Monday, August 4, 2014

You're dropping your tax dollars into a Black Hole.

Everyone agrees: You're dropping your tax dollars into a Black Hole.

It's true: The department with the biggest budget has NEVER been audited. There is NO accountability at the Pentagon.

Even though the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires ALL federal agencies to pass a yearly audit, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has never been audited. In a recent report the Government Accountability Office stated that the Pentagon is not consistently able to “control costs; ensure basic accountability; anticipate future costs; measure performance, maintain funds control; and prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse.”
The Tax Dollars BlackHole
According to CA Congressional Representative Barbara Lee, "Defense spending is essentially a black hole and the DOD faces no accountability in how it spends taxpayer funds."

Lee and three colleagues have committed to curtail billions of waste, fraud, and abuse. Together, they have introduced the bi-partisan Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014. This should be a no-brainer, no opposition vote because "tales of waste and irresponsible spending – including off-the-books payouts to foreign governments – from the Pentagon are rampant. "

The Act would require the Pentagon to pass an independent external audit -- or face a .5% reduction in discretionary funds. The new bill, H.R. 5126, sidesteps previous objections to treating the Pentagon as a “monolith” by requiring each individual agency to be responsible for passing an audit.

Everyone agrees it's time to cancel the blank check. In fact, The American Conservative reports the Audit the Pentagon Coalition has secured diverse endorsements for the bill. According to Rafael DeGennaro, “It’s backed by a broad coalition: from Grover Norquist on the right to Ralph Nader — who endorsed it only recently — to Code Pink on the left.”

As Lee noted, "[B]eing patriotic does not mean blindly accepting bloated Pentagon spending.”

If you agree there are better things your tax money could do, you can be a citizen cosponsor of the bill now @ http://pentagonaudit.com/.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to stop being a doormat

I'm tired of Corporations walking all over People! Their greed pushes them too often lately into bullying and abuse whereas America values public rights and the common good. Every chance I get, I stand up for my values and beliefs and let corporations and Congress know exactly what is right and good for humanity. Sadly, they have a lot to learn.

A while back, I blogged about nine-year-old Luke Sekera of Fryeburg ME standing up to a bully trying to abuse his town. When citizens refused to enter a 45-year contract with Nestlé to give up its water source to allow the megacorporation to bottle it under the Poland Springs brand, Nestlé sued the town. Standing up for their rights has been costly, and sadly, the bully still hasn't stopped. Today Story of Stuff wants to help the town stand up to Nestlé.
Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck thinks water isn't a public right.
Claiborne Deming at the Story of Stuff reports that "Fryeburg is the testing ground for Nestlé's goal of water rights’ contracts that will last for generations. [...] Nestlé has shown that it will do whatever it can get away with, from causing local wells to run dry in Pakistan to pumping out millions of gallons during drought conditions in Canada and California." Fryeburg residents are suffering the result, forced to buy back their own water, bottled, for Nestlé's profits.

"Nestlé has planted its presence in Fryeburg and its schools because it wants the local children to grow up assuming their local water should come in plastic bottles. To teach them that it comes from Nestlé, not from the tap.  But imagine if the residents of Fryeburg had their customized water bottles, which they filled up directly from their local springs.  Above each of the 'hydration stations'
 will be a plaque with information and an inspirational quote about their natural spring water. Each day, the kids tote their water bottles to school, and every time they fill them up it gives them a sense of pride in their natural spring water, reinforcing that they don’t have to depend on Nestlé for their water."  Your donation can help make that happen.

And tell Nestlé that water is a public right that they should stop trying to privatize. Support that petition to keep water resources in the public domain

Monday, June 16, 2014

How could it make sense for US to pay reparations for slavery?

Just the idea of a current population receiving payment for some generations-ago wrong sets a lot of red flags waving. While it seems justice might be served if one-on-one individual wrongs could be compensated, to trace generations of inequity to a current reality seems logistically impossible. The concept seemed so ridiculously complex that just contemplating it has always seemed prohibitive.
TinCan for collecting Reparations
So I've been skeptical about the idea of reparations. Who would pay and who would be paid? How would it work? And most of all, how could it possibly be equitable?

Now, I've read Ta-Nehisi Coates's The Case for Reparations in The Atlantic, and he's convinced me to take a different perspective. He says,
wrestling publicly with these questions [about reparations] matters as much as—if not more than—the specific answers that might be produced. An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future.

Looking back, I've lived a pretty whitewashed life.

In the Sixties, I believed, the US was successfully eliminating racism. Growing up in suburban NY, I didn't give much thought to the one black family who lived quietly across the street. I attended an integrated school system; blacks and Puerto Ricans bused in from the Projects sat next to me in class, but it never crossed my mind that their lives were different from mine.

I've always thought that the news media was fairly representative of reality, even if each slanted stories toward its owners' political agenda. I could see why racial tensions ran high in the Fifties. Clearly there were Civil Rights inequities, and the Great Society legislation was an essential corrective step toward equality under the law.

I admit to being shocked in high school when my mother took me along to "rent" an apartment as part of an equal housing investigation and we were offered the unit that the minority family had been told was rented. The discrimination just made no sense to me. I have never been able to fathom why anyone would prejudicially exclude or deprecate another or waste their potential. But after the Sixties' Civil  Rights victories in Congress, much of the racially divided reactivity seemed to be a result of overwrought hype. After all, the reforms made things better.

As I went through employment and housing and educating my child, it never occurred to me that there were still disparities in how people were treated. I lived in DC and on the poor side of Nashville; as a foster child advocate, I saw people in low income housing with more high end electronics than I could afford, so how bad off could they really be. After the bubble burst, my condo complex filled with foreclosures, but that seemed more a result of the economy, our flood damage, and HOA ineptitude than racial discrimination. I thought the disparities I saw were a matter of corporate greed and personal priorities rather than public policies.

Looking around, my view has been colored by White Privilege.

Before last year I was viscerally aware of Male Privilege and Class Privilege, but I was simply colorblind to White Privilege. When I first read about White Privilege, my lived reality of Male Privilege made my AHA moment more sad acknowledgement than shocked epiphany. I'd always thought it unfair to leave people locked in a cycle of poverty without providing any means to improve. I'd railed against educational misdirection and prisons as punishment rather than rehabilitation. But I'd never considered the institutionalized biases that lay the foundation for societal collusion.

For a long time, I had believed in America as a meritocracy. I thought being smart and being right created progress. I bought in to the American Dream and worked hard to earn my share. After decades of effort that wasn't enough to burst through the glass ceiling, the collar I wore was ostensibly white, but its pink stains ensured any ring I chased would turn out to be brass rather than gold. Still, it took years more to realize that the futility of my quest was an intended consequence of Privilege Culture.

When you realize the field is uneven, it's wise to stop playing the game that's stacked against you. The problem, of course, was that having internalized the rules so well, I still habitually continued the same ignorant patterns, benefitting without awareness of my part of Privilege, though fully aware of its constraints. I didn't realize until I took my Privileged lenses off, how multi-dimensional the rules of Privilege are.

