brotherpeacemaker

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The Last And The Ludicrous

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Unless you’re one of those people who think movies with sound are just a fad and yearn for the days of Rudolph Valentino or Charlie Chaplin, you’re familiar with The Fast And The Furious, the movie about young people and the state of the art in street racing.  Heavily modified Hondas and Nissans and Toyotas and Mazdas and even a Volkswagen or two are featured in the movie.  There was a scene at the end where a supercharged 1970 Dodge Charger couldn’t take a 1995 Toyota Supra Turbo in a drag race.  What can you expect from Hollywood?

But it occurred to me that if The Fast And The Furious was about the cutting edge of something new, The Last And The Ludicrous should be about things that are staid and as dull as a rubber knife.  I know some people will disagree with me but no where is the label The Last And The Ludicrous is more applicable than with the many politicians who appear to be trying to make a name for them selves at the expense of the stimulus plan being put forth at the federal level.

Conservative congressmen are fighting for the public’s attention as they fight for the limelight and beat their chest to prove how strongly they embrace their new found fiscal responsibility against deficit spending in the first sixty days of this new administration.  These congressmen talk about deficit spending as if it is some new phenomenon that was developed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The last few years of deficit spending with no bid contracts for global conglomerates with strong ties to the previous administration were ignored like so much fiscal rain.  Tax breaks during a time of military activity was a new phenomenon during the administration of President George W. Bush.  There was never uttered a single peep from the conservative peeps.  And now that they have gone from positions of total political control in the federal government to yesterday’s cliché, these people want to reverse their position of fiscal leniency that saw the federal deficit double from five to ten trillion dollars in eight extremely long years to a position not approving a dime of a deficit.

And the earmarks!  I have to laugh to keep from crying and roll my eyes to hear these people talk about all the pork in this stimulus bill.  The last number I heard was that there were nine thousand pork projects in this bill.  Everything from volcano research in areas that have the potential to suffer significantly from a volcano eruption to the funding of studies for a number of bugs and pest is included in this bill.

However, I was watching Meet The Press With David Gregory when South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was complaining about the stimulus bill, regurgitating the same argument made constantly and consistently without much in the way of deviation.  Mr. Gregory pointed out to the Senator that his fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, mentioned a pet project of Mr. Graham that made it as part of the stimulus bill as one of the many earmarks.  Mr. Graham didn’t blink as he said something to the affect that he owed it to his constituents to fight for every penny that he provides.  The hypocritical message is that earmarks are awful for everyone else and only Mr. Graham’s constituents are the only constituents that deserve them

Chest thumping and earmark attacking aside the global economy is in a jam.  Somebody likened this to a situation where a patient is sitting in the operating table of the emergency room while two quacks argue over the best way to proceed with saving the patient’s life.  Neither one wants to listen to the other as they bicker over the patient’s treatment and the nurse wheels the dead as a doornail patient away.   The doctors are last to realize the patient is dead and ludicrous for their less than helpful approach to servicing a person in need.

If people have a better way of approaching the mess we’re in then by all means they should step to the plate, stop the presses, and present their groundbreaking strategy.  But the idea of saying no just to be saying no is hardly responsible right now.  Tax breaks that target the well to do, saving my five bucks a week in the process, won’t do a thing for getting things back to doing well.  I heard a guy on the radio say that a tax break isn’t going to help his business if he doesn’t have customers to keep his business going.  Somebody figured it out that we’ve already tried the tax cuts thing.  It didn’t work.  In fact, it’s part of the reason we’re in the fix we’re in.

Anyone who continues to adhere to this faulty strategy in order to get us back to fiscal health is truly one of the last and the ludicrous to understand what’s going on.  Unable to try anything new people want to stay the course like lemmings over a fiscal cliff.  The last and the ludicrous would never do anything different.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Posted by | Life, Politics, The Economy, Thoughts | Leave a comment

A Little Humility Is Long Overdue

Two years ago Kevin Phillips, a political and economic commentator and former Republican White House strategist for President Richard Nixon, warned about the dangers of easy cash, growing debt, and dependence on foreign oil. Mr. Phillips was on National Public Radio explaining why he believed America is now in a full fledged economic crisis, what led the United States to its current predicament, and what can be done to address what he referred to as the global crisis of American capitalism. It is Mr. Phillips’ theory that the economic health of this country started to tank in the late sixties, early seventies. Instead of policies that placed financial risk solely on institutions that benefited from financial gains, risk has been transferred to the public without the public enjoying any of the benefits.

Mr. Phillips gave the example of the bailout of Bears and Stearns where the Federal Reserve took the position to insure the financial risk of Citicorp’s investment. This financial bailout was compared to the bailout of Chrysler back in the day where Chrysler borrowed a cool billion dollars from the government in order to remain solvent and the company had to pay it back. Chrysler took the risk on itself. However, Citicorp managed to transfer its risk to the American public. With benefit concentrated into the hands of a few but risk spread throughout the social spectrum a relative handful of people will reap financial rewards while the majority will pay for financial mistakes made through no fault of their own.

