Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gimme That Old Time Religion, err, Rick Perry?

I remember those days when we sang that song in church back when we all went to The General Baptist Church. "Gemme that old time religion" everyone belted out like it was their last chance for Heaven. I gave it a try, too. I also remember that we sang it one time when a tent revival came to town. I believe it was the opening song. It could have been the closing song, too. A huge tent, it seemed to me way back then, was erected where the water works and fire station is now. It seemed to me that we spent an eternity listening to that revival preacher. He was a long-winded guy, but I don't recall the sermon. Dad thought he was nuts. Mom and Grandma thought he was God-sent to Owensville; the answer to everyone's prayers. Everything was going to get better! Grandma's health problems, Mom's health problems and, finally, Dad would see the light; the same light, by the way, that Grandma saw - and on her terms. Grandma was a bit vengeful, especially when the Lord wasn't doing His job to suit her. She liked the idea of taking things into her own hands if she could. But, knowing Dad, it would be a cold day in Hell for him to ever agree with Grandma! In retrospect, I don't think Dad liked grand public displays of religion or the idea of running to God every time he had a problem, like Grandma did. She evaded responsibility for her own actions in that manner.

That's not saying that Dad wasn't a spiritual person, because he was. But, too much shouting, wailing and "Hallelujah!" and "Praise the Lord!" so that everyone in town heard, so to not mistake your faith and conviction, turned him off. I wonder what Dad would have thought if that preacher was running for President? It could be that Dad impressed on me, way back then, to take most preachers, especially those who shout the loudest, have the biggest mega-church along with a grandiose and rich life style and who claim to know what God does, says, wants, likes and favors, with a healthy dose of salt and a great deal of skepticism. They have, in most cases, a captive audience that they flimflam all the way to the bank.

Rick Perry is a revival preacher, as far as I'm concerned, and he is extremely good at flimflamming. He IS a state governor, which means that he convinced, which is to say flimflammed, over 50% of Texans to vote for him, astonishingly not once but three times, the longest Texas Governor to hold that office, and those same Texans had to have overlooked in all three elections all of his petty little deals, his disregard for human suffering and his unapologetic and blatant misuse of his office and taxes for his own personal use and for his cronies and, of course, his lies! The facts behind his governorship make me wonder "What the hell is going on in Texas?!" But, it isn't only in Texas. Grandma's type of religious fundamentalism appears to be spreading to all states, and that is a dangerous sign. It could mean that Perry will be our President simply because he drops God's name. That thought gives me the willies.

Grandma would have liked Rick Perry. They are alike in some respects. Perry appears to believe that God takes vengeance occasionally for the wrongs perpetrated by mankind and Grandma would have certainly agreed with that. In fact, I'm ninety-nine percent sure she would say that God is causing the drought in Texas and she would be on the stage praying for rain, right along with Perry. Grandma would have made a good Texan.

She would also like Perry in regards to his brand of criminal justice. During Perry's tenure as governor, Texas' notoriety for convicting innocent people has exploded to national fame and it is the most likely state to use the death penalty. Every year there is a Texan convict who has been exonerated because they were innocent and, in each case, Governor Perry appears to object to their release or he fights against each claim of innocence beyond any sense of reason. Grandma would have yelled, "If he's innocent, then why was he arrested?" Grandma didn't need a court trial to prove a person's guilt. That sounds a lot like Perry's response when he was asked why he didn't review the famous Cameron Tod Willingham case. Perry is reported to have said, "He's a bad man. He even cursed at his wife!" as if that was sufficient enough to show that Willingham was guilty and deserved his death sentence. Of course, that didn't answer why an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission disputed the arson claim by the small-town Corsicana, Texas Fire Department. The expert analysis reported that the fire that convicted Willingham of arson-murder was, in fact, an accidental electrical fire. It wasn't Willingham's fault at all. But, in Corsicana, Willingham didn't have a chance. After all, the Fire Inspector there, a guy with little education and training, with only a high school diploma, like Grandma, firmly believed that eighty to ninety percent of all fires were arson. Nobody stopped to think that that might be a bit high. In fact, Corsicana has more fires started by arson, according to the Corsicana Fire Inspector, than any community in the nation. The documentary showed many interviews with town citizens that reminded me a lot of Grandma, people who had no idea of the facts in the case, but nevertheless believed, beyond any doubt, that Willingham was guilty as hell and deserved to die.

Grandma experienced a murder trial in 1955-56 that she thought was a waste of time; the trial of Leslie Irvin, the "Mad Dog Killer." Dad was sequestered with the jury in a Princeton hotel for the duration of the trial, so we, Mom, Jean, Dan and I, stayed with Granddad and Grandma while he did his jury duty. I recall a couple of visits to Princeton to see Dad, although I don't recall who took us. On each visit we waited outside the hotel in the car and Dad would finally come out, give all of us a hug, and talk a few minutes to Mom, and then we'd go home. "I don't know why Wayne has to waste time on that jury," Grandma would rant. "That Irvin is a killer. They don't need to go through all that rigmarole to figure that out!" As I recall, Grandma didn't shut up about that for the entire trip to Princeton and back and continued until bedtime. The "rigmarole" of course was the trial. My niece reminded me that Irvin escaped the county jail while awaiting trial. Everyone in the county locked their doors while he was on the loose, including Grandma. His trial resulted in a death penalty sentence, but that was overturned by the Supreme Court because it decided that Irvin could not have received a fair trial because of all of the publicity. He was given a life sentence instead. Grandma would have been very upset by that decision. I got the impression that she didn't really believe in a fair trial if it interfered with vengeance or her idea of justice.

