Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ultimate Cause - Mexican Gangs and Immigration

After I read the "Family of Secrets" about the Bush family, I've begun to see bogeymen everywhere. Take this story:

This is a story of a Mexican mother whose teenage son joined a drug gang in Mexico, and was killed, and then her daughter, Tanya, an innocent bystander, was accidentally shot during a drug gang shooting in their own house and then, after all her tragedy, the mother migrated to the United States. The drug gang and the family are the focus of the story, but that's not what caught my attention. What caught my attention was only two or three sentences somewhat hidden in the story about the mother, Lupe; "she worked at one of the hundreds of factories making car parts, television screens and cell phone parts that end up on shelves in the United States... on a salary of $10 a day...not enough to buy tennis shoes for her children...so her son joined a gang for money." I immediately thought of NAFTA, the North American Fair Trade Agreement written during the George H. W. Bush Presidency and signed by President Clinton after Newt Gingrich began his reign as Speaker of the House.

Of course Lupe, the mother, talked about her dead children, the drug gangs, the fear in Mexico and her eventual migration to the United States for a decent job, not about NAFTA. It's telling, however, that even after companies moved factories to Mexico to make, we were told back then, a better life for Mexicans and our companies more competitive, that Lupe still had to migrate to the United States for a "decent job" and we are still hearing that our companies are still trying to be competitive. NAFTA was supposed to provide those jobs and to give our companies a competitive advantage. But, it didn't.

NAFTA was not really about the United States trade imbalance, or about unfair competition from foreign companies, or about our ability to sell products overseas or about providing decent jobs to Mexicans. If that was the case, Sweden would have a NAFTA. But, Sweden doesn't have one and it is super-competitive. Germany would also have a NAFTA, but it is extremely competitive and it doesn't have an agreement like NAFTA. Neither of those countries export their jobs. What NAFTA was really about was busting the Unions, once and for all, in the United States. That was a primary goal of both presidents, Reagan and Bush. Reagan took on the Aviation Unions, specifically the Air Controllers' Union. Bush was taking on all unions with NAFTA. The unions had become too powerful. NAFTA was deregulation, a way around the Taft-Hartley Act that allowed unions to collective bargain. It did what it was supposed to do. It dismantled Detroit and Lansing Michigan, the centers of the powerful auto unions, and left both cities in shambles, with the swoop of a pen. Many smaller factories went bankrupt because the competition, the large companies, began manufacturing cheap parts in Mexico under NAFTA. I'm reminded of a little factory in Owensville, owned by Bill Davis, that closed its doors because it could no longer compete with companies who could afford to locate in Mexico under NAFTA. NAFTA did the opposite of what we were told it would do. It actually killed many small factories across our country and consolidated those products into huge corporations, in effect, mergers by government non-regulation regulation. It was all nonsense and lies.

Everyone was sold on NAFTA. I guess if we had known the truth back then, we should have had an uprising. I also think, in spite of how implausible the "Family of Secrets" seems to be, maybe it is very probable that the United States is, in fact, controlled by men we don't elect, men working behind the scenes against America, men connected through business and political connections, and of course Bush. I don't like to think that is true. I like to think democracy works. But, now that I've read the book, I'm beginning to see a plausible conspiracy. A Plutocracy or Corporatocracy or a combination thereof. One thing is true, we are not a democracy.

On a slightly, but related thought, I recently heard on CNN that the Tea Party was angry over Senator Scott Brown's recent votes in the Senate. Apparently he didn't vote like the Tea Party wanted on the START Treaty and 9/11 Heroes Healthcare bill. What I would really like to know is specifically who is telling Senator Brown he's in trouble. Who, by name, is behind the Tea Party? More Bush Family Secrets?


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Social Democrat

I think I'm becoming a Social Democrat along the lines of Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders. I think the thing that finally convinced me to become a Social Democrat is that I watched Micheal Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story yesterday, and I became angry all over again. Everyone should watch that movie. I don't know why they don't. But, if you ask most people why they don't, they'll say that they "can't stand" Micheal Moore. But, I really have to wonder where that feeling comes from. Do they know him personally? Or have they been sold on the idea that he is bad and, therefore, should be hated?

I think it's the latter. We've been sold on the idea that he's bad by the propaganda from Fox News, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill-o O'Rielly, Sean Hannity, etc., and, of course, our neighbors and friends. Most people couldn't possibly proclaim that they're becoming a Social Democrat, or that they like Micheal Moore, to their friends without fear of being ostracized, of getting "the face," or "the look." What? You like Micheal Moore? You must be nuts! But, if you watch the documentary, I think you'll see a reasonable explanation of how we got here; how capitalism is not the whole story and why we need controls on capitalism. The documentary shows how destructive capitalism is.

But, in fact, we've been sold on the idea that capitalism is so great that we now believe that capitalism is the soul of freedom in America. But, the fact is that Social Democracy would guarantee the American dream more so than capitalism. Social Democracy would provide the means for someone who has little to begin with to climb out of poverty to have more, even to own a business or to become wealthy, if that's the final goal, or to simply live a life with enough security and wealth to live happily. We've all been sold on the idea that only capitalism "will make our dreams come true," "that we can become rich like them," them being the rich fat cats. But, the odds are so high in a capitalistic system, that ninety-nine percent will never become "a fat cat." To become a fat cat, it takes privilege, the best education, access to the best schools, access to the best social network and connections to the richest families.

It is baffling to me that a great majority in America have become so enamored with capitalism, and I'm even more baffled that Christians are such staunch capitalists. In the documentary, Micheal interviews three Catholic priests, two priests of two different parishes and one Bishop who oversees those parishes. They all said that capitalism is one of the great evils of our time. They all said that capitalism is so unlike Christ that there can hardly be anything in capitalism that would agree with Christ's teachings. They said that the only reason Christians could believe in capitalism is that they've been convinced by the right-wing propaganda that capitalism is somehow agreeable with Christ's teachings. Nothing is farther from the truth.

Yesterday, President Obama signed the $800 billion tax cut extension bill passed by Congress. It is Wall Street's bill. Nearly one-third of it transferred huge amounts of tax payer dollars to the most wealthiest capitalists, and increased the national debt. President Obama is not a socialist. He is a capitalist, just like President Bush before him. He is not our man. He is not the man who will bring America back from being sold to Wall Street. In fact, Wall Street already owns America, lock, stock and barrel. It seems to me that only Social Democracy will wrench it back from the fat cats.

In almost every endeavor, America needs to rise up and refuse to participate in selling America to Wall Street. We need to reject capitalistic control. You may like the so-called small government or to have less government, but "something" is going to "govern" our lives, either the government or a corporation. Handing government programs over to corporations just changes the "governor." It doesn't eliminate the program, nor does it eliminate who pays for it. Tax payers will pay either the government, or the corporation that runs it. That's just another tax cut for the rich who runs the capitalistic corporation.

Capitalsim: A Love Story - it's a good documentary. If you subscribe to Netflix, you can watch it on your computer now.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Offensive Tax Cuts

I already knew this and I don't know why everyone doesn't know it. From what I hear people say, most people believe that tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 per year will create jobs. It won't. Here's why: The tax cuts for both the middle-class and for those who make more than $250,000 are "Income Tax Cuts." That's the reason. Income tax cuts only apply to the personal income a person "is taking home." It's the tax on the money that a person is receiving in the form of a paycheck. He or she is taking the money home. It is not the money that a business has in its grasp that can be used to hire an employee.

That's what makes this article, Manufacturers Say Obama Tax Cuts Will Spur Hiring - NYTimes.com, interesting. It talks about the tax cuts in the Obama compromise that really benefits businesses, and those tax cuts are not the same cuts promised the rich. In fact, the cuts given to businesses are a relatively small portion of the total $858 billion of cuts in the bill, while those promised the rich are a huge one-third of the bill.

So, you could look at the Obama compromise as benefiting the rich in two ways; 1) they get to pay less taxes on the money they take home, and 2) they get to pay less taxes in their businesses. Sort of like a double benefit. Of course, when transferring public money from our pockets to the rich, it is us middle-class who are forking it over.

It's interesting that David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's, is quoted in the article as saying we're, "...not getting the biggest bang for our buck." No shit, Sherlock.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chasing the Ship to Vietnam

Something has prompted me to remember the time when I found myself chasing my ship, the USS St. Francis River (LFR-525), to Vietnam although why I was separated from my ship is not clear to me. It did not occur on our last cruise to Vietnam, between October 1969 and February 1970. I distinctly remember leaving Yokosuka, Japan on the ship for that cruise, staying on it the entire period and returning with the ship to Yokosuka. For one thing, that was the trip where the ship experienced that scary Taiwan Straits stormy wave incident and leaked from Taiwan to Japan and it was also on our return to our home port that I received news that my brother, Durward, had been killed in an automobile accident. I received that news while we were still several days from Yokosuka and I had to wait until our arrival before I could go home, so I missed Durward's funeral. So, I must have been separated from the ship on our second-to-last cruise to Vietnam and had to chase it down to rejoin the crew. The only reason that I can think of for that to have happened is that I stayed behind when it left Yokosuka because of the birth and death of our first child, Martha Pamela in May of 1969. The Navy is tough on families. Had little Martha survived birth, I would have left with the ship and, of course, left my wife with all of the responsibilities and care of Martha. As it was, staying home that short week or so in our time of grief probably wasn't long enough. Whether I liked it or not, duty called.

I recall flying from Yokota Air Base, about 20 miles south-west of Tokyo, to Clark Air Base, Philippines, and at Clark I caught a bus for Subic Bay. Clark is located nine miles from Mt. Pinatubo, the volcano that erupted in 1991 and buried the air base under six feet of pyroclastic ash, and it destroyed Subic Bay too for that matter, and caused the United States to evacuate its Armed Forces from the Philippines never to return. Over my entire Navy career I flew into Clark Air Base a number of times for one reason or another; catching a ship, attending a conference or coordinating one or another logistics operation. But, I believe on this trip that it was my first time transiting through Clark. It was a hot, humid, dusty and sweaty place to visit, as I recall, with never a cool night that might lend some relief against the heat. If I had to stay overnight, and that happened, then I could plan on at least a two-shower day, one in the morning and one before bedtime. The bus trip to Subic was just as hot and sweaty, but the scenery was always interesting.

