Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black, black Friday

The American consumer is soooo stupid.
And disgraceful.

On Long Island, a Wal-Mart employee got trampled to death on Friday morning when drooling, greedy shoppers broke down the doors and swarmed into the store. At what, 5 AM? some ridiculously early time.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

First, wanting so badly to save money (while spending it—go figure) that they would get up early to be at a store on opening to be sure they got THE BEST DEAL.
Second, being willing to be part of a mindless horde of avaricious shoppers.
Third, being willing to kill to get what they want.

I heard people were annoyed that they had to wait while the store, the police and the EMTs cleaned up the mess.

Way to show Christmas Spirit folks.
Suddenly, water-boarding doesn't seem so bad. I'd love to get my mitts on the first two hundred or so of those idiots who stormed that Wal-Mart. I'd like to adjust their attitude. This kind of thing really tests my pacific Christian philosophy.
I end up feeling like I really want to hurt those people.

Lord, forgive me. But there it is.

Can you imagine being one of these people? Can you imagine how ashamed you would be? And if not, can you figure out why you deserve to live?

If this is the way Americans are supposed to be, maybe it's time for me to return to the family roots in Slovakia. I asked before in this blog, if I were the only one who thought that it was weird that the economic health of our country depended on us buying things. A lot of things.

I still think it's weird.

I don't have a problem with people wanting something more than the basics of existence. And I don't have a problem with other people producing stuff that goes past the basics and who want to earn a living selling it.

But I do have a problem with elevating greed and possession to the be-all and end-all of life.
Actually I could just say "end-all of life" because anyone who is in the thrall of this possessive addiction has really opted out of true human life. There ain't no "be-all" for them, they are just robots.

What insanity is it that induces major retailers to create elevated levels of possessiveness in their customers? And what insanity is it that allows customers give themselves up to these consuming influences?

Are people's lives really so empty? Are retailers so insecure and greedy? Are people so stupidly susceptible to being manipulated to the point where they actually surrender any pretense to humanity?
Yes, yes and yes.

I keep coming back to that parable in Luke where Jesus tells the rich ruler to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. The rich ruler can't do it. Do you suppose any of those Long Islanders could give up even half of what they were planning to spend at Wal-Mart to the poor?
Don't bet the farm on this.
Disclosure: I lived on Long Island for a while once and I'm here to tell you, it's better to be in Youngstown, Ohio or Eugene, Oregon or anywhere else in the known universe. Long island makes you crazy.

Although so far they haven't been shooting each other in Toys R Us. That's left for the Californians.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Go meditate or something already.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

I had a little Thanksgiving hiatus, went to NYC to see family. Stayed away from computers except for a brief check of email on my son's computer (it's an Apple laptop of course. The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree). I am thankful for my children and how well they've turned out. Nothing and no one else in my life has been as joyful and important to me.

So I finally get to a place where I can watch TV (no reception up here in the hills) and what do I get to see?
Massacre in Mumbai.

Why Mumbai? It's India's financial hub, like New York is America's. These religious/political extremists are learning to follow the money. Unfortunately for terrorists, Mumbai doesn't have anything as iconic as the Twin Towers, so they had to diversify—hotels, restaurants, train stations—and of course the obligatory strike against the Jews (i.e. Israel). How pathetic. It appears at this time that the attackers were Pakistani, or at least sympathetic to Moslem Pakistan rather than Hindu India, but really, why bring the Jews into this? If you hit too many different targets it just dilutes your message.

Riveting news reports and tragic.
When are people going to learn that violence isn't the answer?

When I was watching and hearing of the stuggles in northern Ireland, way back there in the last Millennium, it seemed to me that whatever the original impulse for violence, whether fighting against oppression, or fear of the insurrection, whether one was an Irish Protestant or an Irish Catholic, whether one supported the British rule in the North or didn't—whatever might have been idealism or self-protection in that mess—the end result was to eventually bring into the movement the most criminal and murderous of the human dregs. Throwing bombs into a tavern? That's a stroke against the oppressors? Or is that a response from one set of victims to another?
There was a lot of that kind of thing for a while. And of course the British gov't didn't help that situation much. The orders given the soldiers were not any more moral than the orders the leaders of whichever faction gave to their followers.

This rising to the top of the criminal element can be seen in other struggles, like most lately, the attacks in Mumbai.

