distraction of big-time football and the diverting of monies and attention away from what is of central importance to any college or university. In the end, the student is the victim. But never mind. If we are lucky maybe next year we will make it to the Toilet Bowl.

res publica and Republicans

Years ago, before the Flood, I reviewed a book written by the Ripon Society. It led me to do some research about that group since the book was well written and struck a comfortable balance between political conservatism and “bleeding heart” liberalism. I confess I find the political middle ground more firm than the ground at either extreme. At the time I wrote the review the society embraced moderate Republicanism. I discovered some interesting things about the group, including the fact that it was the first major Republican organization to support passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, it called for the normalization of relations with China, and the abolition of the military draft.

That was then. That was when the Republican party traced its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson who traced his roots back to Cicero and the republican ideal of the “public thing,” the res publica. The founders all had read their Cicero in Latin, of course, and they tended to idealize the Roman Republic of Cicero’s days when individuals were admonished to put the common good ahead of their own in the name of “public virtue.” It was the ideal Augustine had in mind when he established his monastery which became the model for similar Christian communities throughout Europe: committed to the common good, seeking to control man’s natural wish to put self ahead of the good of all.

But, as I say, that was then: the days of Jefferson, and later Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Today the Republican party is the party of Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, the spiritually certain, Fox News, and the corporations that want to squash the common good in the name of increased profits. And the Ripon Society seems to be leaning precariously to the right these days. It is difficult to see any connection whatever between today’s grasping and greedy Republican party that would trash social and environmental programs in the name of saving a few tax dollars and the Roman ideal. The idea of the common good has disappeared behind a stinking cloud of greed and self-interest, the very thing Cicero tried so hard to prevent. And yet these people claim to be “Republicans.”

The Republican party is not alone in its preoccupation with greed and self-interest, of course. Both parties are in the pockets of the corporations and tend to ignore the commonwealth as they push their own agendas — whatever those might be. But on balance, the Democratic party tends to care about people above profits — as a general rule — even as it seeks to solve all problems by throwing money at them. So for all its shortcomings, the Democratic party does seem more concerned about the common good, more concerned about the welfare of others and the survival of the planet. However, the more adept members of this party become at playing the political game (and they seem to be learning quickly) the farther they will remove themselves from Cicero’s ideal of the res publica, the public thing, the commonwealth. If that ideal is to mean anything again it will require a third party that remains disconnected from corporate wealth and special interests. Don’t hold your breath.

Taking On Big Oil

I am just ornery enough to think if Lisa Jackson pissed off the dirty energy industry she must have been doing a terrific job as director of the EPA. However, she will be stepping down after four years of scrutiny, second guessing, and downright nastiness from people like the Koch brothers surrounding her attempts to put teeth into environmental protection. As a recent Yahoo news story tells us:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The past four years of U.S. environmental regulation was marked by a crackdown on emissions that angered coal miners and power companies. Over the next four, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will have to decide whether to take on an even larger industry: Big Oil.

Following Lisa Jackson’s resignation on Wednesday, her successor will inherit the tricky task of regulating a drilling boom that has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over the possible contamination of water supplies.

The battle between the dirty energy industry and environmentalists has been going on for years and centers around the untenable dichotomy: either jobs or the environment. One gets tired of pointing out that we can protect the environment while at the same time we create jobs. But, while true, the statement falls on deaf ears, since when Big Oil says “jobs” it means “profits.” It is clear, however, that clean energy can provide thousands of jobs. It already does. Despite the lack of any solid support from the government, the solar industry, for example, already provides more jobs than the coal industry.

But Big Oil has poured billions into fracking in an attempt to extract cheap oil and gas from underground. It has a vested interest in continuing to exploit the earth and those jobs assuredly are at stake. The problem is that the fracking process contaminates millions of gallons of water — which is going to become increasingly precious — thereby rendering it useless for human or animal consumption. Jackson has said in public that the process can be made safe, but studies now underway will prove whether she was just saying what she was coached to say. In any event, Big Oil has put the screws on Jackson and waits to see who President Obama will nominate for the position she vacates to take a well-earned vacation.

