The longest Day

This one was not my fault. I must say this up front because generally when something goes wrong on a family vacation it is my fault: Not having a Speedo to wear at Aquaboulevard when one was needed, having two reservations at two hotels with very similar names, getting attacked by gypsies at an ATM, taking the 405 to the Getty Museum during the morning rush hour, telling the taxi driver in Iceland the wrong day to pick us up…let me assure you this list could be a much longer.

The morning we left Paris everything went as planned. We left our hotel, wheeled our bags to the metro station and caught a train to Gard Nord. We arrived a solid hour before our TGV train was to leave. I will admit now that I tend to arrive too early to train stations and generally there is nothing to do in a train station except look at that big black board with little yellow letters and numbers and hope your train track is posted soon. I now know that the big black board is just for amateurs, the real train people know how to read the paper schedule by each track. So we sat there waiting looking like little birds waiting for momma to feed us. Eventually the black board gave us the track to report to and we headed there like it was a Southwest flight and seating was limited.

We found our seats, placed our huge suitcases in the luggage area (another rookie move, everybody puts their bags on the overhead no matter how large) and sat back safe in the knowledge that we had a great train ride to Köln, Germany ahead of us. From there we would change trains and head south along the Rhine River and eventually end up in Bacharach. All along the Rhine are old castles and the train ride down to Bacharach would be very scenic and I was really looking forward to not only the arrival, but the trip itself.

As the train left Paris I began to stress a little about the train change in Köln, we would have about an hour and 45 minutes to get on our next train while in Köln and I really wanted to step outside the station and see the cathedral. If you haven’t seen pictures of the cathedral stop reading now and Google it, okay, impressive huh? So the plan was to get off our train in Köln, find the next track and then split up, two of us would watch the bags and two would go look at the cathedral and then we would exchange spots.

The TGV trains go fast (200 kph) and we would be in Köln in about two hours, so I did my best to enjoy the blurry countryside. Everything was going so smoothly I couldn’t believe it, smooth is not how anyone in my family would describe any of our vacations. Then it happened, as we were pulling into Brussels, home of the sprout I guess, the conductor or whoever came on the radio and made an announcement in French, German and two other languages that were not English. Everyone around us looked annoyed and began collecting their things. We did what any red-blooded, single-language Americans do during moments like this, we sat hoping that someone would come and lift us from our seats and carry us to our next train. That did not happen. Instead a steward (or whatever you call the train waiter) came and told us to get off the train.

We got off the train and looked for a fellow American. Americans are easy to spot in Europe they are usually the only ones wearing white tennis shoes and a T-shirt that advertises some soda. I found a lady who informed me that the weather between Brussels and Köln was windy and the TGV train could not continue so we were going to have to make a train change and ride a regular slow train the rest of the way to Köln. No one knew when the new train would arrive or leave, no one knew what track it would be on, no one knew much of anything but I decided to wait with the rest of the herd and not make a move without them.

Here begins our long series of tragedies. Emma had to pee. Now peeing in an American train station would probably be no problem, but in Europe nobody pees for free. I didn’t have any change and we did not want to be separated so we hoped our new train would arrive soon so Emma could pee for free on that train.

That did not happen, 20 minutes went by and Emma was in tears, there was a train sitting next to us and I told her to hop on and pee. She was slightly concerned that the train would leave while she was onboard, which is a realistic concern so I told her I would stand like Clark Gable one foot on the train, one foot on the ground, while she went pee.
Emma dashed on, hit the bathroom and accomplished the task without any further problems.

When we got back to the rest of the family it looked like the crowd had thinned some. Where were people going? I had hoped that we would all move like cattle to our next train but it appeared that people were breaking off into small groups in an attempt to lose us. Then another announcement came over the intercom. The remaining people began moving. Down an escalator we all went and into a large station house, it took about two seconds for us to lose the group. We heard track eight was where we were to go, but when we arrived at track eight a policewoman told us that no we were supposed to be back at our original track. We dashed back to find nothing. My wife decided the policewoman didn’t know what she was talking about and we headed back to track eight just in time to see our train leaving the station.

