Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Harsh Words

A black woman approached me as I was leaving Kragen’s Auto yesterday. She said she was having a hard time, that she was homeless but trying to live in motels and didn’t have enough money. She said someone told her to go to Trinity Church at six, but she couldn’t find it. She was crying. She showed me a scar from trying to commit suicide and she said she was an alcoholic.

I gave her twenty dollars and told her to make sure she went to Trinity Church. I forgot to ask her name. It is always important to ask people for their names. She blessed me. I wondered what would become of her; a broken spirit.

Last night my wife told me to leave, that she was tired of me tossing her bones. Well, it is her house so I will leave without argument. “Bones,” though, seems too harsh. It was our baggage of life; Jacob Marley’s chains. Which of us has the longer chain?

I haven’t got a lot to pack – four feet of closeted clothes and a few drawers, and a few items from a cluttered garage. I will finally have to go to my place of origin since California is too expensive. I wonder what will become of the two of us; broken hearts and dreams.

It's ironic that I just started reading Studs Terkel's Hard Times.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chevron’s Duplicitous Hypocrisy

Has anyone seen the Chevron “Will you join us” public relations campaign? What a crock. It seems to me that Chevron should be joining America instead of us joining them. So, Chevron, my suggestions to you are:

  • ·         Make sure all of your oil tankers don’t leak and all have double hulls.
  • ·         Make sure all of your oil tanker operators are qualified to drive to make sure another Exxon Valdez accident doesn’t happen again.
  • ·         Make sure all of your truck tankers are converted to run on LP Gas instead of diesel so they pollute less.
  • ·         Make sure all of your gas stations don’t leak into the local community water supplies.
  • ·         Pay your full taxes so that local and state governments can afford schools to make the public better informed and less ignorant about their country and its vital needs. Didn’t you pay only $8 million to Contra Costa County of the total $36 million due?
  • ·         Pay your full taxes to help local and state governments pay for society improvements, including green projects that help governments reduce costs.
  • ·         Stop lobbying to evade good environmental laws instead of paying millions to evade or corrupt those laws.
  • ·         Use the millions you pay for duplicitous public relations campaigns to build renewable energy projects for public consumption at reasonable costs.
  • ·         Invest in truck tankers and gas stations that haul and sell LP Gas for public consumption instead of asking our government to use tax money to build that infrastructure.
  • ·         Invest in vehicle conversion facilities to cheaply convert gas engines to use LP Gas.

·         Just to name a few…

Of course, if you go to Chevron’s “Will You Join Us” web site to join the discussion, you are restricted from discussing any of the above because the “Community Discussion Rules” prevent any discussion off-subject. The site is monitored so that only discussion favorable to Chevron or is directly relevant to the chosen subject is published; Chevron’s subject.

Like I said, isn't it time Chevron joined America?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ozymandias’ and The Shoe

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Ozymandias, by Percy B. Shelley, is one of my favorite poems. I can’t help think of it while reading The Limits of Power, by Andrew J. Bacevich. Shelley summarizes Bacevich’s book in fourteen lines, but I still recommend the book. It took several thousand years of decay to show how futile was the narcissistic and vainglorious gloating of Ramesses the Great. It took only eight years of Bush to show how narcissistic and vain is twenty to thirty years of American hubris. Now, in his last days in office, Bush is attempting to rewrite his place in history through a series of interviews. How appropriate it is that a shoe will be its exclamation point!

It's too bad that The Shoe is also an accurate statement on America's behavior. But, that won't matter; we will miss the point anyway.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Peace on Earth

Contrary to popular belief, “On Earth Peace, Good Will to Men” is not the correct translation. The angels really said, “Peace on Earth to Humans of Good Will.”

It makes a world of difference.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fossil John Stossel and Company

Several days ago on Larry King Live, John Stossel’s anti-bailout stance for the auto industry showed himself to be a dinosaur. As usual, Larry King continues to sew divisiveness instead of contributing to the discussion as he claims by inviting disagreements from non-professionals on his show for national consumption. And, as usual, the intended divisiveness succeeded. Stossel disagreed with all of the other four guests on the car bailout. Stossel would have the industry die and to hell with the fallout that would be one more nail in America's coffin, if not the last devastating nail in American society’s coffin. He says “politicians” can’t fix it; they’ve never fixed anything. He would have the natural free-market mechanisms eat Ford, General Motors and Chrysler up; the natural results from the man-made Darwinian survival machine where the strong survive. The Free-Market is man-made cannibalism. It destroys and creates by gobbling up the weak just like the dinosaurs did. Give me a break, John. You are simply not thinking.

Neither are the Senate Republicans thinking. Yesterday, those senators caused the car maker bailout bill to fail in the Senate. Their approval hung on United Auto Workers wages, too high they said, and they didn’t like the “Car Czar” idea. The Bill, according to reports, would have restructured GM and Chrysler, and maybe Ford if it used the money, but they were not buying that idea. So, on those grounds, they filibustered it. Instead of listening to reputable economist, they continue to listen to Jurassic ideologues.

The fact is that politicians, like corporate CEOs, are human, and whatever they do will not be perfect. The other fact is that finally some politicians, unlike CEOs, are coming around to the idea that the human wellbeing is more important than the free-market cannibalistic dogma; that the whims of the free-market cannot be allowed to destroy societies. I hope that the free-market dinosaurs are fading away and perhaps we can get on with pragmatic government for the good of the people instead of letting corporate special interests dictate our world, but it will be too late to save GM and maybe Ford. Chrysler’s demise is a given. Unemployment will skyrocket. Depression, with a big “D,” is more likely than ever.

What we didn’t hear is 1), each worker actually earns about $38.00 per hour – not an unreasonable wage, and 2) that each labor worker creates approximately $200 value for each hour they work – that’s a great return on investment. It is the healthcare portion, an approximate additional $35.00 per hour, of the labor costs that is too high, and Congress could have done something about that. The healthcare cost is not a union demand; it is the Insurance Industry special-interest-suck-up demand. But, if you were not convinced that Republicans care nothing for the average working stiff in this country before, you should be convinced now. Why or how Republicans ever got in office is beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Last Genius

An article in the India Times suggested that Einstein may be the last genius. The article suggests that individual contribution to science is being replaced by institutional contributions because institutions have more resources. Institutions have always had more resources and that doesn’t explain individual genius or the lack of it. What does explain how Einstein was able to do what he did is that he thought about it. Galileo, de Vinci, Socrates, Aristotle and all the rest had no institutional lab or huge pool of resources to help, except their brain; they thought about it. Want another genius? Then start encouraging people to THINK. What seemed to be a common thread to all of the above great thinkers, and others, is that they understood the human state in this physical existence; that we are spiritual beings in a physical existence. How much could we improve our lives if we just think about it?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Boy Scouts are Alive and Well

Today I went to Lucky’s for a few items for homemade chili. At the entrance, I bought one dollar’s worth of mistletoe from a Boy Scout. His scout master stood close by. I told them both that I had heard that if Barrack Obama was elected president that the Boy Scouts would be disbanded. I asked whether they had heard that.

We all had a good laugh. They asked where I’d heard that. I told them that James Dobson, founder and president of Focus on The Family, made that prediction if Obama was elected. They said they had never heard of Dobson. Good. As I suspected, James Dobson’s skills of prophecy match his intelligence; nil.

Arcata Blues Again – Take Two

As I’ve said before, whenever George, Monica and I get together, we have good discussions. Last night at dinner on the occasion of my birthday was no exception. We re-visited Arcata, California’s young homeless and vagabond issue I wrote about several posts ago. So, I’ll write about it again, for the last time. It’s not my problem; it’s Arcata’s problem.