As I paid more attention to the metaphors of living, it became easier to recognize other built-in rankings of the system. He rules all pronouns (and is therefore God). Kings trumps queens. Life is a battle with winners and losers. More is better. In this Black and White world, you're either wrong or right. And if you have power and might, you will always lord it over ALL.

History sets these rules in, if no longer stone, well documented texts. Certainly my history classes in school had whitewashed a world of historic information. Much of what I'd learned, not just about slavery but about the Jim Crow era and American Apartheid was muted into tolerable tones. But even beyond schoolbook history, my view of much of what has happened during my own lifetime of participation and witness has been skewed not just by Class Privilege but by White Privilege.

As I read more over the past year, I learned about the systemic ghetto-ization of the north during the migration out of southern oppression, and I began to comprehend better the culture that perpetuated what my Nashville friend Cassandra called Colored Time and her resentment of The Man. I could see where her attitude arose. Not only were neighborhoods redlined and education and opportunities limited, but there was no happenstance or choice to the racial divide; it was systemic and intentional.

Separate was never equal, and integration did little to mitigate the starting inadequacies of multigenerational poverty and the continuing institutionalization of inequity. Further, those in power knew the cause and effect of the systemic discrimination, tokenly addressed it, and intentionally ignored real resolution. As President Lyndon B. Johnson said in 1965,
These differences [between Negro and white poverty] are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice.
In the Sixties, I thought LBJ was advantageously exploiting the momentum of an unstoppable Civil Rights movement. I thought he and sane national leaders recognized the impropriety of the status quo and that with the Great Society legislation as codification of America's true values, equality was finally not only on the books but truly launched.  I imagined that every person was poised to fulfill their potential. It took a while before I noticed that the ensuing years kept everyone frozen in place, gazing into a draining pool of possiblilities.

Looking ahead, I see how oppressively enmeshing Privilege Culture still is.

Safari parks put people in a caged vehicle to drive through the zoo. Privilege Culture is like that, displaying its rich and famous opulence for all to see while carefully constraining where the observers can actually go and what they can do.

We hear about the 1% and we see the devastating effects of their choices on programs and policies that support majorities of the American people. My vote and my power have been co-opted by the 1% elite. Greedy corporations advance their own short-term profits, summarily dismissing long term consequences not only for the climate and environment but also for the economy, the broader community, and all future potential.

This exclusionary Privilege myopia ignores the needs of real people as cavalierly as medieval kings did. And just as in feudal society's pyramidal hierarchy, Privilege Culture structures its spheres of influence as rigidly as any caste system. The impenetrable glass ceiling through which I might longingly gaze is only one dimension; today's cunningly crafted cells constricting multiply-unprivileged individuals are as straight-jacket tight as the noose of its mob enforcement terrorism was.

My vision of equalizing changes my granddaughter's future needs is so much broader than the simple leveling changes necessary to bring impoverished children and deprived minority families to today's starting point. And there lies the crux of reparations.

Correcting Privilege Culture takes more than rules.

Emancipation and Civil Rights: The rule changed but  not much else.
Juneteenth famously celebrates the nominal end of slavery, but in the century after June 19, 1865, little changed. As well-meaning as the Civil Rights legislation of the Sixties was, it wasn't enough to overcome Privilege-wrought history and its intentional, systemic oppression. A piece of paper cannot correct ancient brutality and past injustice, and laws have proven to be dauntingly ineffective for improving present prejudice.

Without "wrestling publicly" with the multidimensional abuses of Privilege Culture, we'll never recognize the formidible barriers today's unspoken rules erect around free choice. As African-American law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw said, "Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability and ethnicity.” This intersectionality, as she called it, permeates the rules of our society's Privilege Culture in a complex, constrictive, and toxic formula of oneupmanship.

Until we disentangle the well-integrated societal infrastucture, the plethora of petty Privilege Culture patterns will continue to intersect in lethal constrictions preventing progress. It isn't just each more-oppressed group that suffers from being held down and back; it's the entirety.

Without a dialogue about equity and fairness, nothing will change; those who exert domination will continue to believe it is the only way. Until they hear and see and recognize and understand that there is another way, their myopic Privilege Culture viewpoint will blind them to options.

As long as might is equated with power, it will claim its right to unilateral domination. It's not just bombs and automatic weapons that create the devastation: it's the people whose war-based worldview make them willing to crush others to usurp their share. Warmongers think nothing of wreaking devastation on whatever is in their way. From that war-culture mindset, the 1%'s NRA-directed minions arm the world with weapons of mass destruction -- of both the physical and metaphoric kind.

We live in a world riddled with gut-piercing poverty. We suffer the false promise of representation. We endure the abuse of systemic inequity.  Until we stop following the rules, we'll continue to accept the patterns of oppression as if they are the way of the world.

Effective reparations create change.

If we think today's world is unfair, the question can't be Should we pay reparations for slavery? Of course we must. But then we owe an awful debt to the Native American population, too. While those societal burdens can't be questioned, what we have to wonder is how can we ever repay the ongoing abuse of so much unearned Privilege. And yet, the question can't become a debate of how much which individuals should get because we all remain enslaved, downtrodden, and abused to some extent, beholden mentally and emotionally if not also financially to the systems established by the ruling 1%: earning wages, profitting from stocks, hedging against the future, scrambling desperately for More.

The system has shifted little in millennia, and we are all living as if this is the only way the world can operate. Fixing what is wrong, though, means we must question the pyramidal assumptions of Privilege Culture's multilayered intersectional infrastructure.

Unless we are able to settle the reparations issue in a way that enables every person to have equal opportunity to achieve their full potential, we haven't addressed the fundamental disparity. It isn't a matter of paying; it's a matter of playing fair. What's needed is not a token transaction; what's needed is a total regauging, a systemic shift, a paradigm realignment. Until we all realize that getting mine at the expense of yours is the essence of the problem, all the money in the world won't correct the matter.

The correction reparations seeks must be an ongoing rebalancing, not a temporary analgesic. Reparations must shift the balance not only of financial spoils but of power. To pay reparations must change the structure of our entire world.

Committing to reparations means we must ask not who gets how much but: How can we create the systemic underpinnings for equity and fairness? Considering our responsibility as a society for making reparations means we must enter the dialogue open to new ways not only of doing but of being. We must discuss how we can change the system to level the field, rewrite the rules, and change the governing metaphor of America.

When we view the success of reparations to be inclusivity and equity for all, seeking to redress old wrongs make perfect sense, not just for the descendants of slaves but for everyone.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Should YOU be worried about digital gerrymandering?

As Malcolm Gladwell's research on priming demonstrated: people remain unaware when their actions have been influenced by intentionally-engineered subtle references.

