Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

By Madeleine Kando

We have all heard the expression ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’, but even though they are both certain, we don’t spend weeks on end agonizing over death every time April comes around. It is taxes that gives us heart palpitations, high blood pressure and other physical ailments. Death actually has the advantage over taxes of being non-negotiable. We cannot fudge the books or take any deductions on death. You cannot hide in an offshore account, death will find you, trust me.

But what death mostly has going for it is that it’s a lot less complicated than taxes. I found that out the moment I started doing research for this article. So, rather than pretend that I know what I am talking about, I will admit up front that this essay resembles a piece of Swiss cheese with more holes than cheese.

Let me start with the 47%. Was presidential candidate Mitt Romney right about the 47% of Americans who pay no income tax, during his 2012 campaign? Yes. There is a large proportion of Americans that do not owe money to the government because they either don’t earn enough, they have too many expenses or because they have a lot of deductions.

Was presidential candidate Mitt Romney wrong about the 47%? Yes. The 47% pays payroll tax, state, local and sales tax, gas and property tax. Not only do they pay all these taxes they pay a larger share of their income towards these taxes than the rich. It’s called a ‘regressive tax’. Read more...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A Canvassing Adventure

by Madeleine Kando

My friend Karen and I are wading through a thick layer of multi-colored autumn leaves, going door to door in a lower class neighborhood in Nashua, New Hampshire. There are 3 days left before voting day, when Americans all over the country, will go to the polls for the mid-term elections. Since our home state of Massachusetts is considered a sure thing for the Democratic party, we decided to change the course of history by canvassing in beautiful New Hampshire.

Canvassing is a very American art of persuasion. It is part of any political campaign and although there is no clear evidence that it makes an iota of difference in the overall outcome of an election, it gives the people who are involved the feeling that they are doing something, which is what we all badly need right now.

We chose Nashua, the second largest city in the Granite State, because it is close to the state line and more importantly, because it is dotted with Dunkin’ Donuts stores, which is a very important part of our canvassing routine. Read more...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dionne Warwick

On our recent flight to Europe, we met the legendary songstress Dionne Warwick. I am not telling you about this as a silly boast (there is nothing to boast about accidentally bumping into a celebrity, which I am sure has happened to many of you, and which in and of itself means nothing). No, I am telling you this because of the very fun and funny way in which it happened, and mostly because it was an excellent learning lesson for me:

We were on our way to Brussels, Belgium. We had just spent the night crossing the Atlantic, and we landed in Dublin, Ireland, for our connection to Belgium.

We had a couple of hours to spare, so we went shopping a little bit in the duty-free area. I was standing in line to pay the cashier for some minor purchases. Next to me stood a thirty-something man, also buying some trinkets. He courteously said to me “Go ahead, sir.” I thanked him, and we started chatting a bit. He asked me where I was going, and I told him - Brussels, Belgium. I asked him where he was heading. He replied that he and his family were going to some seaside town in England...he couldn’t quite remember the name of the place...

Figures, I thought to myself. Geography isn’t Americans’ forte. Could he mean London, maybe? The guy was probably not an experienced traveler; maybe his first time in Europe? I also thought, how nice, that “common folks” can travel overseas for leisure... Read more...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Why Cannot I be a Turkey?

by Madeleine Kando

Turkeys have invaded our backyard. Two mothers, one with eight babies, the other one with a lonely slightly bigger baby. The eight dwindled down to six, then to four as the spring went by, but finally mother nature settled on a number and the 5 of them have been steadily coming, always accompanied by the second mother and her lonely juvenile.

They used to be these adorable little fluff balls, but now I cannot tell who is who. Is it a mother or a baby? Is it a juvenile? I have to count them to make sure I am looking at the same group that we have been feeding throughout the spring and summer, against the advice of the ‘professionals’.

There is nothing ‘cute’ about them any more. They fight, chase each other, spread their large wings to scare each other off, and once in a while you see one fly into a tree, when they have had enough of the sibling rivalry. Yes, turkeys can fly. Not well, but enough to give the others the finger: ‘Fuck you, I am outa here’.

Now I am wondering: are they really the same turkeys as these cute little balls of feathers that first appeared in our yard? If they are like humans, new cells have replaced every single cell in their body multiple times. Just like new ‘Madeleine’ cells have replaced my cells at least 10 times, depending on which type of cells we are talking about. Except my brain cells; they have never been replaced. If you wonder about the poor quality of my writing, it is because I am writing with the same old brain cells that I was born with 75 years ago. Read more...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Getting there is (Not) Half the Fun

My wife Anita and I have been back from Europe for a few weeks. We have finally caught up with the many errands that pile up during one’s absence, so I can now begin to tell you about some of the more “interesting” things that happened during our 4-week journey to Belgium, Paris, Switzerland and Rome.

I use the word “interesting” both in its general positive meaning , and also in the sense of the old Chinese curse wishing someone “an interesting life:”

As one gets older, international travel becomes more challenging, especially for those of us who refuse to throw in the towel, and who continue to travel independently rather than joining guided groups or going on cruises. We still rent cars and brave European traffic, we run around foreign railroad stations and airports for local connections, we take local subways and buses. We do it all, because we value authenticity. We also have friends and relatives in several of the countries to which we go. We are not just tourists. Read more...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Expropriation as a Remedy

I have been worrying about the dual economic disaster threatening America:

1. The skyrocketing federal deficit: In 2018, the federal government is spending over one trillion dollars more than it makes. Its cumulative debt has reached $22 trillion, which is 105% of its GDP. This year, the government spends about $315 billion dollars in interest to finance its growing debt. This is 8% of the total federal budget. Imagine how much our government could do with all this money - schools, infrastructure, health care, scientific research, space exploration, saving the environment, etc.

And of course, each year the finance charge increases. In time, financing the debt will become the government’s largest obligation. Eventually, the (near) TOTALITY of the government’s budget could be spent on interest payments. In sum, utter and total bankruptcy. This happens to countries from time to time - France before its 1789 revolution, Argentina, Greece and other countries more recently, etc. America is in a vicious downward spiral. Read more...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Boys will be Boy and Girls will Self-Objectify

by Madeleine Kando

Today was the lengthy Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which both the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the accused, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh give testimony about Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

What makes a high schooler think that he has the right to lure a girl into a bedroom, lock the door, turn up the music and, as his inebriated buddy eggs him on, tries to take off her clothes and have intercourse with her against her will?

Some commentators reacted to the Kavanaugh case with the old ‘Boys will be boys’ excuse. Really? Boys might be rough or break things, but as far as I know, the definition does not include trying to rape a girl.

Kavanaugh’s nauseating actions, if they are true, are the result of what some of Kavanaugh’s high school peers described as ‘a widespread culture of sexual objectification of women’ at the all-male prep school that Kavanaugh attended. But before you can sexually objectify a person, don’t you need to objectify her first, to treat her like an object?

Objectification *

According to my favorite philosopher, Dr. Martha Nussbaum, there are several ways to treat a person as a thing:

The first type Nussbaum calls ‘instrumentality’, i.e. treating a person as a tool for someone else’s purpose. The second type is called ‘inertness’ , which means that a person lacks autonomy and self-determination, so you can do what you want with her, like one of those sex dolls. Another way to objectify is to treat someone as interchangeable with someone else of the same type, like models on a runway. Read more...