Through a series of short sighted policies by the government over the past thirty five years or so, we have gotten to the point where the final straws of the last eight years have pushed the American public over the edge of financial ruin. When President George Bush took office, oil was trading at about twenty dollars a barrel. Last year oil was trading at one hundred fifty dollars a barrel. People will say that the government has no control over the oil’s marketplace. But with so much uncertainty in the Middle East because of policies implemented by our Republican executive branch and our Republican led legislative branch that rubberstamped everything Mr. Bush wanted to do, it is hard to support the argument that government is innocent of any responsibility in this financial tempest.

In order to understand what is happening in America now Mr. Phillips cites the example of Britain in the decade of the 1910s. England saw its position as the leader of the financial world erode. Through a series of happenings that saw a couple of global conflicts and the emergence of new manufacturing efficiencies based on revolutions of mass production, the young upstart United States emerged some thirty years later as the new leader. Unfortunately, while England was able to enjoy its position as number one for centuries, America’s position as number one is in a state of perpetual decline after little more than a handful of decades.

It is Mr. Phillips estimate that we are in the very early stages of a global financial adjustment that will see America lose its position as the financial leader of the world. American corporations have pretty much handed the baton of economic leadership to other countries by the exportation of manufacturing and service jobs to other places throughout the world. The only commodity America has to export anymore is debt. With so many jobs given away America is trying to crawl out of its financial hole with a bit of a handicap. Having a war draining the national treasure is no help. Having a war that is a huge help at propping up the price of oil and devaluing the dollar making everything more expensive than it has to be, our economy is burning itself from both ends. And while America resembles an alligator eating its own tail, the fortunes of the richest one percent of the population will grow even richer.

According to Mr. Phillips, when England’s position of leadership hit the skids it took thirty five years before America emerged as the next financial leader of the world. But that was only because of the chaos of having countries around the world participating in a global war. The table is now turned and America now finds itself pretty much in a unilateral war on terror by its lonesome. Other countries are participating. But no other country is committed to the level of the United States. As America’s economic position gets weaker and weaker, as the liquidity of the American middle class evaporates in a fog of war in which we appear incapable of extricating or unwilling to extricate our self from, it appears pretty certain that our days of being so far ahead of the pack may be numbered.

That may not be a bad thing. The importance and the sense of self of the typical American knows no bounds. Our hubris is legendary. We took on the war on terror virtually by ourselves and now expect the world to help bail us out. It is the American way that as long as we have more than the next guy we are happy to focus only on our needs wants and desires. The other guy can lift him or her self by their own bootstrap. The time for Americans to learn a little humility and reexamine our relationship to each other as well as our relationship to the rest of the world is long overdue.

It maybe just a coincidence, but when Britain emerged from World War II as a country that paid so dearly a price for the global conflict, when its national treasure was exhausted and facing a huge war debt, the country instituted a universal healthcare program. In effect it was an acknowledgement to the people that they would rebuild their country together. Unfortunately there is evidence that we may not have reached that level of understanding just yet.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 Posted by | Life, The Economy, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Finding An Affordable Home Shouldn’t Be This Hard

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My family and I have been looking for a house to buy for the last year.  With the economy in the shape it’s in, we assumed that more houses would come onto the market and we would have a better chance of finding something that fits our needs.  What would be ideal is to get one of these abandoned four family units that are peppered throughout the north side of the city.  And considering how many times our minivan has been tampered with since we purchased it, we need secure off street parking.

The four family flat next door was abandoned a few weeks ago.  We’ve been keeping an extra eye on the property so we can put a bid on it whenever it comes on the market.  Our realtor keeps us apprised of what is coming on the market.  And we make sure to search the real estate listings on realtor dot com virtually everyday.  We thought we had our bases covered.

Early this afternoon the realtor sent us an email of new properties.  The four family was in the list and it was going for a really good price.  It has been vandalized in the past few weeks.  No doubt pipes and water heaters are missing.  No doubt a lot of damage was done in the short time it’s been empty.  But we could easily pay cash for the house and repair whatever needed repairing with our cash.  We could stay where we were until the house was minimally ready.  Mom stays right across the street if we needed her for anything.  It was a match made in heaven.

We clicked on the link on the email to read the details.  But when we found the house on the real estate listing website, the building already had a contract pending.  In essence, it came on the market as already sold.

And then it dawned on me.  The reason that we can’t find any real bargains is because the only houses we can find are the houses that are already picked over by people with much better connections.  Yeah, we can find an abandoned four family in need of a lot of work for about forty grand.  But the person selling it for forty probably bought it for five grand and is simply sitting on it until they can find someone willing to pay a seriously handsome profit.

