Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's July 2011

I will never run for political office.  Okay, I guess never say never.  But I seriously doubt I would ever run, for many reasons, mostly because (aside from my inelectibility and my inability to do a good job) I am not temperamentally suited to such a task.  

But I will admit, I occasionally think about my platform.  Yes!  How I would do things if it were Sweeneyland.  It's a fun game, figuring out what I would do if I were suddenly in power.  Therefore, it being July, and the day after the 4th, I thought I would begin to reveal my opinions.  No, many aren't novel.  Many are ridiculous.  None will ever happen.  But still, it's something to think about and to wish for.   

One reason I like to admit to a specific point of view is because then that view can be tipped up and back, defended and reignited and maybe changed.  The whole balm I get from settling on a point of view    helps me veer away from the constant feeling of being a curmudgeonly skeptic, and sadly a helpless observer.  

If I were Queen, I would institute these changes:

1.) Flat income tax with no deductions.  I'm guessing between 15 to 25%.  No nifty accountants, no discount for being poor, no deductions for children, or interest on house loans, or even medical expenses, and no increased tax for the rich. I know it seems like the rich should pay more, but I think they pay so much less now -- than even poor people do -- because of all the deductions they take.  I think this is a fair start. Maybe increase the tax rate on the rich as we see how things go.

2.) Mandatory conscription.  Everyone has to serve two years.  It can be in the military but could also be building infrastructure in the U.S. or aid, Peace Corps like, outside the U.S.  This would also help create a more cohesive American culture.  To me this is important because I think the need for culture is great and religion swoops into the vacuum.  Additionally, if people from the wealthier classes had to send their children off to war, there would be fewer wars.  Duh.  Also, people from different classes would mix together.

3.) Universal health care.  Medicare for all.  Untether health care from jobs.

4.)  Universal and equal education.  Remove the correlation between property taxes and school budgets.  Children of people who are not high-income expensive-home-owners should not have to go to schools of any less quality because of their parents situation.  Parents in rich areas have a greater resource of available at-home parents who can volunteer and this is allowed.  This will inevitably cause a discrepancy in the schools, but this I will allow.  (Yes! I am QUEEN! This is fun!)   Religious private schools are outlawed.  Private alternative learning schools are allowed, as long as the basics are taught.  This subject is added to the curriculum: Religion.  Not teaching religion, teaching children about religion.  The Bible is mandatory reading in school.  Are you shocked?  I do believe we would have much less fanaticism, fundamentalism, and influence by the religious right if everyone were forced to just simply read the Bible as literature, as a historical document, as a window into religion itself and not the word of god. I would still allow religions to exist (aren't I tolerant?) and kids could get religious schooling after their regular school if their parent chooses this.  

5.) Charity Schmarity.  No tax deductions for churches or any non-profit organizations.  None.  People will still give money to charities even if it's there is no tax benefit, this has been proven time and again.  Churches rake it in and have little to report about it.  Other charities do too, it drives me nuts. 

6.) No inheritance.  You can't transfer wealth to those who are over age 21.  (Okay, this idea is impossible, hell, they're all probably impossible - but this one really REALLY is.  Still, I like the idea that wealth cannot be transferred to those who did not earn it unless they're children.)

7.) Eliminate special states rights.  State lines should evolve over time to simple cultural and geographical delineation's.  No special business tax havens in Wyoming, for example.  State taxes would also be set at a flat rate and every state would have the same rate.

8.) Lobbying is made illegal.  Sure there will still be lobbyists, but it will be clandestine and when rooted out, prosecutable.    

9.) Electoral college abolished.  One person, one vote.  I would go with the necessity of picture identification cards at the polling places. 

10.) Eliminate tax subsidies to any business that is profitable or even possibly profitable.  Eliminate tax subsidies to any business that creates pollution. (I'm thinking how angry I get over oil subsidies.  OIL, we give money to OIL COMPANIES!)

11.)  Marijuana decriminalized.

