Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday December 18, 2011...It's finally over!!!

Barack Obama
10:54 AM (20 minutes ago)
to me
Robert --

Early this morning, the last of our troops left Iraq.

As we honor and reflect on the sacrifices that millions of men and women made for this war, I wanted to make sure you heard the news.

Bringing this war to a responsible end was a cause that sparked many Americans to get involved in the political process for the first time. Today's outcome is a reminder that we all have a stake in our country's future, and a say in the direction we choose.

Thank you.


Sunday December 18, 2011...Bill of Wrongs?

I don't know if anyone noticed, but we have some new rules set out by our "New World Order".

With the defense authorization act just passed and signed, Congress has, for the first time in 60 years, authorized the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without charge or trial, according to its advocates. This is the first time that Congress has deviated from President Nixon's Non-Detention Act. And what we are talking about here is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime, without ever having an opportunity to prove their innocence to a judge or a jury of their peers. And without the government ever having to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

You better watch out, you better not cry.  He sees you when you're sleeping and knows if you'been bad or good.  Be good for goodness sake.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday December 14, 2011...Choose happiness

I just read this short article about the dying wishes of people.  What they might have done differently and left them happier.  I agree completely and try to emulate these ideas, although it's easy to forget sometimes in the hectic day-to-day living.

Top Five Regrets of The Dying

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.  
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday December 10, 2011...Blog or Facebook?

I'm thoroughly confused. I started my blog years ago, before Facebook was around. It was a good place to write down my feelings – happiness, sadness, frustration and anger and to get it out of my system and to share those feelings with whomever cared to read my blog. But, since the advent of Facebook, I find myself sharing little snippets of feelings and referring to articles I've read over my Facebook page in lieu of expounding on my blog. I'm not sure which system really works best for me. The snippets on Facebook disappear, or get buried, after such a short time and then soon get forgotten while the blog entries are there to be read and referred to again and again. Of course, who wants to listen to the frustrations and anger of a particular event or time-frame over and over again? My anger at the Iraq war has tempered with it's diminished effort and my frustration with the Afghanistan war has been relegated to a lower position with the new Occupy movement and the political deadlock. I guess there will always be things to be upset about and things that we have no control over, but wish we could change. Often my focus is towards the negatives and I tend to ignore all the positives that my life contains. I guess I just wish that all men were angels and that we all cared for and looked after each other. There will always be greedy men and there will always be bullies and it is up to the rest of us to help control them.

Anyway, until I can figure out whether to stick strictly to Facebook or to my blog I will stumble along with both and hope for the best. It's still a good way to discuss your thoughts and feelings and to share with others. I find that many folks have a hard time expressing what they feel, but they will either agree with my or debate with me so I suppose I can be a catalyst for them and help them more clearly define their thoughts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday November 25, 2011...781,660 to 1

A great infographic. A notable stat is that the U.S.'s 400 richest people have a greater combined net worth than the country's bottom 50%.

As of today's date, the United States has a total resident population of 312,664,000


population of California 37,253,956/781660=47.66
population of Texas 25,145,561/781660=32.17
population of New York 19,378,102/781660=24.79
population of Florida 18,801,310/781660=24.05
population of Ohio 11,536,504/781660=14.76
population of Missouri 5,988,927/781660= 7.66
population of Oklahoma 3,751,351/781660= 4.80
population of Maine 1,316,470/781660= 1.67
population of Wyoming 563,626/781660= 0.72

population of New York City 8,175,133/781660=10.46
population of Los Angelos 3,792,621/781660= 4.85
population of Chicago 2,695,598/781660= 3.45
population of Dallas 1,197,816/781660= 1.53
population of San Francisco 805,235/781660= 1.03
population of Washington D.C. 601,723/781660= 0.77
population of Kansas City 459,787/781660= 0.59

So 48 of the richest people have a combined net worth greater than the equivalent wealth of all Californians
or 11 of the richest people have a combined net worth greater than the equivalent wealth of all New Yorkers
or one of the richest people has a net worth greater than the equivalent wealth of all the folks in Washington.

These people have accumulated this wealth from all of our efforts and have amassed all of this wealth and it's accompanying power to the detriment of our greater society. And they want more. They don't want to pay taxes to the society that allowed them to acquire this wealth. They feel that they don't owe us anything. They figure that their efforts are worth more than the efforts of 781,660 people who have worked all their lives for the few things they have.

There is something way out of balance in our society and it is tilting strongly in the wrong direction. What would happen if all of the 781,660 folks stopped working for the one and started sharing between themselves and left the one out of the circle? Would the one care? Would he just gather up whatever he had that was portable and leave? How would he be able to survive without the efforts of the society around him? Communications? Travel? Clothing? Food? The basic necessities of life? Does the one owe something to the many? Aren't we all involved in survival of each other? How did one gain so much more than the many?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011...Job Creators?

Though disappointed, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the committee's work "did bring our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus." In response to a USA TODAY editorial, he said the committee couldn't work because "President Obama and Washington Democrats insisted on dramatic tax hikes on American job creators, which would make our economy worse."

