Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Confederacy of Dunces

I'm not sure what to make of the Republican Party these days. In the latest Presidential poll, Michele Bachman is in a statistical dead heat with Mitt Romney. Now Romney has been known for at least four years as the man who will change his position on any issue to best reflect the views of whichever constituency he is trying to appeal to at that time. His flip-flops make John Kerry ("I was for the war before I was against it") look like a statue of rectitude. Remember, Romney was the man who brought healthcare reform to Massachusetts, before he decided that almost the same plan is terrible for the country. He was pro-choice before he was pro-life. And the list goes on. Meanwhile, Bachmann is the gift that keeps on giving to comedians nationwide.Ssomeone needs to install a switch somewhere in her brain that prevents her every thought from reaching her tongue. As Keith Olbermann put it, "that woman is an idiot." What does it say about the Republicans that these two candidates are currently leading in both the Iowa and national polls?

In the meantime, we have the tea party folks who keep chanting something to the effect of we must take America back. My question is, "from who?" I should think they would want to take it back from the corporate oligarchy that is strangling the middle class and our republic even as we speak. That doesn't seem to be the case though. We have Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, a justice so morally deficient that he doesn't even try to hide his conflicts of interest on cases he is charged with deciding -- and I can tell you everytime which side of the case he will choose, without my having to bother reading the briefs. Justices Alito, Scalia and Roberts are not much better, and Justice Kennedy continues to disappoint with almost every decision since he represents the deciding voice on almost every case. I'm not speaking here of the "social" cases -- although abortion is surely going to fall this way as well. I'm speaking more of the financial cases -- with this court, whatever corporate America wants, corporate America gets.

Next let's look at those twin stalwarts of the Republican Party in the Congress, Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor. Turns out that on close inspection each stands to benefit from screwing the rest of us. If Ryan's budget somehow were to pass, then Congressman Ryan will make a small fortune by privatizing Medicare. If the U.S. defaults on its debt by not raising the debt ceiling, then Cantor will make wheelbarrows full of money. See, he's been betting AGAINST treasury bonds. It's no wonder he decided to walk out on the debt ceiling talks last week. The chutzpah these guys show knows no bounds.

I could go on this way for some time -- but to be quite frank, thinking about the modern Republican Party and the disastrous effect it is having on the country I so proudly served is giving me a massive headache.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Steve Ellman, Entrepreneur

The following is taken directly from Steve Ellman's website:

"Steven Ellman has been Chairman and CEO of The Ellman Companies since the company's formation in 1972. The group today consists of more than 88 privately held companies.

Ellman has been designated by the Phoenix Business Journal as the number one commercial real estate developer in Phoenix four times since 1998.

Ellman's flagship Westgate City a super-regional mixed-use urban development...

Upon completion, Westgate will include up to 8 million square feet of retail, restaurants, entertainment, office, residential and five hotels...and is expected to attract 26 million annual visitors..."

This only confirms my long held belief that you can write anything you want, no matter how unlikely, and someone somewhere will treat it as the Gospel and base their entire future around it.

In this case, the someone is the mayor of Glendale, Elaine Scruggs and her cohorts on the Glendale City Council. They made the choice
more than a decade ago to get in bed with Ellman and Westgate. At that time he was also part owner of the Coyotes, who were looking to move out of downtown Phoenix. And in the fever dreams of the Big Time that kept Scruggs awake nights it all seemed so easy: the Cardinals' Stadium surrounded by the promised Bidwill commercial development, the ( Arena for the Coyotes, and Westgate too!! "Take that Phoenix! Take that Scottsdale!! We'll show them! Someday it'll be Governor Scruggs or even Senator Scruggs!"

Unfortunately, as the song says "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Even "Big" plans. Turns out the Bidwill's couldn't develop a cold in a snowstorm, the Coyotes cost Ellman's one time partner Jerry Moyes (the one with the money) more than $300 million before he finally cried "uncle!", and now, as the cherry on top, Westgate is in foreclosure.

That's right, the cornerstone project of the Ellman companies, the crown jewel, the real estate engine behind all of Elaine Scruggs' plans and promises to the citizens of Glendale for the past decade, is being taken over by the banks. And the tax payers of Glendale have to hope that some white knight rides into town to save it--and them. Just like in the fairy tales...

I'm not sure what to make of Steve Ellman, Entrepreneur. The Latin phrase Caveat Emptor immediately come to mind. Also PT Barnum's
words of wisdom about suckers and the frequency of their births. Then again maybe Steverino has just had a run of bad luck...

