Saturday, December 27, 2008

That Was the Year that Was

It is that time of year where everyone in the media comes up with their best and worst list. The outcome of the 2008 election seems to have made a lot of the best lists and number one in most. No surprise as 75% of the population is thrilled GW Bush is leaving office. So his departure is contender for best in 2009.

The rise and then fall of gas prices gets it considered for both my worst and best list. I frankly am joyful about the trend downward. I am frankly waiting for more deflation before buying much of anything. But the best part of rising gas prices was that it got me looking seriously at my driving habits, energy use in my house, etc. I think the earth will benefit in the long run from all the above: Obama winning, Bush leaving, and the blackmail done by oil companies.

One of the things which has to make the best list for me is getting back into politics with the Obama campaign. I had been so turned off by GW cheating himself into office twice I was ready to move to another country. I was even studying Italian. But when I began to blog here about the primary process for my European friends I got involved in the blogging community who was still willing to invest time and opinions in the United States. It was infectous.

And the blogging community proved to be a powerful force for change in this country. I was thrilled to see Obama's campaign take full use of the internet. The FreePress is alive and well in the ether and that is just too cool. That gets number one for me. GW controlled the professional press after 9/11 to a level not used since Hitler. That probably gets number one on worst for about eight straight years in my assessment.

So the economy has tanked. Everyone is asking for a bailout and yet I feel surprisingly optimistic about the American people and our future. Though I do think we should cancel all bailouts to banks, investment companies, and auto dealers and just lower the interest rate on all personal mortgages, cancel all personal chapter 13 bankruptcies, and give tax breaks to all alternative energy systems installed in your homes.

All the remaining bailout moneys can be used to rebuild infrastructure, restore our national parks to their former glory, and develop affordable alternative energy technology and production. I personally want a windgenerator system and a solar well pump.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dog with a Bone

Not my dog and not my bone. But I have dogs. Two. One that wants to be alpha. And I always give them three bones. It avoids the fights. And lets me take one away anytime I want to let everyone know I am the alpha fur kid.

Obama threw Senator Clinton a really nice bone: Secretary of State. But Hillary Clinton is already fighting over the other bones in the cabinet and nobody has even been confirmed by the Congress.

It seems Hillary is not satisfied with being Secretary of State. She wants pieces of the pie from Treasury and Commerce. She is leaking to the press her plans to expand the role of the State Department to deal with economic issues. And to nominate special envoys. That particular honor may be Obama's bone.

I may have seriously misjudged Senator Clinton. I thought her only problem would be her husband. Wrong. She ran for president and she clearly wants to be president. Or at least Secretary of State, Commerce and Treasury. Not unlike the old office of Health, Education and Welfare. Maybe she wants that too.

I am anxious to see if Obama asserts his place as leader of the pack. If not than Hillary with her Alpha dog genetics will always have the bones in her corner.

BTW I have only fur kids to referee on bone issues so I have time to read the OpEd pieces and blog about them here even though Christmas is but two days away. Does Hillary think with Obama in Hawaii for Christmas she can claim dominance of all the bones before he returns? I bet he finds time to keep up with her issues.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How Low Will They Go

I read and printed out three days ago a New York Times Obed piece on the fall of gas prices and that it was putting Big Oil projects in jeopardy: "From the plains of North Dakota to the deep waters of Brazil, dozens of major oil and gas projects have been suspended or canceled in recent weeks as companies scramble to adjust to the collapse in energy markets."

When we were called a nation of whiners by the current administration I thought they meant the little guys but it seems those that whine the most are the big CEO's and corporations all rushing to the bailout trough with the rest of the political pigs. What did Big Oil do with all those quarter after quarter record profits? Give them as bonuses to their CEO's? I suppose it is only a matter of time before Exxon execs fly into Washington in their corporate private jets and beg for funds to continue their plans for new refineries in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and India.

Help me here - didn't they just claim the reason gas prices were so high a few months ago was because they had built no new refineries? And now they are suspending their plans to build at least three? And they wanted the right to be able to drill where they had never drilled before like the Alaskan wilderness. Now they are daily shutting down wells across the United States.

Not to mention they are now saying that this fall in demand for their fuel supplies (yes, there is a glut being stored in tankers because they ran out of storage space) globally could curb investment and research alternative clean energy resources. Doesn't that seem rather short sighted? I suppose the Big Three Auto makers will now argue that they do not need to produce more energy efficient cars since there is ample energy just sitting around waiting to be burned.

If Big Oil cuts back dramatically on investments as they seem to be doing we could end up in a situation where supply growth goes flat when the economy starts to recover. Said on analyst: "The steeper the decline, the steeper the response."

It would seem that Big Oil (not unlike investment firms and the auto companies) look only toward the next quarter's profits. They do not take the long term five and ten year plan approach that would make for more stable markets and supplies. And yet Bush and other Republicans stay committed to the free market approach. And yet deregulation has worked so well as the current economic situation proves. We clearly cannot expect capitalists to look beyond immediate profits and bonuses and the annual corporate meeting at a five star hotel in Hawaii.

Obama is promising regulation of the banking and investment industry. I think we need regulation of Big Oil and the Big Three and all imports from China (just thought I would throw them in since they are now poisoning dog treats). I think they have all proven there is no limit to how low they will go to insure record profits at the expense of the economy and the American people.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

That Made My Day

I know we as Americans are all suppose to be insulted that such disrespect was shown to our President. But not me. Had the threat of Gitmo not hung over my head I might have tried it myself but I only wear a size 6. I am only sorry the old man still has some cowboy reflexes left and he ducked.

I suppose this blog could get me sent to Gitmo - giving aid and comfort to the enemy - the shoe thrower. I understand Cheney is still in favor of keeping Gitmo open and recommends waterboarding as a useful tool. Threaten me with drowning and I will tell you anything - even where the reporter buys his shoes to throw. I recommend steel toed and with taps. Among other things they are nicely weighted for accuracy when thrown.

I think the most disturbing part of this whole incident was the followup interview with Bush. One, he definitely needed his hair combed. And, Two, he did not get it at all. We have got to stop electing delusional people to office. You can included Illinois governors in that statement.

I dug myself out in the middle of the snow storm yesterday to run and get some things from the market. Snowy weather makes me crave clam chowder. Don't ask. And while standing in the check out line with all the other people craving their own snow storm comfort food I perused the titles of articles in the magazines. There was a sad deficit in space aliens and "she is having my baby" articles so I wound up reading the cover of Time Magazine. Almost bought it but it seemed so much more fun to wonder what was covered under the following article titles (heavily paraphrased): Why Obama is looked to as President, and Why Nobody is Looking at Bush as President. Don't they just beg lists?

Sorry Time if I did not get the titles exactly right. My mind was too busy already forming lists. I am still making lists only now I have gotten to paper. Maybe I will buy the magazine when I can dig myself out and see how close I have come to their reporter's concept. Number one on both lists: Nobody has thrown a shoe at Obama, and They threw a shoe at Bush.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Economy: A Personal Perspective

The economy is certainly a topic at every gathering of two or more people. Everyone begins with a rehash of the talking heads opinions, moves into their favorite economists view, and finally gets down to how it effects them on a personal level.

At a recent gallery reception in town most of us agreed that New Mexico is thus far not being hit too hard by the recession. Probably because we are a relatively poor state to begin with, and Gov. Bill Richardson, soon to be Secretary of Commerce, balanced our budget and managed to put the state in the black during his term of office.

