31 August 2010

America: An Insane Asylum Gone Ariot!

The United States of America is a nation gone insane.

We watch as poisonous puerile passions pose as political ideology; the guttersnipe trash-talk of a former Republican senator obfuscates the seriousness of protecting one of the world's most effective anti-poverty programs-Social Security; and our corporately owned news media, staffed mostly by semi-literate, shellac-haired,  "Barbie" & "Ken" clones, race each other to be the first to voice the press releases of  right-wing geeks rather than developing a story or checking for the facts; and our president vacates and placates in the face of scurrilous and dangerously provocative personal attacks from the mentally incapacitated and venomously vile and violent professional wing-nuts (the same 35% of the willfully ignorant who believe to this day that George W. Bush was just the beans).

Today, we awaken to the news:

  • That the White House will not demand the resignation of Alan Simpson as co-chair of the commission on fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction.  This, despite his continued campaign of abuse and insult and disparagement of older people and retirees!
  • That another member of the commission, Republican Paul Ryan, using the commission as a pulpit from which he can continue his chant for drastic cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and, which he has now added, national defense and the FBI.
  •  That, according to a Newsweek poll of Republicans, a majority believe that President Obama "...sympathizes with Islamic fundamentalists and wants worldwide Islamic law".
  • That a dying Christopher Hitchens has called the recent Glen Beck rally as the "Water World of  White Self-Pity!"
  • That since Saturday last, 18 GIs have been killed in Afghanistan (*may I personally note that their presence in that backwater of the world serves mainly to shore up a corrupt Karzai regime and narco-terrorists).

And, I can assure you of this.  More Americans are aware of Bristol Palin's standings on some TV dance contest than they are of the above.

Yep, America has gone moon-baying nuts!

30 August 2010

Mr. President: It Is Time to Fire Alan Simpson

I have written extensively of that damned fool Alan Simpson and his dismal attitude toward older Americans--perhaps he is driven by self-loathing, as he himself is older than dirt and obviously dumber than a gunny sack full of wet Brazos River sand!

But over the past week or so, he has gone way beyond his earlier snide sarcasms and ugly denigrations of seniors to display a level of  hatred that borders on the psychotic.  The man is in desperate need of an intervention and some geriatric counseling and treatment. 

In an e-mail to the Executive Director of the Older Women's League, Simpson wrote that Social Security is like a "milk cow with 310 million tits".  Furthermore, he also told her, "call when you get honest work".  Gosh, Alan, has no one warned you that one sign of a deteriorating mind in the elderly is a careless disregard for self-control demonstrated by wildly inappropriate outbursts of rudeness and crudity.  Alan, seek help!

Last Wednesday, on August 25th, Barbara Easterling (*President) and Edward Coyle, (*Executive Director) of the 4-million member Alliance for Retired Americans wrote to President Barack Obama demanding Simpson's resignation  from the Co-Chair of the National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  Obama appointed Simpson to that position when the commission was formed.

In their jointly signed letter they wrote:

"This is conduct unbecoming a person named to co-chair a presidential panel.  Moreover, it is the latest in a series of divisive and inappropriate comments Mr. Simpson has made about our nation's seniors and the Social Security benefits they have earned and rely upon to make ends meet.

He has also said, according to multiple news sources:

  • "Where do I get my mail?  From these old cats 70 and 80 years old who are not affected in one whiff.  People who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount"
  • That older Americans are greedy geezers";
  • That the economically-disadvantaged are the lesser-people in society."