My ambivalence about Brussels had taken a shift, actually my feelings for the entire country had changed: I hated them. Ask any American what they know about Belgium and you will probably hear two things: chocolate and waffles. If the American is a history buff they might toss in the fact that Hitler rolled through Belgium in about four minutes during WW II, but other than that Belgium is about the blandest, boring European nation out there. I am sure that if I spent time wandering around I might end up liking it there, but that is not going to happen because I hate Belgium.

Well, what do you do after you miss a train? You go stand in a line and hope that someone will tell you what to do. I took our tickets and my angry face to the information desk, my only luck was on my way to stand in line I saw the policewoman who gave us bad information and I yelled, “Thanks, we missed our train. Thanks a lot.” Who says Americans are ugly travelers?

The ticket agent guy was pretty helpful and got us leaving the station after waiting for another hour. This would have been a good time to find an ATM, get some cash and maybe a snack or two, but instead we went to our track and camped out. We were not going to miss another train.

The train arrived; we got on and began our trip to Köln. Since this was a smaller train, there was no food service on it and all of us were getting hungry. It was about 6 pm when we arrived in Köln and we had 30 minutes to catch our next train. There wasn’t much time to get anything to eat, or to see the cathedral, or get any cash, so we sat and waited for our train. It arrived and we left as the sun began going down.

The train we were on was a commuter train and it stopped at every little town along the way. I moved my obsessing about trains to our hotel reservation. I had booked two nights at a small Pension that had just a few rooms. I told the hotel owner we would be there at 3 pm and according to my train tickets we would not be arriving in Bacharach until 10:30 pm. Would she hold the room? Would she even be open? How am I going to find the place in the dark?

In Koblenz, we had to change trains one last time. We sat outside in a small train station waiting. None of us had eaten anything since breakfast and it was now nearly 10 pm. I dug around in my bag and found some loose Euros and Dylan went to a vending machine and got two sodas and two bags of candy. I was certain that it would be the last meal of our day since Bacharach is a tiny little town and nothing would be open when we arrived.

We caught our last train of the day and sat looking out into the dark. We could see the river, but the castles on the hillsides, and the scenic vistas were just a dark mystery. When we arrived at Bacharach it was dark, the streets were dark and the little town was asleep. We rolled our bags up the cobblestone road, “Look at this place. It’s like a fake German town in Disneyland,” I said and it was. Half-timbered houses, crooked cobblestone streets and charm that I assumed no longer existed in our world today. For the first time since waking up, I finally relaxed. It all worked out, not as planned but we were here and if the pension was open we would be able to get some sleep.

I knew exactly where Pension Lettie was located thanks to Google Earth and we made it to the darkened door without a wrong turn. Before I even knocked, I saw a curtain draw back and a kind older lady’s face. She smiled and waved. All of the anger, all of the stress, all of the worry vanished as Lettie opened the door and let us in.

“You’re late,” she said in perfect English.

“We had trouble with the trains today,” I said.

“Are you hungry?”

“Yes, we haven’t eaten since morning.”

“Hold on,” Lettie went to her phone dialed a number, spoke for a couple minutes and then said, “The restaurant just up the street will stay open until you come. Leave your bags and go and eat.”

We left the Pension, walked up the street a few hundred feet and found a small Doner/Pizza shop. After our long day of travel, our evening could not have ended more beautifully. It wasn’t the beauty of the town, although there is plenty of beauty there, it was the kindness of the people; although, I still hate Belgium.

My $400 Chickens

For about three years my wife has wanted chickens. She has been reading chicken books, visiting chickens, thinking about chickens and talking about someday having chickens.

We have enough property for chickens, but I haven’t wanted them for one reason: I don’t want chickens. Sure I would like some fresh eggs but I can get eggs at the store. My hope was that my wife would eventually decide that she didn’t really want chickens but that didn’t happen.

One day in May I came home to find a little chicken coop sitting near the garage. It was the kind of coop you put baby chickens in until they get old enough for life outside. When I saw the coop I knew the battle was over. I said to my son, who was in the car with me at the time, “This isn’t good.”

