Monthly Archives: January 2014

Index – Brissioni Blog – All Posts – 2010



April, 2010

Debit Cards  shopping mysteries  4/27/10  *  Divine Right  secrets of the universe  4/28/10  *  Decisions  TV Dilemmas  4/29/10  *  House Shopping  a nail biter  4/30/10

May, 2010

House Shopping II  once bitten, will they grow back  5/1/10  *  Eco Terrorism?  Nutburger?  5/2/10  *  Oil Spill 2  grief  5/3/10  *  Francesca’s  5/4/10  *  Books  5/5/10  *  Let Freedom Ring!  Chauvinism or philosophy?  5/6/10  *  Global Freedom  colonialism or humanitarianism  5/7/10  *  Schools  I have a stomach ache  5/8/10  *  Oil Spill 3  fast forward  5/11/10  *  Order and Beauty  5/12/10  *  An Anywhere But New York State of Mind  budget blues  5/13/10  *  House Shopping III  karma  5/14/10  *  Public Utilities  playing monopoly  5/15/10  *  Being Green  woodchuck vs. us  5/17/10  *  Abortion Issues  existential dilemma  5/18/10  *  Books  current reads  5/19/10  *  Oil Spill Variation  the blame game  5/20/10  *  NYS – Green, Prosperous and Fun  princess summerfallwinterspring  5/21/10  *  Carousel Mall  fill “the big empty”  5/22/10  *  Live the “Good Life”  fake it, if you can’t feel it  5/24/10  *  Have We Lost Our Moral Compass  separation of church and state  5/25/10  *  My Family  a huge legacy  5/26/10  *  Volunteers, Please  raise your hand  5/27/10  *  Official Language  5/28/10  *  Books (China)  5/29/10

June, 2010

Charter Schools  a temporary boost  6/1/10  *  Deeply Gross  6/2/10  *  Fundamentalists  religion and government  6/3/10  *  Roll Back Time  it wasn’t really as good as it seems  6/4/10  *  Nanny State  must population growth trump freedom  6/5/10  *  Books – “Sweet Mysteries”  Mma  6/7/10  *  More Books – Summer Reading  6/8/10  *  Too Far Already  wrestling an octopus  6/9/10  *  Little Murders  the dark ages  6/10/10  *  It’s Tough to Be President  whiplash  6/11/10  *  Sci-Fi  6/12/10  *  Off the Grid  6/14/11  *  Why We Need a Space Program  Rocket Man  6/15/10  *  Is AARP Our Friend?  Conflict of interest  6/16/10  *  Your FICO or Your Life  I’m a number  6/17/10  *  House Shopping IV  6/18/10  *  Storms – For My Dad  6/19/10  *  Another Oil Spill Variation  6/21/10  *  Lament:  The Demise of the Mom and Pop Grocery  6/22/10  *  The “Yield” Sign  6/23/10  *  Jelly Legs  bow-legged  6/24/10  *  California Dreaming  6/25/10  *  Cable Wars  6/26/10  *  Coming Down Off the Hill  the “townies” dilemma  6/28/10  *  Our Best Behavior is Required   at the edge of the universe  6/29/10  *  Sad Chronology  6/30/10

July, 2010

Unmanned Drones  military assets  7/1/10  *  Addiction  7/2/10  *  Books  7/3/10  *  Words  7/5/10  *  Feel Your Way  7/6/10  *  Senator Kennedy and Me  Camelot  7/7/10  *  Gut-Punched  guilt, loss, power  7/8/10  *  True Compass 3 – Confirmation Hearings  7/9/10  *  A Great Consumer  7/10/10  *  House Shopping V  7/12/10  *  Instant Gratification  7/13/10  *  Raising Age is not the Answer  7/14/10  *  “No” to John Boehner  7/15/10  *  Oil Spill Reprise  7/16/10  *  Books, Mid July – 2010  7/17/10  *  Because Bathtubs and the Family’s Toddlers are Delightful  7/19/10  *  The Chicken or the Egg  7/20/10  *  Nostalgia v. Reality  don’t forget the jobless  7/21/10  *  On Strike  jobs  7/22/10  *  House Shopping V – Sort of  are we there yet  7/23/10  *  If a Tree Falls  7/24/10  *  Exclusion or Inclusion?  7/26/10  *  If I Had Money  7/27/10  *  Hold Your Nose  financial matters  *  The New Economy – How Far Away  7/29/10  *  Enough Jobs  chronic unemployment  7/30/10  *  House Shopping VII –  “[I’ve] Got to Get Out of This Place  7/31/10

August, 2010

Books – Kennedys – one last time  8/2/10  *  Books – August  8/3/10  *  The “Jerry Springer” Approach to Politics  8/4/10  *  Evolution  higher ground  8/5/10  *  Snow – a book by Orhan Pamuk  8/6/10  *  House Shopping VIII  8/7/10  *  Keeping the Bush Tax Cuts  8/9/10  *  Three Big Issues  8/10/10  *  Weather Girl  8/11/10  *  Political Doppler  8/12/10  *  House Shopping IX  8/13/10  *  Books – Sci-Fi  space out  8/14/10  *  Money, Money, Money  if success means money  8/16/10  *  The Mosque Near Ground Zero  a tough one  8/17/10  *  Slow News Day  8/18/10  *  When Johnny Comes Marching Home  coming home  8/19/10  *  A Disturbance in the Force  earthquakes, fires, floods  8/20/10  *  Harvesting Our Green Dream (Our Garden)  8/21/10  *  Book – My Favorite Science Fiction Stories  8/23/10  *  Fighting Terrorism, or Off Track  8/24/10  *  House Shopping X – The Home Inspection  8/25/10  *  Schooling in America  keeping our economic edge  8/26/10  *  Music Shock  “I grow old, I grow old”  8/27/10  *  Glenn Beck and America’s Honor  he gives me a stomach ache  8/28/10  *  Book to Movie  – The Time Traveler’s Wife  8/30/10  *  Why Glenn Beck Gives Me a Stomach Ache  8/31/10

September, 2010

More Science Fiction Books  9/1/10  *  The Sufi Commune  9/2/10  *  Books – The Last of My Sci-Fi List  9/23/10  *  My Soapbox  9/7/10  *  “Mean Girls”  9/8/10  *  “Modern” vs. “Tribal” Societies  9/10/10  *  House Shopping XI  9/11/10  *  I Don’t Get It  9/13/10  *  Books – September List  9/14/10  *  Books – Hardcover Fiction – September  9/15/10  *  The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party  9/16/10  *  Sarah Palin – What is the Appeal?  9/17/10  *  House Shopping XII  9/18/10  *  Shell Game  local politics  9/20/10  *  Cat Wars  9/21/10  *  Human Wars – Our Finest Selves  9/22/10  *  Donald Trump’s Take  9/23/10  *  Another Point of View, Mr. Trump 9/24/10  *  Oops, excuse me!  9/25/10  *  “Bazinga”  9/27/10  *  Blame Labor Unions?  9/28/10  *  House Shopping – Last  9/29/10  *  Seeing Stars  9/30/10

