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.