The coop was a “gift” from Joyce and Danielle. It was a nice gift, but it was the kind of gift that has an expectation attached to it, like when I bought my mom a doughnut maker for her birthday. “Here’s a doughnut maker. Now I want hot doughnuts for breakfast.”

I am certain that there was some conspiring going on behind my back, but when it gets right down to it my wife knew I wouldn’t throw a tantrum and burn the coop. I might consider burning the coop but I knew there would be daily burnings of my stuff purchased without group consensus.

So three baby chicks were purchased and set up in the guest bedroom with a red light to keep them warm. The portable dog kennel was used as their first lodging, but it wasn’t long before they figured out how to escape from the kennel. After about a week of escapes and recaptures the dog kennel began looking like a high security penitentiary. Cardboard walls and tape covered most of the dog kennel and the birds finally gave up on sneaking out and instead began pecking away at the cardboard like they were digging out of Alcatraz with spoons.

The chicks grew and soon could be moved to the garage and placed in their coop. I was the only family member still not interested in the three parasites. The birds were fed special food, given a great deal of care and watched over like a member of the family. In the back of my head I hoped they would die. Now it sounds cruel to wish that a family pet would die, but I knew what was coming next: building an outdoor coop.

I am not a carpenter. I am not a mechanic, my car windows have not been able to roll down for two years. If something needs to be fixed I can probably get about 80% of it done, the final 20% seems to give me the problem. In 8th grade my shop teacher held up my project so the whole class could get a good laugh, so this problem with building things is not new to me.

I needed a simple plan, a square plan, a plan that would be difficult to mess up. I talked to my wife about how large the coop needed to be and then set to work. I dug holes, put in posts and made an almost square area for the chickens. We bought chicken wire, more wood, more chicken wire and put on a door. When it was all done it cost $400. $400 will get you a lot of eggs.

A dozen eggs might cost $3 in the store. So 400 divided by 3 = 133.333333. Now if all three chickens lay one egg a day I will get a dozen eggs every four days. The rest of the math problem is not important because this morning those $400 chickens were making noise at dawn and woke me up.

Easter in Palestine

The boys searched the scorched ground
For bits of a new martyr.
Fresh scraps mixed with ancient dirt
Shrouding their task.
Shouting to friends,
Gathering to examine their found treasures.

Easter this year was cold.
The northern wind blew sand and rain.
The children were not deterred.
They hunted the dunes finding bright plastic eggs.
Returning with red faces and runny noses
They declared their bounty.

Abroad Thoughts From Home

Tonight it was a breeze that passed over the dining room table pushing some loose papers onto the floor. Maybe the dampness of the evening air triggered it, but suddenly I was transported to Paris a few years ago. I had traveled to Paris alone in 2007 to continue working on my novel. The breeze in this one moment in Sequim, WA somehow made a connection to a moment on an evening in Paris. How these moments connect are still a mystery to me. Could it be a combination of temperature, humidity, and the smell of lavender? Maybe, but the nostalgic feeling for Paris took hold of me and sent me into a brief depressive moment. I will not be seeing Paris any time soon.

Maybe it is because school starts in a week. It could be that I was burning the potatoes I was cooking at the moment when the breeze interrupted, but either way, the breeze came in through the window, blew some papers off the table and in the time it took them to drift to the floor, I was in Paris sitting on a green bench on the southeast side of the Champs de Mars looking up at the Eiffel tower. It had been a long day in Paris. I walked from Montmartre to my hotel on the Rue Cler. I stopped near the opera house for lunch and then strolled along the Seine. The sun had not come out much during my stay, it was late August, and the overcast skies did not break for my long walk.

Then after I had a relaxing dinner at Cafe du Marche, I walked over to my favorite Patisserie and picked up two tarts, a strawberry one that made my tongue happy and a chocolate one that made my stomach unhappy because it was already full.

