See How the Mighty Have Fallen!

May 4, 2010 at 5:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

by Reverend Hothoneywater

The oil rig environmental catastrophe taking place in the gulf coast is a national disgrace. Add it to the list. Along with the coal miners recently killed by cave-ins. Also, tack on the soldiers dying for control of Middle East oil to the list. And then remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be this way. The United States could be doing a lot more to wean itself off these dirty and irreplaceable forms of energy.

Germany, for example, has set itself a goal of obtaining 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources such as solar and geothermal by 2050.  I wouldn’t bet against them; they’ve just finished building a huge offshore wind farm as one of the steps along the path and, thanks to cash incentives to citizens for installing solar panels, cloudy Germany is the world’s #1 producer of solar electricity.  And do you remember all that blather during the campaign when candidate Obama pledged to create green jobs? Well, Germany already has over a quarter million jobs in the renewable energy sector and realistically expects many more in the near future. Japan is determined not to be left behind, so they’ve put many incentives in place to drive the their clean energy industries, including putting solar cells on all their public schools by the year 2020. Even Spain has positioned itself as one of the leading nations in solar energy technology.

And yet here in America, if you watch the tv news you’ll often see representatives of our business & politics sit there and pooh-pooh the practicality of these renewable energy sources. The technology is unproven, unprofitable, and can’t possibly supply enough power to meet our American demands. They portray green energy as a myth believed in by either science fiction buffs or the pitifully gullible. Meanwhile, our only real choice is to drill baby drill.

The “no we can’t” crowd finds it in their best interest to keep us enslaved to Big Oil, at least until they find a way to control the Sun. But what America finds impossible –  other nations are doing.

Take trains, for instance. And I wish I could. Back in the early 1970’s my mother took me on one of the last runs of a train that went from Dayton, Ohio to Richmond, Indiana about 50 miles away. She wanted me to see what it was like before the trains were all gone. Although trains are one of the most efficient ways to move people or freight, America gave up on them a long time ago. For many decades, the majority of America’s transportation funding has gone into building highways for ever increasing automobile traffic. Back in 1964, Japan started running its “bullet trains” at speeds of 130 mph and has been improving them ever since. China runs trains at 220 mph. Imagine sitting back comfortably and reading a book or taking a nap while you are carried to your destination at 220 miles an hour! Most every developed nation, and a number of the less-developed, has high speed rail service. The U.S. of A. has a grand total of 1 high-speed (150mph) rail line and most the time it operates at an average speed of 63 mph. And I’d say that 63 mph is about double the speed of any American train I’ve ever seen. But at least we’re starting to make some effort in this area, as the 2009 economic stimulus included a relative pittance of funding for “projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service.”

President Truman first proposed American universal government health care in 1945, calling it “a definite public responsibility.” By 1964, President Johnson got Medicare passed so the government would provide for the medical needs of our senior citizens (and it worked so well that even Tea Baggers love this socialist program). Finally this year, President Obama squeezed through a bill that promised to sort of bring us closer to almost making sure most law-abiding Americans maybe have health insurance even if that still means they may not necessarily receive health care. I won’t go into a detailed description about how civilized nations have managed set-up workable universal health care systems. But here is an excellent documentary from PBS Frontline called, “Sick Around the World.” Watch it and weep for the American people.

I can almost hear some of you saying, “Well then, Parson, maybe we just don’t have the money for all those fine things they have in countries like France or Cuba. And that’s because we spend so darn much of our money helping the poor, and the workers, and the families here in the Homeland. And on top of that, we give away so much darn money to other countries.”  Sorry to deflate your hot-air balloon,  friend, but the facts show the U.S. is actually one of the stingiest nations with its own people and foreigners.

No, we’re not falling behind because we share so generously with the downtrodden. In fact, the cause of America’s slide is exactly the opposite. Much like the kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament Book of Amos, fabulous prosperity for the ruling class has not been tempered with compassion and justice for the poor. God sent the prophet, Amos, to call-out Israel’s rulers about the way they selfishly trampled on the less-fortunate. Then he warned them that their behavior would bring about the near total destruction of their powerful nation at the hands of their enemies. By the way – they didn’t listen.

I would certainly never claim to be a prophet, but I can tell you this:  The United States has enjoyed more than 60 years as the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Unparalleled riches and power came our way. And it’s our national responsibility to use those riches wisely. Call it God or call it karma, but allowing millions of people to be exploited for the enrichment of a tiny greedy minority is a path to destruction of a powerful nation. Even a nation that has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its arsenal.