So did we have a fair shot at the house next door?  I don’t think so.  And I am beginning to realize we didn’t have a fair shot at any of the houses we’ve made offers on.  Every time we’ve made a bid the realtor would come back with the news that the house was no longer on the market.  We’ve done our homework.  We’ve gotten letters of credit, saved money in an account unaffected by the market slump.  We’ve gotten a realtor to help us with our search.  And the houses are sold from under us before we can even have a chance to step to the plate.  What’s the point?

Last week, I saw that this building was being vandalized by a couple of thugs and called the police.  Now, I feel like what was the point?  I should have helped those vandals load their truck.  All I was doing was saving this building for somebody else who was doing a deal behind doors.  I think I could understand if we were given a fair shot and simply didn’t have the capital to compete.  But like I said, the asking price for this piece of property was so low I know we could’ve been a contender.  And now all we can do is watch as other people are given pick of the litter to buy up our neighborhood.  Even in a down market people in this black community are getting screwed and are being left out of whatever is going on.

I will write my alderman and complain.  I will write this article and post it in my blog to help me vent my anger, frustration, and disappointment.  I will continue to look at other properties and do my best to put my family in a position where we can take advantage of some other opportunity that comes up.  We will continue to look harder and longer while other people use their connections to buy these houses and sit on them to make an easy yet impressive buck.  But who cares as long as people are in a position to make money?

The problem is that I care.  I would love nothing more than to buy the house and repair everything on it and in it.  I would continue to care about my neighborhood and would stay for years to come and not just put the house on the market for an inflated sale.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I’ll get the chance, at least not with that house. We just have to continue to look harder and longer and run around in circles while we do it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Capitalism, Life, The Economy, Thoughts | 1 Comment

Nothing Politically Ventured Nothing Politically Gained

urbandecay07

Yesterday I woke up fired up!  It was Election Day and there was much that needed changing in my part of the city.  The 1st ward of St. Louis had seen much better days.  Trash abounds everywhere.  The tax base of this part of town is steadily eroding from a number of businesses and residents that have fled the area.  Property values are at the same levels from fifty years ago.  Vacant buildings are common throughout the area.  But to try and assume property from the city and the rigmarole of bureaucracy will require a lawyer of Johnny Cochrane like ability to get through.  Who needs such a headache to buy an abandoned building?

The ward alderman, Charles Quincy Troupe, is more than seventy years old and is way past his prime.  He has enjoyed a long career in St. Louis politics.  He has done a lot of good things for the city in his thirty plus years of service.  In the past year and a half that I’ve been here in the city, Mr. Troupe has been at every ward meeting I’ve attended.  But it is painfully obvious that this old man has difficulty keeping up with the needs of an area that is suffering from neglect and poor leadership.  Anywhere else and Mr. Troupe would have been forced into retirement.  However, politicians can run and win elections even when their mental faculties have stopped.

The city of St. Louis suffers from poor leadership as well.  The city has seen a number of companies vacate the area.  The city used to be the home of a number of companies that either no longer exist or have simply decided to move to a more progressive area.  Monsanto, McDonald Douglas, Southwestern Bell, Trans World Airlines, WorldCom, Anheuser-Busch, and Ralston-Purina are a few names that come to mind.  And the number of companies that once had a strong operating presence in the area has shriveled up considerably.  Ford and GM have closed their automobile assembly plants in the area and the local Chrysler plant has shut down half of its plant and the other half is operating at partial capacity.

A number of businesses find it difficult to operate in the local environment and local politicians do little to reverse trends.  New blood is need.  New ways of approaching problems have to be implemented.  And the best way to do new things is to get rid of people who adhere to traditional ways or people who’s mindset is stuck in the regular status quo.

I left home a little early so I could vote.  Now, I didn’t expect the same turnout of people who wanted to vote in the history making election of Barack Obama to be our first black President.  Nevertheless, I did expect a lot of people in the area to remember the sense of satisfaction they enjoyed when they voted for Mr. Obama and use that sense of accomplishment to drive them to vote for changes in our local ward politics.  I was not expecting the place to be virtually empty.

The long line of voters that wound around the hallway and out the doors to circle the parking lot and then travel around the block was replaced with a line of three people.  Exactly three people were there to vote.  One woman was already in line ahead of me.  There was some confusion among the poll workers as to where her name was in the registration rolls.  Without anyone to wait on everybody was trying to help find her name.  The adage too many cooks spoil the soup quickly came to mind.  I was next.  And there was one old gentleman in line behind me.  I saw him crossing the street as I parked my car.  But I quickly caught up to him and passed him on the way to the voting place on the first floor of the local elementary school.

As I left the poll worker manning the door asked me to send about a thousand people back.  I asked her where were all those people who voted back in November.  She thought that the majority of people don’t understand what’s at stake and don’t realize that a Mayor or an alderman is just as important as a President.