But since we are a state that depends heavily on tourism we are concerned. The recent numbers are positive, however. The hotels and condos are booked solid for the holidays before us. People are coming to ski. Lower gas prices help in that area. And that we are less pricey than Aspen or Sun Valley, etc. It was a gallery reception so naturally selling art was a concern especially or the gathered artists. Having people in town to sell for was a plus.

We also have all noticed an upturn in sales of late. One collector's voiced opinion: "Keeping the money doesn't seem to work." And another said she had always wanted one of mine and figured now was the time to get it while she still had money. Others said they were giving fewer and less expensive gifts this year but were still looking for something unique and not from China.

And some art lovers seem to be looking at moving down a notch from the higher end artists they could afford to collect in years past to those commanding lower prices now but whom they see as up and comers or good investments. Nobody seems to be investing in stocks or expanding their real estate holdings at the moment.

As one of those less known artists I seem to be enjoying a current modest boon in sales. But the sales have differed too from previously. Less credit cards. More cash sales. Not even personal checks but actual currency. I am not upset about this trend at all. But my merchant account seems more and more unnecessary. And Mastercard and Visa decided on another way to get money from us: the changed us for a five minute test on credit card security. This will be an annual thing. And while they have previously waved a "subscription fee" for the ability to take credit cards this seems to be of the same cost only in lump sum instead of monthly. Unless of course you are "out of compliance" and then there is a monthly penalty equal to the old subscription fee.

Why again are we bailing these banks out?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In December us humans, since the dawn of recorded history we assume, like to look back at the year and pick those people that have defined it. Time and Newsweek both have their persons of the year (not always for the good we should note). The Sunday News programs will have their icons featured.

None probably have yet to replace Nero, who it is said, fiddled while Rome burned. See he wanted to build this perfect city center as honor to himself and there were all these other buildings in the way. So in an era when people were tied to stakes and set afire to light the streets it seemed his solution was easy.

GW Bush, who used every paid for ploy he could to avoid service in Vietnam, wanted to go to war with Iraq and best his dad at something. And in a day of terrorist attacks the solution to that problem seemed easy too. History does not completely record how many died in Rome in Nero's slum clearing project. We know how many died on 9/11, and how many continue to die in Iraq. And we know that neither leader shows any remorse. Nero had his new city center, and Bush has his exit interviews discussing his "grand legacy" as the 43rd President of the once great United States.

Now we have Governor Blagojevich of Illinois. He has to be included in there with GW and Nero because he too shows no remorse. Seems that every possible benefit he can bestow is up for sale. Sort of reminds me of the Midevil Catholic Church and the selling of indulgences. Bush has pardons for sale and Blagojevich a senate seat. Neither seems concerned about their immortal soul just the press coverage of it.

Both are icons of how low United States politics has gone. Maybe Nero had the right idea. We should just burn it all down (or watch it self-distruct) and start over.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Things are Going to Get Worse

Obama, sound more presidential than our president, said in his weekly address to the nation that things are going to get worse before they get better. I got that. I don't like the news but I am glad we are not being lied too. I was getting really tired of that, "the underpinnings of our economy are strong" shit. I'm not economist and I knew GW was wrong more than a year ago.

He is against the auto bailout. I am frankly against all the bailouts starting with Lehman's and moving on to AIG and then to Citibank. But I own a GM car and I would like to be able to get parts for it. But bailout or no most economists believe none of the big three auto makers will be around in 5 years. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say that about the tobacco manufacturers? Or the porno industry? Notice how they have not asked for a bailout. Nor has Jack Daniels.

But as I was digesting all this news and commenting on a friend's blog it suddenly occurred to me that one of the reasons 9/11 targeted the World Trade Center buildings is that Bin Laden wanted to bring the United States to financial ruin. He could have kept his terrorists home. GW Bush has done it for him. That, as they say, is the bad news.

The good news is as goes the US so goes the World so probably nobody can afford to invade us and take over our country - like who would want it now?

But what really worries me is the vast amount of time till Obama really is president. It is over a month! And we do not seem to have anyone reliable at the helm of the sinking ship of state. How much harm can Paulson and Cheney and Bush do in 42 days?

A program I was watching on the Internet about stress reduction during these trying economic times says don't think about it. Obviously that is what the current White House is doing!

What does sit take to swear in Obama and his team tomorow!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Not Our Fault

As we navigate through these perilous economic times there seems to be a lot of name calling and finger pointing. In a recent OpEd on the New York Times website the following was said by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about talks with China: "the talks as 'robust' and characterized by 'straight forward back-and-forth' exchanges."

They yelled at each other a lot. China blames the US Administration for the falling exports to our country. Well, in some cases the exports have happened. Goods are sitting in containers on our shores with no takers. I assume that means China is paying storage fees.

Seems the Americans are fretting that China might be losing the stomach to let its currency keep rising in value and China voiced concern about Washington's management of the world's largest economy -- in which China has a huge financial stake. (We owe them tons of money.)

And it appears that daily we are more and more unable to pay that debt. Could China foreclose?And what would it gain by doing that? World indebtness is really the Emperor's New Clothes. It exists only on balance sheets.And if China is upset about the American people buying less of their goods whose fault is that? Consumer confidence in Chinese goods is at an all time low due to their manufacturing (make that poisoning) debacles. Why should we continue to buy poisoned pet foods or leadbase painted toys? So they won't yell at your Treasury Secretary?

And what do we buy these flawed goods with? Money the banks will no longer lend us though I have read in the same article that interest rates will drop again. And could get to zero. Frankly I am waiting until they start paying us to borrow money. I like the falling gas prices. And my e-mail alerts keep me posted on deals on items I need. Finally jumped at the last 20% off plus 10% to our subscribers deal and bought the winter boots I needed. Today I could have gotten free shipping.

I suppose if you are sitting with huge wharf fees for boxes of goods that have been shipped to the United States but not distributed to potential wholesalers it will sooner or later be cheaper to pay us to take them. I am willing to wait. Meanwhile, China, don't depend on the United States to buy just anything your produce. Improve your quality, meet your EPA and safety standards, and cut down on the junk.

Besides with our people losing jobs daily we are not to thrilled with countries that took a lot of US jobs away. Or with US based companies that took tax breaks to go over there. And now we are suppose to bail them out with our tax dollars. Well, we are mad as hell. Take your goods and shove them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Secretary of Commerce????

First let me say that I am one of Bill Richardson's fans. He was my representative to the United States Congress for many years and has most recently served as my governor. The highest praise that I can give this politician is that he listens.

I suppose it is that ability to listen which makes him a great negotiator and I was all for him being Secretary of State. I don't think Hillary listens, and least of all to herself.

When it looked like Obama was set on Hillary for Secretary of State I was rather hoping for Secretary of Energy for my governor. Our state is always concerned with energy and as governor Richardson has done a lot to promote more green energy, and now the building of the Chili Line which is a light rail commuter train going up the Rio Grande corridor and linking our major cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe to the bedroom communities where the workers live.

When the rumors started flying about Secretary of Commerce it took me a while to wrap my mind around it. I even went to Wiki this morning to get their take on the duties of SoC. The Department of Commerce states its mission as
"to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce." Well, that certainly is broad. But when you look at the Under Secretaries you get a more complete picture of Commerce. There are undersecretaries for international trade, economic affairs, oceans and atmosphere, technology, and exports. Does that sound like the hub for development and implimentation of green technology?

