Friday, May 8, 2015

Some People Will Hate This

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©2015 by LeeZard

I’m glad I live in America; it could be a helluva lot worse. I could be living in Haiti, Nepal, an African nation ravaged by Aids and/or Ebola or even Russia. But I don’t. The fact is, though, I don’t think America is the best country in the world anymore, far from it. Yeah, this is the part that will piss people off. So it goes.
Blind patriotism, like anything in the extreme, is dangerous. There’s a reason the word ‘blind’ is there; it means you don’t see anything beyond your nationalism. It means you don’t see the racism, the violence, the poverty or the perpetually hungry. It means you think we don’t live in a dictatorship when, in fact, ours is a dictatorship of the wealthy. OMG, he’s talking like a fucking Communist! Really? Let’s compare.

ECONOMY 
We are no longer the economic engine that drives the world. According to Bloomberg Business:
 “Emerging markets in Asia and Africa reign supreme: They're at the top of global growth projections over the next two years.

The world is expected to grow 3.2 percent in 2015 and 3.7 percent next year after expanding 3.3 percent in each of the past two years, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists. China, the Philippines, Kenya, India and Indonesia, which together make up about 16 percent of global gross domestic product, are all forecast to grow more than 5 percent in 2015.

By comparison, the U.S. and U.K., which combined account for about a quarter of global growth, are expected to grow 3.1 percent and 2.6 percent this year, respectively. “
Dictatorship of the wealthy? The gap between the rich and the rest of America has been much in the news recently. Here’s why. According to The Pew Research Center:
“The U.S. has one of the most unequal income distributions in the developed world, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — even after taxes and social-welfare policies are taken into account.
 Before accounting for taxes and transfers, the U.S. ranked 10th in income inequality; among the countries with more unequal income distributions were France, the U.K. and Ireland. But after taking taxes and transfers into account, the U.S. had the second-highest level of inequality, behind only Chile.”
  
HIGHER EDUCATION 
According to AlterNet.org:
“Two-thirds of American college students graduate with college debt, and that debt now tops $1.2 trillion. By every indication, college is now more expensive than it has ever been, out of reach for not only poor Americans but even middle class ones. While various reforms made in the past few years may have helped slow the growth of college costs, they continue to outpace Americans’ ability to pay.”

A Google search for countries in which higher education is “free,” reveals at least these six:
  • Germany 
  • France does charge tuition – but normally around $200.00 at public universities, a far cry from what you’d pay in the United States, even in a state school.
  • Finland
  • Brazil
  • Norway
  •  Sweden

Hmmmm, there’s not a communist country on the list.

CRIMES INVOLVING HANDGUNS 
According to Forbes.com:
“Few major nations have the right to bear arms configured in their Constitution. Even fewer (as in we are the only one) have gun control legislation as a hot button political issue.  The U.S. is the most violent core economy in terms of gun related deaths. It is also the leader in gun violence at school campuses. Yet, the U.S. does not lead the world in firearms related deaths.”

But, if you look at Forbes’ list of countries with the most handgun-related crimes, 12th ranked America embarrassingly finds itself in the company of third-world countries:

  1. El Salvador
  2. Jamaica
  3. Honduras 
  4. Guatemala 
  5.  Swaziland
  6. Colombia 
  7.  Brazil 
  8.  Panama
  9. Mexico
  10. The Philippines
  11. South Africa 
  12. United States

SERIAL KILLERS SINCE 1900

 Oh boy, have we got ‘em (And we glorify them!):
“Serial Killers by Country
  • United States - 2,625
  • England - 142
  • S. Africa - 101
  • Italy - 100
  • Japan - 88
  • Germany - 75
  • Canada - 74
  • Australia - 72
  • Russia - 64
  • India - 57
  • France - 52
  • China - 41
  • Mexico - 23
  • Austria - 17
  • Brazil - 15
  • Poland - 15
  • Scotland - 13
  • Spain - 13
  • Netherlands - 11
  • Sweden - 10 
(Note: Serial killers operating in multiple countries are not includedSource: Radford University/FGCU Serial Killer Database
September 6, 2014)

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT AND PRISONS
According to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, The United States had relatively few executions in 2013 but, once again, we find ourselves in some dubious company:


Countries with the Most 
Confirmed Executions in 2013
1. China (estimated in the thousands)
4. Saudi Arabia (79+)
2. Iran (369+)
5. United States (39)
3. Iraq (169+)
6. Somalia (34+)

The U.S is Number One with the most prisoners in the world. The American Psychological Association reported in October 2014:

“While the United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, it has nearly 25 percent of its prisoners — about 2.2 million people.
Over the past four decades, the nation's get-tough-on-crime policies have packed prisons and jails to the bursting point, largely with poor, uneducated people of color, about half of whom suffer from mental health problems.
 This startling reality has cost U.S. society in many ways, concludes a sweeping National Research Council (NRC) report produced by an interdisciplinary committee of researchers.
‘We reached a broad consensus on what negative impacts these policies have had on individuals, on families, on communities and on the nation,’ says Craig Haney, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a report co-author and member of a committee that in July briefed the White House on the report's findings.
One out of every 100 American adults is incarcerated, a per capita rate five to 10 times higher than that in Western Europe or other democracies, the report found. Though the trend has slowed in recent years — from 2006 to 2011, more than half of states trimmed their prison populations — in 2012 the United States still stood as the world leader in incarceration by a substantial margin.
While the United States has 707 incarcerated people per 100,000 citizens, for example, China has 124 to 172 per 100,000 people and Iran 284 per 100,000. North Korea is perhaps the closest, but reliable numbers are hard to find; some estimates suggest 600 to 800 per 100,000.” 
 That same NRC report came up with shocking numbers for the cost of imprisoning our citizens:
“State spending on corrections increased by 400 percent, adjusted for inflation, between 1980 and 2009 (over the same time, state prison populations increased by 475 percent). The rise in corrections spending at the federal and local level has been similarly steep.

As a result, the report points out, the criminal justice system in many states has increasingly become the main provider of health care, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, job training and education for the most disadvantaged populations in America.
Finally, the report quantifies what we already know:
“Today, minorities constitute 60 percent of the U.S. prison population. Men under the age of 40, the poorly educated, people with mental illness and drug and alcohol addicts are also over-represented.”

So, as I look over to the right side of the room, I see many super-patriots reaching for their handguns. Hold on boys! I’m not writing this to bash America. What I am doing is pointing out that we are not that shining light in the world anymore and we cannot be blinded by our patriotism. I write this because I love my country, I really do. I also write this because I am very concerned about my country.

On the one hand, we are THE singular superpower playing both good and bad cop on the international stage. I can't think of any other country where I could feel safer from any enemy attacking us, terrorists notwithstanding.


What troubles me, what really troubles me, is what we do to ourselves. Look at all the data I’ve presented. Look at the protests and race riots across the country. This is 20-fucking-15 people. If we are supposed to be the greatest country in the world, why haven’t we figured this shit out?

 
One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most famous quotes is, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

With apologies to FDR, I say, “The only thing we have to fear is ourselves.”



















Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oldies for Oldies


©2015 by LeeZard

An old high school pal recently re-posted on Facebook, “Some of the artists of the 60's (or their estates) are revising their hits with new lyrics to accommodate aging baby boomers.” She proceeded to add a pretty funny list from the original post, along with a few of her own (and from other friends).

Of course LeeZard jumped right in and kept on swimming. Below is my random list. Feel free to comment and add your own.

·       ABBA --- Aching Queen
·       Beatles --- I Don’t Feel Fine/I Saw Her Lying There/I Wanna Hold Your Gland/Yellow Hematoma
·       Johnny Nash --- I Can Cialis Now

·       Rolling Stones --- Let's Spend Social Security Together/Sympathy for the Surgeon
·       Bette Midler --- Wind Beneath My Jeans/I’m Wrinkled Dammit/Do You Wanna Limp
·       Mamas & Papas --- I Forgot Your Name
·       Queen --- Crazy Little Thing Called Arthritis
·       Three Dog Night --- Easy to be Sick/Doctor's Comin'
Billy Joel --- Making a Scene at an Italian Restaurant/A Matter of No Lust/River of Pee
·       Jackson Browne --- Takin' It Queazy
·       Bob Seger --- Night Chills/Against Passing Wind
·       Sonny & Cher --- Baby Please Don’t Go (To the Bathroom Again)
·       Crosby, Stills & Nash --- Move in With Your Children/Sweat for Judy Blue Eyes/Wooden Legs
·       Ten Years After --- I'm Going Into a Home
·       Shirelles --- Will You Still Hear Me Tomorrow
·       Moody Blues --- Nights With No Statins/ I'm Just a Singer in the Coroner's Van
·       Smokey Robinson & The Miracles --- It Was Just My Indigestion/Flop Around
·       Four Tops --- Can't Feed Myself
·       Creedence Clearwater Revival --- Bad Bile Rising/Limping out my Back Door
·       Bruce Springsteen --- Pink Cataracts/Cataract Ranch/Human Crutch/Raise Your Pants/Tenth Avenue Pharmacy/Throwin’ Up
·       Sam Cooke --- Pain Gang
·       Derek and the Dominos --- Fat Bottom Blues
·       Boxtops --- Pee Like a Baby
·       Van Morrisson --- One Eyed Girl
·       Lloyd Price --- Staggerin’ Me
·       Ricky Nelson --- Poor Little Stool Sample
·       Simon & Garfunkle --- Bridge Over Troubled Bladder/I am in Shock
·       Mason Williams --- Classic Gas
·       Danny & the Juniors --- At the Emergency Room/Kidney Stones are Here to Stay
·       The Monkees --- Wrinkle Cream Believer
·       Elvis Presley --- Shake, Rattle & Crawl/Old Folks Hotel
·       Beach Boys --- Don't Hurry Baby/Let’s go Burping/Little Dark Poop
·       The Doors --- Fight My Piles/Roadhouse Restrooms
·       Ray Charles --- Here We Go (To the Hospital) Again
·       Dave "Baby" Cortez --- The Unhappy Organ
·       Harry Nillson - Jump Into the Pyre/Everybody’s Dyin’
  Bob Dylan --- Positively False Teeth/I Can’t Stand Maggie’s Farts No More
·       Chambers Bros --- I Can't Turn You Over
·       Tom Petty --- I Won't Black Out
·       Fats Domino --- I'm In Pain Again/Blueberry Pill
·       The Rascals --- I've Been Constipated Too Long/Poopin’
·       Ramsey Lewis Trio ---- The Old Crowd
·       The Kingsmen --- Gooey Gooey
·       Steven Stills --- Find the One You're With
·       Bobby Darin --- Under the Knife
·       Rod Stewart --- Maggie May Not /Every Scar Tells a Story
·       Delaney & Bonnie --- Never Ending Transfusion For You
·       The Crystals --- Then He Pissed on Me
·       Chuck Berry --- Johnny Be Old
·       Jackson Browne --- Doctor My Eyes!!
Guess Who This Is
·       Warren Zevon --- Johnny Fucks Up a Gland
·       Jerry Butler --- He Can’t See You
·       Jerry Lee Lewis --- Great Balls On Fire/Too Much Shakin’ Goin On
·       Johnny Cash --- Ring of Fire: My Piles are Killin’ Me
·       The Dovells --- You Can’t Sit Down; Your Piles are Killing You
·       Johnny Mathis --- It’s Not For Me to Decay
·       Mamas & Papas --- I Call Your Doctor
·       Pointer Sisters --- I’m So Bloated
·       Supremes --- Where Did Our Kids Go
·       Little Anthony and the Imperials --- Teeth on My Pillow

