Thursday, May 28, 2009

A World without Modifiers?

Let me begin the blog with a modifier. We are not all as alike as the golden rays in the picture here.
And thank goodness for that.

People are diverse and unique and I do think that is wonderful but I also dream of a world where certain things and individuals do not have to be singled out with a modifier. As in first Hispanic female Supreme Court nominee. Or gay marriage. Or first black president of the United States.

Though I hope I live to see the day we have the first lesbian woman president not because of any personal bias but it will mean that we have come a long way as unbiased voters.

Not using (or feeling we have to use modifiers) to identify certain individuals is singling them out and showing that we are not totally accepting of them in that office or action or our lives. When we can say simply Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor she will be free to be the best supreme she can be without regard to race or sex. And we will be free to not add conditions.

I especially am repulsed by the racial modifiers to American. I loathe the term Anglo American. Who picked that? The Hispanic Americans? In this age of increasing ethnic diversity it calls for arbitrary judgments and usually on the part of people that haven't a clue.

And while we are dropping modifiers how about Liberal Democrat and Conservative Republican. Your guess as to what is the modifier here - first word or last word? I like the term Centralist because it usually is not paired with anything to belittle it.

So here is to President Barack Obama, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, and marriage between two individuals that want to share their lives together.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Slipped Under the Radar

It has been a busy week in the political news with President Obama taking hits for doing what he promised to do which was close Gitmo, and Cheney defending his right to torture. All juicy fodder for a political blog. But while the talking heads and OpEd pieces were covering these headliners another more worthy subject almost slipped under the radar: Yucca Mountain. Obama is not going forward with plans for it to receive all the nuclear waste in the United States.

For decades the sparsely populated mountain west has been seen by politicians as wasteland suitable only for depositing of nuclear waste. This goes back to Los Alamos and the making of the first atomic bomb and black barrels of questionable materials just flung into arroyos to drift down stream during our rare gully washers, to Rocky Flats where it is all kept in metal buildings on the edge of a now huge town like Boulder.

There have been some improvements. Now the government touts the employment opportunities of huge waste management places like WIPP near Carlsbad, New Mexico or Yucca Mountain. Yes, they are putting more thought into the internment of nuclear and toxic waste but in my opinion not nearly enough research. There are questionable earth stability issues in both places. And out of sight/out of mind always bothers me. WIPP lets the earth encase the dangerous materials in salt layers. Isn't salt corrosive? And once encased you cannot go back and check things out.

But my primary concern is transportation. I was at a town meeting in Tennessee once where they were closing down a nuclear facility. The local residents wanted all the "trash" moved. There were considerable problems with the route trucks would take as the towns on the way did not want it passing through. I lived in one of those towns. One citizen stood up and offered the suggestion that why didn't the military just fly it out in one of their C130's.

Well, if there is anything worse than a nuclear accident from a truck crash in a small town, or a train collusion going through Kansas city it is the crash of a C130 heavily loaded with nuclear waste say in Dallas, Texas.

Yes, maybe WIPP and Yucca mountain are totally safe, though those of us in the fallout zone might not think so, but getting it there is stupid in my opinion. There are no good options short of not moving it at all. You want a nuclear power plant then you get to keep the waste. Part of the expense of building the facility should be building the tomb for the byproducts. In short: Keep your shit.

And you might want to consider water at these remote entombment sites. It is mostly underground. Or it goes downhill to places like Phoenix that even built a special canal to take it all from the Colorado River. More and more desert areas with endless golf courses and retirement villages seem to want the mountain water. This could be the same water you are contaminating with your nuclear waste stored out of sight and out of mind under mountains over vast underground aquafers.

We won't know until we all glow in the dark.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just Say No?

We have become a society of NO. Just say no to drugs campaign began this. And then there was say no to sex before marriage which is something that did not work for a Palin child and thousands of others. Now we are wondering if the Republicans are the party of NO and how is that working for them?

Hecklers at the ND graduation ceremonies tried to say NO to Obama's right to freedom of speech. It was all about his stance to not say NO to abortion.

Everyone is in an uproar because five states and the District of Columbia have now said yes to gay marriage while the other 45 states still say no.