When some charismatic personality (growing out of an oppressive political situation) has the power and inclination to motivate people for change, s/he has a choice: violence or non-violence.
Gandhi and Martin Luther King understood that gains were better achieved through non-violence—that is, non-violence on the part of their followers. Those who choose violence, think Osama bin Laden, condemn their movement and ideology to the annals of pathology instead of politics. Eventually they will attract people who are more interested in death (mostly of others) than idealism. Those people will say they are there for the idealism (free Northern Ireland, create a Basque republic, etc), but they will really be there because they like to kill.

It doesn't help the cause, whatever that may be. No, after a while all that's left are the persons who are psychologically attuned t0 the idea of hurting others. It's just nice for them that they get some political idea or movement to be in where they could exercise their tendencies without being treated by their companions as the criminals they are.

The real soldiers of most countries are trained to kill, but they are, in theory at least, supposed to try to avoid civilians. In the US there have been trials of soldiers who were less discriminating in their choice of targets. Our system isn't perfect, and certainly many escape the net, but we do have a system, at least, and it does work sometime.

What would a Taliban soldier be penalized for? Perhaps carrying an ipod loaded with music. But killing non-combatants? Eh.

I swear one of those criminals was shown wearing a Versace t-shirt. I don't have time to dig thru all the levels of irony in that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Movin' along now

Seems it's almost official, Hillary is going to be Secretary of State. I've written that from a personal standpoint I think she could be a great senator…but she will also be a great Secretary of State. Might be able to get stuff done by force of personality. If you were the leader of a country and heard that the USA wasn't happy about what you were doing, how would you feel if Hillary was flying in for a little heart-to heart talk?
Talking to Al Pacino's Godfather would be a little less stressful.
I wouldn't want to argue with her.

Also Obama is going to appoint Timothy F. Geithner as his treasury secretary. That news shot the stock market up a bit on Friday. Hopefully his talk on the economic situation scheduled for Monday will boost it some more. Of course I don't know who the hell he is, but the people who need to know obviously do.
And how come our financial health depends on a bunch of Nervous Nellies who have no long range vision and crawl back under their rocks everytime it looks like they are going to have an unprofitable quarter?

It looks like the Big O is hitting the ground running, not wasting a second, grabbing the bull by the horns, taking names and kicking butt— let me know if I missed any clich├ęs. Anyway he is actually DOING something. Unlike the current resident of the White House who is in Peru, for another pointless economic meeting. No one wants to listen to him anymore anyway.
Theres a video on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6Y_ncOVlDw) of GWB coming out for a photo op with the G-20 Leaders and everyone's shaking hands but no one shakes hands with him. No one.
Its over George. Just slink off into the night already.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times today Gail Collins, a far superior writer to myself, suggests that it's time for the pres to go. She suggests he resign, with Cheney resigning first ("we're desperate, not crazy") so that the Presidency would go to Nancy Pelosi who could give Obama a chance to get his stuff going early.

And it needs to get going.

The automobile manufacturers' situation needs to be addressed soon. Much as I despise those guys, the CEOs, COOs etc, not the line workers, it looks like some help has to be given the big three to help them avoid bankruptcy. Too many people would be adversely affected. I'm waiting to hear Obama's plans which he is supposed to announce Monday.

Apparently my support of the local deli, and the ripple effect on its employees if I can't spend money there anymore, is not enough for me to be considered for a part in this $750 billion giveaway. The small businessman always gets screwed. Anyone have a private jet I could fly to Washington in? That seems to be what gets noticed. If I could just get a chance to get in front of that committee, I know i could wheedle a few hundred thou out of them. I can bullsh!t with the best of them.
Yeah. Enough dreaming for the night. Goodnight, to both of my loyal readers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nose dive

The economy is in the basement. With a shovel, digging a hole.
People are afraid stocks are going to go down, so they don't buy—which makes the stocks go down so people get afraid…

You know, the last two times I was unemployed were also bad economic periods. My timing is impeccable.
I wanted to get in on this bail-out thing. Went to Washington with paper and statistics showing that my little free-lance graphic business was in danger of going under. I figured that they could spare a lousy million for me. But on my way in to the Senate Banking, Housing etc. committee, I got pushed aside by Rick Wagoner of G.M in his rush to seek help, and Allan Mulally of Ford knocked me against the wall, and Robt. Nardelli of Chrysler stepped on my foot. Those guys were anxious!
By the time I got out of the emergency room, the committee had gone home for the day. While I was in the ER a guy from AIG tried to sell me some insurance.
Not a good day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's kind of hard…

… to get back in gear after the election and subsequent euphoria. I mean, everybody's tired.

