Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Price of a Bomb: A Rundown with Batwoman

Today I thought I'd share something close to my heart with you. See, while my brother is a Marine and I support the idea on a war on terror, I think the military budget should be cut. Let's start with, oh, 1%. This translates to about one billion (1,000,000,000) dollars. To put that in perspective, that is about half of what it would take to start up the public health insurance option (which would seem to cost no tax money anyway). Considering this, I thought we might consider on what we could be spending that money, where else it could go and why the military is not the best place for it. I am not an expert on economics or military science, so I brought in someone who also is not an expert, but opinionated and fiery. Today's guest is Batwoman. Batwoman, how do you feel about the amount of money the US is putting into its military and not into its healthcare? Would you say it makes you mad enough to kick a gorilla?

And some to spare, I guess. You even drew some blood. Well, let's get down to business, then.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the US spends 5.3% of its GDP on education. That ranks us 57th in the world. That's below Slovenia (41), Ethiopia (43) and the Sudan (42). We're behind Cuba (9!). The only countries we respect above us are Switzerland, Norway, Finland and the UK, which spends 5.6% of its GDP on education. With our GDP at about 14 and 1/4 trillion, that's a lot of money, but we're .3% behind England, which doesn't seem like too big a deal until you realize that England has (besides its health care) free secondary education. That's right, the English get free college. I have to take out about 48 grand in student loans this year. Granted, I'm going to a private school (I actually wanted to learn how to turn on a camera), but that is just way too much damn money. I am getting loans from the government, but really, there is no good reason for me to be paying this much, let alone being punished for trying to improve myself and my position. Imagine if everyone could go to school for free. Just think of how much better this country would be if everyone were trained to think critically, compose arguments succinctly and stop being so stupid.
On the other hand, if college were affordable, a lot of people would stop joining the armed forces. What do you think, Batwoman?

Speechless and slinking from a geisha's room? Me, too.
As I mentioned earlier, the $1 billion that constitute 1% of the US military budget would go halfway to getting the public health insurance option running. Some people think this program shouldn't exist at all, which makes sense when you consider that children should be allowed to die from entirely treatable diseases. We could take $1 billion from the 17 going to nuclear weapons to make up this money. Some people might think this is also a bad idea, and they're probably right; the fact that our current cache of nukes is hundreds of warheads, each about one hundred-fold more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb just goes to show how much more we need to make. Do you think these people are right, Batwoman?

You're right Batwoman, those bitches are silly.
Now, I'm not saying we should take money from the $3 billion spent on family housing. I've seen some of the houses troops' families live in, and they still aren't that nice. Those people more than deserve that money.
I'm by no means saying the $70 billion spent on retired pay is wasted, as that money is going to people who served their country and deserve their pension, just like anyone else.
I'm just saying, I'm sure we can find 1% we can spend somewhere more worthy than, say, building a new fighter jet when the US already has the best jets ever.
A good choice might be helping the poor. From 2009 taxes, almost 12% will go to help the needy, compared to the 44% going to the military. The gap between the rich and poor, and the rate at which that gap is growing, is larger than anywhere else in the world and the largest its been throughout American history. With $1 billion, Obama could bring back the Food Commodities Assistance program, which cost $300,000 and help struggling single mothers get a bag a groceries free every month. That money could fund soup kitchens or help poor children get free lunches at school. Instead, it's building bombs and buying guns.
By the way, the military spends about twenty two times more than what is spent on education and jobs, science and the environment and over double what is spent on health care.
I was thinking recently about something I read in a book of Norse mythology. It talked about how warriors and sailors were guaranteed a special place in the afterlife, the high seats at Valhalla, for their professions on earth. I also remember a statement issued by a union around WWI, mourning the deaths of soldiers but wondering why their brothers who died in mines or on railroads were unsung. Nothing has changed: we still hold fighters aloft and let workers toil unappreciated. I'm not saying my brother should be given anything less than the best, but I think we should try to respect all Americans, all people. This might be the best way for us to get along.
We all might end up getting better, being happier.

Or we might all get shot at by terrorists while fighting gremlins and werewolves. Both are equally likely.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm Going to Pick a Few for Myself

