Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011: A Brave New Dystopia by Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second. We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled. 
Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse. 
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.”  “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass. 
The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”
The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”
Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.
Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:
“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.
“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”
He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.
The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.
We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.
The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.
“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”
The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.
Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.
“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Water is Essential for Life

As a public health nurse, I learned that modern Public Health began in London when Dr. John Snow discovered in 1854, that sewage dumped into the Thames caused folks downstream to get cholera.  When there were few people on Earth, dumping waste into water sources didn't have much effect, since it all got washed downstream.  But as populations grew, the issues of providing food and clean water, and exporting waste from highly dense population centers became a critical issue.  As such, governments arose to organize food and water transport in, and waste disposal out.  Pigs became a valuable cog in this great wheel because you could keep a pig in a small pen in the backyard and feed it all of your kitchen wastes and night soil.  In turn, the pig would produce juicy little piglets for you to eat or sell. Ancient governments created aqueducts and underground pipes for municipal water supplies, as well as engineers to maintain them.  Of course, the ancient Romans used lead for their water pipes which then caused a great deal of mental retardation and some bizarre imperial behavior. 

Here in California, water is a huge political issue.  As the most populous state, as well as the fruit and vegetable basket of America, water is in great demand.  Although water is considered by some to be a basic human right, and by others as part of the Commons, private corporations are buying up water rights in order to sell it to the people at cutthroat prices.  Case in point: the cities of Boulder Creek and Stockton.  As the environment declines, I foresee water filling stations to rival gasoline stations. 

Even the popularity of plastic bottles of water is based on the suspicion that our tap water is not safe to drink. Considering that taxes paid to governments are used to build water and sewage treatment plants, and when taxes are severely cut, then governments no can longer afford to clean our tap water or treat the sewage before dumping it into the water source.  Now it turns out that the plastic of the water bottles contains BPA which feminizes everyone that is exposed to significant quantities of it.  I filter tap water at home for drinking and cooking. 

In the popular fiction series, Dune, the indigenous people of the desert planet Arakis wore water recycling suits in which they drank their own sweat and urine.  When a member of the tribe died, they would render all the water from the corpse, and pour it into their sacred underground lake from which they drew all their village water needs. 

Although the Ganges River is turbid with pollution, the popular belief is that it purifies everything it touches.  The elderly of India wait to die on the banks of the Ganges so their ashes can be thrown into the river after cremation.  I swam in the Ganges. 

Considering the purification qualities of water, I find it quite amazing to consider that water, a fluid mineral countless millenia old, actually does clean and purify everything it touches.  Water is precious and amazing.  Even in the Holy Bible, water is mentioned in the second sentence of Genesis. 

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Motivational talk from Boot Camp

What has happened to our elected officials' obligation to protect the Common Good for the benefit of all the People?  As an American, I love my liberty and want to protect my right to the pursuit of happiness.  NOW is the time to ACT!  Let us join together in a mighty coalition to restore justice and democracy back to America.  Join me in this effort right now.  If we don't act now, we may never get another chance. 

It has been 150 years since the corporate Robber Barons got the Supreme Court to grant personhood to corporations in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.  The process of corporations co-opting electoral influence culminated in the latest blow to Democracy when 5 Supreme Court justices voted in Citizens United v. FEC to open the floodgates of corporate influence.  It is now the civil right of corporations and trade unions to buy elections.  What happened to the social contract our elected officials have with the human citizens of the United States? 

On September 28, 2010, an appeals Court Exempted Corporations from Alien Tort Law

A federal appeals court has ruled US corporations can no longer be sued for human rights violations abroad under the longstanding Alien Tort Statute. Earlier this month, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Alien tort claims can only be brought against individuals, not corporations. The ruling dismissed a lawsuit accusing the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell of complicity in the murder and torture of Nigerian activists including Ken Saro-Wiwa. In a separate opinion, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval criticized the ruling, writing, "The majority opinion deals a substantial blow to international law and its undertaking to protect fundamental human rights… So long as they incorporate, businesses will now be free to trade in or exploit slaves, employ mercenary armies to do dirty work for despots, perform genocides or operate torture prisons for a despot’s political opponents, or engage in piracy—all without civil liability to victims."  from DemocracyNow! 9/29/10