Happily the Democrats are helping out. it seems that they have let Lieberman keep the chair of the Homeland Security committee. He is Benedict Arnold without even the glory of the leg wound at Saratoga. *
His popularity in Connecticut is tanking big time. The only benefit to his staying in that position is that now he owes, he owes, Obama for not working to push him off the chairmanship, and he has to be a good little Democrat to save his own butt in Connecticut.

Speaking of euphoria, there is a video of election night at Hampshire college, arguably the most leftist college in the US. It shows the students celebrating in the college yard and spontaneously breaking out in the "National Anthem." Possibly a first, and very touching also.

In good news it seems that the felon senator Stevens of Alaska is losing to his Democratic opponent Begich. Which means the Polar Bear Goddess will not be able to appoint a Republican to replace him when he resigns to go to the hoosegow.

On the bad side, the Bushman is issuing a lot of presidential rules deregulating and further pillaging America's resources. Folks, it's not too late to impeach him. (I wanted to say impeach that -something else- but I want to respect the office at least if not the occupant.) Why, oh why is that man so blind to the damage he is doing?

Sometimes these rules are hard to change. I hope that everyone puts pressure on their congresspeople to do something about this.

Johnny Mac and the Big O got together for a meeting today. Apparently McCain doesn't mind palling around with guys who pal around with terrorists.

Barack Obama has a YouTube spot now. And he used the internet to great success in his campaign. It's going to be a real sacrifice for him to lose his Blackberry.

Arianna Huffington filled in for Rachel Maddow last night. Disappointed as I am at not seeing our Cummington girl on the air, I have to admit a real weakness for European accents. Is that dame married?

Barack's Mother-in-law will be living in the White House with them?
Is there going to be no rest for the man? You can run, Barack, but you can't hide.

Enough rambling.
G'nite all.

*Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg fighting for the revolution at the Battle of Saratoga. This before becoming a turncoat. There is a monument to his leg at the site.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hillary redux (or maybe "still")

There seems to be a leak that the Obama team (i.e. Obama hisself) is considering Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. She would be a good one, if she can bring herself to follow the Obama lead.
I wonder if that would be a good thing for her, and for the country.
I'm thinking about how much influence she could have as a long-standing senator. She has the personality and the grit and the clout.

You young whippersnappers (what in hell is a whippersnapper) won't remember Tip O'Neil. He was a senator from Massachusetts, liberal, large in personality, body and appetite, distinctive in appearance (political cartoonists cried like babies when he retired) and he was a force in the congress for a lot of good legislation. Hmm, remind you of someone else?
Ted Kennedy, whatever his personal failings has also been a source of good in the congress. He is also large in personality, body and appetite, and a boon to cartoonists. My point is that someone who knows what (s)he wants and has the knowledge to pull it off can be a real power in the government. Should Hillary pass up this opportunity to take a job which will end with the Obama presidency (if not sooner?) Even if it is a high profile job which has potential for historical significance? As in being remembered in history books.
Not that that is very much. How many of you former students who went thru freshman Western Civ classes know any previous Secretarys of State?
Some of them were very important.
Some leaders of the senate were very important.
But you'll have to dig for the knowledge of what they were important for.
Presidents get all the glory.
Back to Hillary. I think she could be an effective leader for a much longer time as a senator in the US Congress than as a Secretary of State. Of course she doesn't have the drinking capacity (who does) of a Tip O'Neil and an Edward Kennedy, nor could she ever aspire to their physical bulk (God, I hope not).
And she isn't from Massachusetts. That's a big deficit.
Still, she could really make a great name for herself as a guiding force in the Senate, over the long haul.
Or she could be a visible and hopefully effective Secretary of State in the short haul.
Would the shorter political career be worth it? Any one remember Dean Acheson?
Anyone remember Zbigniew Brzezinski? Madeline Albright? Not that long ago.
Going way back—How about Bainbridge Colby? Elihu Root?
Well, these folks probably get more recognition than any important Senator, however obscure they may be. But have they had as much influence as a Kennedy or O'Neil?