The Philippines never seemed to modernize during all of the years that I visited there. The roads were terrible by our standards, just barely two lanes at most, unpaved in some areas and sometimes our bus drove on the shoulder or in the ditch along the road to get around some obstruction. It was for that reason that the bus trip from Clark to Subic could take between three and six hours, depending on the traffic. And, the traffic jams weren't usually caused by too many automobiles, although there were too many for the undeveloped or poorly planned roads, but rather by Water Buffalo free and untethered and blocking the very narrow road or very slow carts pulled by Water Buffalo. You could say that a farmer who owned one or more Water Buffalo was middle-class in the Philippines. The rich and the taxi-jeepney driver owned vehicles, and they were continuously honking their horns when trapped behind a Water Buffalo. So, while we inched along behind a buffalo, we couldn't hear ourselves think because of all of the horns blaring, including the bus horn. Once, one of our passengers, a big sailor, got fed up with all of the noise, he walked to the front of the bus and told the driver that if he honked "that damn horn one more time, I'll throw your ass off this bus and drive it myself." The driver stopped honking the horn. Everyone cheered. I don't recall if that May 1969 bus ride was slower or faster than usual. If it was quicker, then it was the rare one.

Being in "transit" was not the best experience a sailor can endure. It meant that you had no home and not a very clear path to get there. Typically, I checked in to the transit office in Subic, showed them my travel orders, and waited for them to locate my ship in order to decide how I was going to catch it. And, since the location of my ship would have been secret, that usually meant that the Navy's response to the clerks in the transit office would be a short, concise "operating off of the Vietnam coast," or maybe just "Vietnam." Where, exactly, would not be divulged to me or the clerks. I don't know why they bothered trying to locate my ship, wasting my time. I could have told them the country where it was operating. It always operated along the Vietnam coast. But, the bureaucracy wouldn't allow that. I had to wait for the "official word," which generally took several days. So, my route to my ship would be determined based on the need to get me to a very large geographical area in the world. It's like saying that if I had to go to New York City, well then just drop me anywhere in China and then go from there. I had to hang around a few days in the "transit quarters," which meant that they would dream up something to "keep me busy." I recall that I was a second-class by that time, sort of a supervisor-worker level, if there was anyone to supervise, so I always hoped in these situations to be assigned to supervise some kind of work detail instead of mopping the floor or some other menial task myself. Invariably, work details in transit quarters involved cleaning something. The Navy was always cleaning something. I don't recall that trip being any different. I know I didn't enjoy myself.

I finally got word that I was to report to an oiler that was leaving Subic Bay for Vietnam. I wasn't told "where" in Vietnam. I checked on-board the oiler in the morning and we were leaving by noon hoping for a quick transit to Vietnam, but oilers refuel other ships and that's the priority, so my trip actually took five days even though where I finally disembarked was only two-days sailing from Subic. The oiler pulled alongside the USS Tom Green County, a Tank Landing Ship (LST), and I walked across a make-shift brow, basically a wide wobbly plank with two ropes to hold on to, to my latest temporary sleeping quarters. I recall having to balance my sea bag on my back while trying desperately not to fall off the plank. I put my sea bag in a bunk room and went to get something to eat, hopefully better food than the oiler had.

"Hey, Clark," someone yelled. I looked up to see my old buddy Ivan "The Terrible Cook" Chute, a Canadian who had served on the St. Francis River until only a few months earlier. He, like most of the sailors who had married a Japanese wife, shuttled between Yokosuka home-ported ships and shore stations just to stay in the area. Chute did more time in Yokosuka than was usual, however. While I transferred between state-side duty and Japan duty, he consistently stayed in the Yokosuka area. A few years later, he would be assigned on the USS Lockwood with me after I returned to Yokosuka from San Diego. On that day, he was behind the serving counter and he gave me an extra-large helping of cherry cobbler. "I fell overboard," he said.

"What!?" I said. "You fell overboard! Are you joking?" or words to that effect.

"No!" he said. "I'll come over in a few minutes and tell you about it." Chute was a Nervous Nelly, about everything. And, behind the counter, I saw that he wasn't relaxed. If he had to stand in one place for any length of time, he stood with feet slightly apart and swayed from side to side with his head weaving from side to side, a nervous habit, like Stevie Wonder does when he sings. He got the name Ivan The Terrible Cook from his St. Francis River meals he served. I should say, "forced to prepare," because it wasn't his choice to serve those terrible cheese sandwiches. That was the XO's idea, the same XO that was still on the St. Francis River and was probably the most hated man on the ship. I've written about him before. The XO thought, that since our storage space was limited and our chances of getting fresh food was limited, given our priority of staying on the gun-line as long as possible with little time for underway replenishments, that he would solve the problem by ordering an extra load of flour, for making buns or loaves of bread, and cheese. Flour came in fifty pound easily stackable bags, put in dry storage, and we had plenty of dry storage space. Cheese came in nicely shaped boxes, also easily stackable, put in chill storage, and we usually had plenty of chill storage space. It was all "logic" to the XO. And, since the XO controlled the menu, those fresh-baked buns and cheese sandwiches were on it about twice a week as the main course. But, the flour sometimes had weevils in it, and Chute baked the bread for the meal, and he was blamed every time someone bit into the bun and it "crunched." We didn't like eating bugs; even cooked bugs. Tony Gigliardo, our other chef, "our Italian Chef," seemed to escape all the criticism because he ate the bread, weevils and all, and he gloated about it. He called anyone who couldn't eat a cooked weevil, or anything else they cooked, "a pansy." Such is Navy life.

Within a minute or two, Chute was sitting down at my table and he began his tale. It went something like this. "I was loitering on the fantail, like we always do. I was by myself. I turned to go inside just after dark, and tripped and flipped right over the rail into the water. I watched the goddamned ship-lights disappear over the horizon." "Holy shit, Chute!" I said, or something like that, "What did you do?" I thought I was gonna' die," he said. "I just kept treading water and floating and prayed that no shark came by. In about an hour, I saw ship-lights coming back toward me. It was the Tom Green. They'd discovered that I wasn't on board and they were back-tracking to find me. I was yelling my goddamned head off."

I'm sure that we said more than that, but I recall that I was dumb-struck, speechless, for the most part, other than an occasional expletive. In all of my time in the Navy, before and after Chute's falling overboard, he was the only one that I knew of that survived falling overboard. Some were never found, and the two that I knew that were found died from drowning. A few years later on the Lockwood, Chute would not go to the fantail without someone accompanying him, usually me. I'm sure he followed that buddy-system on every ship he was on after that.

I don't recall spending the night on the Tom Green. It seems to me that I was called to board a Patrol Boat that same afternoon. So, I dropped by the Mess Decks to say goodbye to Chute, and made my way to the main deck. Tank Landing Ships used in Vietnam were not used to land tanks or other vehicles on shore like they were in World War II and the Korean War. In Vietnam, they were used as "Mother Ships" for the River Patrol Boats, the gun boats that patrolled the Delta River System for Vietcong in the southern area of South Vietnam. John Kerry's Patrol Boat would have been assigned to a Mother Ship like the Tom Green County.

My sea bag was hoisted down to the boat, and I and two other sailors climbed down a troop debarkation webbed-ladder flopping against the side of the ship. It was a five-hour trip to a little Navy outpost near Rach Gia, on the west-coast of the southern tip of Vietnam and the entrance to the Delta on the west, while my ship was operating off the east coast. I've been seasick three times in the Navy, each time caused by extremely rough seas when I simply could not will my equalibyrum to stay focused. Everything was moving; up, down, sideways and all directions at the same time. It was one of the roughest rides I've experienced on the ocean, the heavy seas pounding us into submission. Somewhere in the middle of the trip, I slipped and fell and strained my back and could not, literally, get up to get back into one of the four bunks in the boat. It turned out to be a really bad strain and it made the rest of the trip, and the following month, miserable.

When the boat entered the large bay to Rach Gia in full darkness, after over four hours of pounding seas, the water calmed to a point where I could pull myself up to stand on my feet. "You guys keep your eyes peeled for anything coming at us," the boat's skipper said. All of us knew what he meant. With running lights out and the engine at its quietest speed possible, we drew closer and closer to the shore a mile or so north of Rach Gia. There was nothing around, no village or city and no lights. We did see boat silhouettes, however, and all of them were running dark and we watched them like hawks for any turn toward us. We finally entered a river for several hundred yards, it seemed, and pulled alongside a make-shift pier and debarked and made our way to a quonset hut for the night and sleep, if we could. It was a small base, but large enough for a landing strip. Otherwise, we seemed to be surrounded by jungle on three sides and the river on the other.

I was in a lot of pain, so I got very little sleep. A corpsman assigned to the boat squadron gave me a few painkillers to ease the pain. He was the only one who showed any sympathy at all from the dozen or so swift-boaters there. "Don't pay any attention to them," he said, in response to their laughing "surface-Navy wimp" comments, "they cry like babies when they get a splinter." I've never forgotten that comment. I'm sure that many got more than splinters. Of any Navy fighting in Vietnam, these men were the bravest. The "Swift-Boat" self-image was of a tough, roughneck bunch of swaggering pirates that they made sure they portrayed. Different navies, surface, submarine or river seemed to discriminate against each other as much and as often as they could, but everyone respected the swift-boaters.

