Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Would You Do With $165 billion?

Let your imagination run wild. You've borrowed 165 billion dollars and have no intentions of paying it back. What would you do with all that money?

Today, the US Senate voted (70-26) and approved additional Iraq/Afghanistan war money that the Pentagon says it desperately needs.
(See related New York Times article). How much more money shall we, the tax payers contribute to an endless campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan? If the Senate bill is passed in the House a total of $800 billion just for combat costs will have been spent on these campaigns thus far. With the release of Tuesday's congressional committee report estimating that the total economic impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are to reach $1.6 trillion by 2009, when will this reckless spending end?

With the Nation's schools in dire financial straights, living cost skyrocketing and the creation of millions of Iraqi refugees, thousands dead or maimed when will the spending end? In my home state of New York taxpayers will pay an estimated $47.2 billion for the total Iraq war spending that has been approved to date. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided in New York City alone:

16,485,965 Children with Health Care for One Year
8,700,175 People with Health Care for One Year
268,181 Affordable Housing Units

So again I ask, when will the spending end?

I don't know about you but I certainly don't feel any safer spending all this money and neither do the woman in Iraq. Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International published her findings in a Women for Women International
press release.
Zainab Salbi who is Iraqi reported, "The situation for women in Iraq varies from province to province but, overall, the same problems exist:

89% believe that someone in their family will be killed in the next year.
88% of women thought that the separation of people along ethnic or religious lines was a bad thing.
70% of women say their family cannot afford to pay for the necessities of daily life.
76% of respondents said that girls in their family are not allowed to attend school.

One woman who was interviewed commented, “They gave us freedom and they took from us security…but if I have to choose, I will choose safety and security.”"

So again I ask, when will the reckless spending end? I don't feel that it's been a very wise investment especially since the people who are spending it will be long gone in their final resting places when the next generation is struggling to pay back the mountainous debt. So, forget today's approved $165 billion and think about what we could do with the $1.6 trillion. A fraction of that money could provide food and shelter to the 2.5 million refugees of Darfur who live under plastic sheets; purchase new books for city classrooms; and provide the USA homeless with their own housing.

Do I support the men and women of our military? Of course I do. (My father was a medic in the D-Day operation and I have a slew of black and white photos of his European tour. Since learning of his heroic service when I was a wee lad I felt a connection and reverence for anyone in uniform who risked their lives for their country and to help save the lives of others.) However, I do not support the current Iraq, Afghanistan campaigns in the way our tax dollars are being spent. If a business spent monies in the reckless ways that the Congress, Pentagon and the US Military has that business would be out of business faster than you could say '165 billion'.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Spirituality of Coffee Grinds

Pesky coffee grinds have it in for me. They tempt my serenity on a daily basis. Each morning they gather, conspire and drive me crazy as they scatter and stain our white kitchen counter-top. The espresso machine that sits atop the counter-top is in cahoots with the grinds. Hundreds of loose grinds escape from their metal portafilter basket and prance and dance their defiance. Some, hide under the espresso machine where attempts to remove them can last for days.

These tiny, brown specks of coffee bean byproducts are the bane of my morning caffeine ritual. And yet, they have so much to teach me. After making my double espresso I sit at the kitchen table and try to ignore the grinds that taunt and laugh at me. They know that I can't relax until the counter-top is completely spotless. (Friends have suggested that I capitulate to bagged, decaf green tea.)

If you are like me, organization and cleanliness come before anything else. Of course, there's a price to pay with any exaggerated personality trait. Last week my wife noticed my looks of annoyance every time I glanced at the counter-top and asked, "What would happen if you just let them sit there until we finished our coffee?" She might as well have asked me if I'd mind bathing in someone else's grime filled tub.

"You know, there's something those grinds can teach you." My wife continued.
"Yeah, what's that Mrs. Freud?"
"To allow things to just be as they are. To be completely in the moment not 50% with me and 50% focused on the coffee grinds."
"But they'll stain the counter-top," I replied.
"So what?"

She's right of course. Is it really that important? Of course not. The grinds represent a bigger issue: control. Nothing stays organized and clean forever and I can't control everything and everyone. The grinds, the dust, the queue at the supermarket or post office, it doesn't matter what it is, can teach us to allow things to be just as they are and not to interrupt the flow of life. Do I want my tombstone to read, 'Here lies Bruce Katlin, owner of the cleanest kitchen counter-top in the Western world'? Maybe, as long as it also reads, 'Dedicated husband and friend, helpful to all.'

Nevertheless, I purchased an immersion blender the other day which is completely self-contained. I can now make professional style frappes without one pesky grind of coffee leaping from the blender's plastic container.

Laurence J. Peter said, "A quick rinse of the blade and all is well. Cleaning anything involves making something else dirty, but anything can get dirty without something else getting clean." Okay, I guess...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

You Call This Teamwork?


What kind of teamwork is this? Crazy? Nuts? Unheard of.

When 21 year old Sara Tucholsky, a senior at Western Oregon smacked a three-run homerun,
(her first collegiate homer) against rivals Central Washington, she could not have imagined the chain of events that it would have caused.

Watching the ball sail through the air, she missed touching first base and when she turned back to tap the the bag her right knee gave out and she collapsed in pain. According to the rules of play, no one on her Western Oregon team could touch or help the stranded
Tucholsky, as this would have caused her to be unable to advance around the bases. The umpires said that if Tucholsky could not go around the bases, two runs would score but she would be only credited with a single.

Then Mallory Holtman, the first baseman for Central Washington, asked the unspeakable, something so unthinkable that it must have come from her very core:
“Excuse me, would it be okay if we carried her around and she touched each bag?”

The umpires conferred and said it would be within the rules of play. Holtman and the Central Washington shortstop, Liz Wallace, lifted Tucholsky and carried her to second base, lowering her enough so that she could touch each base until she touched home plate where she was greeted with a standing ovation. This unbelievable gesture of sportswomanship left athletes and fans alike in tears and admiration.

Not only did
Central Washington help the other team score three runs, they helped Western Oregon win the second game, 4-2, and sweep the doubleheader. Can you imagine something like this happening at your office amongst two separate teams or functions? One team helping the other when they were struggling creating a stronger 'whole'?

Once, many years ago I was playing on our company softball team and I smacked a line drive ball back to the pitcher, hitting her in the throat. I stood there frozen wanting to help her and eventually did but my teammates were screaming at me to run to first base. How could I possibly have done that when the poor young woman couldn't even breathe?

I think there is a lot to be said about 'we're all in this together.' Of course, competition is necessary in a free-market economy but not at the expense of someone's health and or wellbeing. When was the last time your competition called you and said 'let's meet for lunch to discuss how our industry is helping to create a better world for everyone'? You'd probably fall off your chair. I can however, imagine the
Western Oregon and Central Washington woman softball players meeting to discuss fair play, sportsmanship and helping women sports grow to where they are accepted, respected and paid just as male athletes.

Three cheers to the
Central Washington woman softball team!