Mr. President, the Alliance for Retired Americans fully supports your goal of lowering the federal budget deficit, but as you know Social Security has not added one cent to the debt.  We do not want a large debt to be our legacy we leave behind to our children and grandchildren.  But the growing series series of venomous comments by Mr. Simpson greatly compromises his ability to lea a panel that tackles these complex issues in a thorough and objective manner"

26 August 2010

The B.A. Stands For Bad Attitude

I am ready to admit that the B.A. after my name does not necessarily mean Bachelor of Arts, rather it could readily mean Bad Attitude!  Yes, I will own up to it here and now, I am a short-fused, contentious, curmudgeonly old S.O.B. who is fairly easy to rile.  Nonsense does it most often, but people trying to rip me off is guaranteed to make my dander soar like a hungry raptor in search of prey.  Put the two together and I am a sight to behold, and be sure to cover the ears of the children.

Here's what has my dudgeon boiling right now.  Stay with me here and see if my peevishness is not well based.

I go to our neighborhood Brookshire's and being the taciturn lout that I am, I just prefer to enter the store, remain silent and anonymous, and do my business and get out without being chatted up...but no!  By the time I've gotten through the door and wiped down the cart handles at least three clerks, baggers, managers, or assistant managers have shouted out, for all to hear, inquiries as to my well being..."How are you today Sir?"

I'm tempted on these occasions to tell them about my aching back, the things going on with my wife's health and the horrific affliction of a hives-like rash I'm afflicted with periodically as a residual effect of either the chemo or radiation for my cancer treatment.  How am I?  Don't ask!

And by the time I make it to produce and around the corner past the meat department at least three more store employees have greeted me with cheery "hello, how are yous" and I want to shout, "Just the same as I was when I walked in the damned door and was first assaulted with your misplaced interest as to my well-being".

Now understand, I went to Brookshire's as a conscious decision because I really was in no humor for Wal-Mart.  That tedium is best undertaken early in the morning while still half asleep.  Had I gone to Wal-Mart in this humor, there would have been headlines.

Sure, I get it; some suit in Brooshire's home-office had a brain spasm and held a few dozen meetings and drilled every one in the stores on being "friendly" and "customer aware".  High motives indeed. But, put into practice, the redundancy plays out like a skit put on by lunatics.

Then I get to the pharmacy and find out I have to show my I.D. and sign three documents to merely pick up a prescription...a "controlled substance" you see, and all overseen by a pimply-faced 18-year old clerk!  Just answer me this will you?  How many 70-year old drug addicts go to the trouble of having a physician call in a prescription on a Medicare Part D plan and stand in line at Brookshires to get it. 

As I check out (yet another bubbly inquiry as to my health) and am ready to leave the store, I am forced, over a pretty strong protest, to allow one of the store employees to push my cart and load my car.  Never mind that I'm 6'1", 190lbs and fairly rugged and this employee is a wizened, partially crippled with osteoporosis, old woman at least my age or more.  Brookshires will try to tell you it's more of their "friendly customer service" but I think it's just a means to keep their shopping carts from wandering off.  For God's sake, find her something meaningful to do in the office instead of schlepping heavy carts and loading cars!

If Brookshire's were serious about customer service instead of just imposing their ill-advised solicitous groveling on people for the sake of appearances they would figure out a way to sell produce that does not turn rotten with a day or two of leaving the store, or 60-cent a pound bananas, or $2.00 a pound oranges.  A few less "greeters" and "cart pushers' and they could trim their overhead enough to provide real customer satisfaction.

They make a big deal out of how "Christian" they are, even to the extent of ballyhooing their closures on Easter in celebration of their "Savior".  That's fine, but tell me when gouging for every last penny and selling sub-standard products became a Christian virtue.

How am I?  Aren't you glad you asked?

25 August 2010

Entitlements - We've Earned them

Yesterday I partook of some socialized medicine at the Dallas, TX V.A. hospital.  I searched through the entire building for the "Death Panel" office but found none.  Which, I regard as a damned shame, since I have a few people I would have suggested they take under consideration.

It was a pleasant enough experience; no wait for more than twenty minutes within my appointment time and friendly, courteous, and caring front end staff, and bright intelligent doctors who quickly responded to my questions with clear and meaningful answers.  Altogether opposite the experiences I have had with some of the rude  and arrogant bozos in private practice here in East Texas. 