Of course, I now see Grandma's faults in regards to her version of justice, and I also think I see how she influenced me, adding to the baggage that I've carried all of these years and, hopefully, tossed out completely or modified to a more thoughtful fairness. But, back then I loved Grandma. She made the best corn patties, that I called corn cakes back then. After Granddad died and she moved closer, I dropped in on her fairly frequently. She would cook corn cakes and spinach or green beans or some other vegetable, and we would eat and she would read the Bible to me. She always read the story of David and Goliath, which made it my favorite Bible story in my youth, and I never tired of hearing it. But, now I think Grandma was a very poor voter and citizen. She really had no idea, nor could she ever be convinced to change her mind, about the basic fairness that founded the United States of America. Neither does Perry. Perry sees the government as a Goliath that needs to be killed. I see him as Goliath that needs to be stopped.

I'm going to keep an eye on Perry and speak up whenever I get the chance. I'm adding a new blog to my list of blogs to keep better track of his shenanigans, the Washington Spectator Blog by Lou Dubose. I heard Mr. Dubose on the radio recently and he made a lot of sense and he seems to be on top of all of Perry's nonsense. We all need to be alert that Grandma's ignorance doesn't spread or we could end up with President Perry. That would be a disaster.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Random Thoughts and Decisions

I get a kick out of doing nothing, or at least giving others the perception of doing nothing, in front of those who do something, Take people who must go to work every morning. I hear them say occasionally, usually in a fit of frustration and sometimes in my presence, that "he does nothing!" I have to tell you that hearing that just makes me do more of nothing. The fact is that I'm not doing nothing. I'm thinking, and I don't call thinking doing nothing. I've noticed that after I started doing more of nothing, that thinking is pretty productive. For example, when I retired and devoted more time to thinking, I felt more productive than when I held a job and didn't think so much. I read more. I listen better, I hope. I observe better. I now believe, much too late in life I think, that if we all did a little more thinking and a little less doing that our decisions would be a thousand times better for us. To tell you the truth, I don't see much thinking out there.

I know a guy who recently got a new job that requires a lot of physical labor and is a little farther from home. He grunts and moans and huffs and puffs every morning, at least in my presence, as he prepares to leave for the day's work. I know why he grunts, moans and huffs and puffs. He wants me to know and to notice that he's going off to a day of hard work and he wants me to feel sorry for him. I feel just the opposite and I've said so, "Damn! If you feel that bad, quit!" I suppose he isn't at all pleased because I don't get the point of all of the huffing and puffing. C'est la vie.

When I think back to my youth when I worked on a farm, which was hard work, I don't think I behaved in that manner. At least I hope I didn't. I actually enjoyed farm labor, even cleaning out the hog house, that was probably one of the dirtiest jobs I've ever done. I am not a neat and organized worker. I had hog shit all over me each time I cleaned that hog house. I was so filthy that my sister wouldn't allow me in close proximity to the house until she hosed me off, usually in the barn lot. As I recall, she had an appropriate and very effective description of my condition without using a single curse word. I've often marveled at her ability to do that using so few words because I was never able to describe such a sight that I obviously displayed without using a curse word. But, to my knowledge I've never huffed and puffed to be noticed and I've had a lot of jobs that I didn't particularly like and that required a little more physical effort than I personally cared for.

I just don't see a lot of thinking now days, and I have proof. I just minutes ago posted a comment on Facebook about the total lack of thought in reaction to S&P's downgrade of US credit. At 5:00pm Friday, everything was relatively calm, at least in regards to the stock market even though we were probably hyperventilating over something, that I've now forgotten, in the news. But, at 5:01pm after the downgrade, everyone shit in their pants. And, no thought was produced by Monday morning, because everyone was still crapping all over themselves and the market went down 600+ points. What was the point of all of that? Well, there is other proof but it is on an individual basis rather than world-wide.

Some people are always in a personal crisis of one kind or another. I see it all of the time and some peoples' personal crises are publicly exposed on television for, oh I dunno, personal embarrassment? Why would a person appear on Dr. Phil for public embarrassment? Why would a person watch Dr. Phil to see another person's personal embarrassment exposed on national television? Is there some sadistic satisfaction in that? Why would a person subject themselves to be crucified by Bill O'Reilly on public television? Why would someone like Bill O'Reilly when he publicly crucifies someone on a national stage? And everyone knows Kim Kardashian's and Lindsay Lohan's personal problems. They apparently make money by having their personal problems publicly broadcast. That's astonishing. I don't believe that a lot of thought goes into liking things like that. It's just more jumping on the band wagon.

I see a lot of band wagon jumping, especially by Christians now days, and it seems the more radical the idea, the more it is acceptable. Christians apparently like being sheep, following. You hardly ever hear of a person standing up to a preacher and say, "Hey, that ain't right! Where'd you get that bunch of crap?" Take Governor Rick Perry's prayer thingy in Texas the other day. Did you know that the Christian group who put that on is the most radical in the country? They call themselves the "New Apostolic Reformation" and they proclaim that Texas is "the Prophet state anointed by God." Good God! They believe that the Sun Goddess and the Emperor of Japan had unholy sex and that's the reason Japan's economy is in the dumps! I didn't know that a "Sun Goddess" existed in modern times, let alone one that's putting out. I have to say that there is not one iota of thought that went into that conclusion! I can't even guess what hole that idea came from. Wow! And, Gov Perry is apparently hooked up with that group and running for President! Of the U. S. of A.! What planet is he on? or from?

