Thursday, November 17, 2011

Supercommittee wants to supersquash us

The so-called supercommittee in congress is poised to pass a bill to make big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
I'm going to quote from an email I got from
 "If one Democrat out of six total on the supercommittee goes along with the Republican's plan for massive cuts to crucial programs, it passes. Then their proposal gets fast-tracked through Congress, without amendments, filibusters, or other good ways to stop it.
We are directly lobbying the Democrats on the supercommittee to make sure they don't strike a bad deal. MoveOn leaders in Massachusetts are going right after Sen. Kerry, who amazingly may be the Democrat most likely to cave.  The phones are ringing off the hook in all of the committee members' offices. And we are keeping the pressure on the ground in all of the supercommittee members' states and district with our "We are the 99%" events today.

It's not just potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that have us concerned. Things have gotten much worse over the last week.
The New York Times reported this week that members of the congressional supercommittee are looking for ways to agree to deep cuts to social programs now but defer any decisions about how to raise taxes until next year.
That's a recipe for total disaster. Congress already slashed programs that the middle class relies on by almost $1 trillion this past summer. What's needed now is for the rich and corporations to pay their fair share—not for the 99% to suffer more so the 1% can keep their tax cuts."

How many of you really think the congress would keep that promise to "look at" raising taxes next year? Don't all jump up at once. My own feeling is that NO cuts should be made to any more programs which benefit the poor and middle class until taxes on the wealthiest are returned to pre-Bush era levels, at least.
If you live in Massachusetts, here's Senator Kerry's phone number, send him a message—be polite:
Senator John Kerry, 202-224-2742

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why o why o why o did i ever leave Ohio?

Believe it or not, that used to be a song. Seriously.

I've been reviewing Rachel Maddow's show over the last week or so (I don't spend ALL my time on the computer) and have been delighted at the news of the vote in Ohio.

And no I don't want to go back except to visit. But I am proud of my former childhood home for defeating SB5 which the Republican legislature and governor rammed through last year. It would basically destroy the idea of collective bargaining, would have reduced the power of unions to nothing, would have been a boon to the corporate oligarchy as proved by the amount of Koch brothers' money that went into the fight for that vote.

I don't know where the hell Gov. Kasich got that idea from. He's got an Eastern European-sounding name. Eastern Europeans are plentiful in Ohio. And they are laborers and belong, in large part, to unions. Doesn't he know any steelworkers (former steelworkers—all those jobs went overseas)? If any place is a union state it's Ohio. At least I can say that about Northeast Ohio. My father was a steel mill worker (until someone dropped a palette full of bricks on his foot—he walked with a limp forever after and lost his job—in 1917 or thereabouts. I wasn't politically aware enough when he was alive to ask if he got workmen's comp or a severance pay. Snort. It was 1917.)
And almost everyone who was a friend of my family was a union member. Usually steel, but often also police. Only wives and priests were not union members. Priests had a different kind of organization which did not empower them, alas. They coulda used a good union.

My father had a thing against blacks because they were brought up from the south in an effort to break the union-forming activists. He never realized that the blacks were being used by the corporate owners just as he was. That's the way capitalism works.
Where was I? Oh, Ohio shot down that attempted legislation decisively. And good for them. If someone in that state doesn't belong to a union, they have a family member who does. Chalk one up for Ohio.

And chalk one up for Mississippi. They shot down, again decisively, a law declaring a fertilized egg a person.  This meant if you were raped, you had to bear the rapist's child. This meant that if you might die if you went into labor, tough luck, you're going into labor. This meant if  you used birth-control pills you were a felon. And Mississippi, that anti-abortion, conservative state, saw how wrong-headed this legislation would be and shot it down. Way to go Mississippi!

It's way beyond wonder, way beyond snark, way beyond disgust, what the Republicans all over the country are doing to try to put down the majority of people in support of their corporate money pot. So far they are trying, sometimes succeeding, to destroy working people's bargaining rights, create barriers to voting for the minorities—who may vote Democratic, insert the federal government into our personal lives, insert very conservative religious beliefs into our laws and basically sucking up to the likes of the Koch brothers.
How can anybody vote for these wingnuts?

I know someone who thinks that things aren't going to get better until we "break the unions." Hello?
If you think that unions are getting too much in the way of benefits, take  look at how much 1% of our population is sucking up at the expense of the rest of us. If we can even things out about THAT, then I might consider looking at whether or not working people are getting too much from our society. But only then.
If it weren't for unions we wouldn't have the weekend, we wouldn't have workmen's comp, we wouldn't have even the pathetic (compared to the rest of the western world) health care we have (just ask my dad's ruined foot). Are there excesses? Yep. But are they worse than the excesses of the richest among us? Nope.
I mean, this is a no-brainer.
As far as I am concerned, you can't pay teachers ENOUGH!

Aagh, here I am  bitching about politics again. I don't want to do this, but it is getting really important to be aware of what is going on. It seems like Republican leadership (not necessarily the Republican proletariat—see Ohio and Mississippi—those votes weren't from Democrats alone) has just swallowed all it's corporate masters' kool-aid and is entirely oblivious to the needs of the rest of us, and oblivious to the idea of what America is supposed to be.
We were not meant to substitute the rule of corporations for the rule of kings. Really— to take the Suprenme Court at it's own (misguided) word—if corporations are persons, then they shouldn't be kings. Getting rid of kings and giving power to the people, not corporations, is what the American Revolution is all about.

