Archives For Spouting Off

Things that I have an opinion on; and I have a lot of those :)

2014-10-11_08-51-14Americans have a thing for starting over. We love the idea of breaking from the past, beginning from scratch, getting a new life, setting out on a fresh path.

No wonder, then, that some of us seem to be taken with the idea of solving our political problems by calling a constitutional convention to craft a new founding document — one that is less… well, it sort of depends on what you find intolerable about the present system.

Conservatives spend their days dreaming of a balanced budget amendment, term limits for Supreme Court justices, and special protections for the free enterprise system.

Libertarians worry about ever-expanding executive power.

Liberals agonize over the influence of wealthy special interests on all branches of government.

Centrists fret about generalized governmental dysfunction and the danger that it will lead to the kind of breakdown that we’ve seen in presidential democracies throughout the developing world.

I have sympathy for a number of these complaints, especially the ones highlighted by the liberals and centrists. But that doesn’t mean calling a constitutional convention is a good idea. On the contrary, it’s an atrocious idea — and one that would be likely to make our very real problems far worse.

SOURCE:  The myopic folly of demanding a new constitutional convention – The Week.

I thoroughly agree with the folks over at “The Week” that a constitutional convention in the U.S. is a bad idea right now. With all the partisan groups running around the country with their heated rhetoric and not listening to anything anyone else says this is especially a bad time to be fiddling with our foundation documents.  I’m not sure that there is really ever a good time to do it but for now it is best to stay away from the foundations.

But it would be nice to get some people in charge who don’t have a battleship full of baggage! All those guys in Washington seem to have a personal agenda of one sort or another that often trumps the people’s will. All this “right to bear arms” stuff is totally illogical if we take all the words of that amendment seriously. The amendment was to protect militias not guns.  All the gay marriage antagonizers must come to realize that the government is not in the religion business. They simply create legal documents that bind us together. If you want to tag homosexual unions as immoral that is fine but that is not the government’s business.

Until we can manage to at least get along with each other at some of the most basic levels we need to step back from anything that has any long-term consequences. I’m not personally sure that we will ever come to any level of agreement about anything now but at least we can hold out some hope that our children or grandchildren will be able to manage that feat. As long as we don’t pollute their thinking too much maybe they will see a common cause when they take the reigns of power. I don’t know but at least I am hoping that to be the case.

But what do I know….

Don’t Wonder Why….

October 3, 2014

Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t.

Ok, that is my observation for today. Yeah, some people go over the edge when life overloads them but don’t we all get overloaded one time or another. I know I do. I see things that just don’t make any sense no matter how you look at them:

Violence - The amount of violence in our society simply astounds me! I know Americans are on the whole more aggressive than most other countries but we seem to be unique in expressing that aggression in violent ways. American football is an obsession for many and it is by far the most violent sanctioned sport on this plant. The most popular video games feature someone with a weapon killing the “bad” guys”

Guns - We have a love of guns and weapons of destruction far above almost everyone else in the world. I think we have more guns that people. The primary purpose for guns is to kill something or someone.

War - I don’t think I can even recall all the wars we have been involved with in my lifetime. It seems if we don’t have someone to go to war with we go out and generate some.  We spend more on our military than all the rest of the world combined. How insane is that!!

Narcissism – Narcissism is spending your life concentrating almost totally on yourself. Selfies are an indication of that condition. I try to be an ardent follower of Jesus Christ and when he tells me the two most important things in life are to love God and the love each other. Narcissism is the exact opposite of that.

Greed - The dark side of capitalism is greed. It is endemic to our way of doing business. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and for many that is the way it is supposed to be.

Corruption – Corruption invades too much in our society. It seems that daily there is yet another politician, religious figurehead, or business man who is exposed for corruption.

Incompetence – There are just too many people who think they can make the big bucks with this or that scheme and sadly many do. They would rather cheat and scheme than put in an honest days work. Someone recently, I think it was Steve Jobs, say it that it takes 10,000 trys to become an expert at something. Too many are just not willing to put in the effort. And then there are the current crop of politicians. Too much incompetence among those folks.

Why do we have to face all these stupid things day after day? It’s enough to make anyone crazy. Don’t wonder why some people go crazy, wonder why all of us don’t….

Maybe We Got It Wrong…

September 1, 2014

2014-08-09_19-13-53This is probably not a good post for a U.S. national holiday but here goes anyway. Fools rush in where….

A few hundred years ago, which is a very short amount of time in world history, we were part of the Great British empire. We bowed to the king and paid our share of taxes. Then some hot heads came along and convinced us that we would be better off on our own.  They, like many Californians today, just didn’t like the idea of paying taxes and found every excuse to avoid doing that.