But as I said earlier in this essay:  “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

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Obama Hate-Junkie

December 31, 2009 at 3:33 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I’m ending the third day of my withdrawal program. You see, recently it dawned upon me that I’ve become an Obama hate-junkie. I am obsessed with what a turncoat-liar our 44th President has shown himself to be. It crept-up on me so gradually that I hardly noticed. One day I was a supporter, giddy with delight at his election, waiting expectantly for him to begin making  sane, compassionate, fair decisions. The kind of decisions that would bring-about some of that “change” he had talked so much about. And I waited, and I waited, and I waited…

For ten months following the election, I shook-off Obama’s  continuance of Bush’s neo-conservative agenda. While most everyone around me lost their jobs, their homes, their retirement funds, and their faith in our system, I watched as  B.O. appointed one Wall Street lackey after another, gave a lap-dance to the big-bankers, and begged the Republicans to help him sell-out all his principles in exchange for bipartisanship. But by the time he gave his big healthcare speech in September, Representative Joe Wilson shouted-out “you lie!” and I was shouting much nastier things to my car radio as I listened.

After that, I was a gone goose. My frequent encouraging emails to the White House morphed into hate-mail,  my political conversations with friends (both black & white) and family were peppered with unflattering comparisons between B.O. & the hated W. (No, I never ventured into “birther” territory or anything of that ilk; I’m a progressive, not a racist nutjob). About a week ago, like an alcoholic who suddenly realizes he is drinking way too much, I saw that I was spending hours every day searching-out Obama’s latest failure and then spewing venom about it online.

So made myself taper-off. And I can use some of that venom on the other Democrat & Republican politicians. After all, there’s plenty of blame to go around.

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Sucking More & More

December 28, 2009 at 12:37 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Any working American knows our economy has gradually sucked more and more at higher and higher levels for decades. And all the while, that increasing suck-level has been vastly ignored by our media, our politicians, and anyone who occupies the levels up from where the suck reaches. For instance, I remember about 15 years ago when I worked in Engineering & Product Development and our building had an experimental machine shop. Well, one day the bigwigs decided to eliminate that machine shop and farm-out the work to outside shops. The Engineers I worked with couldn’t have been less sympathetic toward what they called “blue-collar” workers losing their jobs. I warned them that someday the tide would probably rise to eliminate them and the idea was soundly hooted down as preposterous. Now, of course, we see Engineering and developmental work increasingly off-shored. In fact, many of those same Engineers and Chemists were downsized along with me about 9 years ago when the company moved to greener pastures (that is, where labor was cheaper and environmental standards not as strict).

Our habit of turning-away from the plight of our fellow-citizens who are in need is much like that old poem about Nazi Germany that talks about (paraphrasing) “When they came to get the Jews, I did nothing because I wasn’t Jewish. When they came to get the Catholics, I did nothing because I wasn’t Catholic. Finally, they came to get me and there was no one left to fight for me.” The lower-class 90% of the population better wake-up and realize it’s in their own best interest to stand-up for each other. Our ancestors learned this the hard way, as we are now doing. To a great extent, during the Great Depression until the 1970’s, the working class usually stuck together and won higher wages, paid vacations, sick leave time, holiday pay, overtime pay, reasonable work-week hours, and many other benefits that the plutocrats didn’t want to give.  Since the workers stopped sticking together there has been a steady erosion of all those work place improvements.

One of our greatest weapons is the ballot box.  It is time to turn all the Washington, D.C. politicians out of office (my apologies to the handful that are not slime). And a mild form of that is just what voters thought they were doing when they elected Obama. His campaign of “change” resonated with citizens who didn’t want to destroy the underpinnings of our Constitutional system but knew America’s “public servants” are now only serving the plutocrats. And his sell-out to those plutocrats and war machine betrayed their trust. Like me, most of them won’t vote Democrat again and they already know the Republicans are nuts, so they are ripe for a third party.

On a related note, in the last few days our corporate-owned rulers have decreed yet another give-away to their masters. I’m speaking of the mandatory insurance company subsidy that was passed into law as “healthcare reform.” Over the next few years, the cost of forced insurance purchase will destroy many a family’s budget. Those who are already financially sinking will drown and those who are barely keeping their heads above water will sink. In advance of this bill’s passage, concerned citizens, politicians, and media rightfully asked how people who couldn’t afford insurance in the first place were supposed to buy insurance when required by law. The politicians gave solemn assurance  that there would be government help for those who couldn’t afford insurance (much like they assured us after Katrina that New Orleans would promptly be rebuilt). And, amazingly, the questioners swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

But most anyone who has had to ask for government help can tell you, the gov’t help will turn-out to be an off-putting maze of underfunded bullshit that will amount to near zero help. In the end, millions of Americans will have to choose between buying insurance to avoid fines or paying for their rent, groceries, and utilities. Worst of all, because of factors such as unaffordable co-payments and insurance company denials for treatment, these new insurance customers probably won’t see any real improvement in their access to healthcare. And all the while America’s “leaders” will continue to pour unimaginable money down the rat-hole of endless wars and more tax breaks for the ultra-rich. I believe there is a very good chance this healthcare “reform” (which isn’t) may become the issue that will finally ignite a citizens rebellion.