Your history question for the night. If you have an answer, I wanna know too.
Tha's all from here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

3 days into the future

Man, what a few days it's been!
Lots of videos on YouTube of the celebrating in NYC, probably other places too.
So fun to watch all those excited and happy people.

The old curmudgeon found himself a little damp-eyed more than once on Wednesday.
Love the NY Times headline. They almost never have a banner headline across the top of the front page, and never to my knowledge only a one word headline.

OBAMA.
They didn't have to say anything else.

It's not time to stop the praying and working. The economy is in terrible shape. Another 240,00 people out of work last month.
I guess I was ahead of the curve, getting laid off in February.

Obama's gonna need some good advice and help and effort from everyone who can give.

Besides worrying about how the hell he's going to get the country started out of this mess, I have one major worry—what in the eff am I going to write and complain about now?

I didn't start off to do a particularly political blog, but it got that way, for the most part. The race was really heating up when I got started and it was hard to ignore.
No matter how much I tried.

There is still the economy. The hours on my part-time free lance job just got cut. Fortunately the unemployment benefits are still in effect. It gets hard to be a graphic designer when people don't have the money advertise or develop new product.

I'm feeling better. Of course there will always be something to bitch about.

I'm happy to not be complaining about McCain-Palin. Man, what a horror show.
He's resting somewhere and she's gone back to polar bear land. I hope they let her keep those boots. She did look good in them.

That's all for tonight.
Looking forward to a better tomorrow…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm getting nervous…

…NPR is already calling states for Obama.
I look and see that 14% is in, 17% is in—I know that the poll people think they have it wrapped up but I keep thinking that there is still 83% to count and I don't feel comfortable.
They're saying Pennsylvania is going to Obama—looks like the "bitterness that leads them to guns and religion" hasn't blinded them to where their best interests lie.

I think Obama will be the better President (he's certainly the one with the best chance of surviving his first four years) but McCain really deserves to lose. The wretched campaign he and the wolf-killer VP candidate have been running with the smears and exaggerations and lies only exhibited the bankruptcy of their candidacy.

8:38 PM

81 electoral votes to 34 according to CNN, for Obama.
MSNBC has 103 to 58.
NPR is holding with 103 to 34.

8:45
Younger voters in Ohio going 64% to obama. Young voters heavy for Obama all across the nation.
Way to go you whippersnappers!
I know what my kids are voting, God bless'em. Chips off the old block. I'm so proud.

9:15
Obama isn't Mr. Pure. Witness his going back on his promise to use public funding, for example. He is a savvy politician. And ambitious. But McCain has turned into the real political whore. I'm sorry for him. What did it cost him to change the way he did? Or was it the real John McCain who came out for this contest?

It's too bad that it seems to have taken a major political crisis to bring so many people into the Obama camp. The difference between him and McCain are so clear, and so positive on Obama's side. Can't people tell a mendacious politician unless their wallets hurt?

So far CNN, MSNBC and NPR have Obama around 175 electoral votes. McCain at 49–76 depending on who you look at. What I'm interested in tho, is that the "popular" vote is only around 100,000 in favor of the big O.

I'm glad my guy is ahead, but i really wonder if this electoral college thing doesn't need some revision? Like maybe having electors for precincts or representational districts or something like that, and especially getting rid of the winner takes all thing most states have.

10:15
I'm getting more hopeful. My natural Slovak pessimism is starting to dissipate.
Ohio, my home state, has apparently gone for Obama. In Virginia, he's about 1400 votes ahead. Talk about a squeaker. He can still lose there.

This means a lot to me.
Back in 1964, I was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland. My freshman year in college. I went to meetings in the ghetto and wondered why there were so few white people there. I heard my friends asking what "those people" thought they were doing. I remember getting yelled at while marching around some public building in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland was very racist at that time, may still be for all I know, but I hope not.
All through the sixties I argued for equal rights, and was dismayed at every assassination and death among those who died in that struggle. This night is for them.

Viola Liuzzo, this night is for you.
Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney, this night is for you.
Medgar Evers, this night is for you.
Malcolm X, this night is for you.
Martin Luther King, gentle giant of a man, this night is for you.
And for all those who died or were beaten and jailed for fighting for their dignity, this night is for you.