Speculation is that Obama will be reluctant to nominate an environmental “hard-liner” because of the precarious condition of the economy and the fact that the energy industry is one of the few bright lights on the economic horizon, and oil is one of the few bargaining chips this country has to play in the international game of survival poker. But Jackson’s experience has shown that even a strong person may wilt under the constant attacks of the monied special interests who pull the strings in Washington. Compromise is possible if the person heading the EPA is tough enough to stand up to Big Oil with its bottomless pockets. A weak person in that position will almost certainly prove to be ineffective — and that  is something future generations will live to regret. This may prove to be another example of short-term thinking directing political decisions; money provides the fuel. It’s getting to be a tiresome story.

Best Of Intentions

The latest piece of unsettling news going around involves the publication by the Journal News of the names and addresses of people with registered weapons in several New York cities. Publisher Janet Hasson took the step in order to inform her readers of the whereabouts of deadly weapons so they could be better informed about the dangers that lurk around them. Needless to say, the crazies went crazy. Her publication was inundated by angry letters from readers who felt their tender underbellies were being exposed: “does she think I’m a sex offender?” asked one ex-marine. You don’t want to get people with guns riled up, Janet. To paraphrase: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups….[with guns].” Publishing the names and addresses of those who own weapons may be unnecessary in the end, since in this society we are at the point where it is wise to assume that everyone has at least one.

In any event, a retaliatory strike by a Connecticut lawyer involved a Google earth photo of the publisher’s house that was posted on the web so the angry writers could take the next step and — what? retaliate? shoot her? What was he thinking? And a blogger posted personal information about the Journal’s staff, wishing Janet and her staff a “great Christmas eve” as he did so. One wonders what this country is coming to. Janet Hasson’s motivation was to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act in order to make information available in order to allow people to protect themselves. The original motivation that lead to the decision to make information public was the loftiest possible. As something called “TechCrunch” tells us:

Ironically, the promise of open data was supposed to lead to open-minded discussion. “If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects,” reads the often-cited quote from Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who stands a champion to modern-day nonprofits fighting for greater access to health, legislative, and administrative government data.

And that’s the point: a judicial decision that was supposed to “purify” human actions by fostering better communication among people has become an avenue for angry people to engage in ugly behavior — even at Christmas time as the tiny bodies of children killed by a demented young man were being laid to rest.  But whether or not Janet Hasson was right to take the step she took — and that might make an interesting debate — she certainly didn’t deserve the treatment she and her staff received from angry people who were clearly over-reacting. She obviously struck a nerve. Is it possible we don’t know how to react any more, we only know how to over-react?

My blog buddy recently posted a blog suggesting that certain people in this society might need to be exported. I have started a list and would like to add a certain Connecticut lawyer and a blogger (not my buddy) who should have known better. The question is where on earth these people would go. Who would want them? In the meantime I will try to remind myself that there are a great many good people out there doing good things that never make the news. But as the population expands not only does the number of good people grow (we would hope) but also the number of nutters who garner all the attention.

Pity the Farmers

In reading the NRDC publication “onearth” recently I was steered to an online essay by Ted Genoways about the plight of the small farmer. As one who lives in the farming belt in Southwest Minnesota and who knows how the small farmers struggle against the unfair competition provided by the giant corporations, I found this article of special interest. As you travel in this area you see the sad, abandoned farm houses and countless groves being bulldozed to make room for more plowed fields and bigger yields — all signs of the corporations at work.

With the current drought that affects 65% of the farmland in this country predicted to continue, one wonders if the small farmers can survive. Indeed, one wonders if there will be food enough to feed a burgeoning world population. As the Sierra magazine reported recently two-thirds of the U.S. Wheat crop has been impaired by drought and U.S. corn and soybean production has fallen below consumption levels for the first time in 38 years. Further, “Drought will cut world wheat stocks by 13 percent in 2013. . .The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warns that low grain stores this year leave ‘no room for unexpected events.'”