So now it is clear, a corporation is a person with civil rights to donate unlimited amounts of campaign financing to a political candidate, as well as the right to free speech, but can't be sued for human rights violations.  Are corporations persons or not?  Shades of Skynet....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The CEO President

You know what really gets to me, Christians that love to hate.  I’m referring to Christians who are willing to kill their neighbor because maybe they’re a Muslim, a Jew, a Black, or something like that.  And I ponder now on why would a Christian whose life is guided by the Prince of Peace, who tells them to turn the other cheek and love their neighbors, why would a Christian do something like that?  I think its because there is something fundamentally gullible about believing in a virgin birth.  Not even all the Gospels agree about a virgin birth.  It seems to me that Mary’s virginity is a myth.  Yet many Christian sects depend on that myth to justify their doctrines. 

Christians are willing to believe that Mary was a virgin, that Jesus was completely chaste and never had sex or children, and that women need to be subservient to men.  Many Christians believe that you can go to hell with yourself on Saturday night, then go confess your sins on Sunday morning where Jesus will love and forgive you no matter what you did the night before. 

That person will also be gullible enough to believe that the 9/11 attackers did it because Muslims are fundamentally maniac jihadists.  They may also believe that Muslims need to be wiped off the Earth.  I ask, what if those same people found out that it was really an inside job, perhaps the CIA, that planned the 9/11 attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers?  And that it was CIA put George Bush in office, and arranged the Supreme Court to overrule the Florida Supreme Court in a state’s rights issue. 

Maybe it was the CIA that told George Bush to say, “I am the CEO President.”  You know what?  I should have realized it then, but I realized it today.  Bush declared in 2000 that he was going to be the CEO President and run the country like a corporation.  I’ve got to say that there is absolutely nothing democratic about a corporation.  It is run from the top down whether it has stockholders or not.  The main purpose of a corporation is to make profits.  If there are stockholders, then the main purpose is to generate earnings per share to the stockholders, and profits for the CEO and other administrators. 

A Democracy, or a Republic, is made of the People. A republic is a form of government in which the people retain supreme control over the government and there is no guy at the top calling all the shots.   A Democracy is for the People.  As far as I can see in our government, the President is the executor of what the Congress tells him to do.  Congress is the legislator that represent the People.  Their job is to enact legislation according to the needs and will of the People.  And the President is the executive that carries out the will of the people.  Such is a democratic republic.

A corporation is run by the Board.  Similarly, a democracy is run by the houses of Comgress.  In a corporation, the Board of Directors is responsible to the stockholders to the ultimate result of EPS (earnings per share).  Yet, a democracy is responsible to the total electorate to provide services for the protection and welfare of the People and the Commons.  How can you provide for the welfare of the People if you don’t also protect the Commons?  And so, a democracy is not a profit driven venture.  Our government and country are not for profit; they are for people. The top down governance plan of a corporation is neither democratic nor to benefit the public.  So when GWB stated in 2000 that he was the “CEO President,” I should have known then that the corporations had taken over our country, lock, stock, and barrel. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The NAACP asked me about civil rights

Here is my response:

Hate is clearly on the rise worldwide.  As has been the practice over the centuries, hate is a tool of those in power to unjustly acquire cheap labor and natural resources while fomenting the general public to carry out the injustices based on the derogatory status of the hated population.  Whether the object of hate is blacks, browns, asians, Germans, Russians, Iranians, women, jews, muslims, commies, hippies, pagans, witches, etc., it is all a device to control the masses by those in power. 

As long as our government spends more money on perpetual wars than on the health, welfare, and education of our citizens, generations of youths will be raised in an environment of hate.  It will be all they'll know. 

Legislation is no longer a viable solution.  Legislation and regulation validate the unjust conditions by definition.  The legislators and regulators are more beholding to the war-profiteering corporations than they are to the electorate.  The Constitution has become irrelevant. 