I'm a Jungian. I like the idea of, not expunging, but rather embracing my faults. This works with my faux-egomania defense mechanism and almost, kind of, artificially, boosts my self-esteem. Which is unhealthy, probably more so than alcohol, but it is cheaper. That is, until I finally decide to suck it up and see a shrink. Does calling them "shrinks" hurt their feelings? Analyst, then.
There is something to be said for my method of shadow dispersal, despite its rampant self-destructive nature: it acknowledges bad parts of me as parts of me. I'm never going to be rid of my most basic character flaws, the first of which is my near total lack of character. "Just because you are a character, doesn't mean you have character," quips Mr. Wolf near the end of Pulp Fiction. This is shortly before he offers the advice of, "move out of the sticks." I should listen to Harvey Keitel more.
Still, old Carl would have me look at my insecurity, self-loathing and juggernaut inferiority complex and say to them, "you are part of me and I don't have to like you, but I need to like me." Which is probably healthy, but I don't know; I'm not a doctor. Or even a post-graduate. Or graduate. Or... anyway, in an attempt to overcome some of my more malodorous aspects, I've been looking over, little by little, Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project blog. I noticed one of its cornerstones is a list of 12 commandments to guide her through this process of achieving a real, meaningful and lasting joy. You should check her out, because she's pretty sharp, but also rather pretty. Everyone loves redheads. I am not a redhead. I can give you an idea of her precepts as being things along the lines of being comfortable with herself and embracing love and proactivity. Hunt down her blog and check the list out for yourself. It's a good list, and we all love the hell out of lists.
Looking at Ms. Rubin's roll call of self-improvement, I thought I'd give my own a shot. This is largely precipitated by my yelling at my fiance earlier when she was, and I'm choosing my word carefully here, encouraging me to try harder in seeking employment. Now, I'm not going to say I was wrong in how I felt, but I communicated this poorly, much like yelling at someone for jumping your car with their own cables: I'm just pissed I can't help myself.
So, here goes:
  1. Being Brandon.
  2. Rubin's is "Be Gretchen," and I like the reproducibility. When I was in high school, I was often told I didn't seem like a Brandon. While I could never get an answer as to what I did seem, I would also hear a lot of, "you would, Sichling." This is the sort of thing that's great for your self-image. So, I think from here on out, I'm going to stop letting others define me and work at my process of distinction, hence the gerund.
  3. Remember: that person is not necessarily an asshole.
  4. Even if there is a good chance. In the past couple of years especially, I've chalked a lot up to this, and it hasn't done me a lot of good. A few people who I've written off have become very dear friends. One or two I've initially embraced have turned out to be, well, take a wild guess.
  5. Remember when Jesus got good and pissed.
  6. My all-time #1 hero, sorry, Christ, is Batman and has been since I was very little. Reflecting on this recently, I realized part of the character's attraction for me is the unquenchable blaze of his rage. I like that righteous anger. Too bad mine is like a blind kid with a bolo, tripping up others and himself. I need to be more willing to womp evil and less ready to smack Robin.
  7. Silence is not judgment.
  8. It is not my responsibility to entertain everyone with something to say, and just because I'm not doing it doesn't mean everyone else thinks I'm too lame to come up with a witty remark. Like this here description, there was nothing witty in it and that's okay.
  9. I don't have to be polite, just fair.
  10. I'm taking this one from Rubin, but she asks both of herself. I've been plenty polite to people who were willing to treat myself and others like crap. Now, maybe they're just having a bad day, and I can understand that, but it's not my job to suffer for it any more than it's other people's job to suffer mine. Likewise, if I'm having a good day, I will not use that as an excuse to make someone else's day better. Have your own good day.
  11. Don't take life seriously.
  12. Oscar Wilde said, "life is far too important a thing to ever talk about seriously." My junior high shop teacher asked if I ever took anything seriously. I didn't use to, and God willing I can be that frivolous with vitals again.
  13. I don't have to be prefect
  14. I don't have to be a person appointed to any of various positions of command, authority, or superintendence, as a chief magistrate in ancient Rome or the chief administrative official of a department of France or Italy. Nobody's prefect.
  15. Blame myself once, move on.
  16. Another piece of disturbingly sagacious advice from Homer Simpson. He once told Marge to not keep blaming herself, once was enough. Feeling guilty about stuff done to ex-girlfriends is not nearly as fruitful as feeling guilty about stuff doing to current girlfriend. I also get a jolt of contrition when I see commercials for NBC's new show Trauma. If you want to know why, you can ask.
  17. It's okay.
  18. I am not as well-read as Neil Gaiman, I am older than Bradbury when he was first published, I am not as well-toned as Random Guy at Gym, I am not as asked after as my brother, I have not gotten any merit scholarships and I have not been invited on Charlie Rose's show. And it's okay. Not that there's any reason why it's okay, but it'll just have to be.
  19. I am not above flipping burgers;
  20. flipping burgers is beneath me. I can do the work, and I may need to yet, but I am too good for it in the long run and I will get better jobs. Maybe, someday, I can be a shoeshine boy. Which is to say, I want to steal scores of left shoes.
  21. People's opinions are important, as long as I care.
  22. I need to remember that a person's opinion of me should only matter as long as I have a high opinion of that person. I have a habit of holding my fiance's parent's thoughts on a similar level with those of some beggar. I need to prioritize a little better, because the homeless are excellent judges of character.
  23. Pray about it.
  24. Because God has to listen. He doesn't have to do anything about it, but He has to listen to me, no matter what I say. Suddenly, I feel empowered.

I just wanted to share this with my vast readership, and I thank you both from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot to me when you read these posts, and feedback is always requested. If you write your own list, I'll read it. We're all in this together. Now excuse me while I aggrandize myself with breakfast cereal and the edifying, soothing words of Harvey Keitel: "You're gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay. Say the goddamn words! You're gonna be okay!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Vitreous, not Humour

Feeling weighty fog,
Feeling my rat's callous bite
I dig out my eyes