Of course, right now the “job creators” already have tax incentives working for them and they aren't creating any new jobs. In fact they have been losing jobs at a substantial rate for years with all of the tax incentives in place. Many of our job creators have been farming out our jobs to cheaper labor overseas.  Boehner's argument is silly. He is just protecting the wealthy and powerful from helping our nation to bounce back from this recession/depression. It would seem that the wealthy and powerful have way too much influence on all of our politicians and the healthiest thing our country could do would be to reform how our political system is funded and how we can protect our politicians from corrupt influences.

Couched in patriotic fervor, our politicians protect the wealthy backers from paying back into the system that made them wealthy in the first place. Greed seems to dominate and care for the poorest and weakest of us has been forgotten. The Occupy Wall Street protests are a cry for counterbalance efforts to help the 99% survive the greed of the 1%. Even when we get to vote, we are limited to choosing the candidates selected by the wealthy who can afford to pay for a campaign. It has gotten way out of hand and is unfair.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday November 6, 2011...Come the revolt

Per Robert Reich:

"Diffident Democrats on the Supercommittee have already signaled a willingness to cut Medicare, Social Security, and much else that Americans depend on. The deal is being held up by Regressive Republicans who won’t raise taxes on the rich – not even a tiny bit.
President Obama, meanwhile, is out on the stump trying to sell his “jobs bill” – which would, by the White House’s own estimate, create fewer than 2 million jobs. Yet 14 million people are out of work, and another 10 million are working part-time who’d rather have full-time jobs.
Republicans have already voted down his jobs bill anyway.
The disconnect between Washington and the rest of the nation hasn’t been this wide since the late 1960s. "

And you wonder why the Occupy Wall Street crowds are growing?  Our politicians have lost touch with the people and are only answering to their wealthy supporters.  What's fair and what's right doesn't seem to be realized by them - hence the coming revolt.
Interesting times ahead probably.  Hopefully not too dismal.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday October 21, 2011...It's FINALLY going to end!

President Obama announced that the last of our troops will leave Iraq by the end of this year.  After 9 years of war and occupation and thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, we are finally leaving Iraq.  The inevitable question will be - Was it worth it?  In my opinion, NO!  We have hundreds of thousands of wounded veterans who will need our help for decades to come and we have left Iraq in worse shape than it was when we went there.  Perhaps the Arab spring would have spread to Iraq just like it did in Libya and the people would have ousted their dictator too.  We'll never know, because we decided we would be the police force for the world and dictate the policies of the Iraqis for them.  It was a waste of lives, money, time and energy.  We went into Iraq for reasons that had not been confirmed and acted like the bully of the block.  We gained nothing for all our efforts.  Although the arms manufacturers did quite well, the rest of us ended up way in debt and now we're paying for it.

Thank God we're finally out of there!  Now, if we can get out of Afghanistan and avoid going into Pakistan, maybe we'll have a chance to lick our wounds and heal.

This war has troubled me from the very start when, for the first time, we invaded without provocation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday. September 20, 2011...Givers and Takers

There are at least 2 basic types of people, the givers and the takers.

Most children are takers throughout their childhood. They have to be taught to give and to share. Those that never learn, are deemed selfish and often remain takers for the rest of their lives. If your parents or your teachers are givers, you learn from their example and can often be taught to become a giver. Many of the businessmen who rise to the top of their companies are often talented takers. They know how to take advantage and take control and how to use other people. Givers are usually good workers but are too willing to compromise and work with the group for the advancement of all. A taker is constantly striving to get more and more, never satisfied with what he has. A giver feels good when he has had the chance to help another individual. He often doesn't need to acquire as much as the taker.
He doesn't need status or symbols of achievement to know he has been successful.

Now all of us are not perfectly one type or another. We all have moments of giving and of taking but we know down deep whether we are givers or not. Takers don't always realize that they are using other
people as they take. If you tell a taker that they are takers, they will probably argue with you. But their basic instinct is to take what they can when they can and feel no remorse for the ones they have taken from.

Most great religions preach that giving is it's own reward and that it is better to give than receive. Takers believe they are religious and following the examples set forth in their religions, but often they do not give freely. They will deny help to the needy and food to the hungry if they believe that the person is unworthy. If they were givers they would give with no question and be happy for the recipient.

Think about what type of person George W Bush is and what type of person Barrack Obama is and compare their followers and political organizations to see whether they are givers or takers. It really comes down to whether we are a nation of givers or takers and what type of person we want leading us and what kind of actions we should pursue.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday August 27, 2011...How did we get into this mess?

Why do I feel like the country is being run by the Tories ('God, King and Country' )and I am one of the rebels?

25 million Americans don't have a full-time job. 46 million Americans don't have health insurance.
American schools are at the bottom of the list of industrialized nations in education. 15 million children live in families who are below the poverty level. 15 million unemployed people. 3½ million homeless people. All this in one of the richest countries on Earth.

This country feels more and more like a monarchy with the wealthy acting as the aristocracy and their puppets running the country per their wishes. I understand that the Tea Party is upset, but I think they are mad at the wrong people. They should be angry with the rich and powerful who are taking over the country. The rich and powerful control politics, finances, business and the armed forces. They have instituted a police state with their Patriot Act and are trying to extend their empire to the corners of the earth through wars and trade acts. The politicians see the polls and know what the people really want, but they act in accordance with their wealthy controllers.