I tried sitting on the grass of the Champs de Mars but it was damp, so I went to a nearby bench and sat there until the sparkling lights came on the tower. The breeze blew in off the Seine, tingling the leaves above me and I sat there perfectly contented, all of my responsibilities were thousands of miles away and I had a few days left in Paris before I had to return to the real world.

Metro Sonnets

The Metro Stairs

What Freudian brutes roam beneath these streets?
Sheiks from the abyss, subterranean
Movements, a shrouded caliginous beast
Stalks the innocent, chanting Chaldean.
Is there virtue below these cobble stoned
Boulevards, a dawn in a sunless land?
Is there a place for those who have atoned?
A place for those who follow your commands?
Surely there is goodness at St-Michel
Or Saint-Sulpice on the Port d’ Orleans
Line. If I were to ring Notre Dame’s bell,
Could it flush the urban underground clean?
No matter what I try those beasts beneath
Reign in the passages baring their teeth.

St-Michel

He ranted in a Babylonian
Tongue. Prophesying destruction and an
End to our rootless Dionysian
lives. A self appointed sanctified man,
The ragged book he held in his right hand
Appeared useless, mocking his arcane rage.
Oh lost prophet, where is your homeland?
Have you been sent to heal this faithless age?
Summon up the dust of our lost lives, mix
The waste with your saliva and
Create a soothing balm to mend and fix
Our eyes onto something infinitely more grand.
Work your miraculous tricks before we
Gaze away. We merely trust what we see.

Pigalle

She sauntered on the train dressed in darkest
Night, planting a garden of lust as she
Moved. Ruby lips concealed a searing nest
Of flames that consumed the bold who would not flee.
The throbbing train pounded through eternal
Desires, flashing beneath muted masks
Waking unknown hungers in this nocturnal
Land. This Dulcinea grasped the pole to bask
In her admirers’ studious stares,
Rolling her hips with the jostling car.
Inviting the unwary to her lair
To open desires mad and bizarre.
Avert your eyes before it is too late.
She feeds on fire and decides deathless fate.

Opera

Accordion music spills wildly
Into the Metro. Unrestrained dancing
Arises. Bacchus saunters dreamily
Amongst the crowd, bottle in hand, splashing
This year’s vintage into awaiting cups.
Pandemonium surges, thickening
The earth-shattering jubilation. Cups
Are drained and yet the parched are still yearning.
The party multiplies beyond control
Degenerating into a jarring
Cacophony. The godforsaken souls
Are despondent and left desiring.
The heartless lights at Moulin Rouge reveal
That Bacchus and Pards do little to heal.

Bastille

A crimson beast charges through the aisle.
Assaulting those who do not step aside.
Shattered souls are left sprawling as this vile
Beast destroys feigned morality. This bride
Of butchery frightens the bravest
Warriors into secluded corners.
Will no one challenge this beast? The eldest
Look to the young. The executioner
Circles its victim spewing invective.
The frenzy builds swelling the beast’s volume
Until all are forced into protective
Positions waiting to be consumed.
Full of sound and fury the beast stalks out
Into the Metro stop with a stunned shout.

St-Denis

I see you sitting there, your head resting
On your lap. Did Fabian send you on
Another ghastly odyssey testing
Your tolerance for torment? Last time dawn
Produced agonizing persecution.
What makes you think this time will be different?
Decius is gone but Revelation
Remains incomplete. Do you trust Advent
Still? Is your faith that boundless? Your severed
Crown brought conviction to the church of Gaul,
Maybe your faith can bring hope to this blistered
Land. Lift your head high above and call
Into these dark passages your sermon
And restore the Temple of Solomon.

Metro Terminus:
Mark 9:43

The Metro cannot be destroyed without
Caving in the broad boulevards above.
Whether demolition would help I doubt.
These violent exploits don’t mesh: God of love.
Filling up the creatures’ dim passageways
Would drive them to daylight to terrorize
The ordered surface land. Old Hemingway’s
Clinic Doctors thought they might cauterize
Him back to sanity. Ten thousand volts
Later, he vanished into the Metro
Never to return. Keep your thunderbolts
For someone else. Even though the Metro
Is repulsive, it keeps the beasts moving
from station to station halting crowding.

