Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Let's Hear It From All "the little people"

Leona Helmsley mug shot
Leona Helmsley, one of those rich, arrogant American plutocrats that we love to hate, once said to a housekeeper at her hotel (who remarked that she must pay a lot of taxes): "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..." Helmsley eventually was imprisoned for "federal tax evasion" in 1992.  People like Leona Helmsley follow in the tradition of arrogant wealth that looks with disdain upon the rest of us "little people".  Of course, they may say such remarks because they have no inkling about our lives and are "out of touch" with ordinary people.  Marie Antoinette, the French Queen, gained historical notoriety for an infamous remark attributed to her as the hungry poor rioted outside her palace gates demanding bread.  She asked what were the people doing there? And when told the people were asking for bread, she answered: "If they have no bread, let them eat cake" (cake was an alternative to bread and, in her mind, the people could just substitute cake for their lack of bread.)

Marie Antoinette

Now we have a Republican Party candidate for President who lacks empathy for us "little people." The multi-millionaire Mitt Romney appears "out of touch" with average Americans on the economy. When talking to students at Otterbein University in Ohio last April, GOP candidate Mitt Romney told a story about a friend of his who borrowed $25,000 from his parents and started a successful business.  He told the students that they, too, could ask their parents for a loan. 

Students graduating from college in 2012 average almost $25,000 in student loan debt and very few have parents capable of providing another $25,000 in a loan to their already highly indebted son or daughter. Romney's running mate proposed in his "Ryan Budget" to cut billions from Pell Grants, the federal funding available to low income undergraduate college students.  Such remarks can be attributed to Mitt just being "out of touch" with the rest of us who are struggling to make ends meet and keep hold of the American Dream to reach at least Middle Class status.  Now comes the revelation that Mitt consciously doesn't give a damn about "the little people",  at least 47% of the American population. Romney believes that nearly half of America isn't worth his attention because they are people who don't take "personal responsibility and care for their lives" and "pay no income tax".  Mitt's disdain for average Americans was caught on a secret video released by Mother Jones Magazine yesterday.  As quoted at Bloomberg.com today:

On the tape, Romney explains that his electoral strategy involves writing off nearly half the country as unmoveable Obama voters. As Romney explains, 47 percent of Americans "believe that they are victims." He laments: "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

So what's the upshot? "My job is not to worry about those people," he says. He also notes, describing President Obama's base, "These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax."

Even Republican commentators were outraged at the stupidity and callousness of Romney's remarks. David Brooks attributed Romney's point of view that of the country club set that don't know much about how the rest of us live:
 This comment suggests a few things. First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits. Who are these freeloaders? Is it the Iraq war veteran who goes to the V.A.? Is it the student getting a loan to go to college? Is it the retiree on Social Security or Medicare? It suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America. Yes, the entitlement state has expanded, but America remains one of the hardest-working nations on earth. Americans work longer hours than just about anyone else. Americans believe in work more than almost any other people.
William Kristol of The Weekly Standard went even farther, asking that Romney vacate his nomination in favor of a Ryan-Rubio ticket  because of his "arrogant and stupid remarks".

The Obama campaign was quick to respond to Romney's remarks, pointing out that the 47% that Romney refers to do indeed pay taxes and are not parasites living off the federal government:

Not only do the vast majority of these Americans pay a significant percentage of their income in taxes—whether they are federal payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes or other state and local taxes—but they often pay an even higher share of their income in these taxes than wealthier families. In fact, well over half—61%—are workers who actually pay federal payroll taxes, which can include military families, cops, firefighters, and teachers. And an overwhelming majority of the Americans Romney dismisses are seniors, working families, students, or people with disabilities.

Here are a few examples of Americans who—according to Mitt Romney—don’t pay enough in taxes:

U.S. soldiers in combat

U.S. soldiers’ pay while in a combat zone is not subject to federal income tax.


A firefighter with the average wage of $45,000 with a stay-at-home spouse and two kids.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeants

An Air Force military police staff sergeant with 8 years of service—who earns basic pay of $34,723—with a spouse earning $10,000 through part-time work and at least two kids.


A steelworker making the average wage of $45,000 with a stay-at-home spouse and two kids.

Security Guards

A security guard making the average wage of $23,900 married to a bank teller making an average wage of $24,500, with three kids.