I recall that at around 4:00 A.M. we were all rudely awakened and told to evacuate. "Happens all the time," someone said. We had to hustle, in spite of my painful back. In a matter of minutes a C-130 cargo plane landed on the strip in the pitch black night. How the pilot did that I'll never know. Perhaps a guy with a flashlight signaled the beginning of the strip for the pilot to see enough to guess where to touch down. We were shoved into the back of the plane as it rolled to a stop, along with about two-dozen Vietnamese. The plane immediately started taxiing to the end of the strip for take off before we or the cargo and our sea bags were strapped in. And, for a moment, I forgot my back pain. While I didn't know what was going on, things seemed to be urgent. As they closed the bay doors, I could see the swift-boat crews running for the river and their boats, all of them in flak jackets and weapons ready. I heard the jet-assist engines kick in, full throttle, to lift off of the short runway. A C-130 generally needed a long runway, unless it was equipped with jet-assist. One of the Vietnamese, an elderly woman, brought with her several bottles of Nuc Mam, the most pungent cooking and food dipping sauce I've ever smelled or eaten, and as she lost her balance when those jet-assist engines thrust us into the air, she dropped one of the bottles and it broke, splattering the stinky stuff over all of us and our sea bags. So, by that time, with only a day or two of normality, I had sweat through a Philippine bus trip, rode an oiler with bad food, crossed a wobbly plank to the Tom Green and then climbed down a flopping troop ladder, rode nearly five hours in the roughest seas, seasick, sprained my back, had three hours of sleep on painkillers, and now my uniform stunk to high heaven from Nuc Mam. I was ready for this trip to end. Between one and two hours later, we landed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base just outside of Saigon. I managed to see a doctor there for more painkillers, spent two nights of exhausted sleep and left on another C-130 cargo plane for Cam Ranh Bay where, I hoped, my ship would soon arrive. I also changed into a clean uniform, but I had to jam that stinky one into my sea bag with the rest of my clean clothes.

Two days later the St. Francis River arrived at Cam Ranh Bay to replenish ammunition, approximately 5,000 rockets and topping off five-inch and 40mm canon ammunition. I reported aboard, paid a visit to our corpsman, and collapsed on my bunk. I unpacked my sea bag several hours later. I was greeted with, "'bout time you got here, Clark. Where have you been?" then a pause and, "What the hell is that smell?" Someone took my clothes to the laundry for cleaning for me, more to get the stink out of our compartment than as a favor to me. Doc Seneca (I know his name because of a comment he left to a previous blog), our corpsman, checked on me for nearly three weeks while I tried to work, but usually stayed in my bunk with my sprained back. It wasn't getting any better. When we arrived at Subic Bay, I was hospitalized for a week where I received supervised physical therapy. I refused, however, to stay in the hospital, even though the doctor wanted me to, when my ship was preparing to depart for Vietnam. I was not going through all of that again.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Secrets Behind Bush

I received a birthday gift a few weeks ago, an early gift, while two books were hitting the market. The gift was a Kindle, the $139 version that uses Wi-Fi. The Kindle, and Amazon, lets one download a "sample" of about 25% of a book so one can read enough of the book to decide whether to buy it or not. I downloaded the two books, George W. Bush's "Decision Points," and Russ Baker's "Family of Secrets." Both of these books are about Dubya, the first from Dubya's point of view and the second based, it says, on investigative research. Man, are they different!

I started Decision Points, first. It didn't take long to read the sample since the Kindle seems to help one read faster. Here, I have to say that I already knew a lot about Dubya, because I've been curious for a long time on just how a guy like him became our President. I read everything I could get my hands on and there were plenty of insiders, people who were "there" when he did things, who leaked publicly juicy bits of news on who G. W. Bush really was. I already knew that he was an alcoholic until his mid-forties or early fifties. I already knew that he failed at almost everything he did and in every job he had. I already knew that he was basically a "frat boy," a jokester and prankster, and who didn't take anything seriously, including America. I already knew that he was a bully in school, especially toward those who were not in his privileged East-Coast, elite, rich class and I knew that his governorship of Texas was essentially socializing with the big boys even though he took credit for his Democratic legislature's accomplishments, such as Texas school reform in those days, which turned out, by the way, to be a way for his brother's, Neil's, school supply publishing company to get the state's business.

So, when I watched his presidential campaign materialize, I knew we were listening to a con-man and a so-called born-again fraud. And, then there was the blatantly unconstitutional Supreme Court decision to stop the Florida vote count, with James Baker, a long-time Bush operative, leading the group of attorneys in court and also the activists in Florida that disrupted the Florida count. The whole thing, his campaign and the confusion in the Florida election, was a sleigh of hand, a trick, to make Dubya President. As soon as I read the first page of Dubya's book, I recognized immediately that he was continuing the con, portraying a simple, country, "drifter" Texan in cowboy boots who learned "family-value" lessons early in life from a "family-value" father and mother, a guy you'd like to "have a beer with," an honest guy like your neighbor, a compassionate guy, and on and on.

Oh, he admitted to a foot-lose life style, sort of drifting through the preppy Andover boarding school and Yale, and he admitted to drinking "a little too much" and not really trying too hard, which fit my image of him from all that I've read and my observations of him as President. But, what got me was his claim of his "early-life lesson on his anti-abortion stand." He said in his book that his mother, Barbara, had a miscarriage, put the fetus in a bottle, and he drove Barbara and the fetus to the hospital when he was about fifteen years old. He said "seeing the fetus" taught him that life was precious at any stage and abortions shouldn't, therefore, be allowed. The first question that popped into my mind was how does a fifteen year old, in 1961, even know about abortions or the idea that they were illegal then since Roe v. Wade wasn't decided until 1973? What fifteen year old raised in a family town like Midland, TX, knows about that? In fact, in 1961, I would think that only feminist activists would know or care about dangerous "back-alley" abortions way back then, if anyone did. And then he described so easily, off-handedly, those National Guard absences and his "fighter jet" flying as if he were, in an oh-so self-demeaning way, an "Ace" pilot, while I wondered as I read how he piloted a super-sonic jet, in close formation, while drunk and/or on cocaine. So, I immediately suspected that his book was just more smoke and mirrors, self-justification for his mediocre intelligence and the egregious decisions he made and his escaping Vietnam service and a cover for his much more devious lies. There were other "family-value, patriotic lessons learned" in the sample that contradicted his foot-lose, alcoholic and drug life style he only partly admitted to. I just didn't believe a person would continue a life he admitted to if he indeed learned family values. The book, in fact, seemed to be written by such a simpleton, at a fourth or fifth grade level, intent on continuing self-aggrandizement, to satisfy his own ego, an attempt to influence history for his own ego, that I didn't buy the book. It seemed to be a book that was written "for him," to hide what was really behind his presidency.

And then, I started reading the Family of Secrets. It's this book that I believe, even when it is unbelievable. In order to tell Dubya's story, and answer the question on how he became President, Russ Baker had to research all the way back to Prescott Bush, Dubya's grandfather, a Wall Street banker, a U.S. Senator, and an elite East-Coast good old boy in league with just about every other Yale-Skull-and-Bones rich and powerful in government, secretive CIA, FBI and industry to learn about the driving ambition behind the Bush family, including Dubya. One of the first experiences Baker's research contradicts is Dubya's so-called early lesson about abortion. In his play-boy, swinger life style of his twenties and thirties; he got at least one swinger-girlfriend pregnant. Now, doesn't that sound a lot more likely than a fifteen year old learning early about the evils of abortion in 1961? Yes, it does. According to Baker, Poppy Bush, George H. W. Bush, his father, and his mother, Barbara, got him out of that scrape by arranging an abortion for the young woman, and Dubya never saw her again, and in fact, denied knowing her when she came up to him later as he drank with his buddies in a Dallas socialite club. The abortion was reported as a "procedure," not necessarily an abortion, even though when the young woman walked out of the hospital she was no longer pregnant. Poppy and Barbara also got him out of other lust-infatuated relationships with women who "didn't fit the family image" they wanted to portray. And, in spite of media's portrayal of an innocent Laura Bush, she may not have been so innocent. She was known to hang around the same crowd as Dubya; the boozing, cocaine snorting, pool-partying crowd in Dallas in Dubya's early days after Yale.

And that wasn't even the tip of the iceberg. The story of Dubya starts with Prescott Bush, Dubya's grandfather, and all of his black-ops connections in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), his scheming banking and finance connections, and the world of intrigue, money laundering and international spies and assassins. It starts with Eisenhower and Nixon's, Ike's Vice President, planning the Bay of Pigs invasion to assassinate Castro, a CIA black-ops operation that failed under President Kennedy and which caused Kennedy to realize he was duped by the CIA and to fire CIA Director Allen Dulles, a friend of Prescott Bush, that made a lot of CIA-Dulles people mad. So mad, that a group of CIA agents involved in the plot to kill Castro were in and around Dallas, Texas, in November 1963, including the 22nd, when President Kennedy was assassinated, they same guys who were key witnesses blaming Oswald for Kennedy's assassination, the same guys who also bungled the Watergate break-in, in spite of being well trained CIA professionals at spying and breaking into offices like the Watergate office, and the same guys who show up again to spoil President Carter's agreement with Iran to free the Iran hostages in October 1980, "the October Surprise," before the election so that the hostages were not freed until January 1981 when President Reagan was inaugurated. Then, the same guys and a few new associates show up again in the Iran-Contra gun running affair under Reagan that turned into an "Ollie North" and Admiral Poindexter scandal, a deal, it turns out, that was intended to be a quid pro quo payment to Iran for holding the hostages a few extra months until Reagan won the 1980 election. Some of the same people involved in all of the spying and plotting again showed up in George W. Bush's Administration running top secret intelligence operations, such as Admiral Poindexter who ran the Electronic Surveillance System spying through phone taps.

And then there are the money laundering schemes, some through Harken Oil Company, that run from rich Saudi Arabia princes, English ponzi-scheming banks set up by Arabs to helping the Philippine dictator Marcos hide the legendary gold found after the Philippines was retaken from the Japanese, billions and billions of dollars that usually ended up buying up American corporations and property or funding corrupt politicians or blackmailing politicians. The resulting empire has, so far, oil, media, transportation, defense, food, financial and banking corporations under its control to the point where I'm not sure what to believe anymore. In fact, if the book is any indication of the degree of control the Bush family and friends have over America, I have to change my opinion on whether we are a democracy anymore. I've said, as a warning, that we are going to lose our democracy on several occasions, based on various news and media accounts. But, Mr. Baker has managed to change my mind. It is not a case of "going to" lose it. We've already lost it.