I would say that St. Augustine and Descartes were right; life and living requires thought. We are not likely to learn the truth unless we think. Augustine was quite a guy. Did you know that in his youth he was quite a carouser and rebel rouser? He sewed his wild oats! But, he became a preeminent philosopher and a Catholic Saint. Ha! I think that says something about life. It certainly makes me feel better about my own youth. He said, in order to find the truth, "Don't go out. Go inside. There you will find the truth." Which is to say that you won't find the truth outside of yourself. So, if you've hooked up to some band wagon of certainty, regardless of what it is, anti-abortion, anti-gay, apocalypse or Jesus is coming soon or God anoints this or that, you're likely wrong. That's like outsourcing your soul. The fact is that belief is all inside, personal and a personal relationship and anyone outside of that cannot know about it and has no business sticking their nose in your personal relationship, whatever that relationship is.

Descartes said every man and woman has the ability to think for themselves and to come to conclusions of truth - universal truth. That may seem obvious to you, but when he said it, back in 1600, give or take, that was a novel idea. Some, like the Catholic Pope at the time, thought it was an outrageous idea. But, Descartes saying that eventually lead to the accepted idea that women were as smart as (and equal to) men. There's proof of that too. Even proof that women are smarter than men. I heard only yesterday that women generally do better in the stock market than men. Why is that? The theory is that an over abundance of testosterone gets us men in trouble more often than not and we trade stocks based on emotion more often than women. And then there has always been the idea that women are less likely to go to war than men. So, yeah, I'd say they're smarter.

Oh, before you get carried away, however, and think you will know everything just by thinking, both Augustine and Descartes suggested that we "read up" and "study up" on things. So, if you've stopped reading as soon as you graduated from Sunday school or high school, well then you don't have much to go on. Keep on reading and learning. Something never comes from nothing, and until you read up and gain better knowledge on any specific issue, you ain't got anything to think about - or to say for that matter. The other irony is, when comparing modern times with the time of Descartes, is that only four hundred years ago the world thought women couldn't think or decide for themselves, including the women themselves! And, four hundred years later, we are still making those kind of judgments about groups and genders! That deserves another exclamation point, or several!!!

I gave a lot... well, I don't know if it was a "lot," of thought to retiring - in order to do nothing. The questions back in December of 2007 were: 1) how long would I live, 2) how much money would I need in retirement. The other consideration was not a question: I haven't been overly kind to my body - it can't possibly last long. The answer came down to the decision on whether I wanted the extra $500 in retirement, that I would get by waiting until I was sixty-six, more than I wanted the few years I have left to do nothing. I chose to do nothing quicker, hoping to do it longer. I must have given it enough thought because each time I reflect on the decision, I'm happy with it.

Now, I'm faced with another decision, maybe the most important of my life: What do I want the end of my life to be? To tell the truth, I don't look forward to being disabled, invalid, crippled with old age or somebody else's responsibility or to suffer the indignity of someone changing my diaper. That seems to me to be a waste of time and the money my kids could use better than I can. I heard a discussion this morning on NPR radio with an author in England who is in the first stages of Alzheimer disease and, at some point in time in the future, he won't be able to make his own decisions. Hell, he won't even know his own name. He wants to travel to Sweden (or was it Switzerland) where he can have doctors assist in his death before he loses his mind but, at the same time, he wants to wait until he's no longer productive... whenever that is. That doesn't sound too bad to me. Oregon allows it.

It's all a matter of timing - and thought. I've thought about it and I've read about it and I've listened to witnesses and personal reasons. I think I have enough information to come to an honest decision; the truth. It takes thought. Or, I could do like I suggested to a friend recently. I could take a few nuts out with me, sort of go out in a blaze of glory. A few less nuts in the world, it seems, would be a good thing. One last sacrifice for God, country and mankind.

I'll think about it, even if some think I'm doing nothing. The truth is that I haven't been happier or more productive than these past few years of doing nothing... or whatever else I wanted to do.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dear Senator Boxer,

I appreciate and thank you for your efforts in the Senate. You've done well overall. I've gotten more involved in supporting Democrats since 2000 when I gave what I could to support Vice President Gore. I was very disappointed when I watched him give up the fight at the Supreme Court. I then supported Senator Kerry and I was very discouraged to see him ravaged in the media by a bunch of lying Karl Rove flunkies and highly paid marketing firms - and Kerry couldn't seem to recover or fight back. I supported you in your last campaign over Carly Fiorina, who I couldn't stand. And, I supported Diane Fienstien in spite of her many Republican leaning votes in the Senate, succumbing to the conservative right over and over just to be civil.

It makes me sick to see what has become of our country, and even sicker when I think that I spent 20 years in military, retired from it, and then to have extreme ultra-right idiots take over the Congress and, persuaded by their absolute purity of ideas, obstruct Obama at every turn. I don't think I served to have that happen. I supported and voted for Obama and his message of hope and change. I haven't seen any of either.