As of now, 10:21, 207 to 129 for Obama on NPR and CNN.

More encouraging news:
The misbegotten bid to get rid of the income tax here in Massachusetts went down to defeat.
South Dakota defeated an anti-abortion bill, Colorado defeated a resolution to make law the idea that human life begins at conception.

I'm still waiting to hear about the vote for de-criminalizing marijuana possession is going in Massachusetts.


12:30 AM Nov. 5, 2008

OKAY!
Obama is declared the winner, McCain has made his concession speech. McCain was gracious and intelligent and respectful and courageous, all the things he was NOT in the last month or so leading up to tonight. Well, better late than never. He did good.

Obama, well, his acceptance of the election wasn't up there with the Gettysburg Address, but what is? It was still a damn good speech. I am so psyched. After my experiences in the 60's I could not have imagined this night.

I just pray some wingnut doesn't try to negate this election in a violent way. When one has seen Malcolm X and JFK and Bobby Kennedy ripped out from the fabric of one's hopes and dreams, 0ne develops a level of paranoia.

Anyway I believe that this country has a chance to be a real beacon of light to the rest of the world again. I go to sleep happy.

Oh, and the bill to decriminalize marijuana in Massachusetts passed. Sanity reigns tonight.

12:43
My son called from NYC. He's walking down 1st ave. A thousand people in the street, all smiling.
What a great day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Two more days, dear Lord, two more days

I can hardy stand it. Will it be Obama, who I can live with? Or will it be the heart attack candidate McCain and his snow queen running mate? The polls say Obama and I hope so—but my people come from Slovakia, and tend to the darker side of the emotional spectrum. If we want it and it looks like we're going to get it, then we become convinced that some calamity will snatch our joy away from us.
I don't know whether to attribute this to religion (Catholic—and guilt-inducing— with the deep-seated old superstitions still active) or to being at the crossroads for most of the armies fighting over European real estate for the last thousand years, with the attendant inconveniences.
Maybe it's from a diet consisting mostly of pierogies and cabbage and slivovitz.
And beets for variety.
By the way, if you've never tasted slivovitz, say a fervent prayer of thanks to the Lord above.
My father used to keep Jelinek Slivovitz around. 100 proof, kosher for passover, and when you drink it you pass over (or out) for sure. It sears the flesh off your throat on the way down, which accounts for the gutteral languages of that part of the world. Then the heat reaches your stomach and the alcohol poison courses through your bloodstream. As soon as it reaches your brain you realize you understand everything and nothing at the same time. Synapses misfire or form crazy rhythms in your brain and a real connection with the universe and visions of God suddenly seem to come into your very being.
When you wake up, usually in a barn somewhere with a pig licking your face, you remember nothing.
It's wonderful.
NO!
I mean it's terrible.
Especially when you start hearing about the fistfights and what a fool you were.
Anyway, that's what they tell me.
Wouldn't know myself.

Basically it's the Eastern European answer to cocaine.
But cocaine is friendlier.

It's also good for removing blacktop tar from the sides of your vehicle.

I seem to have gotten off-topic again.

Anyway, I am rooting for Obama. He ain't perfect, but he's perfecter than McCain-Palin.
I say McCain-Palin because I really don't believe the old war hero will survive four years, and we'll end up with Sarah and Todd in the White House.
Lordy.

There's been so much smearing going on from the McCain camp i don't know where to begin so I won't. And stupidity. Geeez.

I just wanna say I AM a real American, even tho I don't vote Republican, don't approve of McCain and disrespect Palin. So there.

By the way, how come that business about Obama's aunt comes out only now, hmm?

Would YOU like to be judged by all your relatives actions and/or ideas?

I hope Obama wins the election,but I also hope he has the smarts to pick good people to advise and help him. The mess G.W. Bush leaves behind will take a lot of undoing. A generation or two. And more than one man, or one President.

One of the good things to come from this is that more people are understanding that "regulation" is not necessarily a dirty word. Once one sees that people with no restraints are gambling one's own money away, then the idea of some kind of "rules of conduct" becomes more acceptable.

My biggest problem with the election being over is that i will have to work to find new things to complain about.
Well, really, I don't think I have to worry too much about that.
Even in an Obama administration.

Good night.