I now have to ask my self about who, exactly, IS behind the Tea Party, the Republican Party, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the other nuts who were elected on November 2nd. We know some of the names behind all of the corporate money financing the election, but that doesn't explain who or what they are and who bought them or paid them. If the politicians elected haven't been bought, then they soon will be, especially if they are Republicans, but even if they are Democrats. Those behind the intrigue don't seem to care who they buy or blackmail, or perhaps even kill, nor do they care about democracy, America or you and I.

It could be, and I think it is more likely, that the change we've seen in President Obama is the result of something much more devious than we can imagine. It may not be that he's changed or is less courageous. It may be that something is forcing his decisions. I'm not inclined to believe that he can be bribed. But, he may be threatened. Threatened in a way that forces him to not be his own man.

Read the book, Family of Secrets.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Reagan-Thatcher Supply-Sided (American) Capitalism and Ireland's Fall

You would think that Ireland should have seen its economic disaster coming early. There were plenty of prophetic examples from other parts of the world by the time Ireland adopted American style capitalism. New Zealand may have been one of the earliest examples. It adopted the Reagan-Thatcher conservative economic ideology in the early 1980s, ideology that is cited as the primary cause for New Zealand's economic collapse in this report(pdf). If you read this report, you'll see that New Zealand followed the typical GOP conservative, libertarian approach to economic and fiscal governing. And, it did New Zealand in. Even Britain, just across the Irish Sea, had experienced an economic meltdown in the 1980s because of Thatcher's follow-Reagan economic plan; small government, privatization of government services, low corporate tax, anything-goes market, voodoo economics. And, of course, there is Japan's 1990s economic collapse because it followed American style capitalism, although it didn't adopt the whole hog, but only the hindquarters, such as deep corporate tax cuts. That was enough to do its economy in. It turns out that in every country, including our own, where the American style GOP, libertarian capitalism is adopted, it fails. Here is when I stick my tongue firmly in my cheek and facetiously say, "Imagine that!" Poppy "read my lips - no tax increase" Bush was right. It is voodoo economics.

So, what's happening to Ireland. For one thing, Ireland's workforce is on the move again. I guess we can go all the way back to the Potato Famine to see that when things get to a point where people can't live, they leave where they're living for another, and hopefully, better place. Ireland seems to have that particular situation recur in its history over and over. And, it's a damn shame. It was only a few years ago that everyone, even Thomas Friedman, thought Ireland was the poster-country of prosperity, as in this column. Friedman said Ireland's booming economy in 2005 proved that Germany's more moderate and labor-favoring approach was wrong. In fact, Friedman says that Ireland's Irish-British model is "the way of the future." Some future! Now, in 2010, i.e., "the future," Ireland is nearly bankrupt while Germany is healthy and is one of the countries bailing Ireland out.

My Irish immigrant friend also passed this little blogger gem, "Ireland Then and Now," by Jonathan Chait, which suggests that Ireland's economic and fiscal policies caused the mess, which is true, except the article contradicts itself so much that's it boggles the mind. Chait starts his article saying, "It was not long ago that Ireland was every American conservative's beau ideal of a European state. Low taxes, low regulation, it was the perfect case study in the success of free market policies..." and "How has Ireland become a "Celtic tiger" (a la Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, the earlier "tiger" economies in Asia)? Simple: By clinging for dear life to the coattails of the American economy. The Irish have basically set themselves up as a free enterprise zone for U.S. companies wanting a base in Europe, rolling out a business-friendly red carpet." Yep. That's what Ireland did.

What's really ironic is the references Mr. Chait uses to document "why" Ireland is falling. From 2003 through 2007, Chait cites Cato Institute and The Heritage Foundation reports, both conservative organizations, that gloat about Ireland deregulating and lowering corporate taxes (from 50% to 12.5%), attracting American companies and the "greenback," privatizing government services, and generally releasing the free-market dogs. Ireland, Cato and Heritage said, "was the model free-market state." It all was going along gloriously until Ireland hit the Great Recession wall, and then everything went to hell.

So, what did Ireland do? It did the opposite of what President Obama encouraged at the G-20 Conference in 2009. Obama encouraged "stimulus," but Ireland chose deficit reduction, following the Reagan-Supply-Side economic model of free markets, deregulation, let 'em fail, policies of the GOP Republicans in America. It tightened its belt, laid people off, eliminated government jobs and services. Even then, as late as June 2010, the Cato Institute was bragging about Ireland's 2009-2010 policies at the same time as it was deriding Obama's "stimulus" policies. But, the belt tightening didn't work. It created a worse condition, as most economists predicted when they said that the economy "needed stimulus" to get the economy moving before deficit reduction.

Ireland is now accepting bailouts from its European Union members so it can survive. And, Cato and Heritage are now turning on themselves, since reading on in Chait's blog shows that now that Ireland is deeply in trouble, Cato and Heritage are blaming Ireland's government big-government and big-spending for the problem even when its government followed the fiscal and economic policies that Cato and Heritage were bragging about only a few years before.

But, the EU bailout is not helping Ireland's people NOW. They need work NOW, not next year. They're leaving Ireland, as this Washington Post article notes. So, Ireland, following the grand Republican scheme is broken and broke and evacuating the sinking ship.

After our November 2nd Republican Coup d'etat, we're next. Stand by for heavy rolls. Perhaps Barney Frank's take on the the Republican's perspective on unemployment says it best. Thanks to my Irish buddy, I have this quote:

“The Republicans are joining the Central Bank of China in criticizing [Fed Chairman] Ben Bernanke ” Mr. Frank said Monday during an interview on Bloomberg Television. “This is really distressing to me.” ... Mr. Frank said complaints about currency manipulation from Chinese central bankers “is like being called silly by the Three Stooges. And then to have Republican leaders in Congress agree with those complaints is bizarre,” Mr. Frank said. “The Republicans are arguing that the Fed should not even be concerned about unemployment.”


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chevy Coolant Leak

My nephew asked me to search for what might be the cause to his Chevy pickup losing coolant without a visible leak.

After a little searching, and frankly not finding much, this seems to be the only page that actually points to a few ideas: http://www.fullsizechevy.com/archive/index.php/t-432699.html

Here are a few of the answers: (I didn't type these, so don't blame me for the English)

1. not completely sure but i think ive seen on here that the water pump gaskets are pretty bad on a 5.3 might check into that otherwise id say its safe to assume head gasket, if you dont have money to fix it that sealer **** will get u a little more time otherwise i personally wouldnt use it.

2. might be a cracked head. pressure test time.

3. I chased an elusive coolant leak on my 1999 / 5.3. Two water pumps, a few new hoses, intake gaskets and alot of overpriced coolant later, I found that there was a problem with the aluminum heads mated to a cast iron block on the 5.3.

The local dealer was ready and willing to sell me new ones at around $1100.00. I had a local Hot Rod/machine shop deck the heads for much less. That was about 40k ago and running fine.

I also had moisture under the oil filler cap but no milkshake. It happened to me around 120k.

Good luck

4. Is the oem rad cap still on it? If so replace it first, fixed my coolant loss problem with no signs of coolant any where.

5. sounds like the same problem i had. No sign of leak..
I assume it was a cracked head in my case, the oil was showing signs of coolant sludge and low coolant, like had to fill res. once a week.
I put two bottles of bar stop and vwalla.. no more leak.
that was 70000 miles ago on my 2003. 5.3 liter I also switched to royal purple 5-30 synthetic.
I had the same cold start up knock that would go away after 1-2min.
Once i replaced the oil, added the barstop , it was good as new and runs great now... knock is gone and oil pressure is always 40-60
I dont believe that statement of not using rad-fix. Ive talked to several techs that swear by it in the newer trucks with this problem.

This was after replacing the waterpump, thermostat,radiator cap.. these didnt make a difference
Heres the write up on the head problems
scroll down to the middle of the page

6. I had the same problem a few months ago. My "Low Coolant" light would come on, I'd add coolant, drive for about a week, then the light would come back on, add more, and so on... Turns out it was leaking right above my skid plate that's under the transmission. The skid plate was preventing it from leaving a spot on my driveway or any other evidence of a leak. Just some FYI for ya.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Durward's Navy

After writing about Durward and North Korea in Facebook, it occurs to me that I should fill in some blanks and that will take me back to some of my first memories. Perhaps his children will appreciate it. Keep in mind, however, that some of the blanks I will try to fill is based only on hints of what Durward must have been doing and my own experiences and conclusions of how it might have happened for him. Some, perhaps a lot, is guessing on my part, based on my Navy experience, and reasonable expectation of how the Navy would have operated. I could do a much better job of piecing the puzzle together, and answering many questions, if I had his letters that he sent home. I don't know who has those now.

One question is, for example, why do I remember the country, North Korea, spoken in our house on the corner of Brummett and First Streets in Owensville, Indiana, about as far removed from Korea as possible, when I was only six to nine years old, sometime between 1950 and 1953, give or take a year? The answer is simple. Durward's Navy travels were the talk of the house. Mom didn't take Durward's joining the Navy very well, perhaps because her illness was progressing at the time, or perhaps because Uncle Cecil, her brother, had also spent time in the Navy and came out of it an alcoholic. She may have been afraid that the same thing would happen to Durward. I don't remember if Uncle Cecil was in the Navy during war time, but if he was, then that would be cause for Mom's worry and fretting as well. She, like the rest of us, had no idea what kind of a mess Durward's ship, the USS Rooks (DD-804), a Navy Destroyer, was in as it patrolled the Korean coast line. So, whenever we received a letter from Durward, Dad read it at the dinner table and, if the letter hinted at conflict, Dad would have to console Mom as much as he could. Of course, Mom knew that Dad knew no more than she did. Both had lived all of their lives in Owensville, and knew only what they read and heard of the world beyond that. Sometimes, Elvin lent a consoling word that Mom could have more faith in. Elvin spent time in Yokohama, Japan as part of the Japan occupation probably within months of Japan's surrender. If anyone knew of what might be happening in Korea, Elvin did, but of course he didn't really know either. How could he? "He's alright," was all Elvin could really say, but it seemed to be more effective than Dad's consolation. I don't remember that Durward's letters were alarming or gave us cause to worry. I suspect that he, like Dad, would understate serious matters or situations of danger rather than sound alarming.

