Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Root Canal, But I Digress

Yesterday at lunch with a good friend the subject of root canals came up. She said that while on a trip to Mumbai, India, she had to have a root canal on a painful tooth and she had it done in Mumbai. I sensed a tone of surprise when she said the dentist used the same modern equipment, was just as skilled and just as caring as she experienced in the US. She was thoroughly satisfied. And, the shocker? It only cost $150.00, total. "It paid for my plane ticket," she said.

What! My contribution to the discussion was that the cost of my root canal, in progress, is $1,350 and my share of that, after insurance, is $855, and that may not be all I pay. My dentist says I may need a "post," to firm up the tooth, that will cost another $345 out of my pocket since my insurance has capped out for the year. So, now that he has prepared me for another pocket-shock, I will probably "need" the post, since he suggested it, whether I really need it or not, primarily because I don't know any better and I've been sold on the idea for as long as I remember that dentists are "special," held to higher standards, expected to know the complexities of the human body (and teeth) and from all of their very expensive eduction they know what they're talking about. And, from there, the conversation digressed into why the cost disparity between a dentist here and a dentist there and why our costs in the US of A are so much higher.

I guess that you can guess how many turns the discussion could take, but I think dentists in America are overpaid. Can we say that "our" dentist are better trained than those in India? I don't think so. In Japan, a dentist's standard of living is middle class and not at all extravagant. Are they somehow not as good as ours? From the cost in India, it must be the same there; an Indian dentist must not have a high, extravagant standard of living because, if they did, the cost would be higher. I'm sure there are other reasons for the disparity, high insurance administrative costs for example, but US dentists do live extremely well, drive expensive cars, have the nicest homes and pretty much live the "good life." It is not a very hard job. It isn't "back breaking, laborious" work. The fact is, being brutally honest, I have to ask the question: just what is it that makes them "special?" How complicated is a tooth?

When all is said and done, a tooth is a pretty simple structure with a few layers of various materials, held in place by roots embedded in bone and a firm grasp of skin and tissue. That's it! Nothing more. One tooth is pretty much like the next. Google search for tooth structure and only one picture is returned; a crown, neck and root composed of enamel, denture, pulp, gum, bone, root canal, nerve, blood vessel, etc. Know one, know them all. What's the big deal?

I'd say that a dentist isn't much more than a glorified auto mechanic, and maybe, in terms of intelligence, less is required. An automobile is a complex piece of equipment, with new designs and technological improvements every year. A mechanic must never stop learning, or else they become obsolete in a year or two. What is there that a dentist must study every year? A new drill bit? A new digital x-ray machine? Nothing hard about that.

And, an automobile can't touch the complexities in computer programming! Try defining an "object," for example. Webster says an object is "anything that has a fixed shape or form, that you can touch or see, and that is not alive." But, that's not true! In the ephemeral and ambiguous worlds of cyberspace and programming, an object doesn't have a fixed shape or form and you can't touch or see it. But, a huge contradiction is that you can "know" it! It is true that it isn't alive - until you make it live. Try to wrap your brain around that definition! Talk about Zen Buddhism of unreal reality! This stuff will drive a programmer nuts and a non-programmer bonkers! Because in object-oriented programming, a programmer must "use" other "objects" that may or may not exist on your computer. There are hundreds of thousand of objects on your computer, maybe millions, and all could be at the beck and call of a programmer - if he or she knows they are there. If there isn't, or he/she doesn't know they are there, then the programmer has to "create," like a god, an object to use in the program. If that idea hasn't confused you, then try this one. Not only does the programmer have to create objects for the program to function, the object should be "polymorphic," able to take on numerous shapes and forms and "uses" yet still remain process specific, i.e., built to do finely defined functions, AND reusable in other programs if possible. Ha! That ought to make your head spin. Try to do that, Dr. Dentist!