But, I thought of Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row when I visited Arcata; where those on Desolation Row look out at the hypocrisy surrounding them. Dylan writes:

“Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants”

When there, I couldn’t help but hear that many Arcata citizens looking in on Desolation Row say that those on the Row were there by choice, that they were “hippies” happy with the “freedom” of that life; i.e., freedom from work, from daily toil and routine, from family responsibility, etc.; a rebellion against society. There is a sign in the central Arcata Park that lists at least a dozen things you cannot do in the park, including sleeping, loitering, smoking, etc., no doubt put there by the city’s “commissioner.” The sign is ignored, obviously, by all, including the police apparently. Ironically the sign is part of Arcata’s solution, essentially saying "go someplace else" – the commissioner is indeed blind. But, all the extenuating circumstances and reasons aside, I can’t help but think that the central idea that these young people are in their situation by choice is the culprit that keeps them there. That idea is a cop-out. It allows a person to do nothing; to avoid the responsibility for the desolate. It is my opinion that if the idea that these poor and homeless landed in their situation by mere chance, a series of unfortunate life-changing accidents, is the central community thought, then something will and should be done to help them out of their situation. That “something” could be as little as voting for a proposition to fix it or as big as organizing the community to fix it.

Monica and George claim to disagree. Monica is extremely intelligent with a lifetime of experience in the Oakland, California School system as a Psychologist dealing with mentally challenged and less fortunate children. George is an intellectual and is more informed on social and economical subjects, and many more, than I could ever hope to be. In short, they are not dummies by any stretch of the imagination. Initially, I felt inclined to change my mind when hearing their arguments. Like I’ve said before, I’m not quick on the up-take. Now, it could be that I’ve completely misunderstood their arguments (there is a high probability of that), but after some thought, I think we agree on most everything we said, so I’m sticking with my original argument.

Because, no matter what reasons are given to explain why these people end up in Desolation Row, and there are hundreds, it seems to me that these people wouldn’t have chosen that outcome. Was it bad parenting? Or childhood environment? Or a chemical imbalance? Rotten education? A malfunctioning gene? A physical impairment? Or poor choices in the company they kept along the way? Or all of the above? If given the opportunity to correct the mistakes they made or the influence that affected them, they would take it. If we could all see our future, our choices along the way would be a whole lot different. If we knew how to fix those disappointments and regrets, we would do it. If we knew the true consequence of our actions, this would be an entirely different world without Desolation Row.

Of course, if Arcata does start something to help those young people leave the Row, they will likely screw that up too – probably with another sign. We humans make things more complicated than they need to be. I can’t help but think that if Arcata provided some very basic (and inexpensive) needs, that these young people will do the rest. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a good place to start. If once some of the psychological, safety, belonging and self-esteem needs are met by the community, the self-actualization would follow for most. We should be resigned, however, to the idea that a minority will require support all of their lives or may not accept help at all. Arcata should do it anyway.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Birthday Present

I’m not big on birthdays, although they are better than the alternative, and I’m not big on birthday presents. I know, you insist. So, since you insist, the best present you can get me is to become self-sufficient. What’s that? You poo-poo my request, dismissing it as being nice or somehow altruistic? Well, then please think about it. If you’re self-sufficient, then you should be able to take care of 99% of your own wants and needs without my (or my wife’s) help and, in that case, I (we) won’t have to spend ten times more on you this year than your present cost. I won’t have to put your present someplace, such as in my already cramped closet space or on some table until Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other event that requires me to hide it until the guests leave.

You think I need new shoes, but I have four pair and they all fit fine. You think I need new clothes, but my closet is already overflowing – to the chair beside my bed. You think I need a new gadget or widget. I already have more widgets than I can learn to use. By the way, what happened to my iPod present? I either hid it out of view or someone took it and now I can’t find it. I want to give it to your mother/stepmother.

Now, you might think I’m selfish after reading the above, and you’re right. But, the real reason for my selfishness is not obvious from above. I have another and more important reason for wishing you to become self-sufficient. If you can stand on your own, I don’t have to WORRY about you. Please, please, please, don’t get me a present. Stand on your own in your life. Finish your education, get yourself a good job, pay your own bills, buy what you need for yourself, save money, and pay off credit cards; live your own life. That will be enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Universe Lottery

“What did you get?”
“Earth, 1944, a human. What’d you get?”
“Nothing. My ticket came up empty.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Better luck next time.”
“Yea. Maybe someone will give up theirs in hopes of a better draw next time.”
“When are you leaving?”
“In a few minutes. She will be impregnated anytime. If I’m not on time, the baby will be still born.”
“That happens a lot. Do you know anything about the family?”
“Yea. They’re poor and uneducated but he’s a hard and steady worker so they will manage. They’re happy, though. They already have two children, so I’ll have an older sister and brother. I wish He would let me keep my memories. It would be a lot easier if I could. Starting out in a poor family doesn’t always lead to a good life.”
“Everyone wishes that. He won’t allow it.”
“Then how do those myths originate down there? Some of them are close to the truth. They have to come from someone.”
“Yea. Some vestige of memory does pass through but you have to become a scribe, philosopher or religious leader to fabricate the myths. And also, you have become famous, which requires a lot of persuasion and stretching the truth; not always to His liking. Otherwise, you have no power to propagate the myth. He doesn’t care for the myths.”
“Yea, I know. With such a poor start, there’s not much chance of me becoming famous. More than likely I’ll simply be a believer in some myth or another, which may or may not turn out good.”
“Well, you can trade with me. Maybe the next draw will get you a better pick.”
“No thanks. I’ll take my chances with this one. I have to go. Maybe we can meet again after life.”
“Yea. Good luck.”

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bollywood Hello

Bollywood released a new comedy, “Hello,” in which a technical help center has tech reps practicing American accented English and answering calls from technically challenged Americans, depicting them as stupid. I’m sure the situations include the old gag of the computer user calling in saying, “My new computer doesn’t work.”

After talking the caller through a number of tests, taking a lot of time, the rep finally asks, “Is it plugged in?”

“Plugged in?” says the caller, “what should it be plugged into?”

The rep then says, “do you still have the box it came in?

“Yes,” says the caller.

“Then, can you please pack the computer back into the box it came in and return it to the store. You’re too stupid to use a computer.”

Contrast that to the recent India government reaction to the terrorist attacks in Mumbia.


“Hello. This is the Deccan Mujahideen. We are now terrorizing Mumbia because of your corrupt cooperation with Pakistan.”

“Oh, okay. We will immediately dismantle our ceasefire agreement with Pakistan.”

So, how stupid is that? Hello?


Thanksgiving has passed and it’s now time to settle in for the Christmas television shows. Scrooge is my favorite character so I’ll be sure to watch at least one version of the movie this year. George C. Scott played Scrooge best. Scrooge forfeited living for the accumulation of wealth. Low taxes for the rich no doubt contributed to his savings, like it does for the super rich today. Unlike the scrooges of today, the story book Scrooge lived frugally, but like the scrooges of today he expected everyone else to climb their way out of their own circumstance. If they couldn’t, even if his selfishness held them down, that’s tough. Life isn’t fair.

So, for all the Bob Cratchits of today, my Christmas wish is for the ghosts of Christmases to come to visit the scrooges of today. Maybe they’ll see the line of shoppers waiting to buy their last shirt for pennies on the dollar from the chamber maids who cleaned their bedrooms for the last time. Would that save their souls? Probably not.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Arcata Blues Again

I had the opportunity to visit Arcata, California Sunday to pick up Adam, my stepson, to bring him home for Thanksgiving. Arcata is a small college town of approximately 16,000 citizens and home to Humboldt University, a four year college primarily for forestry education. That stands to reason. The college is in the middle of some of the oldest forests in the world; the famous Redwood forests with its giant Redwood trees over 300 feet tall and several thousand years old.

On the surface Arcata is a lovely small college town. The downtown around the center square looks to have been restored and you can rent kayaks or get your bicycle repaired or have a beer and meals at the Sideline or Alibi salons or shop for clothes or have a cup of coffee at The Jitter Bean. The center square is well groomed; a place that invites you to sit and rest for a minute. You can stay at the historic 93 year old Arcata Hotel and rent a room that overlooks the center square for $122, with an AAA discount, and eat sushi in the Tomo restaurant in the hotel. One review says, “…the front suites are well worth it…you can overlook the beautiful downtown plaza that gives you a feeling of serenity and tranquility…” Many people see what they want to see.