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Wow, Was I Wrong!

December 22, 2009 at 5:36 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

I haven’t had health insurance in 9 years. The end of my coverage coincided with my downsizing out of a 20+ year career in the printing industry (another of the multitude of enterprises America no longer has within its  boarders). I still remember how ecstatic I was back in 1980, when I got that job; my first that not only paid well, but had fringe benefits like health insurance and a retirement pension. It was a real “grown-up” job like my parents had.

My excellent health has enabled me to go these 9 years without the wallet-draining help of the medical profession. I attribute my good health mostly to my long-standing belief in positive thinking and what used to be called “health foods.”  I don’t have the highest opinion of doctors. I really think they aren’t good for much beyond operating if you’ve got something like appendicitis or diagnosing an obvious condition like diabetes. Anything more complex and their attempts at a “cure” may be worse than the ailment.

But in spite of that, I know modern medicine has its place in civilized society.  I don’t forgo medical coverage out of choice, I would love to have it if I could squeeze it into my minuscule budget. Ah, the luxury of being able to take my sore throat  or aching foot to a physician and receive treatment…

(Excuse me, I was lost in reverie for a few moments) Delirious from the hope induced by Obama’s election, I truly thought America’s politicians were, at long last, ready to provide their citizens with universal access to health care.

Wow, was I wrong! And now, it looks like Americans not only won’t get universal coverage, their crazy government will try to force the poorest ones to buy insurance coverage, under threat of being branded as criminals and fined. Only the twitterpated mind of an insulated-from-reality Washington, D.C. multi-millionaire politician who gets perks like free haircuts (and free healthcare) could think that this is any kind of fix for the problem.

“Where in blue blazes are people who were too poor to buy insurance in the first place supposed to get money to buy insurance when they’re forced?” ask many sane Americans. “Don’t worry,” the multi-millionaire politicians assure us, “they can apply to the government for assistance to pay for their forced insurance.”

Well, as one of America’s many financially-ruined citizens I have first-hand frustrating experience with applying to the government for assistance. To cite two examples out of many: 1) so that my working, divorced daughter could go to college, she needed financial help with my granddaughter’s daycare. That took seven weeks of almost daily calling the social workers and, finally, in desperation a call to our state governor’s office hotline to get results. 2) I applied for heating energy assistance for this winter, which involves getting up about 3 am in order to stand in line in the freezing cold outside the application office to get one of 25 entrance tickets at about 8 am.

I was 17th in the heating assistance line that day, because some people camp out there all night. There were about 50 people in line, which means a lot of people turned away each day. My point is that there will be a lot of poor people spending a lot of their time going begging “hat in hand” to the bureaucrats in order to buy insurance.

I was once solidly middle-class and paid taxes for 37 years before being destroyed in the Great Recession. I was surprised at how confusing, uncaring, and inadequate our social safety net is. Pray that you don’t have to find out also.

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Bring Back the “Red Menace”

November 1, 2009 at 5:12 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

We Americans are brought-up to believe that genuine, vigorous competition is the life-blood of our great system. Vying against one-another for victory, with the winner taking all the spoils and the loser conceding any claim is what makes social Darwinism tick. And so it is drilled into our red, white, and blue brains from cradle to grave until it becomes second-nature to believe that non-winners deserve to have nothing. Gaining or losing it all motivates us to try our best. Striving against a rival makes us strong!

Who would deny that in the 1970’s, our domestic auto makers had become bloated, complacent, and inefficient. They were insensitive to and exploitative of their customers; building increasingly lower-quality and higher-priced products designed for “planned obsolescence.” They were improved by stiff competition from foreign car companies that gave customers an alternative. Likewise, the United States Postal Service was improved when other carriers appeared. I could fill pages with examples of industries and organizations that were increasingly out-of-touch with their market, all of which were raised-up by vying against tough, strong, viable opponents.

That lack of competition is exactly why a monopoly does not function well. There is no rival to keep said monopoly under control so sooner or later hubris, greed, and decadence set-in (note that this is why government regulation is used to control these tendencies in monopolies). In modern American, Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Obama-nomics, monopoly is a diseased thing that must be cured through competition. If the schools, the airlines, or the electric company can’t face the challenge, then that’s too bad because it’s sink or swim for everyone (except for banks and Wall Street tycoons).