I mention this because my V.A eligibility is an "entitlement"!  I am entitled to it because I am an honorably discharged veteran of the Marine Corps who put his ass on the line and did all the hideous things expected of me with barely a whimper or objection and because I was told that if I did those things in an honorable way someday health care through the V.A would be mine.

But along the way, the damned Republicans rewrote the rules and rescinded that promise and applied "means testing" to my eligibility so that I am now saddled with some co-pays.  Minimal co-pays actually, but co-pays and not free, none-the-less.  And, the V.A. drug plan beats the living hell out of the Republican and drug company designed Medicare Part D.  But, never mind all that, it is an "entitlement" which I use and plan to continue using despite the nattering of right-wing politicians and corporate media.

I also draw monthly Social Security benefits--another entitlement.  And, I've got to tell you, a damned good one.  I and my employers have been paying into it since I "officially" began working at age 16 in 1955.  I say officially, because no one paid into it when I was about 14 and running around collecting numbers slips for my stepfather.  That is when I wasn't lugging beer cases up out of the basement of the bar where he worked.  So yeah, I'm entitled!  But, the point is this; I would be flat on my ass without it---my 401k took a beating in this recession, and every company that I worked for with the promise of a "pension" failed and folded their pension programs!  Yes, I have some savings, and what remains of my 401k, some equity, low expenses and overhead--but without social security, they would be whittled away in mere survival!

I am also entitled to be safe and secure in my home and protected against fire or flood.  I am entitled to those things through my willingness to sacrifice some of my earnings to pay taxes to support police, fire, EMT and other first responders.  I am also entitled to these things because I am a good citizen who stays informed, involved, and who votes and serves on juries and stands ready to help my neighbors when they need it.

I am also entitled to timely mail delivery at a reasonable cost.  That's because I am an American citizen and it's in the Constitution.  And, I am entitled to decent roads and highways in return for my prompt payment of taxes.  I am also entitled to see that my children and the children of others get a good, building for the future, public education free of any particular religion or other superstitious mumbo-jumbo or displays of uber-patriotism.

I am entitled to having my money safe and secure in well regulated banks and financial institutions and protected against loss if those entities should "fail".

Oh yeah, let's not forget, were it not for another "socialized medicine" entitlement; Medicare, I would have died of cancer or been made bankrupt by the expense of my treatment.  Which, by the way, is another plan that I and my employers paid into for most of my working years--hardly "welfare", just a very effective, well-managed health insurance option.

Entitlements? You damned straight skippy!  And I don't want to hear a stupid word against them.  I, and millions of others just like me, have earned them...we are entitled to them!

23 August 2010

Texas: Social Security Works For You!

Social Security brings nearly $39-billion to the Texas economy each year.  Those dollars "turn over" several times after being spent for health care, lodging, food, transportation and other of life's necessities.  They lift from poverty over 1.3-million Texans and provide income to nearly 1/2-million disabled workers, nearly 300-thousand children, 3.25-million widows & widowers and almost 2-million retired workers.

As that $39-billion (equivalent to 3% of the state's annual GDP) works its way through our economy; businesses, small and large, are able to grow and and provide employment to other Texas.

As these figures demonstrate, Social Security is an extremely effective and beneficial family insurance protection for Texans against lost wages due to old age, disability, or death.  Simply put:  It is impossible to overstate the importance of Social Security's earned protections.  However, we find ourselves here in Texas with too many rabidly-radical, right-wing politicians of the type that would have us apologize to BP for its disastrous oil spill and hand Social Security over the the cut-purses, liars, thieves, and mendicants of Wall Street.