Well, way to go Bill. You have my vote of confidence.

Monday, December 1, 2008

He Lies to Us All The Time

What is that joke about how to tell when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.

That is certainly true of G. W. Bush. Though he is capable of lying without moving his lips. Even when there is no reason to lie he lies. He told Charles Gibson in one of his exit interviews that he did not come to the presidency prepared for war. That certainly is not what was leaked from the White House. His first goal upon election was to go to Iraq and try to do it better than Daddy.

And he is still maintaining the intelligence passed to him was flawed. General Powell has already said he was lied to by Bush and Cheney. Now who are you going to believe?

But his biggest lie in my opinion is the one he is telling himself: "I will leave the presidency with my head held high."

This from a man that cheated himself into office twice, got us involved in an illegal invasion of an independent country, re-named prisoners of war enemy combatants so he does not have to adhere to the Geneva convention on POW's, established a prison camps on foreign soil where he can detain and torture United States Citizens, has broken every privacy law under the constitution, exempted his presidency from having to follow the rule of law with the 'signing exception' on bills passed by the elected congress, and deregulated all his rich corporate friends so they could rob us blind and retire in the Bahamas with Golden parachutes.

This man has in eight years totally ruined the United States economy and the faith of the American people in our system of government (no longer a democracy because of him) and he is proud? I think he is far stupider than I gave him credit for. And I have no faith in the 26% of the people that believe him.

I am frankly disappointed he is being allowed to leave office instead of being impeached for high crimes against humanity and our government. Thank god he only has 50 more days. Hopefully we will survive as a people and a country for that long. Though you have to give him credit - there are not a lot of ways left to sink the United States and destroy the faith of its people in elected officials.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Shit Has Got To Stop

Did you read about the shopper that was trampled to death by the crowds breaking through the Wal-Mart door in New York. Evidently there was a crush (literally) of people trying to get $300 laptops.

It reminds me more of a shark feeding frenzy than a human activity. Or should I say what a civilized human activity should be like. Capitalism has created monsters and I am so happy I was swimming yesterday in a small eddy at a holiday market in Angel Fire.

Christmas as celebrated in the United States is a creation of department stores to increase sales during a normal slow time in their economic cycle. It certainly worked. Now shrines to capitalism like Wal-Mart make the lion's share of their yearly sales between Black Friday (very appropriate color given the shopper's death) and Boxing Day or the day after Christmas when large crowds descend for the 50% off holiday merchandise and returns of unwanted gifts.

Evidently not everyone upon realization of the recession we are in re-evaluated what was important about the holidays. No, this is not one of those religious blogs, and if it were it definitely would not be a Fundamentalist Christian blog. But a great many world religions do have a major "holy day" around this time of year going back beyond Stone Henge no doubt. And before the United States department stores capitalized on it this time of year was seen as a time for spiritual renewal, bonding with those closest to you, examining of our lives and dedication to better ourselves, and standing in awe that after the shortest day of the year when the sun seemed to stand still the daylight increased. None of that translates into whether you get one of the limited availability $300 laptops - or die trying.

You do know that sharks often die in feeding frenzies? Once they all gather and devour the original batch of food they often go for one of their own accidentally or on purpose. Sharks are survivors but they have not developed an elevating culture that we have been able to discern. I have my doubts right now about Americans. And quite frankly I think we need a depression to re-think our values.

In the 60's when I was into shaking off my parents' conspicuous consumption I hadn't a clue what capitalism would get to be about. I would like to apologize to them now, wherever they are. A new car every two years because the ash trays were dirty sounds oh, so reasoned in lite of dying for a Game Boy.

The local weekly paper has a question of the week feature and yesterday it was my turn to be asked I guess in the great rotation of things. The question was, "What are you looking forward to most this holiday season?" My answer was being with my sister, her husband, and my best friend down in Cedar Crest for a few stolen days. Simple joys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Citibank Bailout like Electing Mafia Don President?

I am not a fan of credit card companies. And frankly one of those I dislike the most is Citibank. And we are rescuing these robber barons?

I had been playing credit card roulette before my head injury. That is where you roll over your balance to the lowest interest rate whenever an offer shows up in your mail box. I had even developed a spread sheet to keep track of when the "introduction rate" would go up.

I had excellent credit and balance limits I figured I would never max out. I could have bought a Hummer and a vacation home with credit cards and not come close. Then the accident that altered my life. When I got conscious I realized my credit card companies were tripling my interest rate and charging me $25 to $35 late fees. I wrote all of them and explained my head injury and I would soon be back on top of things. They doubled my interest rate again.

Taking Oprah's advice I called them all and asked if they could lower my rate for six months to allow me to get a handle on things. Now mind you at that time I was not late on a single card. But two or three things had begun to transpired in the credit card business: make up for the low rates by changing high penalties for a single minute late, and shorten the day between mailing the statement and when it is due.

This last little trick since I live in a rural area and only get mail three days a week was deadly. I frequently got statements after the due date. So I switched to on line billing and payments. It was Citibank that developed this little ploy that you could not pay on line without a penalty within three days of the due date; they needed processing time. Or you could avoid the $30 penalty by paying them $10 for fast processing. Mind you I sat there one day with two windows open - one to their website and one to my bank and watched the money vanish from my account the minute I authorized payment.

Listening to my friend last night they evidently have not gotten better. Citibank just raised her interest from 10 to 24 percent because she called and asked about an auto loan. That is all it takes. Just have someone run a credit check on you. I give prospective renters the option to get a credit report for me to save them the predatory practices of credit card companies.

Some leaders of the congress have been trying to get a consumer bill of rights to restrict the activities of the credit card companies after Bush deregulated all banks. I say if we are going to give Citibank money they have to clean up their act. If they are going to stick to their same game plan I say let them fail.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remembering the WPA

My family camped for vacations. Dad wanted to get away from his high pressure job and the telephone (no cell phones in those days) and so we took to the highways and byways of the mountain west and camped.

He often would point out that this trail or that camp ground had been built by labor during the depression when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed the WPA to put people standing in bread lines back to work.

The Blue Ridge Parkway that runs along the Appalachians in the eastern part of the United States is a great example of what the WPA accomplished. Not only did it put people living in that area to work but to this day the parkway allows an economic flow that has preserved the native crafts and culture of that area. The art trail we are setting up her in New Mexico is modeled after one set up by benefit of this parkway built over 70 years ago. Its stone bridges and retaining walls and restored mills and waterways are beautiful and lasting.

Here in the mountain west the WPA worked on many parks creating trails and overlooks that made their beauties more accessable to the public. The closest example to me is the Wild Rivers Park at the junction of the Red River and the Rio Grande. A system of trails allows visitors to hike down switchbacks to the bottom of the Rio Grande gorge some 600 feet below the scenic overlooks at the top. Remote campsites at the bottom allow hikers to over-night away from the maddening crowds. A group of volunteers goes out every spring to do trail maintenance but the original WPA work has lasted.

Today because of Bush cutbacks the National Park Service originally created by the giving of land by Rockefeller and other railroad magnants is suffering. Facilities are in need of repair to the point that on my recent roadtrips with my sister we have chosen to stay at state parks which are better funded.

