Progress

Politicians this week were handed a golden opportunity to screw the American people, and they stumbled all over themselves rushing at the chance. They failed gloriously, in public view. All of them.

That’s progress, folks. 😎 👍

The ACA is flawed. The AHCA took the skeletal frame of the ACA and fleshed it out with gifts for the rich and poison for the poor. Like most bills introduced in America it was a transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to the upper elite. That is not acceptable.

Remember that as they begin Plan B: tax cuts.

They are not working on your behalf, my friends. They don’t have to; we don’t require it of them. We only demand that “our guy” is in office. At that point we give them carte blanche to screw us as they see fit. As long as our chosen appointee is doing the screwing, great. We need to stop being “republicans” and “democrats” and start being “Americans” or, better yet, “humans.” When we think of ourselves in terms of political parties or national identities we create attitudes of disdain for anyone who is not “us.” We then enable those in power to manipulate us through our identities. Strip the identity. Don’t be manipulated.

I get it. Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to think their team is doing well. But this is not a game.

The eight decades we all have, give or take, that’s our life. And right now, by current estimates, there are over 7 billion people living out their eight decades on Earth. About 320 million of them live in the United States. That’s about 4.5% of the population of the planet. I know it’s a big deal to you, the title. Wear it proud. But keep it in context.

Of the 320 million people who do live in the United States, some 43 million of them live in poverty. That number is equal to the entire combined populations of the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metropolitan areas. That’s a lot of folks, folks.

In the meantime, the richest 1% of people in America own nearly 40% of the wealth.

Friends, look at that. That’s staggering.

The AHCA was going to make those people, the 1%, wealthier. The only price we had to pay to make them richer was the health of millions.

I know the argument for saving those millions. Get a job. “Get a job” doesn’t work anymore. Automation and globalization have taken the availability and need away. Jobs that are available for many of the people on the bottom and in the middle are not what they once were. Wages have been stagnant for 40 years and benefits have been cut in the name of record profits. When the worker loses and profits soar that’s that transfer of wealth I was talking about earlier. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. The gap between the two is wider than it has ever been.

The failure this week of the AHCA was great for the American people. Not because the ACA is a good plan, but because the AHCA was even worse. There are better models around the world of health care systems that work for the people more than they work for the profits. America is way behind. It’s time to catch up.

This was a good week for progress, but not a good time to celebrate. Politicians in Washington aren’t throwing up their hands in defeat, they are rolling up their sleeves and getting back to work. The people who fund their campaigns won’t be happy that they let all that money slip through their fingers. They have to find another way to get it. Or they will be replaced. That’s how it works.

It isn’t you against me. Not right vs left. It isn’t Republican or Democrat. It’s all of us in this together for the entire time that my eight decades intersects with yours. To make a better society, a better country, and a better planet we all have to realize that. Right now we work for the glorification, wealth, and success of the few. We sacrifice; they gain. 24 million people would have lost health care next year under the AHCA but the wealthiest of Americans would have kept a few more dollars.

The ACA doesn’t do enough to ensure the health of the humans in America for their eight decades, either. There are better ways. There are healthier, happier places all around the world. Also, there are places much worse. But there are no nations with more wealth than the United States of America. There is no better place on Earth to begin to set an example of how humans should be treated. How they should be cared for in the beginning of their eight decades and at the end. How important they all are in the decades in between.

We are more than statistics, more than burdens, and more than machines that make them money. We are more than Republicans or Democrats or even Americans.

Remember that.

The next bill is coming.

And it isn’t designed to help you. Not one bit.

Making America Great

Lost in the newswire on Monday, amidst rampant tales of presidential corruption and Twitter misinformation, was my favorite story. It was a story about happiness. The release of the World Happiness Report tells us which countries, and which leaders, are doing well by their people, and which are not. America is not.

To me, there is no more apt measure of the greatness of a country than that of the happiness of its people. By that measure, America is failing.

In the report, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, and the Netherlands are all in the top ten. The other 5 are Nordic countries. Norway edged out Denmark this year as the happiest place on Earth.