They ignore the truth that Social Security has not caused the federal deficit, and that the program enjoys a $2.6-trillion surplus today which is projected to become $4.3-trillion by 2023.   Middle-aged and young workers will find that Social Security must be a mainstay against poverty as they become older after watching their housing equities, retirement savings and 401k investments being ravaged by what is now called "The Great Recession".  The attempts to deprive them of FULL Social Security benefits by Republicans and Blue-Dog Democrats and their arch-conservative fellow travelors  is both unbelievable and unconscionab

Social Security is not a welfare program breaking our financial backs and causing our fiscal deficit.  Social Security is paid for through dedicated taxes contributed by workers and their employers into a trust fund.  This makes Social Security a promise---a bond between generations that belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives and their families!

20 August 2010

Do These Things Today & Save Social Security

Known foes of Social Security and Medicare from the rabidly radical right-wing of American politics are waging an all out war against working families, retirees, the elderly, disabled workers and the survivor beneficiaries of Social Security.  Over the past several days, we have exposed their lies and provided clear and easy remedies which insure Social Security's solvency for decades to come.

Today we're going to name the key protagonists in the assault on this vital social safety net which has helped keep Americans of all ages and from all walks of life out of poverty for 75 years.

Billionaire Peter G. (Pete) Peterson, one of that perfidious bastard Richard Nixon's advisers, is joined in a cabal with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers to pump millions into schemes and on-air advertising to contriving to take away Social Security and Medicare under the canard of "fiscal responsibility".  Peterson, former CEO of the disgraced and bankrupt Lehman brothers, has revealed his true motives in the remark, "...Social Security would crowd out all forms of capital accumulations".

These reactionary right-wing politicians were appointed to the President's Fiscal Commission by House Minority Leader, John Boehner; Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Dave Camp of Michigan,  and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

Ryan has called for the "sun-setting" of Social Security while stating that "secure retirement is a myth".  He is a key proponent of the wait to 70 to retire shell game.

Hensarling has called for the privatization of Social Security and reducing benefits for those already receiving it. (If Bush's 2005 privatization plot had passed, those "individual investment accounts" would have, by now, lost 20% of their worth!).  He was a protege' of former Republican Senator Phil Gramm, the architect of the deregulation which contributed to the recent Wall Street catastrophe.

Camp has mastered the art of political double-speak from each side of his mouth, with a tongue that wags at both ends.  On one hand he bully-pulpits about making Social Security strong while at the same time joining in with the privatization crowd.  He has amassed a lifetime "0" rating from the Alliance for Retired Americans for his anti-senior voting record!

Those are some of the principals out to destroy Social Security.  Now, take a few minutes and fight back and help preserve and protect it so it can be passed along to coming generations:

Contact your member of Congress today to let them know that you support Social Security and Medicare and that they request the Fiscal Commission to hold open field hearings that will encourage honest debate and input from constituents like you.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper that urges the commission to fully examine ALL the tax and spending  that created the deficit (2 wars, tax cuts, spiraling health costs, housing bubble), not just entitlement programs.

Talk to your friends and neighbors about the value of Social Security and Medicare.  Shane the good word about the importance of making these vital programs remain strong for our children and grandchildren!

COMING MONDAY:  Social Security Works for Texas

19 August 2010

How To Fix Social Security

For 75 years now, Social Security has provided benefits to individuals of all ages; retirees, disabled workers, widows & widowers, and surviving dependent children of deceased workers.  Despite its success as a preeminent anti-poverty program it is once again under attack from the rabidly radical right wing of the American political spectrum.  These attacks are taking form, from the vilification of seniors as "greedy geezers" to the false claims that Social security has contributed to the current deficit and that somehow Social Security will be a "burden" on coming generations of working Americans, of scare tactics similar to the "death panel" lies of the health car reform debate..

The facts are these:  Social Security is sound, solvent, and secure with a surplus of  $2.5-trillion which puts the program on schedule to pay full, guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.  Even if no changes were made, Social Security could, after 2037, continue to pay benefits at 75% until around 2084.  These figures and projections are readily verifiable through the Congressional Budget Office and Social Security websites.