I replied that the people here don’t care about political resources or community economics.  The only reason people were voting back in November was so that they can say America has a black President.  The occasion was about history and nothing else.  If Mr. Obama was the type of black politician who would vote against the black community’s interest it wouldn’t matter one bit because the history of the occasion is worth the pain of having a black man who should have a connection to black people turn his back on the black community like so many high profile black people do.  As a collective the black community cares little about the long term impact of our decision.  The woman agreed.  We talked a little further before a forth person came in and interrupted us.  I had to go to work.  She had to continue to count the minutes before the next voter.

This morning, I woke up and I saw that the chance for change is not going to happen anytime soon.  Out of the tens of thousands of people in the ward less than thirteen hundred bothered to vote.  The old man alderman easily won reelection accumulating fifty six percent of the votes.  And the Democratic Mayor will move on to the general election to be held next month.

But there is little chance the Mayor will be defeated by the Independent or a Republican challenger.  With the national Republican Party politics in the utter chaos it’s in I doubt if people here would be willing to vote for someone hoping for the President to fail in his effort to cleanup our national economic malaise.  So in essence, we are in a perpetual loop of political status quo at the city level.

But the alderman election really burns my ass.  All it took was less than seven hundred people to give Mr. Troupe his job back in office.  And the other people who were voting were all old people.  These are Mr. Troupe’s peers and they vote for him because they identify with him.  And the old people in this area are some of the most conservative old coots.  Not conservative from a political stand point but conservative in embracing a change in the political environment that could lead to something better.

The difference between a black President and a white President is stark and goes without saying.  But the difference between an old alderman and some new blood could lead to problems.  It’s better to keep things the way they are and not take a chance on things getting worse.  The way I see it, having an eroding tax base and watching trash pile up in areas it shouldn’t be piling up, what else does the black community have to lose in order to want change?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Politics, Racism, St. Louis, The Economy, Thoughts | 4 Comments

An Act Of Compassion

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“President Obama your agenda is not new it is not change and it is not hope.  Spending a nation into generational debt is not an act of compassion.” – Rush Limbaugh

Actually, I believe a lot of people are pinning a lot of hope that Mr. Obama is able to change things.  With extreme economic conditions that have been inherited from the previous administration that spent the last eight years trying to stimulate the economy with massive tax cuts and uncontrolled spending and deregulation, the global economy has been dragged into conditions of unprecedented financial collapse.  Unfettered capitalism has seen a lot of people get richer while the larger share of the population stagnate or even economically regress.

In order to compensate for salaries and wages that cannot compete with the ever increasing cost of living, most turned to whatever credit mechanism they could find.  You could borrow against your house, your car, your future earnings, your future equity, your name, somebody else’s name, and whatever else you can think of.  That bubble of credit has collapsed and like the individual who has borrowed and can’t pay it back, America the collective has borrowed and now we cannot pay it back.

In this economic environment we are spending a lot of money on helping corporations survive.  A lot of people say these corporations are too big to fail.  In order to save the economy we have to give various financial institutions billions and billions of dollars to keep them solvent.  The same people would rather cut off an arm than give a dime to a manufacturer that employs union labor and blue collar jobs.  While financial institutions are too big to fail, the individual is too small to help.  It’s okay that corporations earn record profits per month while individuals struggle to keep their budgets intact paying record prices for food, fuel, healthcare and just about anything else you can think of.

For years we have seen healthcare cost balloon despite our less than best efforts to control healthcare cost.  We were told that the problem with health insurance is that the courts want to punish doctors and health providers for malpractice.  Tort reform would save insurers money which would save doctors money which would save the individual money.  Yet, even in the states where tort reform has significantly limited malpractice liabilities, healthcare costs continue to rise while health insurers continue to earn eye popping profits.

I think the unlimited potential for earning near unimaginable profit is the largest problem here.  It’s easy to say the problem is greedy lawyers or the problem is greedy corporations or the problem is greedy so and so.  But the root problem in all circumstances is the need to feed greed and how we want to protect that need at the cost of our community.

We can implement more band aids to dodge the root problem.  We can implement electronic medical record systems and other such nonsense in order to minimize cost.  The system is more efficient which means people who use to do the labor intensive work of maintaining medical records will lose their jobs and lose their health coverage.  And the cycle starts all over again.  How will these newly unemployed people maintain the cost of their medical coverage?

Nevertheless, people who think that a new nationwide electronic medical recording system is going to reign in medical cost are akin to people who joust with windmills.  People refuse to acknowledge the real problem of people wanting profit.  There is no magic bullet.  We are either going to become more socially responsible and create a system that allows all of us to benefit, or we are going to allow people to continue the practice of transferring wealth from the poor and the middle class to the rich who want to build the zeroes in their bank accounts on the backs of people just trying to get by.

It is this environment that will lead to the development of a more socially aware culture where everyone has access to healthcare, educational opportunities, and a minimum of what’s needed to get by.  Some people call this socialism.  They say the word as if it’s a curse from the deepest pit of perdition.  But if people will actually take a moment to think about what socialism means, how these days a lot of people need help to get back to where we were, we would realize it is not the blight we have been programmed to think it is.

