Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crossing the Color Line

I have a very large box of Crayola crayons.  I say very large because it has 96 different crayons in it.  It was actually given to me in a class I took my first semester as a Religious Studies major at California State University Northridge.  I've kept it for many years even though I don't really use the contents.  Today I'm looking inside and marveling at the colors.

With nearly one hundred crayons, there are a great many colors to see but I'm fixating on the greens and browns.  There are quite a few shades of each but neither can be categorized as better than the others, or more important than the others.  

But what if I want to draw a leaf?  To draw a leaf requires green and to give it depth requires various shades.  I can use granny smith apple, olive green, spring green, green yellow, forest green, yellow green, tropical rain forest or even shamrock.  

Except this particular leaf might be dead.  Now the brown becomes more important and like the green, it comes in a variety of shades.  Raw sienna, burnt orange, mahogany, sepia, indian red (which isn't called that any longer), tumbleweed, burnt sienna, tan, copper and bittersweet.

Although between the leaf being green and it being brown, it might go through other colors.  What if I'm drawing a leaf in the autumn and I want to capture the idea of the flaming foliage that is so beautiful just before the onslaught of winter?  Then I can go with the reds; maroon, purple pizzazz, wild strawberry, magenta, red violet, violet red, razzmatazz, brick red, cerise and fuchsia.  

Perhaps I should use orange; vivid tangerine, red orange, yellow orange or macaroni and cheese.

Also, the yellows; unmellow yellow, laser yellow and dandelion.

I might place the leaf in juxtaposition against the blue sky, which can be any number of shades of blue; sky blue (which seems like the most obvious choice) but also robin's egg blue, teal blue, denim, cerulean, turquoise blue, aquamarine, blizzard blue and cornflower.

Every crayon in the box is different than every other crayon, even if the difference is only a slight one but this makes every crayon unique.  Each can do something that no other crayon can do exactly the same way.  A green leaf is not identical to an olive green leaf or a shamrock leaf any more than a cerulean sky matches a sky blue one.  It's not a matter of one being better than the other but merely of being different.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles race riots, which started on April 29, 1992.  It's a day I remember too well.  One of the aspects of this city that I love most is the difference of the people.  Having grown up in a neighborhood that was all too homogeneous,  I relish my adopted city where there is so much diversity.  Just as the box of crayons is made up of unique individuals, so is my city.  Just as each crayon is equally as important as any other crayon, so are the residents of my city.  Just as the loss of one crayon would be noticed, so would the loss of any of the diversity of my city.

As we reflect on the memory of that sad and horrible day twenty years ago, I will think of my city as being like this box of crayons -- very colorful and always brings a smile to my face.  And mostly, I will remember that it takes all of US to make the USA.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Idiot of the Week

It's probably not nice to call someone an idiot but if someone does or says something so amazingly stupid, then the moniker seems to fit.  In this case, I feel that the label does justice to the content and so, without further ado, I present my candidate for the Idiot of the Week:

In an effort to defend Mitt Romney as being a person of the people (and not simply a rich snob), a conservative radio talk show host presented the following argument:

"I don't believe people are going to bed hungry. ... For, instance I have friends of mine who eat rice and beans all the time. Beans protein, rice. Inexpensive. You can make a big pot of this for a week for negligible amounts of money and you can feed your whole family."

Beans and rice.  Rice and beans.  Really?

In case you haven't heard about this, the host was Sean Hannity. 

Where to begin.  First, Hannity was not born poor.  He attended a private preparatory school in New York as well as a private college (Adelphi University).  He also attended New York University, so Mr. Hannity is obviously unfamiliar with what it means to be poor.  He is not, however, unfamiliar with what it means to be stupid.

Beans do provide a moderate amount of protein (about 6 to 9 grams per 100 grams of beans, depending on the type) but they do not constitute a complete protein.  In order to be considered a complete protein the food in question must contain all nine essential amino acids in proper proportions to meet the dietary needs of humans.  Mr. Hannity might have known this had he not dropped out of both of his colleges.  Not a smart move.

While he doesn't state what type of rice he means, since he is presenting this argument as a way of saving money, I would have to think (notice, Sean, I think) that he means white rice, since it is far cheaper than other varieties.  White rice also contains the least amount of nutrients and very little fiber.  Had he substituted brown rice there would at least be some fiber added to the diet but that was apparently not necessary to Mr. Hannity because he doesn't realize that fiber can also reduce the risk of illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.  At least, that's what the Mayo Clinic believes but Sean has probably never read anything put out by the Mayo Clinic.  He thinks that's where Mayonnaise is made.

Now, in Mr. Hannity's defense, he did also say;

"Look, you should have vegetables and fruit in there as well, but if you need to survive you can survive off it. It's not ideal but you could get some cheap meat and throw it in there as well for protein. There are ways to live really, really cheaply."

Exactly how long does Mr. Hannity think someone could survive on beans and rice?  He doesn't say but he does say that there are ways to live "really, really cheaply."  And on his current salary of $10 million a year, what would Mr. Hannity know about living cheaply?

Notice that he says the people who eat the rice and beans are friends of his.  If I made $10 million a year, I can honestly say that none of my friends would be living on rice and beans.  Not unless they did so without my knowing about it.