The Bush administration has chosen to focus on foreign countries and exporting of jobs and resourses away from the United States. Our national parks are crumbling, our infrastructure is deteriorating, and the economy was built on a tissue of lies that is now going up in flames. President elect Obama proposes to rescue our economy by returning the US governments focus back to our own shores.

“We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead,” Mr. Obama said about his economic stimulus package, “but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.”

It looks to be the modern version of Roosevelt's WPA. I certainly hope the effects of it last as long as the Blue Ridge Parkway. And that generations to come look back and point at the accomplishments yet to be achieved by this new era.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I used to work for an international construction firm that had a long standing relationship renovating auto factories for one of the big three in the country. One of the plants I worked on in our capacity as construction managers had been converted to make tanks during WWII, and another had made bombers in the same period.

So why is it we should just give money to Ford and GM? Why not take the same amount of money and have them re-tool a couple of their plants to make railroad cars and engines? And the company that makes their bucket seats could make comfortable passenger car seats. The stamping plants for engine parts could make train wheels or retool to make rails. This makes so much sense on so many levels government probably will not even consider it.

Level one is that big business always bemoans welfare to the poor. Don't they always say, "let them get jobs." Well, I think that applies to the big three. Can't sell cars because the poor are not working because we are in a recession then don't make cars. Make trains.

Due to the fuel crisis and our need to be more green and less dependent upon foreign oil more freight companies have been piggybacking their trailers between major cities rather than trucking them. As I reported in an early blog this has caused some issue with trains because of aging track and cars. We need more capacity to ship more stuff.

Our reliance on airplanes for travel is also silly. Planes really waste fuel. And the contrails from the number of planes in the skies at anyone time are believed to be increasing the effects of global warming. More of us need to take trains for those between town jaunts to visit Aunt Helen. And if the SUV could come with us on a specially built train car we would not need a rental car at our destination. Fifty cars riding on a train are not burning fuel wastefully and contributing to greenhouse gases like the same 50 cars on the interstate.

Transporting cars on trains for long distance travel also reduces wear and tear on our aging interstate system until much needed repairs of the infrastructure can be effected. Maybe we can use out-of-work United Auto Workers who will not compromise on their benefit packages. (Does this sound like CEO's and golden parachutes?)

So no bailout money for auto companies without a plan for them to produce something we can use. Let's make trains.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Consumer Trap

Let me begin by saying a word about the photo I picked. It is a trapdoor spider and my original thought upon Googling the image was to get one lurking in its trap. There are lots of those. But this one was so pretty. And in a way that illustrates my point better.

We, as consumers, were enticed into spending way too much with tarted up merchandise we were made to believe we needed. A friend of mine with a good and secure job in government said he had gone from buying things he did not need to buying things he did not even want. I figured we were in trouble when the big box stores switched from selling us new linens and clothes and things to selling containers to put them into or storage systems to make those containers look so good in our closets. Products never got better. They just got bigger or brighter or with some new feature we really did not need. But we were sold on the fact that they were necessary for our peace of mind and standing in our community.

And wasn't it so easy to get those new necessities with the tarted up credit cards that you can even put your picture on and donate to your favorite charity every time you swipe it thought those oh, so easy to use card readers. Using cash or writing a check was viewed as slowing progress down. Everyone behind you and the clerk waiting on you expressed their discontent.

I fell into that trap seven years ago after my head injury. I literally could not write a check. Nor could I really keep track of all those complicated credit card statements or notice when they had raised my low entry rate to astronomical heights. Because of being out of work and medical expenses and credit card fees I became one of the last to declare bankruptcy before Bush toughened up the laws in 2005 that was suppose to end personal bankruptcy.

So I read this morning the New York Times' series the The Debt Trap with great interest. Bankruptcies are up. They jumped nearly eight percent in October. "Filings totaled 108,595, surpassing 100,000 for the first time since a law that made it more difficult — and often twice as expensive — to file for bankruptcy took effect in 2005. That translated to an average of 4,936 bankruptcies filed each business day last month, up nearly 34 percent from October 2007."

Banks are not lending money so easily anymore. As banks have pulled back on lending consumers have been finding it more difficult, and in many cases impossible, to use credit cards, refinance their home mortgages or fall back on their home equity lines to get them through a rough period. New credit card offers with lower interest and even zero after roll over of another card debt are slim and far between. And some homeowners have already maxed out their equity in their homes to get out of credit card balances.

Remember when you could get your home refinanced for 125% of its value? Or when if you wanted a home refinance or home improvement loan the estimator sent out to value you house stayed in the driveway so he got the address right and filled in the value number the bank wanted for the loan? We all though home values were going to continue to rise. My father, whose parents rode out the Great Depression, told me to never borrow more than 70% of what my home was worth and only believe 80% of what I was told it was worth and don't buy what you cannot afford.

But even those that stick by those rules can get caught when they lose their jobs, or have a major medical crisis that results in the loss of a job and escalating medical debt. If the United States is bailing out those companies that set the trap why are they not helping those that fell into it. The first group is being investigated for felonies by the FBI. The second group is being thrown out of their homes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Consumer confidence at an all time low

I went shopping last Friday. I drove over to Taos because the price of gas was down and I needed some things not available in my local area. I did try the local stores first and had been working on a list for a couple of weeks. I used to dash over to Taos almost weekly. It is where the Wal-Mart is.

I stopped going to Wal-Mart during the poisoned Chinese pet food debacle. I found Wal-Mart re-price coding some of the pulled lots and putting them back on the shelves. And I never by non-freezing windshied wiper fluid there since the stuff froze all over my windshied while driving through Pueblo during a snow storm. But Wal-Mart did have my printer ink, and security envelopes for the two bills I have to pay with real checks and not on line. I went to Albertson's for the pet food. Sorry, I will not forgive Wal-Mart for my dead cat.

Wal-Mart seems to be about the only company in America showing a profit this year. Grocery stores are flat. But the electronic stores and the finer stores are really hurting. Even with lower prices consumers are buying just the necessities.

My list was just the necessities and still it exceeded my budgeted amount. Seems that gas prices may have gone down but products have not followed suit yet. One of the necessities I had to get was windshield wiper blades. I went to Auto Zone because they have a brand I prefer (yeah, Wal-Mart may have had them cheaper but we are back to that confidence thing).

Snow was heading into my area so I changed out the old blades for the new winter ones the next morning, turned on the wipers to see if they were on correctly. Next morning as the snow is starting I had to run into the local village five miles away and the plastic clip holding on one blade broke. Pieces of plastic flew across my field of vision. I dashed into the local auto store and got another blade at $2 more expensive than the one I got in Taos but what can you do?

I really feel that this consumer drop in spending is not just about money. It is about paying higher and higher prices for lower quality stuff, and in some cases poison. And why are we paying such high prices? Fuel costs? Or is it because of golden parachutes and CEO bonuses? The whole focus on the economy and the bailout has made the American consumer more aware of what is behind the price of that piece of plastic that broke and sent the new windshield wiper flying. I can remember when those clips were metal. And when they were made in the United States.

Even if I had the money, at the moment, to buy the non-essentials I sincerely doubt I would. I feel like I am buying crap and being ripped off so some CEO can get his billion dollar bonus. What Christmas shopping I do will be at a local arts fair this Thanksgiving. Nothing from a department store or a big box store. Definitely nothing from Wal-Mart. Oh, the envelopes seem to be okay, but I think I will order the printer's ink from HP by Internet next time I need some and just save the trip over the mountain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Can Think Again

A funny thing happened on the way to the presidential election. I rediscovered my love for reading essays and editorials.