Would Orwell Love the Bush Administration?: 4/2/2004

In 1948, when George Orwell was writing 1984, he modeled his Big Brother government after Joseph Stalin’s regime in Russia. The oppressive Big Brother was always watching, always at war and always controlling the flow of information to the people of Oceania (England and the Americas).
Does this sound familiar to anyone out there? Well for those of us caught on the wrong side of the “You’re either for us or against us” fence, the Bush administration bears a striking resemblance to Big Brother.
Start with the Patriot Act. (Orwell would have loved the doublespeak quality of the name.) Patriots are in favor of being watched. Patriots have nothing to fear from our dearly beloved Big Brother/Bushies as long as we behave, post an American flag out front and do what we are told. Those that don’t follow the rules can be taken away, held without charges and questioned without representation. The Thought Police in 1984 employ this same type of governmental control over the people of Oceania.
The Homeland Security/Ministry of Love is there to protect us from the outside evils of the enemy, isn’t that right? We are supposed to feel safer, aren’t we? If it weren’t for Tom Ridge and his boys wouldn’t the evil enemies kill and destroy us? It is this type of fear that allows us to relinquish our rights for supposed safety. Oh, so we give up some of our freedoms, at least we are safe. As I recall we had a pretty good streak of being safe before 9/11. I can hear you out there already, “Those times were different. We weren’t targets of terrorist attacks then. We are now.” Just keep telling yourself that as we pour billions of dollars into “fighting terrorism” overseas as we sink deeper and deeper into debt here in the United States. As long as fear rules we can allow our infrastructure to deteriorate, we can allow big business to run amok, we can allow our environment to take a backseat to terrorism, and we can continue to pay more and more for all of those services that used to be part of our lives.
Fear also gives the Bush administration the right to attack Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction and then shift the war to one of ultimate good. We wanted to free the people of Iraq. We wanted to build a democratic nation in the Middle East. We needed to rid the world of a great evil.
In 1984 the government is constantly at war with shifting enemies. The people of Oceania begin to forget who the enemies are and who the allies are. The Bush administration has clearly delineated who is an enemy and who isn’t. This axis of evil has identified the good guys and the bad guys or has it? Where does France fall? How about Saudi Arabia? (Most of the 9/11 terrorists were from there.) Is anyone outside of the “Coalition of the Willing” an enemy. The lines get a bit blurry when we look beyond what the Bushies are telling us.
The one certainty is that we are going to be at war with evil for an undetermined length of time. Don’t worry; we have already adjusted to being at war. Unless you are in the military or have a loved one in Iraq, how has your life been changed by this war? I still go to work. I still take my children to school. I still do my patriotic duty and go shopping at Wal-Mart. For most Americans this war has little or no impact on our lives other than enduring the body count on the evening news. We really have entered into a situation where “War is Peace” (one of the three slogans of Big Brother).
The Bush administration has also restricted the free flow of information within our country. Mass media monopolies give us lots of flashy pseudo-news, but where is the substance beyond talking-heads ranting on both sides of the debate? News seems to be boiled down to sensationalized hysteria and not newsworthy. The Bushies have capitalized on this element of our culture more than any other administration. The use of the media during the Iraqi invasion was pure genius. Embedded journalists gladly gave up their ability to view the war objectively for the ability to ride along with the troops. It was a form of censorship the media seemed too dumb to notice and no one seemed to question because it made for great television.
When one looks deeper into the media relationship with the Bush administration, one begins to see how difficult getting information directly from the top really is. President Bush is reluctant to allow the press to question him directly, but he is always there with a grin and a wave for a photo op at his ranch looking the part of the everyman. These canned news items are easy to cover and provide the Bush administration just what it needs, the appearance of news without any real news. Orwell would have admired this aspect of the narrowing of the news. Big Brother narrows the news and narrows thought through newspeak, the official language of Oceania. Big Brother certainly has more direct power over the people than the Bush administration, but the areas of debate have been restricted and will continue to be.
At the end of 1984, Orwell’s hero, Winston Smith, has been tortured by the Ministry of Love to the point that he agrees that 2 + 2= 5. He is then returned to the streets of London, not as a martyr but as a disciple of Big Brother. When Winston finally gives up his independence of thought and loves Big Brother he is killed and the novel ends. This bleak end to the novel is intended as a warning. We should never allow our government to gain too much power. We should never allow ourselves to be manipulated into unthinking drones swallowing whatever the government feeds us. We should never be satisfied with a government which places its own self-interest above ours.
Orwell would have been horrified by the policies of the Bush administration and so should we.