"Digital gerrymandering" is a type of priming that provides information about friends' voting preferences. In a 2010 research study on Facebook, "users notified of their friends’ voting were 0.39 percent more likely to vote" and a further ripple effect ensued. Considering that "George W. Bush won Florida, and thus the presidency, by 537 votes—fewer than 0.01 percent of the votes cast in that state," the effect of influencing a 0.39% shift in voter participation is significant.
Gerrymandering NOW: Elected Officials select their Voters.
If applied universally, priming might increase voter participation. But in a more Machievellean scheme, a well-funded politically-motivated effort to selectively apply one-sided priming related to a specific ideological agenda could influence millions of unsuspecting recipients and skew the vote dramatically.

Traditional campaigning to send volunteers into neighborhoods can't compete with huge companies using vast resources to selectively influence millions electronically. Just as Faux news viewers remain ignorant of opposing -- or even factual -- viewpoints, priming a vast subset of susceptible voters with one-sided thoughtless priming could produce an unfair election.

Given the machinations of ALEC to selectively redistrict, the already-voluminous political advertising of anonymous BigMoney PACs, and now expanded donations by the megarich, average citizens need to be very worried about the potential abuse of digital gerrymandering. Add to that access to NSA data that could be used to categorize everyone's digital opinions, and voting outcomes would become a foregone BigBrother conclusion.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Who should determine our future?

I want the leaders I look toward for guidance to be smarter, more forward-thinking, more able to see the bigger picture of what an action today means for results tomorrow.

Sadly, I look around today and don't see that forward vision in our leadership. Just because we've always done something doesn't mean it continues to be the right choice for today's world. As Darwin said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
WE must be the change.

As I look at the institutions and practices we revere today, I see patterns for survival in a world that no longer exists.
  • We revere myopia. What were once forward-thinking enterprises are now entrenched in efforts to preserve practices that focus on immediate results without regard to inevitable subsequent consequences; that is short-sighted.
  • We are hidebound. Where once learning from the world around us was key to finding new directions for research and needs to be met, now only tried and existing pathways are considered; that is constrictive.
  • We retreat into fear. In a nation that once aimed for productivity and growth, safety and security have increasingly consumed resources, leaving nothing to invest in creativity and innovation to improve potential; that is the antithesis of progress and growth.
As long as we preserve what was at the expense of what could become, we fail to adapt. Darwin knew: entrenched thinking is preparation to fail.

Pushing to perpetuate short term profits without regard to the long-tail costs of those choices does not lead to success; it leads to disaster. When we ignore the best evidence because it doesn't fit with old expectations, we practice wishful thinking rather than making progress. To continue the same repetitious decisions better and faster only gets incrementally more of the same old dysfunctional results. Our current patterns are leading us toward a dangerous precipice that our forward-searching scouts are warning us about.

To do nothing different will lead us to the brink of a crisis that could be preventable if we take heed today.

Current risk assessment is crucial for long-term financial, sustainable success. America, indeed the entire world, needs to rethink current analysis to refocus on extended profitability rather than short-term cashflow. Today, Harvard students and faculty are urging Harvard Corporation, the world’s largest educational endowment, to take this long-range view and divest from fossil fuels.
Students and Faculty to Harvard: Divest from Fossil Fuels
Student leader Canyon Woodward calls it their "moral responsibility" to ensure that Harvard "aligns its institutional actions and policies with the shared interests of society."

Harvard as an institution, its faculty, and so many of its graduates provide national leadership. Students and faculty know that Harvard's awareness of changing worldwide priorities is essential in this transitional era, and they are poised to tackle the crucial issue of climate change and bring the dialogue about divestment into public view.

Woodward says, "We take this action with the conviction that Harvard can, must, and will be a leader in responding to the climate crisis. We owe it to the world’s less fortunate and to future generations to lead the way to a livable planet."

The rest of America has no less responsibility. It's past time to divest from future-risky policies, practices, companies, and industries.

No time is more crucial than the present to take a future-focused lead. We must realize that short-term greed won't create a better world for tomorrow. It is our responsibility to move into the future with a vision of sustainable, realistic, planet-friendly energy policies.

By taking a stand with Harvard visionaries today, we lead the way to a better tomorrow. Together, we can rescue our institutions, revive our communities, and realign with the self-sustaining ecosystem of our planet. The future is determined by what we choose today.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Isn't Net Neutrality a basic Internet Right?

There you are, working online, thinking you and everyone else have the same ability to access internet content. It's only right that we all want to be able to get our information, products, and services with equal ease.
Net Neutrality means equal internet access for all -- even this cat
But FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the rest of the Federal Communications Commission don't seem to think so. Even though millions petitioned for equal access to be retained, the FCC has just proposed rules that would end net neutrality. The proposed rules enable big corporations to have faster internet access, making smaller operators unable to compete.

To ignore the purpose of the internet -- free exchange of information -- and sacrifice small businesses and independent users to greedy giant corporations is the antithesis of the platform.

It is the job of the FCC to prevent unfair practices by industry. The FCC is supposed to support the needs and broadcast access of America's  millions of consumers. The proposed FCC rules make a mockery of their charge to protect consumers from unscrupulous industry tactics.

The Chairman, a former cable TV and cell phone industry lobbyist, is said to have drafted the new net neutrality-ending rules himself. Wheeler should go back to working as an industry lobbyist if he cannot understand the different purpose inherent in the FCC charge.

If you agree corporate domination of the internet is wrong, tell the FCC to revise its rules to reflect egalitarian access to the internet for all.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Who doesn't think corporations are people?

BIG Corporation -- little person
Do YOU think corporations are people? I don't, and I'm in really good company:
The Founding Fathers didn't make corporations people:
  • As colonists, to get around the monopoly of the British East India Company's tea trade, Americans smuggled in their own tea, which led to the Crown imposing the Tea Act as a bailout for the deeply indebted company, which in turn led to the Boston Tea Party rebellion.
  • Early Americans granted government charters to form business organizations to achieve one specific purpose and for limited duration. These "incorporations" were formed only to perform services for the common good that business people could not afford to undertake individually.

The 1886 Supreme Court didn't rule corporations were people:
  • In the case widely cited as establishing corporations as people, SCOTUS declined to consider that argument and ruled on other issues; however a court clerk took liberty in interpretting this to infer corporations had 14th Amendment protections when summarizing its key findings. (For more detail see post on corporate "personhood".)
  • Subsequent court cases have cited this erroneous digest as precedent. (This video shows the shocking timelines that further increased corporate dominance.)

Americans today don't support the idea that corporations are people:
  • In every one of the more than 500 communities -- conservative and liberal, urban and rural -- that have taken action on grassroots initiatives against corporate domination, strong majorities of 65% to nearly 90% of the voters supported resolutions to specify that corporations are not people.

If you're like most Americans, you, too, are fed up with corporate domination. It's time to do more than complain. It's time for all of us to advocate for human rights, to ensure social and economic justice, and to shift the balance of power by ending of corporate domination. It's up to us to build a vibrant democracy accountable to People, not corporations.

We the People have the power -- if we choose to exercise it.

