Same Smell, Different Turd

March 30, 2010 at 2:20 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

On Sunday, President Obama and his eagle-adorned bomber jacket made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan. While there he also took Afghan President Karzai to task for his government’s corruption. Obama lecturing Karzai about government corruption is like some small-time hood being rebuked by Don Vito Corleone.

And while I’m on the subject of President Bush… oops, I mean Obama. I see our Commander-in-Chief is cutting the 2011 funds for the home heating assistance program by 35% ! The program has seen record applications for assistance each of the past three years. And let me tell you, because I know first-hand, those applications are not easy to make. Here in my city, the poor stand in line during freezing weather in the middle of the night to get in the office first thing when it opens; otherwise no heat for you! People literally camp-out all-night like they are trying to get tickets to a rock concert, just to assure their place in line. As it is, the program has a daily quota of serving maybe a dozen people when three or four times that many are in line, so most the people who need help get turned away. And to add insult to injury, since the process takes most of a business-day to complete, that means applicants often must miss work and, therefore, money in their paycheck. Record numbers of Americans are clinging to this program in order to stay alive and the Prez cuts the funding by a third. And this guy is supposed to be the Liberal/Marxist! Maybe in the 2012 budget he will call for keeping poor people warm by burning them as fuel in the furnaces of rich people’s homes.

In other news, I see Congress has deluded itself into thinking it earned a rest, so it started a 2-week break on Thursday. Technically this is not a break, because our “public servants” are supposed to be going back to the offices in their home states to work & keep in touch with constituents (please let me know if you spot any of them around your town). But before leaving to touch the voters, they blew off a few pressing issues like making sure millions of unemployed will continue to get the money they depend on in order to live. Too bad Obama did not stay in Washington, D.C. because he would have probably called them back into session to tackle this vital issue….Just kidding! Obama cares no more for the plight of the unemployed than does my cat!

One of the main lessons I have learned from the Obama presidency is that dark skin is no automatic indication of a person’s compassion or progressive-politics. Most of us made that assumption (and some still do), helped-along of course by B.O.’s talk of “change.” Now that he is in office we find ourselves stuck with just another reactionary power junkie who prosecutes war while tossing poor people on the trash heap.

Please won’t some Obamapologist remind me again how much better-off we are than if McCain had won?


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Making Use of Idle Time

March 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m not sure what to make of the “tea party” movement. Much of it is rantings by reptilian-brained, hate-filled dupes who are being used as cover by the nation’s hidden plutocracy. And in our country’s dire situation it often seem to fit into the category of comic-relief, like the goofy, hapless character inserted into an intense action movie to relieve some of the tension. However, I think most tea party participants are attracted into the fold by the populist ideas that are sprinkled throughout the rhetoric. So the sensible, beneficial, and humane ideas act like a “gateway drug” that leads to acceptance of the accompanying dangerous, spiteful, and down-right crazy ideas. For instance, in this New York Times article, frustrated unemployed citizens are taking their tea with a mix of sane & insane beliefs. I think there is a very good chance that, at some future point, the populist-leaning, sensible tea-partiers will take a good look, see they are elbow-to-elbow with many who are Krazy with a capital K and they will go start their own real grassroots movement. Then, I suppose, the racist, Social Darwinist tea-partiers will go ahead and merge back into the Republican party.

Like those unemployed tea-partiers above, Myrtle & I are trying to put our time to good use. We have a non-profit charity which collects & distributes food, clothing, furniture, & information to needy members of our local community. We have done this for a number of years with a loose-knit group of like-minded friends, coordinated by Myrtle who is a dynamo. We always paid the expenses out of our own pocket because we had a comfortable income and we deeply believe in this effort. And at one time (before the presidencies of George Bush II & III), the number of people needing help was small and decreasing.

But each year of this past decade has found us steadily financially worse-off. The forces of downsizing, various bubble-bursts & market crashes, inflation/deflation, credit-crunches, and white-collar flim-flammery have taken their toll and left us nearly as destitute as those we help. But in the midst of job-searching (which will likely be the subject of a future posting), we set-up as a formal non-profit organization, called “A Voice for the Commonwealth” and have been working to expand our efforts.