October, 2010

Being Honest About Our Dark Side  10/1/10  *  Q me  10/2/10  *  Taking it Personally  10/4/10  *  Haiti Concerns  10/5/10  *  What Small Government Really Means  10/6/10  *  Books – Unfinished Desires  10/7/10  *  Baby Names One  10/8/10  *  To Chile  10/9/10  *  Books – October List  10/12/10  *  Chile 2  10/13/10  *  Loyalty or Spy Card?  10/14/10  *  I Heart Google  10/15/10  *  Pocket Protectors  10/16/10  *  I Do Not Heart Network Television  10/18/10  *  The Postmistress, a novel by Sarah Blake  10/19/10  *  Back to the Future?  10/20/10  *  Sweet Betrayal  10/21/10  *  House Shopping – Neverending  10/21/10  *  Back from the Abyss?  10/23/10  *  Freedom of Speech  10/25/10  *  Thoughts After Seeing The Social Network  10/26/10  *  Three Pending International Dilemmas  10/27/10  *  Books – The Postmistress by Sarah Blake – A Reprise  10/28/10  *  Books – Swimming by Nicola Keegan  10/29/10  Books – Great Authors Named John  10/30/10

November, 2010

Enough!  11/1/10  *  Election Lessons  11/2/10  *  House Shopping – Beyond Ridiculous  11/3/10  *  Books – Little Bee by Chris Cleave  11/3/10  *  National Sales Tax  11/6/10  *  Life As We Know It  11/8/10  *  America Got Bamboozled  11/9/10  *  Child Prostitution Arrests  11/10/10  *  To Our Soldiers  11/11/10  *  Twizzlers, Etc.  ice skating  11/12/10  *  House Shopping – The Closing  11/13/10  Week Off  11/17/10  *  Rose  11/22/10  *  CNN Withdrawal  11/23/10  *  November Book List  11/24/10  *  Happy Thanksgiving?  11/25/10  *  Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving  11/26/10  *  Decline or Transition?  11/27/10  *  Can Anne Marie Buerkle Represent All Her Constituents?  11/29/10  *  In the Salt Mines  11/30/10

December, 2010

Is It a “Coup”?  12/1/10  *  Baby Names Two  12/2/10  *  The House  12/3/10  *  Wiki Leaks – We Want to Know  12/4/10  *  Jobs, Recession, and It’s all About Me  12/6/10  *  True Colors – Red White and Gr$e$en  12/7/10  *  Circle the Wagons  12/9/10  *  Coffee Table Books  12/9/10  *  Books – A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre  12/10/10  *  My Christmas Dilemma  12/11/10  *  John Boehner  12/13/10  *  My Head Versus My Heart  12/12/10  *  Christmas Traditions  12/15/10  *  Favorite Books – 2010  12/16/10  *  Best Books 2010 from The Daily Beast  12/17/10  *  The House – 203k Blues  12/18/10  *  Elephant, or Bull?  12/20/10  *  Years That Begin with Two – 0  12/21/10  *  Lucky Me  12/22/10  *  Peace  12/23/10  *  Snow in NYC  12/27/10  * Great Movies?  12/28/10  *  You’re in my Space  12/29/10  *  The House – The Kitchen Guys  12/30/10  *  The House – The Kitchen Guys, Part Deux

All posts by Nancy Brisson

To see these posts you will have to go to



Media – Put the Blame Where it Belongs


I suppose it is the job of commentators to comment, but I would think that they would want to say things that are true. It is obvious to everyone and empirically documented that this Congress will not bring any legislation that Obama backs to the floor for a vote. The Senate will occasionally pass a bill only to have it die in the House. The House has authored bills but they are bills that everyone knows cannot pass in the Senate or that will be vetoed by Obama even if they are. The media can see, as can the rest of us that the Republicans are just waiting until this Presidency times out and they also will not allow America to take any path but the one the GOP has chosen. It is clear that the people do not matter anymore in governing America and that even the policies backed by the public are considered wrong and therefore unacceptable by the Republicans who have taken the reins of government in their own hands and are forcing their will on the majority of Americans, who do not agree that that is where they want to go. Olivia Snow called it the “scorched earth” plan for America yesterday morning.

And yet many commentators act like all is normal and Obama could get things done if he really wanted to. Well we all saw what happened with gun control. More-than-three-fourths-of-Americans-old-enough- to-vote wanted to see the gun control regulations pass. These were not burdensome regulations; they made a lot of sense, but with a madman in charge of the NRA and a lot of GOP support this bill is not the law of the land. A bipartisan group produced a really solid Immigration Bill that made sense and would probably have worked well and not caused undue harm. It was popular with Americans, but it will never pass in this Congress. Americans have been the brunt of serious economic setbacks and job cutbacks and yet this Congress could or would not extend unemployment benefits, preferring to let out-of-work Americans compete for jobs that do not exist or will not pay a living wage. America loves the idea of increasing the minimum wage, although we are so nice that we worry that employers will not be able to afford to do this. It is not all altruism either, because we know if employers feel the pinch employment will suffer another setback. So America would like a raise, but is afraid to ask for a raise. However, Republicans say that this will do harm to the American economy and that is that and so a raise is off the table because they have Cerberus guarding the gates of Hell, or, in other words, Boehner guarding the gates of the Legislature.

However clearly we can see that the Republicans have set up a blockade in the middle of our government, there are commentators who still criticize Obama for what he cannot do. You would think that blame would be placed where it belongs but we want to pretend that our government has not been disbanded, that sedition is not loose in the land and that somewhere underneath all that obstruction lies our real government of old, that old wheel and deal and compromise system that was so flawed but somehow served us well. That old structure may be buried under all the extremist nonsense somewhere but I am afraid we may never see it again. We might want smaller government, but we don’t want our government to be as small as those GOP capitalists who want unregulated capitalism would like it to be. We might feel the need to trim our social programs because we are not as flush as we were, but we don’t like being strong-armed into unconsidered cuts that disproportionately attack the truly needy. We are in a Democratic government where Republican policies rule the day and we can see that it is happening but we are helpless to stop it. Why is that?

Either the GOP is acting in ways that are deeply unconstitutional, without seeming to violate the letter of the constitution, or our constitution has some deep flaws that used to be covered up by agreement among all the branches of government, an agreement that these constitutional weaknesses would never be exploited.

If the Republicans can have their Speaker refuse to bring legislation to the floor of the House because they are in the majority then anytime one party has a majority in the House they can stonewall in the same way.

This could permanently block all the business of our government and destroy our Democracy. Better brains than mine need to find a way to fix this flaw and they need to do it now. The blame should be placed everyday where it belongs. We have no idea what kind of president Barrack Obama would have been because he has hardly been allowed to govern at all.  And if America is still mired in a jobless recovery, put the blame on the true actors in this drama, the ones who have led us into austerity without any stimulus at all, the Grand Old Party, this frightening incarnation of the Republican Party, this Tea Party. And if they start acting temporarily less nutty remember that this is an election year and don’t be fooled.

Republicans Don’t Understand Democracy (On Purpose)



Either the GOP is confused about Democracy or they are trying to overthrow it. You cannot have Socialism in a Democracy, at least in a functioning Democracy.  What you have may look a lot like Socialism but, by definition, it isn’t.

Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) describes socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods” although the third definition does seem to describe what our current laws which favor the wealthy have wrought in America “a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done.

The same dictionary describes Democracy as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held elections.

Since Socialism combines a governmental system and an economic system it is quite different from our Democracy. Our Democracy only describes our government; it does not specify that we must do business as Capitalists, but Capitalism and Democracy are usually a good fit, except when Capitalism gets too much attitude and insists on being totally unregulated or unfettered. The only governmental systems which fit well with unfettered Capitalism are Ancarchy, or possible the one we are headed towards, Oligarchy.

In a Democracy the people’s representatives set the tax rates and the people, through their representatives, decide how that money will be spent, what programs will be administered on behalf of the people by the Federal government.  It is true that governments can get bloated and kludgy and when the people change their minds about how they wish to spend their money it can prove difficult to set that ship of state on a new course.  It is true that some Americans have been upset because they believe they are supporting “takers” who are pretending to be needy so that they won’t have to work. It is true that there have been pundits in the media who have used this malaise to rile up their listeners and exaggerate the extent of this social cheating.  However, I do not, I just cannot, believe and accept that all of these Americans who dutifully pay their taxes want to end all of the social programs that prop up the people who are truly needy. These programs keep the bottom layers of our society out of the grinding sort of poverty that could suck all of America down and make it quite an unpleasant place to live (which given our current economic inequalities is already happening).

The more cuts Republicans force on unfortunate Americans (cutting food stamps, cutting veteran’s pensions, cutting unemployment extensions, the cuts of the Sequester) the easier it is to see what America will be like without any social safety net. All of this has nothing to do with Socialism unless we the people are no longer a force in our own governance, which, with the Conservative think tanks and wealthy power brokers like the Koch brothers using their money as a cudgel to have their way with the American government, seems more than likely.  If we the people no longer have a real say in our own governance then it does become true that we are giving money to a Federal government that will totally make its own decisions about how our money will be spent. If anyone is likely to lead America into a kind of Socialism, it is the Republicans, except they don’t want anything in Washington but a figurehead government; they want the states to govern themselves, except for foreign affairs and concerns of the military.

So this morning when I watched a sad interview that pitted Senator Bernie Sanders against Senator Michele Bachmann it brought up this whole train of thought which I am treating you to (boring you with) right now.  Michele Bachmann beat Bernie Sanders to a pulp, poor man, using only Republican talking points, and their very pedestrian propaganda techniques (like name calling – accusing the Democrats and their allies of socialism, like repetition – Obamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare, and like steamrolling or talking over everything poor Bernie had to say which was completely unnerving).  And all the time she was beating up poor Bernie, she had that look on her face, that Rapture look. She is absolutely certain that her vicinity to the Rapture has made her omniscient. It is a look that makes you believe that either you really want what she is having, or that she is really out there – do, do, dew-dew. People who are certain of their omniscience are definitely unsettling and I usually like to give them a wide berth. She won the argument, but only through dubious strategies and she still did not convince me that she is right or that the Republicans are right. They are just name-callers and bulldozers who are trying to push most Americans into a giant hole where they can ignore us and get on with plundering America.

How much power does calling Democrats out as Socialists actually have to get people to join the Republicans? Are the people falling for this?  Wish this was an interactive blog so I could take a poll.

Here’s a link to the youtube video:

By Nancy Brisson

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at


The Election Geeks are Loose



Apparently the 2016 election is now open for business.  The elections “nerds” have been champing at the bit but their bosses at the major media outlets have been holding them back.  Heel boys, heel!  Surprisingly (or not) the boys seem to have a harder time controlling themselves than the girl media stars do.  The charts and polls and expert guests had been kept to a minimum until January, 2014, but it looks like the “go” signal has been given.  The polls, charts and experts are now proliferating and the speculation about who the candidates will be has been ramped up considerably.

Sadly, on the Democratic side, until Hillary makes the decision to run or not, speculation can’t really run rampant. But from now until the parties pick “the” candidate we will run through the Republican roster each and every day – all day long – hour after hour.  You really have to be a real election hound, an addict, to want to do this or some variation of this for the next two years.

Some of these commentators have a deep knowledge of election history and it is sometimes interesting to listen to the stories they have to tell of previous elections. What they tell us often makes the electioneering we are seeing since Bush left office appear to be a bit more normal than it reads to me. I still read the political climate as more extreme than usual. However, even these election history geeks seem to be separating the historical from the actual, and there is some acknowledgment that things might just be extreme enough to make a new mark on election history. Have we even plumbed the depths of the strategies that are awaiting us?

These same commentators also have an enormous collection of election “wisdom” or lore or, dare we say, superstition which prods them to say things like “second term curse” (why would we even bother electing someone for two terms if such a fate is inevitable)? These are the same prognosticators who say that after the first 100 days, the second term President becomes a “lame duck” and will not be able to accomplish another thing. Well they’ve obviously been given the nod or have heard the starting gun and they have begun their, seemingly delightful (at least to them) game of election speculation.

Perhaps the reversal of fortune that has recently put a Chris Christie run in the shadows (maybe only temporarily) has finally opened up that door to the current incarnation of unending election analysis.  All past predictions must be reshuffled and new predictions made.  The door only needed to be opened a tiny crack in order for the pressure from all that election fervor to shove it wide. These media people are not nuts all the time, but elections set them to sharpening their eccentricities and their instincts. I think it may be that these geeks, who are mostly guys, see elections as an American sport, with players, and managers, and stat sheets, and odds. In fact (new thought) we may get a two month reprieve while we root for our athletes in the Sochi Olympics and try to win our billion by filling in a perfect March Madness bracket sheet.

I was hoping that we could wait until the 2014 election was done before the election brackets were drawn, but the 2014 election doesn’t look like it will shift the majority in the House, and it even looks like Dems could lose the Senate, so I guess the media has given up on it already.  It’s a foregone conclusion to them. However, I will wish for a turnover in these gloomy stats, and I will hope that voters have the sense to elect Democrats in 2014.

By Nancy Brisson

This blog post is also available at


From Bad Boomers to Useful Boomers


The Boomers – short for the post war babies born in the “baby boom” that followed World War II – have, as a group, somehow become a cross between a national punching bag and a sucking maw of outsize appetites.  I saw the cartoon reprinted at the beginning of this article in the local paper this week, a cartoon which said it all.  It shows a hugely fat Boomer sitting on the back of a frail millennial and still selfishly insisting that millennials forego their own careers and their health care and retirement while contributing to the bloated greed of the uncaring, clueless Boomers. I guess the Boomers are supposed to vacate their jobs, give up Medicare, and Social Security and just get out of the way so millennials can have their turn, as if the Boomers committed two horrible sins, one by being born, and the other by living so long.