All of this takes me back to another root canal I had done by Dr. Fry in early 2001, around the time I started my full-time computer programming job. Since it turned out that I have a knack for programming, I love the challenge and the logical thinking required and the infinite puzzle solving and especially the group of people the job put me with, and I was thinking of "after-hours" contract programming (I was, in fact, doing that for my previous company to help them transition to the new guy after I left), Dr. Fry asked me while I sat in his chair what I would charge to create him a web site. "$125 an hour," I said, the going rate for programming at the time, and in fact the rate I was charging my previous company. "Oh no!" he said, going nearly apoplectic, "that's way to much!" That just showed how much he knew about programming, i.e., very damn little. In fact, he was so disturbed by my quote that he broke off one of those mini-files in one of my root canals that finally, a few years later, caused an infection and I had to have the tooth pulled. That's why I'm seeing a different dentist for my latest root canal. Dr. Fry not only didn't know anything about programming, he apparently knew very little, or not enough, about dentistry.

So, what's the bottom line? It would likely surprise Dr. Fry that the average run of the mill programmer is worth four or five times their salaries to successful software companies. Microsoft and Oracle, for example, earn over three-quarters of a million dollars per year for each of their programmers, although they don't pay the programmers nearly that amount. Most programmers don't know that either. If they did, they would start forming unions to demand better wages. But, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison know it. What do you think made them so rich? How much do those brilliant programmers, such as Vaishali, Phil, Shivani, Mark, Dan-the-database-man, Namrata, Jeyasree and Barbara earn for their companies? Maybe two or three million each per year or more. They can make your iPhone talk while it does the Polka and your credit card safe and secure as it passes through those ambiguous secure socket object layers. Absolutely phenomenal!

We pay dentists way too much. Is there any other conclusion? They are only glorified technicians. Nothing more. Let's have them drive Chevies instead of BMWs. 


Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Argument for Democracy and Liberty

I feel another opportunity to quote "John Adams," by David McCullough. The setting is that John Adams is in London representing the United States at the King George III court in 1787. The United States was not yet the United States, but only a lose confederation of thirteen countries and the Constitutional Convention that would eventually bring the thirteen states together under one government was just beginning. John Adams, obsessed with the idea that the constitution could go wrong if left up to the likes of Thomas Paine and others, rush to write and publish "A Defence of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America" in London newspapers and, in the meantime, he sent copies to Congress and others in the United States by the earliest ship setting sail. Thomas Jefferson was in Paris, representing the United States to King Louis XVI. The quote from the book, italics are Adam's quotes, bold is my emphasis:

"As he explained to Jefferson, much of what he wrote was in response to the dangers of radical French thought. Specifically he had written in defence (hence the title) against the theories of the philosophe [sic] Turgot, who espoused perfect democracy and a single legislature, or as he wrote, 'collecting all authority into one center, that of the nation.' To Adams this was patent nonsense. A simple, perfect democracy had never yet existed. The whole people were incapable of deciding much of anything, even on the small scale of a village. He had had enough experience with town meetings at home to know that in order for anything to be done certain powers and responsibilities had to be delegated to a moderator, a town clerk, a constable, and, at times, to special committees.

"Reliance on a single legislature was a certain road to disaster, for the same reason reliance on a single executive - King, potentate, president - was bound to bring ruin and despotism. As the planets were held in their orbits by centripetal forces, 'instead of rushing to the sun or flying off in tangents' among the stars, there must, in a just and enduring government, be a balance of forces. Balance, counterpoise, and equilibrium were ideals he turned to repeatedly. If all power were to be vested in a single legislature, 'What was there to restrain it from making tyrannical laws, in order to execute them in a tyrannical manner?'"

As everyone knows, or should know, we got our three, separate powers in government, the Legislature divided into two parts, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and our Executive Branch, and a separate Judiciary. So, John Adams had his way and we are very lucky he did. Our government has lasted 234 years. And, as far as I can tell, President Obama is trying to make it work. He's made an enormous effort to bring the GOP into the decision process during one of the most critical times in our history, but he's been met by obstructionism at every turn.

It seems to me that reaching that "balance" is the key, and to vote for people who are willing to participate in our legislature and in good governing. I don't see that happening from the Republican side of the isle. In fact, they have made our legislature about as ineffective as it could ever be by obstructing every effort on critical issues. It, the GOP, is more than willing to vote for war, but not one single bill for America can be passed, not even when they've supported it in the past. Is there anyone who doesn't believe the GOP's obstructionism is anything other than politics for power's sake? It seems to me that Democracy, and probably liberty, is walking out of the door, pushed by the very people yelling the loudest for liberty.