In the evening several dozen young people wearing hooded sweatshirts over layers of clothing loiter in front of the Sideline and Alibi bars asking for cigarettes and money. They have all they own in backpacks nearby and sleeping bags are rolled tight and strapped to backpacks. Their hair is long and sometimes unkempt but overall they appear clean. As the night wears on, they gather up their backpacks and sleeping bags and fade into the night to their chosen sleeping spot; some on the benches in the center park and perhaps others in alley ways or behind buildings. The night is cold in November.

At around 4 A.M., street sweeping machines and garbage trucks wake you up if you’re staying at the Arcata Hotel. You probably slept with the window open, even in November, because the steam radiated heat in the hotel cannot be regulated; it is ether hot or cold – there is no in between, so the outside noise is invasive.

Early in the morning as the dawn is breaking seagulls gather around the plaza to pick up whatever humans tossed aside, in spite of the street sweepers. As the day gets lighter ravens began to arrive to drive the gulls away, although not entirely successful, and a battle begins over the crumbs of society. The sleeping bags on and under the park benches began to move; a garbage can lid opens by itself and someone inside the can unwinds his cramped legs to emerge from the can; a person actually slept in a garbage can. Young waking people begin to walk the streets, folding their hands under their sweatshirts and hooded coats for warmth. One girl who couldn’t be older than twenty heads for The Jitter Bean for a cup of coffee. I notice that she has bitten her finger nails deeply, perhaps a sign of her fear and insecurity. I wonder where or how she got the money. She returns to the park bench and shares the coffee with the friend with her. She notices me but asks for nothing. Another young man walks passed talking to himself, oblivious to my presence.

According to the Arcata Hotel clerk, a private citizen runs a soup kitchen nearby where these young people can get something to eat and clean up with a shower and other amenities. But, no sleeping facilities are provided. Other Arcata citizens are opposed to helping, however, because they claim that help is the enabler; enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. Many of them should be on medication, but have no money for the medicine. So, she says, the town’s decision on what to do is at a stalemate; nothing is decided. She, however, must do her job of keeping the homeless children out of the hotel restroom and foyer.

So, our children, the crumbs of our society, sleep in the alleys and parks among us, waiting for the morning gulls and ravens. As a side note on the way home Adam received a text message that a male friend of his had died Sunday in an automobile accident where his vehicle had gone over a cliff near Garberville. While the details are not yet known, the Humboldt Sheriff knew nothing of an auto going over a cliff, but they did know of a young man who had jumped off a cliff Sunday in an apparent suicide. Perhaps they know they are the crumbs of our society.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Constitutional Ignorance and Ideologue Purists

It never ceases to amaze me the wisdom of those who wrote first, the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and second, the United States Constitution; particularly their insight into human nature. I am putting a link to The Federalist Papers on this Blog and I encourage you to read all 85 essays. These essays were published from October 1787 through Spring 1789 to the people of New York to sell the new Constitution and the formation of the United States and they are the thoughts of our Founders, in their own words. The human tendency for irrational behavior based on selfish, jealous or prejudiced beliefs is what the framers of the Constitution feared most. That fear is a prevalent thought throughout the Federalist Papers. And they were not concerned about a minority of people that might act against the best interests of the country, they were fearful of a majority who might act against the new government based on ideas that conflict with the basic freedoms and tenants of the new United States of America.

Hamilton introduces the discussion in the 1st Federalist Paper by noting that there will be many objections to the new United States Government; from powerful men in the States who will see their power diminished, by special political and religious interests who desire more specificity favoring their beliefs, and by state and local institutions adamant in their own survival and preeminence in the new country. I don’t think it is an accident that the discussion regarding a new country leads off with moderating the passions, prejudices and jealousies of people. By the time Hamilton wrote the first essay, the Continental Congress had spent several years writing the Constitution and arguing over every word of it from every conceivable point of view. In the end, they unanimously approved the final version. Wow! How can you not be impressed by that feat? How can you not be impressed by the final product of all of their work? The Constitution leads with these words:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We are extremely fortunate that the men who wrote The Constitution KNEW history and KNEW the limits of their own prejudiced beliefs and jealousies. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be who we are and we wouldn’t live in the country we live in. However, I can’t help but think that today we are in a fight for survival of America; in one direction from the ideologue free market purists, and the other from neo-conservatives and social-conservatives who are more than willing to change our constitution to limit freedom.

The first, the ideologue free market purists, is more than willing to let the free market dogma rule and allow the devastating effect of volatile markets to destroy social institutions. It is okay, with them, if millions of households suddenly see savings disappear, their homes foreclosed and their children’s future diminished as long as the purity of a self-regulated market is maintained. It is even okay with them that the United States fall into a devastating depression where hunger and poverty prevail. Melissa Francis of CNBC’s The Call is a perfect example of the purist I speak of. She never fails to recite the mantra of the free market ideology and she seems utterly incapable of seeing that this time, with the economy crashing around our feet, things are different. “Bankruptcy Chapter 11,” she says, “is what GM should do,” giving all of the usual reasons; that they will come out of it a better company, reorganized to be more efficient and better managed without the slightest consideration of the merits of government support. And, no matter how many very smart people tell her that with credit impossible to get GM could not come out of Chapter 11 reorganization at all, that three million jobs lost would devastate the country, she never acknowledges that she hears at all. She simply keeps repeating her mantra. “This is the way markets are supposed to act,” she says, surprised that people are alarmed at a disastrous stock market crash. After all, a crash is a natural market phenomenon and the people, even innocent people not participating in the markets, who are devastated, should expect it. “Big government,” she says, complaining about efforts to regulate the markets. The truth is that free markets are created out of the imagination of humans and are, because of that, fallible to the extreme and cannot be self-regulated. We should look first for truth in these matters before accepting the dogma of purists.

Melissa is a pawn in their game, however. She is a Parrot, repeating the words of those she wishes to impress. She is not the bigger fish to be caught. She has simply learned the language of the free market dogma for her own self interest and security and she would be like a fish out of water in any other environment. In reality, nearly all hosts on CNBC are just like her, pawns who recite the mantra on a minute by minute schedule, marketing the ideology to their audience, you and me, ensuring that it soaks into our brain to wash it. The bigger fish publish the free market agenda. Let’s catch them instead.

The other anti-American forces are just as bad; they are the neo-conservatives and social conservatives. The neo-cons were the primary ideology behind President Bush’s preemption doctrine; attack before imagined harm is done whether it is warranted and just or not. This preemption idea was greatly feared by Hamilton, Madison and Jay who wrote the entirety of the Federalist Papers. They discussed “Just” wars, and what constituted a just war, and even if a war was just, they still shied away from war. Not one single participant in forming and selling the United States and its Constitution would have agreed with the Bush preemption doctrine. Their disagreement was confirmed in their unanimous confirmation of the Constitution; all of them signed it. The neo-con is anti-constitutional and anti-American. But, they use their own language to market their ideas; the spin on reasonable words on irrational thought, creating fear and anger toward imagined foes to convince millions of their agenda. James Madison said about factions, “The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.” Madison feared for the United States survival more from the destructive forces of factions inside than from an external foreign enemy.

The social conservative are more than likely Catholic and Christian fundamentalists. They too have an agenda to change The U. S. Constitution and America. While they claim that they are the ultimate patriot, their actions actually show that they are anti-American. They clearly attack the symptom and not the cause, creating injustice instead of promoting justice. For example, they clearly intend to outlaw abortion, which would make the mother a criminal. But, research paper after research paper shows that the primary cause of abortions is poverty; a destitute mother in a position where all doors are closed to her, in or near homelessness, and she gives in to the choice of her own survival over the frightening choice of keeping her child that would take her deeper into poverty. The secondary cause, ironically, is non-support by her family; she is pressured into abortion by the very people who should be supporting her. To make a woman a criminal when she should be brought into a supporting society is the worst injustice I can think of; like kicking someone when they are already down. It would be appropriate in the latter case to also criminalize the family who pressures her into abortion. The fact is that reversing the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling would take away the woman’s right for self determination over her body, a basic freedom guaranteed by the U. S. Constitution. The ultra-right fundamentalists would change the Constitution in this regard.