The average citizen holds no control over his elected official. The press is owned and controlled by the elite and they only present the news that they are allowed to. We are given the choice of which of their politicians we want to elect, but they have already financed both parties and win control no matter how we vote. Our choices are diminishing and so are our rights and privileges. The government is eradicating the unions and slowly erasing our social safety network.

Global society is dividing into two blocs: the plutonomy and the rest. Growth is powered by the wealthy few, and largely consumed by them. Then there are the 'non-rich,' the vast majority, now sometimes called the global precariat, the workforce living a precarious existence. We rebels are the precariat. We are definitely the non-rich and the non-powerful.

Maybe when enough people see what's happening we can institute a change in direction and see about helping ALL of the people find the blessings of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. After all, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed and whenever those governments become destructive of the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, those people have the right to alter or abolish those governments to effect their Safety and Happiness. These thoughts were so eloquently expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution and should never be forgotten.

Now that the blessings of our society are being accumulated in the coffers of the very few, we find our life styles diminishing and our choices narrowing. We stand on the outside, looking in, on the benefits of our society and wondering how we got here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday August 19, 2011...Interesting tax facts

A great site to review the individual tax structure from 1945 to 2011

 So the Billionaire reduced his taxes from 90% to 35% and increased his net pay by 650% from $100 million  to $650 million and the Millionaire reduced his taxes from 66.4% to 32.7% and increased his net pay by 103% from $336 thousand to $673 thousand, while the person earning $100,000.00 reduced his taxes from 28% to 22% and increased his net pay by 8.3% from $72,000.00 to $78,000.00.

It's not hard to see who benefited the most from the changes in the tax laws and who has the most money to influence the lawmakers and the media.  They cry crocodile tears while they pick our bones and take away our earned benefits.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday August 15, 2011...Unforgettable sayings

You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.

Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

Procrastinate Now!

I smile because I don't know what the hell is going on.

I'm starting to wonder how bad four years with no president would be.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sunday August 7, 2011...Entitlements vs Insurance

Let's not confuse entitlements, paid for by the government, with Social Security and Medicare which are federal insurance programs paid for by the participants.

An entitlement is a guarantee of access to benefits based on established rights or by legislation. A "right" is itself an entitlement associated with a moral or social principle, such that an "entitlement" is a provision made in accordance with legal framework of a society. Typically, entitlements are laws based on concepts of principle ("rights") which are themselves based in concepts of social equality or enfranchisement.

Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others.
Actuaries define social insurance as a government-sponsored insurance program that is defined by statute, serves a defined population, and is funded through premiums or taxes paid by or on behalf of participants. Participation is either compulsory or the program is subsidized heavily enough that most eligible individuals choose to participate.
In the U.S., programs that meet this definition include Social Security, Medicare, the PBGC program, the railroad retirement program, and state-sponsored unemployment insurance programs.

Medicare is a social insurance program administered by the United States government, providing health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over; to those who are under 65 and are permanently physically disabled or who have a congenital physical disability; or to those who meet other special criteria. Medicare in the United States somewhat resembles a single-payer health care system, but is not. "Original Medicare" plans (when Medicare Advantage has not been elected) cover 80% of the Medicare-approved amount of any given medical cost; the remaining 20% of cost must be paid by out-of-pocket via the patient's own personal funds (check, money order, cash, etc.). Medicare Advantage plans are not Medicare Supplements, but take the place of "Original Medicare". In return for a premium, these plans share costs and cap out of pocket expenses.
The Medicare program also funds residency training programs for the vast majority of physicians in the United States.

So when pundits start talking about getting entitlement costs under control, they mistakenly include Social Security and Medicare (which are not entitlements) in their discussions. These insurance programs are paid for by the participants over the years and are a contract between the citizens of the United States and their government.

The Federal government has been taking in our payments for these programs for years and years, just as any insurance company would, but instead of investing that money wisely and having it grow and grow into a large reservoir of money from which to pay the premiums they have bought treasury bills and spent the money on other things. Now we have a stack of treasury bills from which to pay the premiums. And now the politicians are starting to complain that they don't have enough money to pay off the treasury bills. They just need to get some of the tax money back from the people who received large tax reductions over the last 30 years.  They need to honor their contract!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011...The Financiers of the Tea Party

Americans for Prosperity
+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+ of billionaires +-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
You can trust in us!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011...Someday is Now!

For years we've been saving our pennies and dollars and giving them to the government to save in the various trust funds - Social Security, Medicare, Roads and Highways, etc. (our own piggy banks for the future). Our representatives have said “Thank you very much. Trust us, we will save your money for you. It will all be there for you someday.” Someday is now!.

It turns out that they have spent every cent we ever gave them and borrowed as much money as they could get away with to fund all of their “special” friends interests. They reduced the taxes of their very “special” best friends and acquaintances and borrowed more. They reduced our inspectors and lifeguards who were overseeing the waters and the air and the forests and the food so that their “special” friends could more easily profit without spending more for stupid safeguards. They didn't have to worry about who was going to clean up the mess – leave that for the “help”.

After spending all the money and then some, they are now realizing that where they should have been saving at least some for the pensions and the health care and the education they will now have to either borrow more or reduce or even eliminate the pensions and health care and education. After all, it isn't as though there was a signed “contract” for these promises and besides, they just don't have the money to do all of that any more. It's all gone.