I'm not a wealthy man. This election I'm taking a different track. I'm not going to give to any Democrat PAC, campaign or support group because I haven't seen a single instance where the Democrats have stood up to the ultra-right fanatics and I don't hear messages from the Democrats that are framed to win. I hear only excuses. This year, Democrats are going to have to win without my money. Oh, I won't support Republicans either because I can't stand them. I'll likely vote Democrat, unless I see a candidate that has a chance to get this country back together, one who is willing to stand up to the Christian and ultra-right fanatics. So far, that ain't you nor anyone in the Senate or White House at the moment.

Pass the word to Harry Reid. He needs to get a back bone, as all Democrats in Congress need to do. It was obvious to me last year that the Republicans could not be reasoned with. I don't know why you and Reid and the others didn't see that as well.


Dave Clark
Castro Valley, CA

The Standard and The Poor's

In spite of being told to take up knitting, I just can't help saying something about Standard & Poor's downgrade of U. S. credit. It downgraded the United States' credit rating from AAA to AA+, which is to say that it wasn't much. U. S. Treasury Bonds are still "investment grade" investments. From all the hype, you'd think the downgrade is a disaster. I thought so too initially. Who do they think they are? The S&P was one of those companies that inflated the grades on all of those collateral debt obligations (CDOs) mortgage bond derivatives that caused the mortgage loan bubble that burst in 2007 and crashed the U. S. economy. And, they inflated the CDO ratings for money and to get more market share of the rating business; they earned a fee for rating those CDOs that made it easier for the big banks like Goldman Sachs to sell them to unsuspecting investors. Goldman Sachs would not do business unless they got the high ratings and S&P's greed wanted the big fees so their own stock price would rise and they could pay big bonuses to their execs just like all of those other fat cats on Wall Street.

So, yes, who the hell do they think they are to downgrade the US credit? And, to top it off, they made a $2 trillion mistake when calculating the downgrade! $2 trillion! A mistake that if corrected favored a higher rating, not a lower one. But, they did it anyway. How can a few analysts make a $2 trillion mistake? That ought to stand out like gouty toe!

But, after thinking about it, maybe this is what we need. Maybe we need someone like the S&P to say, "get it together!" and to put a crimp in our ability to borrow money. We are IN DEBT! And we owe more that we make. We hear a lot of noise to run our country like a business, especially from Republicans running for president and those in Congress. Perhaps we should run it like a business. After all, if we look at the U.S. as a company, it would be a publicly owned company and we do own stock in it through the Treasury Bonds we buy and taxes we pay that return payment in interest and services, respectively. After the downgrade, the interest on Treasury Bonds should go up, but that may, and more than likely, mean higher taxes to pay the interest. We will pay more taxes if a couple of things don't happen anyway.

One thing that has to happen is that the U.S. has to get more revenue, right along with cutting expenses (spending). And, it would help a great deal if the revenue was more than expenses, like we had back in 2000 before Dubya gave it away or spent it. The Republicans believe that raising the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is the way to raise revenue for the country, instead of raising taxes. That means that "The People" need to be employed, circulate money in their communities, spend money in stores, buy cars, buy homes, build homes, buy farm equipment and be good obedient consumers. Companies need to sell things. When all of that happens, then the GDP and economy engine hums along like a finely tuned clock. The caveat on all of that, however, is that unemployment needs to be minimal and that "The People" need to have living wages they can spend. If that is not the case, then the GDP/economy engine sputters and stops. I'd say that "sputter and stop" situation is pretty much where we are now. Unemployment is high and wages have been going down for years. And, the fact that wages have been going down caused a lot of borrowing by consumers that, in the end, just made matters worse. Too much consumer debt.

"The People" have stopped spending because, 1) they don't make enough, if they have a job, and 2) they still owe on the debt they've accumulated in the past. The unemployed, obviously, have nothing but an unemployment check, if they get that at all. They do spend it, but it's not nearly enough. Ninety percent of Americans have very little to spend primarily because money doesn't circulate to them and through their communities. The wealth that could circulate is held by the top one percent who owns approximately fifty percent of America. That's "The Gap" between the wealthy and middle-class or the less fortunate, the inequality gap.

Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, suggested the "trickle down" free market, deregulation economic theory in the 1960s that became popular when he was an adviser to President Reagan in the 80s and is now the religion of Republicans and Libertarians. He was big on accumulating wealth, no taxes on the rich and no inheritance tax and said that raising wages didn't really lead to increase production or consumption nor provide a better life for the wage earner. Supply-side economics, he said, drove the economic engine, not consumer buying. In other words, build it and they will come, even if they are broke I presume. I guess that works only up to a point before consumer credit runs out. Friedman is an impatient guy when his theory is questioned, as in the documentary "The One Percent" that can be seen on YouTube in eight segments. He was, during Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal time, a John Maynard Keynes follower, until he wasn't. He then refuted Keynesian economics with his trickle down theory to win the Nobel Prize and he is absolutely persuaded that he is right and the Republican/Libertarian philosophy is his legacy. Ironically, he said, "The most harm of all is done when power is in the hands of people who are absolutely convinced of the purity of their intentions." He also frequently quotes the old adage, "The road to hell is paved with people with good intentions." Of course you could say that of both sides of the coin, but since it is his philosophy that is primarily the source of our current economic problems, perhaps he shouldn't be so certain. His philosophy seems to work fine in good times, but utterly fails in bad times. I suspect that there is a middle way. Maybe it is the extremes that we need to stay away from.