Long story short here we are today with one of the worst, and the absolutely most expensive, healthcare system in the world.  A murder rate and gun ownership one of the highest in the world. Of course those two items are not unrelated.  Spending more on our military than all the other countries in the world combined let alone being so stressed out we seem to have no time for family.

While over in England they were recently judged to have the best healthcare of a first world country. Their gun ownership is a small fraction of our and they have less murders per capita l in a year than we do in a month. They, like most other countries spend miniscule amounts on their military.  They take the time for afternoon tea and meals with family. Britain also seems to learn from their mistakes much sooner than we do. They outlawed slavery many years before we did. They never tried to get rid of their alcohol as they realize that it is an integral part of their culture. They didn’t practice segregation to nearly the extent we did.

Maybe we got it wrong all those years ago. We let a few hot heads convince us that what we had was not a good thing.  Canada which is our neighbors to the north also rate pretty much as well  as England in all the mentioned categories. It is always fascinating to me to consider the results of various decisions both corporate and personal and to think about the consequences if we went the other way.

I know you can’t unscramble an egg or re-join a country so the above thinking is a total fantasy but it is interesting to ponder about how different my world would be today if we had not listened to those hot head rebels so many year ago. Now before you begin to flame me please realize that I love this country but we could learn a few lessons about doing it better from some of our neighbors, especially our British ones.

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “stimulus” just made things worse….

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SOURCE: Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law Updated | Dave Johnson.

In the old days, that is the time before I gave up on all the cable news channels I used to get a weekly dose of Fox News.  As they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It was anything but news……

That’s all I want, or need, to say about this topic. It is too toxic to go any further into the idiocy of it….

I laughed out loud. Couldn’t help it; I had just overheard Mr. Newport Beach say something about how Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster despite how, of course, it’s not, and if America were to somehow actually develop a health care system similar to, say, Canada’s, that would be the end of America for certain; we’d never recover from such a devastating blow. Or something. And then came the [president is the] “worst thing to ever happen” quip, and I couldn’t hold back

They didn’t hear me, of course; the orgasmic thrum of their perfect lives drowned out my chuckle, and as I turned and looked at this beautifully entitled, happy crew from my vantage point only a few feet away but a million light years in perspective, we all shared one of the most spectacular, envied locales in the world and all of us sipped superb regional grape and not a single one of us suffered the slightest personal, social or economic indignity, every first-world need instantly met, every crab cake perfectly formed, the sunshine as flawless as Jesus on toast and no lines at the restroom and lots of free parking for his Lexus SUV…..

Even so, I desperately wanted to ask Mr. Newport Beach what his stock portfolio looked like a mere six or seven years ago, when Bush & Co. ravaged the country and led us into one of the deepest, most brutal social and economic pits in modern history. Did he lose half his net worth? More? Was he worried he couldn’t feed his family or pay his mortgage? Did he lose his house? His job? Did he blame Bush? Clinton? Islam? The gays?

And by the way, how does he like the recovery so far? Which of his three perfect, multimillion-dollar homes was he on his way to, right now?

I also wanted to know, when Bush/Cheney lied to the world, openly violated the tragedy of 9/11 and invaded Iraq, killing tens of thousands, was he furious? What about now, when even Fox News is calling out Cheney and declaring Iraq invasion a colossal mistake, a lie from which we’re still unable to extricate ourselves?

SOURCE:  The Best Worst President Ever | Mark Morford.

Mark Morford has become an instant hero of mine. This post says almost exactly how I feel about those rich guys who are so much against making healthcare a right instead of a privilege for all America’s citizens. I agree exactly with his amazement of calling our current president the worst ever while he is benefiting from all the massive recovery, at least for those who own a lot of stocks, that has occurred under this president.

I agree completely that it totally confuses me how this rich guy can completely ignore the disastrous condition that the previous president left the country in after eight years in office and how he put us in a $trillion+ off the books wars that the current president had to dig his way out of.  Compared to his predecessor the current president deserves  top three status in the presidential list.  How can this rich jerk even swallow the vitriol words that spews from his mouth.

But then I have to step back and recognize that this rich guy probably doesn’t represent most in his financial category. Or at least I hope he doesn’t? The hypocrisy of this rich guys words strike me as being one of the root causes for the trouble this country still has.  Thanks Mark for getting the words just right…..

You Have To Use Them…

June 30, 2014

2014-06-23_16-39-48I heard a comment recently that has stuck to me. It went like this

You can’t just say you have rights, you have to use them to prove you have them”

I know of so many people who scream about the first amendment right to free speech but then villainize those who speak out against things that they don’t agree with. It seems, at least from their standpoint, that freedom of speech is a one-way street going only the way they go.