Think about that next time you go to a voting booth—if a Republican-sponsored restriction doesn't keep you out of it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rant digest

So I haven't posted much lately. There is this thing called life I've been concerned with—you know how that gets in the way of internet activity, takes you away from the computer. It's a shame, but there it is.
One of my problems lately is the paucity of new and original things to rant about. Maybe that's my rant. It's not that the Republicans and Fox Unnews aren't committing new crimes against intelligence and humanity—it's just that going on about their doings is like shooting ducks on a pond, or fish in a barrel—whatever. It gets predictable and boring. Can you expect anything different from these characters? Can you expect anything from them that an intelligent 8-year old can't refute?
I didn't think so.

If it's stupid and  so obvious a ploy to suck up to their corporate masters, then the Repubes will embrace it. Unemployed? Get a job. Don't matter if there aren't any jobs, it's still your fault. Occupy Wall Street (the horror!)?  You must be a hippie socialist pot-smoking free-lover who is in favor of gay marriage and trying to destroy the moral underpinnings of America.
Get a job (see above).

It's pretty hard to destroy the moral underpinning of a nation that tried to exterminate the native population, brought Chinese laborers over to build the railroads (and treated them like dogs), fought a civil war about slavery but still tried to keep the former slaves and their descendants in their place for a hundred years after that war; that supported many ruthless tycoons in their railroad and mining and steel-making industries at the expense of the workers actually doing the labor; that engaged in a bunch of military involvements in Haiti, the Philippines and Central America which didn't add any luster to our achievements; that supported a number of dictators solely because they (seemingly) provided a buffer against communism. Remember communism? So last millennium.

But still—there is always a "still." If you're looking for moral absolutism you have to go to some other blog. "Still" America is the one place in the world where people of all nations, creeds and colors have looked to for a chance to be better in their lives. That's why people risk coming thru the deserts of the southwest with questionable guides, why even people from India (you know, our corporations' favorite place to outsource jobs) want to come to get an education and find jobs,  why my old man came here back in nineteen ought-ten and why I am here to live and have the freedom to rant.

It's still the case that someone like me would end up dead or in prison for an awful long time for speaking my mind, in some other place. But, it's still the case that the fact that I can speak my mind is essentially co-opted by the fact that I can speak my mind.

Say what?
There is a trap here. Allowing people to vent is a way to defuse their anger and showing how open the ruling body or bodies are. If getting what you want off your chest is all that you need, well, American free speech is there for you. If you expect your free speech to affect the ruling bodies, that's another story. You have to write your congressman, maybe take your body to his office, let everyone you have any hope of influencing also write your congressman and maybe take their bodies to his/her office. If you can counter-act the contributions from the corporations which want to control things in this country (including how much you have to eat every day), if you can see that your congressman/woman is a human being with responsibilities to other human beings, then you can get beyond the trap. You can realize that spouting off isn't always enough, action has to follow.
Am I calling for revolution? Yep. I am.  FBI take note. I want an actual conservative (as in conserving the good of the past while leaving behind the dross) revolution that takes us back to some of our founders ideas. One that recognizes our founders' desire to keep religion OUT of our politics no matter what. That would benefit the country. One that recognizes Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex (so obvious now); one that follows up on JFK's exhortation to do for our country; one that follows up on Martin Luther King's vision of what America can be.
I want a revolution that recognizes that every generation has the possibility of revolution which can advance the evolution of the human race. We are in a unique position—we don't have to depend on Darwinian evolution—we can intellectually choose how the human race will evolve. What way will we go? YOU decide.
Me? I'm going to bed. It's late.
Cheers, everyone.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve jobs

I've come out from under my rock—not to inveigh against the chicaneries, cowardice and general stupidity of government (there just isn't enough time in one lifetime for that), but to talk about an extraordinary person.
Today Steve Jobs died. I'd expected that this was coming, a driven person such as he does not willingly relinquish his command of the second richest company in the world—behind Exxon.
And tho it was expected, and tho I never met the man, I found myself sorrowful, sobbing a little even, at his passing. I am sure I would not have been supporting myself since 1995 without Macintosh computers. I certainly would not have had as much fun using a computer, not had as much fun anticipating and watching his keynote addresses waiting to see what new miracle of technology  has sprung from his brain, like Athena from the forehead of Zeus.

    When  I first started working as a graphic artist for Star Press back in '95, Apple was on the ropes. Yes they had a good computer—I was using a 6100 powerPC  which was a great machine that I enjoyed using. It had a hundred megabytes of memory! But the company was fading. Then Apple bought Next, and got Jobs back into the fold.
Boy did he change things. That funky, spacey iMac came out, first in that Bondi blue color, then in a bunch of other colors. The colors were nice but the all-in-one space age chassis was revolutionary. "You mean I don't have to have a beige computer that looks like a box?"
    There was no looking back after that. In 1999 I bought my first computer, a blue-and-white tower affectionately referred to among aficionados as a "smurf". It had 6 gigabytes of memory!! In the meantime the towers, the laptops and the desktops changed and became more popular. Hey, Apple's share of the market went from 5% to oh, at least 8%. Or thereabouts.
    Then came the iPod, and iTunes. Jobs managed to convince the music industry dinosaurs that selling music at 99¢ a track could be profitable. Boy was it ever. And it changed the way music is presented and sold forever. People i know who don't like Macintosh computers are listening to music on Apple iPods.
    IMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads—in the last twelve years Steve Jobs has changed the way you and I listen, watch, and communicate with each other in an irrevocable way. This may be good, it may be ill, but there it is.
    And a lot of this Jobs didn't actually put his hands on physically making. Steve Wozniac actually made the first prototype Apple computer—but Steve jobs recognized the value and was able to sell it. And everything that Apple has produced since Steve Jobs came back in 1996 has had to pass his aesthetic and practical judgement. He knew what people wanted before they did.
    Some might say he knew what he could convince people they wanted before they knew they wanted it. Whatever, it worked. Apple products are imitated all over the world in an effort to acquire some of their magic.
    Inevitably, as the hagiographies and opposing debunkings come out over the next few days, you'll hear that Jobs had an illegitimate child who he refused to acknowledge for years before finally accepting her. You'll hear about his management style, which sometimes veered into terrifying territory. And these things are true, and pertinent to those involved, but they don't diminish the effect he has had on the world. Everyone has faults, and I am not excusing his by saying that. Gandhi was rumored to have strange relations (tho not necessarily sexual) with the women who visited him, Martin Luther King is said to have had extra-marital affairs, and many other famous people who have made a positive contribution to the world and human life have had incidences or proclivities which are to us regrettable, maybe even criminal.
    But that's humanity.  People who do good things are not always good themselves. And their contributions to humanity should not be diminished by their personal peccadilloes. Turn it around—if you knew that Heinrich Himmler rescued abandoned puppies and found homes for them, would you think he was less of a criminal?
    In the case of Steve Jobs, I think we have to look at what he has brought to our lives, and think about that. Admiring what he has done for computers, music, phones and communication in general doesn't mean endorsing his personal faults.
    Me, I'm too busy thinking about how I could have been better, to worry about how Steve Jobs could have been better. I only know that he profoundly changed my life, and has changed the lives of many others, whether they know it or not. I regret his passing at the early age of 56, and wonder what else he could have come up with. I can't imagine it, but then, I'm not Steve Jobs.
Rest in peace, Mr. Jobs, and may God help your loved ones to find solace in what you have brought to their lives.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Can you believe it?