The other cause fundamentalists are so adamant about is gay rights, specifically that gays should not have the right to marry. Whatever we feel about marriage, we should not discriminate against people. But, the latest efforts to outlaw gay marriage have been through a marketing campaign of lies and half-truths to make people fearful for their and their children’s well being. The result in California is that voters passed a resolution to change the “equal protection” clause in the California Constitution, a clause based on the U.S. Constitution. Equal protection against discrimination should be afforded everyone, without exception. If not, then a basic tenant of America is destroyed.

Typical of the neo-con and social conservative are Elizabeth Hasselback and Sherri Shepard of The View. Elizabeth is both neo-con and Christian fundamentalist and Sherri is a Christian Fundamentalist. Both are heavily brainwashed and both fail to realize it. Both take sides of opinion over law, favoring to change the law and The Constitution to support their opinion. They too are pawns and it is unfortunate that they’ve been given a platform to spread their particular brand of beliefs. Both would teach creationism in school. Elizabeth would continue the Iraq war in spite of all factual evidence that it is an unjust war. Elizabeth’s first response to poverty is for work programs instead of monetary support even when factual evidence indicates that the work programs are minimally successful; usually dictating when and where to work instead of giving the poor choices and opportunity with their own money. Any discussion on The View on issues they directly oppose more moderate expression is a Babel unintelligible cacophony of noise because of their unbending belief in dogma and irrational arguments.

In the cases above a majority has prevailed in America with factional beliefs that are dangerous to our country. So, are majorities always right? Should majorities always rule? No. It is vital that we re-introduce ourselves to our Constitution and the thoughts of our Founding Fathers and solve issues with moderation rather than extremes; otherwise America will perish. Our Constitution is written to strengthen defenses against a majority faction. We should pay attention.

James Madison’s own words from the 10th Federalist Paper are better than any I, or anyone I know, can say about factions:

“By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects.

There are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy, that it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves. The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man…

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Edge of Darkness

We installed a security video camera recently to catch a thief, we hope. It watches an area beneath a street lamp that lights up most of three of our four vehicles. I know, we have too many vehicles, but that’s another story. The thief we hope to catch is one who travels in the darkness of night checking for unlocked vehicles and, we think, unlocked doors to our homes. I know he does that. He stole my tools from my pickup tool box when I forgot to lock it. Oh, okay, it was my fault… I forgot to lock it. Still, I can’t help feeling that I’d like to catch, and strangle, the thief.

So, we watch for him. The system I installed records any motion within view of the camera on my computer. It also allows me to access the camera from other computers from anywhere on the Internet so I can watch real-time, and that’s how I discovered the edge of darkness. It was really spooky.

Today, in the early hours of 4:00 A.M. (I get up early), a movement caught my eye while I was watching the video on my laptop, so I focused on the video. Something was moving next to, and I imagined to be looking into, my stepson’s car; just at the edge where the street lamp's light stopped and darkness began. Ah Ha! Maybe we got him. I went to the front window to get a closer look from the darkness of the front room… where I wouldn’t be seen. Nothing. That’ odd. I returned to my laptop expecting to see that the movement was gone, but there was still movement; sort of like waves of shadow on a shore of light washing up from the edge of darkness.

Whew! Spooky! There are no trees that might cast wind driven shadows. There is nothing that would explain the phenomena. Ghosts? It must be the Dark Side undulating. Dick Cheney. Geez. Is he everywhere? I've got to install better lighting out there.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Economic Delusion – Automakers’ Crash

Well, the Corporate Libertarianism Ideology is right. The Free Market does determine the strong and the weak. At the moment, GM and Ford are weak and they are heading for bankruptcy and, before the year’s end, another million or so will be unemployed because those libertarians are winning the argument that the Free Market principles should prevail over government intervention. I guess the idea is to prove oneself right in spite of the consequences. Sort of like cutting off your nose to spite your face because your nose is running. Man, when this effing country gets in an ideology rut, we sure like to get nice and comfy in it.

I guess I have to SHOUT! WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE ENTIRE ECONOMY IS DUMPING AND GM AND FORD FAILS? I’ll tell you what happens. It just adds three million more to the unemployed list and that means three million more people can’t afford their mortgages, utility bills, car payments and the spiral downward continues. The FACT IS that if GM goes down, it will take Ford down with it, and vice versa, and ALL of the related manufacturing companies linked to both auto makers. And when they both go down, the ripple effect through the rest of the economy will devastate other industries because bills are not paid.

I heard another corporate libertarian last night on the KGO Radio Gene Burns Show blaming the union contracts, labor costs and uncompetitive prices, on and on, blaming everyone except management; the same old bullshit. How about DUMB SHORT-SIGHTED MANAGEMENT? Could that be the reason? GM and Ford ignored fuel efficiency improvements for years; they ignored W. Edwards Deming, the most influential person who improved Japanese automobiles, and they paid huge lobbying and attorney fees fighting every initiative to improve America’s automobiles INSTEAD OF IMPROVING THEIR CARS. You don't see Japanese automakers heading for bankruptcy.

Why don’t all of you corporate libertarians do all of us a favor? Jump out of a window. Make sure it’s a tall building so we won’t have to lay you up in a hospital and have your hospital bills to tend with.

Saving the companies is a bitter pill, but the rest of the economy can't afford for them to fail. Unfortunately, Treasury Secretary Paulson and President Bush will let GM and Ford crash before they leave office and the mess just becomes that much bigger and that much harder for Obama to clean up. It may be that Obama’s team can’t clean it up. Maybe America will become the Banana Republic John Gray predicted it would become in his 1998 book, False Dawn. So much for the Paulson rescue. The effing banking idiots are not using it as intended anyway; they’re continuing the bonuses, dividends and perks instead of extending credit. That initiative is turning into a bailout instead of a rescue after all. Now, we can add GM and Ford to the failed corporations. There will be a lot more bankruptcies before all of this is over. I repeat my previous gripe: someone needs to go to jail, the sooner the better.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Economic Delusion – The Secret Bank Giveaway

If you want to keep tabs on the deals in Washington D. C., you need to subscribe to The Washington Post. It’s free on the Internet. Amit R. Paley’s article, “A Quiet Windfall For U. S. Banks,” in today’s paper is a perfect reason to subscribe. The article says that, while Hank Paulson was making his pitch to Congress for the $700 billion bank rescue, he released a quiet memo to banks saying that they could take the loss of any bank they acquire as a tax credit. So, Wells Fargo could write-off Wachovia’s loss if it acquired Wachovia. Wells Fargo paid $11 billion for Wachovia, but can get a tax credit of $25 billion for Wachovia’s losses. In other words, Wells Fargo will get a tax refund from the government. It’s the same for PNC which acquired National City Bank, to the tune of $5.1 billion. The total cost to the taxpayer for all bank acquisitions to date is estimated at $140 billion, all done through an obscure backdoor, and likely illegal, tax credit.