It could be that the triple whammy of G. W. Bush's policies, his Supreme Court appointments and the GOP obstructionism will bring America to its fall. It is really very sad. I wouldn't vote for a Republican if you paid me to. And, I won't vote for one until I see some sign that they've got their heads out of their asses. I'll tell you the Republican I would vote for. I would vote for the one that stands up and says, "the Tea Party can't run this country, and FOX news, Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh doesn't decide the agenda of this country. McConnell doesn't decide my vote and neither does John Boehner. If you vote for me, I'll go to Washington D. C. for you, and this country, and nobody else." I'd start listening to that guy or gal, Democrat or Republican.

By the way, being a Super Power and a Democracy could be, and likely are, contradictory. They are not synonymous terms. Having a democracy with liberty doesn't mean we will be a super power, the one based on common sense and the other more than likely based on arrogance. Which would you choose?


Monday, July 26, 2010

This Time Is Different, but It Ain't

I spent the weekend trying to read a new book, "This Time is Different: A Panoramic View of Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, two eminent economist. The data they collected for their study goes back centuries, to fourteenth century England, Spain in the 1500s, the economic effect of the Napoleonic Wars on France, Asian economic crises in China and India, African crises and Latin and North America crises. They collected a lot of data. It is very difficult reading and I'm only halfway through it. I would have preferred a summary, but they go to great lengths explaining how they used the data and where the data came from, so, to get to the point, you have to read all of the detail. So far, the point appears to be that the title of the book is intended to be contradictory: This Time is NOT Different at all. It's all happened before, again and again. The title seems to be sarcasm aimed at all of those policy makers and economist who say, "this time is different." But, a little attention to history could have save our bacon. Our government, and the Federal Reserve and Allen Greenspan in particular should have seen the crisis coming and should have done something. The thing that got in the way was ideology, the free-market, greedy libertarian philosophy, which in turn motivated the Republican government to deregulate.

So far, two things appear to be true in history:

  1. A country that required through regulations that banks limit risks and hold sufficient assets in house to  support loans, i.e., debt, were much better able to weather the financial storm. They didn't need to bailout their businesses.
  2. A country that saved during good times is better able to weather bad times.
Of course, we did neither of these. In fact, since President Reagan we deregulated at record speed culminating with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that controlled banks in the late 1990s and loosed the dogs of the financial world. And, the "debt doesn't matter" Bush and Cheney Administration put us in debt at record levels with rich-man tax cuts and record defense and war spending, and of course the dumbest, most expensive drug, pro-pharmaceutical company prescription legislation in history, among other of the dumbest and expensive things they did. You name it and they screwed it up and put us deep in debt.

So now we have a good President inundated with ideological arguments in Washington D. C., and ideology seems to be winning - everywhere. Which legislation do you want to talk about? How about the climate change bill? The gist of the reason it failed to pass is that the so-called "Conservatives" are determined to "conserve" the oil and coal industry instead of conserving our country. It appears that we're going to continue to pay Arab countries for oil instead of revolutionize our energy industries to Green Energy. Go figure that one out. Even if you don't believe in climate change, wouldn't it be a good idea to be self sufficient? We are going to be sorry we didn't do something, such as kicking the conservatives out of government entirely.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Told You So - The Bush Effect: An Activist Supreme Court

Surprise, surprise. Is it too early to say, "I told you so?" If I can already say that, then it's a surprise to me too. I thought the "Bush Supreme Court Effect" would take longer and that I may not live long enough to say "I told you so." But, it appears to be time, so here it is. If you are conservative or libertarian, I'll bet you believe you stand for "Freedom," with a capital "F." And so, under that delusion, you voted for G. W. Bush, stomped for war and big defense spending, joined in celebrations when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, call Arabs ragheads, yelled "drill, baby, drill" in unison with John McCain and Sarah Palin, and you may be on the Tea Party path, all for the cause of Freedom and Democracy. And, you may have that symbolic gun on your wall or on a rack behind your pickup seat. You may be even wearing a gun around your waist, just beneath your pot belly and will, more than likely, shoot your own foot when you pull it out than protect yourself from some imaginary foe. I would say, however, that owning that "gun" is about the only Freedom you've got. You have already, symbolically, shot your own foot.

