POETRY AND TAXES

April 5, 2012

April has been designated National Poetry Month. Don’t know why. I know I love poetry and I’m still mired in tax paperwork so this poem will have to do:

Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table,
At which he’s fed.

Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.

Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for
peanuts anyway!

Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.

Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.

Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.

Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.

Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won’t be done
Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He’s good and sore.

Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he’s laid…

Put these words
Upon his tomb,
‘Taxes drove me
to my doom…’

When he’s gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.

I don’t know the author of this fun poem but it made me chuckle. I may be frustrated with the process, but unlike Pierpont Morgan, I don’t believe we can run a country without taxes.  I love my National and State Parks, my bridges, my roads, airports, trains and universities. I love my clean water, clean air, museums, vast wilderness, clean beaches and…I could go on and on. I once had a friend retired from the IRS. I used to tease him that he must have a hard time making friends. “Not in America,” he said.  For all the complaining I do about current political shenanigans, this is yet a great country.  The yet implies it may be getting worse,  worse than taxes.  Amen.

The west was full of characters and many of them called Tombstone, Arizona home.  Town was full of grifters, drifters, drunks, gamblers, cowboys, ranchers, ladies of the night, gunfighters, miners, entrepreneurs, card sharks, Mexicans, Indians, Chinks,  money, horses, cattle, feuds, soldiers and Democrats.  A natural hotbed for hostilities and life was cheap. Men killed each other at the slightest perception of being wronged.

There are still gunfighters wandering around town, of a commercial type. There are enactments of the battle at the OK corral every day. Another gunfight at Helldorado’s 5th St. encampment, perhaps others.  Having visited here sometime in the 1960’s, the differences were noticeable. The whole town is now like a movie set. Instead of being surprised by a gunfight at the end of a dusty street, everything is fenced and regulated, you buy tickets to see the gunfights.

The gunfighters look like they belong on this street as part of the regular population.

The bars were full by afternoon and still might be a little wild.

Our bartender at the American Legion  in town, told us the population is aging, not increasing, and town couldn’t survive without tourists. And, it is a fascinating place to visit despite the commercialism. Do go. There is much to see and do and great history here to enjoy,

Many people in this cemetery died violently. Seymour Dye was only 35 years old, taking in a load of hay with his friend Harry Curry, when they were ambushed by Indians, shot, then tied and dragged 150 feet by the Indian’s horse.

Yes, five men legally hanged. The gang leader,  who didn’t participate in the robbery but was suspected of planning it,  was dragged out of  jail by an incensed mob of citizens from Bizbee, blindfolded and strung up on a telephone pole.

Violent, frontier justice. Four Bizbee citizens were killed during the robbery. This picture is from the museum. The coroner’s report said:  “I find  the victim died of emphysima (sic) caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.”

Mrs. Stump died in childbirth when given an overdose of chloroform by her doctor.  This cemetery has more violent and awful deaths among its 250 known dead than any cemetery but a military cemetery. At my last visit, the graves had rickety wooden markers in the bare ground. It has been improved immensely with stone mounds, and verifications of most of those buried here. Popular and fascinating, especially when you visit the museum at the old County Courthouse and get the facts behind some of these quarrels.

This is Frank Leslie who killed at least three of those in the cemetery. He got his violent death in the end.

The gallows now sits behind the courthouse in the exercise yard.  It was built for the  five men from Heith’s gang and a set bleachers was built on the street to watch the hangings as entertainment. Nellie Cashman,  known as  the Angel of the Camp for her many good works, gave solace to the condemned men in jail. One confided he knew he would die, but he objected to the indignity of being a spectacle.  She quietly manged to get help and turned the bleachers into a pile of kindling the night before the hanging.

William Greene, a farmer who used water from a ditch quarreled with his neighbor Burton over the water. His little girls went swimming in the shallow waters during the hot summers.  Burton let water out of the dam to increase the flow and the water made a deep hole in the ditch. When the girls went swimming, two of them drowned. Greene killed Burton, but was exonerated for his vengeance by the courts.

Deaths on the streets are now visible on the spot where they happened by plaques around town.

There are a number of horse-drawn wagons and stages of different types around town offering one of a kind rides.

