Monday, August 27, 2012

Hurricane Mitt

When I was a child, I asked my father where did babies come from. He flushed a bit and said, "Remember the tree we planted in the front yard?" I did. "Well," he continued, "the Daddy plants a seed inside the Mommy and it grows into a baby, just like that little plant grew into a tree. Do you understand?" I thought for a second and said, "I guess so, but do you have to water it every day?" That explanation held me long enough until I finally learned of the actual mechanics of the thing. I heard the famous "senior day sex talks" that the late Dr. Breen Bland delivered to decades of Christian Brothers High graduates, and by the time I reached college, I felt I had a pretty good handle on things, so to speak. But never, in any health class, human sexuality lecture, or biology lab, did I ever hear anybody suggest that the female genitalia contains a trap door that lets the good seed in, and keeps the bad seed out. If that were the case, they could never have made that creepy movie starring Patty McCormick. That idiotic theory, voiced by Missouri Senatorial candidate Todd Akin, was so dismally stupid, it got him dis-invited from this week's Republican Convention in Tampa. Out of all the moronic statements made by this year's GOP presidential candidates, Akin should be sent some sort of floral arrangement by the Democrats. His comments about "legitimate rape" were so repulsive, it attracted public attention to the party's platform, which pretty much adopted Akin's political stance in toto. Regardless of where Hurricane Isaac makes landfall, this has the makings of a perfect storm for the Republican Convention.

By the time you read this, there either will or will not have been a GOP conclave, and the city of New Orleans will or will not still be standing. Current forecasts indicate that Isaac may hit New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, providing a terrible reminder of Republican neglect in the midst of their celebration. I never wish anyone any physical harm, but I was fantasizing what might happen if the storm made a glancing blow at Tampa causing the power to fail and stranding 30,000 rich, Republicans in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Nothing major mind you, just a couple of days without air conditioning and possibly some backed-up bathrooms. Or, perhaps a short circuit in the VIP room, cutting short the Oak Ridge Boys' set. Can you imagine how fast they'd be on the roof howling for government assistance?  Party leaders have already cancelled the opening session, which thankfully accounts for a 25 percent decrease in bullshit and forces the Tea Party goons to march in a non-primetime hate parade to rail about Obama and abortion. The GOP line-up of speakers, from John Boehner to Ann Romney, will have to compete with a strengthening hurricane chugging its way up the Gulf, and on the day that Congressman Paul Ryan is to be nominated Vice President, a major storm may once again strike New Orleans, making his small government argument moot. With the billions spent on this single campaign, the anti-government teabaggers should pray that this time, the levees hold.

In a way, the hurricane may help the Republicans. With a shortened convention, Congressman Ryan may not have the sufficient opportunity to explain why he co-sponsored all those restrictive abortion bills with the banned, "he whose name is not to be spoken," Rep. Todd Akin. Ann Romney won't have the time, while praising Mitt as the ideal man, to explain the twenty point gap between her husband and the president among women voters. After Akin's remarks about rape victims being able "to shut all that down," when it comes to conception, I'll bet that there are hordes of Republican women that understand the dangers of the Tea Party zealots gaining real power. They may pull for Romney in public, but they'll pull the lever for Obama in the voting booth. Who could possibly believe in this age of joblessness and despair that the Republicans would be discussing abortion and birth control at their convention? Rick Santorum has been given a prime speaking spot just to hammer the point home. Despite Romney's attempt to focus on the economy, his running mate's extremism may well make this the "Abortion Convention." The party platform makes no exceptions for abortion and would have the government make certain that a pregnancy resulting from rape was carried to term. Sarah Palin once warned of imaginary "death panels." Now the GOP wants to impanel the "gestation police."

The Republicans will allow that "Sure, Obama inherited a tough situation, but his policies have made it worse." Or, "We are in this situation because of Obama's failed policies." This is the Joseph Goebbels' version of "The Big Lie." It has been revealed that the Republican caucus, since their seditious meeting on inauguration day, have used an unprecedented strategy of blocking, filibustering, or otherwise impeding every measure the president has proposed. They have chosen to sacrifice both the economy and the good of the American people in order to bring down Obama. Romney preaches his desire is "to get America back on track," while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell states that his "top political priority is to deny President Obama a second term." In fact, the alleged "failed policies of the president," can only be a GOP-concocted fantasy since they blocked every bill he proposed. The policies of the president were never given the chance to succeed because of Republican obstructionism. Followers of politics may recall that the Republicans blocked the Unemployment Benefit Extensions Act, an Aid to Small Business bill, the Bank Reform Bill, and a Jobs Bill blocked in the Senate. And now they want the American people to reward them for their bad behavior.

I was wondering who schedules a convention in Florida in August even before I realized it was hurricane season. But it's turned out to be the proper setting for this crowd of angry, frustrated white people-  heat, storms, high winds, alcohol, sex, and to top it off, Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared it legal to carry firearms into the convention hall. It's almost paradise for the Tea Party mob that has hijacked the Republican Party. It also may be a good thing that Romney put Paul Ryan on the ticket to pacify the pistol packers, or in Rick Scott's Florida, some disgruntled wingnut might wish to take "second amendment remedies," should things not go his way. Republicans are known for putting on orderly conventions, but this mixed bunch of ideologues, anti-abortion zealots, tax refusers, and Obama haters might just buck the trend. And we haven't even discussed what will become of the Ron Paul delegation. Romney has ridden his private sector, businessman acumen to the nomination, but he may be making his acceptance speech amid a natural disaster requiring a massive public sector response. Perhaps he might reconsider his discounting the need for more firemen, police, and first responders if some brave National Guardsman has to pull him from the convention floor in a basket dangling from a helicopter.

