Sunday, 27 January 2013

Back to My Roots

For many years, probably from the end of WW II through about 1970, most funerals in the “lower” Snoqualmie Valley (roughly Preston, Fall City, Carnation, Duvall, and a bit north in eastern King County, Washington) were handled by Purdy, Kerr, and Van Horn. That was my grandfather Joe T. Van Horn representing Purdy and Kerr of Monroe. I remember “Ampa” typing up funeral notices, I would walk with him to the Carnation post office where he taped them up.

Because my father was always in need of income, being a classical musician in a smallish mill town, he not only was a substitute organist at both funeral homes but was licensed as a funeral director and worked in that capacity when there was a surge of bad news. It’s not bad work if you have a good dark suit, although you certainly don’t see people at their best.

When my friend the Reverend William M. Burnett passed away a week ago it so happened that there would be no funeral director involved. Although the newspaper carries such notices, the main method of spreading the word about funerals is, as has been the case for ages, those notices taped to the post office wall. I volunteered to print up a notice and there I was, tape dispenser in hand, doing for the first time the work my family had done for ages.

Because Bill touched many people in his half century of service as an Episcopal priest, the family asked me to put his obituary and photo on the web. Being a webmaster, I was glad to do it, including an online guest book for those that can’t attend what is sure to be a huge service on Wednesday afternoon. If you knew him, you’ll want to read Bill Burnett’s obituary.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

To my Republican friends

I haven’t spoken with any of my Republican friends since the election, I’m sure that any comments I made would seem like rubbing salt in their wounds. So I’m going to put some comments here for them to see once they’ve recovered:

Mitt Romney was a poor choice of candidates and he ran a poor campaign, but that wasn’t the problem. He got very lucky in that, although Obama ran a good campaign in terms of the nuts and bolts, the “ground game”, he was tired out from four years of fighting with your obstructionist congress critters. You lost a few of those, prepare to lose another raft of them next time out when your opposition doesn’t have to worry about the White House.

You lost by only a few points overall, but you lost huge with Latinos, blacks, women, educated people, gays, and the young. You won fat margins with white males and seniors. Next time out there will be more Latinos, a new crop of young voters, and we’ll lose a similar number of seniors. Moreover, Obama did a truly wretched job of explaining the Affordable Care Act, aka Romneycare, aka Obamacare. In 2016, seniors will fully understand the benefits of the reformed medical system and won’t be voting against it. You’ll be left with your base: white men with high school diplomas, elderly white men, the more docile white wives, and the 1%. Without serious change, you’re toast. It’s time to change your program.

Watching Republican candidates for the past several cycles, it would be easy to get the idea that abortion was a truly difficult political problem. It isn’t. Abortion isn’t a political problem at all. Polities don’t get pregnant, women do. If you really, really, really disapprove of abortion, don’t get one. That should be easy for the majority of Republicans: men and postmenapausal women aren’t at risk of pregnancy. Don’t try to pass bills requiring that your daughters get your permission for an abortion, or even to notify you. If your daughter gets in the kind of bind that makes her choose an abortion and doesn’t talk to you about it, you’ve already failed as a parent. Try to salvage the relationship for the future, but leave this one alone. If you’re a medical professional and feel you can’t be involved in abortions, don’t try to pass laws in the name of your “conscience”. Medical specialties are not mandatory and very few ophthalmologists, trauma specialists, or orthopedic surgeons are asked to perform abortions. In other words, take every reference to abortion and contraception out of your platform. If any candidates bring it up on their own, cut them off.

Marriage isn’t a sacred institution. It can be, but that’s the province of religion. If it really disgusts you, as a Republican man, to have sex with another man, as it does me, you should almost certainly marry a woman. If, however, you are drawn to other men, it’s not fair to marry a woman and expect her to put up with your conflicted soul. It’s not a political issue at all, communities don’t marry. Remember that every year there will be more young voters who know that same-sex marriage is a net positive for the community. Walk away.

You’ve been fixated on documents: birth certificates, passports, green cards. Your community is made up not of the people that carry the same passport as you but the people that live and work and raise families near you. If some of them are criminals, we can take advantage of their lack of documents and deport them instead of paying to put them in prison. Other than that, provide their children with a good education and reward their hard work and you’ll be proud to have them as neighbors. If you’re really lucky they’ll bring you a tray of tamales at Christmas.

And speaking of prisons, we can’t afford to have more people in prison than any other country in the world. We’ve turned our cities into war zones, not to mention the havoc we wreak on Mexico and the rest of Latin America by an irrational prohibition of a few drugs while happily allowing two really dangerous ones. Okay, you can’t come out for having hashish in the bulk section at Whole Foods right away, but this is an area in which your current policies are not only wrong but destructive in every possible way. Work on it. The libertarian elements in your party will be delighted.

Republicans have been taking aim at collective bargaining and the unions. Why? Union members are paid better, have better health benefits, and have more stable jobs. In other words, they’re the kind of people you want for neighbors. Sure, business executives can be good neighbors too, but they’d be just as good to live next door to if they made half the money. And please don’t sing the song about needing million-dollar paychecks to motivate leaders in business and finance. They might work harder if they weren’t showered with so much cash. We don’t want a country with a few billionaires and the rest earning minimum wage or on welfare. Unions were a major part of building the American middle class in the last century, they aren’t your enemies now. So stop being their enemy.

Get a grip on economics. As far as I can tell, every Republican candidate agreed that cutting taxes would immediately stimulate the economy. To get technical for a moment, this depended on the IMF’s calculation that the “multiplier effect” of government spending was 0.5. How they reached that conclusion is beyond me, we’ve had good economic times in this country when the top income tax rate was 91%. In fact, when the top tax rate was 39.6% under Clinton we were doing spectacularly. After having practically destroyed Greece with their austerity prescription, the IMF now thinks that the actual multiplier is between 0.9 and 1.7. In other words, a dollar of government spending might create an additional 90 cents to $1.70. A new electronics company or aircraft company with big export markets might have a multiplier of 3 or 4, so government spending isn’t as beneficial as new primary industry, but it’s still positive and rarely polluting.

Over the last three decades the financial sector has extracted more than twice as much of the national productivity as before, largely as a result of Republican decisions favoring Wall Street. This may make it easier to raise big contributions to Republican campaigns, but it makes for a less healthy America. Your past positions have worked against the personal interests of the great bulk of your party, even if they applauded them.

Basically, I think I’ve just said that you have to take your recent campaign platforms and burn them to the ground. It’s not that you need to work on your “messaging” to better present these ideas, you need to understand that the ideas you have most loudly proclaimed are simply wrong.

If you decide that these are the things that define the Republican party, and therefore can’t be changed, you’re going to lose your place as a major player. I personally don’t believe that the GOP has nothing to contribute, even though recent history suggests otherwise. There is some value in simply being the opposition and acting as a brake for the more exuberant bad ideas that the Democrats might come up with, but I strongly suspect that you can actually help move the United States forward if you’ll only stop trying to move us backwards. If I Were King I’d just go do it myself, but we actually need to be intelligent and act together. I earnestly hope you will.