More people are more comfortable with allowing our government to spend our collective hard earned tax dollars to develop cutting edge, state of the art, nuclear weapon delivery systems with accuracy that can ram a forty megaton bomb up a bee’s ass rather than develop a health care network that would assure everyone, even the homeless, adequate health services.  That doesn’t sound very compassionate at all.  In fact, it sounds very negative, destructive, and diabolical. Something is very wrong with that picture.

And this is the picture that we are now beginning to see.  Now that the fog of consumption for the sake of consumption is being lifted, we should take a moment to realize our priorities.  To continue business as usual and pretend that everything is okay while the rich continue to get richer, the poor continue to get poorer, healthcare cost rising everyday, the list of preexisting conditions grows longer with just about each and every claim, fuel cost getting out of hand, and global conglomerates laying people off on a daily basis as they scour the globe for the cheapest labor available, is madness.  Logic says we should be at the very beginning of a long overdue cultural revolution.

Unfortunately, not everyone is onboard with this idea.  People who are doing well, who are able to provide for their families, who have the resources to do anything their heart desires because they are one of the few sitting at the top of the wealth accumulation pyramid that represents America.  It is no wonder such a selfish person would promote the status quo and hatred for more socially responsible policies.  Despite the fact that many people need help in this environment, doing anything to help more people afford to do more for his/her self is perceived as the horror of horrors.  Some refer to it as a transfer of wealth.

But the news flash is that we’ve been living under a system of wealth transfer for years.  It’s just that it goes from the poor to the rich.  A lot of people are hoping that this system that continues to exclusively look out for the rich and the well to do will come to an end.  I know I do.  I hope Mr. Obama tears down the walls of economic exclusion so that this economic system opens up so that all can benefit.  That would be the greatest act of compassion in a very long time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 Posted by | Life, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts | 9 Comments

Volcano Monitoring

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The Hurricane of 1900 made landfall on the city of Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900.  It had estimated winds of 135 mph at landfall, making it a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.  The estimated loss of life with most cited in official reports is eight thousand give or take a couple thousand.  The death toll gives this storm the third highest number of casualties of any Atlantic hurricane and is to date the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States.  On September 4, the Galveston office of the U.S. Weather Bureau began receiving warnings from the central office in Washington, D.C. that a tropical storm had moved northward over Cuba.  Back then, the Weather Bureau forecasters had no way of knowing where the storm was or where it was going.  It was through the study of weather and atmospheric phenomenon that hurricane prediction techniques could be developed so that the accuracy of storm path forecasting can be estimated days in advance.  Sure, some people probably thought it was stupid to spend good money trying to predict something that defies prediction.  A hundred years makes a big difference.

In a speech full of criticism for the stimulus plan, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal singled out volcano monitoring as an example of government spending running amok.  Mr. Jindal said that instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, deriding the $140 million appropriated to the U.S. Geological Survey as little more than pork in the stimulus package that tops three quarters of a trillion dollars.  That probably doesn’t sound very prudent to people who live down in Galveston, Texas.  But to those who live a little closer to the threat of flowing lava, it was a poor example to use.

There are five volcano observatories in the country.  They are in Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, Washington, Hawaii, and Long Valley, California.  Each has a series of seismic networks and other equipment for the specific purpose of monitoring a number of volcanoes in their vicinity.  If a volcano is showing signs of activity, it could be the first signs of an eruption.  So scientists follow that up by looking at other data from webcams, radar data and satellite imagery; fly overs from airplanes and etcetera.  They pull all of that information together to give people the best information about what’s likely to happen so that people can plan.  Sort of like what happens with pending hurricanes these days.  Unfortunately, when it comes to monitoring volcanoes, we are more likely closer to the capabilities of weather forecasters in 1900 than weather forecasters of today.

It’s pretty obvious that people who live close to a volcano will be worried about flowing lava and mud.  People who live further away can be affected by ash fall, which can typically travel distances measured in hundreds of miles.  But many of us have little appreciation for our susceptibility to a full scale eruption from the Yellowstone Supervolcano.  Hundreds of millennia ago, scientists believe that the Lava Creek eruption ejected well over two hundred cubic miles of rock and dust into the sky.  That’s enough volume to fill a space twenty miles long, ten miles wide, and more than a mile high.  Geologists are closely monitoring the rise and fall of the Yellowstone Plateau, which averages movement of plus/minus a little more than half an inch on a yearly basis depending on changes in magma chamber pressure.  However, the upward movement of the Yellowstone caldera floor, almost three inches per year in recent years, is more than three times greater than ever observed since such measurements began in 1923.  The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory maintains that they see no evidence that another cataclysmic eruption will occur at Yellowstone in the foreseeable future.  But the issue is worth monitoring, hence the need for more investment in volcano monitoring.