When I lived in Washington, DC and worked for a US Senator I read the Washington Post and New York Times editorials every morning. It was part of the job description. Morning coffee generally included lively discussions about one or more op-ed pieces.

Since those heady days within the workings of power there has been a dumbing down of America. Even President Bill Clinton hid his brains behind Arkansas folksy talk and stories about hogs. GW Bush and his current White House cabinet openly scorns expertise and avoids words with multiple syllables (not that GW can pronounce them).

But there is a new age as Nicholas D. Kristof writes in his New York Times op-ed piece: Obama and the War on Brains. Seems our new President-elect is an ", out of the closet intellectual" complete with favorite philosophers and poets. John F. Kennedy was our last president to be openly intellectual. President Bush, adopted anti-intellectualism as administration policy, and supported No Child Left Behind which merely tests memorized knowledge not your use of it. NO THINKING. Studies show that fully 1/5th of our school children believe the sun orbits the earth. And Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country and not a continent.

Our new President to be thinks. Which all leads me to wonder what Bush and Obama talked about in the White House Oval office for an hour yesterday. Obama talks in paragraphs rather than sound bytes as Kristoff points out in his op-ed piece. Bush frequently does not finish sentences, and is inclined to give you a three word sentence rather than any serious analysis of the situation.

Kristof mentions several White House intellectuals of the past and that it does not necessarily make them good presidents. But thinking people are happier in the company of knowledge and expertise and we are going to need a lot of both to think us out of the mess GW got us into. President Kennedy surrounded himself with the best and brightest and was open to new thought. As Obama puts together his staff, advisors, and cabinet it looks as if he intends to do the same. With the best and brightest in touch with out new leader we have a chance of solving our problems.

During his transition to power I am thrilled that I can come out of the closet about my intellectualism. To quote Kristof again, "An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read the classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions."

My favorite philosopher is Jean-Paul Sartre. My favorite poets are a rather long list with John Keats and Walt Whitman and e. e. cummings toward the top. Oh, and I now daily read op-ed pieces from the NYT's on the internet every morning. And a growing list of blogs by bloggers who think. I don't even have to get out of the house and go to the news stand which is good since I live a long way from one.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama to hit the White House Running

The pace of the world especially in the dire straights we are in does not allow for a lot of time to celebrate or for Obama any time to grieve the death of his grandmother. He is busy naming his team and setting his agenda (about as difficult as herding cats). I was overjoyed to see he is going to repeal some of GW's executive orders if not all.

Meanwhile I have been swinging from giddy to stunned that it really happened to going through political blog withdrawal. Seems I am not the only one. All my friends seem to be continuing to read the op ed pages available on the internet. I was reading Sails blog this morning and she cited an editorial by Frank Rich. I found the following paragraphs where he describes the morning after really spot on for me:

Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

And aren't we thrilled that Obama and the voters of this United States (no longer divided into red and blue) did prove us wrong. I admit to a definite negativity about the possibility of democracy winning out in the United States. I thought it very ironic that we were "exporting" democracy while erasing it here in the United States with executive orders that allowed its citizens to be spied upon, vanished to Gitmo, marginalized by labeling us terrorist sympathizers, the list goes on. Or was going on, but it looks like our President-elect plans to change that all the minute he takes office.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I began this blog originally as a replacement for my Yahoo!360 blog if it came to that. And then transitioned it into being a political blog in part to explain the primary process to some of my world friends. In that process I learned a great deal.

And than learning has continued throughout the political process. Now I am finding out about the transitional process taking place.

In a world where everything seems to move so fast these days it seemed like an awfully long time from the first Tuesday in November until January 20th when the president-elect is sworn into office and actually takes power. But some things do seem to start happening almost immediately. And is more than just measuring for drapes like McCain joked in the closing days of the campaign.

On Thursday President-elect Obama began getting the same daily national security briefings that the sitting president, GW Bush gets so that he can be up to speed on world issues. And, as we have seen, Obama has begun to put his staff together and begin the vetting process for his cabinet positions. President Bush has promised a smooth transition of power. But we do know from 2001 that does not always happen.

Out-going President Bill Clinton's staff passed off with some urgency information about a possible major terrorist attack that the Bush incoming staff ignored. Depending on what side of the conspiracy theories you are on they either elected to ignore it with willful intent because they figured it was minor and when it occurred might advance their agenda or the were disdainful of any information coming from Democrats. The result was the same: 9/ll. And as it happens Bush/Cheney got to advance their agenda of depriving citizens of privacy and civil liberties and having an excuse (all be it a thin one) to invade Iraq and make millions for Haliburton.

Let us all hope that this hand-off of power is smoother this time and no balls are dropped intentionally or accidentally. The economy is going to be a major hand-off and no doubt GW is ready to see quit to that issue. And Obama seems to have given priority to picking his economic advisers. Will the current White House staff allow them to call some plays early for the sake of the American people and the world? Let us hope so.

As for this blog I am looking forward to learning about the transition process and sharing my views here. But I am also looking ahead to covering some of the issues that concern me most as the US and the world move forward together. Needless to say this list includes global warming, over-fishing of our seas, green energy, water and its misuse, nuclear power plants and their placement on fault line, disposal of nuclear waste in my part of the country, etc. I don't think I will get bored.

Note: Opening illustration is Marcel Duchamp's Virgin Transitioning to Bride.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Word for Today - Validation

Now that I have stopped dancing about the election Tuesday, and gotten another day to sleep off the fatigue of working at the polls during this very critical contest for America and the world, and read all the blogs about what it meant for so many on a very personal level let me just I believe Obama's victory was validation for all I have believed since my idealistic youth.

Yes, we can change the direction the world is going. Mom, would have said it was going to Hell in a handbasket. I frankly at times felt more like I was in one of those mining cars in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

So my word for today is validation. Complicated word. It seems to be used by engineers and computer scientists and a whole host of other technical trades. For the complete list of what validation can mean I refer you to Wikipedia. Enjoy. After a quick scan and then more in depth spot reading that was totally off point I found what I wanted:

In psychology and human communication, validation is the reciprocated communication of respect which communicates that the other's opinions are acknowledged, respected, heard, and (regardless whether or not the listener actually agrees with the content), they are being treated with genuine respect as a legitimate expression of their feelings, rather than marginalized or dismissed.

In case you missed it that was what President Elect Obama and Senator McCain did in their respective speeches on Tuesday night. It is what we need to continue to do in the years ahead. GW Bush and his administration contantly marginalized or dismissed the opinions of others. It made us angry then it made us fearful.

I am reminded of the time riding in the passenger seat of my brother's sports car and telling him he was in the wrong lane. The first time I thought he had not heard. But thinking it was important because the lane in question was the parking and unloading lane on a very busy street and their were vehicles parked in it up ahead I said it again.

He told me he was driving and I should shut up. Well, as soon as we slipped the MG under the semi truck trailer ahead I thought that would be a foregone conclusion. Decapitated you cannot talk. So I screamed at him that he needed to get to the left lane or slam on the brakes. He finally saw what I was so excited about and we narrowly avoided an accident. But he had to dis me afterwards by reminding me he was driving. I asked him to stop the car and I got out. I was five miles from home from my house and had to call a cab to pick me up but I never rode as a passenger in his car again.

