Category Archives: Betty Lou Saves the World

Completely unsolicited solutions and free advice people SHOULD — but never did — ask from me to prevent the possibly dire demise of our planet, our species and the American way of life.

Public Education Cuts: The Horror Flick

In my Aquarius birthday week that officially marks my eligibility to be courted by AARP and planners of prepaid funerals,  I join history’s old fogies, including Socrates, who’ve worried about the younger generations’ preparedness to carry on  the important work of managing the world’s future.

This concern is fueled by the proposed federal budget cuts — particularly in the area of education — made necessary, we are told, because of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, welfare queens in limousines and illegal immigrants clogging schools and hospital emergency rooms.

Bosh. Taken all together, that cost is a pittance when compared with the amount the country is forfeiting in tax revenue — particularly the fair portion too long exempted for wealthy corporations and individuals who fly unscathed through government-approved loopholes.

But before returning to my topic — my vision of the Mad Max-like world a crumbling public education system would ignite — I pause to cheer the Wisconsin teachers who I fervently hope will be the forerunners of an Egypt-scale national protest against the proposed cuts.  Such cuts would relegate legions of educators to record unemployment lines and further depress  the economy along with supporters of public learning throughout the nation.

The specter of the Under- and Totally Uneducated as ruled by the Obstinately Unenlightened is scarier than “Night of the Living Dead,” “Planet of the Apes” and “Quest for Fire” put together.

Any political party or politician who could sleep after voting for deep cuts in the education budget that paves the way for any productive future gets an automatic “F” in math, science, history and sanity.

Our already critically understaffed public schools are hard-pressed to meet the demands of a rapidly multiplying student population.

The decade-long horror that is our unworkable economy and unsustainable no-more-taxes-for-the-rich mandates have now led us to the brink of economic self-destruction. As a country, we seem hell-bent on decimating the very programs that once made our country unchallenged as the leader of the free world.

We are rapidly ridding ourselves of responsibility for the education of our children, for providing jobs, for producing marketable made-in-the-USA goods, of once-healthy funds established to protect the elderly. We are eliminating the safety nets of law enforcement, environmental care, stabilization of infrastructure,  benefits to be gleaned from space exploration, etc.

We are rushing to take the last steps of every failed empire throughout history: Greece, Rome, China, Mongolia, Britain, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union.  If we don’t blow ourselves to bits during the rest of the century, our descendants can watch the Rise and Fall of China, Part II.

It is of the utmost urgency that sane people question our skewed priorities. Action long overdue is required to bring public attention to our love affair with the  ravenously greedy pods of corporate fascism that are replacing a sleeping democracy.

This country is more politically and economically divided than during the Civil War. Our elected mad government scientists must be stopped in their extermination of the middle class and fair pay system for skilled professionals, employees and tradesmen not necessarily destined to become a chief executive of operations, lobbyist or hedge-fund Machiavelli.

Our future demands  an America where education, affordable health care, job creation, law enforcement, defense and infrastructure, consumer and environmental safety are more than campaign slogans.

Let’s recapture our country and ideals, wresting them from the world’s corporate owners and their purchased political pawns. Until the brain-dead zombies actually take over the planet, we might consider the old-fashioned notion of electing public officials who will serve the public interest.

Our swift fall in the past few decades in test scores, job markets and qualified people who can fill changing employment needs and  rising number of pregnant single teens are reasons enough to turn any evening into Fright Night.

We are in or on the brink of a not-so-great worldwide depression and are very close to joining the ranks of Third World nations. “Trickle down” from wealth has not trickled. Companies are creating — and not hiring — the jobless. The wealthy are not investing in America, they are hording their money in numbered off-shore bank accounts.

Americans who are not benefiting from the fallout are beginning to notice their eroding human rights, deteriorating ability to generate income to cover basic needs, ever-shrinking paychecks and benefits. People whose money once  constituted a healthy tax base are realizing the Social Security system is not broken; the money has been stolen.  The system was solvent before it was funneled through new laws and rules to pay for other government priorities like propping up tyrannical regimes and other projects and programs of politically connected industries, corporations and individual campaign donors.

Will we have a world where the uneducated poor are shuffled off to prisons, labor camps, workhouses while paying for government-subsidized private schools for the offspring of entitled, privileged, tax sheltered, loop-hole creative and largely exempt top percentile of this country?