However, we do need to act in order that we protect, preserve and pass along to future generations a cost effective, strong, and fully funded program as is now benefiting more than 53-million Americans.  The ways to do this are really quiet simple and could be easily implemented were it not for the recalcitrance and pigheadedness of Republicans, Conservatives and Blue-Dog Democrats.

1.  Congress should allow the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans--those with annual incomes of $350,000 or more--which would generate revenues that would keep Social Security fully funded for a full 75 years.

2.  Raise the payroll tax cap on Social Security for the wealthiest Americans.  The cap, which right now is at $106,800 means that millionaires and billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pay no more into the Social Security trust fund than do their middle level managers.

3.  Freeze the estate tax at 2009 levels and apply those revenues to the Social Security trust fund.

4.  Establish a real and meaningful jobs program putting Americans back to work in good-paying, American jobs.

All it would take is for people to make their voices heard that they want a real fix to Social Security that does not penalize contributors and future recipients with outrageous means testing, or increases in the retirement age, or cuts in benefits or elimination of cost-of-living-adjustments.

COMING TOMORROW: How You Can Make A Difference.

18 August 2010

Answering Republican Lies About Social Security

Please allow me to burden you with some facts regarding Social Security.

Did you know that with the current cap on contributions set at $106,800 billionaires such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and George Soros contribute no more to the trust fund than do their middle managers?

Republicans, knee-jerk conservatives, tea-baggers, Blue Dog Democrats and others who attempt to link Social Security to the deficit are not merely misrepresenting the facts, they are lying to you!  Social Security is in the very strictest sense an insurance program protecting from poverty; retirees, disabled workers, widows and orphans and is funded by contributions from working Americans and their employers...its payouts come from a trust fund supported by those contributions not from the general treasury!

When you hear Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Alan Simpson and others of their ilk whimpering about IOUs and future generations you need to understand this---Congress has borrowed against the trust fund and now doesn't want to repay the loan...in effect they want to default on a "car title' loan and let the repo man come out and then claim they've "cleaned up an entitlement debt".  Don't let them con you, they know this to be true and are engaging in name-calling, generational warfare, and outright lies to distract you from the truth.

They would have you believe that Social Security and "entitlements" are the cause of the deficit. This is more of their lies and fear-mongering.  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), most of the currently projected budget deficit over the next ten years results from Bush's tax cuts for the rich, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fought on the national credit card, spiraling health care costs, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The simple truth is this, Social Security has not contributed to the deficit and has a $2.5-trillion surplus that would see it to about 2040 with absolutely no revisions!

If anyone tries to tell you differently, they are lying to you!

COMING TOMORROW: Practical Ways to Preserve, Protect and Pass Along Social Security.

17 August 2010

Cancer & Friendship

Right at two years ago to the day, after fighting and arguing with a (the) prominent local (Tyler, Texas) Ears, Nose, Throat specialist for four months that my sore throat was more than "drainage", I was finally given a CAT Scan and subsequent "surface" biopsy that indicated a non-malignant mass at the base of my tongue.

Not satisfied, after a quarter of a year of dithering, indifference and outright rudeness, I demanded referral to a different doctor.  On the first visit to the new fellow at Baylor in Dallas, a review of the CAT Scan and "hands on" palpitation of the area caused him to schedule me for an almost immediate deep-tissue biopsy which determined I had a malignant, stage four, squamous cell cancer on the base of my tongue.   A hurriedly scheduled PET Scan later indicated that it it had not yet metastasized. No, I hadn't smoked for 30 years.

While on the operating table for the biopsy; once it came back positive, I was fitted with a medi-port in my upper left chest and a feeding tube into my stomach just below the sternum and was referred to an oncologist and radiologist to begin chemo and radiation therapy.  Surgery is out of the question for this type cancer in this location due to the complex involvement of muscle, nerve and bone structure in the area.  Also, due to the slight possibility of radiation finding a cavity and leaking into the jawbone causing an almost always fatal condition involving necrosis of the jawbone, I had to have all my teeth, except for the front six, removed.