High School Teachers

A high school teacher making the average wage of $54,000 who is the primary source of income and has at least three kids.

Police Officers

A New Mexico patrolman with a starting salary of $39,000 married to a part-time child care worker with at least two kids.

Clergy Members

A clergy member whose income of $44,140 is the primary source of income in a family with a spouse and two kids.

I have previously addressed why I think that Mitt Romney unsuitable for President in my previous post here and here.  Now it's time that "the little people" make their voice heard on November 6th. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Americans, the decision is in your hands....

The political conventions are over.  A decision looms for the American people on what kind of country they will have in their own lifetimes.  The difference between two candidates for President has never been clearer than now.  And you get to make the final decision.  This is not the year to sit this one out.  Not voting is cowardly and foolish.  The effects of this election will have the most life-changing outcomes on Americans and the world.  Do you want the vision of the Democrats?

...or the Republican vision?

The above acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in August was the carefully rehearsed "coming out" for the less-known GOP candidate. His biggest problem in this election is that voters don't feel they know who Mitt Romney is and many feel he's changed his political positions out of expedience to win the Republican nomination.  What was missing in his speech was why he has changed his position on abortion rights, contraception, gay marriage, and health care since he last governed (as Governor of the state of Massachusetts).  Also absent in his speech were some of the key issues facing the next U.S. President. In the above speech,  did he mention Iraq or Afghanistan once?  NO, not once although those wars begun by a Republican administration have dominated our economy and contributed to our growing national deficit.  How about his position on the care and support of our military soldiers and veterans?  We owe it to our wounded warriors, their widows and orphans, and the unemployed veterans to support them now and for the next 50 years. THAT is another ongoing cost of our entitlements that we taxpayers support.  No mention of our soldiers fighting for our country far from home. Perhaps he doesn't know anyone fighting in the Marine Corps or the Army? Amid his criticism of President Obama, did Romney provide a clear road map on how his policies would bring the economy back and employ workers in good jobs?  Does his speech promote a positive future where all Americans feel welcome and safe in their own country -- or does it reinforce fears and distrust of Americans who may not look like Republicans and have different religious beliefs or skin color?   What vision did he offer the poor, the disabled, the sick, and the elderly that he was concerned with their future and quality of life?  What did he say to assure young people that they could get a good education without incurring a lifetime of debt to pay for it? And, did Mitt Romeny offer any policy he would support to address the environmental disaster facing our world with global warming and it's impact on our food supply, world peace, and our health? He could only mock our President who does understand the geopolitical reality and insecurity that global warming and our unsustainable life-style brings.   It's important to look at what Mitt Romney says and does when talking to the common folk as well as when he gets grilled by journalists or debaters when he is less prepared to respond to questions about his views and beliefs.  These "off the cuff" moments help us to take the measure of a man and to help us understand his true demeanor and suitability to be the most powerful political leader in the world.

On immigration policy:

On the most recent foreign crisis in Islamic countries when he jumped in to condemn the President before all the facts were known:

And in regard to his credentials as a businessman who knows how to fix our economy, what exactly did he do to improve the economic health of companies that Bain Capital directed?  He outsourced the jobs of Americans overseas.  His criticism of President Obama on China Trade falls flat when you look how Romney personally benefitted in enriching his company by profits attained when Bain Capital reorganized companies to send manufacturing jobs to low wage countries and China.  Romney backs a tax code that rewards businesses for sending jobs overseas by eliminating taxes on their profits when they do so. The Obama campaign recently hit back on Romney's misleading ads on the Obama administration's record on China and trade policy.  The ad brings to light that since Obama took office, 500,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created in America.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Remembrance of All the Victims on 9/11/2001

Thank you Molly's Middle America for your Blog Post today.

In Memoriam to Ambassador Chris Stevens, April 18, 1960  – September 11, 2012.

The ambassador of Libya to the United States, Ali Aujali, released the following statement regarding the attacks on the US Consulate in Libya:
"We condemn yesterday's deplorable attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and those who are responsible for it in the strongest terms. The Government of Libya stands by the U.S. in opposing acts of terrorism. We are committed to bringing the attackers who perpetrated these crimes to justice.

Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other American who were killed served the U.S. Government bravely. Ambassador Stevens worked tirelessly in support of freedom in Libya. When Stevens was appointed as Special Representative of the U.S. to the National Transitional Council of Libya in April 2011, he faced enormous challenges. He served as the principal liaison of the U.S. to the opposition in Libya and he helped coordinate the U.S. response to the enormous humanitarian crises in Libya. He handled these responsibilities with a calm demeanor and strong determination in the midst of a war.

After the liberation of Libya, the new Libyan Government was overjoyed to learn that Stevens had been appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. He served in that role with great distinction and all Libyans owe him a debt of gratitude for his years of service in support of Libya. The acts that led to the tragic loss of his life and the other Americans who served with him were perpetrated by a small group of criminals and are not supported by the Libyan people. We stand with the U.S. Government in offering our deepest condolences to the family of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans who were killed and to the entire State Department.

I have had the honor to work side by side with Ambassador Stevens and to call him a friend for many years. I will never forget the zeal and passion that he brought to his work. He was a dedicated diplomat and a true gentleman. The families of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and the two American security staff who were killed in yesterday's terror attack are in our thoughts and prayers today."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Pearl Burns, and Thank You!

 Pearl Burns turned 90 on September 7, 2012.  I was privileged to attend her birthday celebration in Albuquerque. Her family had created a room filled with memories of her life, catagorized by each decade beginning in 1922. Family photos and cultural icons marked the nine decades of her life.  Pearl was trained as a nurse.  Pearl raised a family in Albuquerque. She continued her nursing career at Presbyterian Hospital.  Always an active outdoors woman, she hiked with a group of women that called themselves The Meadow Muffins and The Happy Hoofers.  She climbed Fourteeners in Colorado into the new millenium. Pearl is our celebrated champion of New Mexico wildflowers here in Central New Mexico.  She has co-authored books on the wildflowers of the Sandia Mountains. She began leading Wildflower Walks in the Sandia Mountains as a volunteer guide for the USDA's Forest Service.  She's responsible for keeping us looking at the ground each spring and summer as we walk along New Mexico trails and highways. Visitors to our wildlands call out: "What is THAT flower?" "Look at the color!" "Oooooh, smell that aroma. "  Pearl's voice can be heard:  "Careful where you step...that's a Northern Rock Jasmine."  "Look at the involucre to tell the difference between an aster and a daisy." "Please, don't pick wildflowers or we will not enjoy them next season!" 

Pearl on the South Crest Trail where a sign honors her

Pearl explaining how Lambert's Locoweed differs from Milkvetch

Pearl has been leading wildflower walks for four decades in the Albuquerque foothills, and in the Manzanita and Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque.   In 2009, she trained several of us to be Interpretive Guides for the Forest Service summer walks in the Sandia Mountains.  Her love of wildflowers, her local wildlands knowledge along with her training as a biologist at UNM (after a career as a Nurse) has been invaluable to so many volunteers in Friends of the Sandia Mountains and other visitors to our New Mexico wilderness areas.  She still can out-hike me.  Her last Wildflower Walk for this year was on a hot morning August 25, 2012 along Juan Tomas Rd. just north of NM Hwy 337 in the Manzanita Mountains just southeast of Tijeras. Here are some photos from that wildflower walk and some of the flowers found here:

Pearl  explains to visitors what grows here

Rough Menora

Many-flowered Gilia


Apache Plume
Purple Aster
Pearl points out Foothills Paintbrush
Cutleaf Germander

Dotted Gayfeather

Dotted Gayfeather


Crest-rib Morning Glory

Fringed Sage
Ground Cherry (flower)
Ground Cherry (fruit)
Curly-top Gumweed
Narrow-leaved Four O'Clock
Rocky Mountain Sage
Short-rayed Coneflower
White Heath Aster
Hairy Golden Aster

Wild Licorice
White Prairie Clover
Woolly Mullein (first year)
Toothed Poinsettia
Small-flowered Guara
Showy Golden-eye (left) and Snakeweed (right)

Thank you, Pearl, for sharing the beautiful world of wildflowers with so many others who walk these trails!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mary and Matt's Engagement Photos

My daughter, Mary, and her fiance, Matt, came to a family get-to-gether on Labor Day with beautiful photos taken to celebrate their engagement.  Their wedding photographer is Katie Lively and their engagement photography session was last weekend in Madrid, New Mexico. The wedding is October 27 in Albuquerque.  Am I getting excited?  You betcha!