We were particularly pleased to see an authentic Butterfield Stage, one of the most uncomfortable rides in the world. A humorous description from a more “comfortable” stage ride (in the museum), the rider claims he wouldn’t have lived through it if the stage hadn’t come to places where the passengers had to get out and walk. It was their only salvation, getting off the hard seats and moving about.

It isn’t often that you have a chance to get  close and friendly with  great percherons.

And, never before have I encountered  a waiter packin’  a gun. We had good food at the Helldorado Chuck Wagon.

We didn’t get to see it all. We could have spent more time, so be prepared to stay a whole day when you visit or return for a second look. Fun town.

ANARCHY 2012

December 28, 2011

The U.S. Constitution has been a model for other countries since its inception more than two centuries ago. Our Bill of Rights is considered one of humanity’s finest achievements. People from many nations have sought refuge here  to enjoy those freedoms. Yet, our current government has suspended important protections in the name of terrorism. A dangerous precedent via the Rave Act, the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act. With those and U.S. drug policies we are the most controlled and monitored society on earth.  There are cameras watching our every move on practically every street corner, every store, every mall. From the satellite above, every vehicle can be tracked by GPS  devices; there is one in every cell phone. Big Brother Is Definitely Watching. And, we’ve allowed it to happen.

Legislators are toying with interfering with our Judicial branch of government, by making laws against the court’s  unpopular decisions. Whether we like them or not we must not give up our checks and balances because they are currently unpopular. Let them stand the test of time.

We must give thought to what is happening in our country and become involved. It has swung out of control, prosperity evades us, and anarchy approaches, carried in a flag with a cross. Thomas Jefferson was famous for the Virginia Statute as much as for writing  the Declaration of Independence. He organized a Virginia  colony that separated Church and State, the very choking environment the colonists left behind in England,  the new colonies wanted to reinstate in “their” particular view of God. Thanks to the Virginia Statute we didn’t have to fight that  same nightmare all over again. And now, religionists are pushing strongly for laws that inject their morality into our laws on same-sex marriage, abortion, doctors rights to counsel, planned parenthood, and other bills slipped by us by both Democrats and Republicans.

With idyllic frenzy we’ve made laws that affect our country negatively. Two million Americans are incarcerated in the U.S., most of them for non-violent drug crimes.  Billions of dollars have been spent building prisons to house all of the Americans convicted of drug crimes. For carrying a half ounce of marijuana, a man who works and supports his children can go to prison for life in California and Texas.  Now Oklahoma is considering a similar law.

We are living in a police state not only from the surveillance, and the drug wars, but an increase in Police over-reaction. Nevada police have skipped free after killing an American Woman who came to the aid of her husband whom they had just killed when they asked him for identification and he reached into his jacket for his wallet. Such things should not happen in America. Protestors tasered, more police attacks on unarmed citizens.  America  imprisons more citizens  than any other nation. The government cannot afford to pay lifetime care for people who could and should be working and paying taxes. It is  insanely expensive and yet, they are willing to pay an informant, even a convicted felon, up to $250,000 to testify against someone charged with a drug crime. Of course, what convicted felon would lie to receive that kind of cash?

America’s prohibitionist policies have eliminated freedom all over the globe and the high money paid for drugs crossing our borders has helped fuel the terrorists instead of our tax purse. It is draconian.

Now, I read where the Occupy Wall Street protests are bothering the government enough to instigate a huge anti-public relations move and that the FBI will penetrate large OWS  groups to sabotage their effectiveness, make petty arrests and harass them.

Beware!  We don’t lose our freedoms, we give them away.

Yesterday, my congressional candidate brother, Will, visited  Cousin Gary visiting from Southern, CA. Gary had never been to an Occupy Wall Street protest because, as he put it, “I’m not interested in closing ports and businesses where people have jobs. And, I don’t want to lay down in the street.”

He also confessed to not quite understanding what the point is. While vitriolic radio show hosts criticize and condemn the movement as pointless and leaderless, I notice that all National news organizations are covering this movement- because  it has legs.  As one local protester, Rick Mines put it, “Protesting the concentration of wealth and power held by less than 1 percent of the population is an effort to  save capitalism.  Capitalism has to be fair,”  (And I would add regulated.)