This article, "Court Under Roberts is Most Conservative in Decades," shows that you've got your wish, you can own a gun. But, you may not have any right or freedom from prosecution under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the one that says you are protected from "unreasonable search and seizure" of your property and home. In fact, in the case of Hudson v. Michigan, the court ruled that the police can enter your home anytime, without notice or knocking, and seize anything it wants and use it as evidence against you. Was it Senator Sam Ervin, the Chairman of the Watergate Committee, who told John Ehrlichman, in response to Ehrlichman's claim that breaking into to Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office was okay, "the King cannot enter your house without permission?" I guess under the Robert's Court, The King can now enter your home whenever he wants to, and take whatever he wants. The Forth Amendment is dead. I'm reminded of a series of questions that apply to the death of the Forth Amendment. It goes something like this. "If there are ten innocent people, will you destroy it?" "No," was the answer. And, from ten innocent, the questioner reduced the number one by one to finally ask, "If there is a single innocent person, will you destroy it?" "No," was still the answer. What do you believe? Can the police enter a home, before the guilt or innocence of a person is determine by trial, and seize property without a warrant, or even knocking first? Is a person's guilt determined before a trial?

And then there is that hottest item on the agenda, abortion, the main question being whether a woman can control her own destiny or not. It is ironic that the best way to reduce abortions is to provide these woman with good, affordable healthcare, but that was defeated by conservative and libertarian movements. In all countries that provide socialized healthcare, abortion rates have been reduced to nearly zero and only those that are a threat to the woman's life are performed. You can read those statistics by searching the United Nations database yourself. But, here we are, shouting for better treatment of women in Afghanistan and Iran (they're going to execute a woman in Iran because of some archaic law), and in China women can have only one child, yet we want to make our own women criminals when they are faced with choices that mean life or death to themselves. Perhaps we should go the way of the Catholic Church without the slightest birth control, and then become like China with so many people we restrict families to one child or go to jail? How many innocent women will we jail or, for that matter, die? Can we say that no woman getting an abortion is innocent? What if only one, of all that get abortions, is innocent and is forced into her circumstances by our own archaic laws or social oppression? But, it appears that the Robert's Court is moving to overturn Roe v. Wade and make a woman's body the property of the government, innocent or not.

How about freedom of speech? I suppose we still have that in that we still can say what we want to say. But, as an individual, our voice is nearly a whisper compared to corporate voices. We will not likely be heard. In Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the Robert's Court overturned a previous ruling that restricted corporate campaign spending, and now, even when the campaign ads and information are lies and deceitful, corporations and unions are allowed to spend whatever they want from their corporate profit to promote deceitful ads and misinformation in our elections. The real result is that our individual freedom of speech is diminished and oppressed. And, then there are the voices of the poor. Who hears those voices? Do they say anything at all? I think when they can't speak, neither can we. When there is no justice for them, then we have no freedoms either.

There's more and I recommend reading the article. It turns out, it seems to me, that liberalism is freedom's cause, not conservatism or libertarianism. The very meaning of the word, liberal, means freedom. I hate to say it, but I told you so.


Friday, July 23, 2010

European Union Chaos - The People's Rule

Now that I know a few people who I count as friends in Sweden, a member of the European Union, I'm paying attention to what the Union does. In this article, Europe Turns Ear Toward Voice of the People -, a German member of the European Parliament is proposing that "the people" of the Union approve a referendum that all Union countries require all businesses to close on Sundays and make Sundays a "family day." It seems to me a bit arrogant for a guy in Germany to suggest which day of the week a family in Sweden set aside as "family day." What if a Swedish family business made all of its income on weekends and couldn't survive on the income it made Monday through Saturday? Or, is a sport, which is usually played on weekends, including Sunday, a business or a sport? In those cases, should a guy in Germany set the law on the conduct of those businesses in Sweden, or Greece or Spain or any other country of the European Union? I would have a real problem with that. In fact, the Sunday Family Day proposal is laughable.

