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.