Latter-day plantation owners are cheered on by the media-spun and lobby-fed illusion that they are patriotic, God-fearing, philanthropic leaders who deeply care about the field-hand majority.  Meanwhile, our jobs are being sent overseas.  More Americans lack the money, connections,  leverage and energy needed to influence those who might actually have an interest in stopping the idiocy, apathy, complacency, misdirection and outright lies readily embraced by America’s increasingly intolerant, uninformed masses.

The former silent majority is no longer silent while being courted by reelection-hungry U.S. lawmakers. These new patriots demand a return to the “original” U.S. Constitution that promised an end to tyrannical rule and the Bill of Rights that allows their access to rapid-fire, semi-automatic weapons not usually used for home protection or hunting. Unmentioned are the amendments that provide a free press, ended America’s slave trade and gave women the vote.

What remains of our once-thriving middle classes happily wave the flag and stand as the National Anthem is played before sporting events without noticing that their values and way of life are being systematically swept away.

My vision of the future is one created by history’s revisionists, a weird wonderland where spin-masters posing as journalists paint the white roses red and government leaders are a pack of cards in a rigged game where aces are automatically dealt to the highest bidder.

I’m afraid there are enough politicians tap-dancing while our country’s long-term mismanagement has put the entire world on a path of global depression that could make the 1930s version seem like a glamorous Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO:  An increase in unchecked street crime by people too poor to attend the corporate-, church-, community-sponsored, privatized schools that eventually replace public education.   Some criminal vocations will end when their white-collar criminal counterparts create corporate-privatized prison states and labor camps.  Children not in school, or in overcrowded classrooms managed by stressed-out, overworked teachers, might again be able to afford a bowl of gruel as labor laws are altered.

We will continue to see the little money made by people lucky enough to have largely digital-world, sales, marketing, collections jobs increasingly propping up “allied” repressive regimes and their U.S.-supported despots and military henchmen. The corporate powers who run the entire world will continue the well-honed practice of seeding corruption in their anointed appointed. These new tyrants will continue the patterns of the old tyrants, turning a blind eye to the suffering of their people while fattening their lucre made larger as they sell off their country’s resources.  And so we will continue to incur hatred of America by the rank and file of countries and continents where the corporate fascists and their toady politician prostitutes have installed another “ally” tyrant who agree to rob his people before he turns on the vested interests that lifted him to his lofty status and funded his war chests and private Swiss bank accounts.

We have done this throughout the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, Europe’s Baltic and Latin states, and seem destined to reenact this ever-failing policy of establishing and supporting these despots who, in league with U.S. interests,  have robbed the citizenry of these countries for more than a century.

THE CALL TO ACTION:  People of the United States of America need to wake up long enough to see that their entire system and way of life and Constitution are being trampled with impunity. They won’t learn it from their corporate-owned politicians, “fair and balanced” media or in their likely-to-be-eliminated civics classes of the soon-to-be-defunct public school system.

MY SOAP-BOX FINALE WHERE I GET TO HARP ON MY ALREADY-REPETITIOUS CAUTION ALERTS JUST BECAUSE IT IS MY BLOG AND MY BIRTHDAY:  People need to watch what business-allied leaders are doing in towns, cities, states, countries, the oceans. They need to wonder what happened to our spacious skies, amber waves of grain and brotherhood from sea to shining sea. In a perfect world or in classic- or horror-film style, we need to rise up as a people and declare that we are sick of the slime attacking from within our system of government of, for and by the people. Hopefully, people who have benefited from education and can lead productive lives in their workplace, community and family.

But we’ve been willingly diverted from paying attention to the forces that govern our lives.  Rather than examine why our world has gotten into such bad shape, it’s easier just to turn on “Dancing with the Stars,” just as our 1930s counterparts escaped with Fred and Ginger on the silver screen.

It’s much simpler to watch evil aliens turn human brains to mush rather than take politicians to task who would eliminate public education with much the same result.  We can happily watch creatures from Outer Space destroy our planet while ignoring those who truly are slicing and dicing through our inadequate defenses and will blow our arrogant and increasingly ignorant, illiterate, utterly clueless and completely useless society to smithereens.

If the future renders people too stupid to ward off an actual disaster, survivor stories would make for a really great TV reality show, doncha think?

The Backstroke

A swim club within the cradle of American Independence did the backstroke a few weeks ago, going back in time to when races were partitioned and swimming pools were segregated, just as Houston’s were in the 1950s.