However I am sure about one thing: there ought to be a law that makes it a crime for snake oil salesmen to take advantage of simpletons.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Forgetting the Past

This post is about Afghanistan. I was going to call it The Graveyard of Empires, but then I read an article in some foreign policy mag that claimed at great and learned length that that was an incorrect description of Afghanistan and I got really confused.

Which is only fitting, because confusion seems to be at the core of what we are dealing with.

What we have here is a primitive, incredibly poor, collection of tribes and loosely affiliated factions, masquerading as a country. A country that just happens to be strategically located and sitting on a fortune of minerals. A fortune that they do not have the wherewithal to exploit. And as the history of the world shows, if you cannot exploit, then you will be exploited. For the most part the Afghan people are illiterate or uneducated and shackled by religion and age old customs. How you change that in a couple of years is beyond me.

President Obama is a highly intelligent man, but one lesson American Presidents never seem to learn and retain, no matter how smart they are, is that it is much easier to get into a war than it is to get out of a war. Especially when there is no clearly defined goal. Osama Bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda has metastasized. So what do we want now? A stable, let alone democratic Afghanistan? I'm not sure any of us will live to see that. Certainly not as long as the Pashtun region remains untamed. And pacifying the Pashtun without the complete cooperation of Pakistan is impossible. As we have seen, "Pakistani cooperation" is a sometimes thing, indeed almost an oxymoron.

The fact is that Afghanistan will only enter the 21st Century when the majority of its people want to enter the 21st Century. Until then, you can keep as many troops there as you like, spend a king's ransom, and all you'll end up with is a handful of sand. And a bigger graveyard.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Here's a thought: if the typical American male put the same amount of effort into thinking (and arguing) about government policy as he does thinking (and arguing) about who his favorite NBA team should draft, the country would be a much better place. For the last few days the passion displayed over who should or shouldn't draft Jimmer Fredette (or whomever) has been astonishing. You'd think something really important was being decided...And if anything it's even worse for the NFL draft. Thousands of hours of in-depth analysis and for what? A game.

Bread and circuses was how the Roman Emperors kept the masses pacified. Now it's sports and TV, but the effect is roughly the same...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

R.I.P. Clarence

I thought I would post this in honor of the Big Man. "Jungleland" featuring the greatest sax solo in rock and roll history. This one was from a legendary E Street Band show, September 21, 1978 at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J. The show was broadcast live on the radio and the (probably apocryphal) story says that you could walk across the length and breadth of the Rutgers University campus and not miss a note as every student there had it on the radio at full volume with their windows open. Anyhow, here it is -- and pay special attention to the sax solo starting at about the 4:00 mark.

I'm very depressed....

First, I'm still mourning the passing of the Big Man. I still remember vividly the first time I saw Bruce and Clarence on stage together and the absolute joy they brought to the music. The E Street Band will never be the same again. I believe Bruce will still tour, but there is no way that the magic and the majesty of the Big Man can ever be replaced.

Second, today is my birthday and I'm now officially a senior citizen. THAT is depressing, as I have all the maturity of a 17-year old. Unemployed and 55 -- not a good combination in this economy.

Oh well, things will get better. By the way, my thanks to Mr. Franklin for posting and keeping the blog alive while I've been away from the keyboard. I promise to be a little more involved from now on.....thanks to all of you for your patience.

Broadway Cavalcade

Since the theatre in Phoenix is for the most part either completely awful or regrettably forgettable, Mrs. Franklin and I look forward to our occasional New York sojourns to see something onstage that doesn't appall us--or put us to sleep.

Even in the worst of times, Broadway always has something interesting. I fondly remember, 20 some years ago, visiting the Mission Man as he was clawing his way up the Manhattan corporate ladder. The Big Apple was at that time suffering through the nadir of the Koch years. There was graffiti and garbage everywhere and the subway caught fire my first night in town. But even surrounded by the chaos of what seemed at that time to be the death knell of the city we were still able to see Peter O'Toole and Amanda Plummer in Pygmalion, a solid production of The Common Pursuit, and Shakespeare in the Park. (It was one of the comedies and all of the comedies tend to blur together for me.) Not bad for a long weekend.

This trip we crammed 5 shows into 6 nights. If I may quote the opening line of Under Milkwood, "to begin at the beginning..."