Of course, the “special' friends have been piling up lots of money and acquiring more and more of the wealth of the country due to the assistance of “their” government and they don't want to give any of it back to help the “common” people. They have the power and the money to influence the politicians and the media and just about anybody else they want to, so you can't make them do what you think is right. In fact, many of these “special” friends have pulled up stakes and moved on to other countries that are ripe for exploitation. They don't consider the United States as anything more than a special police force for them to exercise when dealing with “foreigners”. They have moved their plants and their offices to other countries so that they can avoid paying burdensome taxes to the United States. It was nice while it lasted.

We have been building up to the present moments for many years and it seems that now is the right time for these “special” friends to use their muscle to reduce or eliminate the unions and social security and medicare and medicaid and public education and just about any other program that detracts from their profits. They have become much more strident in their messages and much more blatant in their activities. They show little interest in the “common” man and try to flavor the perception of their work as morally correct and fiscally responsible. They take from the poor and give to the rich and are proud of it.

The nation has been sold and now belongs to them.

Until the sheep look up, there will be little change.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Monday August 1, 2011...Who can we turn to?

So now that Obama has shown himself, by his actions, to be a moderate Republican, the question is: “Who can the DEMOCRATS run for President in the next election?”. It has been assumed all along that Obama will be the Democratic candidate in the next election, but why must this be so? He didn't push for the public option and he caved in quickly to extending the tax cuts for the wealthy and he hired the wall street gurus to run his treasury department, even though they had been instrumental in the collapse of the financial institutions. He didn't push back against the tea party when they held the nation hostage in the debt limit debate and gave into their demands for cuts in spending without any increase in taxes from the wealthy or corporations. He has shown himself to be a weak negotiator and way too willing to compromise way too early. He folds his poker hand before all the cards have been dealt out. He will never win a tough contest, and the more he caves in the more the opposition will push. He apparently is willing to throw in much of our safety net – social security, medicare, medicaid, education, unemployment, etc – to the party of “NO!”.

We need to find a candidate who will negotiate and hold out for the basic interests of the common man. We need someone strong and firm in their beliefs like Bernie Sanders or David Kucinich.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday July 25, 2011...Debt limits and talks

If you read your Constitution, you’ll find that Congress is responsible for the debts, the spending, and the taxes, not the President. 

The President can ask for a budget, but it's up to Congress to appropriate the money. All debts and deficits that have accrued have originated in Congress. All taxes that are in place originated in Congress. 

They made the laws and it's up to them to change the laws if they want to. That's where the debate starts. Right now they passed a budget that spends more money than we have and they need to approve borrowing that money or change the law that they made that requires the money. 

They need to sit down and decide which part of the budget that they passed shouldn't have been passed. It's up to them to change the law or to borrow the money. The question is: which law and which funding is to be changed.

When the little boys, inside the men, decide to walk out on meaningful talks it's like saying “It's MY ball and I'm taking it home”. It's hard to debate the issues with only one debater. Any agreement made cannot be all one sided, compromise is necessary to reach a workable solution.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday July 16, 2011...A Note to the President

I sent a note to the White House today.  I hope somebody reads it.

From the White House Blog 07/16/2011:
One quote stuck with me: “the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process that means you don't get 100% of what you want.”
This is a President who believes searching for common ground is the right way to approach solving our problems.

Over the years I have been involved in many construction project negotiations. What the President says is a good philosophy to keep to himself for the final decision, but going into the process of negotiations, he needs to draw a firm line from which he initially isn't prepared to go further. If you go into negotiations offering immediate sacrifices, the opponent will push further and further to force more compromises.

If you want to settle for a one dollar increase you ask for two and the opponent asks for none so that you can both win with an agreement of one dollar. If you start at one, the opponent will assume that you are willing to settle for half that or less and won't agree to the one.

The President has started negotiations with the House and Senate for health care and budget reconciliation from what he hopes is his final settlement and naturally the opposition will reject this and try for a lower settlement.

President Obama is sometimes too nice of a guy and too willing to compromise at the beginning. He definitely needs to present a firmer stance and show that he is not that easy to manipulate. We need him to be our strong leader and stand up for us low and middle class voters against the power and finances of the wealthy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday June 24, 2011...This guy made a great speech

Al Franken, Senator, used to be a comedy writer.  
Who would take this guy seriously?  
Why in the world would Minnesotans vote him in as Senator?  
I didn't know, either.  Today I read the speech that he just gave to a conference in Minnesota and was notably impressed.  He stated his (and my) beliefs clearly and understandably.  

His speech is well worth reading.  Here it is:

The Attack on America's Middle Class, and the Plan to Fight Back

Netroots Nation 2011, welcome to Minnesota!

This is the state that sent Hubert Humphrey, the middle-class son of a pharmacist, to the U.S. Senate, where he cheerfully waged - and usually won - great battles in the name of the young and the old, the poor and the vulnerable, the oppressed and the disenfranchised.

This is the state where Walter Mondale - who, at the age of 20, had helped to organize Humphrey's first Senate campaign - rose to become the living embodiment of common-sense Midwestern progressive values.
And this is the state where Paul Wellstone, a professor down at Carleton College in Northfield, became my hero - and the hero of a generation of progressives who believed, as he did, that we all do better when we all do better. We all do better when we all have health care. We all do better when we all can get a good education. We all do better when we all can earn a fair wage at a good job. We all do better when we all can find a good home and economic security and justice when we're wronged.