And now I come to my point. And here I am relieved to know that no one actually reads this blog, so I will not be hounded by threats and cat-calls for the assertion I’m about to make:  The worst thing that happened to the average American citizen in the past 100 years was the collapse of the Communistic Soviet Union. Why? Simply because we now have no competitor to which we can turn when we are abused by the monopoly known as American Capitalism. And so that monopoly becomes increasingly abusive of its captive customers.

Apparently, I am the only one to notice that there was only one span of time when conditions consistently improved for American workers and citizens:  the years from 1920 until the mid-1980’s while the Soviet Union existed and, in the minds of America’s leaders, there was real danger of a (cue-up the scary music) Communistic revolution in America.

Before that window of time, laissez faire Capitalism was firmly in the saddle and there was very little progress in the treatment of the vast majority of the population. Things didn’t really begin to improve until the Great Depression of the 1930’s caused a large percentage of Americans to start considering the alternative economics of Communism/Socialism/Populism (all close cousins). This scared the bejesus out of our political and business rulers who then reluctantly agreed to allow a little of the wealth to be spread around. And for the next 50 years, more and more wealth got spread in America so that the people were kept happy and non-Communist.* Overall, things kept getting better all the time for Americans across the board:  the old, the young, all races, both genders. The poverty level crept down a little at a time and literacy rates kept going up.

Then in the late 1980’s, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell-apart under the weight of its leaders’ corruption and greed. The threat by the Communist menace was over. Sure there were still a few other Communist nations around, but none of them posed a real threat to Capitalism. American Capitalism boasted of being the only superpower remaining on earth. And, immediately, (actually it had started a few years earlier when the Soviet collapse could be seen on the horizon) American Capitalism no longer had to try to keep our hearts and minds. The tide turned against the average American. And it’s been downhill for us ever since.

So today we Americans are seemingly stuck with a bloated, uncaring, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful, unfair, and unresponsive system that is typical of any monopoly. But we are not stuck! Having no competition allows Capitalism to dismiss the needs of the citizens.  There is only one solution:  We must pick-up the threat of Communist revolution off the ash heap of history and, at the very least, pretend to be considering it as a replacement for Capitalism. That will scare the elite into once again being willing to share some of our nation’s prosperity.

* And contrary to neo-conservative ideology, in spite of having to share prosperity with the bottom 95% of the nation, there was still plenty of money for the upper 5% to stay very, very, very, rich.

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What Then, Indeed?

August 11, 2009 at 2:13 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

While perusing one of my favorite alternative news websites, Unknownnews.net, I came across an article titled: “If healthcare loses again, what then?”  Since I am an older, lower-income, uninsured citizen, I have a keen interest in that question. I emailed the author with my thoughts. It read:

Yes, what…indeed…then? (You can’t see it, but I’m stroking my chin reflectively).

Unfortunately, I have no fear of contradiction when I say the first part of your question should be rephrased as “When healthcare loses…” That is partially because, as you so astutely put it, “…the President is a pansy.” But your overall question is very good and not limited only to healthcare. We Americans of a progressive bent must realize that this same question also applies to alternative energy, the environment, the war, the economy, unemployment, education, and other issues ad nauseum.

One thing is for darn sure:  We cannot count on the corporate-funded government nor their corporate owners to get us the solutions we need. Name the issue facing America and be assured any hint of sanity will instantly be greeted by a consortium of right-wing political nuts who are manipulated by criminal big-business. And they are abetted at every step by the so-called “liberal” Democrats and the so-called “liberal” media. Since nearly every mainstream media outlet and politician is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the economic elite– they are the proverbial “wolves in sheeps’ clothing.” It would actually be surprising if they supported populism. No, we can’t count on any of them for help.

So, if we can’t count on them, what do we do? We face facts:  Our country is in about 40-years-worth of deep doo-doo and the system is broken from top to bottom. We elected Obama and a Democratic majority to fix it, but they have shown themselves unequal to the task. The Republicans already disqualified themselves from leadership. We want to preserve our Constitutional form of government, which functions well when it allowed to function unhindered by the moneyed-interests. Therefore, our only course of action is to do all we can to encourage third-party candidates and vote them into office. This will break the stranglehold the two corporate parties have on our government. Then, to insure our public servants stay clean, we must immediately pass legislation to remove private finance entirely from our political process. It will be a big job but we have no option.

Meanwhile, awaiting the day when ordinary people re-take governance, we must all strive to make ourselves the best human beings we can be. Set a good example:  Practice kindness and compassion, help others and ourselves to reach full potential, and reject the culture of greed and cruelty.

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