Not all of the money is devoted to just volcano monitoring.  A lot of the money will go towards the maintenance and modernization of monitoring networks and other equipment.  Quite possibly the investment may lead to lives being saved.  If an evacuation due to eruption is ever needed, civil authorities will call it, but these scientist will do their best to give those authorities the best information so that people can get out of harm’s way.  All of this for the low, low price of $140 million.  Such spending is like insurance and is worth about one fifth of one percent of the stimulus package.  And compared to the investment of $125 billion investment in financial institutions late last year, it’s a relative bargain.

In typical political fashion the Republican Party wants to attack science.  These are the same people who wanted to cut stem cell research regardless of the potential for understanding how such cells work.  Stem cell research could theoretically lead to procedures that could lead to nerve regeneration, helping the blind to see, the paralyzed to walk, the deaf to hear, and the cure for a whole host of diseases.  But who cares about that kind of thing.  It’s just pork.  Yes it’s nice that we have developed our understanding of hurricanes and such.  But we really don’t need to understand much else of our world.

Friday, February 27, 2009 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Life, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts | 4 Comments

Greed Is Never Good

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An online dictionary defines greed as an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.  Greed is the self-serving desire for the pursuit of money, wealth, power, food, status, attention, or anything that can be coveted, especially when it denies the same to others.  Greed is generally considered a vice.  It is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism.

Greed is a form of idolatry according to the book of Colossians 3:5 in the Christian bible.  A greedy person values money or material possessions more than their spirituality.  Another understanding is that greed serves to bring as many things to the greedy person, making him, or her, the center of the world, the one who deserves to be pleased, converting him into his own god and creating pride with a great deal of focus on the development of the ego.  So if this is an acceptable definition of greed, when is greed a good thing?

Greed can lead to the dissolving of a community.  People who would be working together for everyone’s benefit will start working against each other once greed takes root.  And greed can spread like a wildfire through a community.  It has become so natural for people in this culture to only help each other for personal profit that we fear anything that we recognize as being socially conscience.  Socialism has become the antithesis of the American life.  America is built on a solid foundation of greed and a love of money.

In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko, brilliantly played by Michael Douglas, stood before the crowd at the Teldar stockholders meeting and told everyone that greed is right and greed is good, but good for who is the question.   As Mr. Gekko made his millions acquiring and then destroying companies by dismantling them into smaller, more profitable units, everyone who worked at those companies stood to loose.  People lost their livelihood, their savings, everything that they worked for to make those companies great, in order to feed one man’s greed.  How is that a good thing?

The only time greed is good is when you’re the greedy one that causes everyone else to suffer.  Greed works for the billionaire at the bank that got federal money to help the economy.  But instead of helping put something back into the economy some of these captains of these industries that have run aground are using that cash to give retention payments that look remarkably like bonuses to a few while the rest of the economy seizes from the lack of flowing capital.  But greed is supposed to be so good and so right!  Good for whom is the rhetorical question.

We have all seen the affects of greed on the American way of life.  The list of companies and individuals who gave into their greed at the expense (pun intended) of their social responsibility is long and grows longer every day.  People like Bernie Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford are only the latest in a long list of men who thought there greed was good and right.  Millions of people around the world will have a different opinion, I’m sure.  What makes their greed so good and so right?

In a socially conscious environment there is no reason for greed.  People want to make the claim that the drive for more is a good thing that increases productivity for people.  But all it has done is divide us into a society of the people who have and the people who don’t have squat.  America has become the land of jaw dropping disparity with some of the richest people in the world and some of the poorest.  We’ve been sold a bum bill of goods intended to give us the impression that our lives are only happy if we have many times more items than we could ever use let alone need.  And everyday that passes we need to go to jobs that we may not like so we can get more and more and more.

The movie American Beauty portrayed what could be the anti Gordon Gekko, Lester Burnham, well played my Kevin Spacey.  Mr. Burnham woke to the realization that consumption for the sake of consumption and earning money for the sake of earning money was not the key to happiness.  He got a job at a fast food joint flipping burgers and made the choice to live his life simply with the occasional toke on a joint rolled with herb developed by the military.  While Mr. Gekko is rolling around in a limousine trying to find somebody to screw for his next multi million dollar payoff, Mr. Burnham is happy to drive his second generation Pontiac Firebird and flip burgers.

Neither man is perfect.  But I understand my life more closely resembles Mr. Burnham that it does Mr. Gekko.  I just don’t have it in me to screw people so I can have more money than I could ever spend.  If given a choice I’d rather flip burgers, drive a fast car, and smoke joints.  It might not sound productive and the type of thing that generates money for money’s sake.