I probably wouldn't have a problem with Friedman's theory of letting the chips fall where they may if those people less fortunate had a way to be involved in their own destiny. More often than not, they don't. They work for a non-living wage that does not provide enough to save for hard times or retirement. The mysteries of investing are mostly too complicated for the average educated person, and frequently for the well educated person, and programs like Social Security, that Friedman despises, become the best investment most people make in their lives. You have to wonder what would be if those social programs did not exist. Would we be more self-sufficient and more responsible for our own destiny, like Friedman claims, when volatile markets win and lose fortunes on the turn of a dime? I doubt it. Friedman also said, "Morally bad power triumphs over good intentions." That means that powerful greedy people can destroy the good intentions of people saving for self-sufficiency. "Oh well," he would say, "that's the breaks."

Supply-side doesn't work because it doesn't depend on true demand, demand that stems from what you and I, as consumers, really want. Supply-side is driven entirely by marketing; marketing that creates demand and creates a need that you and I only think we want. It just so happens that Professor David Kaiser, who writes a blog I read, wrote something about that apparently a few minutes ago. Just when I was about to finish this and publish it, I read Professor Kaiser's blog and Lo and Behold, he must be thinking my thoughts, but better. Read his blog here.

So, maybe a downgrade is a good idea to wake us up. Alan Greenspan, once an ardent Friedman disciple, appears to have changed his mind about a Friedman's "self regulating" market a little, and Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman, has also changed is mind about the so-called Friedman free market. Perhaps even the Republican Congress will change its mind. Maybe we'll get a tempered approach that will reform us out of debt, bring in enough revenue, hopefully more from the rich than the middle-class and poor, and cut spending to make government better so that everyone is happy. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Maybe we'll have an insurrection, a good old fashion civil war or armed and bloody revolution.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Bloomberg For President

August 5, 2011

Honorable Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Subject: Bloomberg for President

Honorable Michael Bloomberg:

It's time for you to get off the pot. It is time for you to throw your hat into the contentious 2012 presidential campaign as an Independent candidate. There is no doubt in my mind that you will win. Why?

It is obvious that the insane Republicans are going to block President Obama at every turn and they are going to make him fail in spite of any good idea or good policy he has. He is criticized at every opportunity, undeservedly. They, the Republicans, will go to any length to make him a one-term president, even to the extent of going on a five week vacation without officially adjourning Congress. Of course if Congress is not adjourned while it is on vacation, President Obama cannot make recess appointments and many government offices remain vacant or filled by the previous president's appointments. They may never be filled. President Obama is hamstrung, helpless and made ineffective. The country suffers as a result.

On the other hand, the horde of Republican candidates, both declared and in the wings, are a bunch of morons, some crazier than others, that couldn't lead their own butts out of a paper bag. Even with congressional support, they would devastate the country, probably cause another expensive war, turn over vital services to their crony contractors, and kill off Medicare, Social Security, the EPA, Housing, Education and likely send us into lawless chaos.

We need help!

You seem to have a level head on your shoulders and common sense far above any Republican hopeful. I'm convinced that you will win if you run. Good God, is there anyone else who is remotely more capable than you to lead this country on the political horizon?

So, suit up and get running. It's time to give this country a jolt of hope and the world confidence in America again. Obama can't. My budget may be able to afford $5.00 a month to help you but I'll go into to debt and chip in $10 a month. At least, you'll have your billions plus $10 to pay for the campaign.

Get off the pot. Please.

Sincerely yours,

Dave Clark
Castro Valley, CA

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Blinding Micro and the Macro of Kindness

Just when I think I have nothing more to say, I'm compelled to say something, probably with no effect but I'll say it anyway. I've just returned from a two week visit to my roots, Owensville, IN, my favorite little town and the best place in the world, at a time when the country is torn between a factious Right-Wing Republican uprising and, in my opinion, common sense. We all watched a divided congress and entrenched factions fight to the bitter end over the debt ceiling and deficit spending. And, through it all I continued to search for a reason that some people follow the extreme right and vote Republican. It made no sense to me that a small faction, claimed by some congressmen to be the Tea Party, would jeopardize our national economy for the sake of their own political beliefs, such as adamantly voting against any hint of the rich or corporations paying more taxes even if the United States defaulted. The Bill they passed promised cuts in services, a trigger for the Bush tax cuts to expire if a super committee didn't find more cuts, and more cuts. I wonder.

Why adamantly hold to ideological beliefs when such devastating results hang in the balance? And, even more perplexing is that some I talked to actually wanted America to default, a sort of "that'll teach 'em" attitude. It seemed to me that they are like drug addicts, that they won't realize how wrong they are until they hit absolute bottom, when unemployment and poverty levels have doubled and we have fallen back into recession, and only then admit that they were wrong. But, after talking and listening, I doubt that they will ever admit to mistaken beliefs. They will never see the connection between their vote and bad policy. They will never see that they bear a great deal of responsibility for the condition the country is in. A Republican vote is a vote for a philosophy that leads to failure. How did that happen?

My answer is that there is a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead us and to hide the forest from us with trees, the trees of those micro details that make us angry, the micro minutia that consumes media attention 24/7 and the horde of opinionated talking heads arguing simply for higher television ratings. Most of the so-called issues, the minutia, are generated by political ads designed to curry our favor for the sole purpose to gain power and nothing else. The ultra-right wing is more successful, so far, in framing and leading the discussion, and it is winning. We are inundated with its misleading political ads and media hype over small issues and it is those small details we argue over instead of standing back and taking a look at the larger picture. We've lost the ability to judge what's good for us; the overall good. Why?