Sixty-five children from a summer camp were turned away, asked to take their towels, their camp’s contract to use the Valley Swim Club pool and their black skin and get back on the bus.

The Valley Swim Club, it seems, failed to check the children’s skin color before issuing the membership contract to the summer camp.

As black children entered the water, white children were exiting, pulled out by their parents.  The parents then demanded that the swimming club staff make the camper kids leave. The staff did that, ordering the black children to get out of the pool.

The club cancelled the summer camp’s membership the next day, and told the camp its payment for membership would  be refunded.

The Valley Swim Club’s top official said that allowing the camp to have membership “would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.”

Color of Change, a nonprofit organization that is asking the Department of Justice to apply the law to this club under the 1981 provisions of the Civil Rights Act, has a petition people can sign to support their case.

In its petiton, Color of Change states: “We all know stories like this one — similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act. Standing up now isn’t just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to this swim club. It’s about creating a climate of accountability everywhere.”

I signed it, and I am putting the web site here in case anyone else would like to join me:  http://www.colorofchange.org/swim/?id=2218-50059

I signed it in memory of two little boys in a big, otherwise empty pool, kids I almost swam with, but didn’t.

I was about  5 or 6, years old, excited to see that I would be one of the only children in MacGregor Park’s public swimming pool. There were only those two children in the entire pool that was usually so crowded that I’d hit five or six other children each time I tried out one of the swim stokes I’d recently learned in lessons at that pool.

But no sooner had I put on my plastic swimming cap and put a toe in the water than I heard my daddy’s booming voice, telling me to get out of the pool. He was standing on the other side of the fence — a position he and I would take metahorically on most every issue until his death.  On that day, I could tell that he was angry, because he used both of my names..   Still, I argued.  That beautiful expanse of blue-green water was just too enticing to ignore.

“Daddy, look!  There’s almost nobody here!” I remember yelling at his massive form through the metal-mesh fence.

“Betty Lou, you get out of there and get back in the car this minute,” he shouted. “You’re not swimming today.”

I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but I knew it must be something really bad.  I was embarrased in front of those little boys, about my age, who  had stopped splashing water and were now intently watching my father and me, their laughter gone..

They were among the first black children to integrate MacGregor Park’s pool, and they had that fabulous water playground all to themselves that day.

In the half-ceutury that followed, I sometimes wondered what they thought about it..

Fifty-five years after my last visit to the MacGregor Park pool, with the Civil Rights Act long part of American history and with a black man in the White House,, I still wonder what the 65 children turned away from the Valley Swim Club will think about the complexion of bigotry.

Jacksonville or Bulgaria?

Now in week 13 of unemployment during the Not-So-Great Recession, I can say with assurance that the idea of hiring this 60-year-old former reporter does not spark enthusiasm among the Houstonian elite doing the hiring.

As of last week, I decided to cast my net further afield. On Friday, I ventured as far as Jacksonville, Texas, in the heart of East Texas to see about the reporter opening at the town’s newspaper. I stopped for a great hamburger and milk shake in Madisonville on the way up. On the over-three-hour return trip, I moseyed into a tumbling-down joint known to have some of the best open-pit BBQ in the state.

In between, I re-discovered that small town newspapers must, by necessity, also think small when it comes to pay.  I learned that the job paid about the same salary as my first reporting job as a Journalist for the U.S. Navy.  In 1974.

My face must have registered my thoughts when I heard the figure; the editor didn’t bother making it an offer.

The rest of the town looked like it was either being boarded up or falling down, which made me sad, since my aunt, uncle and a few cousins still live there.  My dad, grandparents, great-grandparents and at least one great-great are all buried a stone’s throw down the road in Neches, an even smaller, blink-you-miss-it spot. 

Their graves all face the East so they’ll be facing the right direction on the Resurrection..  The morning my dad died, I remember that a cousin was pestering me about which way my mom had placed the grave marker stakes, in case my dad would rise on that Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’ facing the wrong way.  I told her that I didn’t know.

“But I do know that if my dad gets up and is facing away from all the beaming clouds and angels with trumpets, he had enough snap to damn well turn around,” I told her.

Half of my East Texas family– the Valley Baptists, not the Church of Christers — don’t speak to me to this day.