Greed is never good.  It is never a good thing to screw somebody over to get more wealth and status.  Because every time somebody is able to feed their need to be greedy, somebody else looses.  And unless you have the killer instincts of a Gordon Gekko or a Bernie Madoff or one of those alleged Nigerians who wants to give you millions of dollars if you would only help them get their billions out of the country by handing over your bank information, chances are you’re just one of the many being screwed to feed somebody else’s greed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 Posted by | Life, The Economy, Thoughts | 3 Comments

Obstructionist Politicians

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I once had a girl friend who told me that if I didn’t love her unconditionally she would find somebody who did.  That was funny.  Our relationship that lasted years was beginning to crumble.  The trust and common goals that we once shared had turned into mistrust and personal interest.  In a last ditch attempt to set things right my ex made the ultimatum to me.  Our relationship was in my hands.  She would walk if I didn’t put aside our differences.  I wonder what happened to her.

I see the same thing happening at the national political level.  Republicans are demanding that President Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic Party bend to their will or they will not support the stimulus bill.  It’s pretty telling who is trying to be bipartisan or not when not even a single Republican congressman voted for the stimulus.   Granted the bill is far from perfect.  Even a blind man can see that.  My personal opinion is that if tax cuts worked so well wouldn’t those tax cuts that favored the rich people so much for the past eight years or so have kept this economic fiasco from happening in the first place?

But I also understand the need for compromise and to make concessions in order to reach a consensus.  However, at some point, the other side needs to make a compromise as well and do something to reach back.  To think that only one person is responsible for making all the concessions is rather hypocritical.

For years the Republican Party majority that controlled both houses of the Congress stood idly by while former President George Bush ran deficits that have ballooned the national debt from the considerable five trillion dollars when he took office to the ten trillion dollars today.  These people, and their Democratic counterparts, were complacent when the economy started to turn and jobs started to evaporate.  The foundation of our economy was strong and nothing needed to be done.  The stimulus of lower taxes was all that was needed to improve conditions for everyone in America.  More trickle down economics.

That was then.  Now that we have trickle up pain these politicians have become the model of fiscal responsibility and now want to curb our woes with more tax cuts.  I guess the theory is that if we give more tax cuts to people who don’t need them, they will be able to save more money, and sparking more investment in companies that will generate jobs.  Investment in what is the question.  With the majority of people already strapped to make ends meet now that retirement investments have shriveled up, what’s a good investment that will have economic returns these days, another Ponzi scheme ala Bernard Madoff?  Or what will be even harder to find is a good investment that will actually create jobs and not just profits for profits sake.

Giving corporations smaller tax payments doesn’t create jobs, it creates bigger profit margins.  Companies don’t hire people based on profit.  If that was the case everybody would’ve been working for the petroleum companies that were making a billion dollars a week last year.  What creates jobs is a demand for work.  Instead of giving a company tax break so they can be more profitable and making the gap between workers and owners even larger, spending money on infrastructure projects that will actually generate jobs seems to be a smarter proposition.

The last round of tax cuts that were passed actually netted me about twenty dollars a week.  That might sound like a deal to some but its peanuts compared to the deep pocket guy who netted something like four grand a week.  My extra twenty bucks a week won’t put much of a dent for the Peacemaker household.  The funny thing is that all things considered the extra four thousand dollars a week wouldn’t make much of a difference in the deep pockets guy’s household either.

But hey, like I said before, when you’re trying to get buy in you’re willing to make concessions.  I will be willing to give you this if you will be willing to give me that.  That way, we both will have a vested interest in getting something out the door.

However, when one side starts putting up ultimatums and refuses to entertain a compromise because they have gotten so used to having things their way for so long that they’ve forgotten how to give a little, it becomes problematic.  A lot of people on one side of the political aisle have promised to be obstructionist in the new age of political bipartisanship.  People want to say that they just want what’s best for America after being so negligent for the past eight years or so.  Maybe that’s true.  But after the majority of America decided to give someone else’s ideas a shot you would thing these people would get with the program.

Instead, all the bipartisanship moves in the world can’t get these obstructionists to budge off their position.  The way some of these politicians act you would think that they didn’t get the memo that they don’t control the two political big houses any more.  People want things to change and these politicians are promising nothing of the sort.  It isn’t that these politicians are not into Mr. Obama or the Democrats or the American people.  These people are simply stuck on protecting what remains of their political fortunes.

To make the steps necessary to help the new guy succeed would be like shooting their political philosophy in the foot.  At this point, these people have nothing else to loose.  Many of them come from political districts that would rather drink Jim Jones’ cyanide laden Kool-aid than vote for anything but Republican political representation.  So why not give ultimatums?  And even if those hurdles were met there’d be other reasons to stand in the way of political change.

Personally, I can see that this new age of political change isn’t for everyone.  Some people just don’t understand the concept of give and take.  The idea of compromise means that the other person is responsible for making all the changes.  I used to have a girl friend who thought like that.  That was a few years ago.  If what happened then was any indication, in a few years we might be asking ourselves whatever happened to those guys that gave that political ultimatum.