This kind of messaging that masquerades as sympathy for downtrodden millennials, is really designed to divide the country in just one more way – to incite a generational war, to sneakily enlist the aid of young people in shutting down Medicare and Social Security by suggesting that no one will take care of these young people when they are old; all of the goodies having been scarfed up by the Boomers.  Will this be the way of it?  Will there be nothing left for the millennials?  Are the Boomers responsible (as the messaging asserts) for the jobs which fled because the Boomers grew greedy?  Are they now responsible since there are fewer jobs available and Boomers have stayed in their jobs so long (very greedy) and therefore the millennials have not been able to begin their careers.  Young people are stuck in low paying jobs and living with their parents (parents who insist on hanging on to their jobs) and once again this is the fault of the Boomers, who, somehow, forced their own war-battered parents to produce too many progeny. The Boomers are bad! Shame on the Boomers!

What kind of nonsense is this and who is spreading it?  I’ll try to track that down even though I am guessing that it is those small government Republicans. But, in the meantime, I have to suggest that perhaps we do not have to be done with Boomers quite yet. They are probably the most educated and productive generation America has produced so far.  Over the vast group of Boomers, they have expertise in just about every field.  They may be ready to play golf, travel, and kick back and enjoy their 6th and 7th decades (and so on) on this earth, but they are used to making contributions to America; they had long and successful careers. They might enjoy being called into action, organized into some kind of Boomer Brain Banks and set to the task of figuring out ways to tweak America, to offer alternatives to what the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist and the Tea Party want to do to America.

They might be able, for example, to make objectives for the Common Core that turn it from an abstraction into concrete sets of learning objectives, while also making innovative adjustments which could make American education more enticing to students and more grounded in real world opportunities.  Boomers might work on infrastructure needs and finding ways to fund infrastructure improvements. Other Boomer think tanks could tackle alternative energies and finding financing for these technologies so that we could actually afford them.  Boomers could study social programs and make recommendations for really effective programs to help the poorest Americans in ways that also help build their eventual independence. They could work in the area of improving the number and types of jobs available for those millennials who matured as jobs were fleeing America and are sort of caught in a holding pattern.

In other words, the Boomers could help the Democrats undo the harm of the Republicans. As the GOP tries to unravel the Social Safety net, obstruct all progress in Washington, shrink the Federal government and take governing completely out of the hands of the people, the Boomers could be the Democrat’s answer to all those secretive and well-funded “conservative think tanks” that have placed our President in “check”.

Let’s stop bad-mouthing the Boomers, who are hardly to blame for their parents’ reproductive urges or their own longevity. Let’s put these “bad boys and girls” to work creating an American Boomer legacy.  Boomer Brain Banks! Boomer Brain Banks! It has a certain ring to it but where to begin? What’s the best way to begin the process of creating these committees and signing up members? Boomer conferences could perhaps be organized to get these brain banks started.  Conferences take money so that may not be the best approach. We probably need a famous figure to take this on and get the whole process moving. Any volunteers?

This is the view from the cheap seats.

By Nancy Brisson


The Return of the Snippets – Beiber, Huckabee, Glenn Beck and more


We’ve all been buzz-bombed with news of the Chris Christie scandals in New Jersey and also the Bob and Maureen McDonnell scandals in Virginia for well over a week. With Congress in an unofficial recess these events have kept the media busy even without the ever-engrossing Tea Party. But as these scandals settle in for the long legal haul of investigations and trials other news is beginning to filter through. Like Justin! Beiber, go to college – you need to fill your life with something besides your music, something that is also meaningful. You are bored. Get rid of the drugs, no alcohol – no edgy nonsense – go to college! This will also have a very positive effect on your fans.



We have also learned of the Republican plans to choose overturning Roe v. Wade and end funding under the ACA for birth control as key issues in the upcoming elections. Perhaps you saw Mike Huckabee saying that the Federal government is insulting women by paying for their birth control pills and thereby addicting them to Uncle Sugar. (Where do they get this stuff?) (Who talks like this?) Birth control pills are used by women, but often as a decision by a couple for family planning purposes. Men benefit from birth control. These particular Republican men are such fundamentalist Christians that they believe that birth control is a form of abortion, even though scientists do not agree, and these Republican men feel that, as with any other abortion, the pills should not be paid for with Federal money because God will send them all straight to H – e – double hockey sticks. I never heard of any connection between female libido and birth control; and it seems so slimy to pretend to recognize women as intelligent beings while at the same time suggesting that if they need birth control pills they are bimbos.

News of the fears of terrorist attacks at Sochi are sort of escalating day by day and it is getting more and more difficult to put a positive spin on what should be carefree sports games and great entertainment in a lovely winter setting (because of the guns, the bombs, and the Black Widows). Would you go if you could afford it? Of course, we did not approach the Munich Olympics with as much trepidation as we should have, so maybe we are overdoing the trepidation in this age of terrorist activity, but we probably won’t breathe freely until all our athletes and spectators are safely home.

Obama is falling prey to criticism (of course, when isn’t he) this time for his failure to go to war in Syria after he viewed photos showing acts of torture and attacks on humanity that are considered unacceptable even in wartime. There are hawks out there who feel America must fight wherever atrocities are committed by authoritarian leaders, but since this is happening everywhere right now, it seems, how would President Obama choose?

We also heard this week about ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), which is actually presenting prewritten bills, or bills written with our elected government representatives, into state legislatures where they get passed as written to further the agenda of corporations, wealthy Republican members and other members of the extreme right wing.  We see no equivalent groups on the left since the right obliterated ACORN (which was somewhat flawed). ALEC seems to be equally flawed, however, and, although it was exposed once, it is growing once again and is busily passing laws in a state near you (or your own state perhaps).



Glenn Beck said he was sorry this week, when the scandals abated. He feels he may be responsible for some of the divisiveness in America (YOU THINK?) and he did not realize the power of his arguments (HE MEANS HATE SPEECH). Well, Glenn, talk to Gabby Giffords and the parents of Newtown. They are the ones who were most injured so far. And as for whether we can ever pull the right wing fringe that you fomented back to more moderate ground and put America on the “middle way” once again, the jury is still out on that one.

And a “jelly donut” like object mysteriously appeared on Mars – do-do-dew-dew. Where did that object come from? One minute it wasn’t there and the next it was. Nothing is supposed to suddenly appear on the Martian surface. Is there a scientific explanation? Will we ever know?

There was even more interesting stuff such as Obama and the Pope scheduling a face to face meeting, such as the Oxfam study which says that the amount of money owned by just 85 wealthy people is equal to the entire amount of money owned by the bottom half of the entire population of the world. (We all knew that money had come to be distributed unequally, but we never guessed the extent of this inequality.) And two other dreaded words came up this week: debt ceiling…

All in all, it was a very active week for a week when Congress is on hiatus (Congress never recesses these days). Fortunately the Republicans had a meeting, always an entertaining (and somewhat frightening) event, but definitely a goldmine for the media.


By Nancy Brisson

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Book

The Ocean at the End


Neil Gaiman apparently spends time worrying about things like spirituality, the power of “old Gods”, and what feels to me like “magic”.  The first of his books that I read was called American Gods (11/1/11) a novel which contained a sort of convocation of all the gods who came to America with people who settled here from all over the world.  These gods were still able to wreak some havoc but their powers tended to dwindle in this new country which was so inhospitable to “old” gods.

This time, in this delightful and somewhat frightening tale which Mr. Gaiman tells us in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, we are in England, Sussex to be more specific and here, in this more ancient isle, the old magic seems quite powerful.