The Mother#$&*er With The Hat: this has been called the best new American play in memory, which is more indicative of the overall quality of new American plays than anything else. Chris Rock makes his Broadway debut, which is the primary reason we went to see it. He is most convincing in the parts that play to his strength as a standup comic, less so elsewhere. The rest of the cast is highly competent, but what you ultimately get is 90 minutes of dysfunctional, addicted people throwing obscenities at each other in a sometimes amusing way. Glad I saw it: Don't ever need to see it again.

Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo: Set during the Iraq war. Robin Williams plays the tiger and he's by far the best thing about the play. Another obscenity filled excursion into the dark side. Lots of blood squibs. Haven't seen that on Broadway before. Ghosts and mutilations, too. Good acting, but still...Glad I saw it: Don't ever need to see it again.

Arcadia: Tom Stoppard is my favorite living playwright and this is one of his best plays. We had seen it many years ago at the Southcoast Rep in California and had very high hopes for this Broadway revival. Too bad they didn't do a better job. (Mrs. Franklin described this production as the work of "milquetoast fucks.") (Yes, that's the way she talks...) Stoppard's work is characterized by long, complex sentences filled with ideas and humor. You have to speak clearly to get things across and loudly enough to reach the back row of the balcony. American actors who haven't been trained as well as their British counterparts sometimes have trouble with this. Throw in the English accent required by the piece and what you get is long stretches of what sounds like unintelligible mumbling. It didn't help matters that the set design featured a high rotunda over the upstage area that gobbled up much of the dialogue when the actors were directly beneath it. Oh well...Still love the play, but probably best to just read it again.

The Book Of Mormon: flat out hysterical and by far the highlight of our trip. Terribly raunchy and blasphemous to boot. Great fun all around. A hugely talented cast of no-longer-unknowns. Mrs. Franklin now insists on playing the CD every morning at breakfast. I suppose the show will offend some folks but, well...some folks are always offended about something. If you get the chance, see it. Twice. (Note: since it won the Tony, they've raised some of the ticket prices by 50%. There's no business like show business...)

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) singing and dancing up a storm. He acquits himself very well. The show is nicely staged with a solid cast and a wonderful set. The problem is what the problem has always been: not many great songs. But it was entertaining and we had two bonus celebrity sightings: Robert Morse, who originated Radcliffe's role 50 years ago (and instantly became the toast of Broadway), was a few rows in front of us to our left and Bono (who, judging from the Spiderman debacle, might have been looking for pointers on how to write a successful Broadway musical) was a few rows in front of us to our right. Morse came in early and sat signing autographs for anyone who asked. Bono rushed in just as the lights went down and rushed out again before the lights went up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Smokey McCain

Senator McCain has announced, without any evidence, that the fires in Eastern Arizona were started by Mexican migrants. Now that's the kind of solid thinking backed by persuasive logic and an astute marshaling of the facts that we've come to expect from the 'ol "Country First" Maverick.

Since, at this point, no one knows who started the fires, it is entirely possible that they were set by illegals. But it is also possible, based on our past experiences, that they were started by a fire fighter looking for work. Or an inexperienced or careless camper. Or an anti-government white supremacist looking to cause trouble. Or maybe just a guy who likes to watch things burn.

The point is, since no one knows, why shoot your mouth off in a way that can only exacerbate the tensions in the state?

There's stupid and then there's ignorant. And of course stupidly ignorant or ignorantly stupid. Take your pick.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

R.I.P. Big Man

Very sad day for the E Street Nation with the passing of Clarence Clemons....

"Now your death is upon us and we'll return your ashes to the earth,

And I know you'll take comfort in knowing you've been roundly blessed and cursed,

But love is a power greater than death, just like the songs and stories told,

And when she built you, brother, she broke the mold."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bow Wow

On the front page of last Sunday's New York Times, there was a story about a guy who paid $230,000 for a guard dog.

Now, I'm sure it's a very nice dog, with papers and all that, and probably can do some wicked cool tricks, too. Maybe even speaks a couple of languages. But $230,000?! Really? I know it's a free country, and a man should be able to spend his dough on whatever he wants, but come on!

(As I recall, the lucky dog's owner made his money running a collection agency...I suppose that's neither here nor there. Just because everybody I ever met who was involved with a collection agency was at heart a miserable, soulless scumbag doesn't mean this guy is too.)