All the above was a long-winded introduction to explain why Myrtle & I, last week, attended a seminar on procedures for non-profit organizations to apply for grants. And during the lunchtime break, we hobnobbed at a large table filled with volunteers and staff from those other associations- mental health advocacies, food pantries, and the like. It was uplifting to be among people who passionately devote themselves to improving the world. And although everyone in attendance readily agreed that our society’s problems are snowballing at an alarming rate, they all exuded optimism that we can make a positive difference. What I find most inspiring about this group is that, in spite of their own problems, they find time & energy to give to the community. What I find most disconcerting is something commented upon more than once during the seminar: there wasn’t one person there under 50 years of age.

Time and again I have found: Ordinary Americans from all walks of life carry the burden of this ruined economy on their shoulders. They stoically keep slogging through their problems. The churches, the media, and the companies they work for all teach them to blame themselves rather than the larger forces that exploit them. And when they look around them they think they cannot believe their own eyes. They personally know many people who are getting the life squeezed-out of them by insurance, their employers, and their mortgage company (likely all at the same time). But, on the other hand, the media shows a faux America where very few struggle, most everyone drives a brand-new car, and no one is stressed-out about paying bills. When they meet someone who breaks the silence by openly talking about what is really going on they react first with shock, then relief when they realize they aren’t alone. Then they start talking.

For instance, at our lunch each of the dozen people told about their organization and how they had gotten involved. At my turn, I started by prefacing with a very short version of the business ruin I have recently experienced thanks in-part to our nation’s beloved banksters (see my December post, “Then the Financial Tsunami Hit” for that story). I segued into mine & Myrtle’s conclusion that our hearts had always really lay in our charity work and the needs have increased enormously in the past few years. Myrtle interjected that we are now helping many of the formerly well-off who used to be giving charity not receiving it. And, she added, many of the struggling former middle-class are ashamed to ask for help. But there is no shame. They are victims who have been robbed of their jobs, their retirements, their homes, and their peace of mind.

A lady in her mid-50’s was sitting across from us. I will call her Stella. Stella admitted she had a business experience similar to ours. She and her late husband had owned an art framing & art sales business. Late in 2008, just after the economic melt-down, her husband suddenly died. Being unable to run the business by herself, sought to sell it. A number of people attempted to buy her business but could not because the banks would not loan money for the purchase. So her friends helped move-out the store’s inventory one carload at a time. Stella is now has her inventory stored in her garage in hopes of eventually selling it. She is in a deep financial hole because of the amount owed on the remainder of the store’s lease and other debts. She said her late husband observed business had never recovered since the September 11, 2001 drop-off (I agreed. Things have been getting worse for most Americans for many years). Since her husband’s death, Stella has volunteered at the local mental health agency.

Beside Stella sat Barb. Barb is Executive Director of a group that helps troubled youth by teaching them to care for and ride horses. She is of retirement age and supplements her small pay from the non-profit with investment income. Stella’s tale of vacating her store reminded Barb that she (Barb) owns a number of commercial properties in the city’s business district, all of which sit empty as a result of the economic collapse. She commented that she gets no income from them yet still must pay real estate taxes, which is becoming increasingly difficult.

If you are having financial troubles, remember you are far from alone.

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The Bill & George Tour

March 26, 2010 at 9:48 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Bill Clinton and his BFF, George “W” Bush are still making the rounds in Haiti. The two of them together remind me of the old George C. Scott comedy movie, “The Flim-Flam Man,” wherein two traveling con men bilk inhabitants of the American south (if you have not seen it, I highly recommend it). If the Haitians have anything of value left they better check on it before those two leave the island, or it might turn-up missing.

Clinton now apologizes for helping undermine the ability of Haiti and other impoverished nations to feed themselves by strong-arming them to buy cheaper U.S. (subsidized) rice. Doing so eventually killed their domestic farming and brought them higher unemployment. I wonder when he will get around to apologizing to American workers for NAFTA?