A man returns to his childhood home for a funeral and, not quite ready to face the mourners, he keeps driving to the end of the lane where Old Mrs. Hempstock lives and gradually he remembers Lettie Hempstock, an extraordinary girl who at first seemed about eleven and by the end of their adventures seemed older than time.

Our narrator first meets her when the family’s boarder steals the family car, drives it to the end of their lane, and then commits suicide in the car by blocking the tail pipe. When he returns to the end of the lane after this second encounter with death, he begins to remember an astonishing set of circumstances that occurred after that first encounter with death, when he was an 8-year-old.

He recalls waking one morning choking, only to realize that he is trying to swallow a coin, that it has cut his throat and that he is bleeding.  For reasons of his own he doesn’t tell his family, he wanders to the end of the lane  where he tells Lettie, and the two older Hempstock women with whom she lives and who seem to understand just what has happened to him. After some negotiating with the elders he and Lettie set off to set matters right.

Our 8-year-old makes a big mistake when they are encountering this “flea” who turns into a woman (his nanny), who becomes quite a nuisance and almost ruins his life.  This “flea”, who is not even considered very powerful by those who are from “the old world”, is powerful enough that shaking her off ends up being quite traumatic even with Lettie’s help.

I have to be as mysterious in my retelling as the author was in the telling or I will ruin your pleasure, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this very short novel.  There is a phrase at the end of the dust jacket’s front flap which captures the essence of Neil Gaiman’s charming book (although I have no idea what the book means). “It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.” Perhaps the only significance is that it is storytelling at its finest, but I will continue to ruminate on it.


Index – Brissioni Blog – All Posts – 2011



January, 2011

Picking the Least of Three Evils  1/3/11  * Priorities  1/4/11  *  Does Anything Go?  1/5/11  *  The King’s Speech – The Movie  1/6/11  *  Books – January List  1/7/11  *    Surprise – No New Taxes, Just New Withholding Tables  1/8/11  *  Randomness  shooting in Arizona  1/10/11  * Our Guns right to bear arms  1/10/11  *  Black Swan – The Movie (possible spoiler)  1/12/11  *  Tax Tables II  1/13/11  *  A Roman Catholic Court  1/14/11  *  Pardon My Purple Prose  nature  1/15/11  *  Remembering the Fight for Civil Rights  1/17/11  *  Book American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld  1/18/11  *  High Maintenance  1/19/11  *  Cutting Medicare  1/20/11  *  Cutting the Deficit  1/21/11  *  Infomercial Lust  1/22/11  *  Losing the American Dream?  1/24/11  *  Playing God  1/25/11  *  Books – A New Spy  1/26/11  *  State of the Union  1/27/11  *  Book – The Kitchen House  1/28/11  *  My Connection with Egypt  1/29/11  *  Julian Assange – Hero or Iconoclast?  1/31/11

February, 2011

West Coast Boys  2/1/11  *  The Tech Marketplace  2/2/11  *  Book – The Snowball  2/3/11  *  The Social Network Revisited  2/4/11  *  Book – Star Island by Carl Hiaasen  2/5/11  *  High Maintenance Breakdown  2/7/11  *  The House – Hopefully with Pix  2/8/11  *  Internet May Finish What TV Started  2/9/11  *  New Baby  2/10/11  *  From the Could-Be-Sublime to the Possibly-Ridiculous  Donald Trump/Egypt  2/11/11  *  Rock On  2/12/11  *  Stratified  Snow  2/14/11  *  Books – February List  2/15/11  *  Book – The Thousand Autumns of Joseph de Zoet by David Mitchell  2/16/11  *  Time Warp  Digital Cable  2/17/11  *  Lara Logan  2/18/11  *  Entitlements I  2/19/11  *  Entitlements II  2/21/22  *  I Am a Union Girl  2/22/11  *  Two Americas  my disappointed rant  2/23/11  *  Books – February List – Part 2  2/24/11  *  Book – The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon  2/25/11  *  Facebook Announcements  2/26/11  *  Vilifying Teachers  2/28/11

March, 2011

Did I Miss the Coronation?  3/1/11  *  The Right’s of Women  3/2/11  *  Book – The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt  3/3/11  *  Buzz Kill  3/4/11  *  Baby Names Four  3/5/11  *  The Weather, Again  3/7/11  *  Unknown – a movie  3/8/11  *  A New Political Party: A Fable with the Dialectic  3/9/11  *  My Own Personal March Madness  stock market and pensions  3/10/11  *  Big Nature, Small Us  3/11/11  *  Planned Parenthood Demonstration  3/12/11  *  Hard to Think About Anything Else  Japan, Earthquake/Tsunami  3/14/13  *  A Fictional Tour of Japan  Read books about Japan  3/15/11  *  The House – Landscaping  3/16/11  *  Depressed or Realistic?  current events  3/17/11  *  Cheaters  3/18/11  *  Is Obama a Secret Republican?  3/19/11  *  March Book List  3/21/11  *  Books – Freedom by Jonathan Franzen  3/22/11  *  The Good Wife – TV Show  3/23/11  *  This Again  the national debt  3/24/11  *  March Book List Two  3/25/11  *  The First Law of Thermodynamics  nuclear energy  3/26/11  *  Our History with Immigration  3/28/11  *  It’s Alive!  Advertising  3/29/11  *  Sociology and HGTV  observations  3/31/11

April, 2011

The House – Home Headquarters  2/1/11  *  Being Polite to Hitler by Robb Foreman Dew  book review  4/2/11  *  Take a Breath  a slow news day  4/4/11  *  Bridal Veil Spirea  4/5/11  *  Should we pay fines for smoking or gaining weight?  health care  4/6/11  *  The 2011 Republican Budget  health care  4/7/11  *  The Marriage Artist by Andrew Winer – Book  4/8/11  *  Using Our Military As Pawns  the budget for 2011  4/8/11  *  “Who Let the Dogs Out?”  who’s in charge  4/11/11  *  Solve the Debt – Ditch Medicare Medicare  4/12/11  *  Some Green Please  Trees  4/13/11  *  France Bans the Burqa  4/14/11  *  A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Book  book review  4/15/11  *  A Town Beleaguered  Factory Closing  4/16/11  *  Book List – April 2011  Books  4/18/11  *  Scientists vs. Locals – The Health of the Gulf  environment  4/19/11  *  Find the Middle Road – Feeling Extraneous  4/20/11  *  Defining Who’s Rich  The Economy  4/21/11  *  Baby Names Five – Boys  Baby names  4/22/11  *  Baby Names Five – Girls  Baby names  4/23/11  *  April – A Cruel Month  4/25/11  *  My Spirea Hunt  4/26/11  *  Who Will Be Number One America’s Status  4/27/11  *  My Royal Wedding Preparations  4/28/11  *  Life’s Ups and Downs  4/29/11  *  Fixing Entitlements  4/30/11