We've forgotten our grounding philosophy, or at least it doesn't come to the surface of our conscious mind from its deeply buried subconscious place. It is buried in our subconscious beneath layers and layers, tons and tons, of minutia; the micro details inundating us every day. If there is a word that describes the founding principle of our nation and constitution, I would say that word is "kindness." It seems to me that that word is at the bottom of the thoughts and ideas of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and all of the others who participated in the first days of the United States. It seems a coincidence that I'm reading at the moment, "Examined Lives," by Jim Miller, that examines the lives of philosophers from Socrates to Nietzsche. I haven't finished the book, but one small sentence hit me like a brick from the start. Miller says that all of them actively searched for a "philosophy to live by." To live by! If there is one thing I would like to have been told in my youth, it would have been to have heard Dad say to me, "David, find yourself a philosophy to live by." The fact is that if he had said it, and if I had listened, I would have known immediately what that philosophy would have been: Kindness. It was ingrained in my upbringing by him and my family, from the church I attended, from the town I lived in and from the friends I had. I couldn't have escaped it. I think this is true of everyone I know. But, people don't think out loud about the philosophy they live by and they don't evaluate what they are voting for to any great depth; they jump on the first band wagon because their friends did, or vote for a candidate's minor promise and overlook the candidate's philosophy, or agree with a political commentator without a great deal of thought, jumping to conclusions because it sounds right.

Back in the days of President Johnson, a movement against the "Great Society" grew primarily under Irving Kristol's leadership. From all accounts that I've read, Kristol saw a way to gain power by following an idea suggested by Leo Strauss, a philosopher and professor at the University of Chicago. Strauss suggested that it is critical, for those who want to stay in power or to gain power, to perpetually deceive the people; to lie to them. Strauss suggested that it is "strong leadership" to tell the people what's good for them, whether it is or not and even if it's a lie, to get their support. Strauss said that the objective is to gain power by any means. Strauss was not a liberal democrat, nor for liberal democracy. He appears to have been a socialist, more inclined to Leninism and Communism. But, it was the movement against Johnson's Great Society that gave the Republicans, the neo-conservatives, their way back to power. They were effective under Reagan, Bush I and more so under Bush II. And along the way, they gave welfare a bad name. Republicans are against welfare.

Welfare is a good example of our (the royal "our" for all of us) inability to evaluate a kindness; the overall good of a program. I heard a spin on welfare that I hadn't heard before while visiting Owensville. The argument was that when the Republicans are in power, we give it away to the rich, and when the Democrats are in power, we give it away to the poor. Where did the idea that we "give it away" to the poor come from? I had never thought of welfare in those terms, a give away, a waste. It was a new spin on welfare to me. Helping the poor was part of my upbringing and I've never thought differently. In fact, I've always considered it a duty.

The main argument is that welfare creates a dependency that becomes a trap that welfare recipients refuse to escape from. They like the free money, so they become complacent, they say, and suck on the welfare teat their entire life. I don't believe that. I believe that that particular perspective is a micro view of welfare and based on a few cases of someone abusing the system or, like President Reagan's non-existent welfare mom, falsely claimed by political ads. I've never met a person abusing the welfare system. I've never spoken to a single person who likes welfare, including welfare recipients. I've never seen a proven, factual case of a welfare mom scamming the system. As far as I know, those exist only in rumor and innuendo. The micro doesn't appear to agree with the macro. I see, instead, a despondent, dejected, dispirited and depressed people with the worst luck, a chronically unemployed people, unable to find work and who seem to lose at every juncture. I don't see a dependent people; I see a depressed people. And they are depressed by the very policies that we vote for. Welfare was changed in the early 1990s by a Newt Gingrich lead Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton who found himself in a similar situation as President Obama is in; forced to accept a Republican Congress' demands or accept nothing at all.

The welfare change was to a so-called welfare-to-work program. The idea was to limit welfare to a definite period during which parents, either husband or wife or both, would receive job training to eventually move off the welfare rolls. Nearly every state has a different plan, with different goals for the program. Usually, if both the husband and wife didn't find a job by the end of the period, say five years, welfare was terminated for the family adults but continued for the sake of the children in the family. There was no other criteria used for terminating the welfare, such as mental ability or disability or local job market. This report suggests that liberal, generous and kind plans with the objective of getting the welfare recipient back on their feet, being a more productive member of society and contributing to the national economy is more successful than a more miserly and chintzy plan where the only objective is to reduce government spending. The report suggests that the so-called dependency argument doesn't hold water, then, and this is a clear distinction between political parties. A Republican's philosophy favors the miserly, chintzy welfare program because they believe that a person should live by their own work, or die, and a Democrat usually favors the more liberal and kind plan because they believe that sometimes other factors force people into welfare situations, such as job availability or economic conditions.

The dependency argument only works at the micro level when you assume that the same person who received welfare this year is the same person who receives welfare next year, that he/she did nothing but sit lazily on the couch, either did not try or did not find work, and was not retrained. But, that's not the case. The welfare rolls stay the same or increase not because those on welfare wanted it, but because the job market failed them or other reasons that we hide our eyes from. In the more successful, liberal plans, the individuals on welfare change constantly, however. On one year but off the next. We can't say that they are dependent on welfare even when the total welfare counts don't seem to change or get lower. Someone very smart said, "there will always be poor." You know who I mean. He also said to always help them. I wonder why we don't believe him?