As for Dubya, he actually shook hands with some Haitians. He really is a caring guy after all! Oops, and then he was caught on-camera wiping his hand on the back of Clinton’s shirt.

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Hey, Democrats, Thanks for the Help!

March 25, 2010 at 11:21 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Obama, Pelosi, and their cadre have been tweeting, bleating, and otherwise hooting in triumph about passing the insurance company subsidy bill. Most certainly they must laugh uproariously and clink champagne glasses when over a private, sumptuous dinner in a fine Washington, D.C. restaurant one of their group facetiously calls it “reform.” The Republicans, who hate the hoi polloi as much as did the Victorian-era members of Britain’s House of Lords, are weeping & gnashing their teeth as if this corporate give-away is the second coming of Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The one thing both political parties have in common is their complete non-interest in, knowledge of, or concern for ordinary Americans, particularly the over 40,000,000 of us who have no health insurance.

Oh, by the way, the approaching reform is so wonderful that the White House and Congress have a provision in the bill that exempts them from participating. They will stick with the free, socialized medicine provided to them by the suckers known as the U.S. taxpayers.

Drug-addled Social Darwinist, Rush Limbaugh made an empty threat to move to Costa Rica because of the bill’s passage. Unlike the well-known comic, I am not so well-off that I think America’s health-care system is O.K. To the contrary, I have not had health insurance in over nine years; I lost it as a victim of corporate downsizing. Therefore, I have no choice of doctor nor worries about lengthy waits for treatment nor any of the other boogie men issues tossed into the so-called “health care debate.” Like a huge number of Americans, I simply do without visits to a doctor until health problems become severe enough to possibly be life-threatening, then I have someone take me to the emergency room for half a day of degrading, astronomically-overpriced, and begrudged care. Then I pay for it forever as best I can.

Let me make this clear: I do not have health insurance BECAUSE I CANNOT AFFORD IT. In the past decade I haven’t made more than $13,000 in a year. There are many frills, such as insurance that are not in my budget. At this income level, the extra cost of cheese on a hamburger is a luxury item. Many lame-brained ideas were tossed into the poop stew of the health-care “debate.” But I was most flabbergasted by the notion that people who do without insurance do so because, although they can afford it, they would rather spend the money on a trip to the Bahamas or the latest model Lamborghini. Therefore, the solution is to require everyone to buy insurance. This idea is so tremendously ridiculous that no sane person would buy into it, so of course it became the very linchpin of the “reform” bill.

When making pessimistic forecasts to my circle of family & friends (in which I include you), I often preface my opinion by saying “I hope I am wrong, but…” Well, I hope I am wrong, but this is what I think will be the results of this bill:
1) The poverty-stricken (who now include about half the nation) who comply & buy insurance will not go to the doctor BECAUSE THEY WILL HAVE NO MONEY LEFT TO PAY THE CO-PAYMENTS AND FEES demanded in order to obtain medical care.
2) The poverty-stricken will not take advantage of the government’s promise to help them pay for their insurance BECAUSE MOST OF THEM WORK AND CANNOT TAKE OFF WORK TO GO JUMP THROUGH WHATEVER HOOPS will be put in place in order to be eligible for help.
3) Those who don’t comply and buy insurance will be penalized and FURTHER MARGINALIZED. Just what they need. I can already see the withholding of tax refunds, garnishment of already low wages, threats of jail, and other ways to CLAMP-DOWN on these scofflaws.
4) Insured or not, THE POOR WILL BE PUSHED DEEPER INTO FINANCIAL RUIN as a result of either buying unusable insurance or paying harsh penalties for non-coverage.
5) Meanwhile, as the health-care and national economic crises continue to grow and grow, the insurance companies will rake-in RECORD PROFITS, Wall Street tycoons will get RECORD BONUSES, and the media will distract us with record amounts of dreck. In other words, it will be American business as usual.
6) And since they already “reformed” the system, CONGRESS WILL DO NOTHING ADDITIONAL to fix the problems, other than the aforementioned clamping-down on the scofflaws. Maybe they will bring back debtor’s prison.
7) President Obama and the Democrats who are celebrating now will be deservedly blamed for the resulting mess. After the upcoming revolution is over, OBAMA WILL BE REMEMBERED BY HISTORY AS THE ANTI-FDR. He looked at a citizenry struggling to stay above the depression flood-waters and then handed them an anvil.