We need a NON-VIOLENT revolution to replace our government with folks who will represent the People instead of the war-profiteers.  The cause of the NAACP is legitimate, as is NOW, NARAL, Greenpeace, NRDC, SPLC, ACLU, Amnesity International, etc., etc.  But I need to focus all my energy on the fundamental ROOT CAUSE of the injustices that are giving rise to hate and racism: corporate power controlling the government. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BP should restore the Gulf to pristine condition

For over 30 years, the annual Rainbow Gathering has constructed a city in pristine wilderness for up to 30,000 to occupy.  The city is constructed using fallen timber lashed together, rocks and mud, all found right at the site.  By the end of the Gathering, new roads, footpaths, pit toilets, and trash are to be found everywhere.  For the next month, a team of dedicated volunteers comb the area and carefully pick up every candy wrapper and cigarette butt until no trash can be found.  Teams of naturalists loosen the soil along all newly trodden areas and painstakingly transplant the same natural flora that can be found in the untouched areas.  By 3 years later, it is impossible to have known that there was a city of 30,000 people on that spot.  The pristine condition of each wilderness area is meticulously restored. 

I would like to see BP, Exxon, and other oil drilling companies held to the same standard as the Rainbow Family of Living Light.  First of all, the government that issues the drilling licenses must keep a bond for each oil well equal to the estimated cost of cleaning up a spill.  In the case of a 5ft pipe tapping into a well the size of the Gulf of Mexico, that bond would be several hundred billion dollars. 

Next, BP will need to not only remove 98% of the oil from the water, coast, sand, and coral reefs, but also restock the Gulf with all the natural species that were there before they started drilling.  That would necessitate a complete study of the flora and fauna of the drilling area before a drilling license can be issued.  In the case of the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, that would mean cleaning all the sand on the floor of the entire Gulf, all the coral reefs, restoring the pH of the water, removing all toxic dispersant chemicals from the water, re-oxygenating the water, and restocking fish and wildlife from manatees to coral to plankton. 

BP has set off a catastrophe that threatens all life on Earth; no amount of money or effort will be able to restore the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea back to pristine condition.  Since this process is virtually impossible, then all offshore drilling should be permanently banned. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We Have No Seeker to Close the Crack in the Earth

I am a fan of a TV series called, The Legend of the Seeker.  One of the major themes in the series is that the Seeker has to close a crack in the Earth from which the Keeper (the master of the underworld) is sending up creatures of death to destroy mankind.   

The petroleum catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico reminds me of the rift from which the baylings spew forth on the TV series.  The Seeker’s evil brother, Darken Rahl, hungry for power and in league with the Keeper, seeks to outwit the Seeker and unleash the End of the World.  To me Darken Rahl represents the petroleum companies.  The Sisters of the Dark remind me of the Republicans, and the equally devious Sisters of the Light remind me of the Democrats.  The series is rife with power hungry double dealers and intrigue; you never know whom to trust.   

Unfortunately, today’s world has no honest Seeker accompanied by a Wizard and a Mother Confessor to close the rift.  There is no hero that’s gonna pull us out of this one.  The oil companies have let the genie out of the bottle and all life on Earth will pay the price.  A total ban on offshore drilling is overdue.  Call your members of Congress and tell them to BAN OFF SHORE DRILLING! 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Desolate in Broward County

November 8, 2004
Greetings from south Florida,

I just came from a birthday dinner celebrating my mother's 88th birthday.  Much of the discussion around the table was about last week's election. 
My mother was too distrustful of the system in Florida to vote by absentee ballot.  She stood on line a total of 5 1/2 hours over 2 days to finally cast her vote.  She was sure to press the review button to make sure all her votes were correct before she pressed the vote button.  Everyone she spoke to on line for those many hours was voting for Kerry.  My mom lives in Broward County
Aunt Rita said that her friend pressed the review button and found a straight Republican ticket.  Her friend called the election monitor who cancelled the ballot and allowed her to vote again.  The second time, the review was correct.  And then she pressed the vote button.  My mom's friend Henny didn't review her ballot.  My nieces were volunteer lawyers at the polls.  They reported that the Republicans at their polls were very calm and courteous.  They suspected the calmness of the Republicans in face of the fact that all the people on line were talking about voting for Kerry was due to the pre-arranged victory of Bush in Florida.  The Republicans were acting like they had nothing to worry about. 
We discussed the investigations currently being mounted by various organizations like BlackBoxVoting.org
.  My mother, who is often wise and has seen much in her 88 years, said there's no use in investigating it.  She said the investigations will go on for a while, and then they will disappear, and no one will mention it anymore.  Like when Senator Kerry was investigating the elder Bush's involvement with illegal drug trade during the Iran-Contra Affair, and suddenly it disappeared inconclusive.  My mom said she is so sick with the results of the election and the outright rampant corruption of the Republicans and the impotency of the Democrats, that she can't even watch the news anymore.  She is totally burnt out on the one party system our government has evolved into.  She just wants to live out her remaining years. 
I feel utterly desolate in Broward County