May, 2011

Source Code – A Movie  5/2/11  *  The Conspirator – A Movie  5/3/11  *  Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carre – Book  5/4/11  *  The Federation vs. the Klingons   5/5/11  *  Hydrofracking  5/6/11  *  Here’s the Thing  Osama Bin Laden  5/7/11  *  A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore  5/9/11  *  My House – My Basement  5/10/11  *  My Office Tree – Spring  5/11/11  *  The Lawn Mower Saga  5/12/11  *  Life by Keith Richards – Book  5/13/11  *  Are They True or Are They False  5/16/11  *  Debt Forgiveness  5/17/11  *  Wimps?  5/18/11  *  Water for Elephants – A Movie  5/19/11  Lawn Mower Saga – Part Deux  5/20/11  *  Lisa See’s Books  5/21/11  *  The End of the World  tornadoes 5/23/11  *  Book List – May, 2011  5/24/11  *  Let’s Change Our Election  the 2012 election  5/25 11  *  Let’s Reconsider jobs  5/26/11  *  Falling Behind the Curve technology  5/27/11  *  Deeply Gross (amended reprint)  movies  5/31/11

June, 2011

Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy – Book   6/1/11  *  Calling All Inventors  6/2/11  *  The Elephant in the Room  6/3/11  *  A Female President  6/4/11  *  Lawn Mower Saga, Part Trois  6/6/11  *  My Baby Spirea  6/7/11 *  The Weiner Britches Affair  6/8/11  *  Better Behavior  6/9/11  *  Renting from the Red Box – Eat, Pray, Love and The Tourist  6/10/11  *  Dr. Oz  6/11/11  *  Stalemate  6/13/11  *  Midnight in Paris – A Movie  6/14/11  *  Would National Health Insurance Hurt the Economy?  6/15/11  *  The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson – A Book  6/16/11  *  “Black Hole” on Earth  6/17/11  *  The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas – A Book  6/18/11  *  Life Without Movies  6/20/11  *   The Snowman by Jo Nesbo – A Book  6/21/11  *  My Office Tree – Summer  6/22/11 *  Janet Evanovich, Books or Chocolates? 6/23/11  *  If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Probably Is  Grover Norquist  6/24/11  *  The Career Politicians vs. The Twinkies  6/27/11  *  Goodbye Whales, Goodbye Beaches  6/28/11  *  June Book List, 2011 6/29/11  *  The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book  6/30/11

July, 2011

Tell the DEC No Thank You, Please  hydofracking  7/1/11  *  A Sublime Legacy  Freedom  7/4/11  *  Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie – Book  7/5/11  *  A Jaw Dropper  Casey Anthony verdict  7/6/11  *  On the Ice Floe  Cutting Medicare and SS  7/7/11  *  Matrix Week and The Space Shuttle  Movies and Life  7/8/11  *  The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith – Book  7/11/11  *  Baby Names – Girls – Mar-June, 2011  7/12/11  *  Hot Potato  debt ceiling struggles and Grover Norquist  7/13/11  *  Baby Names – Boys – March-June, 2011 Baby names  7/14/11  *  Inzanesville by Jo Ann Beard – Book  7/15/11  * My House and the Lake  my village  7/18/11  *  Pledging Allegiance to a Comedian  Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist  7/19/11  *  The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel – Book  7/20/11  *  High Summer  7/21/11  *  More Anthropological/Archeological Fiction  books about native peoples  7/22/11  *  The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – Book  book  7/25/11  *  Raise the Debt Ceiling  the debt and ideology  7/26/11  *  The Summer of the Young Women  7/27/11  *  Hydrofracking: One More Time  hydrofracking  7/28/11  * Ann Marie Buerkle and The Telephone Town Hall  the debt and ideology  7/29/11

August, 2011

The Debt Deal we will probably Get  debt ceiling  8/1/11  *  Africa Is On My Mind   Africa  8/2/11  *  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – Book  book  8/3/11  *  Life’s Intense – Lighten Up  thoughts  8/4/11  *  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – Book  book  8/5/11  Breakdown of US Debt  the national debt  8/8/11  *  Stock Market Roller Coaster Yikes  8/9/11  *  Kick the Bums Out? Not So Fast  Changing Congress  8/10/11 *  We Can’t Consume Our Way to Economic Health  The Economy  8/11/11  *  Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay – Book  book  8/12/11  *  Is the President to Blame?  Campaign Nonsense   8/15/11  *  Two Old Cliches  Corporate Taxes  8/16/11  *  Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Billy Clegg – Book  book  8/17/11  *  Rick Perry for President  Republican candidates  8/18/11  *  Are We Babies?  Presidential trips and misc  8/19/11  *  The Libyans Enter Tripoli  Libya  8/22/11  *  Harry, Hermione, Ron et al; we’ll miss you movies  8/23/11  *  Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki – Book  book  8/24/11  *  Today my Mom turns 94  8/25/11  *  Hello Irene  weather  8/26/11  *  Our Hurricane Drama  news and government, weather  8/29/11  *  They’re Coming Back  Congress  8/30/11  *  Turning right  Conservatives  8/31/11

September, 2011

I Fear for the Rights of Women in America  women’s rights  9/1/11  *  September Book List  book recommendations  9/2/11  *  Outside-the-Box Strategies  politics  9/3/11  *  Solidarity  Unions  9/5/11  *  A Possibly Impossible Position  jobs  9/6/11  *  Making it Harder to Vote  Attack on the Middle Class  9/7/11  *  Portraits of a Marriage by Sando Marai  book  9/8/11  *  I Never Thought of That  CNN and Afghanistan  9/9/11  *  Smug Bullies  No to Rollerball  9/10/11  *  The Lion King: An Allegory  Broadway and Politics  9/12/11  *  Do Social Programs Stifle Initiative  Social Programs  9/13/11  *  Baby Names – Girls – July 17-August 28, 2011  Baby Names  9/14/11  *  Baby Names – Boys  9/15/11  *  Where are the Democrats?  Politics  9/16/11  *  Twinkle Lights  Yikes  9/17/11  *  Empty Houses  The Economy  9/19/11  *  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Book  book  9/20/11  *  Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures  The Economy  9/21/11  *  Natural High – The X Factor  TV  9/22/11  *  Snippets  Miscellaneous  9/23/11  *  Neutron Dance  Science  9/24/11  *  Good News  Not the Economy  9/26/11  *  Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson – Book  9/27/11  *  The Role of America’s National Government  Size of government  9/28/11  *  The Attack on Environmental Protections  the environment  9/29/11  *  Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close – Book  book  9/30/11

October, 2011

Stream of Consciousness  Stuff  10/1/11  *  Player Hater  TV  10/3/11  *  Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simanson – Book  book  10/4/11  *  A “Good Ole Boy”  the 2012 election  10/5/11  *  House GOP Recommended Spending Cuts  The Economy  10/6/11  *  I Heart Gold  gold  10/7/11  *  My Office Tree in Fall  My office tree  10/8/11  *  “Two Paths Diverged”  Choosing the future  10/10/11  *  Fine Places  Steve Jobs  10/11/11  *  The Love of My Youth by Mary Gordon – Book  book  10/12/11  *  So Sad, So Screwed  10/13/11  *  The Zombie Army  10/14/11  *  Encore My office tree  10/15/11  *  Book List – October, 2011  Books  10/17/11  *  Attitude  10/18/11  *  Oh Snap!  10/19/11  *  Coffee Table Books, 2011  Books  10/20/11  *  The Long Haul the 2012 election  10/21/11  *  My Tin Ceiling  my house  10/22/11  *  Goodbye GOP  decline and fall of the Republican Party  10/24/11  *  The Cellar Spiders Just in Time for Halloween  spiders  10/25/11  *  Earthquake in Turkey  10/26/11  *  Minding Ben by Victoria Brown  book  10/28/11  *  Did I Hear the Earth Groan  population  10/29/11  *  The Zombie Masters – Perhaps Not a Fantasy  politics  10/31/11