And yet the corporate farmers in this country are making record profits, thanks to government subsidies as Genoways explains:

. . . Of the $277.3 billion allocated for farm subsidies from the expansion of the program in 1995 until last year, roughly 75 percent of the money went to the top 10 percent of farmers. If you expand to look at the top 20 percent of farms, nearly 90 percent of the allocations are accounted for. In real dollars, that means that the average corporate farm receives more than $31,000 per year, while the average small farm receives less than $600, in a typical year. And nearly two-thirds of American farmers collect no subsidies at all. In years of crop failure, Big Ag actually makes out even better, because of the way the subsidies are calculated. Indeed, if trends from past years hold true for 2012, the top 20 percent of recipients will garner an average of more than $45,000 from the government, compared to less than $1,000 for the remaining 80 percent.

So programs designed to save family farms are, instead, helping big business out-compete them, and eventually gobble them up, all while using their dollars and political clout to push for larger subsidies and more protection — big beef and pork producers are currently trying to get into the act — as agribusiness lobbyists in Washington cloak their efforts in the guise of defending small farmers.

So while the small farmers struggle and see their farms being swallowed up by the corporations the rest of us ponder a future with diminishing food supplies as the globe continues to heat up, droughts continue to reduce farm production, and Big Ag goes to Washington to make sure the subsidies continue. Surely, this is a formula for disaster.

Given the present state of the economy the government may not be able to bail out the corporate farmers much longer. But more to the point, not even the large corporations will be able to produce food on the scale required to feed growing numbers of hungry people if the drought continues as predicted. In addition to the greed and short-term thinking that motivates the corporations, we must add the undeniable fact that climate change will soon affect our lives in ways it is difficult to imagine, as a recent story on Yahoo News pointed out:

“What we’re going to experience is unprecedented in human history in terms of the type of climate we’re creating for ourselves,” Hanemann tells The Daily Ticker. “The rate of warming has increased maybe five times what it was in the early part of the 20th century. The earth is getting warmer faster.”

Meanwhile Congress continues to hand out subsidies to Big Ag and repay favors to fat-cat contributors while it ignores climate change, threatens to cut social programs for the needy, and gropes about blindly in the Wonderland caucus race we call party politics. Something has to give.

Knee Jerks

It was interesting to read the comments made by several conservative politicians after the shootings in Newtown insisting that we should avoid “knee jerk” reactions to the terrible events of that day — (trans: don’t pass anti-gun legislation). These comments were in line with the NRA hardliners who fear that there might actually be tougher restrictions about buying automatic weapons and hand guns after the latest terrible shooting event. The NRA, of course, has a vested interest in fighting off the restrictions since it is funded in large measure by the people who make the guns. (That seldom gets mentioned, strange to say — even though we are told repeatedly that the media lean precariously to the left.)

It’s not as though the shootings in Newtown are an isolated incident in this country, though. In fact, America has nearly twenty times the number of mass shootings as any other “developed” country in the world. There have been 31 school shootings in this country since Columbine in 1999 — mostly in high schools. But the Newtown shooting targeted very young children and this seems to have finally soaked into the brains of many who like to waive the second amendment in the faces of those who would cry “enough”! Many, but not all.

Reportedly gun sales were off the charts right after the shootings in Newtown when people rushed to stores like Walmart to buy weapons and gobs of ammunition — as we are told in this story in The Los Angles Times:

Calls for stricter weapons laws after the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school have gun enthusiasts scrambling to buy firearms before they’re restricted or banned outright.

Brownells Inc., which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools, said it has sold 3 1/2 years worth of ammunition magazines in three days.