I decided to pay my graveside respects and drove past the old turn-of-the-century ghost town that “commercial” Neches once encompassed — about five narrow false-front storefronts that look like they came out of a TV Western, only without a saloon, of course. This is Bible country.

The town only has maybe 20 farmers who live off either of the former town’s two roads.  But although I’d been to my dad’s resting spot several times with my mom, I never did find the graveyard. Being the direction-challenged woman that I am, I managed to get lost in Neches.

Which brings me to Option 2 under the heading of My Future. If I continue to generate the excitement from prospective employers that my four to nine e-mails and snail-mail applications per week have elicited so far — read little to none — I’ve calculated that I will not be able to remain in my hometown of Houston. In a few months, according to my math skills, I’ll have to pack it in and go somewhere where the livin’ is cheaper, fish are jumpin’ and they’ve never seen cotton.

Bulgaria.

If I sell my condo and pay off the mortgage, I should have enough to buy a house and last a year and a half before early retirement kicks in at age 62 if I simply move to the Balkans.  I’ve gotten really red-eyed from staying up nights, looking at Bulgarian property on the Internet.  If you’re ever in Bulgaria, give a big Texas howdy to real estate agent Stanley Ivanov.  I’m not kidding.

Yep. I have located some beautiful homes in Bulgaria for $18,000 or less. Some look like mini-mansions, two stories amid orchards looking outward to majestic mountains or rolling hills. 

I was wondering why my daddy ever raised his family in Texas and not a domicille on the Danube until I started considering some drawbacks: 1)  I don’t speak a drop of Bulgarian, and 2) houses in that price range have no real indoor plumbing. Bulgarians seem to favor the outhouse approach, which my grandparents and other small dirt farmers did in Neches 30 years ago. 

I remember waking up in the night and getting my mom or dad, whoever would first acknowledge my pleas, to take me out along a moonless, country path past the barn to a small wooden shed with a crecent moon cut in the door and Sears & Roebuck catalog pages inside, just in case anyone should run out of toilet paper from the Jacksonville or Palestine Piggly-Wiggly stores.

Still, if labor is also inexpensive in Bulgaria, I might be able to have a toilet installed with enough money left over.

But drawback No. 3, I think, is the kicker:  If I fail to build that bathroom before winter, I will waking up, all sleepy  in the black of Bulgarian Nights out in the country, trying to naviage my direction-challenged self in the general direction of the outhouse — this time, in the snow.

I’ve recently started visiting sites listing distressed and tax-delinquent properties in Houston.

And I don’t feel a shred of guilt.

Boyle ‘shockwaves’ a shock

The wave started with a few laughs, eye-rolls and even jeers when Susan Boyle had the nerve to step to the center of the “Britain’s Got Talent” stage, the TV venue for acid-tongued critic Simon Cowell & Co., and said her dream was to be a professional singer.

Then she opened her mouth to sing —

And the shock continued after the audience was silenced, stunned by her drop-dead-gorgeous voice, in press accounts of how she, a 47-year-old “spinster,” a church volunteer from a small Scottish village, had “shocked” Cowell & crew and the world by actually having gifts.

Unsaid — but loud and clear in every account — is the phrase “despite her age and her looks.”

Boyle is no beauty.  She’s pie-faced, middle aged, far beyond the cookie-cutter “ideal” weight.  Her hair looks untouched by a professional or salon, and her clothing announces that she is the poster child for “frump.”

But that she turns out to have the voice of an angel — this sends shockwaves?

What’s shocking, I think, is the million-dollar industries built around no-talent, one-voice-fits-all Barbie dolls with perky, perfect bodies and technically augmented voices.  They all aspire to sound like young, but sexually active children gasping in the throes of orgasm.

They are legion, and given the conformity of their brand, I need not name them.

I can only be grateful that I — a middle-aged, far-beyond cookie-cutter “ideal” weight — grew up in an age when people recorded music because of their enormous vocal talent, not vivacious thigh movements.

Had Aretha Franklin started her career in this day when idolizing women adept at physical training — never mind vocal — is the rage, we’d never have heard from the Queen of Soul.  Also among the missing would’ve been Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, the Wilson sisters and almost every female opera singer who ever lived.

I applaud Ms. Boyle in my best, loudest shower singing voice.  I hope she will continue to shock the pants off the critics, and to point out our formula-fed media’s notions — especially that “form” overcomes “content” — to raise questions about the value we place on true talent.

And on well-packaged crap.