Following a healing period after my oral surgery, treatment began in early October and continued until the end of March at which time, after a CAT & PET Scan, I was diagnosed cancer free.  Subsequent exams have gone very well.

Six month of chemo and radiation beat the living hell out of me and left me 67 pound lighter than when I started.  Anyone who has gone through it knows what it is like...but, I had an outstanding medical team and a former Marine's instinct to keep on fighting, regardless!  It was miserable, but something happened when I was at one of my lowest points of continual nausea, intestinal vagaries, mental confusion, and general malaise that caused me to suck it up, put my head down and swing away.

I got a phone call from a guy who had been my best friend back in grade school and junior high and who I had not seen or talked to in forty some years.  He had heard of what I was undergoing and called to "check on me".  I can think of nothing, except perhaps the birth of my children, that affected me in such a powerfully emotional way.  That phone call made the difference, it was a turning point, a benchmark, in my treatment and recovery.

Lat year, in October, a year after treatment began, I made a journey to my home town (the first in several decades) and spent a marvelous afternoon with he and his wife talking about the "glory days".  We, in many ways, were the last generation of kids to experience the camaraderie and freedom of the "sand-lot" and life without adult interference and meddling.  Those experiences left us with a lot of rich stories and "characters" to remind ourselves of.

I was warned that cancer is a life-altering disease.  It is.  That phone call was also life-altering, and I can not explain the comfort, strength and calm that came from it and that remain with me to this day.

16 August 2010

Social Security Birthday Parties & Rallies - A Great Success!

Last Saturday, August 14th, the 75th Anniversary of the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security program into law,  the Alliance For Retired Americans put together over 100 birthday parties and other events to highlight both the occasion and the importance of the program.  For a list of all the activities, go to http://bit.ly/aTIDaP.

Here in Texas we held Birthday rallies in Austin and Dallas.  Over 55 people, young and old, attended the Dallas rally. Other events included those in Tucson, Arizona, where FDR's granddaughter is the special speaker at a lunch, and Rock Hill, South Carolina, where Alliance members will present Rep. John Spratt (D) with a special plaque to thank him for his service, along with a giant card signed by constituents asking him to continue protecting and preserving Social Security. Rep. Spratt will then cut a birthday cake and announce the winner of the raffle for whacking rights to a large "Fat Cat" piƱata.

Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling called into the Social Security-Medicare party in Omaha, Nebraska to address those in attendance. "Retirees have much to be proud of as Social Security turns 75.  It is a true American success story, one that has kept generations of seniors out of poverty, and allowed millions to retire with dignity and peace of mind. But this milestone anniversary is tainted by calls, in the name of deficit reduction, to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age," said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Mr. Coyle was referring in part to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who offered another signal a week ago Sunday that his party would favor raising the Social Security retirement age. Asked specifically on NBC's "Meet the Press" if he supports raising the retirement age to, say, 70, Boehner replied, "There are a lot of options on how you solve these (issues), but I don't want to put the cart before the horse." Later during the program, Boehner's deputy, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), said of raising the retirement age, "...for younger Americans, absolutely yes, we ought to bring real reform for the sake of future generations of Americans to get spending under control." For related information, including a link to state reports from the group Strengthen Social Security, with detailed information down to the congressional district level on the impact of Social Security, go to www.strengthensocialsecurity.org/reports.

Raising the Retirement Age, with People Filing for Early Social Security Benefits?
A striking trend is occurring: more people are filing early for their Social Security benefits in response to the weak economy. The Washington Post ( http://bit.ly/aHvTsz ) reported this week that more people filed for Social Security in 2009 (2.74 million) than in any year before. It's not just because of the baby boomers - there is a significant increase in individuals receiving reduced benefits because they filed in advance of their full retirement age.