Can you believe that a group of House Republicans are ready to throw this country into a deep recession for ideological reasons? It's more than mind boggling. I took drugs in the sixties that had a less deleterious effect on my brain than this realizatin. Where are these wingnuts coming from? Were the people in their districts so traumatized by the advent of a black (read Negro) president, that they were ready to vote for anyone who crawled out from under an ideological rock? Ron Paul was fun when he appeared on Rachel Maddow's show, but when he is actually in congress he is a threat to the nation, he and his fellow political miscreants.
These people have no concept of what it is like to be out of work and struggling (they think it's just laziness that keeps you from getting a job in the worst economic climate in recent American history), to have children you can't feed (you must be sexually sinful and let's not talk about restrictions on birth control and abortion), to be elderly and unable to work and having to choose between rent and food. Hey, just die already. Save the country some money.
These asshats think that stimulating the economy is creating debt. What they don't realize is that those dollars, which give people the ability to buy food, pay medical practitioners, take care of other needs, come back to the government in taxes, both from the actual transaction and from the continued ability of people to feel like they can get things they need (put money back into circulation), and have hope that they can be wage-earners and tax payers again. If, that is, they can get jobs, and for some, that means government having the resources to enforce hiring practices, job discrimination and minimum wage standards.
Some people think getting a new job is easy. They haven't been 63 years old and appearing at interviews where one is facing a group of thirty-somethings who look at you as if you are a creature from an earlier geologic age. It's hard to claim age-discrimination. It's hard to claim any discrimination ("Oh, she was black? We hadn't noticed.)

I used to think that people inveighing against our education system were blowing smoke out of their collective asses, because we weren't producing the productive robots we need for a manufacturing economy. Now that our economy has gone south, or at least east to India and China (which, incidentally holds a lot of our debt) and we don't need to produce the 1950's era kind of workers (both blue and white collar), I see that our education system in the last thirty years has really fallen short.
My sister was an English teacher in a junior high school, and she can tell you story after story of protective parents coming to her complaining of a bad grade their child got because s/he didn't study, try, think, about an assignment.
Does the government do anything to help our teachers in saying "Dude, I know you smoked a lot of dope and saw God in the seventies, and believe in free expression, but your kid is still f-king up in class now, and hasn't a hope of going to college"? Does the government help teachers when they say "I know you want your kid to go to Harvard Law School, but s/he's as smart as a box of rocks and you should prepare her/him for some other kind of work?"
Naw. The wingnuts/asshats (your choice) in congress now only look at how much money they can save, as long as it doesn't affect their corporate sponsors. God forbid that we should require corporations, especially oil and gas corporations, to pay a proportionately equal part of their earning in taxes as we, the hoi polloi, do. And besides, a poorly educated citizenry is more malleable to the propaganda of the ruling classes, that is, the classes which have enough money to influence our Congressmen.
Some of these characters claim to be Christian. If so show them this:
Matthew 25: 31-46
…(then they will answer) “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, and thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my family, you did it to me.”
Feeding the poor, helping the sick or troubled or struggling—Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Health Insurance, Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance—this isn’t socialism, folks, it’s Christianity.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Edward R. Murrow said it best

Theres no way I can improve on what he said. Happy 4th of July everyone.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York, New York

I'm ba-a-ack.
There's been some trouble with google now owning blogspot, I think—anyway I couldn't even get to my own blog for a while, and that's why I have been bottling up my curmudgeonly gripings lately.

Tonight tho I start off with a joy, tempered by a realization of how far there is yet to go.
Today the New York State Senate approved a bill allowing same-sex marriage. In a senate led by Republicans. Holy  mackerel! It's been a struggle but the goal is finally achieved.

This is a big disappointment to the Catholic Church and many other conservative Christians. They are so hung up on believing that the Bible is the actual teaching of God, rather than the attempts of an early society to protect itself and make sense of the world. There was an older translation of the bible in my church which said that eating the flesh of the pig was an abomination and later said that a man having sex with a man was an abomination—and I liked to bludgeon those who were against homosexuality with the thought that eating a BLT was a bad as a man sleeping with another man.
Had a BLT lately?
The NRSV bible, alas, only says that eating the flesh of a pig is unclean. Doesn't have the same punch. New translations are not always better.
In Leviticus, women aren't considered in same sex relations, being pretty much second-class citizens so who cares. It is only in the letters of Paul (my minister says it is in there somewhere but i forget where and I'm too lazy right now to go looking) that women sleeping with women is given equal condemnation as men sleeping with men. That's progress for the status of women, kinda, I guess.