12.) Other drugs also should be decriminalized, but they can only be done if you're not a parent and in a safe environment and not driving.  If you're out of your home (which cannot have children in it) you have to be with others doing the same drug.   Basically I would set up drug houses where, if you want to do drugs, that's fine, you can go there and do it.  But you have to stay there until you're off of the drug or dead.  I guess that means we will also provide the drugs.  All right, fine.  But no leaving until you are dead or not high anymore.   (HA! This is really fun!)   

13.) End-of-life rights, or assisted suicide rights guaranteed, equal marriage rights for gays, prostitution decriminalized, and regulated. 

14.) "Under God" taken out of the pledge.  In fact, let's toss the pledge.  Why do we have to pledge?  "In God We Trust" replaced with the historical, original "E Pluribus Unum" on money.  Let's not toss the money. 

15.) Our influence in the world limited to defending a Universal Bill of Rights.   Forget about bringing democracy everywhere.  A solid Bill of Rights is more important than democracy. 

16.) Online poker is legalized. 

17.) Palestine has a right to exist, Israel and settlements out of the Gaza Strip.  Jeez!  Let the boats in, for crying out loud.

18.) State Fair's are mandatory.  State's cannot vote to de-fund them.  (Michigan?! are you listening?)  They are too much fun and add to state pride and understanding.  

19.) Abortions are free.  Anyone who wants one can have one.  No questions asked, no waiting period.  Also, babies born with really severe disabilities can be euthanized in the first three months, of course only if the parents want it.  Yes, I said it.  I'm with Peter Singer on this one.  I know it's a tragedy.  These things happen.   While I'm on the subject, birth control is also free. 

20.) Cash payments for going to the gym.  I'm not sure how this will actually work but somehow you get $20 in cash for every time you go work out at the gym or go to yoga.  Only one event per day.

21.) High school students must graduate with a certified skill.  It could be hair cutting, electrical apprenticeships, copy editor apprentices, marble cutters, sous chefs - something - a skill that can be learned in a year, which has enough basics for a job,  and is certifiable.   

22.) (added 7-6)  YES!  Corporations are not persons!  They are corporations!  You can say whatever you want about them.  How could I forget that one?

All right.  That's my platform so far.  Wow, that was fun.  I feel a little giddy.  I may have indefensible ideas, yes - I like to read and mull.  I change and morph.  But right now, this is my dream.  I don't want to turn this blog into a big debate about them (not that it would, I'm just sayin') but I am interested in other's platforms.  Or comments.  Let's all create our own platforms!  

Oh dear, and now I'm thinking about shoes.  Well, I guess that is as good a transition as any. 

Now I will list the movies I watched this month, followed by books read.

Movies watched in June, 2011

1.) "Becoming Jane" Julian Jarrold
2.)  "Even The Rain" Iciar Bollain
3.)  "Back Beat" Ian Softley
4.)  "American Quilts" Laurie Gorman
5.)  "Sullivan's Travels" Preston Sturges
6.) "The Baron of Arizona" Sam Fuller
7.) "Objectified" Gary Hustwit
8.) "Salesman" Albert & David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
9.) "The Talent Given Us" Andrew Wagner
10.) "Beginners" Mike Mills
11.) "The Beatles, The First U.S. Visit" Albert & David Maysles, Kathy Dougherty and Susan Fromke
12.) "A Dandy In Aspic" Anthony Mann
13.) "The Virgin Suicides" Sofia Coppola
14.) "Bamboo Blonde" Anthony Mann

As I look over this varied list of movies, it's interesting what stands out now.  The biggest one-two punch was watching "Salesman" one day and "The Talent Given Us" the next day.  I really loved "Even the Rain" right after I saw it, but then I haven't thought of it since.  Funny how that goes. 

I was deeply affected by "Salesman" - a documentary about Bible salesmen from Boston, working in Florida.  The footage was shot in 1966-67.  It was so raw and realistic - I mean, hell - it was real.  But I couldn't get over how natural everyone was - like they didn't realize a camera was there. The main guy - (or, the person who turns into the main guy, I should say)  is a Willie Loman-like, sweet and manipulative person who's hitting the ceiling on his abilities to sell and keep himself together.  The salesmen are mostly Irish Catholic and I think that may have influenced my attachment to this film.  This movie is deeply haunting.  I found it very sad and poignant and surprisingly funny.  It's a view of the world in 1967 that is discombobulatingly authentic and visceral.  I was practically unable to walk for a day or so, after seeing Salesman.  I'm still thinking about it day to day to day.  