And now the optimistic part of my essay: The Democrats, including my one-time favorite, Dennis Kucinich have sold us down the river one too many times. They offer no real solutions for the lower 90% of citizens. The Republicans are monsters who would slit their own grandmothers’ throats to grab more money and power. So, it is up to us to save this nation. Take a look at this website, Get Out Of Our House, that seeks independent candidates to replace all 435 Demoblican & Republicrat members of the House of Representatives. That is where we can find a chance for real change.

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Get Out Of Our House!

March 24, 2010 at 8:44 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The group Get Out Of Our House bills itself as “a non-partisan plan to evict the career politicians from the U.S. House of Representatives. With all my heart I believe the only way to save our nation from further ruin is to unseat our uncaring, unresponsive, elite “rulers” and replace them with sensible, compassionate citizen representatives.

The GOOOH home page video shows a more conservative slant than I support. But I think their overall approach makes sense, so I plan to join and participate. Here is an excerpt from the “learn” section of their website; read it and see what you think:

The GOOOH process allows Americans of every political leaning to participate in the selection of their District’s Representative while being considered themselves. Through GOOOH’s Candidate Selection Sessions you and your peers will select the candidate in your district who best represents your district’s views. Even if you do not wish to become your district’s representative you will want to participate in the process and have a direct say in who is chosen to represent your district. GOOOH will fund a single national campaign to promote the 435 candidates (one from each district) who are selected to run against the party politicians. Because GOOOH is a process for selecting representatives (not a “party”) we expect a person left of center to be selected in San Francisco and one right of center in Colorado Springs — but it will be up to the GOOOH members in each district to decide.

Originally, the founder of GOOOH proposed excluding lawyers, members of political families, and individuals with more than $11.5 million in assets (250 times the median income). They were not to be excluded because they are bad people, but because they are overly represented in government today and, generally speaking, no longer seem to represent the common man. However, based on input from our members, the Question Committee has voted to remove the exclusion of lawyers and the wealthy. Instead, it has been decided that members of these two groups must simply declare that they are a lawyer or have more than $11.5m in assets in each Selection Session in which they participate. It will be up to the participants in each pool to decide whether or not that is of concern. We believe this change is indicative of the continuing evolution of the GOOOH system.

I am completely fed-up with the antics of both political parties. If you are too, then I encourage you to visit the GOOOH website. You’ll find them in a column to your right, under this blog’s “your public servants” links.

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The Big Banks Want You Back – Don’t Go!

March 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The big, “too big to fail” banks are getting worried. There is a movement afoot to convince depositors to switch their accounts to smaller, neighborhood banks or credit unions. In this way, we can hit back at the banksters whose greed & incompetence ran our economy into the ditch and keeps it there. And we can back local financial institutions that refused to join the flim-flammery.

The movement is having an effect or at least the banksters are afraid it will. How do we know? Because they are fighting back the only way they can without really changing their ways. Recent commercials are portraying the behemoth banks as friendly, community banks that you can love. These advertisements play to our American gullibility that still doesn’t mentally grasp commercials as a load of bovine excrement.

Nearly twenty years ago I chuckled in agreement as I read the humor-book, “Dave Barry Does Japan.” The famous satirist said something much like that, in contrast to Japan, the only thing big American companies are still particularly good at is making commercials about how great their products or services are. I had long noticed the disconnect between our real world versus commercials with smiling, dancing fast-food cashiers, helpful pharmacists who come out from behind the counter to offer advice, folksy appliance repairmen, or seasoned, insightful stock brokers all embraced by a company that supports its workers in their dedication to the customer. Does any of that sound like a big-business you’ve dealt with lately? I didn’t think so.

The mega-corporations long ago sped past the point of providing consumers with helpful information to make informed choices. For a long, long time they have used commercials as “bait-and-switch.” They use the screen to show you high-quality products, easy use, and concerned, human customer-service. What they give you is flimsy crap, confusing & complex instructions, and impersonal, off-shored, aggravating service departments.