It’s quite possible that those sales resulted not from opportunism but from the fear running through the population as part of the aftershock from  the latest in a series of mass killings that seems finally to have gotten the attention even of the Congress — several members have come out against the continued sales of weapons that are not legal for hunting. A couple of those who spoke out are card-carrying members of the NRA! I dare say their membership will be revoked: members really aren’t allowed to make public comments suggesting that the purchase of automatic weapons may be an incredibly stupid idea.

I tend to lean toward the second explanation of the spike in the sale of guns and ammunition: I think it is fear. This is not the first time that fear has proven to be a powerful motivator. Conservative politicians like Newt Gingrich have used it as an effective motivator for years. And the liberal political fund-raisers are starting to use it as well. It works! In this case it may have resulted in another “knee-jerk” reaction, namely, the rush to buy automatic weapons — presumably to defend oneself against all the other maniacs out there who have rushed out to buy automatic weapons. It really is madness multiplied.

Speaking of knee jerks, it is heartening to read that Smith and Wesson’s stocks recently plummeted in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown. Apparently investors see the handwriting on the wall: there may be tougher restrictions after all. We can only hope. But if there are tougher restrictions against the purchase of automatic weapons, hand guns, and/or ammunition clips that hold more than ten bullets that will be a very good thing — as long as the restrictions are accompanied by a buy-back of some (if not all) of the weapons already out there, not to mention the 3 1/2 year supply of ammunition that was sold three days. (It does boggle the mind.)

But after the dust settles, we really need to address the larger question: why is this culture so in love with violence? and why do we think that violence is the best way to address our problems — as individuals and as a nation?

Holiday Greetings!

This is the time of the year when we should not be opening presents; we should be opening our hearts. It’s a time for love and for hope. So let’s hope the violence and hatred that seem to define this country and large parts of the world are quelled and that people begin to realize that we are in this thing together, clinging to a planet that is under attack from human greed and self-interest, spinning in the infinitude of space — our only home. We owe it to our kids and their kids to take care of it and to listen to what others have to say while we put ourselves second to the well-being of the planet and all who share its dwindling resources.

Happy Holidays to my fellow-bloggers and the readers of this blog whose comments are always appreciated.

Commercial Messages

I must confess I don’t watch much commercial television — except for a couple of sit-coms and sports (all manner of sports). And when the commercials come on I usually mute the television so I don’t have to listen to them. But the message still comes through loud and clear: they are designed to sell the product by appeal to such cravings as sex and power, though some use the avenue of humor which I applaud. (I do listen to the E-Trade babies which are terribly clever.) And I note that a great many commercials are peopled by young, beautiful, thin folks laughing and having fun at what appears to be a non-stop party. But most commercials resort to “in your face” tactics that are designed to get the message through in spite of whatever defenses you might throw up. Even the mute won’t help.

Years ago commercial messages were designed to simply inform potential buyers of a product’s desirable qualities so the buyer could make an informed choice. At some point, early in the last century it was discovered that the commercial message could also be used as a device to sell the product, thereby killing two birds with one stone as the salesman becomes redundant. And once that seed was planted it grew like a weed when television came on the scene; we now get 10 minutes of commercials in every 30 minutes of TV programming. And increasing numbers of those minutes are taken up by messages selling violence, such as those promoting Xbox games and shoot-em-up movies — ignoring for the moment the highlights on ESPN. One must consider the hidden message behind so much of what we watch on television — in a culture that wonders why we have such an affinity for violence. But there are other messages as well.

I will skip the Cialis and Viagra commercials that frequent the airways, especially on the Golf channel curiously enough, because they are simply in poor taste. But good taste is a concern that went out with hoop skirts. I will also resist the temptation to list the plethora of commercials that play into our cultural narcissism. Instead, let’s turn our attention to a commercial that has been on a good deal during this Christmas season when the car manufacturers want us to believe that a car would make a good Christmas present for our loved ones — “Just what I wanted,” as the Hyundai commercial would have it. (And, by the way, you can buy your loved one’s love by giving her jewelry if you can’t afford the car. It must be true, I saw it on television.)