Noting the trend and referring to the Republican efforts to raise the retirement age, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks said, "Can you imagine working until 70?  In physically demanding jobs like construction, manufacturing, and the service sector, I just don't see how you can.  And in a tough job market, who would hire someone in their late 60s? Raising the retirement age is a benefit cut - plain and simple. We cannot allow it to be done."

11 August 2010

Blog Resumes Monday - August 16

On The Road This Week

Conducting rallies celebrating the 75th anniversary of Social Security and countering the radical rights efforts to destroy it.

Blog Resumes: Monday, August 16

05 August 2010

A "Murder" Of Crows - There's A Reason For The Label

This morning, while taking a break sitting under a shade-tree in my (Green Retro Tubular Lawn Chair - Some Assembly Required) and thinking about the things I want to accomplish today and  watching the Ruby-Throat humming birds joust with each other and dodge wasps for feeding rights, I heard in the distance the raucous caws of a raiding party of crows.  "Aha", I thought, "There is a reason a bunch of crows is called a "murder"!

If you get a chance sometime, watch them as they go about visiting carnage and havoc on the settlements of other birds.  Crows, which nest in flocks up to a thousand or more, send out smaller patrols up to fifty miles in their daily search for food.  While on patrol, they operate with the precision and skill of a highly-trained military unit.  They send out advance recon birds, post sentries, forward observers, flank and rear security, and look-outs and strike en-masse with force quickly establishing dominance and control.  They are avian warriors and unremitting with the strength and persistence of their attacks.  Aside from humans, hawks and owls are their only predators, and even these, for the most part, give crows a very wide berth unless they can find a single, inexperienced youngster away from the flock. 

In additional to their highly refined attack operations they have a extremely well evolved social structure including constant, 24/7,  look-outs, and non-mated "aunts" who serve the flock as "baby sitters" and senior "bachelor uncles" who help in the rigorous training of fledglings. And don't think for a minute that their caws are merely random--most experts agree that they employ a rich, varied, and effective "language" of nuanced communication.

They are believed to be the most intelligent of the birds and are readily adaptable to most any situation or climate excepting arctic areas.  Crows are non-secretive to the point of arrogant defiance, and, can be very dangerous if an unwary animal or person strays into their roosting grounds.  They will "attack" humans in such situations.

Even though they mate and bond for life, crows (females in particular) tend to be as wildly promiscuous as Bonobos.  Their sexual cavorting, even with other family members, would be enough to cause a god of Greek Mythology to blush.

Once hunted, poisoned, and otherwise scourged by farmers crows are now a "protected" species.

04 August 2010

Social Security's 75th Birthday Festivities Begin

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Democratic Leaders, and House Democrats held a press event last week on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law on August 14, 1935. At the event, the Speaker blasted Republicans for trying to privatize Social Security, saying the change would have resulted in the trust fund incurring a massive loss due to the downturn in the stock market.

Earlier in Las Vegas, at the "Netroots Nation" convention, the Speaker said that she is opposed to raising the retirement age. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has said that he favors raising the Social Security retirement age to 70.

More than 60 groups, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, announced the creation of the coalition "Strengthen Social Security…Don't Cut It." The new group is launching a major mobilization to push back against Fiscal Commission assertions, backed by the Wall Street spin machine, that claim Social Security is a major component of the budget deficit and is teetering on the brink of disaster.

In a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the group outlined plans to build support in Congress to fight benefits cuts and press candidates this election to push back against any move to raise the retirement age or privatize the program. "We are united by our concerns over the new Fiscal Commission, which operates in virtual secrecy and with a fundamentally flawed understanding of how Social Security is financed and operates. There is no government financial commitment at all. Every dime comes from workers and employers," Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said at the event.

The new group's web site is HERE . For more information, go to the AFL-CIO blog Here. For photos of the press conference, go HERE. For a new Alliance document on Social Security Disability Insurance, go HERE.