After 100+ years of exposure to advertising, why do most Americans still fall for it? Every time you see an advertisement of any kind:

Look for the fine print so you know what you are getting. There is usually a “catch.” And remember that in automobile ads and the like, when an announcer comes on to speed-read you the “disclaimer” what it really means is that most everything in the preceding ad was a lie! (Note- the definition of “disclaimer” is “a repudiation of responsibility or connection.” That means everything they just told you was a lie!)


Tired of being lied to? Move your money to a local bank or credit union.

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Senator: Start Doing Your Job!

March 9, 2010 at 12:23 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Here is a map showing how the cancer of unemployment has swept our nation over the past couple years. Sadly, in spite of this devastation, the members of Congress still have their jobs.

Consumer bankruptcies continue to rise. (Yours truly will soon be joining their ranks.)

Here is more news on the unemployment front.

A young lady came to our door this afternoon. She was a volunteer for the “Working America” organization, which is helping the AFL-CIO unions canvass the neighborhoods. They are mounting a letter-writing campaign for citizens to send letters to Working America which they will forward en masse to Republican Senator, George Voinovich, expressing support for jobs programs in place of continued bail-outs for the fat-cats. Myrtle & I told her we email the Whitehouse & Congress most every week, but we’d be happy to compose & print a letter which she could put into Working America’s mass mailing campaign. I implore you to write to your public servants (that is what they are, although they have forgotten it!) at the links provided on this blog roll.

In case you want to join their letter-writing campaign, Working America’s address is:
815 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

Here’s the text of the letter I sent them:

Senator Voinovich,

Nine years ago, [colonelgirdle] was downsized from his good job of 22 years. We put everything we had into a small business that went under in the economic crash early last year. (See the attached letter that has a reprint of our blog, “Then the Financial Tsunami Hit.”) We are struggling to hold onto what little we have left. Are we angry that our government takes money from people like us and bails-out BIG corporations and also gives incentives to send our good jobs to other countries? You bet!

At this point most everyone we know is in financial trouble. They’ve lost their jobs, businesses, and homes. Those who are lucky enough to still have a job have had their pay and work hours cut. They can’t afford to heat their homes, health-care, or educational costs. In short, America is in BIG, BIG TROUBLE. Soon people like us may be forced out of our homes and where are we going to go? Maybe onto YOUR FRONT LAWN.

We remind you that you are a public servant. So it’s time for you to do your job! We want:
Leftover bank bail-out money to be used for restoring Main Street’s economy.
Repair & expansion of our nation’s infrastructure.
Help in establishing alternate energy sources & green jobs.
Assistance to our local & state governments that are struggling to maintain services.
Additional funds for social programs to help the working poor & unemployed.
Cuts in out-of-control military spending & investigation of war profiteering.


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March 8, 2010 at 11:01 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Colonel Edwin Girdle

Our Hypocrite of the Day is right-wing masturbatory fantasy, Sarah Palin, who admits she and her family used to “hustle” across the Canadian border to get free medical care. Palin, in case you were lucky enough to miss hearing her completely uninformed viewpoint, has said in previous interviews that “Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit.” (By the way, polls show the Canadian people give their health system a 90% approval rating.)

I guess now that Sarah is living large off her undeserved 15+ minutes of fame she no longer need grab freebie care from the Canadian taxpayers, because money is essential in America to get adequate medical treatment. Celebrities like Sarah, Senatorial Democrat/doormat Harry Reid, or entertainment windbag Rush Limbaugh get A-1 care. By the way, Rush, who was hospitalized in Hawaii recently by severe chest pains, has pronounced the U.S. health system free of any problems- based upon his experience. So that settles that and anyone who says differently is just a crybaby.

Well, this crybaby writes this blog with the intention of telling you what life is like at my level of the American pyramid. Therefore, please let us recount some recent experiences I and some of my friends have had down here near the economic basement. Oddy enough, our impression of the U.S. health system was not nearly as favorable as Mr.Limbaugh’s. In fact, I think most everyone I know wishes they lived close-enough to hustle over into Canada for some of that evil socialist health-care.