In the meantime, all of us were getting lessons in world geography and we paid more attention to news of the world on the radio. We have to remember what was happening in 1950-53 in Korea, and in China and the Soviet Union for that matter. Mao Zedong had just led a revolution in China and driven Chiang Kai Shek to Taiwan and he was threatening to invade Taiwan. Mao was also pushing his friends, the North Korean communists, to attack the Korean government located in Seoul. North Korea attacked the south in June 1950. Kim Jung-One, a mean despot and a Mao-wanna-be, wanted to be a god. His army captured about 90% of Korea and by September only a small area around Pusan, on the south-east coast of Korea, was left and it wouldn't be long before the entire country would fall. General Macarthur led the amphibious invasion at Inchon on the north-west coast just below the 38th parallel (the United Nations' delineated dividing line of the two Koreas) in September 1950 successfully stopping the North Koreans. Fighting lasted until July 1953.

The Soviet Union wasn't far away. At the end of World War II, Stalin captured Japan's most northern island and clamped down the Iron Curtain around it and it was only a day's sailing from North Korea. After that, nothing was heard from the island for twenty years. The USSR's most northern Naval port, Vladivostok, was located only 50 miles from North Korea's northern border. And, the Cold War-Arms Race was just beginning. These were historical times. America had emerged from the war as the most powerful nation in the world. And, let's not forget what was happening in other parts of the Asia and Asia Minor (Middle East). Israel was a brand new country. The Middle East had been divided up into countries only a few years before. The USSR was trying to gain inroads into Egypt and its President Naguib and his second in command and to follow as Egyptian President, Abdel Nasser. Naguib and Nasser led an Egyptian Socialist revolution in 1952, following the Soviet model. And, too, the French was fighting communist in Indochina (Vietnam) and losing. It was a troubled world.

To tell the truth, after writing "North Korea, Durward and Me" and thinking about it, I thought my memory may be playing tricks on me. It didn't make sense when compared to my own Navy experience and knowledge that he would sail from the East Coast to the Pacific. When I was in the Navy, we never, I repeat "Never," heard of an East-Coast ship being assigned to a Western Pacific patrol or duty. It was, in my day, like two separate navies, one on the East Coast and one on the West. The only place in the world where the two might meet would have been in the Middle East or in the northern Indian Ocean or Persian Gulf; one navy coming by way of the the Mediterranean Sea and Suez Canal and the other coming by a route through the Indian Ocean. There, the East and West would combine forces for a few operations, then turn and make our way back to our own play ground. Yet, I distinctly remember most of the places Durward visited being discussed at home. His travels were a big deal to us and I was interested in where he was. I missed him. I remember talking about the Caribbean, Cuba, Panama Canal, San Diego, Hawaii, Japan, Philippines, India, Africa, the Suez Canal, Egypt, Italy and France and the Mediterranean Sea. We tracked his route on a globe and we listened for those countries on the radio.

Durward reported aboard the USS Rooks (I didn't know it had an "s" on it) on March 8, 1952, according to this miracle of the Internet (Find "Clark, Durward" on the page or scroll until you find his name), at Portsmouth, Virginia after he finished Storekeeper school at Newport, Rhode Island. He probably came home for two weeks after school. He was a Storekeeper Seaman Apprentice, one grade up from the bottom, nineteen years old and he had been in the Navy approximately five to six months, twelve weeks of Boot Camp, eight weeks of school, and one month of leave, when he joined the Rooks. Mom was so glad that we took a train from Princeton to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, just north of Chicago, to see him graduate from Boot Camp. She wanted to see that her son was okay. We watched all of the recruits march by the bleachers and stand at attention to receive the tributes of the speakers. All I remember about that was Mom asking, over and over again, "Do you see him? Where is he?" I don't recall that we did see him during the graduation ceremony. There were several hundred recruits all wearing dress blues and white hats, all with short-cut buzz haircuts and all looking alike. The only thing that distinguish some from others was their race. Someone, Dad or Mom, would point and say, "Is that him?" And we'd all look hard only to say, "Nope. That's not him." Later, we waited on sofa-like chairs in a large hall, Mom fidgeting and asking, "What's taking him so long?" until he finally came through the door. The reunion was joyous. It was as if he'd been gone for years instead of twelve weeks. The irony was, that after traveling that far to Chicago, a long way in those days, we only got to see him for about an hour, and then we were on our way home. A few days later, after Boot Camp, he came home for the typical fourteen-day leave before going to Newport, Rhode Island and Storekeeper School. He flew out of Evansville to Newport, which, like my travel to Rhode Island fourteen years later, was probably was his first airplane ride and likely stopped at a half-dozen airports along the way and took ten to twelve hours. I think the flight took me around eight hours. We can fly from San Francisco to Paris in eleven hours today. What a contrast! In eight weeks, he was home again for another fourteen-day leave before returning to the East Coast to the USS Rooks.

So, what was Durward up to? In those days after the war, the American Navy was the strongest military force on the planet, but it was scattered hear and yon. Since the Pacific war was primarily an air war, all of our aircraft carriers were in the Pacific, although battleships, anti-mine warfare ships and other surface fighting ships were there too. The Atlantic Ocean War was a surface and submarine war, with very little need for aircraft carriers. Germany had the big battleships and the submarines in the war and it was those that our East Coast Navy was designed to beat. Of course, each navy, Atlantic and Pacific, had taken casualties; ships were sunk and neither navy had the variation of the ships it needed. And, Ike was our President and probably the most knowledgeable military strategist on the planet. I think he saw a need to make a statement to the world in case another dictator saw an opportunity for war, sort of like, "Hey! Pay attention any of you despots and dictators who might think you want to raise a ruckus. I'm sending a large naval task force around the world to show you the kind of force I can bring down on your head. So, beware. Be belligerent at your own risk." So, he ordered a large naval task force on a world cruise. Mao hesitated to invade Taiwan and, in fact, never did. Egypt hesitated to invade Israel, delaying that for a number of years. In Ike's day, the United Nations was somewhat successful in stopping the civil war in Vietnam for a few years. Durward, it seems to me, was part of an American "show the flag world cruise."

Again, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and some dedicated old sailor or naval historian who has learned the ins and outs of it, we can read the USS Rooks' daily log. The log starts in September 1944 in Seattle, WA and the Pacific. Take a moment to read the legend of what the symbols mean, T/U, S/W, IND, etc., at the top of the log. The Rooks has quite a history. In February and March 1945, the USS Rooks was in the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most vicious battles of the Pacific. In September 1945, it took on board ninety-two Allied prisoners of war, mostly British, at Nagasaki, Japan. I found it interesting. Scroll down until you find the dates when Durward was aboard, between March 8, 1952 and November 11, 1953 when he left the ship for Port Lyautey Naval Air Station, French Morocco.

From March to September 1952, Durward hung around the East Coast, making port calls at Rockland, Maine, Newport, Rhode Island, and Portsmouth, Virginia and a trip south to Guantanamo Bay and Santiago, Cuba and Puerto Rica. Santiago is now under Castro control and we cannot visit it. By September 11, 1952, he was passing through the Panama Canal to San Diego, Hawaii, Midway Island and Sasebo, Japan and was patrolling off the east coast of North Korea by October 13 with Task Force 77. The strangest log entries in Durward's North Korean day are the entries from November 30 to December 10, 1952, "off of Wonsan Harbor, North Korea 'Tin Pan Alley'." The term, Tin Pan Alley, was around long before the Korean War, and my search suggests that the term meant a certain style tinny sounding music or musical instruments with a tin-like quality sound, such as old pianos and phonograph players. Wanson Harbor is near the northern border of North Korea where China, Siberia and North Korea meet and it is the same harbor where the USS Pueblo was captured in my day. It was a primary shipping harbor for North Korea. If they called it "Tin Pan Alley," I can only assume they meant the Tin Pan ships that supplied North Korea. Perhaps they sunk a few of them. Perhaps it was a turkey-shoot. I have no doubts that Durward saw a little action, first hand, around that harbor.

Perhaps the Rooks was hit or damaged in some way while patrolling off North Korea. It spent December 31, 1952 through January 6, 1953 in drydock #1 in Sasebo, Japan. The only reason a ship is placed in drydock is to repair hull damage, usually below the water line. I also found it odd that Sasebo would have a functional drydock and repair facilities so soon after the war. Sasebo is only a few miles north of Nagasaki that was totally destroyed by the atomic bomb and Sasebo itself was the target of some very intensive bombing. Even in my day, fifteen years later, Sasebo had not been restored to a major naval port, let alone a repair port. But, the U.S. Navy did miraculous things in building what it needed at the time. The Navy Seabees could, and still can, construct anything in a matter of days. I wonder whether Durward saw Nagasaki in those days? He would have had time to do that although the radiation may have been too hot to visit there.

He visited Yokosuka, Japan and no doubt paid tribute to Honcho Street, the "Boss" Street, the street of night clubs. In his day, Honcho Street would have been the only place that he could unwind after long days at sea. He spent five days in Yokosuka. I guess it would be nice to think that Durward was a saint and spend all of his time on base. There likely was an Enlisted Club on base, and he could have spent all of his time there, but I doubt it. The shops, night clubs and sights of Honcho Street lures everyone. Durward could not have had a beer at the Rendezvous Room, however, because he was much too early for that. The Rendezvous Room was in the Enlisted Club at the end of Honcho Street built in the late 1950s, about six years before I arrived in Yokosuka. The club was built outside of the base intentionally, to keep as many of us off the street as possible. It did the job. It was a hopping place and all sailors usually went there. The beer was cheap, the food was good and the dancing lasted until 11:00 pm, Monday through Thursday, and 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights. But, as all sailor towns, Yokosuka was a rough place and the Rendezvous Room was too. Subic Bay was worse, however.