But then, unwittingly kicking it up a notch, I viewed, "The Talent Given Us."  I'd put this film in my Netflix queue because I'd enjoyed "Starting Out In The Evening" and I wanted to see Andrew Wagner's first directorial effort.  He had his family act in this first feature film of his. He wrote the screenplay too, but it appears to be suspiciously close to his own families true issues and experiences.  It blew me away. The shocking thing is that in the first third to first half of the film, I was thinking of bailing and turning it off.  It's very uneven and the performances are sometimes painful.  

It's a story about his parents (excuse me, characters much like his parents) driving across country - from New York City to L.A. to visit him (I mean, a character who is a screenwriter who is played by him.)

The scenes he has with his parents, well, some are really sexual scenes. It was so shocking he would film his parents this way.  I don't consider myself a prude, but knowing that it was his real mom and dad, watching his real mother (playing a character - okay, okay) saying, "I want to fuck" to his dad and being openly sexual with him, as well as pretty raunchy...   Well, for this viewer, it was a bit dizzying.   Yes, the movie was really sweet and believable, but also infuriating and I will admit it made me squeamish and uncomfortable, but then,  I really appreciated that Wagner was manipulating his audience (and clearly me, too) that way.  

This film led me to wonder about so much - how his family felt playing these "characters" and how it is now, having made this film a few years ago.  My jaw was literally falling open for minutes at a time as I watched this movie.  I told several people they had to see it.  I'm eagerly awaiting another Andrew Wagner movie.  IMDB does not have any new project for him, but he really, really has been given a lot of talent.  Not that I believe in talent (see last month's book postings.)  

I don't have any big insights into any of the other movies, except I do want to say that I enjoyed "Becoming Jane" a lot more than I thought I would, and probably a lot more than I had a right to.  I found myself unexpectedly crying at the end.  I thought Anne Hathaway was really good in it. 

Books read in June, 2011

I only read two this month, and am in the middle of the third.

1.) Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, The Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, written by S.C. Gwynne.  Oh! Oh! Oh!  You have to read this book.  It's so compelling, heartbreaking and breathtaking.  Beautifully written.  I didn't know about the Comanches being special - everything I knew about the Comanches I learned from John Wayne, watching "The Searchers."  Which reminds me that it's time to rewatch that movie.  Their territory was mostly in Texas - parts of Oklahoma and Northern Mexico too.  The Comanches were real hunter gatherers.  I didn't realize that what truly did them in was the systematic and deliberate destruction of their food source, the buffalo.  What I mean is, I didn't know it was so calculated.  And Quanah Parker should be known by all Americans as an amazing person with a completely unique life in all of history.  This book is so good!  

2.) Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See Smell and Know, written by Alexandra Horowitz.  This book was really good, too.  I like reading about dogs.  It was particularly poignant to read this book right now because I have just learned that my dog, Arden, has a tumor in between his lung and heart. He has trouble breathing and it's unclear how much time he has left.  It could be a terrifically slow-growing tumor.  Right now he seems pretty much fine.  In any case, reading this book was particularly meaningful because I'm feeling very close to Arden and enjoying every minute I have with him.   Most of the things I learned from this book, I already knew, but enjoyed being reminded about.  Like how much more a dog can smell and why they lick people's faces (wolf mothers regurgitate food into pups mouths, and this behavior seems to be a remnant of that) and of course I love how Horowitz teases people who treat dogs like people.  For example, as I heard just this morning on my dog walk, a woman saying to her dog: "Max, get in the car, we have to go home to see Aunt Mary who's just flown back from China!"  It's really astonishing how many people think explaining things helps a dog understand what's going on.

3.) The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, written by David McCullough.   I'm halfway through this book and oh, do I want to move to Paris.  I'm really enjoying it greatly.  He's a very good writer.  It's very systematic and logical and clear writing, and yet it's lyrical and inspirational too.  

Okay, that's it for this month.  Until August ---