We had a similar discussion at dinner with Robert and Yvonne Claesson about why it was a good decision that Sweden did not join the common currency, the Euro, even though it is a member of the European Union. There is no better example than Greece, that is no longer in control of its own destiny, since it is now having to listen to Germany's and France's dictates on controlling its debt and government expenditures. Greece cannot print its own money to control its inflation or deflation, nor can it set its own interest rates or even dictate its own salaries to its government employees. Greece is at the mercy of Germany and France. I wonder what Robert and Yvonne, devoted to American Baseball in Sweden at the national level, would say if this "Sunday" law affected what day of the week they played baseball? What would they say if some Union parliament member from Italy suggested that Soccer be the premier sport in all European Union countries, perhaps because soccer related corporations want to eliminate baseball competition?

I would also have a problem with the "Sunday" law if I were a Jew, because my family day would be my Sabbath, my day of rest according to long tradition, beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday evening. Sunday would be the first day of the workweek for me. In fact, the proposal to make Sunday a family day smacks of religious implications and nonsense to a Jew.

The article mentions California's mess, its people approved referenda that have made governing California impossible. There is a growing idea in California that we need to start again, to scrap the state constitution, amended by thousands of conflicting people approved referenda, and writing a new constitution and a new basis for government. There doesn't seem to be any other way for California to pull itself out of the mess it is in. In each California election there are propositions for the people to vote on, to approve or disapprove, and behind each one, if seriously researched, is a special interest group who will benefit by passing the proposition at the expense of the majority. A few elections ago, the State of Utah and the Mormon Church poured money into supporting a proposition to modify California's State Constitution, and the proposition passed. Now the proposition is being challenged in the State Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Of course, Utah and the Mormon Church spent a hundred million dollars to change the law in California, and not only to change the law, but to change the State Constitution. I guess that's what gets me riled up, that someone outside of California can dictate to California its behavior, to force California to spend its taxes on a law that another state desires. Want to fight, Utah? I'm ready.

In this past election, only a few weeks ago, the Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Corporation spent $40 million on a proposition to limit local governments' ability to choose its own source of electrical power. PG&E suggested that a local government should require a two-thirds vote to choose its own power source. It suggested that a two-thirds vote would "restore" democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each local government is chosen by a simple, 51%, majority. That is democracy. Town hall meetings are democracy and community dissent at those meetings is democracy. Voting people out of office, holding them responsible, is democracy. PG&E doesn't know anything about democracy. All it knows about is its profit... period.

So, in my opinion, the European Union is going down a primrose path of troubling times if it believes that the masses can decide the rule of law. It seems to me that "government by the people" was never intended to mean that people approved referenda rule. The mob cannot rule. That's especially true when money dominates politics, when special interests of corporations and specific groups can shove their ideas down people's throats with deceptive propaganda campaigns, convincing people to support ideas that are not in their best interest. Tea Parties can't work. Ignorance doesn't work. Intolerance doesn't work. Rational thought, logical review of facts and a thorough study of effects work. The path of mob rule leads to revolutions, unnecessary wars, hate, dissension and injustice. Never let a Sarah Palin tell your community what it should and shouldn't do. Send all Sarah Palins of this world back to Alaska, or wherever they come from with their tail between their legs. We don't need cult leaders and ignorance.

I'm reminded of what Magnus Karlsson told me during the two-hour conversation we had on the flight to Sweden. He said the Swedes are humble to a fault because of their numbers, only eight million in a world of six billion people, and because they live their own lives. But, I sensed another aspect of the Swedish people, tall and handsome, perhaps shy, as Ante Carlstedt said, but resolute and fearless if pushed, and independent, more than willing to let others live as they want and determined to live their lives as they want. I suspect that if the Union gets the Swedes riled, the Union will hear about it in a loud and resounding voice. I'll lend my voice to that, too.