Anyway, I'm happy that NY State has finally decided to enter the 21st century. And kudos to Governor Cuomo  for pushing this to victory. I'm having a vision of "Cuomo for President in 2016" placards right about now.
Obama better hope it's not "Cuomo in 2012." Obama was in NYC telling gays that he was against any kind of discrimination. But I'm not sure that he came out in favor of actual marriage. Someone, one of my two actual readers, can correct me on this if they have the energy.
He does belong to a UCC church and should know better. The UCC is a church which says that "God is still speaking" and that means that what was understood by the ancients is not the end and is not necessarily apropos today.
The world and humanity is still growing and evolving. It ain't over yet, folks.
I think Obama, and the Democrats in general, should consider speaking their minds and openly and aggressively fighting for their goals, instead of weaseling  around worrying about 2012, and also achieving consensus—and those goals are not necessarily compatible.

Goodnight all.

Monday, February 28, 2011


The mess in Wisconsin is really dispiriting. Their yahoo governor, while giving tax cuts to the rich, is now trying to cripple the unions who have helped bring prosperity to the middle class. He's doing this to make up the revenues, in the form of tax breaks, he has given to the rich.
Back when Jesus said that the little you have will be taken from you, he must have been thinking of Wisconsin. Has anyone else noticed that Republicans believe that future government savings must be placed on the backs of those least able to sustain them—like those people who depend on the solidarity of unions to defend them?

Anyone who thinks unions are unnecessary should consider the weekend. Two days off in a week is a benefit we would not have without unions.
My father worked in the steel mills in Youngstown. Back in 1912-18 thereabouts. He told me how Saturday night—after work!— was devoted to drinking and dancing and Sunday, the one day off a week, was devoted to church and hangover. Plus whatever needed done around the house. His steel mill career was terminated when a palette of bricks fell on his foot, giving him a limp for the rest of his life.
No job, no insurance, no benefits of any kind. "Too bad Joe, but you're no good to us now. Hit the road."

This is the situation that the governor of Wisconsin and his corporate backers aspire to. More profits for the corporations, more slavery for the workers.
Middle class? Fageddaboutit. Ain't going to be one. The middle class only takes profit away from the rich. Corporations don't need the middle class—they think. I don't know who they think is going to buy the crap they produce when no one is left who can afford it. Even Henry Ford, anti-Semitic, racist, fascist loving and ultimately murderous sumbitch he was, recognized that his employees had to earn enough to afford the cars he was producing. He may have hired thugs to beat and kill his workers when they tried to form unions, but he at least had a grasp on reality to the extent that he knew there weren't enough rich people around to support his factories. There were hellish factory conditions, no safety net, no health insurance—but at least they made enough to buy the damn cars they made.

Present day corporations don't have even that basic level of intelligence.

Somewhere in my previous fulminations I mentioned how much of the wealth of this country was in the hands of so few citizens. I don't have the exact figures at hand, the top one percent (in riches) of this country control more wealth than all the rest of us. Someone with more energy than me can go look up the exact figures. They're out there somewhere, maybe in my previous posts.

The problem here is not that the public service unions, like the teachers' union, or the state workers, are getting too much in relation to the rest of us—it's that the rest of us are getting too LITTLE in relation to what we deserve. We shouldn't be trying to bring the unions  benefits down, we should be trying to bring our benefits up. The quality of life of the billionaires and corporation CEOs is not going to be affected that much if the rest of us have a bigger share of the wealth this country generates. And unions need the collective bargaining power to keep their members alive and healthy. The rich already have enough.

I don't know what the hell they think they are going to do with all that money. What good is it to have more money than you or your immediate descendants can spend? I swear on my mother's grave, I could not spend even one billion dollars in my lifetime, much less several billions. The effort of trying would wear me out, probably kill me. And frankly, I don't want, much less need, all that much.
What do those rich idiots think they need all that money for?

There is one way to screw up this acquisitive action of the greedy rich. Stop buying their stock. Stop dealing with chain stores, support your local farmer and his fight against Monsanto robo-seeds. Give up on money where you can. Okay, your doctor is not going to be happy to be paid in chickens—you will need money here. But if you need a chicken, could you trade some vegetables, a ham hock, a service, a painting, for that chicken? No way we can get rid of money as the medium of exchange, but we can reduce its influence in our lives. We can get along without being slaves to greedy billionaires who don't have a clue as to what it means to be a real, honest human being—a best example of what God created us to be.

Grow what you can, trade what you can, and buy as much as you can and need from local suppliers. 

Jesus wasn't kidding when he said it would be easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich person to attain the kingdom of God. Jesus knew how much the love of wealth and possessions corrupts the human soul and leaves it bereft of value. He knew how we can be blinded by our possessions, how possessions can make us too big to get thru that needle's eye.

You may not believe in God or Jesus. but you should believe in the dignity and the glory of the human race— triumphant above the existential needs of animals, better than the lives in hives of insects—where it is possible for individuality to coexist with societal responsibility.

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's a heart-rending situation in Libya. Gaddafi is not going down without a fight. He is now slaughtering his own people, who don't seem to be ready to give up. They continue to protest.
Gaddafi is bombing his own people, and hiring mercenaries to shoot them. The two air force colonels who defected to Malta did so because they would not follow orders to bomb their own people.
The Libyan ambassador to the United states has called for Gaddafi to step down. So has the head of the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. At least nine Libyan diplomats have resigned in protest of Gaddafi's actions.
Somehow Gaddafi appointed many people of moral fortitude to represent his country around the world. Perhaps he just wanted them out of the country.