In my January essay, “Financially Naked”, I wrote about Myra and her frustrating & expensive run-in with America’s medical colossus. Now Myra’s elderly mother has developed blood in her stools. Doctors were unable to quickly diagnose the problem and talked her into a procedure that involved injection of a substance containing gold, which she was told would detect a problem as small as one cell in the body. The procedure was done and, unfortunately, told the doctors nothing useful. Although Myra’s mom has insurance HER SHARE OF THE BILL WAS $49,000 !!! Just the stress of dealing with this one bill threatens to send the old lady & her hubby over the mental & physical cliff. But Sarah Palin should be happy about that opportunity for the medical business to “turn a profit.”

Back during the long Ohio winter, I came down with bronchitis & laryngitis (no, I have never smoked but do have severe dust allergy). I did what any uninsured American would do: I tried to tough it out and treat myself. After 6 weeks, I was so ill that I could not drive myself to the emergency room and I had to be wheelchaired into the hospital. Five hours, 5 minutes with a doctor, and some free pills later I went home. While there I got a list of clinics that serve the poor, so as to schedule a follow-up visit. After a few days, I concluded the medication was doing no good. But when I called the nearest clinic I was told they had been taken-over by some sort of doctors’ conglomerate and they “no longer serve those people (the low income).” The other clinics are only open limited hours a few days each week. Back to the emergency room for another 6 hours’ wait, another 5 minutes with a different doctor, and a different diagnosis. Another week brought no improvement in my condition. Back to the emergency room a third time, for another 5 minutes with a doctor. His diagnosis was allergy gone rampant.

At this point let me tell you the story I croaked-out to that doctor: Since childhood, I always had severe allergy to particulate dust. Up until 15 years ago, I had health insurance & used to go to my doctor once each month and get an allergy shot. That kept the stuffy nose, sore throat, ear infections, bronchitis, and other complications at bay. Then the insurance company put a stop to the shots because they cost too much. After that I tried many prescription & over the counter allergy medicines with no real improvement. One medicine I found that definitely doesn’t work for me is Claritin. It has absolutely no effect at all. I emphasized that point as emphatically as a person could who sounded like a bullfrog. The disinterested doctor exited. Fifteen minutes later a nurse comes in and hands me a prescription sheet for, of course, Claritin.

After that, I went to a health-food store near my home in search of natural allergy potions. I fought my allergy down to a dull roar and made a slow recovery. Experiences like these have lead me to believe modern medicine is vastly over-rated in its effectiveness and over-compensated in its cost.

As for the $1200 worth of bills from the hospital: I applied for them to be written off under HCAP (Hospital Care Assurance Program). You are aware, dear reader, that each year the government gives hospitals millions of dollars to help cover care for the poor? But you have to apply for it through the hospital’s “social services” department. Many times they fail to let patients know that it is available. Such was the case with one of the other citizens waiting in the emergency room. In brief, the man waited anxiously with his 8 year old daughter. His wife had fallen down the stairs in their home and was brought in by ambulance. Not only did he not know how he would pay for his wife’s treatment, he didn’t have money to pay the $5 charge for the parking lot. He had just finished receiving a brow-beating from a representative of the hospital billing department, when my wife Myrtle stepped in to let him know about HCAP and that he should demand a pass for free parking. He was effusively grateful. Oh, I almost forgot. The man was dressed in a police uniform from one of the Dayton suburbs. He said he made $8 per hour and was lucky to get 30 hours’ work per week. He had just got home from duty and found his injured wife.

But back to Sarah Palin. Personally, I would love the press to hound her over her Canadian medical care until she was forced to issue a theatrical apology akin to Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful “I have sinned against you” speech. Then she could retire to well-earned obscurity. Not likely to happen, but it would be beautiful.

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Late Night Ramblings

March 6, 2010 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Colonel Girdle

Dayton, Ohio, 3:30 a.m.