Today, 100 years after Hubert Humphrey was born, nearly half a century after Walter Mondale began his legendary career in public service, and two decades after Paul Wellstone won his first race for the Senate, we gather in Minnesota to take stock.

We all believe that we all do better when we all do better. The question is: How are we doing?
And if we're talking about the fate of ordinary families, the answer is clear: We're losing.

The American middle class is in trouble. Median family income is down. Jobs are scarce. Opportunities people thought they'd earned through hard work are disappearing before their eyes. Working families are falling further and further behind.

And that means it's hard for progressives not to feel like we're losing, too. Our movement is about putting the concerns of those working Americans at the forefront of our national agenda.

Now, you can argue that Democrats in Congress should be doing more to win legislative battles - although, as someone who is in the room every day, I can tell you that I don't doubt for a second my colleagues' commitment to moving our country in the right direction.

And you can argue that the Democratic Party should be using different tactics to win elections.
But the fact remains: We as a progressive movement are losing the argument. On issue after issue, we're playing defense.

We're ready to fight for cap-and-trade. But instead, we're forced into an argument about whether global warming even exists.

We're ready to fight for the Employee Free Choice Act. But instead, we're forced into an argument about whether workers should have any rights at all. As proud as we all are of the fight our movement has shown in Wisconsin and around the country in the face of Republican efforts to end collective bargaining, we know that these aren't the conversations we should be having in the year 2011.

And instead of having a debate about what the government should be doing to help the struggling middle class, we're having a debate about what parts of the social safety net we should sacrifice in order to preserve and extend giveaways to the wealthiest few, and to well-connected corporations.

We can urge Democrats in Congress to stand stronger when Republicans hold our government hostage. We can urge each other to work harder to win elections. And you won't hear any disagreement from me on either count.

But if we're going to win these fights, we have to start by reclaiming the upper hand in the argument over what our country should be about. And I want to suggest that conservatives might just have given us the playbook.
For decades, their argument against progressive policies hasn't just been about the substance of our ideas, but about the scope of our vision. They call us radicals. They say we want to do too much, too fast. They accuse us of wanting to remake the fundamental fabric of American society, as if we were proposing to rip a few dozen stars off the flag.

They understand that Americans don't like radical change. We love our country, and are rightly proud of its traditions. We revere our past.  And it's easy to offer people a return to the "good ol' days" - when the economy was growing, everyone was optimistic, and we went to bed at night secure in the knowledge that our kids would have better opportunities than we had.

What conservatives miss when they talk about those "good ol' days," of course, is that they were good for a reason.  Some of you might have heard me talk about my childhood here in Minnesota. My dad never graduated high school. He was a printing salesman. We lived in a two-bedroom, one-bath house in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. We weren't rich - but we felt secure.

I felt like the luckiest kid in the world. And I was. I was growing up middle-class in a time when growing up middle-class in America meant there would be jobs for my parents, good schools for me to prepare myself for a career, and, if I worked hard and played by the rules, a chance for me to do anything I wanted. Including being a comedy writer and then a Senator. In that order.  Between 1947 and 1977, we experienced three decades of incredible growth - growth that flowed to the middle class.

And as we grew, we grew together. Everyone benefited. Income for the top fifth of Americans grew by 99 percent, and the income of those in the bottom fifth rose by 116 percent. I know that's hard to believe. The wages of the bottom fifth grew more than the wages of the top fifth. Really. That happened.

Meanwhile, the middle class could afford to buy more, so there was more demand - and that meant there were more jobs.

And with the tax dollars that came from all this growth, the government built 40,000 miles of straight freeways that greatly reduced the cost of transporting goods, invested in education that prepared kids for the workforce and innovations that created entire new industries, and strengthened the social safety net so that everyone could aspire to the middle class.

Oh. And we sent a man to the moon. Actually, a number of them.

Which brings me to my wife, Franni. When she was seventeen months old, her dad - a decorated veteran of World War II - died in a car accident, leaving my future mother-in-law widowed at age 29 with five kids.
That family made it because of Social Security survivor benefits.

Every single one of the four girls in Franni's family went to college, thanks to Pell Grants and other scholarships. My brother-in-law, Neil, went into the Coast Guard, where he became an electrical engineer.
My mother-in-law got herself a $300 GI loan to fix her roof, and used the money instead to go to the University of Maine. She became a grade school teacher and taught poor kids, and so her loans were forgiven.

She and all five of those kids became productive members of society. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps - but first, they had to have the boots. And the government gave Franni's family the boots.
These are stories about security and opportunity. These are stories about the American dream. These are stories about the country we are so proud to call our own, the one we all want to protect and preserve.
But they are also stories about a progressive America, one in which the government adopts the principle that we all do better when we all do better.

It was our vision that government should provide economic security for the middle class and provide the boots for people looking to pull themselves up into it. 

It was our vision that America should be in the business of making things, and that we should invest in innovation and infrastructure so that we could have an economy where there's enough for everyone.

It was our vision that American workers should earn enough to buy what they produced.