It's up to US to demand that Congress respect its constituents instead of lobbyists' persuasions. It's up to US to tell corporations once and for all: Only human beings are People. It's up to US to support a petition for a Constitutional Amendment to put corporations in their legal place -- as a business, not a person with political control or free speech rights. 

It's time for us to form a coalition of People who support the We the People Amendment. Go to MoveToAmend.org to join the movement. 

And if you're in California, sign the petition for the Amendment initiative

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why call this the "Great" Recession?

If the Great Depression is the basis for labelling an economic blip "Great," this Recession can't be classified as Great. For a fiscal conservative, it is clearly an example of Poor choices, Poor economic policies, and Poor oversight that have not been corrected -- the mitigating outcome that enabled the 1929 crash to ultimately be labelled the Great Depression. In fact, the only people who could call the outcome of this recession Great are the excessively rich; for them, these post-crash adjustments have indeed been Great.
Reaganomics politicians laughing about their "Trickle Down" trick
Perhaps I criticize too soon. Perhaps all of the corrections are yet unknown and it is too early to evaluate the final results of this economic downturn. Perhaps we're only in the throes of the shakeout, and the angels of our better sense are still tending the wounded so they haven't yet got to the point of whispering inspired corrections into the ears of those who have the power to improve the situation. Perhaps, like after the Great Depression, happy days will be here again and prosperity will again become as viable as the American Dream once was.

But it seems like there should be some movement by now toward curbing the excesses and controlling the lack of accountability. It seems like by now we should recognize that the root of our Recession was nurtured by dismantling of the FDR reform programs that had held the financial systems in check. It seems like by now we should be getting closer to our own "3 Rs" efforts.

But right now, it looks like Relief, Recovery, and Reform are being blocked by the very institutions that took charge and demanded change the last time this nation's financial well-being was threatened by greed and corruption. This time instead of relief, all we see is austerity. Instead of recovery, all we see is perpetuation. Instead of reform, all we see is collusion. There's no conservation at all going on in any quarter.
Billionaire calling "Raise the Minimum Wage" greed
The fault is surely in our language: we're using "conservative" wrong. After all, it is patently untrue that a "conservative" system would allow a "conservative" government to launch a costly long-term endeavor while reducing revenue.  A true conservative financial approach would always balance expenses with sufficient revenue. A financial plan that increases costs while reducing revenue could never be called conservative; at best, it could be called a recipe for bankruptcy. To continue now to advocate the same failed approach is neither conservative nor the way to save the republic; it's a course toward insanity.
Professor trying to explain deficit budget
Let's explain this more clearly to some legislators who apparently are not schooled in economic reality. It's not fiscally conservative to spend more than you have:
  • To squander a trillion-plus surplus on an unnecessary war is like an heir to a fortune blowing his inheritance on floozies and booze.
  • Running up trillions in debt while slashing income taxes on those most able to pay is more like an out of control gambler getting in too deep with the loan sharks than a fiscally astute conservative planning for a financially responsible future.
  • And certainly using taxpayer funds to bail out the very people who caused the financial crisis in the first place is a misplaced correction, forcing the taxpayers into a bankruptcy spiral while allowing the bankers to avert their own Chapter 11s -- and then award themselves bonuses for squeaking out of the failure they deserved.
Yet, this muddled chaotic insanity is exactly the effect of policies advocated by those who are still claiming to be "conservatives."

Maybe we should explain again from another angle. Conservatives are people who preserve what they have:
  • A conservative homeowner makes repairs to keep up the value and useability of the property.
  • A conservative landowner enriches the soil and nurtures the animals to produce healthy yields.
  • A conservative manager provides equitable compensation, benefits, and advancement opportunities so employees are satisfied to make the effort that improves products and expands the market.
Conservative practices are win-win-win for the individual, the environment, and the nation.

Now, let's look at the reality of the practices advocated by these faux-conservatives:
  • Necessary infrastructure repairs have been ignored until interstate bridges are falling down.
  • Land (and air and water, too) is being polluted with toxic fracking residues and tar sands spills.
  • Workers are being shorted on wages and their benefits cut so that the wage gap between a full time employee at minimum wage (that is: 40 hours for 52weeks @ $7.25) and CEO pay has reached at least 1667%. (Do the math: $25million in pay and bonuses for the CEO / $15080). Of course most minimum wage employees aren't scheduled for the full 40hours since then the corporation would have to pay them fulltime benefits and besides many aren't even receiving the federal minimum because tip workers and the disabled are legally exempted. But whatever the reality, it is inequitable by any standards
Seriously considered, these practices have NOTHING to do with fiscal conservatism. The only thing they are conserving is their own steady stream of personal wealth.

To properly name the reality, we have to conclude: "Greedy Corporatists" caused the "Cataclysmic" Recession and are distorting the aftermath with faux news and legalized bribery to further increase Income Inequity and the upsidedown tax structure.
Cat unable to comprehend the Faux-Conservative budget
The only possible reaction a true fiscal conservative could have to this insane reality is to rant (hence this post).

Monday, March 24, 2014

What are Baby Boomers waiting for?

Author PJ O'Rourke seems indeed to be exactly what he says is wrong with the Boomer generation -- stuck on himself as typical, that is:  being "hopelessly ordinary in matters of race, class, gender identification and which section of Playboy he turned to first when he was 16" as if the only Boomer worth noting is a hetero white male.

Excuse me, but I'm a Boomer of a totally different persuasion. I never forgot the lessons of Spaceship Earth or Kent State. I remember we made a difference and know we still can.
The world we live in is still our choice.
After struggling to responsibly push for reforming the bureaucratic corporatocracy to match those Sixties values, I quit and made a better life for myself. For more than a decade, I've watched the demise of so much that could have gone better had the status actually changed instead of all those frat boys reverting to the Fifties quo as the model to emulate.

Sadly, he's right: too many greedy white males (and their copycat female counterparts) still despair while living without enough "love, happiness, experience, sensation, thrills, praise, fame, adulation, inner peace, and, as it turns out, money," unwilling to take responsibility for today's "big, broad problems" and making "an excuse for everything" as if they aren't accountable for the mess of the world we are living. If they don't figure it out pretty soon, they're going to be in for an even ruder awakening than the bumps of inertial slide they've already set the world spinning along on.

Fortunately, PJ's not totally right: I've befriended enough like-minded Boomers to discover I'm not the only survivor who valued the Spaceship Earth mindset enough to live it. We acknowledge PJ is right in this, at least: "We've reached the age of accountability. The world is our fault."

The difference is: we're still struggling to be responsible and do the necessary things to make the outcome different. We know it's time for all of us to view the world as it really is:
We're not making excuses. We're looking for ways to improve the world we all share. We're searching for ways not to pin the blame on the foolish bureaucrats and short-sighted corporate minions but to help them see that choosing better ways right now could still make a difference. We can still establish equity as the cornerstone of governmental decisions; we can still honor the values of SpaceShip Earth and save our planet.