This is a way different situation than occurred in Egypt. Here the military is ready, in large part, to fire upon their own people. As I write, the Security Council of the UN is going to go into a closed door meeting tomorrow morning. One hopes that it will order peace-keeping troops to Libya.

One also hopes that the people of Libya don't give up, in spite of the fatalities. The governments of all dictatorships need to see that this kind of violence won't stop their regimes from being overthrown.

I weep for the suffering of the Libyan people. I pray that the rest of the world will have the backbone to step in and stop the slaughter.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mohammed Bouazizi

"The unrest began when Mohammed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed man, set himself on fire after police confiscated fruit and vegetables he was selling because he had no permit."                —Al Jazeera report

Let's not forget this guy. He was an unemployed Tunisian man, probably couldn't afford to buy or bribe someone for a permit, and the police took away his produce, his only means of support. In frustration and despair, he burnt himself to death.
From this, other unemployed took to the streets, the unions supported them and in the end the army supported them. And Ben Ali was the first to flee his country after a peaceful uprising.

Mohammed Bouazizi inspired the Tunisian revolt. And the Egyptians were inspired by the Tunisians. And now Hosni Mubarak is out and Egypt is, we hope, heading for a better future. Two strongmen toppled, shockwaves sent throughout the middle east, and who knows where else, all because one desperate man made a profound act of protest. One man made the ultimate sacrifice, and as a result the world changes, and there is hope, at least, for people who had no hope before.

I am reminded how the self-immolation of Buddhist monks in Vietnam helped turn the American public against the war. Sometimes it takes a horrific act of self-sacrifice to open peoples eyes to the injustice around them. Would that it were not so.

I honor Mohammed Bouazizi, and I hope he has found peace in the arms of Allah.

Friday, February 11, 2011

They did it, part 2

I have to remark again on the fact that the revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt were brought about by peaceful means. No storming the citadels with cannon and bomb. Just people going into the street and saying "We will not be moved."
It is so very stirring to see the doctrine of Gandhi and Martin Luther King put to effective use again. And the armed forces of these countries respected the will of the people against their own leader.
There are paranoiac people in this country who are amassing weapons, and promoting ridiculous "pledges" from police and soldiers that they will never take part in blockading an American city in the event of—what? Obama declaring himself dictator?
What amazes me is that these people automatically assume that the army will willingly be deployed against anyone protesting an attempted dictatorship in this country. Are they saying that our army is less intelligent, less humane, less loyal to the people of the country (last I knew, the army is composed of people of this country,) than the armies of Tunisia or Egypt? Huh?
Enough of that.

The other thing I want to remark upon is the ubiquity of the word "democracy." Whatever mistakes the US has made in the world, we should be proud that this idea is taking root in places which haven't seen much of that. Before the last century, how many revolutions in areas like the middle east were about getting people freedom as opposed to picking a new strongman?  People may have wanted their own king, sheik, leader, and not someone else's king, etc. But that was it. The king ruled. We still see this in some of the "stans" where a local despot has taken over from the ousted Russian-supported despot.
Now more and more, the idea that people should be able to fire their leader when necessary is taking hold. We may not always like the outcome of democracy in these places (like the Hamas victory in the Gaza Strip) but we need to learn to respect them, and figure out how to live with them.

Woot!! They did it!

Mubarak is fleeing. Protesters are beside themselves with joy.
Once again a repressive tyrant has fallen by PEACEFUL demonstration. The only violence came from the regime's supporters.
The army has stayed on the sidelines, but I believe they finally threw down their support with the protesters.
No doubt it was the army who told Mubarak that it was all over and he should high tail it.
I haven't been this excited since the Berlin Wall came down.

Don't know where this is going, what will happen to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty (a big worry) or whether the next government will be any better than the one that just crashed. I can only pray that things will get better for the people of Egypt and for the region in general.
And that non-violence can remain the order of the day.

Aggravation Potpourri

 Apparently Obama is proposing cutting energy assistance to the poor in his new budget. Our Senator Kerry has sent a letter remonstrating with him for this. As someone who has received assistance with my oil bill I can only agree. This is a bitch of a winter and I hate to see budgetary compromises being made on the backs of those who can least afford it.
Like Mimi and Richard Farina sang:
"It was the red, white and blue planning how to endure.
The fife, drum and bugle marching down on the poor." (House Un-American Blues Activity Dream)
Obama keeps up like this, I may have to vote for some third party candidate in 2012 (but please, not Ralph Nader!)
•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •
And in the meantime, Mubarak in Egypt is still refusing to let go of power and doctors and tradesmen and others are joining in the call for him to step down. And our government is still trying to work for what it calls an "orderly transition." Meaning that we want to make sure someone who doesn't hate us gets in power next.
Give it up guys. You want people to love us? Join the people!
It's a chance, it may not work—but continuing to be Mubarak's friend is definitely not going to work.
Yeah, we owe the bum something for at least not opposing our interests for the last couple decades, but enough is enough. Help him find a new home somewhere (not here) and cut him loose. He really hasn't been holding up his end of the bargain with his domestic policies.
•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •
Something different in the political infidelity scene:
New York Republican Congressman Christopher Lee got caught after sending a shirtless photo of himself to a woman who was looking for a man on Craigslist.  We can overlook the fact that he lied about his age and profession in his response. What can't be overlooked is that he is married.
Did I mention that this was the Washington D.C. Craigslist? And the woman in question worked for the government, and apparently she knew more about congressmen than, say, a local Pilates instructor or legal secretary.
So he was outed.
So far just like a lot of other malfeasing Important Government Male stories.
What is remarkable is that the very day this news broke, the now Mr., no longer Representative, Lee not only made the the usual "I'm so sorry I let you down" statement to his family staff and public, he actually resigned.
He actually resigned.
In the meantime John Ensign of Nevada, who not only cheated on his wife, but gave his mistress's husband and son jobs, was holding a fundraiser in Nevada.
David Vitter is still Senator from Louisiana, Gov. Sanford of S. Carolina is still governor.
In this comparison, Mr. Lee actually comes off as principled. No tearful press conference (at least not yet) with a stoic wife next to him, no period of denial or blaming others, no trying to hold on to his position of power in spite of abusing it. He said "I effed up" and he quit so that his scandal wouldn't get in the way of the political work he feels needed to be done.
Somewhere the man must have a core of decency. It's too bad he let his Mr. Johnson (that would be a euphemism) overwhelm the scruples of Mr. Lee.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hey Hosni, you're history.