Surprisingly, after three days at Yokosuka, the Rooks went to Atami, Japan. I know exactly what Durward saw in Atami. He couldn't have missed it! There are shrines and temples to this particular ancient cult worship all over the city. He would have been shocked and amused and he and his buddies would have had plenty to joke and laugh about for days, maybe weeks. Atami was a resort in my day with hotels with hot spring pools in which one bathed naked while, of course, modestly keeping one's body up to one's neck under water and each gender entering the pool from their own hidden dressing room. We were, nevertheless, naked under water. The city's biggest attraction, however, and it shocked me during my visit there, was (get ready for this!) its annual "Penis Festival," a fertility festival carried over from ancient days gone by. There are penis shrines, fully erect, all over the place and temples with table after table filled with all shapes and sizes and made of plaster of Paris, carved wood, molded metal and carved stone penises. It's not difficult to imagine Durward's reddened, freckled face with the "what the hell is going on" look on it.

The Royal British Navy was in the conflict as well. On February 6, the Rooks escorted the HMS (His/Her Majesty's Ship) Wave Prince, an oiler, to Sasebo, and that was her last duty around North Korea. In mid February 1953, the Rooks was in Subic Bay, Philippines and then to Singapore, a British Crown Colony then, Ceylon, Bombay, India, Bahrein in the Persian Gulf, Aden, Arabia, the Suez Canal and Port Said, Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea by March 20, 1953. Whew! He had quite a trip! Of course, Britain no longer has Crown Colonies, Bombay is now Mumbai and Arabia is now Saudi Arabia. Things have changed.

From the Rooks, Durward was transferred to Port Lyautey Naval Air Station, French Morocco, which is no longer French. I've always thought, based on something I heard or imagined, that he was at some lonely outpost in Morocco on the Mediterranean Sea, sort of Embassy Duty that a fortunate few are assigned. That's not true. Again, we have the Internet to thank for a peek at what duty at Port Lyautey might have been like in the form of a Squadron Scrapbook. Click the "Next Page" until the pictures end to see them all. And, with the French Army around, or its Foreign Legion, there would have been plenty entertainment. It looks like a nice, peaceful and fun base to spend his last two years in the Navy.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Why Do They Come?

I've been trying for several months to form the bits and pieces of a few immigrants' personal stories that I know into a suitable and comprehensible narrative. I don't want to insult them or criticize them nor expose their identities. I have a deep respect for all of the immigrants I personally know and for the small part of their stories that I know. I count all of them among my good friends. But, why did they come to America?

I suspect that what they think of America now, and what they thought of America before they came has changed. I suspect that America is not quite what they thought it was. On Friday, ABC World News ended it's week in China and the image of China that ABC presented was very impressive. High speed, 250 miles per hour Bullet Trains with nearly 6,000 miles of track to major cities in China from border to border, modern buildings that are constructed at astonishing speed, modern highways with more miles added daily, its break-neck pace developing pollution-free vehicles for a billion people and on and on. But, the thing that impressed me most were the opinions of the Chinese, from the grade-school students of ten or eleven years old to the adults, about America and what their hopes were for America and China. They thought America was "technologically advanced," "a great country," "greater than China," "more advanced than China," and a "rich country." They hoped "China and America could be friends," that "we could work together," and more similar expressions. These are the reasons they come and the dreams they have, but, it's more complicated than that.

Before your mind wanders to the things we should fear of China, both imagined and real, know that this story isn't about China or our fears. So, drop it. I can write about that some other time. In fact, this story isn't about China; it's about dreams and, of course, courage. If you haven't thought of it, however, please notice the huge disparity between what the Chinese think and the reality. We don't have 6,000 miles of high-speed rail track or a single high-speed train. In fact, we don't have one mile of high-speed track. We can't build new modern buildings in a few weeks. We're not nearly prepared to provide pollution-free vehicles to a billion people. We don't have an education system that provides college degrees to more people than there are jobs. We are ranked below China and about thirty-five other countries in critical education subjects. In fact and in reality, America is a completely different country than the image in the Chinese minds. Can we say that any of those opinions we heard are true or accurate? No.

Yet, that's the image of America, not only in China, but also for the majority of people in Europe, Africa, India, Mexico and most parts of the world. I suspect that the people of the Middle-East, the Muslim countries, on the whole, have a different image because we've shown a side of America to them that the rest of the world hasn't experienced, except perhaps Vietnam. To those, we've shown war, fear and destruction for the most part, overwhelming an image of generosity, friendship, scientific achievement and knowledge. In those countries our army does the talking and a louder voice, a more familiar voice to those who live there, comes from their culture, our foes and, in some cases, our fickle diplomatic friends such as Karzai. There are only a few who hold a good opinion of America in the Middle-East.

But, they come in spite of the huge obstacles that face them;  fear, I believe, being the first obstacle. Imagine leaving your home country, where all of the things are familiar, your parents, all of your friends and perhaps, for a short period, your wife or husband to strike out in to a completely unknown country based solely on an image and a dream. I find that mind boggling. Well, I left home too, and I lived in Japan for a total of twelve years among its citizens, but I wasn't far from my safety net, the U.S. Navy. So, it's not the same. Take the typical path an immigrant from India has to take. First, an A-1 college education is critical, usually in a science and highly technical, that they obtain in India where colleges provide an education just as good if not better than ours. Second is to connect with a U.S. contractor who will "sponsor" the immigrant's H-1 visa application, guaranteeing employment, usually at such low wages that the person cannot bring a spouse. These contract jobs are located in low-income areas of the states; i.e., Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky or Mississippi. It costs less to live, yet his wages are still too low to bring his wife. He lives in the cheapest studio apartment he can find. Meanwhile, the wife waits at her parent's home, under financial duress, without enough money for more than one 15-minute phone call a month. The contract work lasts around three years at which time the immigrant is "released" from his contract obligation and "allowed" to find another job if he so desires. Finally, he finds a better paying job that pays a salary comparable to an American worker in his field. He saves. He finally sends for his wife, and later his and/or her parents, if they want. They can also begin having children, growing a family because they can finally afford it. The wife is just as educated as the husband. Both work at jobs that pay good salaries. It's only a matter of time and saving before they have their own home and living, finally, reasonably well.

I know several Indian immigrants whose stories are probably similar to the story above. They come in all shapes and sizes with various beliefs and cultural influence, and have various temperament and personalities, but one thing is true of all of them; they are brilliant at what they do. And, they are all generous, kind, friendly and have a love of life and a work ethics that puts many of us to shame. I'm always reminded of the Intel commercial in which the Indian Electrical Engineer, the "Father of the Pentium" Intel processor, walks through a room crowded with his fans and the narrator says, "Our rock stars are not like your rock stars." I guess you could look at only the commercial aspect of the ad, but think about the contribution he made to America and world. When I think about the contribution to America that all of my Indian immigrant friends have made I think of these: I couldn't get a prescription at Kaiser as fast it now takes, only minutes, if a husband of a friend had not designed Kaiser's Pharmaceutical system to be that fast. I couldn't make a safe bank transaction or stock transaction or send an instant email over the Internet at lightning speed if a friend of my friend had not engineered a Cisco router to handle gigabytes of data in nano-seconds. I couldn't use a high speed 4 gigahertz computer if that Indian Electrical Engineer had not designed that Pentium processor. Last, but not least, I would never have learned as much about software programming and the mysteries behind computer systems and processes had it not been for these brilliant immigrants. It's been an interesting magical mystery tour.

You and I have likely used or touched a software application or website or made an Internet transaction that my friends created. We are not so far removed from one another. They are probably Hindu, not Christian. They may be Buddhist or perhaps Muslim. But, I haven't noticed any significant difference in values. I know for a fact they are not extremists or terrorists. And, in spite of the differences between that dream they may have once had and the reality of America, they still love America. I'm glad they came.

Then there is a different circumstance for a young Irishman who, at the age of twenty-one in 1993, decided to visit America with three friends after they graduated from a Dublin university. It was intended to be just a summer visit, not a lifetime. But, I wonder whether he already knew or hoped that he would stay longer than the summer. There is a clue, later, that suggests that he did not intend to return to Ireland. There is also evidence that he kept his plans secret from his parents. The plan, they said, was to go to Kansas City, because it was the center of the country. Imagine that! Of all of the places a group of Irish students would choose, I would never have thought Kansas City would be one of them.

But, he (who I will call Mike - not his real name) and one other came first to New York, the other two to come a week later after they graduated. Mike and his friend attended a week-long "indoctrination" at Columbia University and found themselves at the street curb outside the university, one inside the cab and Mike seconds away from getting in it, when they suddenly had a moment of indecision. One said suddenly, "I'm going to Boston. That's where all Irish go. That's where we can find Irish friends." I can imagine that he was afraid of the unknown and wanted familiar people around him. But, Mike promised. Kansas City was where they were supposed to meet. What would the two following think? Mike closed the cab door and it drove away toward Grand Central Station and a train to Boston. Mike took a second cab to LaGaurdia Airport for a flight to Kansas City and into the unknown. After all, he promised.

All that Mike knew at that point was that he might, I say "might," be able to stay with friend of a friend for a few nights, perhaps long enough to get more permanent lodging. The plane landed in Kansas City and Mike called the friend, once removed, cold-turkey and asked him if he could stay a few nights. Imagine getting a phone call from a guy you didn't know from Adam wanting to use your spare bedroom for a few nights! What gall! What audacity! What absurdity! What courage! They gave him a place to sleep for a few days.