Some of the most vitriol comments I get on this blog is for saying things that others don’t agree with and since I am for the most part a contrarian I often go against the popular trends of the times. It just seems that someone has to do that to keep us from getting into a complacent attitude about things or to think that our way is the only way.

Freedom of speech and for that matter to protest and redress Grievances is something that has to be practiced to be real. We can’t simply put them on a shelf and admire them for their virtue. If they aren’t used they will eventually become worthless.

The ACLU often comes to the defense of those we don’t agree with. For that reason that letter combination is often treated with disdain. It is only through their practices that our freedoms are maintained and even advanced. If you don’t use them you lose them as the saying goes.

 

 

The Great Regulator…

June 18, 2014

Who would ever have guess that the title of the “Great Regulator” would be a Republican! That seems totally impossible in today’s world! But that is indeed the case. A hundred years ago Teddy Roosevelt was just that person. He was also called the “Trust Buster” as he took down many of the extremely wealthy of his day. He was also the one who put very high inheritance taxes on those in the 1% of his day.  Here is a little about that from Wikipedia:

Roosevelt responded to public anger over the abuses in the food packing industry by pushing Congress to pass the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and The Pure Food and Drug Act. The Meat Inspection Act of 1906 banned misleading labels and preservatives that contained harmful chemicals. The Pure Food and Drug Act banned food and drugs that are impure or falsely labeled from being made, sold, and shipped. Roosevelt was also served as honorary president of the school health organization American School Hygiene Association from 1907 to 1908, and in 1909 he convened the first White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

During the Panic of 1907 nearly all agreed that a more flexible system to ensure liquidity was needed – the Republicans sought a response to the money supply by the bankers whereas the Democrats sought government control; Roosevelt was unsure but leaned towards the Republican view while continuing to denounce corporate corruption. Nonetheless, in 1910, Roosevelt commented on “enormously wealthy and economically powerful men” and suggested “a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes… increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.”

Roosevelt was inclined to extend the regulatory reach of his office. In a moment of frustration, House Speaker Joseph Gurney Cannon commented on Roosevelt’s desire for executive branch control in domestic policy-making: “That fellow at the other end of the avenue wants everything from the birth of Christ to the death of the devil.” Biographer Brands states that, “Even his friends occasionally wondered whether there wasn’t any custom or practice too minor for him to try to regulate, update or otherwise improve.”  In fact, Roosevelt’s willingness to exercise his power included attempted rule changes in the game of football; at the Naval Academy, he sought to force retention of martial arts classes and to revise disciplinary rules. He even ordered changes made in the minting of a coin whose design he disliked, and ordered the Government Printing Office to adopt simplified spellings for a core list of 300 words according to reformers on the Simplified Spelling Board. He was forced to rescind the latter after substantial ridicule from the press and a resolution of protest from the House.

It seems almost impossible to believe that the great regulator’s party would morph into what is it today. I’m sure if Teddy were around now he would be viciously labeled as a socialist liberal by the Republican establishment.  What happened between then and now to cause this very radical shift in philosophy with the GOP? I kind of believe that it happened because the ultra-rich have pretty much bought that party.  They get the best of the best to keep the spin machine running so they can fool those too lazy to realize just who the owner is now.

We desperately need another person like Teddy to do his thing once again. But this time, unless something very drastically happens, the person will not likely be from the GOP.

Those Words…

June 10, 2014

2014-05-24_10-22-02We ask all Republicans to come together to defeat extremist Hollywood liberal Allison Lundergan Grimes this fall.”

SOURCE: Conservative Groups Spin a Loss in Kentucky Senate Primary – ABC News.

I see where Mitch McConnell escaped the attempted siege of the Senate Minority leader recently. The words above are part of his victory speech. Even though this quote is about politics, this post is not in that vein but instead about the loaded words some choose to use in their rhetoric.

With some people you can tell right up front what their worldview is all about with just a few words from their lips. They telegraph their underlying message with those chosen words.

Extremist Hollywood Liberal — These are three very deliberately chosen words. They indicate those “outsiders” who come in to tell us what we must do.They are “bleeding hearts” who should mind their own business and leave us alone about caring for anyone besides our immediate family.

It is kind of ironic one of the things that is admired about America the most comes from Hollywood. The other 95% of humanity outside our country can’t get enough of our Hollywood output. But to those who use the words above Hollywood is nothing to be admired but instead to be scorned.

Let me tell you something about Negroes – This one came up recently in a quote about our president. As Mr. Obama said you don’t need to hear any more from this person to know what he is going to say.