My Memorial Day: 5/28/2004

I grew up in a small community in central California. The two major industries (if you can call them that) were farming and the Navy. It might seem odd to people that there would be a Navy base far from the water, but the San Joaquin Valley provided the Navy with clear skies for the pilots to get lots of air time and practice. In my small neighborhood most of my friends had fathers who were Navy pilots.

As a young boy, I remember listening to a conversation between my father and a next door neighbor who had just returned from a tour in Vietnam. The neighbor described what was happening over there as “hell”, an image that was very vivid in my mind as a child growing up in the church. Although the war in Vietnam was thousands of miles away, it was a very real part of my community, so much so that I had friends who had fathers who were POWs and MIAs. These men loved flying, but they also loved their country in a time when service to their country was not too popular.

I also remember talking to one of my friends about his father, who was a pilot, who had been awarded a medal for bombing a building. My friend said to me, “I guess my dad has killed people.” My friend seemed to have trouble with the dual images of father and soldier.

The life of a Navy family didn’t change much after Vietnam, because the fathers were often gone on long cruises around the world. These cruises could last as long as 6 months and were very difficult for my friends who were without a father during that time. It is an incredible sacrifice for a family to make and it is one that continues today.

One of the most memorable people that grew up on my block was another kid. Vincent “Otis” Tolbert was a few years older than me and his father was also a Navy pilot. Otis was a large kid and grew into an even larger man. When he was a senior in high school, I was a freshman. He was the star fullback on the football team, and tossed the discus for the track team. He eventually went to Fresno State on a football scholarship.

One day Otis dropped by my house to talk to my older sister, she wasn’t home. Otis saw that I had a Risk game out and asked if I wanted to play. We played for a few hours, they were memorable hours for me, because Otis was all of those things I longed to be; popular, athletic, and intelligent. For him to sit down and play a game with me, meant so much. It was as if a personal hero had dropped by my house just to spend time with me.

I followed his career at Fresno State until I moved away and lost touch with where he was and what he was doing.

I know now that Otis was serving his country in the Navy, like his father. He served in Desert Storm and then took a job serving his country at the Pentagon. On September 11th, Otis was at work when a high jacked airplane slammed into his office killing him.

I found out Otis had been killed when I read a list of 9/11 victims, at first it was hard to believe that someone as strong and athletic as Otis had died. He was one of those people I assumed would live on beyond me because of his vitality and strength, but he didn’t.

I am not a flag waving American, but I do believe in the ideals that the United States represents. Otis also believed in the ideals of our country, so much so that he was willing to serve his country as a soldier. His sacrifice is what Memorial Day is all about. It is about him and the thousands like him who have died in the line of duty. With Otis, Memorial Day has become more personal for me. I will think of him this weekend, I will think of his family, I will think of the other families I grew up with who had fathers serving in the Navy and I will thank them for what they have done for all of us who practice our freedoms daily. I will also hope for the day when people like Otis Tolbert will not have to give their lives for freedom. I will hope for world peace and I will hope for a day where we celebrate an end to all war.