Monday, February 16, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Democrats, Economy, Politics, Republicans, The Economy | 6 Comments

Let’s Argue About What’s Best To Save The Economy

economycartoon

Sunday, February 8, 2009 Posted by | Life, The Economy, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Fight Black With Black

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I have to confess that when I saw then Illinois Senator Barack Obama snub the 2008 State of the Black Union program hosted by Tavis Smiley and Tom Joyner, I saw it as a bad omen for the black community.  However, the fact that Michael Steele, the black Republican and former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, took the time to make an appearance was an even worse sign of things to come.

Mr. Obama couldn’t appear to be too connected to the black community because as a national collective we have an overwhelmingly strong need to see any positive affiliation from a black politician with the black community as being too black to be good for everyone.  Mr. Obama has to keep his distance.  And people justify this behavior by saying Mr. Obama wasn’t going to be the President of black America, but the President of all of America.  However, Mr. Obama’s various appearances in front of more generic and therefore more predominantly white organizations were never dismissed as him trying to be the President of white America.  The contrast is pretty stark.

But the Republican Mr. Steele wasn’t under any such constraint.  Mr. Steele could do whatever he thought appropriate to sell the idea of the Republican Party to the predominantly black audience.  I have to admit that from what I can remember of the program, Mr. Steele’s appearance on the show was smooth.  He was somewhat conciliatory over the fact that the Bush administration never bothered to make much of an effort to mend its relationship with the black community.  But regardless, Mr. Steele made a point to say that the black community needs to stay vigilant with any and all levels of government from the local to the national.  It was a pretty good performance for Mr. Steele who downplayed his affiliation with conservatives.

At the time, one black politician was working to distance himself from the black community.  The black vote was in the bag so his focus was to appeal to others.  The other black politician was working to minimize his affiliation with the others.  Black people don’t vote his party’s affiliation so he had to spend his focus appealing to black people.

From there, Mr. Obama went on to become the nominee for President from the Democratic National Committee.  Mr. Steele went on to stand in front of the Republican National Committee, working the virtually all white crowd with frenzied refrains of drill baby drill.  Gone was the rather agreeable Mr. Steele at the State of the Black Union.  Hello Mr. Steele the passionate representative of politically conservative ideologies.  No black people in the house?  That’s okay because at the end of this Republican politician’s day all that matters is drill baby drill.  The conditions of the black community didn’t even register for they’re not really all that important.  All the Republican Party wanted was to siphon off a greater percentage of black votes in order to win more political offices.

From there, Mr. Obama went even further and became the first black President of the United States.  His popularity rivals the best of any brand new President.  People are putting a lot of faith into his administration after dealing with the disappointments of his predecessor for so many years.  People may not believe in their federal government, but at least they are willing to give Mr. Obama the benefit of a doubt at the moment.  Mr. Obama enjoys so much of the public’s goodwill that a lot of people have become rather sensitive to some of the tactics people play on people of color.  Which leads to somewhat of a dilemma, what would be the best way to take down a popular black President?

Mr. Steele went further as well.  He is now the leading figurehead of the Republican Party, an organization that is for the most part void of black participants.  Another contender for this title fell by the wayside after his rather juvenile attempts at humor at the expense of racial sensitivity went over so well.  People should note that distributing CDs with such hits as Barack the Magic Negro does little to create a sense of racial inclusion.  And another contender for the title decided enough was enough and the time had finally come to cancel his membership at his exclusively white country club after enjoying years of rubbing elbows in an environment that mimicked a Republican Party convention.  The odds for Mr. Steele’s selection got better with each passing day.

But nevertheless, it is no mere coincidence that an organization so empty of black people selects a black man as their front man when the main opponent in their struggle for political aspirations is a wildly popular black President.  When there’s a raging fire you fight fire with fire.  When there’s a popular black President you fight black with black.  Don’t want to take a chance of appearing too racist talking about Mr. Obama’s weaknesses?  Get a black man to do your dirty work for you.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Steele cannot, or will not, see how he is being played.  All too often people are much too willing to let themselves be used if they can achieve some personal benefit in the process.  Mr. Steele could’ve used his new position to talk about how the Republicans will reach out to the black community like he did when he gave his two cents at the State of the Black Union.

Instead, he will use his position to attack a fellow black politician.  He applauds the bloc mentality of his Republican compatriots in the House of Representatives to deny the stimulus package Mr. Obama seeks to put America back on the economic tracks.  Mr. Steele speaks with the same selfish tone of Rush Limbaugh who said he hoped Mr. Obama fails in his attempts to turn the country around.  Better to wish people continue to suffer so someone can gloat rather than run the risk of having a political opponent offer lasting economic solutions.

True, Mr. Steele is probably just very passionate about his conservative principles.  He’s so coo-coo for conservatism that he’s willing to take up the mantle to attack the first black President.  Just imagine what Mr. Steele might be capable of if he was just half as passionate about the black community.  Chances are he wouldn’t have to convince anybody at the State of the Black Union of his black community affiliation.  It would be on his sleeve, kind of like his conservative principles.

Thursday, February 5, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Black Community, Life, Michaele Steele, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts | 3 Comments

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