So now, everyone, even Republicans, in Congress and tax attorneys, except of course Paulson’s staff and bank lawyers, are quietly whispering foul, saying that the Paulson memo exceeded his authority and is illegal. Nobody wants to speak too loudly, however, since a public announcement would throw a wrench in the economic recovery. Does anyone doubt that we need a change in Washington where it’s okay to suck the life out of this country because we’re afraid to speak too loudly about wrongs? Is there one single honest person in Washington?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Past - The Future

My younger brother, Danny, has a way of bringing me back to better times, the times of calmer and happier days of my youth. He's done it before. He sent me a note and a copy of an article written by Elaine Young McGuire entitled "Come out and Play" reminding me of those days. Her memories of her childhood brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Those were our memories too; my little sister's, brother's and mine. We did those things; walks to the Blue Bunny Store, the Pepsi and salted peanuts, the Moon Pies, kick-the-can, hide'n-seek, olly-olly-oxen free (I never knew what that meant), ready or not - here I come, cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob, "Kowabonga!", the Peanut Gallery, "plunk your magic twanger - froggy!" Andy Devine would yell on Andy's Gang, baseball in the middle lot and basketball with the hoop behind the garage (the ground was sloped so that the hoop stood fifteen feet for long shots instead of ten). I can see Danny now, with his eyes wide, grinning from ear to ear and his red hair standing in the wind, rushing to safe home base with me on his tail just fast enough so I wouldn't catch him. It was hilarious for him to yell, "I beat 'cha" and my how we laughed! There were no privacy fences so we had the whole neighborhood to run in. The basketball hoop is still there, but our old house is gone. There are still no privacy fences in my home town, but the theater is gone, there are no grocery stores anymore, the hardware stores are gone and the restaurants serving good hamburgers are gone; Kicks Cafe and Jones’ Cafe. Daddy would buy a sack full of hamburgers from Jones’ Cafe and we would all eat them around our kitchen table on Saturday night and laugh and talk and tell the stories of the week's events. Hope was strong and the future looked bright.

But then the tide changed. The nearest hamburger is in Princeton now, eleven miles away. The nearest theater is in Evansville, a 30 minute drive. The nearest grocery, hardware and all-around variety store is also in Princeton; Wal-Mart has monopolized shoppers for miles around, nearly the entire county, by undercutting prices of all competition. Princeton, once a robust middle-class city, is a small city of the poor. Trickle down actually became trickle up. Good paying jobs left America and people shifted from full-time livelihoods to part-time and contract jobs. The nine full-time employees paying to Social Security for every recipient in the 1950s dwindled to two even though the working population increased. Homemaker mothers that were the foundation of our great society were not respected and went to work to gain respect and to pay ever increasing bills. Politicians collaborated with corporate lobbyist to write free trade laws that sucked America dry (that great sucking sound from south of the border Ross Perot shouted about). Jobs were sent to Mexico before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ink was dry. Tolerant Christians became intolerant and clipped verses from the Bible to suit their own purposes instead of seeing the main theme of the Bible as a search for God and Justice and, by the way, God's search for us. They made their little verses into signs and posted them on their walls to justify their greed and disrespect to society. Somehow the crazy religious nuts of my youth, Falwell, Robertson, the Christian Broadcasting Network scam, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, became mainstream Christian thought. Helping the poor became the poor helping themselves whether they could or not, and if they couldn't – well, that’s tough. Opportunity dwindled. Hope disappeared. Marketers sold us the snake oil ideas of the free market. Greed became good. Competition became a good word and cooperation became a bad word. Important social programs became socialism. Saving became bad and spending became good. The rich became richer and the middle-class and poor became poorer. Family units broke down not because of those on the fringe of society but because the free market ideology undercut family security. Abortions became a focal point while infant mortality sky-rocketed and the United States became the 28th in the world in infant deaths because of a lack of health care. It became acceptable to send our youth to wars of choice and we glorify our hero solders and death. It became acceptable to trample on the U.S. Constitution. Prisons became the holding tanks for the unemployed with the United States having more imprisoned people than all other developed countries.

So… To all of you who inflict pain with your divisive agenda, your constant criticism and intolerance. To all of you who discriminate toward people. To all of you who put your own selfish agenda above those who are less fortunate. To all of you who collaborate with corporate lobbyist instead looking out for the public good. To all of you CEOs who squandered your chance to do good, destroyed many lives, and now want bailouts from those you took advantage of. To all of you who use the Bible to spew hate and intolerance. To all of you who spin and twist the truth and lie for your own gain. To all of you who suck opportunity and hope out of this country. Damn you to hell. Jesus has grievances against you. The tide is changing again. Your ways are gone. Perhaps my grandchildren won’t have as happy a childhood as I had, but maybe they will have a better and just future. I can only hope.

Friday, November 7, 2008

English Apologies

I see that I may need an Editor; someone to check my use of English. As I review what I've posted I see that my grammar, spelling and vocabulary need improvement. My apologies. I hope the point I'm trying to make is clear, however. I'll try to do better.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

O'Reilly's Language of Deception

What's that old saying about tempting the Devil? He's smarter than you, you know. He will decieve you. He knows the deceptive language. Bill O'Reilly is one of the most dangerous people in our country as far as I'm concerned, but you might not perceive that by listening to him. He sounds normal and informed. There lies the deception; he sounds normal. But, in fact his language is the language of deception. Take his Talking Points last night, November 11,2008, about the election.

First: According to Bill, Obama was elected because voters were worried about the economy and they voted for Obama's "one word" campaign of "change." "What change," Bill asks, suggesting that Obama had not described the change he sought. According to Bill, the "hard left" voted Obama into office overriding "ideology and dubious associations" and they, the hard left, would now expect something in return that would be more disastrous for the country than not. O'Reilly is already setting the stage for criticism of Obama's Administration before it begins. Anyone who actually listened to Obama and is aware of who endorsed him and who his advisers are will recognize O'Reilly's ruse.

  • Obama's economic advisers include people like Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest people who believes that "rich people have to pay taxes too", in his own words, and Paul Volker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. These two men are not "hard left" advisers. They are capitalist who believe that corporate behavior should be tempered with moderate regulation to ensure that greed and self-interest don't override social needs. Corporations, they believe, should be responsible and accountable too. They are centrists and pragmatic.

  • Obama's economic and business endorsements include dozens of successful business people and economists, such as George Soros, a billionaire financier who has also stated that "the rich must also pay taxes." Mr. Soros, too, is not a "hard left" ideologue. Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics at Princeton University, also supports Obama. He too is not "hard left."

  • Obama's economic policies oppose the Republican economic "Darwinism" that the strongest survive regardless of impact on the lives of people. Obama supports a more middle-of-the-road policy that supports communities as well as market-based economies. He is a capitalist, but he's not an ideologue.

Second: O'Reilly used the phrase "traditional values" to segway into his next talking point, below, but his use of the phrase is deceptive. One would think, listening only to the language O'Reilly used, that Obama is a departure from traditional values. Here's what I heard two people say in response to his election:

  • Whoopi Goldberg on The View: "Now young men can 'pull their pants up' because they have no excuse for their behavior." I hadn't given any thought to the impact of Obama's election on young people's behavior. What a statement! Yes! All of you young men walking around showing your underwear, pull your pants up! You no longer have an excuse to be sloppy, rebellious or bums.

  • The question, "how do you respond to Obama's election?", posed to a black man by a KGO San Francisco reporter got this response: "Black men no longer have the excuse that they are limited because they had no father in their lives. Obama had no father and look what he did." Yes! That's the correct response.

If those two responses to Obama's election do not show traditional values, then I'll eat my underwear. I see a return to traditional values like we've never seen before.

Third: O'Reilly used "traditional values" to segway into the ban on gay marriage vote in California, which passed by 51% of California voters. O'Reilly said it was a vote against judges who rule from the bench, those activists judges we hear about so often. According to him, California chose "traditional values." That's not what really happened.

What really happened was a con job of misinformation. Here's the truth.

  • The California Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 on May 15, 2008, that gay marriage was legal based on the California Constitution's 1897 equal protection clause, so the majority of the court followed the word of established law; that all people are equally protected from discrimination. Proposition 8 was to change that law. The real question posed by Proposition 8 was whether we discriminate against some, but not against others. Do we make leapers and outcasts out of some people and not others? The court chose the rule of law over ruling from the bench. The question of whether it was a gay or traditional marriage was not the primary issue.