Some of the factors that go into these rankings are life expectancy, freedom of choice, social support, and trust in government. Life is better when your leaders are not constantly lying to you. Life is better when access to health care is universal. Life is better when no one falls through the cracks.

The United States itself fell to 14th on the list this year, dropping one spot from 2016. Not surprising. The last year was filled with a presidential campaign fraught with mistrust, hate, and fear. The final candidates in the election cycle were both under FBI investigation for degrees of corruption. The health care system is under fire. Vying for power instead of progress, political leaders have stoked intolerance to critical levels. The left and the right stand polarized.

But as the Economist points out, the greatest nations on Earth borrow much from the left and much from the right. The quest for universal bliss has no room for dogmatic ideology. Great nations serve their people, not their politics.

Jeffrey Sachs, the author and economist, wrote a great article on the subject. The article is filled with facts and figures, charts and diagrams, and was included in the World Happiness Report. It’s not especially long, but you might be tempted to save it for later. That would be a shame. If you did you might miss this closing paragraph by Sachs:

To escape this social quagmire, America’s happiness agenda should center on rebuilding social capital. This will require a keen focus on the five main factors that have contributed to falling social trust and confidence in government. The first priority should be campaign finance reform, especially to undo the terrible damage caused by the Citizens United decision. The second should be a set of policies aiming at reducing income and wealth inequality. This would include an expanded social safety net, wealth taxes, and greater public financing of health and education. The third should be to improve the social relations between the native-born and immigrant populations. Canada has demonstrated a considerable success with multiculturalism; the United States has not tried very hard. The fourth is to acknowledge and move past the fear created by 9/11 and its memory. The US remains traumatized to this day; Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries is a continuing manifestation of the exaggerated and irrational fears that grip the nation. The fifth priority, I believe, should be on improved educational quality, access, and attainment. America has lost the edge in educating its citizens for the 21st century; that fact alone ensures a social crisis that will continue to threaten well-being until the commitment to quality education for all is once again a central tenet of American society.

Jeffrey Sachs summed it up nicely. The reason America has fallen so far is because it has lost focus on the purpose of a nation: to lift its people. The original promise of America, set forth by its founders, was to build a nation based on the general welfare, equality, and liberty of the people. To ensure their pursuit of happiness. In that, of late, we have formed a less perfect union.

The blueprint is there. The richest country in the world can yet become the happiest nation on the planet. It will require an evolution of culture and a resistance to corruption that, so far, America has spurned. But the United States is young. By returning to the original premise of its founding documents and by shifting focus back to the elevation of its people, America can evolve. America can be great. At last.

Beer, Buds, and Bugs

St Patrick’s Day

St Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday. It celebrates the life of Saint Patrick, who is credited with converting the bulk of Ireland to Christianity some time in the 400s AD. March 17th is believed to be the day the patron saint of Ireland died.

Before Saint Patrick began his holy crusade on the Emerald Isle, the denizens of the land were pagans, worshiping many gods. They loved their stories of Danu the Mother Goddess, Lugh of the Long Arm, their heroic son Cuchulainn, and the king of demon baddies Balor. The stories of Irish mythology are still sacred to the people of Ireland, but as literature now not religion.

Not since the Apostle of Ireland came and banished all the snakes. Not since the Patron Saint of the Emerald Isle placed his walking stick into the ground a grew a tree. Not since Saint Patrick made the leaves of the shamrock a symbol of the Holy Trinity. Not since then.

And here you thought today was all about green beer. 😉

Green Beer

I celebrated St Patrick’s Day last weekend, and will sit the night out. I have several reasons for doing so, that I will discuss eventually. For now, I want to talk more about the former than the latter.

Friends and I went to Reno for the Leprechaun Crawl, an annual event in the Biggest Little City. It includes thousands of emerald-clad revelers celebrating the conversion of Ireland to monotheism from polytheism in the 5th century.

Just kidding. It’s just to get drunk. None of us knew about the Christianity thing until about six paragraphs ago.