Monday, July 5, 2010


I'm giving everyone a vacation from my rants. For the next two weeks or so my wife, Chris, and I will be traveling, so you get a break. I don't know, at the moment, at what point my butt will start dragging from exhaustion, but I know it will happen because I've never been able to keep up with Chris. She's a go, go, goer and a shop, shop, shopper of the highest order. But, if I get the chance, I'll post pictures on Facebook and try to write about the people we meet and the sights we see. Our itinerary is Stockholm, Paris, fast train to London (through the chunnel - yikes!) and back to Paris.

I also have a promise I need to fulfill to Mark, a friend who, at a young 23 years old, dared to immigrate to the United States essentially alone in 1993. It takes a special person to brave an unknown country with little or no help and I want to tell his story.

I also have at least two more Vietnam stories to write, but they are difficult and I'm not at all sure I can write them. We'll see.

Au revoir, until we meet again.


My Brother's Courage: DAN CLARK: FOURTH OF JULY

Yesterday it occurred to me that I may be "in your face" too much with my rants against the so-called conservative and ultra-right movement in this country and that I should slow down or stop completely writing my blog. But, there seems to be something in the news that compels me to shout to Holy Heaven about nonsense I hear or read everyday. In fact, I'm obsessed about it because the fact is, and this is said to all who arrogantly inflate their chest and declare "I'm a conservative" or "I'm a Christian" while pounding the drums of war, you are so wrong. In fact, you are foolishly wrong and, by all the logical study of the facts of history and the teachings of faith, you can only sustain your beliefs by denying those facts and your own faith. In other words, your a fraud and a hypocrite.

My brother Dan had courage bringing this story to our attention, DAN CLARK: FOURTH OF JULY, about a young man who returned from Iraq without arms and legs, a quadriplegic by a roadside bomb. The story affected him and compelled him to write about it. It affects me too, and it brings tears to my eyes. I agree with Dan that it is a sad, sad story; and it should be a sadness to the depth of our collective soul. I disagree, however, that it has a happy ending or that it ever will have a happy ending. How, in God's name, did this happen? The final answer to that makes me angry. After all the layers of the onion are peeled away, the layers of lies, deception, fears, excuses and illogical reasoning, it all comes down to the foolishness and arrogance of a few men and one last thing: America, you and I, didn't keep our promise. Those "few foolish and arrogant men" are, of course, those who chose to go to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Do I need to tell you who they were? I shouldn't have to. The promise, on the other hand, is the promise the American people make whenever a single person joins our military, and now days that includes the National Guard - which, by the way, for the first time in our history is now going to war in foreign countries, driven there by those same foolish and arrogant men. But, that new recruit takes an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and uphold the Geneva Convention, something, by the way, America failed to do because of those same foolish and arrogant men. At the instant that person took that oath, America promised, by long tradition and in a loud voice, NOT to send him or her in harms way for no good reason, which is, by the way, another thing America failed to do. The moment we (you and I) saw these promises broken, we should have shouted to Holy Heaven that we would have none of it. We should have marched in the streets, sent letters and made phone calls and DECLARED that we would have none of it or by God in Heaven we will remove those responsible from office, by impeachment if necessary, and hold them responsible for their criminal negligence. But, we didn't. We went shopping instead. We cut taxes instead. We paid nothing and we sacrificed nothing for the arms and legs this young man lost. We failed again.

And, today? The day after the Fourth of July? The day after we fly flags of Glory and shoot fireworks into the sky, he is forgotten. He goes back to his bed at Walter Reed Hospital and the parallel bars in physical therapy and his grueling routine to somehow make something out of his ruined life. How could his story ever have a happy ending? I saw Brendan Marrocco, the young Iraqi veteran in the story, and a few other veterans on television yesterday with Tiger Woods and a few other Golf stars, and I heard the most hated words I ever care to hear, "Thank you for your sacrifice." Bullshit. What we really should be saying is, "I apologize for my failure to keep my promise to you. I sent you in harms way for foolish reasons because I was afraid. I forgot that faith and courage will see us through and I didn't keep my head or my word. I was impulsive and I lost all sense of right and wrong and I forgot the lessons of history. And, I apologize that tomorrow my country will forget you, again. It will not keep you or help you because people like me don't want to pay for it. Only today, Independence Day, will we remember you and I'm sorry. Instead of depending on your country, you will be at the mercy of God and charity. God Bless you."