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In Search of the Commerce Comet

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©1992 by LeeZard

"Mickey wasn't known as a baseball player when he was growin' up here."

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon in the cramped storefront office that serves as the Commerce, Oklahoma, Police Department. The sergeant on duty was a precious link to my boyhood hero's past. 

"Mick was really a great football player in junior high school."


Mickey Mantle's boyhood home in Commerce, OK

I had driven to this small, dusty town in the northeast corner of Oklahoma to just experience the place where Mickey Mantle grew up. I don't know what I expected to find, but I was quite surprised at what I didn't find.

The only business open on this lazy winter church-going Sunday was the 7-11. I was looking for anything that proclaimed this as, "Commerce, Oklahoma: Boyhood Home of Mickey Mantle!" To my shock, dismay and disappointment I could find no such treasure. In fact, except for the name "Mickey Mantle Boulevard" on State Route 69 that skirts “downtown” Commerce, there was no recognition that this was, indeed, the hometown of one of America's beloved baseball icons. I became determined to find out why.

I turned down Main Street, looking for anyone who might shed some light on this historic omission. As I drove through town I was overcome by something more than Sunday quiet and solitude. I knew from reading about Mantle's life of the nearby copper mines in which he vowed never to work and die. And now, driving past the sun bleached, sandblasted stores of Commerce, I understood why he fled.

The only thing open on Main Street was the police station and, in my quest for ANYTHING that said Commerce, OK, on it, I entered and asked for a blank sheet of letterhead. I ended up spending almost an hour talking with the desk sergeant and it was here I learned of the long-standing grudge Mickey Charles Mantle held against the city fathers of Commerce.

It's funny how something simple—a mere misunderstanding—can have Life-long implications. It seems the town of Commerce was planning to build a new Little League baseball field and the idea was to name it for Mickey Mantle. "The Mick" had other ideas; he wanted it named for his father, Mutt Mantle.


The Mantle Family. That's Mutt on the far left
Mutt was the reason Mickey became a ballplayer. After working the copper mines everyday Mutt would take Mickey out after dinner and throw grounder after grounder at the young man (Mickey actually began his baseball career as an infielder). Mutt, like most of the Mantle men, died relatively young of Hodgekins Disease and, according to my new friend at the Commerce Police Department, Mickey wanted the town to honor his dad.

It's not clear whether the powers-that-be first agreed and then reneged, or if they flat out refused. The bottom line: there was to be no Mutt Mantle Field and, when Mickey was invited back "home" for the ground breaking ceremony his reply reportedly was, "I left nothin' in Commerce, Oklahoma, and have no reason to go back there." The town fathers, in return, took down the big fundraising billboard with Mickey's name on it. Mickey, in apparent retaliation, settled across the state line in nearby Joplin, Missouri, and that was that.

After my visit to Commerce, and up until the time Mickey became fatally ill, I called my hero’s agent regularly to try and get Mantle’s side of the story. He never returned my calls and I never learned if “The Commerce Comet” made peace with his boyhood home town.