Mike found other lodging, his two friends arrived, he met a local Irishman who apparently ran a small organization that helped new Irish immigrants find their way around Kansas City, he found a job busing or waiting on tables in a restaurant around the river-front area and, to take the edge off of his loneliness and natural needs, he hooked up. That is probably a good, concise summary of his summer in Kansas City. It probably wasn't easy, but it was likely fun. Kansas City's river-front district is a lively place, an area around 8th and 12th Streets and Grand and Baltimore Boulevards, similar in some ways to San Antonio's river-side restaurants and bars. A place where a young and active person could have fun. I suspect he had a few extra dollars, but not much. He would have been conservative, I believe. The surprising clue to his intent, that I learned at this point in his story, was that "my working visa was approved" he said. A working visa?

He returned to Ireland to get his new visa and then came back to Kansas City. At this point, there is no doubt that Mike intended to leave Ireland. I've heard a number of hints over the years that indicate how his decision was made. One time he said, "I just up and left. I told my parents we were on a 'guided tour'," or words to that effect. Another time, more recently, after marriage and as a father of two young sons, he said something like, "can you imagine just up and leaving like that? I hope my children don't do that!" Age, responsibility, love changes a person's perspective. He now understands the impact of his youthful impulsiveness on his parents.

I can't help but think about what, if anything, pushed him toward leaving his home country and the safety and familiarity of his youth to come to a new country. Was it the dream-like image of a great, technically superior, Silicone Valley America, the conditions in Ireland, the urge for adventure, the Protestant-Catholic violence in Ireland, or an unexplainable combination of things? He had no employer sponsor. He had few friends and contacts. He was essentially alone.

It wasn't long before Mike left Kansas City with his girlfriend and they made their way to Tahoe, Nevada. In Tahoe, he got a job at a casino hotel at the check-in/out, reception counter. I probably saw him there! Back in those days, I regularly went to Tahoe four or five times a year. But, if I had known him then, I would have been able to tell you that being a hotel concierge was not Mike's cup of tea, and, in Tahoe, there's not much opportunity for anything else. It didn't take long before Mike, restless and disenchanted with Tahoe, was on the move again, this time to Reno, where he finally landed a job more suitable to his education, although only barely, which I understand to be sort of a dispatcher-computer operator-trouble shooter-clerk/analyst for a trucking company or a delivery company, a one-man shop. I'm sure he had doubts and fears too. I understand that during his Tahoe-Reno period, he found himself alone on a bus returning to Kansas City only to turn around and return to Tahoe. Maybe there was a disagreement in his relationship. Maybe frustration in the moment, of losing sight of a future of better times, or simply homesickness, that caused moments of doubt. If you've ever been away from home, alone in an unknown place, then you know the feeling.

Whatever the case, Mike eventually severed his personal relationship and sometime later met his future wife in Reno. But, Reno too is a casino town, not a center of business. There was not an opportunity to grow in Reno, at least not enough to suit Mike. He move to San Francisco. I can hear him tell it, "just up and moved." I was surprised to learn that he moved before he had a job. Personally, I've never tried moving before I had a job in the vicinity I was moving to. I don't have that much faith. But, Mike did and soon he had a software engineer job in the area noted for software development, the Silicone Valley and surrounding cities. Every business in the Bay Area was in the "dot-com" business in the 1990s. It was a booming business with boom-town like qualities. Ironically, in a year or so, Mike's next job was with a software company based out of the Puget Sound/Seattle area as a Bay Area software systems/installation consultant. Once in his field of study, he advanced from simple programming to installing and customizing complete customer relations systems for an entire company. That's a big jump.

It wasn't long when one of his client companies noticed him and offered him a supervisory job on the spot. It was inevitable. And, in a few years, and about twelve years after leaving his Irish home, Mike moved into a near office as department director, a position held by his predecessor as a Vice President position. I've never understood why the position was downgraded, but Mike will go on to company vice president and president positions, or perhaps his own company, if he wants that. Meanwhile, he has a lovely family, two homes and a great future. It seems to me, even though the truth is likely a lot different than the dream he had, that it was all worth it. And, Mike too has contributed to America. You may be using or touching his systems, his changes and the results of his efforts when you buy from or contact or deal with companies. I hope that those companies serve you better because of Mike's efforts. He was excited and proud the day he went for his naturalization exam and oath. He was excited when he returned, "I did it!" he said. Well, of course he did it. What else would I have expected! I was happy for him.

You might say that these immigrants are different. They're highly educated and needed and they are documented. Well, that's true. But the dream is the same, the image is the same and the courage is the same. I'm reminded of Jose who takes care of my lawn twice a month. He's been here for a long time and probably gained his citizenship through President Reagan's amnesty program. His son, a citizen by birth, is a store owner in Hayward and and a graduate of California Hayward University. He provides jobs, supports the Hayward economy and pays state and federal taxes.

So, I suppose we can be hurtful, hateful, afraid and prejudiced, but it is our loss. We need enlightened immigration laws. This is a great country, made all the greater because they come.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Mob Opinion Driven Justice Begats Injustice

I guess what keeps me shouting is that I don't hear anything but silence on important issues, except from the Mob. The Mob, it seems, even wants to run our courts. In this case, Ghailani, a terrorist, was convicted of conspiring in one or both of the two simultaneous 1998 American Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Nairobi, Africa. He was convicted in a Federal Court instead of a Military Commission. And, the Mob is upset, as this story, A Terrorist Gets What He Deserves - NYTimes.com, says.

The fact is that a Federal Court has more laws that it can try a person for, such as criminal laws like hijacking, murder to a number of degrees, espionage, subversion, kidnapping, etc., while a Military Commission can only apply laws related to military law, such as treason on the battle field, hostile insurgency, military action against civilians, torture of war prisoners, etc. As a general rule, both the civilian court and military court should conduct court procedures the same. In one case, a civilian jury will decide guilt or innocence and perhaps punishment, and in the other a panel of three, five or seven military officers will act as a jury. In both cases, the intent is to base the trial and innocence or guilt on fact and evidence, not opinion or gut feeling or hyped media noise. In both cases, evidence obtained by coercion, such as by torture, is usually thrown out because there is no valid way of determining whether the evidence is the truth or not. Read the article. It cites other Military Commission cases in which evidence was tossed out because of the non-traditional manner in the way it was obtained, i.e., coercion.

So, why is the Mob upset. It is upset because Ghailani didn't get "the max." The jury did not convict on 284 counts. The jury convicted on only one count; conspiracy. I am much more pleased and assured that justice was served when I hear that a jury used discretion in its convictions than I am when I hear that a jury convicted on everything thrown at it or that a jury agreed totally with all the hype in media venting by some politician, such as Senator McConnell. McConnell wasn't on the jury. He didn't hear the facts and evidence and testimony. He knows nothing. He also, apparently, doesn't trust our legal system. Have to wonder why he is a Senator, one of a hundred that passes our laws.

Everyday we hear of cases where public opinion convicted a suspect and later we hear of scientific evidence, based on updated scientific forensic methods, that proves innocence. Everyday we hear that public opinion, prosecutors, courts and governors who will not acknowledge the new forensic evidence because of some gut-feeling based opinion. I wrote about a Texas case before Governor Perry was reelected in which new, advanced scientific evidence gave every indication that the suspect, Todd Willingham, was innocent. But, the whole town, Willingham's wife, and Governor Perry said, "he's a bad man," so Texas executed him.

I'm also reminded of the California conviction and death sentence of Scott Peterson for murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child. That case was plastered on every newscast for weeks and Nancy Grace prosecuted him on her show for no other reason than he was a liar. The trial was held in San Mateo, only twenty miles from my house, and I saw and heard every bit of evidence in the trial every day in minute detail with scurrilous convicting commentary. "He's a liar!" they yelled. "He's an adulterer!" they said. Well, he was all of that, and a foolish, hallucinating idiot to boot because he couldn't keep his mouth shut in spite of his attorney's advice and he concocted the tallest tales. But, a murderer? By the end of the trial, and after all of the evidence was paraded on every newscast, radio and television, the police admitted that there was not one iota of forensic evidence that actually showed that he murdered his wife. Not one drop of blood, not a sign of a fight, not a sign of dismembering his wife as she was found, not one timeline that indicated he might have done it. There was a lot of circumstantial "damning" evidence created by Scott himself, but the only forensic evidence was a single hair found on a pair of pliers in the family boat. His conviction was totally based on "theory." I have doubts to this day whether he really did it. After his trial, there was another pregnant woman found, dismembered as Laci was, in the Bay as Laci was. The second woman's murder never made the news like Laci's did. As far as I know, the second killer was never found, but it was eerily similar to Laci's murder.

I might have been able to justify in my mind that Scott Peterson killed his wife, but I'm not sure I could have been so convinced to vote to put him to death. I was really troubled by public display and mob behavior. Public opinion and Scott's behavior convicted him. But, in spite of Scott's behavior, it wouldn't surprise me if some day we learn through new evidence that he didn't do it.

When the Mob runs our courts, we can't trust our legal system. In fact, we can't trust anything.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some People Will Believe Anything - A False Witness Even on a Nice Day

I usually wake up early and listen to the usual suspects on the radio to get the daily blather while I go through the New York Times and Washington Post headlines. Funny thing this morning - the radio was playing Christmas music, and I love Christmas music. Well, I thought, the usual host must be taking the day off, so I let it pass and enjoyed the music. But, when 5:00 A.M. passed and the music didn't turn into the morning news, it got my attention so I listened closer to learn what station I was listening to. Someone, apparently, changed the station to KOIT (Kay-Oh-Eye-Tee, as it says, RADIO - you have to sing it). KOIT always starts playing Christmas music in November and I usually listen to it, so I left the station tuned to KOIT. It's a nice way to start the day.