My thoughts are much too passionate to allow myself to say to those who support both Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and to those who somehow through some twisted logic believe that Brendan sacrificed for our freedom to say what I really want to say to you. It would be obscene, to be sure. Both ideas are wrong. There is overwhelming evidence that the majority in Iraq and Afghanistan don't want us there. There is also overwhelming lessons in history that any intrusion into secular or civil political contests is an exercise in futility and only won when and if we colonize the country. But, our own history says that too is futile, in the end. As for freedom, you gained no freedom you didn't already have when Brendan lost his arms and legs. He will know that someday, as will his brother and parents, if they don't already know, while you may never unless you experience a personal loss to war. Saying that his sacrifice somehow preserved your freedom is just another excuse to excuse your own behavior or lack of action. What freedom would you have lost if he had not gone to war? What freedom would you have lost if Saddam Hussein stayed in power? None, to both questions. Yet, we sacrifice our sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers for imaginary freedoms. Stop bullshitting yourselves. It is a needless loss.

If there ever are two sides to an argument or a question, nonsense can never be one of them. We either do or we don't keep our promises.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Madder than Hell and Ready to Fight

The other day in the Village Barber Shop a guy said he's afraid of the "Obama Debt" and all the "Bailout crap," in his words. So, I ask him if he knew that the bailout of the banks was actually making money for the government. For example, I asked, "Did you know that the government actually made $8 billion on the $30 billion bailout of Citigroup? Yep. The government gave Citigroup $30 billion and got back $38 billion." I don't really call that a bailout. I call that an "Investment." I ask him if he knew that of the approximately $700 billion TARP bailout funds, the government's actual loss would be around $70 billion because of AIG. "Do you know, for example, that even the car companies, Chevy and Chrysler, are paying back every cent the government loaned them? And, the bailout saved several thousand jobs doing it because of the loans. Did you know that?"

"That's bullshit," he says. So, I asked him, "What is your source of information?" "Rush Limbaugh," he says. "Oh God," I said, "What you need is a good slap up side the head to knock some sense into you. If you're listening to Rush Limbaugh, who doesn't know shit about the economy, instead of people like Paul Krugman, who is a Professor of Economics at Princeton University, then you've got your head up your ass." Well, that made him mad enough to fight. But, so was I. I'm so fed up with stupid people I could eat nails. He stood up and so did I, but he thought better of it and left. I was fuming, but I got a haircut anyway, although it was the most unpleasant haircut I've had in a long while. I didn't hear a peep for the thirty minutes I was in the chair.

But, that seems to be where were headed, following some of the stupidest people, such as John Boehner, Michele Backman, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Ron Paul and Rand Paul and all of the other idiots like them right over the cliff. This week I heard more idiots come out of the woodwork than I think I've heard for awhile. And, it seems that any further stimulus for jobs is a thing of the past. Even the extension for unemployment insurance is failing because of warped thinking that it "makes people lazy and to stop looking for jobs." Do you really believe that $250 goddamned dollars a week will make people want to not work? It's such a pitiful amount! It won't even pay for the groceries for most families. Are you crazy?

Paul Krugman's Op-Ed Columnist - Myths of Austerity - pretty much says it all. All Republicans and Libertarians have now firmly shoved their heads up their asses and cannot now see where they're going and, amazingly, while in that contorted position, they appear to be dreaming. Personally, I'd think it would be hard to breath in that position let alone dream. It's not a pretty sight; arms flailing, goose stepping while milling about in circles, contorted into a human ball with their heads up their asses and all afraid of the boogie man who they claim is Obama. Given the choice of investing in America's infrastructure, which is, by the way, long, long 50 or more years overdue, with a stimulus and hording their wealth like Silas Marner, they are choosing to be like Silas.

Ok, if you insist, go ahead and do it your way. I say that out of spite only, though, because I want to be able to say at the end, when you've driven America to the level of some Banana Republic in Central America, that "I told you so, you idiot." In the meantime, don't talk to me.

To think that I spent 20 years in the Navy for idiots. What was I thinking?