We can still come together and learn from past mistakes and make better choices that create the lives all our hearts yearn for.

There's more than enough "love, happiness, experience, sensation, thrills, praise, fame, adulation, inner peace, and, as it turns out, money" even to go around. We just have to stop the foolish divide and dominate mentality that keeps us struggling separately.

No one of us can save the planet on our own -- but we also cannot do it without every one. Only you -- with ever other only you -- is what makes the result.
Only you -- with ever other only you -- is what makes US different.
Together, we have the capacity for synergy.On we -- together -- can change life on Earth.

We've seen the Earth from space; we know we exist on a small blue ball in a vast open space. Instead of divisively ruing that "everything you were ever told is wrong" we could be working together to save that small blue dot of a planet. By husbanding its dwindling resources and applying our vast human capacity for innovation, we still can create the better world our younger selves dreamed was possible.

Instead of despairing, though, we have to come together and act.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why not ask a perfectionist to do any yard work?

When I returned from Georgia after a week of 20s here, my locally-infamous Rube Goldberg watering system had decided to give up the ghost (even though I'd turned it off at the main).

So I bit the proverbial bullet and began a planned xeriscape revamping. The landscaper began by removing the grass last week. This afternoon, I went out to collect the Iris before the yard work begins next week. (Last year, I had two boxes of Iris and gave away half, but now the iris have multiplied again. In fact, I found more after this photo. Thank heavens I save all those boxes....)
Boxes of too many iris

While I was out in the yard, I noticed some roots protruding in the area below the kitchen window where they took some grass out. Oh, good, I thought, those nasty Ivy roots are exposed; time to get rid of them once and for all. (When I moved in, ivy had taken over my house and was invading the roof; it's been a continuous battle to keep the plants from reviving.) I pulled and pulled and cut and stuffed the yardwaste bin full. It was pretty satisfying, but that was only the minor ivy area. Nonetheless, I didn't go searching out more ivy roots -- and I didn't even take a picture. (In fact, I got the iris picture hours later.)

Instead, I liberated some of the brick edging:
overly-well-secured brick edging

For sure, those previous owners didn't want that brick to MOVE. You can't really tell from the picture, but the gray part is a BASE of concrete that the brick edging is set into, and it is BEHIND another edging of concrete curbing. The second base is about 6" deep. No way that stuff is coming out without a machine. And the bricks aren't likely to be easily liberated unless they happen to WANT to be freed -- I had a couple sections that came loose with just a shovel pry and once I shoved a section with my foot and it (to my surprise) gave way. But the rest is intended to be there for life. :( This is BAD because that is NOT the new edging location for my yard plan.

Anyway as I inspected the edging, I noticed... wait for it... more roots. Not ivy this time but back in the yard. Ah, I thought, the roots of a defunct tree. Yes, it was the ex-pear tree roots. (The pears were bad -- so inedible even the birds would eat them only on one side; mostly the pears just cluttered the yard and rotted -- in huge piles; it was a very prolific, useless tree. And it had as many roots.) I pulled. I pulled some more. It was a Hydra, a mythical beast, branching out away from the edging. Its tentacles reached out toward every corner of the yard. They crisscrossed and interlaced, but I persevered.
Root Hydra
This is the first hydra. As I worked at liberating its tentacles, I found more hydras. In the end, there were three fully formed hydras with many, many interlaced tentacles.

Hydra Tentacles
This is the area near the ex-pear tree location after my victory. On the other side of the brick edging, the hydra continues; there are two more hydras I have identified. And I didn't even look at the (also yard littering) ex-plum or (dying) ex-almond areas. Fortunately, it got dark. I came in and made a margarita-tini from Crystal Light and tequila. As a hydra fighter, I deserved this reward. After another, I felt maybe I could face the hydra tomorrow and cut it up to dispose of all the tentacles, but it may have to live there for a week because my bin was already full....

You are probably asking yourself, as I did several times while amputating hydra limbs, is this really necessary? You are probably concluding, as I did each time, NO. The dirt is going to be moved around and the edging dug out, any hydra tentacles that exist will be buried during the prepping for the new backyard plan (which hasn't even been formulated yet). And still, I pulled hydra limbs and traced hydra tentacles and dug up hydra intersections. I cut the hydra at the brick edging -- on BOTH sides because of course you can't pull the hydra tentacles out from under the overly-well-secured edging foundation.

This is not the task for a sane homeowner. Once you start, it is like an OCD compulsion. You think, this branch will end and that will be the finish. But the branch always intersects another, and you find an additional full hydra tempting you to pull some more. It is crazy-making. It is obsessive. It is ridiculous. And yet you think: just another pull and it will be the end. Trust me: the hydra never end. Do NOT do this in your yard.

When I dispose of the already-exposed hydra, I am going to try very hard to ignore the other protruding roots. Fortunately I had a skype yoga class to teach Sunday at 2, so prime hydra hunting time was effectively interrupted. Thank goodness. Doing my taxes (my other weekend task) has seemed almost preferrable -- but just as tenaciously neverending (what myth-maker estimates those recordkeeping and preparation times?). Or maybe there, too, I need to realize: perfection is NOT required.

Wish me luck -- or sanity....

Friday, December 13, 2013

How can you stop the polluters?

In a time when the world is increasingly aware of humanity's impact on the climate, who in their right mind would propose a new power plant that would increase, rather than alleviate, those concerns? The United States, and its leading environmentally conscious state, should be at the forefront of green energy technologies, not perpetuating a dying and increasingly-damaging fossil fuel industry.

At 10am Tuesday Dec.17, 2013, the Antelope Valley (CA) Air Quality Management District is holding a hearing on the proposed Palmdale Power Plant. As a resident of Lancaster, I am categorically opposed to this pollution-producing proposal.

I have asthma, and the windy conditions of Antelope Valley naturally stir up more than enough air pollution to affect my breathing. I certainly do NOT need an intentional source of 546 annual tons of pollutants diminishing the air quality at all times.

I have studied the "clean" fossil fuel reports, and there is simply no truth to these claims. Scientific studies by environmental experts both here and abroad have debunked these industry-sponsored papers.

In reality, "clean" claims for fossil fuels are the last gasp of a dying industry. So-called "clean" coal, fracked gas, and tar sands oil actually pollute far more, both in the environmental damage of the extraction, processing, and production and because of the the pollution of the air quality when consumed. So-called "clean" fossil fuels also cost more to produce than conventional fossil fuels, in terms of both actual extraction and necessary refinement processing. Neither extraordinary cost is one that people or the Earth itself should accept.

Nor do the costs to the community or its air quality portend well for the immediate Antelope Valley area or for the planet. Since the California Energy Commission already deplored the proposed Palmdale Hybrid Power Project in its 2010 final assessment, I cannot fathom why the revised Palmdale Power Plant, which precludes including a solar component, would even be considered. California and the Antelope Valley should just say NO to the Palmdale Power Plant.