  • Those who supported Proposition 8 used every fear tactic and lie they could scheme up to scare people into voting for it. Two big lies used were that we would be forced to teach gay marriage in school and that gays would persuade husbands to abandon their wives. Hogwash. Can anyone possibly believe that changing the constitution to discriminate will stop discussions in school? In my mind, changing the constitution would raise more questions in school than it would if it wasn't changed. Straight husbands leaving their wives suggested that the gay lifestyle was a matter of choice. I used to believe that too. But, my mind was changed after reading several articles about the medical research into the behavior. I now believe that it is not a matter of choice and that further medical research will discover the cause and cure it. Husbands will leave their wives for whatever reason whether the constitution is changed or not. Like I said, hogwash.

For thousands of years people with leprosy were outcasts. To my knowledge the medical profession did not really look into the disease until the late 1800s in a leaper colony in Hawaii. There, a doctor began to care for the leapers and discovered, if I remember correctly, that a bacteria caused the condition. From that day we began to treat leapers differently, not as outcasts but as patients in medical facilities. I believe that if we really want to solve the tragedy of gays, we need to look to medical and scientific research. We won't do that if we are convinced by the O'Reillys of this world to look away.

Fourth: O'Reilly took the blame for not following the economic meltdown and President Bush's economic policy failure for the past eight years. Now, he says, to correct his own failure he will follow Obama's Administration with more oversight and "ramp up our watch dog role."

Give me a break, Bill. Of course you will. Face it. Obama will never follow O'Reilly's agenda and O'Reilly will talk about every nit-picking, unjust criticism of Obama until Obama leaves office. O'Reilly will now support every constitutional requirement for the Presidency that he did not support under President Bush. Bill is "ramping" up his oversight with perfect timing. O'Reilly once announced boycotting French products. That month we imported four times more French products than ever before. Do us a favor Bill - retire.

I had a near and dear person tell me a few months ago that I can't dictate to them who to listen to or what to watch on television because they have a right to listen and watch whomever they want so they can learn for themselves. That's true. I can't. But, when is it a good idea to listen to deceptive, warped and distorted opinion to learn? Please be aware of how much is at risk if you do. A lack of better understanding and knowledge of important issues, for one thing. Inability to overcome ignorance, for another. The Devil really is smarter than us. He uses the language of deception perfectly and you will be persuaded if you listen. Turn people like O'Reilly off and turn on more informed sources. His ratings will drop and he'll eventually be dropped from television and radio and more informed sources will continue to be available because you're listening. America will be better off without Bill O'Reilly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Father's Vote

We called him Daddy. Today, election day, November 4th, 2008, I'm thinking about him and asking myself the question: Would he agree with my vote? I believe he would. In this limited space I will attempt to explain why I believe that.

Daddy was born in 1909 and spent most of his life in a small farming community in Gibson County, Indiana. His early years were spent on Granddad's farm, doing chores from a very early age until he graduated. He married mom in 1929 in Flint, Michigan where he worked at a Buick plant for $7.00 a day. The stock market crash of 1929 sent him back to Gibson County to find work. He worked hard from his childhood years through World War I and the Great Depression, earning only enough for a roof over his family's head, heat and food on the table. He lived back then in what today we would call a shack, but in those times it was better than others lived. Things were better by the time I came along, but not by much. He knew poverty, hard work and hard times unlike we, his children, have ever known even though we cannot be considered rich. The poorest of us will still be considered middle-income, while he never rose to that level. He did live comfortably, however, when he finally did retire on my oldest sister's farm. There, I believe, he finally was at peace and happy with his situation where he was able to spend time with his children, grandchildren. and great grandchildren.

I hope you get a picture of him up to this point. You can't say that he was not ambitious or that he did not take opportunities to make a better life. His ambitions were different than the typical "get ahead" ambitions that you typically think of today. His ambition fit his values. His values were family centered and based on goodwill among friends. He was described by his high school classmates as "gentle" and usually occupied at "being polite" and his chief aim in life was "to do what is right." I don't recall him being or doing any differently. I don't recall him saying a mean word about anyone nor do I recall anyone saying a bad word about him. He treated everyone with respect and trust and I believe he expected the same treatment in return. He sincerely believed that one should treat others as he would have them treat him. I know of two people who took advantage of him because of his trusting nature. In both cases he was very upset, not, I believe, at what they had done, but because they had taken advantage of him. The worst he called them was "peckerwood" and then he dismissed them from his life with "I have no use for him (or her)." I don't recall him bringing up their names ever again.

Daddy's response to something said that he didn't agree with was nearly always, "well." That single word usually stopped the discussion because he gave no other response. He said nothing more about whatever subject was being discussed. When we criticized someone, he more than likely would wrap his arm around your shoulder, laugh jokingly, and ask, "When did you walk in his (or her) shoes?" That too stopped the criticism. When we complained about something that had happened, his response was, "no use crying over spilt milk," which also stopping the complaining. He always looked forward, never behind.

So, his ambitions were to live each day doing the right thing the best he could for whom ever he could. He sincerely believed in the goodwill of people. I think I can honestly say that he succeeded in achieving his ambitions each day where a friendly greeting or a favor done was more gratifying than a pocket full of money gained through trickery and ill will. In all his dependence on the goodwill of others, he would recognize the greed of today's corporations and the ill will and contempt they display toward the general public. He would call them peckerwoods. He would also see the connection of corporate greed to the government policies of the past 20 or so years and he would, after some time, identify the responsible political party. He would not be one to listen to talk shows that constantly criticize either, such as Hannity and Colmes, Bill O'Rielly or Rush Limbauh, for they too would become peckerwoods in his opinion. He would dismiss them from his life. His news sources would be good information sources. He would likely stick with ABC, CBS or NBC and he would more likely listen to or watch PBS than not. So, he would be better informed than many. He would develop well balanced opinions but he would not be vocally opinionated on most issues. He would, however, staunchly stand by the Constitutional equal treatment of people. Any attempt to change the Constitution may be the only thing that would prompt him to be more vocal and in fact may make him angrier than any of us have ever witnessed. He would, in that case, expect and in fact insist that people respect the Constitution because it is a document of goodwill toward all people. He would, I believe angrily, oppose any change that would treat anyone with discrimination, no matter the reason for the proposed change.

I have no doubt that he would vote. His opinion, I believe, would be that if you didn't vote then you have nothing to complain about if the vote turns out different than you like. His response would be that if you didn't walk it, then don't talk it. He may have the prejudices of his Gibson County, Indiana environment regarding black candidates for high office, but I also believe that his assessment of the goodwill and good heart of a candidate would overcome his prejudices. To my knowledge he never used the "n" word, or any other derogatory word, to describe blacks or any other race. He would vote for Obama. I'm glad that he would.

As I reread what I've written above, I think that belief in the goodwill between people is one of the corner stones to Daddy's soul and belief. In fact, I knew of several men in that little community where I was raised who displayed similar beliefs. Those men who worked at or owned Marvel's Hardware, Doc Strickland's Drug Store, Yeager's Gas Station, Tudy's Garage and others held beliefs greater than making a dollar off your neighbor; they believed in the goodwill of their community and country and doing everything they could do to support those entities. That fulfilled their ambition. Goodwill was of greater value than the dollar. They would not need to wear a flag lapel pin to show their allegiance or to fly the flag at their home. Their allegiance to their country was understood and was in their everyday actions toward their neighbors, community and country. I don't know that they would all vote for Obama, but most would. Of all of the places in this world that I've visited, and there are many, I'm very happy and feel very fortunate that I was born and raised in my family in that small town in Indiana. I hope that goodwill among people that I witnessed there returns as a keystone in our beliefs and actions to our neighbors, community, country and world.