I do believe, however, that if you ever needed concrete proof that extremely wealthy people in this country are A): completely out of touch with reality; and B): not taxed nearly enough, the $230,000 guard dog is it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Noblesse Oblige

When last we saw Prince Phillip, he was all done up in his finest for the latest Royal Wedding of the Century. From the looks of his outfit, apparently they give him a medal every time someone in England farts. Seems like a waste of ribbons and tin to me. Then again, it's not my country and they can do what they want.

The Prince, who turned 90 last week, has been the Queen's consort for more than 60 years (come to think of it, that in itself probably accounts for at least half of the medals), and has a well deserved reputation for saying nasty things to people all around the world. This should make him my favorite Royal, in a weak field.

However, and it's a big "however", he seems to always confine his nastiness to those he considers his "lessers", and that means anyone who isn't of noble birth. Now, I ask you, where's the fun in that? Anyone can pick on the weak and defenseless. (My God, it's the governing principle of the Republican Party!) Where's the "nobility" in that? But again, being just an accessory for so many years takes a toll on a fellow. She's the Queen and you're just a Prince, and you can never forget that. And occasionally it boils over...

Here in the Colonies, we've managed quite nicely without royalty. Oh, we have our dynastic fortunes, but until recently they've done a fairly good job of staying hidden away. Now, however, they've decided that they're not content with having all of that money, and they want to control public policy, too.

Who else would be behind the attacks on the Estate Tax and the effort to perpetuate the Bush tax cuts and do away entirely with the Capital Gains tax? Gosh, who stands to gain from that? Who funds the assaults on unions and working people? Who cares more about the stock market than the job market? Who protects Wall Street to the detriment of MainStreet? Like Deep Throat said in All the President's Men, "follow the money." Where does it lead?

Prince Phillip may be a historic anachronism, blessed by accident of birth, with no personal accomplishments, and few redeeming qualities, but at least he doesn't meddle in the lives of the real people of his country...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Goes Around....

I'm thinking that Governor Jan Brewer should turn down any offer of Federal aid to help with the catastrophic fires currently burning in Eastern Arizona.

Because to accept would be surrendering to a form of socialism, and we all know how Republicans feel about socialism. Right up until they need it themselves, that is.

According to my understanding of the Governor and her firmly held Conservative beliefs, if she did accept the Federal government's assistance, she would burst into flames herself.

And we certainly wouldn't want that.

A Programming Note

For those of you wondering "what has B. Franklin done with the Mission Man?", the answer is that he has fallen prey to two of the many demons that sometimes attack us in what we, perhaps optimistically, call our "middle" years: a painful, debilitating, and chronic back problem and a particularly nasty computer virus that just won't be slain, no matter what he tries...

Hopefully, he will be well enough, both physically and electronically, to resume blogging again very soon...

Artsy Fartsy

Some fathers take their sons hunting and fishing. I take my son to the movies. And finding ourselves sweltering in the middle of a record NYC heat wave, a couple of hours of air conditioning in a dark room seemed like a good idea...

Many well regarded films never make it to Phoenix; these are usually documentaries, small independent or foreign films. The ones that do generally have a brief run on 1 screen and then they're gone. Of course there's always the DVD, but if you love movies, there is no substitute for the real thing on the big screen.

So, even though Terrence Malick's latest, "The Tree of Life", which won the grand prize at Cannes, will probably get to Arizona eventually, the chance to see it right away was too good to pass up. Plus the A/C...

Well, how was it? To be brief, Mr. Malick is an artist with a capital "A". But he isn't much of a story teller. What you get is two and a half hours of pretty pictures and a story that, were it fleshed out a little more, might make a good 90 minute movie.

There's a lot of whispered narration, gorgeous music of a cosmic and/or religious nature, and a series of stunning images. It would make a great coffee table book/CD combo pak, but as entertainment, not so much.

Malick's "big idea", as far as I can tell, is that "we have to love one another or life is pointless." And here I thought John Lennon had gotten that across once and for all in a three and a half minute song 44 years ago.

All of the important themes are present: life, death, nature, the cosmos, and the Big Man Upstairs. We get pain, we get suffering, we get love and we get hate. There's anger and resentment, bitterness and just a hint of what looked to me like lust. In other words, it's just like your high school reunion after everybody's had a few drinks.

The movie also makes the point that children possess attributes from both parents and these attributes are often in conflict. Ah hah! How's that for insight? So we get the angry, rebellious son who is more like his father, and the peaceful, loving son who is more like his mother. There's one more son who doesn't get enough screen time to be like anyone, but that's beside the point...Of course the peaceful son shares the father's musical ability and the rebellious son comes to embrace his mother's saintlike compassion, so it's not as simplistic as I'm making it sound. But almost.