If you are available at 10am Tuesday Dec.17, 2013, please attend the hearing at the Antelope Valley College Performing Arts Center. If not, you can send your statement opposing the proposed plant to bbanks@avaqmd.ca.gov. It is time we stand up for our homes, our health, and our planet's future.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Where in the world are our priorities?

Ever wonder why the US has so many ignorant citizens? Is it our priorities that are confused or do we just take whatever the media dishes up for us?

It seems unconscionable to dumb-down America's awareness of world events, but the December 9, 2013, issue of Time magazine does just that.


How can we expect public perception of reality to keep up with what's going on in the world when we cover up important current events. The US deserves to know what is important enough to the rest of the world to deserve Time's cover.

According to DailyKos, the fluff for news substitution has happened before. Doesn't that make you Wonder?

Media that is co-opted by its corporate owners sounds suspiciously like #6 on Laurence W. Britt's list of 14 early warning signs of fascism:
  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
  2. Disdain For Human Rights
  3. Identification of Enemies as a Unifying Cause
  4. Supremacy of the Military
  5. Rampant Sexism
  6. Controlled Mass Media
  7. Obsession With National Security
  8. Religion and Government Intertwined
  9. Corporate Power Protected
  10. Labor Power Suppressed
  11. Disdain For Intellectuals & and the Arts
  12. Obsession With Crime & Punishment
  13. Rampant Cronyism & Corruption
  14. Fraudulent Elections
America's pest problem is the current state of its media. Mind control is a terrible waste of national resources.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why don't we want kids to excel?

I'm mystified. In the course of a single school year, one classroom in an impoverished school had its students excel.
students learning together - Photo credit: www.islingtongiving.org.uk

But the regional education chief dismissed the innovative methods that inspired the results saying, “The teaching method makes little difference.”

Despite having no special resources, almost all the students in that one class achieved improved, even outstanding, results, yet -- or perhaps because they succeeded without -- he concluded they didn't need more support. “Intelligence comes from necessity,” he stated.

Now if THAT were true (that “Intelligence comes from necessity”), ALL students in impoverished areas would excel. But clearly that isn't the case.

What was different in this particular classroom wasn't laptops, high-speed Internet, and tutoring; in fact, they "had intermittent electricity, few computers, limited Internet, and sometimes not enough to eat." It wasn't specially selected, particularly bright kids, though they did have one special quality according to their teacher: "Potential."

And especially, they did have one overarching advantage: the way their teacher ran the classroom. Instead of teaching, Sergio Juárez Correa decided to inspire his students to want to learn. He asked them questions and let them discover the answers. He let the work in groups and talk about how to figure out the problems. He enabled them to think.

Wouldn't you think that when his students did well on their yearend tests, everyone would be impressed? Since his class not only passed but vastly improved during the year, wouldn't you think administrators would want other classes to have a chance to achieve similar results? Wouldn't you think it would behoove all educational providers to implement similar methods -- if only to prove that they weren't the driving factor?

But no one did. No one rushed to emulate the effective techniques in that one classroom. No one scrapped the industrial top-down rigid model of public education to encourage creativity, innovation, and student-driven thinking. No one argued how much more beneficial to us all it would be if the future became more than a repetition of the past.

Of course the problem is that student-centered education is messy and irregular. Its unpredictability makes it hard for administrators to control. It's more work for teachers. It's more challenging for the kids. It's less standardized, too unlike the testing system that it feeds.

But imagine the possibilities. Students would love to learn. They'd be inspired to do more and try more ideas out and think for themselves. Kids would come up with creative answers and explore new ideas and create better innovative results.

With our education system lagging behind in an accelerating world, parents and teachers who care need to step up their game. Encouragement and attention, two essentials to overcoming less than optimal institutions, go a long way to make up for lack of costly resources, but the key is to praise kids effectively.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dwerk advocates praise for process as the best way to encourage the best learning for everyone, but her research now shows this is especially important for girls. And paradoxically, Dwerk stresses the necessity of experiencing overcomeable failures along the way as essential stepping stones to both resilience and success.

It really doesn't take all that much effort or expensive resources to make a huge improvement in kids' success in schools -- just attention and encouragement and an environment where challenges take effort and creativity and thought. When little stumbles are rewarded as part of the process of achieving improvement and ultimately new challenges, there's no limit on the possibilities.

Really, every parent knows that or we'd have a world filled with non-walking, non-talking, non-functional teens. We start kids off with the right encouragement, so why are we abandoning the process that works and instead demanding conformity, rejecting struggle, and pressuring for perfection? Parents and teachers need to re-examine their motivations and stimulate kids' natural interest in exploring the unknown.

Loosing the genius of curiosity seems a small price to pay for a quantum leap payoff.

I wonder... what you think.
Photo credit: www.islingtongiving.org.uk

Monday, November 4, 2013

What can we learn from old folk tales?

Back in 1917, Marie L. Shedlock published a book on storytelling. One of the folk tales she retold was The Folly of Panic, which I've interpretively adapted here:

And it came to pass that the Lord of the Earth was incarnated as an Eagle, able to fly above the Earth and observe all its features and creatures and ensure that all was well in the domain below.

And the Earth was filled with creatures: There were Bears to the north, Elephants in the jungles, Camels crossing the deserts, and all across the prairies of the world, there were Hares.

Eagle and Hare - http://www.nomad-tanzania.com/blogs/chada-katavi/the-ealge-and-the-hare

One spring, a nervous little Hare, who was always afraid that something dreadful was going to happen, began to fret: "Suppose the Earth were to fall in, what would happen to me?"

She repeated this so often that it became her a mantra. "The Earth might fall in; what would happen to me?" She said it until at last she thought it really would happen.

One day, as she recited her mantra again, she heard a slight noise: a heavy fruit had fallen upon a rustling leaf. But the little Hare was so nervous she was ready to believe anything, and she gasped: "The Earth is falling in!"

She ran as fast as she could to warn the world. First she told those closest to her, and soon all the Hares knew the Earth was falling in. They shared their knowledge wide and far to all who would listen, and quickly the deer, the sheep, and the buffalo, all took up the cry.

In the North, the Bears became concerned for their homes, and in the jungles the Elephants began to grow uneasy, and even the Camels looked across their expanse of desert and worried it might be so. But the wise Eagle, flying above it all, looked down and wondered at the uproar. "There are no signs," he said, "of the Earth falling in. I must investigate."

The Eagle methodically tracked the rumors back to the little Hare and asked her, "What made you say that the Earth was falling in?"
Now, as you undoubtedly know, the tale ended with discovery that her panic was misplaced. The Eagle took the little Hare to see that it had merely been a fruit falling upon a leaf that set off her fear, and they were able to determine that the Earth was not falling in and to reassure the populace. But what if their findings had been different?

What if, upon examination, the Eagle had learned that it wasn't the weight of growing fruits but a noxious poison killing the fruits before their time that was threatening the Earth? What if the Eagle had learned that the Earth might not be caving in but rather dying? The outcome of THAT story would have been different. The Eagle would have been spurred not into reassurance but to a call to action.