As I’ve mentioned before, we go to 2 or 3 of these Reno pub crawls a year. I’ve attended the Irish one more than any other (I believe this was my 4th). You don’t know fun until you’ve had 30 or 40 brightly-clad adults wandering the halls and streets of Reno, inebriated and making memories together. And we remember every damn moment, because we have pictures.

We have more than once been the cover photo advertisement for the next year’s event. Easy to see why. Go green or go home, I always say.

As for why I don’t plan to go out tonight, well … I did it pretty heavy last week for one; I’m good. The night of St Patty’s is always a terrible night to be out and about, anyway, even if you just want to have a green beer or two and safely make your way home. Plus, hey, I gotta work in the morning.

Also, I brought home a bug.

Traveler’s Blues

I tend to catch 1 or 2 cold bugs a year. This is my third one of this wintry season. Nothing too serious, mind you. These are the types that get in your head and make you feel bad enough to complain, but not bad enough to skip work.

This particular one is unusual. It started the second day back from Reno with a terrible sore throat in the morning. Like something lodged in it. I first thought I experienced some form of acid reflux in my sleep, but I don’t think that now. My throat has been sore for four days … REAL sore … but no other symptoms have emerged. Zero. No stuffed head. No cough. No fever. I can even swallow just fine. Just really, really sore.

Coffee helps to soothe it in the morning. Beer helps to soothe it at night.

I’m not a real smart sick guy.

But one unusual attribute of my recent viral bouts is I tend to catch them whenever I leave town. It appears I am completely immune to local pathogens but have zero resistance to those of other counties.

One friend told me that partying all night lowers my immune system for a time and thus allows bacterium to more easily take control. Apparently he thinks I party all night every time I leave town. Hmph. He’s no doctor or sociologist, what does he know? 😎

12 Years and Running, and 20 Years this Year

The rest of my time lately, when I’m not working or partying with pathogens, has been spent delving deep into the offseason of the Los Angeles Rams. I took a gig to write about them a while back and I try to publish one article a week about their progress. I’m a huge fan, as you know, of the game of football and of the Rams specifically. Studying the offseason is nothing new to me. Mock rosters and mock drafts are my passion, not my job. Especially the last twelve years.

Because for the last twelve years the Rams have been better in the offseason than during actual play.

It’s hard to love a team that breaks your heart every year. It’s hard to fall short of the playoffs a dozen consecutive times. I mean, that’s really hard to do when you think about it. No matter who you are if you went to a bar and randomly hit on 12 different women the law of averages says you’ll take at least one of them home, right? If you picked 12 fallen plums off the ground, at least one of them will be a good one, right? If I go out of town 12 times next year, at least one time I’ll come back without a virus, right?

Maybe not. I’m about as lucky as the Rams sometimes.

Luckily I don’t eat plums off the ground or pick up women. I got this gal.

20 years this summer. I’m the luckiest man alive.

Happy St Patty’s Day, everyone. Whether you’re in it for Jesus, in it for Dagda, or just in it for green beer, be safe, be happy, and be you.

You’re luckier than you think. ☘️

Seasons

What’s your favorite time of the year?

I don’t have one. A favorite, I mean. I don’t have a favorite month or favorite season. Really, I like ‘em all. I don’t have a least-favorite season, either. I have a least-favorite day, though. Tuesday. I hate Tuesdays. But that’s a topic for another day. Tuesdays: Why They Suck by Tom Being Tom. Maybe next week. Today, I’m here to talk about what I like.

I like summer. That almost doesn’t need an explanation. Everybody loves summer. Long, hot days. BBQs. Lake parties. Swimsuits. There is nothing better than an ice-cold beer in a frozen mug on a hot summer day. Nothing. But it still isn’t my favorite time of the year. I like ‘em all.

There’s a lot to like about the fall. Or is it Autumn? Why do some people call it fall and some call it autumn? Is Autumn supposed to be capitalized? Is Fall? According to grammarly.com, the answer is no. Seasons are common nouns, not proper nouns. If you turn a season into a proper noun then you should capitalize it, but not if you use it as a common noun. Old Man Winter would require capitalization, even in the fall.