Today, when America is faced with unbelievable problems caused mostly by men of ill will and contempt, I want to thank you, Daddy, for teaching me to vote for goodwill and hope.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election 2008 and dit-dit-dit

I always have good conversation with my friends George and Monica, as we did yesterday at brunch in Berkeley. It is George's opinion that the difference between Republican supporters and those that are not is the difference between a "dit-dit-dit" person and a person who understands nuances. To keep this short, my take on the dit-dit-dit person is that they are more likely to follow, and then parrot word for word, Republican talking points rather than critically analyze what they are hearing and decide whether it's bullshit or not. Take the idea that Obama is a socialist. In my opinion anyone who actually listens to Obama and knows the institutions and programs of our government will identify that as bullshit. Joe the Plumber, for example, rejects Social Security; saying it is forced retirement planning, blah, blah, blah, all the typical Republican talking points. But, I'll bet my social security check that he will have to depend on social security when he retires and he will be very thankful for it; mostly because he's too stupid to intelligently invest in his own retirement plan. But, for now, he's been sold on the bullshit and he is incapable of thinking beyond that. His mind is made up. He is a dit-dit-dit. The fact is that our government programs, in a Democratic Republic, is a mix of socialist and libertarian programs. The nuance is on what is good for the public and what is not; or at least that balance is what we should attempt to achieve. The dit-dit-dit person doesn't get that and the result is that they vote against their own interests.

I consider myself a nuance person, but that presents problems too since, given a deadline, I'm sometimes incapable of making up my mind. On this 3rd day of November 2008, one day before election day, I am still unclear about most of the local political candidates and the propositions we are voting for, even though I've already sent my absentee ballot. And, I tried to do my research. For example, I have no good knowledge about those running for the Castro Valley Unified School District Governing Board. Are they religious nuts who will try to have our schools teach creationism, or will they do a good job of getting good books to teach. I have no clue, so I sent a guess. And, my knowledge of the propositions is just as bad. Proposition 1A, for example, proposes a fast rail system to Los Angeles; is that a boondoggle, or will it really benefit the state and passengers? I don't know. I voted against it because I heard or read that it was a corporate boondoggle but I don't really know whether that's bullshit or not. I'll bet that as many as 99% of Alameda County's citizens are just as dumb about most of the ballot as I am. If true, then the dit-dit-dit person will prevail with the natural jump to the conclusion that the fast rail system will be good for California. Who doesn't want a glamorous bullet train? My questions are: 1) How in hell is a state in debt going to pay off $19.4 billion without raising taxes? 2) What's wrong with taking a plane? and 3) What is going to be the court costs associated with getting easements, environmental impact allowances and dislocation of property owners to get the damn thing built? In my opinion those are the nuances that most people won't think about. It will cost more than $19 billion. If the new bay bridge cost over $5.487 billion to cover a distance of 1.2 miles from Oakland to San Francisco, how much will a new rail system cost per mile to Los Angeles? Too much in my nuanced mind. Take a plane my rail-riding friends or, better yet, tele-commute.

What I dislike about propositions on the ballot is that most are funded by out-of-state sponsors, voters don't know diddly squat about them and, equally important, they take our legislators off the hook for doing their job; i.e., passing legislation that is good for California. The average citizen knows nothing of the real impact of these propositions on their lives. If a project or program is good for California, why don't our legislators write it up and then figure out how to pay for it in an affordable way that is good for the public?

Proposition 8 is a biggie this year. It will change California's Constitution to outlaw gay marriage. Do you notice my nuance on the constitution rather than on gay marriage? I particularly like the fact that Diane Feinstein is against prop 8. I do not believe that she particularly agrees with the gay lifestyle, but she is opposed to a constitutional amendment. Me too. The lifestyle a person chooses, as long as it doesn't interfere with my choice and doesn't break the law, is none of my business. There is no evidence that a gay marriage has ever caused a straight marriage to self-destruct; that is always decided by the two directly involved in the marriage. There is no evidence that a gay lifestyle leads any straight person into the same lifestyle. Plus, I can say with absolute surety that no gay marriage has ever affected or interfered with my choices.

To add another nuance, it could be that the gay lifestyle is our fault anyway and we may prove it through science someday. Take, for example, the question of what is it that makes a person of the same sex attractive; the trans-gender question which usually ends up as a gay lifestyle. I, being a male, find women attractive and it is known in science that attraction between two people is a chemical reaction. So, in that regard, my little chemical engine is firing on all eight. I read an article several months ago in Newsweek about a scientific study of the testosterone and hormone imbalance that occurs in new born babies in the womb and even after birth in spite of the formation, or lack of, the specific appendage that determines sex. The article said that, while the body parts have been formed, the chemical balance is in complete indecision and each chemical, the testosterone and hormone, is rushing to be dominant. In other words the sex of a person is not final until the chemical war is won. It is the chemical balance or imbalance during those first seconds, minutes, hours and days of life that also decides how many arms, legs and heads we, and every form of life on earth, have. It is a known fact that pesticides and other chemicals we spew into our environment affect all manner of life on this planet; take the many legged frogs that we find. Do we, in our arrogance, believe that human life is not affected too? If so, then you are worse than dit-dit-dit. You are a fool.

It is known that prop 8 is supported mostly from out-of-state money; the James Dobsons in our country and organizations such as Focus on the Family, the bible-thumpers. I guess I'm a dual thinker depending on the subject. I'm a dit-dit-dit on the constitution, especially the one that affects me the most, and a nuancer on myth that bible-thumpers want me to believe about lifestyles. It's not the bible that I reject; it's the thumpers, especially those thumpers from out-of-state. How dare James Dobson and Focus on the Family, located in Colorado, collect millions to inject into California politics to change our constitution. It is they who are limiting my right to choose.

I found reason to vote for only three propositions; the farm animals (for healthier food), the children's hospital upgrades and the veterans housing. The first two saves lives and the vets pay for the last. All of the others were deceptive con jobs for the dit-dit-dits in my opinion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Economic Delusion Rut - Page 1

I heard that strong emotions, anger, fear, euphoria, etc., are usually preceded by distorted thinking and the results of these emotions are usually unintended. We do things that we wouldn't ordinarily do if we knew the facts. I think that strong, unbending beliefs are based on distorted thinking too. Recent events prove my point.

I received a letter from Congresswoman Barbara Lee, my representative to Congress from California's 9th District. It was a nice letter thanking me for contacting her, in anger, with a strong suggestion that she get her "stuff" together after she voted "no" to the first $700 billion bailout package. What was she thinking, I told her. She should have supported the bill! The letter, prepared two weeks after the second bailout bill passed and with lots of hind-sight, is very well written and very respectful and gives the rationale for her first "no" vote and her second "yes" vote. The second bill, she says, contained the language, "...many critical improvements that will protect the economic security of all individuals, not just corporations on Wall Street...," in her words, that she could support. Not true.

The facts, I believe, are that she was shocked by the enormity of Paulson's proposal, as was much of the nation, including me, and she was afraid. She didn't know anything about the proposed bill, didn't know its impact or even how the money would be used (neither did Paulson). According to the Contra Costa Times newspaper, her "no" vote was based on the many phone calls she received objecting to bailing out Wall Street and her belief that it did not contain language that protected the specific homeowners who faced foreclosure. Paulson had done a poor job explaining the bill and she had done a poor job getting to the truth and severity of the situation. She voted a populist vote to keep her job. She is up for reelection this year.

The days following her "no" vote, Congresswoman Lee received just as many if not more angrier phone calls asking her what the hell she thought she was doing. In her effort to save those few foreclosures, she was in fact jeopardizing the entire economy. She changed her mind and voted for the second bill, which contained much more money, $150 billion more, and less restrictions on corporations to satisfy (read this as bribes) to get Republican votes. Maybe California State Treasurer, Bill Lockyear, did explain to her the importance of the bill, as she claims, or maybe he didn't. By that time it was known throughout California that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had alerted Secretary Paulson of California's dire credit crisis of not being able to get money for payroll and critical state services. Maybe Lee got a copy of Arny's urgent email? In any event, she changed her tune and her letter is full of rationale that makes her look like an economic hero to her constituents. More delusion.