November, 2011

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Book  book  11/1/11  *  Baby Names – Girls – July – October, 2011  Baby names  11/2/11  *  Snippets 2  news  11/3/11  *  Baby Names – Boys – July – October, 2011  Baby names  *  Another Ho-Hum Week in the Life of Our Do-Nothing Congress  politics  11/5/11  *  Oil and Water Don’t Mix  TransCanada oil pipeline  11/7/11  *  Closure?  News  11/8/11  *  Droit du Seigneur or Racism?  Herman Cain’s troubles  11/9/11  *  The Media and the 2012 Election  politics  11/10/11  *  Rewarding Our Soldiers  Veteran’s Day  11/11/11  *  Book List – November  Books  11/12/11  *  A Different Brand of Entitlement  fixing congress  11/14/11  *  Keep Faith with Seniors  Social Security  11/15/11  *  Elizabeth I: A Novel by Margaret George – Book  book  11/16/11  *  One Year in My House- Befores Afters  and 11/17/11  *  Before and Afters – Living Room  11/19/11  *  Befores and Afters – Bedroom and Office  11/19/11  *  Alice  11/21/11 *  Grover Norquist  politics, The Economy  11/22/11  *  Dreams of Joy by Lisa See – Book  11/23/11  *  Egypt is on My Mind this Thanksgiving Day  11/24/11  *  Capitalism Day  The Economy  11/25/11  *  Snippets 3  11/26/11  *  To Tax or Not to Tax  11/28/11  *  Governing Backwards  11/29/11  *  Will Wishing Make it So?  11/30/11

December, 2011

Book Suggestions from Entertainment Weekly  12/1/11  *  Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks – Book  12/2/11  *  More Christmas Book Possibilities  Books  12/3/11  *  China and Our Infrastructure  The Economy  12/5/11  *  Driving Events  the media  12/6/11  *  Spacey  12/7/11  *  Top 15 Video Games – Entertainment Weekly  12/8/11  *  Snippets 4 – My Take  news  12/9/11  *  Surveys  12/10/11  *  Pushing Our Buttons, Hype or Threat  military weapons  12/12/11  *  Having Our Cake and Eating It Too  terrorists  12/13/11  *  The Great GOP Skeet Shoot  the2012 election  12/14/11  *  December Book List – 2011  Books  12/14/11  *  Favorite Books for 2011  12/16/11  *  Iraq Is On My Mind  Iraq  12/17/11  *  Stuff is Happening   news  12/19/11  *  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – Book  book  12/20/11  *  Aleph by Paulo Coelho – Book  book  12/21/11  *  I Don’t Think America is Waiting with Bated Breath  Keystone Pipeline, payroll tax cuts bill  12/22/11  *  Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson  book  12/23/11  *  My Merry Christmas Farmhouse and My Wishes  12/24/11  *  Reprise – Science Fiction Book Lists   Books  12/26/11  *  Syria is on My Mind  12/27/11  *  A Soul-less America? Really?  the American safety net  12/28/11  *  Girl’s Names 6 – end of 2011  Baby names, girls  12/29/11  *  Boys Names 6 – end of 2011  Baby names, boys  12/30/11  *  New Year’s Eve Daya new year  12/31/11


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All posts by Nancy Brisson

Bill Gates Speaks on Raising the Minimum Wage


Brian Williams reported on Monday’s evening news that 85 people in the world have as much money as the bottom 3.50 billion people in the world. Yikes! Say income inequality.  He did not say how many of the 85 at the top are Americans, but it is a stunning figure. To these rich folks it probably means that there are 85 individuals unique enough and savvy enough to amass a huge fortune from their own ambition and their own skill set.  To the rest of us it may seem like just the luck of the draw. How many of these very wealthy people started out poor. Well we do know that some started out from rather average-income families because we know that Bill Gates made his fortune in computers and we know that Warren Buffet grew up in a middle class family and that he was born with an interest in and innate talent for the science or mathematics of probabilities which he parlayed into money by buying bad companies and turning them into great companies. Wall Street did not hurt the fortunes of either of these guys because they had acquired enough money to weather its ups and downs.

I caught the tail end of an interview with Bill Gates on MSNBC this morning in which Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough sat at the feet of the master, so to speak, and asked the oracle for financial advice on behalf of the American economy.  Bill Gates does not feel that financial regulations and deregulations have benefitted the rich, apparently. He, rather glibly, stated that he doesn’t believe we should raise the minimum wage across the board because the results will be complicated. The employers will turn to robots or leave the area and go where workers cost less.  (Oh they already did that.) Most of the mainly service businesses we currently find in our economy right now, that we would ask to boost people’s wages could not switch right now to a robot workforce or leave the area because that is the area where their customers live.

It is usually true however that no action, however simple it seems, will bring about only the wished-for results. There will always be unintended consequences. Can all the unintended consequences be anticipated and avoided? We don’t have a good track record with this. So, does this mean we shouldn’t raise the overall minimum wage in America, just on the say-so of Bill Gates, one of the 85? Maybe it doesn’t mean that at all because, although wealthy and smart, Bill Gates is not really an oracle. But it might mean that we need to have experts, without a vested interest in the outcome, study the issue. Maybe we will have isolated areas like the one in Oregon who experiment with raising their minimum wage and these areas will furnish us with case studies for what might happen on a wider scale. There is no doubt that we are rather risk averse right now when it comes to making any demands on our employers. Of course, that gives employers lots of power over their workers who can be hired and fired at will. Can consumers help workers by boycotting businesses which do not offer a living wage? Once again we can try this, but it might backfire because this marketplace belongs to employers, not to workers, or even, apparently, to consumers.

Bill Gates has taken his wealth and he has gone into the world’s poorest places and used his wealth to do good things for really poor people. He described the work that his foundation has done in making sure people receive vaccines against the diseases that have been almost wiped out in the inoculated parts of the world. This campaign has been very effective, in fact it has probably been the most widely accepted of all the anti-poverty campaigns around the world and has had the most positive outcomes.  He also mentioned providing poor cultures with seeds so that they can grow their own food, but I have heard more controversy around this particular campaign. Critics say that the seeds that are given out or sold are hybrid seeds which do not reseed in following seasons, but must be repurchased each season in order to produce new crops. This argument is often discounted as conspiracy theory, and perhaps hybrid seeds are necessary to resist insects or other conditions in the environment where the seeds will be planted, or perhaps hybrid seeds are more productive and produce better crops. However, I have not heard a lot of push back against those who are doubters about the efficacy of the seed campaign.