This all brought to mind one of my favorite bumper stickers: Against Abortion: Don't have one. I think this can be used on a number of various issues today. Against Gay Marriage: Don't say I do. Against teen sex: Just say NO after the first kiss. Against pornography: Don't go there.

Why is it we seem to demand that all people subscribe to our set of morals? Rowe vs. Wade was not anti-abortion but pro the rights of privacy of women. Two men or two women entering into a sanctioned union does not hurt the institution of marriage. The rampant rate of divorces among heterosexuals does that all by itself.

Some argue that prostitution can be legalized and managed and therefore not harmful to the participants. It is the illegal aspect that allows pimps to abuse their stable. Or allow STD's to run untreated through the streets. It is men wanting privacy about their acts that prevents them informing their wives. How a husband and wife deal with this is their business.

We get into some gray areas with pornography. It is not a totally victimless crime and especially if it involves children younger than the age of consent. And some argue that the ready availability of violent porn creates serial killers. I happen to think they are born and not made. I think adults have the right to engage in pornographic acts if they chose.

We also have the right to not be of a Christian faith if we choose. And we should not be abused with e-mails that slander our choice of faith or political position or moral stance. We all have the right to freedom of speech without being heckled even if we are not president of the United States. And the graduates of ND had the right to not attend or protest outside. But when they interrupt they not only infringe upon the speakers right to free speech but the audience's right to listen to what is being said.

Your right to not have an abortion should not infringe upon my right to have one (well past that point now). Your right to freedom of religion should not infringe upon my right to worship as I choose or not worship for that matter. Your right to call 900 sex talk numbers should not infringe on my right to not do that. Your right to listen to Rush should not stop me from turning him off.

We need to shut up with this JUST SAY NO crap and listen for a change. Maybe we should start with really listening to ourselves. When did we start being so narrow-minded? Didn't our forefathers come here so they could worship as they chose? Isn't the Declaration of Independence all about freedoms?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Wizard of Oz

If I remember the movie correctly the Wizard of Oz was a fraud, but belief in him gave the cowardly lion, the scare crow, the tin Man and Dorothy the courage to develop a plan and follow a path. And they ultimately found that they always had what it took to solve their problems.

I think there is probably more truth in that then almost any other fairy tale I have read. Though to be totally honest a lot of fairy tales have a very dark side.

The current Wizard of Oz is President Barack Obama. No, I am not saying he is a fraud, but like all idols upon which we hang all our hopes is likely to disappoint at some time. Currently many of my liberal friends are shattered that he is moving to suppress photos of alleged prisoner abuse by our soldiers in foreign lands. Others were upset he shook the hand of President Chavez. Then there is the reinstitution of military tribunals. Or that he is throwing money after the economic situation, and creating an even bigger deficit than the one Bush left us.

And this morning I was reading on Real Clear Politics that b
arring some dramatic breakthrough or a military strike from Israel, Iran is going to become a nuclear power. According to a National Security Network report, "During the eight years of the Bush administration, unnecessary saber-rattling, coupled with a refusal to talk to Iran, did nothing to make America more secure. Indeed, Iran made enormous advances both in nuclear technology and regional prestige."

And if you believe that Iran is just going to lay down its hopes of being a major power in the region and skip down the yellow brick road with the rest of the world you do believe in fairy tales. In fact maybe you are delusional.

The presidency of the United States is not a magic wand. It is not even the Emerald City. It is a huge burden and to an enormous degree has more control over the holder of the office than that individual has with the office supposedly at his command.

In his first 100 days in office President Obama has done an enormous amount to turn around the misguided policies of the previous administration even though they are still out there lobbying that they did everything right. But now is not the time to sit back and begin critizing what he has not done. Now is the time to realize we have power ourselves. Like the lion, and the tin man and the scarecrow we have heart and courage and brains.

Like Dorothy we have always had the power to go home to an America we are proud of. It just may not always be a straight road and it may not be paved with gold like immigrants to our shores once believed. But it is our best hope currently for a world that works for everyone.

Stop yelling at the Wizard! Stop listening to the wicked witches like Cheney and Rush and Ann Coulter. Believe we can do this.

Friday, May 15, 2009

American Roulette

One of my frequent readers pointed out at a meeting (in the real world) recently that I had not updated this blog of late. I told him I was looking for an issue that spoke to me enough to work through the flu haze and inspire a blog.