You can’t compete when some guy is putting $100 million down to put a  Supreme Court Justice in place, or when 80% of congress regards their major job in governing is to get rich by way of  hand-outs, insider trading, and million dollar jobs when they leave. I take heart because the long term apathy among the general population is finally over. You couldn’t get people to take to the streets. That has changed all over the world as well as  in our highly conservative mountain counties, Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador.

It was a small band on a cold December evening during the busy Christmas season. Two young students were there. The only other woman said to me, “In our county we are all part of the 99%. We don’t have any concentration of wealthy here. But, it is still important to let people know, its time to take a stand and we desperately need change and jobs and a robust middle class.”

This sign speaks to an issue that may be more important than the government laws that tilt toward the wealthy.  It is a slippery slope to a fascist state when we weaken our first amendment rights.  There are many good things in the NDAA, like protections for whistleblowers. But, we are not to know if sub-par maintenance of our airplanes is a factor in crash. We cannot know who contributed what to the congressional committee people overseeing the granting of government contracts. On any contract,  any savings realized cannot be directed to the National Debt once the money has been set aside and is not used for that project. No clue to where that money WILL go. Suspected terrorists will not have the same rights of trial, detention, and ability to defend themselves as we do now. There are good things in the act, but  many slippery areas. The idea to audit the Defense Department Budget was soundly rejected. Hmmm. It’s on-line. Read it.

TABOO SUBJECT

December 8, 2011

Aren’t they adorable? These dogs all togged out for the holidays?  Heavily laden with jewelry and coats, sweaters and fur.

I think it’s ridiculous. Of course, anyone who dares criticize pets and pet practices is in for a firestorm of …hate!  Yes, hate. If you dare offend a pet lover,  you  are in big trouble.

I usually just smile and avoid discussing the subject, but my values do not include treating pets like humans. When I saw this display while shopping, I almost gagged. I can’t imagine the dog or cat being comfortable in the expensive adornments they are forced to wear. Pet owners ferociously defend this type of clothing and jewelry, maintaining THEIR pet loves to get dressed up and loves the attention. I maintain animals are psychologically changed by the treatment they receive. And, I will concede that to dress up an animal for a short time for a parade or the holidays isn’t going to harm them.  It seems overboard and warping of a dog’s basic needs to coddle  pooches and cats, and treat them as though they are human, which by extension includes dressing them in jewelry and fancy clothing.  People expect them to act human-like and ignore their basic instincts.

I’m a practical person. Dogs and cats, horses as well, had an important function as domesticated animals. And they still do, as companions, medical assistants, rescue animals, and just unconditional love. Isn’t that enough?  It is noble. They seem to be natural healers.

What does it say about us as humans that there are food banks begging for food; some  have quit taking applications because they just can’t meet the needs. Many children are living in cars and struggling with parents stressed because the  family is at risk. So, does it seem okay to  spend $15 to $30 or more on doggie jewelry?  I can’t imagine teaching my children, if I had young children, that lavish spending on an animal is a part of family life. Especially in times like these, even if you can afford it.  I think  giving to a charity comes first and deliberately ignoring that type of spending teaches a basic lesson about moral choices.

We taught our children and my kids have taught their children that giving and sharing is part of everyone’s responsibility. If your children love  animals, teach them about Heifer International where you can buy a sustainable animal for families in Slovakia, Malawi or the United States. $500 buys a heifer, $50 buys a share. $120 buys a goat, or $10 buys a share. Wouldn’t be nice to know some little boy or girl can get a constant supply of milk in India? Or $10 buys a share of a pig in Thailand. $20 buys a flock of chickens in Honduras. Another great close to the ground charity is Oxfam, providing loans, work, education, clean water, self-sustaining practices, working with peace keeping organizations in countries at war. It seems to me that not enough Americans  have been hungry enough in  our collective memory to consider that the amount of money we spend on pets per year, over a billion dollars, could feed or educate a small country.

I’ve had pets all of my life. I’m not a pet hater. I love pets. I just think we should put the price of a pet in perspective. The land to grow the corn and wheat they eat. The detriment to wild birds from predatory cats. Consider the horror stories of people who don’t know how to care for pets and abandon them or mistreat them by neglect. The medical resources used to treat them. The continual cost of animal control by every county and city in the U.S. is a direct result of the mishandling of pets by humans.

