Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday November 22, 2013...Fifty years today

Friday, November 22, 1963

I remember that day. Friday afternoon the head of my department came into the room and announced that the President had been shot. He sent everyone home for the rest of the day. Nobody knew exactly what was happening. We were all is a state of shock that something like this could happen in the United States to our young and vibrant President. I spent that whole weekend glued to the old black and white television that continuously reported on the events taking place in Dallas and later in Washington. The whole country watched the memorial and the burial and the killing of Oswald. The whole country stopped for that week after the assassination and watched. We watched as the Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who we really didn't even know, took over the reins of the federal bureaucracy. We watched John John as he saluted his father's casket. We watched as the Kennedys gathered sadly and stone faced. We waited to see who had been up on the grassy knoll behind the fence. We wondered how one man could have been so accurate so quickly to hit the moving cars. I think most everyone assumed it was a hit squad covering the route from several points. It had us all watching and waiting and sadly missing President Jack Kennedy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Saturday November 9, 2013...THINGS CHANGE


I'm now in the elder state of life. I, and my fellow elders, can now remember a world that is no more. My father used to tell me of a world before I came of open prairies and clean, clear streams. He missed the fenceless open pasture of central Kansas and the unpolluted streams that you could drink from. I never knew that world, so I didn't miss it. I remember a world of small farms and small towns with local and state highways connecting them. I remember drives into the country through town squares and country cafes and burma-shave adds and telephone poles along each road. I remember one car families with empty streets during the day. I remember stay at home mothers caring for their kids after school. Before television, we would play outside a lot and in the evening we would listen to radio programs. Neighbors all looked out for each other and their kids. There were neighborhood markets and dime stores and drug stores and movie theaters all withing walking distance. Milk was delivered by the milk man and bread was delivered by the Manor man. When it snowed, some of the hilly streets were closed off from traffic and the children went sledding in the streets. There were no shopping centers, no Kmarts, no Walmarts, no chain drug stores, no super markets, no Home Depots. There were no visa or mastercard credit cards. You had to establish credit with each store you shopped in or with money loaned to you by the bank or cash on hand. You had a local gas station where they also worked on cars. All the local stores hired young kids to help on a part time basis which gave a young person their first taste of employment and cash management. Music was only available over AM stations and there was no stereo. It wasn't until the development of transistors that there were portable radios available. Television, when it came, was only in black and white and only on in the evenings to start with. Air conditioning was only available in movie theaters and ice cream parlors. There were no fast food restaurants, only cafes and a few drive-ins. Any after school activities had to be within walking distance because dad had the family car to go to work and mom was at home doing the laundry, without a dryer, or preparing dinner, without a microwave or prepackaged food, or doing dishes, without a dishwasher. Clothes were not wrinkle free and had to be ironed by hand. Houses were left open during the warm season to help cool and they needed to be dusted quite often. Before oil burners and gas burning furnaces coal had to be stored in the coal bin and shoveled into the furnace daily. The coal deposited a fine black dust on clothes that had to be washed off. Before calculators and computers there were comptometers to add up figures for offices and many people were employed at comptometer operators. Engineers used sliderules and books of logarithmic tables to help calculate. There were no copy machines, so people used carbon paper to make copies of what they were writing or typing. Typewriters were all manual (no electric) and any mistakes had to be dealt with on the original as well as the carbon copies. Records were only available on 78 rpm hard plastic disks before 45 rpm and eventually 33 1/3 rpm vinyl disks were invented. There were reel-to-reel recorders available, but very expensive. 8 track and cassette player/recorders came along later. Later yet, CDs and DVDs and digital recording became available. Before jet planes, the constellation was the largest airliner used to fly between cities. Planes and trains were the fastest way to travel across the country because there were no interstate highways.

These are some of my memories of a world that no longer exists and that younger folks would not recognize. Their memories will be of a different world. Whose world is better? Who really knows? Things change, some for the good – some for the bad. I like my memories, I liked my world. Some things have gotten easier and the world has become more instant and seems smaller. But that's my viewpoint, from one of the elders.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Monday November 4, 2013...Help the poor or Support the military-industrial-complex

We're cutting back on food stamps and head start and education and medicaid, but not on our Miltary-Industrial-Complex.

During World War II, this nation converted its civilian manufacturing base into the creation of weapons and military equipment. However, the arms industry did not revert back to its original functions upon the war’s end; instead, it continued to grow and expand. The Cold War did much to precipitate the amount of money our government was spending on the arms race and to counter the Soviet threat. Today, the U.S. spends fifty cents out of every discretionary tax dollar on war and militarism. We spend almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined, and we are by far the largest arms exporter in the world, accounting for 78% of such sales. Russia is in second place with 5.6%.

The term “Military Industrial Complex” was first coined by President Eisenhower in 1961 during his farewell address to the nation to describe the unprecedented American arms industry coupled with an immense military establishment. He warned us to “...guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

The military aid that the U.S. “gives” to other countries comes in the way of credits which can only be used to purchase U.S. weapons systems, equipment and training. The cost of those aid credits comes directly out of the pockets of the American taxpayer and right into the bank accounts of the defense industry. The U.S. provides around $50 billion dollars in aid annually to over 150 nations, with at least $17 billion of that being military aid. Our foreign military aid programs keep the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) machine well oiled and running smoothly; with big profits for the likes of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, all courtesy of American taxpayers.

The “rise of misplaced power” that Eisenhower warned of is easily seen by the influence the Military Industrial Complex has on Congress and the decisions it makes about war, budgeting, and foreign policy. Defense firms spend millions lobbying Congress to protect their weapons programs from spending cuts and to promote military actions. Senators who voted in favor of a military strike against Syria received an average of 83 percent more money from the defense industry than senators who voted against the resolution.

When chemical weapons were used to kill civilians in Syria recently, the U.S. was quick to say that President Assad had violated international law. But instead of referring the case to the International Criminal Court for adjudication, the Obama administration came very close to waging war.
The United Nations charter prohibits the threat or use of force against any other country except in the event of self defense, yet in just the last 12 years the U.S. has launched two full-blown wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we have attacked Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with hellfire missiles launched from drones. We have used the two most recent wars to justify the use of torture, external rendition and indefinite detention, as well as multiple violations of the Geneva Conventions.
In addition to refusal to become a party to the International Criminal Court, a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes , the U.S. has also refused to sign on to the Landmine Treaty, the Cluster Munitions Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Convention against Torture, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Even though the Chemical Weapons Convention was ratified, the U.S. set extensive limitations on how it could be applied in the U.S., essentially gutting its provisions.

Since 1961 we have built a foreign policy through fear, intimidation, and coercion. We have ignored opportunities to join the international community and have instead shown arrogance and disregard for other nations and their peoples. We espouse support for human rights, but ignore them in the interest of corporate profits.