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.