Then, two weeks passed before Paulson and Bernanke did anything with the authority provided in the bill, now called a "rescue." Finally, they followed Britain's lead by injecting money in banks, but only half-hearted. Britain's action was a bank takeover that is forcing the banks to loan money that gets the credit market going again. Paulson's action was to hand over the money to selected banks and soft-sell the idea that banks need to start lending, at their convenience. So now, two weeks later, U. S. banks are still freezing credit by holding on to the money. They are still afraid to loan money and they have chosen to watch out for their own skins (company survival) instead of the survival of the U. S. economy. The downward spiral gets more complicated and more dangerous as each day passes. Even the "D" word, Depression with a capital "D," is being mentioned. Fear! Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and New York Times Op-Ed columnist, reports that even the most knowledgeable market managers, the hedge fund managers, are bailing out because of fear.

As the 20-20 vision of hind-sight gets better, I'm thinking that Bush, Paulson and Bernanke are still hanging on to the delusional thinking of the old free market ideology; that companies, and banks specifically, can still self-regulate. They are just as afraid as everyone else is and they are sticking to their distorted, unbending beliefs. Even when Greenspan admits to Congress that he is "shocked" and "was mistaken" in his belief that the market would self-regulate, they are still hanging back on forceful action. Maybe what's unfolding points to the greatest illusion we've been sold that built the delusional rut we dropped into years ago; that markets should be free of government controls, that market forces would provide the self control - the supply-side economics (Reaganomics) sold to President Reagan by the Corporate Libertarian ideologues. The same economics that McCain believes in.

One thing for sure, 20-20 hindsight confirms that we are just chickens running around with our heads off. As for me, being completely in the dark on these complicated matters way beyond my knowledge, I just hope and pray that Warren Buffet, George Soros and T. Boone Pickens are right; that the market will come back with a vengeance in my life time. So, and since I bought at what I thought was a low point when the DOW was around 8,500, I'm holding on in the stock market and trying not to let my fears get to me. My wish, whether I gain anything or not, is that someone goes to jail over this. One or more of those big executives who made billions from proliferating those Credit Default Swaps would be a good place to start. Those executives who make billions from the bailout (rescue?) are next. But, lets put them in jail with just as much calmness, thoughtfulness and detachment as they used when they ripped us off. We should be determined, not emotional.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Well, my intent was to followup with more specific economic issues before I get to religion in America, but I can't pass this up. In their article Christian right intensifies attacks on Obama, journalists Eric Gorsky and Racheal Zoll, Associated Press Religion Writers, hit upon a major and dangerous source of ignorance in America. It appears that the Focus on the Family Action, a Christian social conservative charity founded by dominionist James Dobson is spreading its usual doom and gloom about Obama by sending an Action Letter to all affiliated organizations. One statement is astounding; I quote the article:

The goal was to "articulate the big picture," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of public policy for Focus on the Family Action. "If it is a doomsday picture, then it's a realistic picture," she said.
Really? Do you mean to tell me that a "doomsday picture" is a "realistic picture?" Are you crazy?
The problem is that millions believe this propaganda. This is the tripe that causes an elderly woman to tell McCain that Obama is a Muslim. According to the article, which will be widely believed through its wide distribution through several thousand churches, Obama will cause a number of disastrous situations, including:
  • Terrorist attacks in the U.S.
  • Disbanding the Boy Scouts,
  • Russia occupying the Baltic states,
  • Al Qaeda overwhelming Iraq,
  • Long lines for surgical procedures, and
  • No access to hospitals for people over 80.

What nonsense. Please read the article for yourself and dismiss this stuff as radical extremism from the Christian fundamentalist demagogues. What we need is a more realistic approach to the big issues facing America, not fear politics. Obama seems more than capable of handling world changes long before we have to disband the Boy Scouts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I've been following the economy and markets for a number of years and I've always thought the laissez-faire, self-regulated market was the right thing to do. The free, capitalistic market would be the great equalizer. After all, it is the free markets that are slowly changing countries like China and Vietnam into more docile, friendly and human countries. Extreme governments are slowly coming around to democracy. Besides, why would market leaders choose self-destruction by leading their companies into high-risk gambling with investor and depositor money? I persuaded myself that all was good and that most, if not all, financial managers would honestly asses risk and use other people's money wisely. But, in 2005 I sold a condo for twice what I paid for it only six years earlier and my wife sold her mothers estate house for a whopping $700k in a middle income San Francisco Bay neighborhood. I was stunned at how much we got and bewildered at how people could afford the high prices. In August 2006 when the real estate bubble began to burst I began to look closer at this deregulated system I believed in and I began to see that I was mislead. I've now come to believe that nearly all Americans were mislead on basic economic policy just like many have been mislead by the Bush administration. Bill Maher has it right; Americans are too dumb to be governed. Being stupid, it seems, is pervasive in American society.

I came to the conclusion that Americans are politically stupid when I woke up in November 2000 and heard that George W. Bush was president elect. Four years later it was obvious to the world that Americans had a loose screw; as noted when Bush was reelected in 2004, the British newspaper The Guardian ask the question on its front page, "How could 57 million people be so dumb?" Good question! Now, after eight years of Bush and even more years of Republican backed corporate deregulation, most Americans wonder what happened.

Why do we have an overabundance of ignorant, stupid people in America? Oh, I know that ignorance and stupidity are not the same, but continuing ignorance when information is so readily available is being stupid. I think the answer is that ideologues and demagogues have become extremely sophisticated in conning everyone with their crap. Ideologues of every stripe whether it be political extremists, religious fundamentalist, corporate libertarians, neo-conservatives, neo-liberals and other stripes have some utopia in mind for all of us. Utopias have a common flaw in that not all who will be forced to live in it will like it. Marx, Stalin and Hitler had a solution for those who either couldn't or did not want to live in the utopia they imposed: death or imprisonment.

One thing is obvious from the market crash and that is that ideology is forgotten when a meltdown threatens the livelihood of our population. Oh, there are still too many staunch ideologues screaming "socialism" and "big government" that still threaten a full recovery. What would they have us do? Let the entire economy fail completely and return to the breadlines of the 1930s? Think about that. That would be stupid. Others, however, such as Paulson, Bernanke and even Greenspan, appear to have come to their senses, at least to some degree, but not with a full admission that free market laissez-faire is the wrong path. But they are making an effort so save us.

If the latest presidential poll averages are any indication, too many Americans are still ignorant; with 42.6% favoring McCain-Palin. A McCain-Palin administration would be disastrous and no matter what your argument is, it would be a continuation of the Bush presidency because the vast majority of administration positions would be filled with the same people currently in office. In order for a new administration to gain control over the government it will need to fill approximately 4,000 to 5,000 political appointments; from the Treasury to Defense Department to Homeland Security to the Justice Department. If the positions are not filled, the same ideology existing today will continue in those positions and a McCain-Palin administration would not likely fill those positions with anyone believing in different ideology. Think about it.

Not to mention the overwhelming evidence provided by some of the highest conservative thinkers in our country that Palin is not qualified to be Vice President. She doesn't know anything about the United States Constitution or the constitutional duties of the Vice President. She has no knowledge of any aspect of U. S. Government and worse, she has no curiosity about learning. She is another Bush and the fact that McCain could at his age die in office, she could be our president; with her finger on the nuclear trigger. I can't think of a better reason to vote against McCain-Palin. She is dangerous.

Unfortunately, I've started my blog too late in this election to have any affect on anyone, but my advice to you if you are one of those 42.6% supporting McCain is to take another look at Obama. Turn off Hannity and Colmes, O'Rielly, Limbaugh and Savage (representative of the most dangerous propagandist in this nation today) and tune in to other, more reliable news and opinion sources. If you continue a daily diet of right-wing propaganda, you will continue to be dangerously ignorant of the truth about where our country needs to go and about Obama.

I hope in future posts to be more specific toward encouraging people to find better sources of ideas, to be more tolerant of other ideas and, perhaps, find the center of extremes. Maybe more of those 42.6% will change their mind. I hope so. I also hope to figure out blogging and to make this blog a little more presentable. At the moment, though, the information is more important than appearance. I apologize if the appearance is needful of improvement.