This is frankly exactly how I have felt the last eight years in the United States. I would have called a cab if I had known just exactly where I wanted it to take me beyond away from here. And I live about as away from here as you can live and still be within the boundries of the United States. This campaign process was my last attempt to get anyone's attention about where we were heading. And I felt so validated when from the podium those running for office acknowledged where we were heading.

I was scared to death of McCain winning because as we neared the back of the economic truck parked before us he did what GW has done for years and said, "The underpinnings of this economy are sound." I am not an economist but I knew that was wrong two years ago.

I think as we move forward (having changed lanes) it is important to not invalidate anyone's opinion. We need to concentrate on "
reciprocated communication of respect which communicates that the other's opinions are acknowledged, heard and respected. . . ". We are going to have to work together if we are going to avoid a train wreck the like of which they world has never seen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Get to Shout

For those of you that have read this blog before you will know that I posted one about having to whisper for the last eight years or be thought a traitor. Coming out as a Democrat was risky enough in my predominately Republican neighborhood and a definitely Republican county, but then to say I was for Barack Obama . . . well, I just figured I had lived a nice long life and if it was over I wanted to go out with a shout and not a whisper. And if McCain won I wanted to emigrate to another country.

So yesterday found me working as an Obama poll watcher in Angel Fire. I and the other volunteers recruited by the Obama campaign were there to insure that regardless of who won we could say this election, as opposed to the last two, was run and won fairly. I told myself that was all I wanted - fairness. The sweeping victory of Barack Obama was icing on the cake. I can now believe that America has a chance of reclaiming its position as a beacon of hope in the world.

Everyon can read the national coverage of this race. But I would like to say something about precinct 01B in Colfax county, New Mexico. There are approximately 1100 registered voters. Of those 1100 the poll judge believes approximately 200 need to be purged from the rolls. This is done through death, notification the person is now registered to vote elsewhere or if they miss voting in two presidential elections. Of the remaining 900 approximately 300 had voted early or by absentee. Before I left my post at four 519 had cast their vote. That is a damn nice turnout.

The poll challenger for Obama, watching all voting irregularities, called me after the final count to say that in our majority Republican precinct Obama had lost by only 34 votes. A lot of Republicans crossed party lines to vote for him and for our new Democratic Senator Tom Udall who carried the precinct. As thrilled as I am that my Red State turned Blue yesterday I am even happier that this election did not seem to be about party as much as it has under GW Bush. (mind you I am not moving to the deep south any time soon). Hopefully, this election will heal political divides that have separated this country for the last eight years, and that Barack Obama's election will heal the racial divides that McCain's base proved still exists among the Joe Six Packs of this nation.

And because Our President elect is a man who is willing to talk and not invade there is hope that we as citizens of the world can come together to address issues like global warming, the global economy, world peace, religious freedom.

But first given the mandate this election gave him, Barack Obama has to heal the wounds inflicted upon this country by the last 10 years of divisive politics. I have great hope that he can. Especially now that we are all allowed to talk outloud without fear of being sent to Gitmo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Not just about us

One of the greatest things about the Internet and Blogland is the ability to be friends with people from around the world. Since posting my first blog I have gotten to know a lot of people in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

I have been amazed how involved they all are in our elections. And have gotten a chance to exchange opinions with them on world affairs.

Bill is one of my oldest and dearest blog friends and he wrote the following poem for me to post or use as I saw fit to give his view of our election. AND our need to vote. Some countries make voting mandatory and they don't understand our low voter turnout. I don't know that I do either.

Tuesday is our chance to say how we want things to be in the future or just how upset we are with how it is at the moment or has been for the last eight years. It isn't just about us in these times of global connections. I give you Bill from across the sea and his view.

Polling Day

So the choice is yours to select your man
You, just you, are the only one that can
With your vote.

You have shouted and hollered
No one interested, no one bothered
For your vote

You ve been push and pulled, lied to wooed
Cheered and booed.
For your vote

We need a change
We need to fight
With your vote

Right now you have the power
For most, this is your hour
For your vote

Ask not what your country can do for you
Ask what you can do for your country
With your vote

Long remember that man on Earth
Earn his respect and show your worth
As he did with your vote

The choice is yours, don’t cut it fine
Be patient as you wait in line
With your vote

You want a winner?
They don’t come thinner
For your vote

So what can you do for U.S.A.
For Europe and the World
You have the flag of freedom
So let it then unfurl
Look over that horizon
It is your very last chance
Come, join in the party
As to Freedom do we march
Vote Democrat
Vote Obama
We the World need you.
Your vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


This says it all:

Down to the final hours

The CNN countdown to election clock just reported 2 days, 10 hours, and 50 minutes until the polls close on yet another election for President of the United States. We are all suffering election fatigue. Nothing new there. Some of us were tired of this months ago.

Now the post traumatic stress disorder kicks in. Having had the last two presidential elections stolen caused a lot of PTSD among the voters.

I remember in the closing hours of the 2000 election praising the citizens of the United States for not rioting in the streets over that. Any third world nation would have and the UN would have sent in peace keepers. In 2004 while the BBC was alleging irregularities that the US press were only barely covering I thought maybe it was not a good thing there was no rioting in the streets. If they try to pull this this again I am personally going to be in the streets leading the riots until I am arrested and hauled off to Gitmo.

That said I do hope all works smoothly and in the spirit of democracy which GW Bush gives a lot of lip service to even if he has the tendency to undermine it here on our shores. I hope he does not allow a terrorist attack (or encourage one) to sway the election. I hope nobody tries to assassinate either candidate despite the inflammatory rhetoric being tossed around by McCain/Palin. I hope that there are no last minute major highway renovations in heavily Democratic precincts. Or that any new registrations have gotten lost by Republican administrations.

We still do have computerized voting machines with no paper trails that can be reprogrammed with a cellphone in the parking lot of some major precincts. But we have Federal attorneys lined up for calls on Tuesday should there be any voting irregularities. And I do believe we have gotten rid of all hanging chads.

In some areas which suffered some major issues in 2000 and 2004 the early voting has been up to 60% of the registered voters. These people do not want their opportunity to vote yanked away from them as in the past. And yet my friend in a neighboring community reports that his friends think the election is so in the bag they do not have to take the time to vote. Shame!

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone that could vote did vote? If we surpassed that 1/3 we usually hover around because we truly believe nobody counts them anyway. Went all the way up to the 60% they are projecting for this election and into that rare space of above 75% of registered voters. How historic would that be?

But I just want an honest count. I want the United States to reclaim its reputation (sorely damaged in the last two presidential elections) of being a model of voting propriety.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Remembering History

Been talking a lot of late about history with others in my neighborhood of my age who are rallied by the Barack Obama campaign to get active again in politics. A lot of the campaign workers are young and there are lots of questions about their feelings and they question our past too. What was it like when we were fighting against Vietnam, etc.

A friend of mine just posted the following YouTube video. I was impressed. And want to pass it on in these closing days of the campaign when we are all tired of campaign rhetoric.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Color Me Blue

I live in a decidedly Red county. We are so Republican here that most of us Democrats whisper. Yeah, whisper. In fact, my most daring move since marching to end the war in Vietnam in the 60's was to put an Obama/Biden magnet on my car. It has definitely chilled the air at the hardware store.

But at the market women friends are motioning me into quiet aisles to shake my hand. This has slowed down progress a bit but made me feel that I was not totally alone in a sea of red? BTW why did the Republicans get red?