Whether he steps down immediately or manages to hang on til September, when he said he'd step down, Hosni Mubarak is over. His minion, Omar Suleiman, has been appointed vice-president. But Suleiman is seen as a Mubarak clone. It's unclear whether he can do anything to quell the protests without kicking out Mubarak.

There is a lot going down in the Middle East right now. Tunisia's president has fled to the more hospitable climes of southern France; Jordan's king has dismissed his government, Egyptians are moving against Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is stepping down in 2013 (he says—apparently he has a history  of saying he'll step down and not doing it) and there are even protests in Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Saudi Arabia?

"Something is happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?"
Mr. Jones, in this case, being  not only the Arab governments involved, but also the United States government.
I'm not sure that Tunisia had a big presence in the attention of America's security agencies, but Mubarak certainly has. Jordan's king has been a friend—and a genuinely moderating influence in the Middle East; Saleh in Yemen has allowed the US to deploy our drones to attack terrorists in his country; and the US always attends to the Saudis, in spite of the fact that 19 of the 9/11 villains were Saudis.
What are we doing about these upheavals?
"Watching and responding."
So said PJ Crowley, US state department spokesman, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.
We're watching and responding. Uh-huh. We're watching as our boys are getting their clocks wiped by the people they have been oppressing all these years. And so far we're responding by saying "Oh shit, what do we do now?"
In the meantime, people in Cairo are picking up the spent tear gas canisters fired at them and reading "Made in the USA."
We sure know how to make friends.

Americans have been blessed in a way, by being separated from the rest of the world by two great oceans. But we have been cursed by that separation as well. The separation means that the problems "over there" are not ours.
The separation means that the problems "over there" are ours big time because we need the oil for gas from "over there" to get to the mall to buy something made of petrochemicals from "over there" that we need, just need, for our homes.
And for those of us at a certain distance from the equator, some of that oil from "over there' is necessary for life, to heat our homes.

Most of us though, are more aware of how the ocean separation of us from the rest of the world benefits us, than we are of how it hurts us.
And this brings me back to Mr. Jones.

In Bob Dylan's song, Mr. Jones is on the wrong side of history. He doesn't understand what is going on with all these people in the bar into which he walked. He doesn't even know that this is not a bar, it is his world and it has changed. It has changed into something that is not "his" world anymore, and he doesn't see that it is not just "their" world, but it is now "our" world.
Politically speaking, that"our" is a real problem.
 There is no way for there to be an "our" entity without some (apparent) loss to the "my" entity.
Do you want democracy? Then you have to put up with Republicans, or Democrats, controlling the House of Representatives and/or the Senate. If you are a Republican you have to grin and bear it when Democrats are in power. Ditto for Democrats when Republicans are in power.
When Obama, or anyone else for that matter, talks about bipartisanship, he is acknowledging that concessions have to made, that slack has to be given, that the world doesn't necessarily want to correspond to our desires, or anyone else's desires.

The world doesn't have desires. It has its momentum and its trajectory. We may be able to adjust that trajectory with our desires, but we have to align ourselves to it first.
This is the realm of religion and/or philosophy, not politics. Or rather, it is where politics should be, if not corrupted by the exigencies of the physical world. Like the financial incentives of lobbyists.

This we need to understand, as a nation— that we are not God's gift to the world, but we have to understand that we can give a lot to the world if we think about what the rest of the world needs rather than what we desire it to have. If we understand that if some impoverished people survive, and that that is more important than if Goldman Sacks survives, or AIG survives, then we may have made some progress toward divinity.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Made in the USA

The Middle East is unraveling. Tunisians forced out their dictator. People in Yemen are protesting. Now the Egyptians are expressing their frustration and anger at the Mubarak regime. It's inspiring to see people out in the streets and forcing change their governments won't give them. Yet it can present a lot of problems for the US of A.
If the demonstrators  succeed, they may not want to be our friend. We have given Mubarak billions to support his army—oh and incidentally a little also to improve the lot of the Egyptians. And some of the support we give him goes to keeping up his security apparatus to put down grumbling among his own people.
I have long hated this realpolitik our government practices (from Wikipedia—realpolitik is a theory of politics that focuses on considerations of power, not ideals, morals, or principles.) It led us to support brutal dictatorships in Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries in the Americas; it led us into the Vietnam war, and it has caused people around the world to hate us, because we help their oppressors stay in power. I understand that at some points we have to think that way, but that political attitude has been used far too indiscriminately.
Fighting Communism used to be our excuse; these days it's fighting terrorism. Such a great way to fight terrorism—support a strongman who is denying freedom to his own people, and creating a breeding ground for more terrorism.
Rachel Maddow had an interview with the amazing Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC news. He'd been out in the streets covering the demonstrations. He said that many Egyptians believe that it is the blanket support of the US which enables dictators like Mubarak to ignore the needs of their own people and stay in power. He said protests are not anti-American (he was able to go around without any threat to himself) but—at one point he held up a tear gas canister that had been fired at the demonstrators. There are many all over the street. He held it up and read what was printed on it—Made in the USA, in Jamestown, PA.  He said a protester had picked it up and showed it to him, saying "This is the democracy America is bringing us."