Since I could not sleep because of worry, I got online to find-out how to apply for a job with the U.S. Census. I have applied for job after job, even the ones that would probably not pay enough for me live. So that means I’ll have to work at two crappy jobs… or maybe three. I know people who are already doing that. Once upon a time, I was middle-class. I had worked my way through college and then, with 22 years of hard work, had made my way up into management at one of Dayton’s many solid, large companies. Then one day nine years ago, I was downsized along with hundreds of my co-workers. The company went away to greener pastures of cheaper labor/fewer regulations, and also there went my insurance, vacation, & retirement; all casualties of the only developed nation that ties everything to a person’s job.

Since that day, I have worked at jobs far worse than the crummy ones I had in my youth. For just one example, for about a month I was a subcontractor (that is like an employee, but they are not responsible for anything bad that happens to you) for a company that “recycled” the boiling-hot oil from restaurant deep fryers. I would pull the greasy van up to the back door, trundle a 200 lb. filtering machine on tiny wheels down the slippery ramp and into the building. There I vacuumed the 350 degree oil from the fryer so it could circulate through the filtering machine while I used putty knife & steel wool to scour char off the scortching cooker (all the while praying I wouldn’t get badly scalded), shoot the oil back into the fryer, then head to the next location. By the end of the day I was covered with reeking sour oil & sweat and could hardly stand-up because the bottom of my shoes were slick as snot.

In between the crummy jobs I owned a few small businesses. I sold natural pain cream at a flea market, I had a janitorial company where I did 90% of the janitoring, I sold used CD’s & DVD’s at a flea market. If any of those things were once a good way to make money, they sure aren’t now. Myrtle helped me with these, as best she could, while working at her own jobs.

I wound-up working in a convenience store and from that experience my desperation gave me the really awful idea that taking all our remaining assets and buying a store was a good idea. Blinded by love, Myrtle went down that bumpy road with me. I will not go into further detail recounting that four-year-disaster and the constant 100 hour workweeks we put in. Memory of it brings on a sort of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Suffice it to say that it was not too big to fail. It went belly-up during the late 2008-early 2009 crash with nary a peep from the Bush nor Obama Administrations.

As a result, I am more broke than I have ever been in my life. Actually, I’m far, far into the negative net worth zone. At first, I still hoped to find a way to dig myself out of debt. But I soon learned that was the impossible dream when, for instance, the credit card company I had for 15 years lent a helping hand by increasing my interest rate to 29.99% – when I had never missed a payment. Now they are getting 0%, since I’ll be filing for bankruptcy (guilt-free I might add) just as soon as I can finish the paperwork. I am far from alone in my struggles. My circle of friends & family recommend good bankruptcy lawyers the way we used to recommend good restaurants. People I know who used to “have it made” are sinking and everyone under them is drowning or already drowned. I personally know (and try to help) people who have taken to living in basements, cars, and tents! (By the way – See our “Friends” link to A Voice for the Commonwealth)

Being poor wasn’t a huge adjustment. Myrtle and I had never been big-spenders. We did not believe in materialism. We’ve never had a desire for trendy clothes or the latest electronic gadget. Instead, we put our spare time, money, and energy into charity work and enjoyed the simple things in life. However, I was used to paying the bills and having money left-over. Now buying a cheap bottle of shampoo is a financial decision that requires thought.

Our system will collapse, probably soon, from its own crushing weight. Every time I see, hear, or read about the latest actions of our business-government “leaders,” I derive comfort from knowing I am speeding that collapse along: My lack of spending denies money to the military-industrial-entertainment-healthcare complex and I’m too poor to pay taxes to the rotten government it owns.

But I don’t mean to sound bitter.

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Creating New Realities

March 4, 2010 at 7:28 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Wesley Quick, a good friend of mine read my essay “Outstanding in His Field” and, instead of just accepting my complaints, sent in a comment that asked me to put forth a solution. A fair question, since I do not believe in whining without having a course of action for making things better. I started to put my answer into the “comments” section but thought I’d post it more widely on the blog.

In order to move toward a solution, we must first realize the fundamental problem we are up against. Some political commentators have come close to seeing the problem by talking about how the ultra right-wing has been allowed to “frame the discussion” in their own terms. But it goes deeper than that. The haters have actually been allowed to create the reality in which we now live. And that reality is a nightmare. A nightmare, that is, for all but the haters who use it to exploit and abuse the rest of us for their own gain.