So, which is good? Which is a kindness? The macro kindness is clearly better. It is clearly a kindness to be more generous and less of a cheapskate in regards to welfare. It is not a "give-away" nor is it a waste. It is a duty. Nor should we care or go into a hyperventilated spasm about how, specifically, a welfare recipient spends what they receive. I've heard some people say with outrage, "they spend it at MacDonalds!" or, "they buy toilet paper with it!" or some other nonsense about what welfare recipients spend the money on. The fact is that once we've done our duty, we should not interfere with how another person manages their lives. They, just like us, must be free to do what they deem best with what they have, even if we don't like it or we question their wisdom, as long as it is legal.

Not only is it a kindness to the recipient of a generous welfare program that favors the recipient first, over government budget cuts, it is also a kindness to tax paying citizens. We tax payers reap the benefit of a person moving off the rolls by their own initiative, becoming a better citizen, of contributing to the national economy, helping the country grow and of becoming a tax payer themselves. The more tax payers there are, the less all of us pay.

If we evaluated policies that cause welfare on the basis of kindness, we would have prevented several policies that create it. NAFTA, for example. NAFTA allowed corporations to move manufacturing and production outside of the United States so that products created by U.S. companies were then imported free of charge under a Free Trade agreement. The Free Trade philosophy is one aspect of the Free Market, Laissez-faire philosophy. This gives corporations full reign to ride roughshod over consumers. NAFTA was the culmination of two or three decades of trying to compete with foreign companies, or so we were told, when "Made in America" became too expensive and "Made in China" meant cheap products (and cheap quality). Outsourcing caught on. The welfare rolls increased. More Americans who could not move to the jobs worked for Walmart and MacDonalds than at skilled labor.

The free trade and free market philosophy was, we were told, the great equalizer, bringing world-wide labor wages in line and eventually letting the rest of the world catch up with developed countries. The market would "self regulate," Libertarians and Conservatives said, and prices would be affordable and products would improve. US companies could compete better, company CEOs and Republicans said. In Republican Administrations, regulations were overlooked or repealed by Republican congresses. Regulators turned their heads on their small, microcosm of influence or sent an occasional "advisory" letter to companies under their purview. It was, in effect, a great give-away to corporations and foreign countries. In effect, those behind the philosophy, Republicans, threw the baby out with the bath water. Some of it was good change, but the part that went wrong was devastating; the part that should have been regulated.

In fact, NAFTA was probably the precedent toward a larger objective; domination of global markets by global companies. A "Globalist's" vision. It is a macro vision, but not an American vision. It's a world with free unencumbered trade and global reach of corporations where there are no borders. Immigration law and policies mean nothing to Globalists. They see no borders. We've already seen cases when global corporations don't like national laws, they simply move their headquarters to countries that they like better. They evade the law and taxes in that manner. This global vision is not kind, nor can it be. At that level, where global profits mean that a smaller number of individuals will be able to own so much, you and I, American middle-class, give or take, don't matter much, if we are noticed at all. Usually, globalist don't know we exist.

How little we matter to a globalist reminds me of another story told in "Examined Lives" about the philosopher Diogenes, who was particularly obstinate and somewhat degenerate, but thought to be mediocre and not worthy of notice by other philosophers. When Alexander the Great saw that he was not among the philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, who came to pay him homage and to congratulate him on his new kingship:

     A messenger from Alexander [the Great] invited Diogenes to come see the king, but the philosopher refused, instructing the messenger to tell the king, "That which prevents you from coming to us is that which prevents us from coming to you."
    The messenger imagined the king's response: "So what prevents me and what prevents you?" he asked.
    "You are too powerful to need me - and I am too self-sufficient to need you."

Diogenes was apparently an indigent, owning only the clothes on his back, and he wanted it that way and he therefore did not need anything from Alexander and certainly Alexander didn't need anything from Diogenes. I don't think we want to be indigent, however, to be free of the ruling class. I believe that most people simply want a good and comfortable life; not a life of constant worry about the next policy that might ruin them financially or force them from one job to another simply to satisfy corporate mergers or global schemes. A vote for Republicans, regardless of what they promise in a campaign, is a vote for globalists, not you and me nor America.

We now know that NAFTA, at a macro level, was a disaster for job stability and creation in America, yet those that still support it are voted into office. Ron Paul, a free-market Libertarian, for example, said "the market will decide" when he was asked why he didn't buy "Made in America" t-shirts for his presidential campaign instead of "Made in Honduras" t-shirts through Fruit of the Loom, located in Bowling Green, KY and owned by Berkshire Hathaway. He is either a globalist or doesn't get it or he looks at the market from a micro perspective, concerned only with the limited scope he comes in contact with. So, no, the market didn't decide. If we evaluate the t-shirt production process, from the factory to the market, step by step, from the perspective of kindness, we can see that the market for a t-shirt is decided at the point of sale, i.e., on the retail shelf. A Fruit of the Looms t-shirt is not significantly cheaper on Macy's shelf than any other t-shirt on the same shelf and, in fact, profits from a t-shirt made in Honduras are outrageously high because of slave-labor wages paid to women and children who make the t-shirts in Honduras, labor that violates US child labor laws. We know that for a fact. That is the truth behind Ron Paul's "the market will decide." Violating child labor laws is acceptable under the Laissez-faire philosophy, a "let it be" philosophy. So, is it a kindness to buy from a company who exploits child labor in Honduras? Is it a kindness to allow corporations with global designs, such as Fruit of the Loom, to achieve market domination by using illegal child labor? Even if that company provides a wage to very impoverished children earning the wage? I would say no. It would be a kindness to force the company to comply with child labor laws and to pay a living wage to its factory workers wherever they are located. In fact, Fruit of the Loom is practicing non-competitive methods by undercutting their competitors through the unfair and illegal practice of using child labor. It cannot be a so-called "free market" if some of the competitors are subverting good or fair business practices. It is, in fact, a subsidized market.