It's got to be one of the most powerful instances of reporting I've ever seen.

I hope somebody in our government is paying attention to this kind of thing.
Hey, I have an idea. Let's stamp "Made in Iran" on them instead.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Where is the center?

I have had occasion to be really annoyed lately by the media because they so often spoke of someone as trying to "reclaim the center" and I saw the supposed center as being so far right of what I thought a center should be.

I have spoken before of a time when Republicans were a viable alternative party. Back in the days of Eisenhower and Everett Dirksen. Eisenhower promoted the right of people to form unions, he defended social security, and called those who would curtail these things as "stupid." And he warned against the military-industrial complex.
I always liked Ike.
Of course in 1956 I was only 11 years old.
It's only in later life that I begin to appreciate him.
For today's Republicans, Ike is a dangerous socialist. Shows you how far we have fallen.

Anyway, I started listening to Obama's State of the Union speech on my way home from town that night, and the first ten minutes seemed like a lot of boiler-plate—this isn't a criticism, it's just how these things always get started, and often finish—so when I stopped to get gas I turned off the radio and put in an Amanda Palmer CD for the rest of the ride home.
I shouldn't have. But I get antsy when the President, whoever he is, starts bringing "two brothers with a factory," "a housewife in Topeka or somewhere," etc. into his speech, I start feeling manipulated. I know the speech is designed to produce a particular effect in me and I resist that. Doesn't matter if it is a Republican or a Democrat who is speaking.
I feel the same way about a lot of movies.
I did hear him say government subsidies to oil companies should be ended. And that caused me to say "Whoa, did he just say that?" Then I go to Rachel Maddow's show and hear her and Frank Rich talk about Obama going back to something like a true center, not a center defined by the radical right. These two are close to my political position ( a little to the right actually—I'm someone who made up an "Anarchy is good for you" bumper sticker for my car when I was in college, tho I've moderated a little bit since then) and I have to pay attention at least to what they say, even if I may not agree totally with what they say.

So it seems that some, at least, think that Obama's speech is more than boilerplate. Apparently the Republicans thought so too. They had an official response by Congressman Paul Ryan, and an unofficial one by Congressperson Michelle Bachman, the space cadet representative to Congress.

Paul Ryan is the person who wants to get rid of Medicare and give those who are on it now coupons to help them find private insurance. You have a preexisting condition and maybe won't live another ten years? Too effing bad. Take your coupon and shove it. So would say the unregulated insurance companies.
Yup, Paul Ryan is right up there trying to do the best for the ordinary American. Not.
I'd feel better if so many Republicans hadn't been elected with the help of big corporate purses. To whom do they really owe their allegiance?

I have heard too much from Republicans, and Paul Ryan, about how the unemployed are being spoiled by the government's help, how social security is a "hammock" not a safety net. These people in my mind are un-American, despotic, ready to oppress the many for the benefit of the few.
They are really straining any impulse I have to bi-partisanship.
Hell, it's not the job of a curmudgeon to be bi-partisan.
Then there is Michelle Bachman. She is a piece of work. Ms. Bachman is either  a manipulative politician misleading her supporters for her continued advancement, or she is a totally deluded individual striving for power and recognition. I'm voting for deluded. Listen to her rants—if you have time to waste—and make up your own mind.

This curmudgeon will be anti-partisan, and if anyone (of the last two of you who still read my fulminations) objects, that's the breaks.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Death and the Maiden—2nd Movement (and i get a little religious on you—too bad)

 I've been off my rant lately, too much actual work and actual living to deal with, so I'll get a couple of posts up in short order. First:
I listened to Obama's memorial speech for those killed in the Tucson massacre. He spoke effectively, lovingly, and in the way I remember from his run for the presidency. And in my mind it resonates with the celebration of Martin Luther King we had this month.
MLK was a big influence in my life as he provided yet another resource for my decision to become a conscientious objector to war. He was the first preacher I heard who spoke of actually listening to Jesus' words and applying them, really applying them to this life. And he was a reinforcement to an innate belief I had that everyone is important, is equal in the sight of God (whatever s/he is). I'm not sure how it happened that I was sympathetic to the civil rights cause— I related deeply to the oppressed in all the reading I did as a child, and I know my mother had a lot to do with my feeling that everyone is equal even tho I know she feared hiring a black person to work at our business. You wanna talk about mixed messages? Anyway, I turned out the way I am, for what ever reason.
I was disposed to feel for those who were suffering. I hated the idea that some people were demonized, excluded, thought less than human. I primarily got this thru literature (future dictators take note!) but the fact that my family also faced discrimination in the "Old World," as well as in this "new" world, also informed my development.
I'm not taking credit for this. It is just the way I was. And I had naught to do with it.
But it had all to do with the nurturing and developing of my life.

What I am leading up to is my distress about the demonizing of each other that is going on —in the news, and in internet postings. I know how insulting and snarky one can be in the mostly anonymous universe of the web. Check out some of my earlier posts—I'm not innocent. And I know in my heart that that expression of my worst feelings is counter-productive (unless your goal is to get into a fight.)
Okay. I like to mix it up once in a while, but I quickly get bored. Often I let someone on one of my forums get the last word because I realize that responding would only lead to another response and a further waste of my time. One of the benefits of getting older is realizing that some fights are not worth fighting because fighting would just pollute and obscure the message. And that one's words and ideas will still make a difference to someone somewhere, without needing to be the last word.