State’s Rights — State’s rights was a very common term used by Southerners during the Civil Rights period of the 1960s but continues to be used today. It basically meant let us handle our negroes as we please. Leave us alone when we make sure certain parts of our population are denied their “rights” (including access to health care). Leave us alone when we want to segregate those less than desirable people among us to the outside our midst.

Real Christian — A real Christian is someone who believes the same things as I do. Being a Christian is about being against anyone who does not totally agree with my values including my right to keep guns, and my desire to get rid of all those Muslims and Jews. You will most likely find the folks who use these words spending time under a sheet watching flaming crosses and screaming at each other about all “those” people who are invading “their” country.

Real American — Of course a real American means not any of those foreigner who are invading our country. It also means not those who espouse equal rights or all or those so spend so much time on so-called justice issue.

Deaf and Dumb — Of course this is one of my personal favorites.  It is among many other quotes that try to marginalize people who are different from them. If the deaf can’t understand what I am saying then they must be dumb.

All of us have to be careful when we hear any of these or similar type words.

 

 

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What’s at stake, after all, is citizens’ representation in Congress. Partisan gerrymandering undermines the whole notion of a representative government. For proof, just look toward the lopsided seat distribution in the current Congress.

SOURCE:  What 60 years of political gerrymandering looks like – The Washington Post.

I don’t know if gerrymandering was a foregone conclusion when our democracy was formed. Everyone wants to take advantage of all possible means in order to win. I can imagine that in the 1950s someone with a pile of voting records and a map tried to figure out how to gain an advantage. Because the chore was almost overwhelming using the existing tools not much was able to be accomplished.

Fast forward to the computer age and gerrymandering has become an art form. Computer models are able to track almost every vote by location and draw thousands of different maps to take advantage of every single vote. Thus we see voting districts morph into what is shown above.  One of the secrets to being able to accomplish this jigsaw task is that one political party must have the power to accomplish this re-districting after it is configured and to maintain that status over a number of years.

The American obsession of winning at all costs almost dictates that these sort of things happen. To the winner goes the spoils and the spoils in our political processes amount to trillions of dollars. I have a dream that some year, probably in the very distant future, saner minds will finally prevail in this and so many other areas. When we can finally concentrate the common good and get away from the extreme partisanship of today then we might be able to accomplish things that benefit us all instead of a small segment of our society. I have a dream but unfortunately that is probably all it will ever be.

SharingThis is going to be one of those totally off-the-wall unrealistic posts that pops off the top of my head. But it sure would be great if somehow, anyhow it could be accomplished. So here goes.

We all know that profits are the total 100% driver for American businesses for the last thirty years or so.  Ever since the MBA’s took over during the Reagan years profits are the god of business.  Of course directly linked to profits are CEO’s pay. I believe that other things besides global competition have contributed to the income inequality now in this world.

When I started out in the corporate world employees were considered assets to the company. A well-trained, well-educated workforce was the driving factor between a struggling company and one that thrived.  Because of this belief, and the fact that worker’s unions were part of the mix, a strong middle class developed in the U.S.  Everyone could afford what they were making and they were very loyal to the brand their company produced. In that respect those were indeed the good old days…

But, let’s get back to my off-the-wall dream.  Now that profits are the sole mantra for American capitalism, let’s just accept that fact as future reality but with a twist. It seems that almost all companies want to hire their workers at minimum wage. The money they used to pay in livable salaries is now directed towards profits.  Here goes my fix, so get ready!  What if companies were required to share their profits between their workers and their owners?  It could go something like this.

Go ahead and reduce all workers pay to minimum wage but require half of last years’ profits to be distributed the next year to supplement that wage.  According to some calculations that would raise the median income of workers almost 50%. Wouldn’t that be something.  Finally the workers would actually get some of the benefit from their labors.

But of course the devil is in the details. In order for this to happen the owners, those who hold the company stocks, would have to get by with half their usual dividends. While they are doing that they could also reign in the CEO and upper management pay to  something that is not as absurd as it currently is. What is he likelihood of stock owners agreeing? Well, probably very close to zero. After all, they spend millions, and hide millions more away in foreign bank accounts,  to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Why would they give up some dividends for the greater good?  I kind of got an idea about that too. ;)  Since many of these owners were true believers in Reagan’s trickle down from the 1980s maybe we can convince them that lowering their dividends will actually raise  them.  Wouldn’t that be a win-win for everyone!!

OK, now it is time to get back to the world as it actually exists, not how I sometimes see it inside my head. But, it is kind of nice to dream that we could ever get back to the good old days where employees were actually appreciated.

I’m just a simple guy so what do I know…..