Congress Cutting Everything But Their Own Pay and Benefits

With the August 1st announcement that congress is considering another round of defense budget cuts–which affect our military members as well as civilian employees working for the Department of Defense–and putting an end to civilian pensions for military retirees, I decided to research congressional pay and benefits. I hope you’ll be as astonished and agitated as I was at what I found.

Congressmen get paid $174,900 per year to work a scheduled 126 days in 2013! According to The Washington Post (2012), “June 2013 will be the House’s busiest month, with a whopping 16 days scheduled for legislative work in Washington. Lawmakers will meet for 14 days in July and October, 12 days in the months of March, April and May and nine days next September.” Oh dear, they have to work a whole 16 days in June, their busiest month!

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112th Freshman Class of Congress

And not only do they work an average of less than two weeks per month, they also receive from $1.5 million to over $3 million in an allowance to help defray personal, office, and mailing expenses!

Members of the House get a Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA)  of $1,3353,205 (“In 2012, individual representatives received MRA allowances ranging from $1,270,129 to $1,564,613, with an average of $1,353,205.13.”) and members of the Senate get a Senators’ Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA) (“In the fiscal year 2013 legislative branch appropriations bill, the size of the average Senate SOPOEA allowance is $3,209,103”). Furthermore, they are also not affected by the current sequestration; their salaries remain the same, even as most government employees are seeing a 20% decrease in salary due to this same sequestration that isn’t affecting congress!

And what do you think of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to a cut in congressional pay because “it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.” Do they deserve that dignity when they are proposing cuts everywhere else but in their own pockets? Does that seem fair to you? If not, you might want to consider taking action such as signing this petition to cut their benefits, or blog and tweet your opposition, or even send a letter to congress or the President. You are welcome to use the information in this blog in your letter. Here’s how to find your Representative, Senator and President. If you think it won’t do any good, think again! This is one of the best ways to have your opinion heard by our elected officials.

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Epiphanies in Poetry

Is there a poem you’ve read that has prompted a visceral response? Something that touched you so deeply that it changed your outlook on life? If so, post your favorite poem and explain how it impacted you, changed you, affected you.

I have two poems that I can think of right off that have deeply affected me. As for changing my life, I don’t know if they’ve done that, but I do love the way they make me feel reading them. Incidentally, my daughter, #HeidiParton, has said that her love of writing came partly from the reaction I had as I read “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath to her when she was younger. She said it was exciting to see how the written word could elicit such a powerful response.  So below is  #Daddy by #SylviaPlath, followed by my reaction to it and then #DylanThomas’s #DoNotGoGentleIntoThatGoodNight.

Daddy

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time–
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You– 

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two–
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

My reaction:

I think “Daddy” is a very powerful poem. I can see Plath’s anger at her father for dying when she was young. I also see that those feelings for her father translate into how she consequently sees other men in her life, particularly her husband, Ted Hughes. I think growing up without a father that she alternately adored and abhorred, skewed her view of men. She seems to be so angry yet pleading in this poem. And  isn’t Plath’s resignation in the last line, heartbreaking? Especially considering her subsequent suicide.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My reaction:

To me, it’s as if he’s begging, pleading, imploring his father not to “follow the light” and give in to death. It is so powerfully written. The words alone expose the raw emotion he feels, without even considering its poetic form. It was written as a villanelle (villanelles are required to have an intricate rhyme scheme and two lines that are refrains). I think the refrains are especially powerful. “Rage” is such a forceful word, it perfectly emphasizes how he feels about his father’s imminent death.

Save the Gray Wolves!

graywolfmotherandcub-faIt’s the worst news for wolves in 100 years.*

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stripping Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the Lower 48 right now.

Wolves are one of the only species in U.S. history to be deliberately driven to the brink of extinction. Hunters waged a war on wolves at the turn of the century, killing cubs, mothers, whole packs indiscriminately out of fear.

The ESA was wolves’ salvation — and it’s still the only thing between them and the demise of the small, fragile population of gray wolves in the U.S. today. Delisting wolves now would turn back the clock on years of hard-won recovery work, and it could finish off this legendary species for good.

*Reprinted from The Sierra Club