It was our vision that everyone should have basic rights at work, no matter how powerful their employer, and that the law should be a place where anyone could turn for justice.

And although that vision has always remained a work in progress, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone and generations of progressives made this country what we dreamed it could be for millions and millions of families.

And while our vision was broad, the policies we fought for - from the social safety net to workers' rights to investment in our manufacturing sector - were grounded in values that began as "progressive," but have become simply American.

And having built that America we're all so proud of, it's now up to us to save it.

Progressives, in a way, are the new conservatives. We want to conserve what we fought to build. And the right-wingers who call themselves conservatives are the ones who want radical change in the way our government works, and the way our country works.

Newt Gingrich went on "Meet the Press" last month and said that the Ryan plan that would end Medicare was "right-wing social engineering," that it was "too big a jump." He has spent the month since apologizing - but for once in his life, Newt was right.

Actually, that's not fair. He was calling for electronic medical records years before the rest of the country got on board with the idea. So he was right the one other time. Gotta give a guy credit.

But ending Medicare, like privatizing Social Security, is astonishingly radical.

Part of the middle class promise is that, after a lifetime of hard work, you'll be able to retire and enjoy the fruits of that labor. Medicare was established to secure that promise. There was no private insurance market for people over 65 back in 1964. And if Republicans destroy Medicare, there won't be one now. The average Social Security benefit is $15,000. The average out of pocket health care cost for seniors under the Ryan plan would be over $12,000.

So if Republicans eliminate Medicare, America will become a country in which you can never retire - and once you physically can no longer work, you are desperately poor until you die. That is a radical change to our society.

The Republican agenda is a radical vision in which Medicaid is slashed to the bone - in which we start to balance the budget on the backs of, literally, our most vulnerable citizens. Say you have a parent who suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. If Republicans pass these Medicaid cuts, you'd better be ready to take that parent in. That is a radical change to our society.

The Republican vision is one in which we cut billions from job training and education and infrastructure - the things that enable ordinary Americans to find good jobs, enable businesses to find the customers and trained workers they need to grow, and enable middle class families to build real economic security. All these cuts, just to fund more tax cuts for people who are richer than any people have ever been in the history of the world.

It's a vision in which workers have no protections from their employers, ordinary Americans have no access to the courts when they're wronged, and big corporations control everything from our media to the Internet to our democracy.

After decades of fighting against any interpretation of the Constitution that secured basic rights for all Americans, conservatives have somehow found in that text special First Amendment rights for oil companies.
The growing gap between rich and poor, the failure of our generation to leave our kids the America we inherited from our parents, and the inability of our political system to respond to these crises - for today's Republican Party, these are features, not bugs.

The right wants America to be a nation of social Darwinism in which the powerful are protected by the government, and the rest of us are on our own.

To achieve it, they'll say things they know aren't true, disown ideas they used to support, contradict themselves on everything from how the legislative process should operate to how weather works. They'll let the government shut down, let us default on our debts, bring our country to its knees to fulfill their ideological fervor.

So how do we stop them? Well, I haven't been in politics my whole life. But I think we always win when we work together and stand on our values. Medicare, and Medicaid, and investment in infrastructure, and public education, and workers' rights, and civil rights, and equal rights under the law - these aren't just good progressive ideas, they're examples of traditional American values.

And when Republicans talk about destroying these things, they're talking about turning their backs on the America we've built. They're talking about ripping apart the fabric of our society. They're talking about a transformation of our country - about undermining our tradition so radically, they might as well be tearing stars off the flag.

And we should say so.

Here in the home of Humphrey and Mondale and Wellstone, I urge you all to stand up for the America our movement helped to build. Stand up for the principle that we should grow together instead of growing apart. Stand up for the principle that we all do better when we all do better.

Be proud to stand for Medicare and Medicaid. Be proud to stand with workers. Be proud to stand for a government that invests in America, a legal system that respects the rights of all individuals, and the progressive values we've fought so hard to defend. Be proud of who we are and what we've built.

We have a tough fight ahead. But it's one we have to win. It's not just the Democratic Party that's depending on us. It's the American middle class. And it's the American tradition, one that we helped to create - and one that we must now protect.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday June 11, 2011...Government

I and my neighbors and friends don't have time to perform all necessary functions in our community while we struggle to do our jobs and follow our chosen professions. We got together in a community group to form a government to hire those specialized functions to be done by others. We chose our teachers and police officers and sanitation workers and street repairers and a myriad of other function doers to help relieve us of those duties. On a national scale, we got together in a national group to form a government to hire those national functions to be done by others. We chose our military and our foreign relations people and our security people and hired watchdogs to make sure that those of us who wanted to cheat or steal from the rest of us were prevented from doing so. We chose to have standardized regulations set forth so that everyone would understand the limits and know the penalties for cheating. We chose our delegates to represent us in the national meetings and present our views and requirements so that our government can administer our state correctly. The whole idea was for us all to get along under common principles and common laws and regulations so that we could continue to follow our professions with the least amount of bother. This is our government that we chose to create to help us. In effect, we are the government. We choose how and why and what regulations we want to have in our society to help us and how we want it administered.