Still, for the true cineaste, there's lots and lots of exquisite camera work, beautifully composed tableaux, and Sean Penn wandering around looking tortured by memories of the past. What more could you ask for?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Money Money Money!

I don't want you to think that I'm the kind of guy who reads the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis--because I'm not. In fact, if I ever become the kind of guy who reads the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis, just shoot me, OK?

I am, however, the kind of guy who will read just about anything that crosses my path, and unexpectedly, that recently included the Wall Street Journal. Two stories from the official mouthpiece of the "free market" fascinated me.

The first told the heart warming tale of some Captains of Industry who had been fired from their jobs as CEO's or CFO's or BFD's for things that sounded to my untrained ears very much like incompetence and yet they still retained positions, highly paid positions, on other companies' Boards of Directors. Why? Because evidently once you get on the merry-go-round you can never screw up enough to get kicked off the merry-go-round. And I guess ruining one company is no indication that you will ruin another, right? So why not? In fact, the Board of Directors of International Widget welcomes you with open arms and a trough full of somebody else's money!

The second story was about Wall Street's uncertainty over the new (and relatively weak) regulation of the $583 Trillion derivatives markets that will soon go into effect. I guess the wording of the Dodd-Frank bill is not as well defined as they'd like, which means they're not sure just what it's implementation will involve, which means they haven't been able to figure out just how much they can steal yet, and that lack of clarity is driving them crazy. Here's all you need to know about derivatives: Warren Buffett, who is not exactly a Marxist, called them "financial weapons of mass destruction" and considers them a "fool's game".

Looks like the severe punishment the Wall Street whizzes suffered after the 2008 meltdown really taught them a lesson, and we're right back to the "same old same old". Because, as it says in the fine print, "past performance is no guarantee of future results."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where Am I?

This will happen to all of you sooner or later. Mrs. Franklin and I have reached a point in our lives where the idea of travel is much more appealing than the reality of traveling. We make plans and reservations and get our tickets well in advance. And then as the day of departure approaches, we begin to dread the whole thing. We hate packing, we hate getting up early to go to the airport, we hate going to the airport, we hate the airport, we hate all of the other people at the airport, we hate the plane, we hate the flight attendants, we hate the little bag of peanuts and the little cup of cola. We hate getting from the airport to the hotel and we hate the hotel. And don't even start with me about jet lag and being in a different time zone.

But what can you do? Nobody anywhere is giving out refunds for anything. And "Uh, we changed our minds" just doesn't cut it. So here we are in New York City for a few days with a full itinerary of museums and theatre and walking around, mouths agape. I'll try to find something interesting to report about.

Actually, that shouldn't be too difficult.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"Listen my children and you shall hear...Oh, never mind."

It should be obvious by now to everyone that Sarah Palin graduated, with honors, from the Michele Bachmann School of American History.

Yes, she's just that ignorant.

Of course, ignorance can sometimes be overcome. There are these things called "books", see...

However, Sister Sarah is apparently surrounded by enablers who encourage her, for reasons of their own, to stay just the way she is: an amiable dunce, to reuse Gore Vidal's memorable description of Ronald Reagan. And so she constantly doubles down on her ignorance, to the evident delight of her supporters.

The scariest thing about amiable dunces is, once in power (and heaven help us all should that day ever come), they can be easily manipulated into doing whatever it is the people controlling them want.

Bad Weiner

What the Hell is wrong with people now days? And how stupid do you have to be to send a picture of your deal, your Johnson, your little friend, well, let's call it what it is, your wiener, via any electronic method to anybody? Sure the Congressman is proud of it, but come on! My God, we're all proud of 'em--some with more reason than others--but still, how about showing a little tact?

If you really want to impress the young lady, what's wrong with a nice autographed photo sent via courier with a few dozen roses, you cheap bastard?

I tell you, this Twitter nonsense will be the death of us all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Dream Team

What you smell is the Republican presidential field for 2012. Crack open a window, get out the Glade, light a candle--face it, there's nothing you can do to get rid of the odor. So let's revel in it!

How about Romney/Christie? Slick and the Fatman. With Sarah Palin as Secretary of State and Michele Bachmann as the next Supreme Court justice. (If this seems farfetched to you, you must not have been paying attention during the Bush years.)

Fire up the helicopter and let's do us some campaignin' !