The Eagle would have had to rally all the animals together to discover the source of the toxin and to create a magic potion to save their planet.

Updating the Folk Tale
 In today's world, scientists have already identified the toxins poisoning our air. CO2 and methane are damaging the atmosphere; current practices like burning coal and fracking gas and extracting tar sands are threatening the Earth. It's time indeed for someone as powerful as the Eagle to issue that call to action.

If you think that, like the Eagle, our President could bring all the populace together to recognize the dangers and make corrections before it is too late to save our planet, it's time to send out a noisy alert. It's up to people like us – not nervous Hares but informed and concerned citizens – to keep up the cry until it reverberates through the halls of Congress and throughout the world.

You can add your voice: Join Sierra Club or the League of Conservation Voters or 350.org any of the other groups raising the alert. Panic is certainly folly, but so is ignoring reality.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How do we stop wasting taxpayer funds?

If we as a nation wish to improve our system of governance, we can't just complain that the budget is overloaded with expenditures; we must get to the root of the problems, make reasoned assessments, and take corrective action. Uniformly slashing allocations across the spreadsheet neither addresses the problems nor corrects the underlying issues that cause the inappropriate expenses. As a society, it is up to us to choose which costly government expenditures violate our social values and to figure out ways to improve the choices we as a nation are making.
Taxpayers undoubtedly can agree that the best way to stop wasting our funds is to make sure that the expenditures actual pay for something productive. There have been two egregious and well-publicized recent cases of abuse of this standard: As projected by Standard & Poors, the recent House-forced 16-day government shutdown cost us more than $24 billion dollars. That shutdown itself was the finale of preceding acts perpetuated by a small faction of extremists in the House: prior to the shutdown fiasco, they had extorted the House to vote 42 times to repeal a law that had been approved by Congress, signed by the President, ratified by voters, and tested in the Supreme Court -- and that was known to have no chance of success in the Senate. That repetitive exercise in futility cost the American taxpayers an estimated* $61 million.

That's nearly $25 BILLION in absolute waste that taxpayers have been stuck with the tab for. Leaders of the House were fully aware that their obstructionist actions could not ultimately succeed. Using taxpayer funds to pay for political posturing is not only a waste of federal resources, its result is fraudulent misuse of budgeted funds. It is time for us taxpayers to put our collective foot down and tell House leaders: no more actions that intentionally result in the absolute waste our tax dollars or we'll charge you personally with the fraudulent use of our funds.

The House extremists who fometed these wasteful legislative tactics are the loudest voices protesting wasteful government spending, yet they insensibly foisted far more waste on American taxpayers than all the "entitlement" cuts they have clamoured for could recover. Whether this is calculated sedition or simply incompetence, the result is squander of resources that could have been applied to far more productive and societally helpful purposes. Such behavior must stop immediately, or taxpayers will have the right and obligation to demand a special investigation into House members' waste, fraud, and abuse of federal funds and the legislative functions they are pledged to carry out.

It is appropriate, necessary, and honorable for taxpayers to insist independent auditors assess the damages and federal prosecutors pursue charges against the perpetrators and co-conspirators.

I wonder... what you think.
* CBS News calculated that the first 33 votes to repeal health care reform took up approximately 80 hours of floor time from the House, or roughly two weeks. The Congressional Research Service said it costs $24 million to run the House for a week. Based on these figures, the efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" in the House of Representatives have cost taxpayers approximately $1.45 million per vote. So far there have been 42 attempts, so that cost amounts to $60.9 million.
Image credit: AARP

Thursday, October 17, 2013

After the Brinksmanship, what next?

First we need perspective:


It's true: The USA isn't the center of the universe. Our universe isn't even the center of the galaxy, and there are so many other far distant points we didn't even know existed beyond the darkness.

The vast distances and innumerable other possibilities humbles the existence of our world and makes me wonder why we few beings on one tiny planet cannot find it in our hearts to work together to care for what we have. Our Earth is a fragile ball in a huge empty space; our world is the only thing enabling our lives to exist let alone thrive. We need sanity in our approach to the Earth.

We can see the Earth far more clearly today than any time in the history of humankind. We know how small our planet is; we know how thin our atmosphere is layered around its surface; we know our oceans flow together; we see our limited land masses. And yet we abuse its air and water and damage our lands as if it doesn't matter to us all. We need to husband our resources more carefully so that the Earth can continue to support us all.

Even more than preserving our planet, we have the unique ability to help one another. In all the far reaches of space, we have no one else to turn to. We alone, from our perspective, have the knowledge, tools, and technology to improve our lives and the lives of countless others on our planet. Yet we can't even honor those in proximity with the concern and support they need to triumph over their struggles.

Where there is hunger, we could fill bellies with healthy nutrition. Where there is suffering, we have the ability to soothe the struggles and build the capacity for better living. Where there is war, we have the capacity to enact truce and enable peace. Where there is ignorance, we have the knowledge to educate and share learning that can further the wisdom of the Earth's people. We need to join together to empower humanity to further individual potential and enable our global community to reach beyond today's imagination to create the future we all yearn to live.

But first, we have to learn from our mistakes and stop repeating failed historic choices:
  • We have to see that depriving those who need our assistance to rise above poverty is shortsighted and foolish: it deprives not only them but in the end everyone of their capacity to help improve our nation's productivity and success.
  • We have to see that choices are complex and personal and that making decisions for others keeps them dependent and unable to take their own right actions: limiting anyone's ability to choose wisely for their future also limits the betterment of humankind. 
  • We must realize that momentary additions to the bottomline today subtract from the richness of possibility in the years ahead whereas investment now in improving potential will yield rewards for generations to come.
  • We need to help each other to become all they are capable of being so that we can all become capable of becoming more than we are now.

What's next requires us to see the bigger picture and act from that perspective of humility and sanity. We need to see our possibilities in the context of the larger whole. We need to realize that exclusionary practices prevent us from working productively together to improve today and create a better tomorrow for all humanity. What's next is change.

Trying to preserve what history has tried over and over without success will only yield more poverty, more destruction, more conflict, more suffering. The only way to improve the results is to do not more of the same faster but totally different. What's next is new possibility only if we learn from our mistakes and choose a better path, together.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What time is it for America?

When government agents are subverted by external entities to act in ways that endanger the proper function of government and force hardship on a nation's population, their traitorous acts should be exposed, and shocked citizens should demand corrective action.  It's time for the investigative journalists to report their findings.

When so-called leaders in the House of Representatives no longer fulfill their responsibilities to the citizens of this nation but vote for bills that imperil America both in the eyes of the world and in the international financial markets, it's time for the American people to recognize this danger threatening our way of life.  Most critically, shutdown votes obstruct the proper function of a government by and for the People. Putting over-zealous political partisanship before realistic cooperative negotiation raises corporate executives' profiteering above their constituents' lives and livelihoods.