Apparently, there are many things Sean doesn't know about.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Learning to Get Along

The Trayvon Martin case in Florida has rocked this country with outrage.  As Americans, the majority of us learned long ago that the only way our country can progress is to treat all Americans with the same respect and consideration that we wish to have shown to us.  When we learn to respect each other then we can get along together, work together and build a great nation together.

Our country did not become the most powerful nation on the planet solely by the works of the White Anglo Saxon Protestants who first arrived here.  It was the influence of many groups of people who all brought something to the table that make this bountiful banquet.  That first began with the Native Americans who continually get the short end of any negotiations with our government. 

When countries throughout the world have hard times, some of their people come here and by welcoming those people, we open our doors not only to those yearning to breathe free but also to some of the most incredible minds that help to shape our country and make it better.  Those minds are not restricted to one race or nationality or gender.  Brilliance comes in many shapes and sizes and by welcoming so many different people to this country, our nation has become great.

Trayvon Martin has shown us that not all Americans respect the diversity of our country but this does not mean that we, as a people, do not respect each other.  This type of killing was commonplace at one time and the fact that it has been so newsworthy shows that our thinking toward each other has changed.  We have learned to get along and the outcry against Zimmerman (the man who killed Trayvon) is not restricted to the black community.  Those of us who are white are just as outraged by this action.

We should be taking our political ideology beyond our own borders.  We should be showing other countries that even though they have people living within their country with whom they do not get along, they can overcome their differences if they try.  Our nation went through a terrible civil war because of the issue of slavery and even when the blacks were freed, it was still decades before they finally achieved full civil rights.  To this day we still have individuals who do not believe in those rights but the majority of us do.  The majority of us proudly elected our first black president to lead this country.

We need to help other countries to achieve this and the first place we should start is in the Middle East.  Ever since declaring statehood in 1948, Israel has continually fought with the Palestinians who live within her borders.  For more than 60 years the bloodshed continues not because of terrorist attacks against Israel, as the Israeli government would have us believe but because Israel is conducting the attacks.  

Israel has a strong army and one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East.  Much of the Middle East is wealthy with oil yet not Israel.  So how does this country pay for an army, for nuclear weaponry and for such a high standard of living?

We pay it.  The United States gives the state of Israel more than two billion dollars a year.  This is not a loan.  This is money that hard working Americans pay as taxes that are then given away to a country that refuses to work in good faith toward peace.  Because they don't have to.  They can continue to support their army and build nuclear weapons because we are paying for them.

This needs to stop.  We need to stop all foreign aid to Israel and put that country in a financial position where it will have to work with its neighbors.  Force the Israeli government to sit down and fairly deal with the Palestinians.  Force Israel to return the land that they stole from the Palestinians.  Return the borders of Israel to what they were in 1948 when the country was first declared independent.

Further, the United States needs to work with the United Nations to grant statehood to Palestine as well.  By putting Palestine on an equal footing with Israel, it gives further encouragement to Israel to finally make peace.

Our nation has demonstrated that it is possible for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, Atheists and all other religions to live and work together.  We have shown that black, white, yellow, brown and red can all live in harmony.  We need to spread that message to the world and at the same time, stop paying other countries to kill those they don't like.

Highest Corporate Taxes in the World

The United States is once again number one but not in an area where it is a matter of pride.  Thanks to a recent move in Japan to lower their corporate tax rate, the United States is now the highest corporate tax rate in the world.  This, of course, has many people screaming about the need to lower these taxes.  And I mostly agree.

I say I mostly agree because I think that before we just lower the tax rate, the corporations need to do their fair share.  Many industries in this country have been making record profits.  These industries include financial institutions, insurance companies and oil companies.  If they make record profits on our (the consumers) money, then they should certainly pay their fair share in taxes.  Many are now arguing that they are paying more than their fair share.

I would suggest that we revise the tax rate but only for those companies that meet two criteria.  The first is that if they are a company that is headquartered in the United States, no part of their operation can be outsourced to a foreign country.  They can certainly have offices in other countries but their IT department for America must remain here.  Their Human Resources for America must remain here.  Their Customer Service for America must remain here.  If any part of their operation services American consumers, it must be done on American soil.  This would also apply to any company that is not headquartered here but has operations here.  Any service provided to Americans must be provided here.

Why should we lower taxes on a corporation that is sending jobs overseas?  We need to get Americans working and rewarding companies that take jobs away from Americans is not something this country should allow.

Second, no one in the company can make more than twenty times what the lowest person in the company earns.  This amount includes their entire compensation package; salary, overtime, bonuses, benefits, pension payments, stock options and any other part of their compensation.

Tax breaks would certainly help the corporations make more money, which would allow their stock to rise and allow them to hire more people but the truth is, many companies already spend far too much of their earnings on executive salaries.  The gap between the rich and the poor in this country is growing wider and the middle class is continually being pushed downward.  That trend needs to stop.  There is no reason why our government should reward a company that pays its workers under $50,000 a year and then pays $15 million to an executive.  

We, the American people who buy the products and services of these corporations are ultimately the ones who pay these taxes.  It's our money.  I, for one, do not want my money going to companies that send jobs overseas or pay exorbitant salaries to a small group of individuals.