To do without that administration would allow the meanest of us to take control. We need our regulations administered to keep control. Somehow, the whole process of choosing who will represent us and what regulations we want administered has been taken away from us by those who would use us to their advantage. They have wrested control away from the rest of us and have tried to remove our regulations and safety nets and have tried to have us hire only their people to perform the functions that they sell by privatizing the public work. It's all about how much control they can take away from all of us and how much they can use the whole system to their financial advantage.

I can only hope that we, collectively, will take back the administration of our own functions and revitalize those controls that we need to provide for our own common good.

We don't want to get rid of government. We need government. We just need OUR government to represent US and our wishes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday June 11, 2011...Aftershock

Afterthoughts and reflections after reading “Aftershock” by Robert Reich

He clearly drew a picture of what happened to cause the Great Depression (1929-1946) and what brought us out of that financially burdensome time into The Great Prosperity (1947-1975). Marriner Eccles chaired the Federal Reserve Board from 1934 to 1948. His advice and actions inspired the correct financial response by our political leaders and pulled the economy up from the depths. He clearly saw that money had to be available for the common man and his family and that with a healthy financial community the manufacturing would also benefit. He inspired Franklin Roosevelt to help and encourage the poor, the elderly and the working man with jobs and safe banks and secure homes and social security in our old age. Herbert Hoover and the previous administration had been following the old ways and assumed that the economy would self correct. He was wrong to trust the special interests and big bankers. Eccles clearly saw that their way would not stimulate the economy. They wanted to cut government services and let business find the way just as the current Republican Wall Street bankers are advising now. Luckily we had Mr Eccles then. Now is a different story.

The monied interests now control the political system and the business systems and they have no consideration for the poor or the middle class. They are greedy to the extreme and would deny sharing their wealth with the system that gave them this wealth. Even though the very wealthy have more wealth than they can spend, they still reach for more. The politicians need huge amounts to run their campaigns and know that they owe their jobs now and after leaving government service to those with the big bucks. Republican and Democrat alike respond to the desires of the wealthy. They are unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them. We look forward to diminished government services and a much lower standard of living, unless you're wealthy.

One scenario that Mr Reich put forth as an extreme backlash to the present situation was really quite frightening in its implications. A mythical third party wins the presidential and congressional election with a message of zero tolerance of illegal immigrants, a freeze on legal immigration, increased tariffs on all imports, a ban on American companies moving operation overseas or outsourcing abroad, withdrawal from United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank, and IMF, refuse to pay any more interest on our debt to China and stop trade with China. They would prohibit profitable companies from laying off workers or cutting payrolls. The federal budget would be required to be balanced. The Federal Reserve would be abolished. Banking would be restricted to deposits and loans. No investment banking. Capping personal income at $250,000 per year – everything above $500,000 to be taxed at 100%. – The stock market crashes, the dollar plummets, banks close, economic calamity.

Robert Reich sees the problem and offers his suggestions on how to solve them without destroying the country, but even he acknowledges that no change will probably occur until the systems crashes and forces reforms. The Great Recession that we are in the midst of wasn't quite strong enough to bring about the required resolve. The future holds the answer.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011...The scale is tilted

We live on an island in space.

One very small group representing less than 5% of the total population of the island own 95% of the land, produce and resources of the island. The rest of the islanders work and toil to help create more wealth for the 5%. The 5% control the politics and all communications and all produce and all the wealth of the island. The 5% think that this is the way things should always be and they control who gets to be the representatives of the people. The 5% have the 95% convinced that all is well with the world and that there is no reason to complain. They tell us that we are all in the same boat and that they care about us and only wish us success. 

You believe them, don't you?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Interesting, but discouraging facts

Total War Funding by Operation
Assuming an annual level of the current Continuing Resolution (H.J.Res. 44/P.L. 112-4) and
based on DOD, State Department/USAID, and Department of Veterans Administration budget
submissions, the cumulative total appropriated from the 9/11 for those war operations, diplomatic
operations, and medical care for Iraq and Afghan war veterans is $1.283 trillion including:
$806 billion for Iraq;
$444 billion for Afghanistan;
$29 billion for enhanced security; and
$6 billion unallocated 
Of this total, 63% is for Iraq, 35% for Afghanistan, 2% for enhanced security and 1/2% is
unallocated. Almost all of the funding for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is for Afghanistan.
This total includes funding provided in all appropriations act including the FY2010 Supplemental
(H.R. 4899/P.L. 111-212) enacted July 29, 2010, and the 6th Continuing Resolution for FY2011

For example, between FY2005 and FY2009, average annual operational costs per troop were $525,000 for Afghanistan and $462,000 for Iraq.

DOD’s requests for FY2010 and FY2011 generally include sharply higher annual per troop costs for Afghanistan, with operational costs projected to jump from $507,000 in FY2009 to $667,000 in FY2010 and $694,000 in Afghanistan.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday May 28, 2011...Remember our Veterans

We seem to continually remain at war.  It isn't the fault of our troops.  They perform nobly as their duty prescribes.  On this Memorial weekend, remember the boys and men who have given their all in our service.

America continues to be engaged in hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and young men and women will pay the ultimate price while wearing the uniform of our nation. Let us honor the memory of the 4,454 Americans who have died in Iraq and more than 1,595 who have died in Afghanistan. We also honor the sacrifices of our wounded: 32,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 11,400 in Afghanistan.