Watching others try to bail out the hole at the other end will only sink the ship

In any other nation, we would deplore the tactics being blatantly displayed in the halls of Congress. It's time to deplore them here and now and stop enabling domestic terrorists from disabling our country's infrastructure and ability to function. Even The Wall Street Journal recently referred to House Republicans as "kamikazes" bent on their own destruction, and Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly has called their tactics an example of “fanaticism.” This uncompromising extremism is not the way to responsibly run a democracy.

It's time to call the acts of these irresponsible government agents what they are: domestic terrorism. The perpetrators are traitors to the American way of life. Their calls for deregulation and privatization of government functions are tactics bent on disabling the Constitutional and legal supports that kept our nation thriving after the last greedy disruption of reasonable constraints during the Great Depression.

It's time to remember that fiscally conservative choices balance spending with income -- to realize that our problem is not what is being appropriately spent on domestic programs but rather on the lack of income from taxes paid by those most rewarded by the government's current policies and contracts. It's time to remember that taxes are our fair contribution to keep the nation running; only when everyone contributes their fair share can we live in a society that supports our values of health, productivity, equity, and the common welfare. Defunding affordable healthcare, defaulting on already-approved government expenses, and demeaning what amounts to a majority of the country's citizens is not a responsible way to run the nation or to maintain the commonwealth of our nation or the common wealth its people.

Programs that serve the needs of our population like the SNAP food stamp program and affordable healthcare are essential to create a productive populace. Paying equitable wages for a day's work is the only way to ensure that the nation's population can afford to purchase the goods and services we produce. Deregulating pensions, compromising Social Security, and undervaluing the amount necessary to earn a living wage will only exacerbate the needs of those living on the edge of destitution, increasing demand for the very programs being dismantled by unscrupulous proposals. Demeaning the populace and diminishing their livelihood is not any way to improve the economy or revive our flagging industries. This nation was not designed to resurrect feudalism.

American democracy has been hacked. That’s a computer word as you know, which refers to somebody taking over the operating system of a computer and making it do things that the owner of the computer doesn’t want it to do.  Its operating system has been taken over by special interests by using big money and lobbyists and taking advantage of a very sick political culture that has grown worse very rapidly in the last couple of decades.
~ Former Vice President Al Gore, in the keynote address at the Center for Effective Government Management.

Most grievous of all is the sad fact that too many of the people negatively affected by the acts of their so-called representatives are oblivious to the effects that will come. They rely on bogus "reports," misdirecting euphemisms, and oft-repeated fictitious "facts" to hang on to the idea that their lives will be improved when their Representatives vote. Our media outlets have substituted persuasive posturing for investigative reporting; personality and entertainment have replaced substantive news; popular opinion now outweighs scientific demonstration of inconvenient fact. It's time to stop allowing misinformation to be disseminated without correction, and to speak out for American values like peace, justice, and equality whenever we witness violence or bullying, bigotry or hatred, prejudice or inequity of any sort.

In our parents' lifetimes, history has witnessed too many cases (in Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos' Greece, Pinochet's Chile, Suharto's Indonesia) where persuasive minorities lulled too many people into acceptance of inappropriate choices. We cannot allow our nation to be sucked into the snare of unscrupulous propagandists or our heritage will be subverted into the same tawdry infamy. Really: It's time to stop domestic terrorists from destroying the American way of life.

In the end, it's not the lies of the domestic terrorists that will defeat our way of life but the silence of those who see the danger but do not act. Reality will only sink through the illusion of invulnerability when enough of us complain that abusive legislative choices are hurting our nation literally as well as in the eyes of the world. It's time for We the People to put our collective foot down and stop this childish abuse of power.

Congressional officials who obstruct the government's ability to serve its citizens, who refuse to fund programs that provide sustenance to its neediest citizens, who undermine the rights of groups of citizens, who remove the protections of the Constitution and subject anyone to torture are violating the principles on which America has thrived. It's time for Americans to stop abetting this retrogressive domestic terrorism and work instead to create a future that expands our infinite potential.

You are the lynchpin that can stop the self-destructive implosion from occurring. Contact your Congressional representatives today in DC or through their local offices. Tell them it is time to think of America first rather than to continue to obey the wishes of the richly funded lobbyists who bend their ears, to think of the needs of our people rather than just their own strangely increasing personal portfolios, to think of the future rather than short-term corporate profit-taking, to remember that it is We the People for whom the nation functions -- and by whom it succeeds, innovates, and progresses into more of all we are capable of becoming.

It's time for us all to remember: We the People are America.
I wonder... what you think.
* Photo credit: AuroraMeyer.com

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why should you care?

The growing frustration of seeing reality in an increasingly surreal America often makes me wonder whether there is any point to taking a stand against the overwhelmingly  over-the-edge extremist fantasy world around me. But as David Phillips points out in this inspiring essay, being able to care and to vocally and visibly support the right things is a privilege -- and a task worth committing to.
The Earth -- with Save? Decision box
As he says, "One must live in hope. Not the sort of hope that involves simply wishing for the best, but an active hope. The kind that moves your feet and lifts your voice. A hope that demands to be seen and heard."

I've increasingly felt that urge to stand up for my values, to speak out for my beliefs, to hope -- and work -- for a sustainable future of peace, cooperation, unity, equality and prosperity for ALL. If everyone who feels that way could just join together in the effort to live our vision, the result could be more than even we can imagine.

We are the Dream, personified. It is up to us to fullfill the vision -- to transform it from a Dream of potential and hope into a Reality of substance, empowerment, and fruition.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What will Exxon think of Next?

First some Labor Day diversion to keep you entertained and distracted from the huge dinosaurs of truth.

You've labored hard for your own piece of America. Now, Exxon is laboring -- or was that lobbying? -- to pay you back with interest in your own backyard. Coming soon to YOUR neighborhood: tar sands pipelines and fracked water (the kind laced with "natural" methane gas).

Exxon is going for global, one tight fossil fuel spill at a time.

Meanwhile, if you prefer a not so humorous look at the global situation, Tar Sands Action - Southern California shared this video of thousands of Ecuadorians taking to the streets to call upon their government to protect Yasuní-ITT, the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet, from oil drilling.

Ecuadorian police at the Yasuni-ITT Protest against oil drilling

As Melany Gail Mjolsness commented, "dont hate the police, actually dont hate anyone! that just adds to the problem! It was good for once to see no violence, no water cannons, no clubbing, no pepper spray ! They just stood there. Many looked pretty nervous, no doubt! It is the people in power, who are to be given our greatest compassion as they are so ill in their hearts and minds they cant seem to see the right way to live!"

Sadly, Melany is right. It is the so-called national leaders across the globe and the greedy corporate profiteers who are out of touch with the Earth and humanity. Just as Labor had to raise visibility (and again does) to be recognized and treated right, we who care for the Earth and its people must rise in visibility and make our point over and over until the truth of Earth-consciousness and compassion for all humanity becomes the worldwide way of living.