That didn't stop me from thinking, however, about yesterday's Ronn Owens KGO Talk Show. Owens is easy to figure out. Track any Republican talking point, no matter how outrageously delusional it is, from Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Right-Wing blogger or any Fox News personality and it will eventually make it to The Ronn Owens show, and Owens usually takes the Right Wingnut side. Owens is a neo-con, a so-called "New Conservative." He's a Leo Strauss guy, the political philosopher, in that it is okay to voluntarily "fabricate a myth and an illusion (or delusion)" to attain the desired results. In other words, it's just fine to lie, distort the truth or create a myth to get what you want. It is also okay to accept a lie as part of an argument about any issue. Like Strauss says, "it is human nature to accept and choose, and in fact desire, a myth or untruth over the hard facts of the truth," or words to that effect. We can't face the truth, Strauss says, and we like it that way. Strauss' conclusions came, he claims, from reading all the great philosophers from Socrates to Locke.

Well, I'm no philosopher and I don't claim to be, but I can read and understand English and I can usually think through the things I read, hear and observe enough to come to a reasonable conclusion. So, I have to ask: How can anyone make a good decision about anything if they are not willing to learn the factual truth, or as much as they possibly can about the truth? But, in today's world, I am apparently wrong. I don't remember a time when so many people are so willing to believe and pass on distortion of facts, outright lies, rumor and innuendo. I have to wonder what happened to that old Golden Rule about not being a "False Witness." It's forgotten, I guess.

The truth is that I can't stand Owens' show because of his willingness to distort the truth and to continue myth. He is a false witness. I listen until I have to get up from the chair and turn him off, usually long enough to tell what the morning subjects are, where his conversation is going in his first hour and what his point of view is. Long enough to hear that what he has to say is the usual rubbish. But, yesterday, I listened a little longer because I found the position he took intriguing. I thought, until yesterday, that Owens knew his own political philosophy, that he identified himself as Right-Wing, a neo-con and a wingnut. But, after yesterday's show, I don't think he knows. He is just as deluded by his own blather as most Right-Wingnuts are and he thinks he's a moderate and he's gaming his listeners. His sole agenda is to be controversial, to compete with those other Right-Wing talk-show hosts for the sole purpose of gaining listeners, to improve his ratings. He's a con-artist and it's probably intentional KGO policy. He may not have an honest personal opinion about anything and he's not interested in the truth.

Yesterday's show was about Obama spending $200 million a day on his Asian trip. $200 million a day? Any normal person who has a brain should know from the outset that a statement like that is hogwash. But, the Drudge Report, the usual suspect, picked it up from some "anonymous" source in India and Minnesota's Congresswoman Michele Nutcake Bachmann repeated it on CNN with Anderson Cooper. Cooper checked into it and debunked it the next day and Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, patted Cooper on the back for debunking the myth. Actually, I'd like to see more lie debunking by the mainstream media, but didn't we know that it was hogwash when we heard it? Do we actually believe that it cost $200 million a day for a Presidential trip? The story said that thirty-four U.S. warships were "standing off the coast of India" to protect the President. Are you kidding? I spent twenty years in the Navy and not once did we EVER send a single ship to protect a President, and they visited areas where we were close enough to do that. The FACT IS, our admiral would have laughed in the President's face if he got a request like that. THE NAVY'S MISSION IS NOT TO PROTECT THE PRESIDENT - IT IS TO PROTECT AMERICA!! In fact, a Pentagon spokesman said just that, "it's laughable." The Secret Service protects the President.

The story had other, just as outrageous, lies; such as 800 hotel rooms booked for the entourage in hotels that only had 200 or so rooms, nearly an entire air force following in tow, and other such innuendo to disparage Obama. Owens asked, "Where does this stuff come from?" acting incredulous. "This comes from the Right Wing," he said, as if the "Right Wing" wasn't his wing. He seemed genuinely unaware of what Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh say on a daily basis, even when he eventually, in a few days or a week, picks up on the same subjects and the same points of views they discuss and spews it from his show. The "Muslim Mosque" that he was "sensitive to" and against and he completely ignored the Constitution, the "Koran book burning" "that he understood," the "two Presidents" that he thought "might work," "the British compulsory work plan for the lazy unemployed" he "supported" and the Sarah Palin "Presidency" that he thinks "might work" are all Right-Wing sponsored rubbish. I'm sure that he'll say, "I didn't say that" or "that's not the impression I gave," but he did. He pretends to be moderate, "looking at both sides of an issue," while he spreads the Right-Wing propaganda to his legions with a "soft touch." Of course all the while he's claiming "freedom of speech" for anything and everything he says. It's ironic that we've distorted the concept of freedom of speech so much that it now includes our right to knowingly and willingly lie.

I heard the $200 million a day story two weeks ago. I wrote a blog post about it on November 5th. I'm surprised that Owens picked up on it so late or that he picked up on it at all. Well, he reads the New York Times, so he picked it up. It's controversial, so he picked it up. And, since Anderson Cooper debunked it, Owens had no choice except to agree with Cooper. I wonder what train of thought he would have pursued if Cooper hadn't led the way to the truth to start with. But, Owens is not alone. It is a trendy thing to spread untrue hype, especially by email. I've managed to stop many of those rumor and innuendo, disparaging stories of false witness from reaching me by sending them back to the sender with links or references to where the sender can find the truth. I find it curious that those emails stop coming when the lie is debunked. That's not to say, however, that the person stops sending them to other people. I've noticed that those people that I once received those emails from are still sending them to other people, but not to me. Isn't that highly irrational? You'd think that once a viral email is debunked and the truth laid bare, that that simple fact would cause a person to pause before sending it on to others.

I also find it curious on who sends those emails. These are seemingly intelligent, educated people in positions of responsibility; teachers, lawyers, judges, doctors, investigative reporters. The last email disparaging President Obama I received, only a few weeks ago, was about "Subject:  REAL ESTATE SALES TAX TO GO INTO EFFECT 2013 (Part of HC Bill) -- Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8% sales tax on it? That’s $3,800 on a $100,000 home etc. When did this happen? It’s in the healthcare bill. Just thought you should know..." Actually, the truth is entirely different, and it can be found here. I sent the email back to everyone it went to, including the teacher who sent it to the person who sent it to me. I debunked the myth in my return email. And, of course, the other part of the healthcare bill story is that it wasn't Obama that wrote the health bill anyway. It was Congress, and if you're really interested in how the insurance industry manipulated the Senate process and the Senators who sold us out, here is the Frontline report on how Obama was backed into a corner on the healthcare bill. The story is called "Obama's Deal," but what I noticed is how much he didn't like the medicine that he was forced to take. It should piss you off at the corrupt Senators who sold out and the insurance companies who bribed them, not Obama.

The funny thing is that I haven't received an email from "that" person since. I did receive another from the "teacher," showing a small boy with a t-shirt that read "The mess in my pants is nothing compared to the mess the Democrats will make in this country if they win Nov. 2." That's funny... and delusional. The facts are that there is overwhelming evidence that Reagan's Supply-Side, voodoo, free market economic ideology led the way to our financial destruction by what our so-called leaders, including President Reagan who started the ball rolling, have been doing for the past 40 years. And, there appear to be only a few in Congress and government who understand the true cause, including President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Barney Frank and Senators Carl Levin and Christopher Dodd, yet these are among the most hated people in the United States; hated because of hyped Right-Wing propaganda. Hated because of Ronn Owens and the wingnuts he follows and their nonsense he spreads. Republicans, as a whole, are more than willing to exploit ignorance of the masses, as is Owens. And, Republicans, as a whole, believe in the ideology, from A to Z, that got us into the mess we're in.

Another, and equally surprising point is that here we have a teacher, teaching our kids at his high school, who sends these lies to everyone when he hasn't a clue about the historical facts of the recession or the truth of allegations he sends in emails. Rather than find and spread the truth, which we might expect from a teacher, he would rather be a false witness. How's that for a teacher? It troubles me. Does it trouble you? I'm not surprised that our children continue to be more ignorant as each year passes in spite of paying more for education. I'm not surprised that the Tea Party leaders were able to exploit the ignorant in this country. It has been happening for years. They don't know any better. And, it is obvious that for the teacher, and those who are mislead, further self-education has stopped, perhaps on graduating from high school or college. Even recreational reading has stopped, apparently, otherwise, it is logical to assume that people at least would educate themselves on current events and would know better. In that regard, Fox News keeps them misinformed.

The scary thing is that we could very easily end up with President Sarah Palin, who said yesterday that she believes she can defeat President Obama. The fact that we had two terms of President Bush is proof enough that voters in this country can be misled over and over again. We too easily believe hype and lies and we elect those who tell them. Before we get to Palin's run for President, I'd like to see Britain's law passed in our country; if you lie to get elected, then you get kicked out immediately. But then, we wouldn't have a single person in office if we did that!

I guess if I had to make up a Christmas list, these items would be on it.

1. If you're going to vote, please, please learn about the person you're voting for. It's not about the person. It's about his or her ideology. Please don't vote for the same ideology that nearly destroyed us. You won't get anything you're voting for if you put those people in power.
2. If you're going to send me an email, make sure you're an honest witness to the truth. Do the research and tell the truth. Don't be a false witness or you will get the email back debunked to the best of my ability.
3. Be honest enough to tell the truth to those who send you distorted truth or lies the truth. Debunk the lies yourself and send them back to sender.
4. Be honest with yourself. If you're following the Right-Wing hype, find out if they're telling you the truth. Research their claims. Figure out, the bottom line, about why you are following it.
5. Read a book or see a documentary that gives a good account of how and why we came to be in the condition we're in, for example, All the Devils are Here, is about the economic collapse and who caused it. The Documentary "Inside Job" is also about the mega-bank crash, who did what, and is also good reporting. Learn about the wars we're in, and what's right and wrong about them and what the obstacles are.

And, on a personal note:
6. Don't buy me "stuff." My closet, drawers, bed-side table, bed-side chair, desk, garage and utility closet are full. I have no place to put the stuff you buy, not even space for a Christmas card. Send me a "Merry Christmas" email or text or call instead.
7. Use the time you were going to spend on shopping for me to take a nap - on me. You'll be refreshed.
8. Use the money you planned for my gift to buy yourself something, like a dinner for two - on me.
9. Have a Merry Christmas. Listen to some Christmas music.