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.
"The world desires to be deceived; therefore it is deceived. "
(Attributed to Petronius)

Friday, May 07, 2010

An Open Letter to California Assembly Speaker John Pérez

Honorable John Perez,

I heard that you are considering cutting funding for In Home Support Services.  I strongly hope you retain funding for IHSS. 

I am a Credentialed School Nurse with a Masters Degree in Nursing.  I have been laid off my school nurse job and replaced with an unqualified, inexperienced nurse because with my level of education and experience, I am too expensive for school.  All other school nurse positions within 100 miles have either been filled by a neophyte nurse, or not filled at all.  School districts around California no longer can afford to comply with CA Ed. Code or Federal IDEA laws or American Disabilities Act laws regarding school nurses. 

Therefore, my main bread and butter right now is IHSS.  I took a pay cut from $5000/mo as a nurse to $1200/mo as an IHSS worker.  The SEIU also provides me with medical insurance, but will not insure my 2 sons, who are currently uninsured.  My job with IHSS pays most of my mortgage.  Thanks to this job, we have a roof over our heads. 

In addition, thousands of seniors and disabled people are living cheaper in their own homes with the help of IHSS rather than moving to nursing homes and board & care institutions.  There are not enough beds in nursing homes and board & care institutions to accommodate all these people.  I assure you, I have searched far and wide to find a placement for the disabled Korean War veteran that I take care of, but either they can't take a person who needs his level of care, or it is beyond the veteran's meager budget. 

Thanks to the SEIU, IHSS workers earn $9.90/hr.  The SEIU worked hard for several years to raise this rate up to where it is now.  The previous rate, and even the current rate, is not a living wage.  All IHSS workers have to have several jobs in order to live.  I took this job because the previous IHSS workers of this Korean War veteran would steal his stuff and sell it, pilfer his pockets for forgotten money, and steal his credit cards.  The previous IHSS immediately before me racked up $4500 in credit card debt for the disabled veteran in a period of 7 weeks paying her cell phone, PO box, 4 new tires for her car, personal skin care products for herself, magazine subscriptions, and daily restaurants for dinner.  She didn't cook.  It was elder abuse. 

Low wages for IHSS workers leads to elder abuse.  Discontinuing IHSS altogether will overload the system with indigent seniors and disabled people with no beds available in our current institutions. 

If your aim is to stimulate free enterprise by dumping the impoverished seniors and disabled on to the streets hoping to stimulate private investment in beds for people who can't afford to pay for them, you are very, very mistaken. 

IHSS is part of the social safety net that our government is designed to promote for the general welfare of the people as is stated in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States.  In addition, God commands us in the Bible to provide for the sick, elderly and disabled in our communities.  Since the state of California no longer values the education or health of our children and has followed a course decades long of cutting public education and public health, it obviously has higher priorities than serving our youth, jobs, and future industry.  Now the state of California wants to cut off funding for IHSS which keeps the elderly and disabled safe and cared-for in their own homes. 

The state of California sounds like it is in a suicidal, self-destructive course, yet continued paying a decade worth of cutthroat rates for energy based on fraudulent contracts signed with ENRON in 2001.  It seems OK to violate the social contract the elected leaders have with the electorate to serve the Common Good, but it is not alright to violate the fraudulent contracts made with ENRON.  I think the budget priorities of the state of California are very mixed up. 