Monday, August 13, 2012

For Dog and Country

We're admitted dog lovers over here, only we're not insane about it. I mean, we don't feed them people food or dress them up or anything like that. But, the Friends of  Memphis Animal Services has a Facebook page where they regularly post pictures of cats and dogs available for adoption, and they hooked me. I saw a picture of a puppy's face that said to me, "I'm out here waiting for you." My father's name was Sam, but that doesn't necessarily make me the "Son of Sam" unless I begin to listen to the canine voices in my head. So, I re-posted the picture instead with the suggestion that, "Someone needs to go out and grab this little girl up." Only, no one did. I followed the dog's progress for a couple of weeks but there were still no takers. Melody and I already have two adopted dogs; only they adopted us. We didn't have to go anywhere or do anything. Each dog just wandered up separately and decided to stay, so we certainly weren't looking for another. But the days continued to pass with the pup still in the pound until we began to become concerned about the animal's well-being. We decided to drive out to the shelter and look at the dog with the understanding that if it were skittish or sick, we would leave it alone. Guess who has a new puppy?

The new shelter is clean and attractive, but when we approached the front desk and inquired about the dog, they didn't know what we were talking about. We were told by a stoic civil servant whose job reeked of political patronage that we needed to ask one of the volunteers about any particular dog whose photo appeared online. I turned in search of such a person and saw a large cage against the lobby wall with the floor coated in The Commercial Appeal. A sign on it read, "Pet of the day," and there was the puppy, looking into my eyes and telepathically transmitting, "So, you've finally come." I said to Melody, "This is our dog." A volunteer spotted us ogling the dog and informed us that she happened to be on sale that day. When we carried the pup outside and placed her on the ground, she reacted as if she had never seen grass before. She was thin, but not malnourished, and had been spade and given her first shots, only she was filthy from living in cages. The kindly woman volunteer said that if we agreed to adopt, she would give the dog a bath and a pill that kills all fleas immediately. Melody and I exchanged looks and said, "get out the bath salts, this baby's going home with us."

When asked what kind of dogs I have, I usually say, "a black one and a white one," since they are of indeterminate ancestry. Both males, the black dog, Steve, looks like a Lab/hound mix with a sway- back and a bum leg. Jack, the little one, resembles the love child of a rat terrier and a Chihuahua with a bad disposition. We named the new pup Nancy, after a dear friend, because they're both so sweet. Steve immediately claimed her as his girlfriend, which was just as well since Jack, the alpha with a little man complex, refused to look at her. Nancy stared disbelieving at all that backyard to wander, but she could still barely walk and stepped as gingerly as a chicken on a hot-plate. After a pet store run, some puppy food, and a couple of chew toys, we sat back and watched her come alive. Melody is the Dog Whisperer of this family and had the pup house-broken in a week. Since the puppy never suffered abuse, she fortunately doesn't have any emotional issues, unlike Steve who bows up like a camel at the sight of a fly-swatter, or Jack, whose chronic licking has caused his paws to resemble the stigmata. Nancy did have one bad habit, and I'll put this as delicately as possible. Because she was underfed at the shelter, she developed an untenable interest in the other dogs' leavings; and nobody wants a shit-eating dog. Melody solved the problem instantly and enterprisingly by sprinkling the poop with red-pepper flakes. Nancy is now back on her puppy-food diet.

It's been awhile since I raised a pup, and I had forgotten that the reality is far more taxing than the fantasy of doggie kisses and belly-rubs. Melody compared it to raising an infant that is either asleep or needs constant attention. The rough play and growling noise of the pup playing with Steve is constant and nerve-racking because you're never sure when it's getting serious. Jack, the little dog, keeps looking at me as if to ask, "What have you done? Everything was fine!" But after a week or so, everyone seemed to be adjusting well, and as soon as the puppy calms down in five years or so, we'll have a peaceful home once again. I should amend that last statement by saying everyone is adjusting well except me. It's because I had completely forgotten the teething phase, and although we got the puppy some twisted ropes, rubber balls, and squeaky toys, it's my right arm that looks like a Nylabone. I've been instructed to be more alpha with the dog and shout "no" and put her down when she starts biting my arms and hands, but she's so adorable that I'd just as soon go ahead and suffer. As for barely walking when she got here, you should see Nancy run now. I believe I might even have a Frisbee dog in a month or so. Melody and I agree, however, that perhaps it's better for older people to adopt older dogs.

Not everyone is emotionally equipped to care for a pet. It really depends on the human. The shelter mainly takes in three types of dogs; strays, unwanted litters, and animals whose owners have surrendered them. Every time a dog makes the news for being stuck in a pipe or rescued from any precarious situation, people's hearts are touched and they scramble to adopt that particular animal. These dogs at the shelter don't make the news, unless there's a personnel scandal involved. They're not pure bred or show quality, yet equally as deserving of love and care. It requires patience, equanimity, and a combination of discipline and reward, rebuke and praise. Did I mention love? If you can handle that, you'll be rewarded ten-fold and discover that the love and loyalty of a dog can add a dimension to life that is immeasurable. I implore you to make the drive to the shelter. It's easy to find. Just tell one of the volunteers that you would like to see the pets available for adoption, and try not to have pre-conceptions. There is such a variety of handsome animals that you won't even have to worry about finding your dog- your dog will find you.