Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tuesday August 29, 2006 The rich DO get richer

My IRA is invested in Fidelity Mutual Funds.
The other day I received a voting form from Fidelity requesting my proxy or vote for the proposed upcoming board of directors. I sat down and reviewed the various directors and their compensation. Years ago, T Boone Pickens of Mesa Petroleum spoke on public radio about “the good old boys club” of directors of various companies and how he was invited to join – he refused at the time.

Most of the directors for Fidelity are on the board of directors of various other companies and were once presidents or chairmen of still other companies. I was amazed that most of their backgrounds had nothing to do with running a mutual fund or investing. The board of directors apparently choose the direction they want the fund to steer toward and appoint a manager who handles all the details. They just sit back and direct. The minimum compensation for this directing amounted to slightly less than $400,000.00 per year each. Assuming that they served on two other boards, that gave them over a million dollars a year to hold their quarterly meetings. I'm sure that their meetings are elegant and cordial, but are they really worth that? SWEET!

The rich get richer and have very little understanding of how the common people live.

The inequities of our system are splitting farther and farther apart and there is little effort to correct this basic flaw. It seems that there is less and less sympathy or empathy from the upper caste of our system. “If they have no bread, let them eat cake” has a familiar ring to it. As we suffer through the upcoming trials and tribulations, I hope there will be a leveling of the playing field.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday August 28, 2006 Natural catastrophes

It's been a year since Hurrican Katrina hit New Orleans and you hear quite a bit about it from the news media. It was a sad event, but, it wasn't an unexpected event. When you build a city on the coast of an ocean or gulf where there is a history of hurricanes, you can expect one to come along someday. When you build a city along the coast below sea level, you can expect flooding someday. When you build a city in the flood plain of a mighty river, you can expect flooding at one time or another.

People who build in an eqrthquake zone are taking a gamble. People who build in a tornado zone are taking a gamble. People who build on hills that have mudslides are taking a gamble. People who build in the middle of a forest without a fire break are taking a gamble. People who build close to a volcano are taking a gamble. People who build in the flood plain of a river are taking a gamble. When these natural events eventually occur, there should be no gnashing of teeth and wailing and complaining – it was a gamble that these people took for whatever reason and should have known the possible consequences. They had their reasons for taking that gamble, but it not up to the public to help them make the same mistake again.

Here in Kansas City, we have an area along the Kansas River called southwest boulevard. It is in the flood plain and it floods to some degree just about every other year. Sometimes the flood is worse than other times. People continue to rebuild, over and over, in the same area hoping that it won't happen again. Guess what – it will! These same people will turn to the government (FEMA) and cry for help and understanding each and every time. Some people even brag that they have endured flooding 5 or 6 times and that they WILL REBUILD again!

It's hard to feel continuing sympathy for people who don't want to learn from past mistakes. They are bound and determined to make the same mistake again come hell or high water. I believe in helping people who have endured misfortune, but I don't believe in helping them to be foolish and repeat mistakes. New Orleans has always been a city waiting for a catastrophe just like San Francisco. Just like Kansas City's southwest boulevard. Just like Seattle's Mount Ranier. It's just a matter or time.

Now that New Orleans has experienced this event, perhaps it's time to help remedy the situation. Why should we try to rebuild in the same place and ask for the same continuing chance of future catastrophe? Why not abandon those areas which are foolish to continue and strengthen and safeguard those areas that stand a chance? Let's help those who can't rebuild to relocate and help a new New Orleans have a better future. Surely we have the intellectual prowess to solve this problem intelligently.

Or, not – in which case, never mind.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday August 25, 2006 They want us to leave

AMARAH, Iraq (AP) - Looters ravaged a former British base Friday, a day after the camp was turned over to Iraqi troops, taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes, authorities said.
About 1,200 British troops had been stationed at Camp Abu Naji in Amarah, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, and the base had come under almost daily attack. The troops pulled out Thursday to redeploy along the border with Iran to crack down on weapons smuggling.
Shortly after the troops pulled out, Iraqi police managed to disperse looters by firing warning shots into the air, said Dhaffar Jabbar, spokesman for the Maysan provincial governor's office. But the looters returned Friday.
"The British forces left Abu Naji and the locals started looting everything," 1st Lt. Rifaat Taha Yaseen of the Iraqi army's 10th Division told AP Television News. "They took everything from the buildings."
When we finally leave Iraq, this is more than likely what will happen to our areas of operation. It will be as if we had never been there. Iraq can then proceed with it's religious squabbling which has been going on for over a thousand years. Whichever group gains control will then squelch the others and the area will stabilize until the next confrontation. We don't understand them and we never will. We should just get out of their way and let them figure out what they want.

But, then, that's just my opinion based on historical fact.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thursday August 24, 2006 A long hot summer

It's been a long hot summer.
Actually, summer isn't officially over. But, since school has started in many places it seems that summer has now passed and autumn is coming. It's just a month until Autumn offically starts. Isn't it strange how, during winter, we wish so much for warmer weather but when summer has dragged on, we are so grateful for the cooler weather of fall?