Go ahead. Get out the whip!

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME

December 7, 2011

In the 1950’s, Andy Warhol made the prediction: “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”  It is one of his better known and oft used quotes and resonated with the public.  I think everyone feels they deserve “their 15 minutes of fame”, or attention or fun in the sun at some point in their lives.  Real fame is a double-edged sword anyway, as famous people will tell you. Better to have your fifteen minutes, which, in a round about way,  brings me to Jim and Ginnie Palumbo, friends from New Jersey,  I met through my partner, Jim. Last night they appeared on the Dr. Oz Show. I am not a television watcher but was alerted ahead of time and managed to catch a glimpse of them with Dr. Oz.

What Oz did was pass out test tube tasters of an unnamed “sports drink” and then asked audience members if it gave them the expected energetic lift. Ginnie agreed that it had, but also commented, “well it tasted a little like seltzer.” The power of suggestion, of course, is very powerful in a setting like this.

Oz hugged her and said, “I’m glad you said that because that is what you are drinking is seltzer.”  The whole point of that particular segment was to make people aware of what they are swigging, mega amounts of sugar and caffeine and  many marketing lies, just like he “lied” because  his seltzer was not really a sports drink.  Diabetes is epidemic in this country as is obesity. Sports drinks are major contributors.  So, if you are hooked on them, watch out. They give you a high and then drop you like a yo-yo. Dr. Oz claimed he decided to look into them when he noticed severe interruptions in his sleep patterns after trying sports drinks.

So Ginnie got part of her fifteen minutes on the National Dr. Oz show. Her husband Jim was across the aisle from her, but each time the camera picked him up, it zipped by so quickly, I couldn’t get in a shot with my camera.  But, I thought the show was fun. It was a delight to see someone I knew on the show and I  enjoyed the show to the end, learning not only about sports drinks, but vitamin b, winter’s affect on your skin, healthful anti-aging foods and foods that counter belly fat. Dr. Oz, about whom I know nothing, seems interested in  naturally healthful foods, using this one show as a predictor.   I enjoyed the show.

As for Warhol, He eventually got tired of that quote in the 70’s and then said, “I don’t use that line anymore. My new line is: “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.” He also said, “I’m so superficial.”  A telling line for someone who was quirky and famous for getting away with anything in the snobbish art world. His own quote, “Art is anything you can get away with.”

Excerpts from Bill Dryson’s Walk In The Woods as he prepares for walking the Appalachian Trail after he discovers a good back pack costs $250, it isn’t water proof, sleeping bags require a stuff sack, straps to strap things to the back pack are extra, plus he needs a ground cloth and a raincover.

“I ended up with enough equipment to bring full employment to a vale of sherpas-a three seasons tent, self-inflating sleeping pad, nested pots and pans, collapsible eating utensils, plastic dish, cup and complicated pump-action water purifier, seam sealer, stuff sacks, patching kit, bungee cords, water bottles poncho, waterproof matches, compass/thermometer key ring, a little collapsible stove, gas bottle, hands free flashlight, long johns, undershirts, bandannas, snake bite kit, sewing kit, a small orange shovel for burying your poop, and a big knife for killing bears and hillbillies. The orange plastic spade seemed to shout:  “Greenhorn! Sissy! Make way for Mr. Buttercup!”

Thus committed, he repaired to a book store and bought hikers handbooks, books on wildlife and natural history, and a series of 11 paperbacks with fifty-nine maps covering the trail, for $233.45 for the set. Then, he spotted a book called Bear Attacks: Their causes and Avoidance. 

After he got home with his booty, he began to tremble and told himself this wouldn’t be so bad, but secretly, he thought otherwise.

Hmmm! Expensive, yes. But, carrying all that stuff while walking? Well, certainly I would have to have my new hip, and get myself into shape again, and do some practicing with a heavy pack. Hey, if Hilda can do it, and others like her, surely this isn’t an impossible goal  for me. Let’s see what happens as Dryson hits the trail. And, I have to contact Hilda. I know her email address is on my other machine. Gotta find Hilda.

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