Anyway, New Mexico has been a red state on the electoral map the last few elections. But in the last week CNN has been painting it leaning blue. That is the lighter shade of blue given to states that have a history of being heavily Democrat.

And this morning as I was reading the latest polls I discovered that New Mexico is not even considered in contention any more. It is Blue. I'm dancing. Well, not actually dancing but I am no longer whispering. Still I am the only Obama sign in my window on my street. Too early to feel too sure of myself here, but not quite as alone. I may go to the local grocery store and see if I can actually talk out loud in front of the meat and cheese counters.

You know who must be feeling really alone these days is John McCain. His running mate Sarah Palin seems to be stealing all the news coverage (about her fancy wardrobe and hairstyling) as well as drawing all the crowds at speaking events. And Obama's crowds are huge. But he does keep on keeping on. And he is the comeback kid. Heck, even he thought his naval career was over after the Forrestal incident, but Daddy pulled him out.

What scares me at this juncture is that GW (also a very lonely person just now) may allow some terrorist incident to occur just to boost McCain's numbers. For all my UK readers that is not just paranoia. It is how far the political system and our faith in it has sunk here in the United States. Between hanging chads, Supreme Court rulings they had no legal right to make, 9/11, 2004 voter registration and poll number irregularities we won't believe in the result even after it is counted of McCain comes out on top.

Obama needs such a commanding lead going into election day that to pull a switcheroo on the American people would cause rioting in the streets.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Three Party System

This image may be taking the low road but with Halloween just around the corner I could not resist it. Incidentally, it is a real photo. No playing with the digital image. McCain said he made the face because he once again tried to walk off the wrong side of the stage. Message there?

I will leave that argument for commentators. I was more interested in a statistic I read today about the numbers of Republicans and Democrats in the United States. For European readers we are not evenly split. Nor is everyone in the United States Republican or Democrat.

In 2004 these two parties were evenly split with 37% of registered voters each. Which left 26% of registered voters "Independent". Read "Independent" as none of the above which is sometimes the only choice you get besides Republican and Democrat. There are Libertarians, Green Party, American Communist Party and yes, the American Nazi Party in some states. But few of those "also rans" manage to rally to the primaries. So some people, especially here in the Mountain West, will list themselves on the rolls as Republican or Democrat in order to vote in the primary and have a voice that early on. But I digress. That may be an entirely different blog.

Today the Democrats are 37% of the registered voters (less the newly registered which have not been effectively counted yet) and the Republicans are only 29%. That less than a third of the voters in the US is now radically split between the "educated conservatives" (their term) and Joe Six Pack or the "religious right."

So both parties have been playing the the independents to put their brand over the top in this election. This is just a guess but I think the 9% drop in registered Republicans defected to the Independents because of their unwillingness to be connected with that extreme religious right the Republicans have been courting the last few elections.

Do we have a three party system? No, because independents are just that - independent thinkers. And that is especially true here in the Mountain West. Many of us moved here because we did not like the rank and file of corporate America or big city living. We are very right on some issues - we want state control of our water and other resources. And very left on others - for me that is a woman's right to control her own life, but we are very independent on our liberal issues. Getting independents to agree on issues of importance to them is rather like herding cats.

Can any two parties pull us into their fold? I doubt it. Can McCain find the right direction to exit the stage? I doubt it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Heart and Soul

I have voted already but as the old redneck saying goes I still have a dog in this hunt. I am still very carefully watching the process of this race for the White House.

Barack Obama is in Hawaii this morning with his gravely ill grandmother, and McCain is on the campaign trail running one of the most misleading and dirty campaigns in history.

Barack Obama has heart and McCain (like GW Bush) has none. Obama took time off of the most important race of his life to give Toot a hug and kiss because he doesn't think she will make it to election day.

McCain came back from Vietnam to rejoin his wife that had been in a near fatal automobile accident and was still undergoing serious reconstructive surgery and began a year long, and not very secret, affair with Cindy. He later divorced the first Mrs. McCain because sbe was no longer the tall willowly model he had married.

Why do we call him a hero? He that abandoned his captain in a burning plane and then went AWOL from the Forrestal while it was still in flames. Nero may have fiddled while Rome burned but McCain sat in the ready room watching his ship burn on closed circuit television.

Obama said on Good Morning America: "One of the things I want to make sure of is that I had a chance to sit down with her and talk to her," Obama told Roberts. "She's still alert and she's still got all her faculties. And I want to make sure that I don't miss that opportunity right now."

This man has heart and soul. And McCain has none. He is all naked ambition and has already proved he will sell his soul and his honor to become President of the United States. He is willing to betray everyone including his own ethics (frankly, after reading the Forrestal incident, I doubt he had any) to become President of the United States.

This sounds a great deal like GW Bush, who was willing to lie to the nations of the world in order to invade Iraq. Something he wanted to do since his daddy left Saddam alive when he pulled out of Dessert Storm.

We are entering (the economists now admit) a world wide recession. Who do we need at the helm of the ship of state? Someone with heart and sould that will feel what we are all going through and try to remedy it? Or someone with his own comforts and goals at heart that will be worrying only about his record as president? Sound familiar. McCain is more like Bush than he will ever admit. Vote NO to four more years of the same thing.

Note: Opening photo is of the Heart and Soul Nebulae

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Have Voted

In part because New Mexico was one of the states investigated in 2004 by the BBC for voting and registration irregularities I drove the three hour round trip to my county seat to vote early.

I drove through the ranch land dominated by McCain/Palin signs on fences to vote for Obama. I had two Democratic candidates I wanted to support and one I decidedly wanted to vote against. I wanted my vote to count. I did not want problems on election day and have to cast a provisional ballot.

I am a registered Democrat but mostly because in this state the Democrats seem to have more people running in the primaries to vote for. If the Republicans have one for every office in the primaries they are doing well. In my youth I even was on the staff of a Republican Senator who was working to end the war in Vietnam. I vote issues and people. Not parties.

Well, until this whole Red State/Blue State crap. I wore blue to vote but I refuse to be so branded. And I think we need serious reform with the Electoral College. States should be able to divide their electors on the basis of percentage of vote. We can divide our Senators and our Congressmen. I voted for Democratic Senator Udall. He has been my US Representative for a good many years and I like his approach to issues and his response to his constituency. His vacated congressional seat is being hotly contested. I don't like the Democrat Lujan or the Republican so I voted Independent. I don't think he has a snowball's chance in the Bahamas but at least I can say I did not vote and am not responsible for either of the other two.

I wish there had been, like on the multiple choice tests of college, a "none of the above" option. There were a couple instances when I would have opted for that. As it was I chose to not vote for a couple choices merely because I wanted it known that I did not approve of any choice offered me.

If either party learns anything from this election it should be that we do not like the electoral college as it stands today. I makes it so possible, as in 2000, for a person not liked by the majority of the people to be made president, and it leads to sharp divisions at a time when we should unite to solve our problems. And negative campaigning just makes it harder and harder to come together after the election.

If the parties are not going to work together for reform on elections, the electoral college, and campaign financing then we need to start a movement for a Constitutional Convention to change it ourselves.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I am Totally Confused

Everyday I read the polls. Remember when there used to be just the Gallup Poll? Oh, that it were so easy these days. There must be a hundred different polls out there. And then there are these averages of polls. The New York Times with Really Clear Politics does this and so does CNN with its Poll of Polls.

