Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brother, can you spare a fiver?

First, a little celebration and back-slapping. This is the 200th edition of Len'sLens. This little exercise in free-form writing began in 2006, sometime after I decided to accept Gannett's  offer to evacuate the seat I had occupied for the better part of a decade and a half.

For those among you who have been loyal readers of these previous 199 posts, thanks so much. Writing can sometimes seem like howling into the wind, but it keeps one going, and on one's toes as well, to know there really is someone on the other end of the conversation.

I've "met" some interesting people, including the guy who recorded "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", which may have some more political import this year than Dr. Elmo Shropshire, may have intended.  I "met" a fellow who runs a Web site dedicated to airport parking. 

It's humbling to realize that people really do care what I write and have taken the time to take me to task when they thought it was merited.

Again, to all, thanks for your loyalty and I look forward to another 200.

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One of the saddest songs ever written, one that never fails to bring a tear, is "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," a 1932 ditty written by E.Y. Harburg and Jay Gorney and sung by Bing Crosby. It's about a guy who fought in World War I, built roads, skyscrapers and now has been brought low by the Great Depression, begging for a dime and for a crust of bread.

I figure a five-dollar bill is worth about what a dime was worth back then, when you could get a good cup of coffee for a nickel; therefore the headline.

I'm not saying we're in a depression. By the way, do you know the difference between a recession and a depression? A recession is when you lose your job; a depression is when I lose mine. 

We're in a recession, whether the addle-brained duo who the Republicans are trying to foist on the nation as president and vice president realize it or not. During the start of the Great Depression, there were no federal guarantees on bank accounts and Social Security and the other things that the Admiral Stockdale clone and the Bullwinkle killer would have been dead set against, had they been alive then. 

Remember Admiral James Stockdale? He's the guy that Ross Perot picked for vice president when he ran against Bill Clinton in 1992, the guy who didn't quite know who he was and what he was supposed to do. 

So, we now have a war hero, a mediocre senator with a temper who shoots from the hip, doesn't think about what his advisers tell him to do, you know, like pick an unknown moose- killing hypocrite for vice president without finding out very much about her and those around her.

So, we have running for vice president a woman who, with her family and history, seems to be better suited for the green room at the Jerry Springer show than the Blue Room at the White House.

I like that. It's pithy, like what's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? 

For those not in the know, the green room at a television show is the place where guests are kept before going on. I would guess all the stuff in Springer's green room is plastic so the place can we washed down with a fire hose and bleach after each episode. The Blue Room at the White House is a room for official functions. No plastic needed there. 

My friend Eliana gave me an email she received about Mrs. Palin, who likes to shoot wolves from helicopters, and her running mate, who likes to shoot off his mouth before putting brain in gear. 

It starts: "I'm a little confused. Let me see if I've got this straight..."

"If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic, different.'
Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story."

"If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm for the betterment of her inner-city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's...
"If your husband is nicknamed 'first dude', with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and was once a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable."

I like this one the best: "If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian...
If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian."
"OK, much clearer now," the email concludes.

I don't know who sent this to my friend, but good work. If you want to take credit, let me know and I will be happy to give credit where it is so rightly due.

Back to the economy. It is hurting. Bad. People with money in banks and accounts at brokerage houses should have nothing to fear. People with stock in Lehman Brothers, well, sorry about that. 

This whole thing started because of a serious, serious lack of oversight and regulation by our government and the folks in Washington led to an anything goes housing-mortgage market. No matter how he tries to put lipstick on that, John McCain was in Washington during that time, spouting about laissez-faire. Let business alone, don't make corporations pay taxes, and the savings will trickle down to the little guy.

Balderdash. The only place the money tricked down, or actually flooded down, was to the pockets of the corporation and its top executives. They took the money and kept it. Got it? They kept it in 1986 under Reagan and in 2003 until now under Bush. Give them the same set of circumstances, they'll keep it again. 

This election may be about our economic future. We can't afford unprepared, unintelligent, unscrupulous people in the White House or listening at the window with a stethoscope.

Yes, it's harsh, but these are serious times. No, we don't need to start singing "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" yet, but with the same bunch who have been asleep at the switch since 2001 rehired for the next four or eight years, we may have to start learning the words.

Until next time...

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