I am not sure this is it or that I am merely feeling better. I am happy to see that finally there will be some legislation regulating the credit card scam. Is it too little too late? And is the credit card lobby, with the threat of financial collapse, still getting its way?

Yes, I said scam. If your local Mafia member down the block did what credit card companies do with government blessing they would be facing felony charges. I once played what I call American Roulette with credit cards. I had a fantastic credit score and every time I turned around they were raising my credit limit.

And I got endless offers for 0% on balance transfers. Following my skiing accident while going through 2 1/2 years of medical treatment I virtually lived on credit cards. And yes, you can pay your Master Card with your Visa. I was constantly playing one card offer against another, paying on line to avoid late fees (they mail the bills so late that no way can you pay by mail and not be late), and constantly going for the lowest stated interest rate (this can be a lie). Figuratively I was constantly rotating the credit cards like the chamber of a pistol, and like Russian Roulette you eventually come up with the loaded chamber.

My favorite scam of theirs was the one where they raise your interest rate because you called to see if you could get it lowered. This was something Oprah recommended as a way of getting out of debt. If you call and ask, she said, they will work with you. No they won't. Nor will any of those agencies that will give you free debt advice. They are run by the credit card companies to delay you filing bankruptcy. Oh, and by the way, the credit card companies are why we have tougher bankruptcy laws these days. Too many people will getting in trouble with credit cards and using bankruptcy as a get out of jail free card. It is not free and I am not sure Chapter 13 is not jail.

The bill before congress, thanks to President Obama pushing the issue after it has lingered for eight years, will make the small print on card statements larger and easier for a non-lawyer to understand (basically they all said: our game and you are f**ked), and require the credit card provider give you ample notification of raise in interest rates, changes in late fees or shortened billing cycle, etc. What it does not do is cap interest rates. There had been a push to set a limit of 15% but the whiners said that would make it harder for people to get credit cards. So they will still be able to raise your rate to 36% but with 30 day notification.

Yes, there is a loaded chamber in American Roulette. Maybe more than one. And all I can see this bill will do is require them to let you know there is.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Economy getting better???

I have this question: Is the trickle down theory of economics anything like waterboarding?

I was watching various videos by the talking heads on the Internet this morning and it seems that the economic pundits think we have either reached bottom or may actually be on the upswing as it were. This is good news.

But why is it that those that got us into this mess (the banks too big to fail and the investment bankers) will be the first to benefit from this uptick? Don't get me wrong this is probably very good news for me because those that have money (those that did not lose it all) and will now benefit first are my customers as an artist. I will be part of the trickle down theory in action. At least I hope so.

But for the moment I am still in a very difficult financial position. Not as bad as some. I am making my bills if just. But come winter and increased heating costs . . . well, I am looking into low income assistance for that. But last night as I was trying to drop off to sleep and my mind was still running through the 400th permeation of my budget I had to wonder if this was like Chinese water torture. I am one of those formerly middle class that has never learned to work the system. And trying to learn how when sleep deprived is not helping.

I really am looking forward to putting all this behind me and being able to splurge on a t-shirt that says: Been there. Done that.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Highest Court in the Land

During the Obama Presidency he will likely get the opportunity to appoint three justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. It is his opportunity to have the greatest effect on the laws of this country years after he is no longer in office.And it is one of the reasons the Republicans fought so hard to keep him out of office.

The Supreme Court tarnished their image in the 2000 presidential election by going where they should have not gone and issuing a ruling that put GW Bush into the White House. To their credit they knew they were doing wrong and said that ruling can never be used to define constitutional law. It is an exception to the rule. What the Supreme Court does definitely defines the laws of this land. And that is why it should be beyond politics.

President Barack Obama was a constitutional law professor and I personally believe his picks for this high court will be above the political considerations but already the Republicans and Democrats are clamoring to have their say in this regard. They will have to confirm his appointment. And I frankly think that is the only control they should have.

For years appointees had to pass the litmus test - for or against Rowe vs. Wade. But Obama did not use that term when asked. But he mentioned empathy which has all the talking heads going in circles. Heart, guys. He wants a lawyer with heart for the bench. Now that is is going to be difficult to find but I think it definitely excludes most politicians.