Anyway, Bill Gates did not act at all threatened by learning what a small group of people he belongs to,  he did not offer to divide his fortune by the number of Americans in the 99.9% and give us each a portion of it either. It is obvious that he believes he earned his money and that it is his to do with as he wishes. I guess we are very lucky that he chooses philanthropy instead of authoritarian power and we do admire him for this. However, I don’t think the interview was helpful in terms of discovering what structures in our economies allowed all that cream to rise to the top and in helping us make any decisions about what structures would keep more of that wealth circulating among a larger number of earth’s people. I am betting that if anyone could figure out what happened, how it happened, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again, these 85 people would probably be the ones who could do it, but they are also the least likely to have the incentive to do it.

So do we buy this argument that there is nothing to see here folks? Do we buy the argument that our laws were never skewed to favor certain groups like employers and investors? Do we wrack our poor inferior brains to keep trying to come up with that one idea or product that will boost us to the top of the food chain? Do we sink back into our sofas and conclude that the halcyon days when fortunes could be amassed from pennies are over? Do we risk more punishment and ask that we be given more of a fair share of the wealth, at least in terms of being paid a living wage? How many really wealthy people can there be? Can each and every one of us be wealthy or must there be a certain proportion of a society that is not wealthy in order to produce a few wealthy people? Is there math on this? Well, I sort of agree with Mika and Joe that if only we could pump one or more of those 85 very rich people we could discover the secret formula to join that elite group, but Bill Gates was no help at all in that regard. He didn’t offer one single step to success, not one coded remark worth a fortune, although he did give us a whiff of conditions around the world that are still much more primitive than ours here in America. We’re on our own here folks. But I still don’t believe it would hurt to revise the tax code and close a few of the most egregious tax loopholes. And perhaps we can take the risk and raise the minimum wage.

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By Nancy Brisson

More Dreams, Please


Today we celebrate the day when Martin Luther King said “I have a dream today” and yet sometimes it seems that America is done with dreaming. We have lost our sense of having united pursuits – those lofty ones that were concerned with freedom, with equality of opportunity, with hope for the future.

We seem to have descended into an abyss of divisiveness and scarcity, of hopelessness, failure, drug addiction and bile.

We need to stoke the embers of our ambitions and our spirit. We need to stumble on, or to invent a future that looks full enough, fair enough, and bright enough to light fires under our despondency and our inertia.

Not everyone in America is cynical and self-absorbed. Most Americans work hard each day although their labors are often not enough to finance their lives.  Fewer Americans have a sense of economic security that jobs used to provide. Jobs are no longer long career paths. Often to have a long career it is necessary to stay mobile, to network, to move from job to job. It is necessary to save and to create your own retirement fund (which subsequent recessions could reduce at any time) and to stay positive and keep developing your skills and keep selling yourself. This is not the description of a settled adult life that allows a comfortable existence in a chosen community. There are still jobs, but rarely jobs for a lifetime.

Are we preparing our children for an America that doesn’t exist? Do we think we’re still Norman Rockwell (which we never really were), when we’re really sort of Jackson Pollack right now – all over the place – caught in the past – our future still to arrive – in a sort of limbo of national angst and uncertainty?

America will move on whether we direct it or drift along with it. Can we solve the dilemma of young people who see little to look forward to? We have to. Let’s spend some time thinking about the America we want to leave to our children (all our children) and then let’s figure out a way to make it happen. An oversupply of older Americans ought to be good for something. I don’t want to be too idealistic about this. Martin Luther King gave us very concrete images to focus on. Say the speech to yourself, read it online if you forgot the words. We know he wanted tolerance and equality and unity. We know we are not there yet. But if MLK saw America today he might send off a new dream to all Americans – and we need one.

I think our dream should involve great education for all who are capable and that is almost every American. Our educational system could use some help reinventing itself. Our dream also needs to put America in rehab. Breaking Bad should not be the true model for how to save you and your family from cancer and financial ruin; it should just be a ridiculously exaggerated tragicomedy – an inside national joke. But since it touches on a reality destroying too many Americans who replace a genuinely productive life with the empty pursuit of very temporary pleasures (deadly pleasures) it is so not funny. It should be a wake-up call that provokes an all-out campaign, one as effectively designed as the one to get people to Stop Smoking, which has almost stopped smoking in America.

The Stop Smoking campaign worked because it showed people that they were not just killing themselves, they were killing others, most significantly their own families, their own children. It used social approbation to put pressure on smokers, pressure that made them stop doing something even though what they were doing was legal. Drug addiction is negatively affecting us all. Who can feel hope for any future when people are dying in alleys, under bridges, in the forgotten back corners of our cities and towns? There is a whole shadow nation of people who live each day to put some kind of noxious poison in their body, to seek a few moments of mental escape at the risk of their health or their life; people who will lie, and steal and perhaps even kill to get “high”. Is it part of the idea of freedom that we must allow these people to choose their own fate even though their choices result in crimes against each other and against us, even though their choices drag us all down deeper into the new American abyss?  Fighting this scourge of drug addiction must be part of our plan for the future.

In order to fight drug addiction we need to offer alternative and attractive life choices to both children and adults whenever they are caught in frightening downturns in their lives, along with a nonjudgmental economic safety net. If we can’t offer careers or jobs that satisfy then we will have to invent a happier drug with fewer side effects to replace the terrible choices that are available right now on our streets.

What life will we offer to Americans who don’t arrive at adulthood with a mission – either personal or public – what alternate lifestyle can we offer that would feed the souls of those bent on escape and self-destruction? This opens a whole new field of psychotropic inquiry – to replace addictive, bad drugs with drugs that alter the mind in positive ways but do not threaten to drag the whole culture down into vomit, overdose, waste, and crime. Fortunately Martin Luther King did not live to see this, or perhaps it is a sadder loss than we thought, because he might have had some good ideas about how to end this scourge.

America could turn a corner in terms of hopefulness if we could just find a way to pay people to find solutions to some of our greatest problems, creating too much garbage being one of them, finding cheaper sources of energy that don’t use fossil fuels, keeping our fresh water supplies fresh and devising plans that tell us what to suggest to communities established away from good sources of fresh water, and so many others. We could put the highly educated and extremely productive baby boomers to work on these problems and more without paying them, provided we keep their retirement accounts from tanking. Between rounds of golf an awful lot could be accomplished if boomers put their minds to it, if they found a sort of collective second wind.

We have so many areas in our lives that need our creative attention if humans are to survive on this tiny planet.

We have stubborn old men who need to be convinced that America’s future should not just be a replica of its past.


This is America’s “I have a dream” day and oh boy, do we need a dream, or maybe 300 million dreams. But “American” still ends with “I can.” If we could be wise “old farts” and “young Turks”, instead of stubborn, set-in-our-ways “old farts” and self-absorbed “young Turks”, America could be the crucible of the future – a bright future, full of opportunity and promise and (I can’t help myself) space travel (which could really solve a lot of our woes). (That doesn’t mean I will ever forget that some Americans turned firehouses on other American men, women and children, or fired guns, or hated.)

And so “To Infinity and beyond” – which is the gist of what MLK said, and a point that I’m sure he would share with Buzz Lightyear (if Buzz was real).


By Nancy Brisson

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