Too much brain power to appeal to the Republican base? (Why yes, I am being sarcastic again.) OK, how about Pawlenty/Huckabee? T-Paw and the Huckster. At least they could never be accused of talking down to anyone. T-Paw has a bridge he wants to sell you--oops, it collapsed!

Jeb "I'm the smart one" Bush and Liz Cheney--because Bush-Cheney worked so well the first time, and Americans have notoriously short memories? Jon Huntsman and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Herman Cain and a pizza? Rick Santorum and a piece of lint?

Seriously, what difference could it possibly make? To become the Republican nominee in 2012 will require a complete denial of the known world. Name a worthy Republican (now there's an oxymoron). Whoever it is will have to bow down to the Tea Party to be nominated. That in itself should make them unelectable. Throw in endorsing the Ryan budget plan and its gutting of Medicare and the assault on Social Security and you have a perfect storm of losing positions.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Pair To Draw To

Some jokes write themselves.

Sarah Palin and Donald Trump?

The two reigning giants of unwarranted celebrity got together the other day to share a slice and no doubt commiserate about the state of the union.

Unfortunately, just like Simple W. and the Dark Lord Cheney's 9-11 Commission testimony, no transcript survives, but one can only imagine the intellectual fireworks that took place when the great minds went mano a mano. "Not since Jefferson dined alone," as JFK remarked in a slightly different context...

The down home gal who can see Russia from her house and the big city man who can't help but slap his name--and 5 pounds of gold leaf--on every brick he finds, share at least one strong conviction: it's all Obama's fault.

"Sarah and Don: Forever And Always." I smell a reality show!

Or at the very least a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sick Joke

Ask yourself this: if the self-proclaimed greatest, and unarguably richest, nation on the face of the earth cannot afford to provide healthcare to all of its citizens, how is it possible for all of those 'lesser' nation to do so? Magic of some kind? Socialist trickery? Pure dumb luck?

Let's give credit where credit is due: we certainly have the most expensive health care in the world. But that doesn't make it the best. Our infant mortality rates are higher than, and our average lifespans are shorter than, those countries we've been taught to mock. We have more cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. We're fatter than them, too. These are not the results we should expect after consistently spending more of our GDP on healthcare than any other nation....

What gives? What exactly are we getting for all of that money? Well, we're definitely number one when it comes to elective surgeries. I wouldn't go anywhere else in the world for a facelift or a tummy tuck. We also have the newest and shiniest equipment available. I know this from personal experience, because a couple of years ago I had a dull ache in my lower right abdomen. It grew progressively worse. Classic appendicitis symptom, right? That's what I thought. That's what the emergency room doctors thought, too. But they still ran me through the VERY EXPENSIVE machine. Twice. Then, satisfied that I wasn't pregnant, they removed my appendix laproscopically and sent me home a day later with a bill for $27,000. That seems fair, doesn't it?

That sort of care has helped the various health insurance companies pocket hundreds of millions of dollars. And that must be a good thing, because the Republican Party seems prepared to defend to the death insurance company profits. Not only that, but The Grand Oligarch's Party is also committed to increasing those same profits with their "let's replace Medicare with vouchers" ploy. "Have you no shame, sir?" are the words that come to mind.

We've reached a point in our history where any respectable, card carrying Republican will tell you with a straight face that we can't afford Social Security or Medicare anymore. And we certainly can't raise taxes on corporations or the richest Americans to help pay for them because that wouldn't be fair. Fair to whom, I wonder?

But in the next breath these same Republicans tell you that we're still the richest and best country in the world. So where does all that "wealth" go? I'm going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that maybe, just maybe, we spend a little too much money on Defense.

Not that we haven't gotten our money's worth. It has been great fun being the biggest, baddest, dog on the block and having the capability to destroy the world several thousand times over. And who can put a price tag on the joy that comes from overthrowing governments we don't agree with, blowing up defenseless non-combatants, and making the world safe for oil companies?

But all good things must come to an end and it's time for us to start concentrating on making our own house a more liveable place....and that should begin by providing a basic level of healthcare to every American regardless of their ability to pay and guaranteeing that no American ever has to go bankrupt because of an illness. If that means a few dozen redundant weapon systems don't get built, or a few hundred foreign bases have to close, or a few multi-billionaires are a little less "multi", well, that's OK by me.

Like the man said, you don't judge a society by how it treats its most fortunate citizens but by how it treats its least fortunate. And, surprise surprise, we find ourselves failing in this regard.

But there is no law that says we have to keep failing.