I kind of knew that.

What I didn’t know, at all, was the answer to my other question: why is it autumn, and why is it fall? I turned to Merriam-Webster for this information and found the explanation to be rather dull. Autumn came first and had something to do with the harvest. But folks were always enamored by the “fall of the leaves” (poets, especially) so in time “fall” became synonymous with “autumn.” In America, especially, the two words are interchangeable. Go ahead, mix ‘em up.

Autumn could easily be my favorite time of the year, if I had one. The summer fades and the days get cooler. The leaves turn color and make their way, poetically, to the ground. National elections happen. We could use another one of those right now. Halloween and Thanksgiving loom. Gridiron warriors make their way to painted battlefields. Football alone could make fall the greatest season of all. The Autumn Wind is a pirate, don’t you know?

Winter gets a bad rap, but I love winter. There are reasons to hate winter. The snow storms. The howling winds. The bitter morning cold. But there are reasons to have joy in the very same. Snow means winter games. Snowball fights. Snowmen.

Moxie and Ludo love the snow.

Where I live we get very little snow but we do get rain. We’ve had a winter full of rain.

I love the rain. I get a tranquil sense of calm when a rain begins. Also, I get to skip yard work for the day. That’s an important reason to love the rain. Today we are slated to get more rain and you know what? I’m good with it. Even when I’m tired of the rain I love the look and feel of it. Let it rain.

Winter always brings us Christmas. If you throw out all of the commercialism of it, there are so many things to love about Christmas. Who doesn’t love Christmas?

Some of you, I’m sure. Humbug on you. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

But I love ‘em all.

If the seasons are a circle then we’ve come full circle now. It’s about to be Spring. Oops, spring. Of all the seasons, spring is the one I want to capitalize the most. I suppose if you forced me into a corner and made me choose one season to spend the rest of my life with on a deserted island with only a handful of Matchbox 20 CDs, a player, and an endless supply of batteries, it would be with Spring that I would live.

Don’t try a sentence like that at home. I’m trained at this.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, spring is the beginning of the year for me. I don’t recognize January as the beginning of the year. We’re still in the middle of winter, for chrissake. Football is still on. You can’t have a big, enormous change to everything in the middle of something. You need a new time. That new time comes, for me, in March. Winter ends. Spring begins. The sun makes the afternoon downright cheery. The mornings get warmer. The days get longer. Much, much longer.

This was going to be a blog about daylight saving time, by the way. Per a friend’s suggestion. I’m 900 words in and I haven’t even mentioned it yet. Maybe next time. This is a blog about seasons.

And spring is the best season of them all. It’s the beginning of a new year for me. It’s my time for resolutions. A time to grill. It’s not too cold. It’s not too hot. The Goldilocks season. It’s just right. A time of renewal, where we put away the gloom we carried with us in winter, if we did. We have Sundays free because football is over. We get out in the yard. We’re out of the mud. We sit on our decks with cocktails in our hands and books in our laps and we just enjoy life for all its worth. It’s worth a lot.

I may love all the seasons and I may not have a favorite but that doesn’t mean that spring isn’t the greatest season of them all. I don’t have a favorite quarterback in the NFL but Tom Brady is still the greatest. Led Zeppelin is probably the greatest rock band ever, but Matchbox 20 is still my favorite. I may love every season equally but spring is still the best.

I’ll wrap this up with one last thought: I love daylight saving time. There, I said it. This blog is about daylight saving time now and I fulfilled my promise. Maybe next time I’ll talk about how it all came about and what its true purpose is. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll talk about football, dogs, beer, chocolate starfish, elections or unicorns. We’ll see. For now, go forth and enjoy the sunshine of spring. After the rain, that is. Enjoy the rain first, then the sun.

Enjoy it all. It’s here for you.

One last thing: leave me a comment about what your favorite season is, and why. I’m curious to know.

Now I’m done. Really. There’s nothing more below this paragraph.

Nothing.

Bye for now. 😉