Believing this is a matter of trust, is a matter of believing in God's grace and the work of the holy spirit.
I could capitalize "Holy Spirit" but I won't. because the holy spirit is an uncapitalized, unacknowledged, often unhonored, wild, free-ranging, and equal-opportunity instigator. The holy spirit is your union-organizer, your concerned citizen against waste, your protector of the environment, your opposition to the validation of  the rich just because they have riches, your opposition to the use of money to corrupt democracy—the holy spirit is there to support all the things which elevate humanity instead of reducing it to an accounting of profit and loss. For me, the holy spirit is the most important manifestation of divinity.
You can argue about Jesus, who he was, if his life meant anything, if he even existed, and you can argue about God, who or what or if s/he is— but if there is anything besides our own lives which speaks optimistically to existence and whether or not we really have any, and any beyond what we know, it is is the idea of a holy spirit which encompasses us all and motivates our lives.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Death and the Maiden

  It's a sad, sad thing that happened in Tucson. Shocking and terrible and tragic. At this point, one can only hope that Congresswoman Gifford survives with her mind intact. And one can only feel sympathy for those who lost loved ones.
  A period of quiet and reflection should follow something like this.
  But the blame game is already in full swing. We seem to not be able to wait til after the funerals.
  Everyone angrily says we should tone down the nasty rhetoric from all sides.
It's all the angry talk.
It's all the personal hateful talk.
It's the fault of Sarah Palin.
It's the fault of the tea party.
It's the fault of the Democrats.
I'm sure someone somewhere is blaming Obama.
  Walt Kelly's Pogo once said "We have met the enemy and it is us."
Oh how true.
  I don't think blame can be laid at any one person's door—even tho I so would like to.
  There are a lot of things to consider here. I believe that definitely the kind of personal attacks going on in the last couple years created a climate where bad things are more likely to happen. If you want to point fingers at someone, Sharron Angle's comment about "second amendment solutions" seems more inflammatory to me than the ill-advised and tasteless cross-hairs on Palin's website. But both are part of a viciously negative milieu which has been part of our lives since Obama was elected.
  The people showing up at political rallies and congressional meetings with 'Obama as Hitler' posters are part of this. I condemn it, but I know that some of us on the left of center side were as insulting and dismissive of George Bush. I remember with some embarrassment the posters and things we said about Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War. None of us, today and back then, offered anything to rational political discourse.
   It is so easy to fall into the trap of demonizing those we disagree with—especially if they have more power than we do. (I think that someone could do a good social studies paper on that power difference as a factor in violent action and speech.) (Probably someone already has. If either of my readers know of such a thing, please direct me.)
  Your curmudgeon is part of all this, in his own small way. I recall that I have more than once referred to Senator Mitch McConnell as a liar. It is true that I believe that he is. But it would have been better had I written about the things he said and then the facts he had misrepresented and let others draw a conclusion. It's so easy to let anger and frustration get the better of one, especially when one doesn't feel like one can make a difference in the face of political and monetary power.
  The social milieu—it didn't pull the trigger, but it made the trigger easier to pull. Being in the vitriolic political atmosphere we have been in is like walking into a room full of people smoking pot. You may not smoke yourself, but you will get high. And if everyone around you is complaining and angry, it will affect you too. And affect the mentally disturbed even more.
  Anger has it's place, and should be acknowledged and utilised. And it should be utilised as a spur to one's own action and resolve to change things, not as a reason to berate people and poison the atmosphere. Or to kill.
  This computer I am on is a contributor to all this. The ability to anonymously post any kind of statement in a blog or comment box at a news article has added to the noxious atmosphere. It's one thing to spout off at the bar or at your bowling league practice. If you get too vitriolic someone will call you on it or people will just start avoiding you. You will have a response up close and personal to your speech or actions. It's another thing to spout off on line. No one knows who you are, and anyone who responds either is met with derision if they try to be reasonable or met with hostility if they respond in kind. It's easy to ignore the criticism of unknown strangers, harder to ignore the criticism of your bowling partner.
  And then there is the availability of guns. I don't object to people owning guns if they want to. Some hunt, some skeet shoot, some are afraid of being robbed or killed. And some want to kill. I don't believe that it is possible to forbid every mental defective or malefactor from getting a weapon. The man who shot Congresswoman Gifford is a case in point.
  I do believe there are things that we can do to make sure that the damage done by the evil or insane is lessened. Maybe not allowing large clips of ammunition would be a start. What if the shooter last Saturday only had six bullets in his gun? Wouldn't have stopped the attack,but might have made a difference to someone. Maybe to a nine-year old girl.
  I'm not advocating one particular action, or taking a position here. I do think that those who are rabidly opposed to any kind of restriction on weapon ownership should start looking at possible sensible ways to alleviate a situation where weapons can be so easily attained. And not attack those who oppose them as people who want to make it easier for the government to crush us. Those who oppose weaponry might want to step back and listen to those on the other side, acknowledge their reasons and/or fears, and not attack them as paranoids afraid of their own country and government, or malcontents ready to overthrow the government.
  We have a lot to do folks. we're all upset now because of the shooting in Tucson, as we should be, but there are killings going on in all our cities, gang related, insanity related, poverty related, domestic violence related.
And we should be as upset at all of them. Every life is important, and the lost life of a teen-ager in the inner city to violence is as important as the lost life of a congresswoman or President in God's eyes.
  As humans, we tend to hold the life of a congressperson or President more important than others—at least we think it more noteworthy. But it is only the ability to wield power which makes the difference in those lives, and what is power? It is more fleeting than life itself. And it leads so often to the loss of life, especially among the innocent.