I've taken a summer vacation from writing in this log, but now I need to take the time to write down my memories and thoughts and passing feelings. It's a way to communicate with others and leave a bit of myself for future generations. For me, it's a way of saying that “I was here and here was how I thought and felt”. If noone cares, it still feels right to leave these thoughts for others to discover.

Much has happened in the last few months. It appears that the world is now wrestling with itself over whether to confront Iran and Syria for not following the traffic rules. I suppose that George would prefer to shoot first and ask questions later. It would give us another “war” to overpower all other criticisms and complaints during the upcoming elections. Once you can get a war going, your poll numbers increase and you can question others about their patriotism without explaining your mistakes.

I've seen tremendous changes over the years. If Richard Nixon were alive today, he would be considered a liberal, Lyndon Johnson would be considered a communist, Herbert Hoover would be considered a conservative and someone like Mussolini or Hitler would be a neocon. The political world has shifted so far to the right that anyone who acts for the common man is considered a dirty stinking “liberal”. Liberal has become a bad word. Have you ever looked up the definition of liberal?

a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
c. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
d. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.
a. Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.
b. Generous in amount; ample: a liberal serving of potatoes.
A person with liberal ideas or opinions.

So a liberal favors progress, is tolerant of ideas of others, and is generous. Not bad. I guess I'm a liberal.

A conservative.
1. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
2. Traditional or restrained in style: a conservative dark suit.
3. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.
a. Of or relating to the political philosophy of conservatism.
b. Belonging to a conservative party, group, or movement.
1. One favoring traditional views and values.
2. A supporter of political conservatism.

So a conservative is opposed to change, is restrained and cautious. Perhaps a conservative is a bit tight with his money and his friends. Doesn't sound so awful bad, does it? I suppose there is a bit of conservative in all of us.

Somewhere along the line, our government got aligned with business and the desires of the rich few and opposed to the people and the desires of the many. It and they became stingy, not generous, became cautious, not open to new ideas for progress, became restrained, not tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others. This government, of the people, by the people and for the people became a government bought and paid for by special interests. I give you a million dollars to help you get elected and you give me a billion dollars worth of business – don't tell the people.

It is definitely time for change but I don't see anyone out there working for us. They are ALL paid for by the same special interests. Take my candidate from my left hand or take my candidate from my right hand – they both owe ME, not you.

Some people keep bringing up campaign reform, but it never really changes. The rich get richer and control our government. They have gotten more blatant with their opinions and their demands and we, the common man, suffer in their wake. You can suffer the slings and arrows just so long as you are allowed a bit of freedom and a bit of peace. When decisions take away some of our freedoms and affect the lives of those around us, we cry out for change. It appears that most of us now want some kind of change in our leaders and we're just waiting for the right man, or woman, to step forward showing that they care about US.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Friday August 4, 2006 WHY ARE WE STILL THERE?

Our leaders say we are spreading democracy into Iraq and that they appreciate our help. Articles like this seem to point out that they don't want us there and we are caught in the middle of a civil war.

Read this and tell me "Why are we still there?".

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" marched through the streets of Baghdad's biggest Shiite district Friday in a show of support for Hezbollah militants battling Israeli troops in Lebanon.

No violence was reported during the rally in the Sadr City neighborhood. But at least 35 people were killed elsewhere in Iraq, many of them in a car bombing and gunbattle in the northern city of Mosul.

The demonstration was the biggest in the Middle East in support of Hezbollah since the Israeli army launched an offensive July 12 after a guerrilla raid on northern Israel. The protest was organized by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose political movement built around the Mahdi Army militia has been modeled after Hezbollah.

Al-Sadr summoned followers from throughout the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq to converge
on Baghdad for the rally but he did not attend.

Demonstrators, wearing white burial shrouds symbolizing their willingness to die for Hezbollah, waved the group's yellow banner and chanted slogans in support of its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has attained a cult status in the Arab world for his defiance of Israel.

"Allah, Allah, give victory to Hassan Nasrallah," the crowd chanted.

"Mahdi Army and Hezbollah are one. Let them confront us if they dare," the predominantly male crowd shouted, waving the flags of Hezbollah, Lebanon and Iraq.

Many walked with umbrellas in the searing afternoon sun. Volunteers sprayed them with water.
"I am wearing the shroud and I am ready to meet martyrdom," said Mohammed Khalaf, 35, owner of a clothes shop in the southern city of Amarah.

Al-Sadr followers painted U.S. and Israeli flags on the main road leading to the rally site, and demonstrators stepped on them - a gesture of contempt in Iraq. Alongside the painted flags was written: "These are the terrorists."

Protesters set fire to American and Israeli flags, as well as effigies of President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, showing the men with Dracula teeth. "Saddam and Bush, Two Faces of One Coin" was scrawled on Bush's effigy.

Iraqi government television said the Defense Ministry had approved the demonstration, a sign of public anger over Israel's offensive and of al-Sadr's stature as a major player in Iraqi politics.