Since September 2001, 13,957 troops from Missouri have been deployed from the U.S. National Guard and Reserve. Missouri currently has 4,494 troops deployed, and has sent 42,650 since September 2001. In Iraq, 90 have been killed. 754 have been wounded. In Afghanistan, 40 have been killed. 235 have been wounded.

As we remember their patriotic sacrifices, we renew our commitment to keep our promises to the nation’s more than 2 million troops and reservists, their families, and 23 million veterans, including 505,916 in Missouri.

Perhaps we can bring our participation in these struggles to an end in the near future if the powers that be will let them end.  What have we gained from these dead and wounded that couldn't have been gained by negotiation?  Looking back over past wars and seeing our former enemies who are now our allies and trading partners you have to think that war accomplishes little other than enriching the people who supply war materials and profit from both sides of a conflict.  It's been a long struggle in the middle east with no end in sight and nothing gained by our sacrifice.  It's time for this to end.  Let's bring our boys home.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday May 20, 2011...A Thought

A thought about thoughts.

Where does a thought come from? What sparks a thought into existence? A completely NEW thought springs from what source? Does it come with a spark or with a big bang? Is a thought comprised of energy? How does it exist and in what form?

We speak about the BIG BANG that started our universe with some form of energy converting itself into all the matter of the universe that we now know in a single instant. Something started that transformation. Before that BIG BANG, there was no matter and no time and all was void. Perhaps we and all that we perceive are nothing more than a thought in the mind of God, whatever or whoever you conceive God to be. From nothing came this instant of creation that brought our universe into being. We are nothing more than stardust leftover from that one instant of creation, that single thought.

Was that thought that created our universe a complete unified and solidified thought or was it something that once started follows it's own course of action?. Can we control our dreams and thoughts and seek solutions to problems or do the dreams and thoughts once started find their own conclusions?

In any event, if we are indeed the result of a thought by some greater force or being, we are a creation of that force or being and our actions, whether controlled or natural, are a direct result of that creation. One can only conclude that any action we take cannot be in opposition to the will of that force or being because we are a consequence of that creation.

The greater question is: What happens to a thought when it has passed? What lies ahead in what we conceive of as our future? Does a thought fade and disappear or does it linger in the memory forever?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wednesday April 6. 2011...I'm sorry, but I don't understand the logic

Well, maybe I do - if your object is to help the needy rich and corporate america and take from the undeserving  poor, then it all makes sense.  Let them eat cake!  And be sure that we have a tremendous military to enforce our corporate will upon recalcitrant neighbors.  

House Republicans led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan have unveiled a plan that would spend $6.2T less over 10 years than what President Obama has proposed. With not a sacred cow in sight, except perhaps the Pentagon, Ryan's 'Path to Prosperity' proposes to limit expenditure on Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and scores of other programs. He also wants to cut the top corporate and individual tax rates to 25%. Despite the appearance of radicalism, the GOP plan would still add $5T to the deficit over the coming decade, although it promises to reach 'primary balance' by 2015, meaning that the budget would be balanced except for interest payments on existing debt. The plan wouldn't balance the government's books until 2040.



per The House Republicans' 2012 Budget Proposal

The first is demographic.
This problem is most clearly seen in the financing for Social Security. Social Security is financed through a pay-as-you-go system, which means that current workers' Social Security taxes are used to pay benefits for current retirees. In 1935 when Social Security was enacted, there were about 42 working-age Americans for each retiree. The average life expectancy for men in America was 60 years; for women it was 64. With these demographics, it was easy for the program to generate sufficient revenue to meet its promises to those over 65. The demographic situation has changed dramatically, however, since the creation of the program. In 1950, there were 3.5 million beneficiaries. Currently, there are over 50 million beneficiaries - an over fourteen-fold increase."

the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940.

Obviously the Republican document is in error, although the average lifespan was less back when social security was started, the average lifespan for retiring citizens was approximately the same then as it is now and the tables for computing this were based on this fact. In fact all the demographics were considered and included when computing the actuarial tables for social security. That is why the social security system has built up a surplus over the years of 2.6 trillion dollars and remains solvent for the next 26 years and will only require minimal tweaking to adjust to future situations.

The Outlook for Social Security (by fiscal year, in billions of dollars)

Annual surplus
Surplus excluding interest
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities based on Congressional Budget Office, August 2010 baseline projections. CBO has not published complete details for its August baseline; CBPP calculated the Social Security surplus as the difference between the total off-budget surplus — as published by CBO — and the off-budget Postal Service deficit, assuming that the latter figure did not change since CBO’s March 2010 projection.

The system has been working well for the last 75 years and is scheduled to continue being successful into the future. Why disrupt a successful enterprise? I can only suppose that private interests wish to somehow gain control of the investing power of this trust fund and are lobbying their representative agents to help them. While this would gain those special interests much income, it wouldn't be in the best interests of the participants. Recessions and bubbles in investing circles come and go but the system works and keeps working. Let's keep this fund out of special interests hands.

Using phrases that sound sensible for new programs often mislead the public.  But seeing that the actual details cause the opposite reactions should warn us that the proposed plans have something else in mind than our own welfare.  It all amounts to a tug of war between the average citizen and the wealthy powers that hope to control our country.  So far, the powers are winning and they are stepping up the action without hiding their true feelings.