Just Leave Me Alone: 6/3/2004

This past weekend, I went to see the movie Troy. My expectations for a Hollywood version of The Iliad were not high and so I was not disappointed. What did disappoint me, and has disappointed me for the past three years is that I have to watch ridiculous commercials before I get to watch a movie I paid for! I am not talking about the movie trailers for upcoming releases; I am talking about the commercials that are now being played before most movies.
Commercialism has become so prevalent in our society that we don’t even see it slowly encroaching on our lives. Having to watch a commercial used to be the cost of getting free access to a television show or sporting event, but now most of us pay for our television and at the same time we get to pay to watch commercials. What a great deal!
There was a time when people drank water straight from the tap, but now you can pay to get water in a bottle. Why? Is there so much pollution in the world that our water supply is tainted? Well, the Bush administration did raise the level of allowable arsenic in our water supply, but bottled water was around before that happened. Suddenly people are paying $2.00 for something that most people can get for free just about anywhere in the United States.
This is the price we are paying, and will continue to pay, as we allow commercialism to seep into our culture. Our government used to protect us from blatant commercialization, but as budgets shrink for most governmental organizations more and more of the services once provided by the government are now being taken over by business. There are people who believe this take over is a positive trend and will save us money over time. The idea that business can do the government’s job better than the government is just wrong.
The $10 billion contract to provide Homeland Security for the United States was just given to Accenture; a company incorporated in …Bermuda! Bermuda, the nation famous for shorts? Bermuda, the nation well known for its cocktails and beaches? Bermuda, home of tax-dodging American companies! My tax dollars, your tax dollars, are going to support a company who avoids taxes by incorporating itself in Bermuda. This company is also going to provide Homeland Security better than the government could? What happens if shareholders want to increase profits? Will Accenture downsize their Florida office? Maybe they will shut down Homeland Security in Montana.
Halliburton’s business dealings in Iraq are another example of, “Big business can do it better” thinking. Halliburton was charging the Army between $2.64 – $3.06 for a gallon of gasoline that the Defense Department’s Energy Support Center was supplying for $1.32. The American tax payer picks up the overcharge. According to the Wall Street Journal Halliburton billed the US for 42,042 meals a day in July of 2003, but served only 14,053. Halliburton was billing the US tax-payer $85.98 for a sheet of plywood that cost $14.06 in the US. What were they doing, flying each sheet of plywood to Iraq in a first-class seat?
Commercialism has slowly been seeping into our schools for a number of years. First it was soda machines, then it was cafeteria service provided by McDonalds and now it is field trips. Petco offers field trips to their stores. They pay the transportation costs and the students get a fabulous learning experience in how to become a consumer for Petco. The kids all get a free coupon for a goldfish and have a great time poking around the store. The message Petco has purchased for the price of transportation and a few goldfish is priceless. Petco gets a captive audience of children and the stamp of approval from the school.
Next time you go to your local high school look around at the signs, most of them are probably provided by a major corporation. These images become so much a part of our daily life that we don’t even notice. Companies call you at home, spam your computer, advertise anywhere they can and slowly slip into your subconscious. These companies have done the same thing with our government. Do we really want a government run on the principle of profit?
There is a growing movement across our nation to cut taxes and streamline government. The layers of fat are easy targets for tax cutters, but those layers of fat are never touched by a reduction in funding. These tax reduction efforts often end up costing us in other arenas. Maybe we lose access to libraries. Maybe we have cutbacks in police and fire departments. Maybe we can’t replace pot holes in our streets. Eventually all of these “savings” end up costing us more as a society. If you don’t read books or have enough money to buy books, cutting library hours won’t hurt you. If you never need the police or fire departments, what difference will it make to you if there are cutbacks? A pot hole in your street is easy to drive around for a while, but eventually that pot hole enlarges and other pot holes appear. In essence our entire society is becoming marked with pot holes that cannot be filled. We want to have all the services, but we don’t want to pay for them. Industry has slipped into a government void and is slowly making itself more and more necessary for our everyday living. As we become more reliant on business to fill our needs we open up the possibility to being victims of profit margins. Big business is not going to monitor itself and cut into profit. Remember the promises California heard about competition and energy prices? What happened to them can happen to us on a national scale.
The lines between business and government have become so blurred that it is difficult to see where one ends and one begins. I want government in control of industry and not the other way around. We need leaders who are not married to big business serving our country, and we need a new separation, a separation of industry and government.

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