April 4, 2014
Gray and damp but definitely spring. I even saw some daffodils on a south-facing slope and some tufts of green grass encouraged by the warmth from the sidewalk next to it. Soon the pollen will have us wheezing.
New England is beautiful but can be so difficult to walk in during winter. As Bill Bryson, who moved from Hanover, N.H., back to England, notes that the latter's weather can be dreary but at least you can easily walk outside on most days. What a luxury to be able to stroll around outside just wearing a sweater (and pants, of course). And open sidewalks!
Now I see all the things that must be done in the yard -- last fall's brown, wet leaves to be raked up, the compost pile attended to, and so on. We're too poor to hire yard-work companies employing illegal aliens to do the work (or to get house cleaners to come in vacuum our decrepit house). We do have to hire people, at great expense, every two or three years to come in and attend to the basement after a heavy rainstorm. These deluges seem to be becoming more frequent.
I think people are too excited about the Supreme Court's McCutcheon ruling this week opening up Washington to yet more campaign cash. For one thing, money will always flow around campaign-finance-law barriers, as water flows around rocks in a creek.
For another, this law makes it a tad easier for the political parties to raise money. That might mean that individual rich donors seeking to further enrich and empower themselves and their families yea unto generations might have relatively less power compared to the parties. And political parties, of necessity, must be coalitions and thus less extreme than the increasingly arrogant individual donors.
Toughen transparency laws! It's far too easy to hide contributions and so we often don't know who might be influencing our politicians. There should be tough penalties under the criminal code to discourage such hiding.
Go to a flat tax! Congress's propensity for endless complications of the tax code causes campaign-finance and other corruption as the powerful seek to manipulate and complicate it even more to their own benefit.
Finally, the biggest problem of all is civic sloth. The majority of people who could vote do not. Nor do they make the effort to educate themselves about politicians and policies, including which rich folks are buying influence, be it Wall Street bankers for the Democrats or coal executives for the Republicans. A good example is the Affordable Care Act. A large percentage of the population were ignorant of its most basic elements, especially the health-insurance exchanges, right up to this week, although it has been reported about daily since 2010 --- and intimately affects almost everyone.
By not rousing themselves for 20 minutes to vote they have left money and power (but I repeat myself!) to people with the energy to use it to increase their money and power even more. The latter all vote and can do things to get many others to vote in the oligarchs' interest.
There's a book of journal entries by Alan H. Olmstead from the '70s called Threshold: The First Days of Retirement, which I think reviews eloquently the confusions, joys and sadnesses (including the financial woes) of life after you leave your main job. One of the predictable but well written observations is that whatever one did over the decades of a "regular job'' had virtually no effect on the world. The pleasure of the job has to be just the act of doing it.
Another post-retirement rule is that you should never drop by your old workplace after retirement. To do so would be just another irritating distraction for the people still there, who are even more understaffed than when you left.
For a suspenseful, strange and brilliant conversation about life, death and religion, read Paul F.M. Zahl's latest book PZ's Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide to World Religion.