In a Buick commercial that I find particularly offensive, a young man has just given his girlfriend/wife a brand new small car with a giant red ribbon on it. She is ecstatic and is giving him a huge thank-you hug when a new Buick drives by and catches her eye — and her affection. She looks longingly at the car, drawing his attention in that direction as well. Once the car has passed, he looks back at his partner, shows her the keys to her new car and tries to hug her again to recapture the moment. It is futile as she looks off into the distance and clearly wishes the car he gave her was the Buick instead of that thing.

There are at least three subtle messages coming through in this commercial: (1) buy a Buick if you want to win over your partner, (2) any gift recipient is sure to be disappointed and even to withdraw his/her love if you don’t spend lots of money buying them an expensive present, and (3) it’s perfectly OK to hurt someone’s feelings. Feelings don’t matter, things matter. It’s the latter message that really burns in my belly. Whatever happened to the notion that “it’s the thought that counts”?

It’s bad enough that we have turned Christmas into a commercial enterprise, but it’s deeply disturbing to send messages that other people’s feelings don’t matter, bigger is better, and it’s all about how much you spend that makes the present worth having. To see what Christmas is all about, check this out. Christmas isn’t about presents at all, and it is certainly not about expensive presents. And feelings do matter; they matter a great deal.

But the advertising agencies have learned that if you show people what the “good life” is all about they will want it and even go deep into debt to buy it — and it is for sale. They have also discovered that if you tell people something often enough they will believe it no matter how absurd it is — just ask the politicians.

Huh?

Rumor has it that as part of the shake-up of football conferences in this country Boise State University in Idaho will leave the Mountain West Conference to join the Big East Conference. That’s right, the Big East. It may not happen because the Mountain West Conference recently worked a deal with CBS to sweeten the pot to make staying in the conference worthwhile for those teams thinking about departing. But the very idea of Boise State joining the Big East Conference makes about as much sense as big-time football does in American Universities — which is to say no sense at all.

Assuming the university will have to charter a plane — or two — to carry the entire football team, the coaches, the band, and the cheerleaders, the cost in dollars alone raises the question: what are these people thinking? The financial rewards of making the change must be considerable, since the motivation that is driving universities around the country to leave the conferences they are in to join others is clearly money. And to paraphrase Lord Acton: money corrupts and lots of money corrupts a lot.

The University of Maryland has been chastised recently for choosing to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference to join the Big Ten, which will consist of fourteen schools soon. (That makes sense, no?) Maryland will pay millions of dollars in penalties for leaving their current conference at a time when they are crying poor and cutting “non-revenue” sports, but the rewards from joining the Big Ten which has its own television network are considerable. In addition, the Big Ten frequently sends as many as six or seven teams to bowl games every year which bring in the big bucks, and those bucks are shared among the member universities. So it is all about money.

But, assuming it ever happens, the cost of a school like Boise State flying to the East Coast and back six or seven times a year to play football cannot be reduced to dollars and cents: it’s about the cost to the environment as well. On average, jet planes burn 45-50 gallons of jet fuel per minute while in flight — and we won’t talk about take-off, landing, and time on the runway. The flying time from Boise, Idaho to, say, Boston is just over 4 hours, which means one plane would burn up about 12,000 gallons of fuel in flight (one way). As a referenced article in Wikipedia tells us: “The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2% However, in the case of high-altitude airliners which frequently fly near or in the stratosphere, non-CO2 altitude-sensitive effects may increase the total impact on anthropogenic (human-made) climate change significantly.”   In a word, those flights will cost us all in the end.

One would think that this should be a consideration in the minds of university officials whose main job is presumably to educate young minds. But, of course, that isn’t their job. It’s all about money. Not climate change, Not education. Money. Athletics at the NCAA Division I level is Big Business.