Although each of us has our own viewpoint of reality, our larger world is shaped by the consensus of what we as a group agree the world looks like. And the future is shaped by what we believe the world should look like and what we think is possible. To turn an old quote on its head, “If you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it.”

In the famous book “1984,”George Orwell showed an oppressive world where an omnipresent & evil government had achieved near-total control and oppression of the populace. The government expected to keep the oppression going forever, since the inhabitants of that society could no longer even conceive of a different, better way of life. The tools to do so had been taken away from them. They were kept in constant fear & hatred: of their neighbors, coworkers, and even their children accusing them of traitorous non-conformity; of scarcity of the necessities of life; of the enemies with which their nation was at war; of their own natural urges for freedom, sex, or love. By keeping them locked into emotional upheaval they had no time to think about rebellion. The government “framed the discussion” by corrupting rational thought through insisting on nonsense ideas, such as that “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” The basic ability of people to evolve ideas of freedom and rebellion was short-circuited by dumbing-down the language. Actions start with thoughts and thoughts start with words, so words that expressed taboo thoughts (such as freedom or rebellion) were removed from the vocabulary. And history was molded to the government’s whim by destroying all documents that were contrary to the officially approved story. Anyone who remembered events that did not fit the official story would be a nut who could show no evidence. In these ways the government created its own “reality.”

During an interview with an“Esquire” magazine reporter in 2002, an unnamed senior adviser to President Bush made a strange assertion to the effect that the Bush Whitehouse was creating its “own reality.” This sounds like arrogance of the most ridiculous kind. But I think that is exactly what they’ve done. Now it is their world and we only live in it.

Through 30 years of steady, stubborn, concentrated, and crafty effort the loonies took over the asylum. It all started with Ronald Reagan, who started by convincing the most vulnerable Americans that they were being milked by Welfare Queens, that marijuana was “the most dangerous drug,” and that trickle-down economics was the path to national salvation. His quakery was reenforced by the newly forged right-wing (hate) talk radio & tv. Our perception of reality began to change under a steady assault of being told to “just say no” and that ketchup was a vegetable suitable for a balanced school lunch. Then we had the first George Bush and his “kinder, gentler” America that was really meaner and nastier (freedom is slavery), followed by “liberal” Bill Clinton who lead us into conservative territory where Reagan would have been proud. By the turn of the century, much of the country had bought into the lie that a rising stock market was the lifeblood of the nation.

Then came Dubya. If you remember, after the Supreme Court selected him President he seemed pretty much an irrelevant hick. But in the atmosphere of fear & hatred following September 11th, 2001 he and his minions were comfortably in the driver’s seat, creating their own reality. Liberals, progressives, populists, peaceniks, leftists, dissenters, doubters, and other “traitors” were buried under shouts of “united we stand.” My daughter & I attended a Geoge Carlin concert in Dayton shortly after the attack wherein the normally uninhibited comedian declared a moratorium on attacking our government (I would not have believed it if I had not heard it with my very own ears).

Obama’s America still lives in Bush’s reality: We still fight endless wars to bring democracy to the world; we still bail-out the too-big-to-fail banks and corporations; universal healthcare is still off the table; we still have to globalize our industries until none remain; programs like food stamps, Social Security, and unemployment are too still too expensive to keep funding; we still must spend more on “defense” than the next 46 countries combined. Our new President has turned-out to be politically to the right of Dwight Eisenhower but he is labelled a liberal-socialist-communist-marxist. Business leaders and politicians spout-off about how they are “doing God’s business” or compare poor children getting reduced price school lunches to feeding stray animals- and they are treated like reputable, sane people!

We must change the nightmare that America has become and the nightmare America has become for the world. I absolutely believe the first step is that we must regain our power to imagine the world as it should be. See that a better world is necessary and that it is possible. We must stop accepting the visions of reality created by crazy, hate-filled cranks! Once we do that, good change will naturally follow.

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