I too statistics. I know what proper polling technique is and I don't think all of these do it right or there would not be such variance. As if to prove me right I got this poll call yesterday. A national one. Not a state one. I get lots of those. Not as many since the primary is over but being a registered Democrat in a Red State gets me some not always welcome attention. Which is why this national phone call had me scratching my head.

"How sure are you that you will vote in this election?"


"Will you vote early?"

"If I find the gas money and time to drive to the county court house an hour and half from here."

"How sure are you that you will be voting for John McCain?"

"I am absolutely positive that I will not be voting for John McCain.

"You won't be voting for John McCain?

"Correct. I absolutely will not be voting for John McCain."

"Thank you for your time."

After we hung up I wondered why they would call a Democrat in this particular poll which was obviously to boost McCain poll numbers. The questions were not blind and her tone was not unbiased or neutral. I also wonder if they put a check in "will be voting for McCain" just because they didn't have a box for "absolutely positive I will not."

Sometimes it can be fun living in a Red State. Especially one that has just been painted Blue. And today I got called by the Obama Campaign and I am going to be an official Obama Poll Watcher. I am wearing my antique American Flag lapel pin which belonged to my grandmother. It has 48 stars. Sorry Hawaii but I just did not want to wear a star for Alaska. I am so embarrassed by them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Republicans Split?

Found the following interesting article this morning while browsing the web for political news:

The New York Post's Page Six reports that at a recent gathering of Republicans in mid-town Manhattan the other night, opinions were running almost universally against Sarah Palin:

NEW York Republicans are not too thrilled at the idea of Sarah Palin as their vice presidential candidate. The other night, private equity firm New Mountain Capital held a debate between James Carville and Karl Rove at Stone Rose in the Time Warner Center. When the moderator asked the 200 Republicans in the room how many were comfortable with Palin becoming president if something were to happen to John McCain, "only one man raised his hand," an attendee reports.

But here's the thing: If you convened a similar meeting of Republicans in Manhattan, Kansas, chances are they'd be in favor of Palin by a similar margin.

I believe Mike Murphy was the first to point out that Sarah Palin would be a "polarizing" choice, though he was talking about her impact on the general electorate.

But Palin has obviously ignited a split within a portion of the GOP as well. There are some Republicans - generally speaking, the upper class elites who live in the DC-NYC corridor - who are simply aghast at Palin and see her as a "fatal cancer" on the party.

But it's clear that the rank and file of the Republican party - generally speaking, the middle class folks who live in red states and don't have a problem shopping at Wal Mart - are smitten with Palin (judging by how they've been flocking to the rallies) in part because they see her as one of their own.

It has me wondering with McCain's age and iffy health issues and now Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama if there will not be other Republican defections in the voting booth.

There has been a lot of talk about the Bradley effect and whether people that publicly say they are voting for Obama will will let their secret racism carry the day inside the privacy of the voting booth. But now we have the possible Palin effect. Will a lot of Republicans in the west and east be unable to face putting Palin a heartbeat away from the Presidency? Let's hope so.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A question for my learned friends

It has been a vast number of years since I was in college and we sat around and argued the esoteric as if it really mattered. Somehow I think that if all of us had paid more attention to those discussions we might not be in this economic mess we are in today.

One of those discussions had to do with pure socialism and pure capitalism. The USSR has proven their communistic state did not reach pure socialism because of the greed of its leaders. We have just proved we could not reach pure unregulated capitalism because of the greed of our leaders and corporations. Russia is now trying capitalism and we are dipping our toes in socialism.

And I don't mean the socialism that McCain says that Obama will lead us into but the socialism that G. W. Bush has already had voted into practice: the ownership and control over our biggest "industry" the banks and investment firms. McCain wants to continue with deregulation which got us into this maelstrom which means we can yet own more industry in the US. And Obama wants controls that would not just rescue the financial firms that got themselves into this pickle but us lowly members of the middle class that are suffering because we don't have golden parachutes.

So here is the question: If there are always two ways to get to some desired goal - let us say a Utopian society like Plato wrote about - which will get us there faster? Or given that you never reach the ultimate - which will get us closer sooner.

I maintain that if John McCain were to achieve the White House and continue with the agenda that he and Sarah Palin have advocated we would see rioting in the streets. And we would also see a breakup of the United States as we know it (not unlike what went on in the USSR when communism failed). But Republican candidates advocate giving the states more discretion on their laws re abortion, etc. And since they obviously will be giving us and the states we live in less money why play? I say we get our National Guard home, make them a state militia and declare ourselves independent. Hey, Sarah advocated that for Alaska. As a resident of New Mexico I am willing to consider a compact with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona (if it kicks out the McCains).

A part of me really wants this direction. I am not overly fond of the government of late. Like the last eight years. But there would be chaos for a while and I am not sure the majority of our TV fed population could deal with chaos. And that could be a good thing as far as population reduction. I doubt they could feed themselves without microwaves.

Obama, on the other hand, offers the gentle route toward Utopia. I just think because it keeps people fat, dumb and happy (and the microwaves working) it will take one hell of a lot longer to get there. Don't get me wrong. I am voting for Obama but I have my contigency plans for a McCain victory, his death from poison, and the succession of Palin as president. God, what a nightmare.

So what do you think? What are you prepared for? This is more than three days until FEMA shows up provided it has the money to respond to any disaster these days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Voting Fraud?

In the 2004 election New Mexico was one of the three states investigated by the BBC for voting fraud.

We have always rather excelled at the graveyard vote but this was different. We had those computerized voting machines with no paper trail and evidently a large number of those voting somehow missed voting for President. And then it was shown that with a cell phone votes could be changed from the parking lot.

New Mexico, under the leadership of Governor Bill Richardson changed over to paper ballots in the 2006 election. We were one of the first. Ohio still hasn't fully transferred back to polling with a paper trail. Nor has Florida I understand.

But irregularities at the polling places was not the only irregularity. Here in New Mexico a Republican organization in 2004 made a major drive to register voters. Seems they only registered Republican voters. And when those that thought they had registered Democrat showed up at the polls there was no record of their registration. They were allowed to cast provisional ballots but when no verification of their registration showed up the ballots were not counted.

So a couple months back someone professing to be from the Democratic Party called to ask if I wanted a mail in ballot. They would have one sent to me if I did. They said I could still take the mail in ballot to the polling place on the actual election day if I chose to do that.

My friends choosing to mail in their ballots have all received them. Once said the deadline for returning them was November 4th. I started to wonder about the information I had received over the phone so I called the Secretary of State Office. And she said that no way would I be allowed to vote on the day of the election if I was sent a mail in ballot. She referred me to the Colfax County Clerk who was very helpful. She checked the computer records and no request for a mail in ballot was made in my name. And I would have had to sign the form.

So my choices now are early voting an hour and a half from here or wait to the actual day. But there is something strange about that too. In the dozen years I have lived here we have always voted at the Community Center. They have changed it to the Angel Fire Courthouse - Clerk's office which is considerably smaller and which would require we all stand outside to wait to vote. This in November and with a far heavier than turnout expected.

So next week I am taking a day and driving to the County Clerk's office in Raton to vote. I really do not trust the process after GW cheated his way into office twice. So I am willing to go the extra miles and take the extra time to avoid being excluded from the process.

Paranoid? Maybe.