I have vented before a number of times in my blogs and even written an essay or two about the “tail that wags the dog” — to wit, Division I athletics. The tail has grown longer. It is no longer possible to pretend that athletics at that level has anything whatever to do with education — or even about setting a good example. I confess I do love to watch college football just as I like to watch anyone do anything they happen to be good at. But I am not foolish enough to think that Division I football has anything to do with education about which I care deeply. So my suggestion has been to pay the athletes money to play football and let the ones who want to get an education do so. They can pay for it just as the other students do. The football teams at Division I schools would be, in effect, semi-professional sports teams wearing school colors. It would be more honest and we wouldn’t have to pretend that things are not what they are.

But it wouldn’t keep greedy idiots from planning to join a conference 3000 miles away in order to make more money. That problem may be insoluble.

Waiting For Plan C

As the country lurches toward the fiscal cliff an army of Tea Party supporters has been on the phones putting pressure on Republican representatives to reject House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” which was supposed to help stave off the inevitable. Bear in mind that Plan B would have, in effect, involved raising taxes on people making over $1 million and that was considered unacceptable by the Tea Party faithful. They think they can save the economy by raising taxes not on themselves but on the dwindling middle class and cutting programs such as health care and food stamps — but NOT “defense” (which is a sacred cow). Their plan is absurd, but this doesn’t deter them in the least.

One of the more disturbing facets of the fight to avoid the fiscal cliff is the amount of pressure Tea Party groups can put on the Congress. Clearly, this group is made up of the 20% of those in this country who control 93% of the wealth. As a story in HuffPost noted recently, referring to the Club for Growth, a powerful Tea Party affiliate:

“Members of Congress know we’re not afraid to get involved in a primary,” Club for Growth’s communications director, Barney Keller, told HuffPost on Thursday night. “Members know that the first thing we do is look to our scorecard, and decide who is a pro-growth vote and who isn’t. And we felt that to vote in favor [of Boehner’s plan] would be to vote for a tax increase, and against economic growth”

Talk about arrogant: if you want to keep your job you will play ball with us. And why wouldn’t the members of Congress want to “play ball”? Where else could they make the kind of money they make for doing little or nothing and voting themselves pay raises whenever they feel like it? It’s the gravy train and they want to stay on it. They are indeed single-minded in their determination to remain in office. You can’t really blame them. As HuffPost noted:

Keller was unapologetic about Club for Growth’s impact on congressional races. “The number one thing people in Congress fear is losing their jobs,” he said. “So we don’t lobby members, we help educate them. And if you look at the rising stars of the [Republican] party, it’s a lot of people who were supported by” Club for Growth.

Why do I get the feeling as I read this that the man is smirking? In any event, the notion that we can work out of the economic mess we are in by raising taxes on the dwindling middle classes and protecting the wealthy — that this will promote “economic growth” — borders on delusion. It can’t be done. To be sure, some programs will have to be cut, including (one would hope) defense spending. But the wealthy who pay very little of their income in taxes must start to pay their share or matters will continue to worsen. One does wonder if they really care.

The wealthy on average pay somewhere around 35% of their income in taxes — though exact figures are hard to come by in light of all the loopholes in the tax laws and the ways the rich have found to hide and protect their wealth. Mitt Romney, for example, was reported to have paid a mere 14% last year in income taxes on a very large income. But when we think that this country was at its most prosperous just after the two World Wars when the wealthy were paying a large portion of their income in taxes — as high as 91% in 1946! — the unwillingness of the wealthy to pay the piddling amount they are being asked to pay, even with Boehner’s anemic plan, tells us more than we want to know about their commitment to the growth of this economy.

Even if the wealthy were asked to pay as much as 70% of their income, they would still retain $300,000 on an income of $1 million. You could somehow manage to feed your family on that amount, and the wealthy make considerably more than $1 million a year. Stare at the flag and put your hand to your heart, but heaven forbid that you part with some of your money to help out your country. This is “patriotism” spelled  f-u-c-k-y-o-u. It stinks.