Gibson County may be a microcosm to Walmart, but to a citizen living in Gibson County it is a macrocosm. Walmart has had a devastating effect on the county. I suspect that when the big box stores, Walmart, K-Mart, Rural King and Menards Home Improvement came to Princeton, everyone thought it was great. There would be jobs for everyone, they likely said. But, the fact is that every town in the county was devastated. Small grocery stores, hardware stores, pharmacies and novelty stores closed their doors. Two, three or four local jobs were lost for every job Walmart created. It was a net loss to every town in the county. Citizens of Owensville and Fort Branch must now travel to Princeton or Evansville for most of their daily needs. The choices are fewer and fewer. The elderly in Owensville depend more and more on the Dollar Store, the only store in town that carries a small number of grocery items. If it wasn't for a few churches, they would suffer more in spite of having money to buy what they need but are not able to travel to Princeton, only eleven miles away. Owensville seems to be a dying town, primarily because there will come a time when no businesses exists there. I think it is a sad day coming. It could have been different. A vote for Republicans is a vote for the business killing and jobs killing Walmarts in less populated areas.

What would have happened if those who were in political office in Gibson County back when Walmart and the others began the permit process to build their stores in Gibson County? What if they had evaluated the impact of Walmart on the local businesses from the perspective of kindness? Would they have chosen Walmart over the demise of local businesses or the added burden of traveling to Walmart? I doubt it. I think they would have seen a kindness in maintaining all of the smaller groceries and hardware stores over the larger big box stores, even if the smaller store priced things slightly higher. The big stores may have a cheaper price on the shelf, but that doesn't tell us how much effort or gas or car use or time away from family we have to spend to go get the item we need. Perhaps some families could have gotten by with one car instead of two simply because they didn't need to go to Princeton or Evansville so frequently. Would a macro-view of Walmart's impact on the county, on personal lives and on the total family cost of shopping there change things? I wish it would. Gibson County isn't populated enough for big box stores. They should run Walmart and the others out and restore business health to the county and towns.

I heard several other problems caused by "big government," some I agree with. I heard a lot of anger at the EPA, suggesting that the entire EPA should be dismantled. Regulating dust created by farming, for example, stirred up animosity at the entire EPA. I have no idea how regulating dust can be done. I suppose the farmer could buy a giant vacuum to follow the combine, but that's a ridiculous idea and a ridiculous regulation. But, it is still no reason to throw out the baby, the entire EPA, simply because a few bureaucrats got carried away. Nor can it be blamed on Obama. Instead, we should insist that Congress use its oversight authority to put a kibosh on that and any other "government creep" or "spending creep" that invariably grows from any organization. Overall, I believe government, and the EPA, is doing a credible job in most programs, better than a privatized program managed by a corporation can do. A vote for a Republican will privatize most government programs, including Medicare, Social Security, more of Defense than already is, Education, Energy and Housing. After that, corporations will dictate policy behind closed doors. It may be profitable for the company, since tax payers will pay the bill, but it won't be kind.

This line of thinking was prompted by a friend's comments during my Owensville visit. He said that our generation, my generation, probably had it best, and I would add for the past one hundred years, including the generation that lived through the Great Depression. He said we had good role models with good work ethics to follow in Owensville. He said that our children and grandchildren will not fare so well. I have to agree, we had it best and, like him, it breaks my heart that my children and grandchildren will not have the opportunity I had. In fact, I'm outraged about it. He also said that our education that we received in the first twelve grades in the 1950s and 60s was probably better than any time since. There have been any number of arguments and claims about our failing education and about improving it, with recent emphasis on charter schools, a Republican school privatization objective, but the education we received in public schools way back then was a good, well rounded education, taught by dedicated teachers. It was better than any generation has received since, including charter schools and home-taught children. Those days will never return, unfortunately, unless Republicans are voted out of office for as long as they insist that public education should be dismantled and privatized.

I see a number of politicians who appear to be honest and dedicated public servants. I also see those that are dishonest, greedy and self-aggrandizing. There are several characteristics of the latter dishonest ones that can be identified for easy recognition. A politician with a gift for gab, for example, is probably one who can come up with an answer whether he knows a good answer or not and who will more than likely bullshit us as not. A person who promises too much is another one who likely won't, or can't deliver. So, choosing who to vote for should be relatively easy if you can identify the general philosophy rather than anything a politicians says or promises. When the choice is not clear, we can count on the person we vote for following the caucus they belong to when they get to Washington. So, if you have to hold your nose to vote because all candidates stink to high heaven, vote for the most kind caucus. At the moment, the Republican caucus leads to trickle-down failure and more recession. They haven't changed their philosophy that got us in this mess.

I see a day coming when local and state politicians become more important to us than national politicians. Perhaps they were more important all along. It is the local and state governments who need to be strong enough to protect the citizens from corporate driven agendas and community killing policies and to save in good times and spend in bad times. Make sure you vote for kindness. A mean politician stuck in ideology will only break hearts, maybe your heart. Make your voice heard and speak for those who can't.