The state has already cut me down to my knees by cutting funds to public education.  Don't cut me down to the ground by cutting funds to IHSS, my main income and the only way my Korean War veteran boss can continue to live at home on a small fixed income. 


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bush turns his greatest failure into his greatest victory - old post

Having suppressed and ignored good intelligence, having fired the agents who provided it, having sent the air defense teams to Canada to do “exercises” so that they were unavailable on 9/11, and having sat dumbfounded in a classroom in Florida allowing 3 more planes to be highjacked after hearing the news, George W. Bush turned his greatest failure into his greatest victory by declaring himself the “War President” and carrying out a retaliatory vendetta in the Middle East.  With a little spin, Bush will turn each of his monumental failures into a glorified victory which will require even more suppression of civil rights, more job losses, more vendettas abroad, and more debt for our unborn grandchildren to shoulder.  It is truly amazing how Bush’s spin masters can keep the wool pulled over the eyes of America. 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

These Crazy Times - Comment from Grandpa Dan

Let Obama hear this.  If you want to know the opinion of the grassroots, then read the opinion of Grandpa Dan, 

Subject: These Crazy Times

     This is one of those times when the purpose of my writing weighs more on its therapeutic value to me ,  than imparting information....sort of like  a Catholic at the confessional or an orthodox Jew at the Western Wall.....
     Yesterday I received my latest issue of "Mother Jones".....The front cover shows a photo of an American soldier beneath which is the caption, "Age of Treason-This soldier is ready to take up arms against the Obama Administration. A further photo shows the same soldier holding a pistol across his chest, forefinger "At The Ready".... He is not alone".......
     I found the accompanying article depressing for a variety of reasons , not least of which is the wide number of well known's who lend approval to what this soldier represents......
     While reading this disturbing tale of modern day dissidents, my mind drifted back to my teen-age days when "The Young Communist League" and "Bund  Meetings" were in full bloom.....All of the malcontents, the extremes , both left and right , had suddenly found their voices ....loud and clear....  
     The biggest difference between then and now is that Then it was more or less subterranean, and mostly all talk , and now it appears to be preparation for an armed rebellion..........Never in my memory did participants attend public political gatherings , armed with sidearms , rifles and shotguns.....Open talk of violence against the U.S. Army and the Administration....Hidden is the racial bias which belies the supposed advances we have achieved in social justice.....
     Normally I shun quotations , but the coalition of the very far right  has taken on dimensions which appear to me as more dangerous than any outside enemy could possibly pose....The open hostility they display is so widespread that it resembles an uncontrollable wildfire .....Some quotes follow:
     "He , (Lee Pray, the soldier on the cover) , considers the Bushmaster (a $ 5600 rifle and scope ) his preparation to take on the U.S. Government when it declares martial law"..."His belief that that day is imminent has led Pray to a group called "Oath Keepers" ...."A patriotic org . of the 'Right'....."Established itself as a hub in the sprawling anti-Obama movement that includes Tea Partiers, Birthers, and 912ers , Glen Beck, Lou Dobbs, and Pat Buchanon have all sung it's prases"....
     "What makes the Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, police, and veterans....At their ceremonies , they pledge to protect the Constitution , but then vow to disobey" Unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government"...                                                                                     
     "........They are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, and ammunition ,  running drills, and outlining a plan of action" ...."The Brass would be shocked by the number of soldiers willing to turn against their Commanders"  ...."Pray is both a Birther and a Truther...He believes that he is following an illegitimate , foreign born president, in a war on terror launched by a government plot --9/11".............And much more .....
     It is all too easy to brand these dissidents as crackpots but the likes of " Glen Beck,  Michele  Bachman, and Sarah Palin, all  share the same animus" .....It seems to be a pandemic....You may have noted the revival of the notorious  Birch Society ....
     The days ahead bare close scrutiny.....Love, Grandpa Dan       

Grandpa Dan is a WWII veteran living the American Dream.  He was born of European immigrants fleeing Pogroms.  He was drafted into the military and served in WWII.  The military taught him watchmaking, and he used GI Bill to open a jewelry and watchmakers shop after he got out of the service.  His business grew, he retired to Florida where he became friends with my mom.  He now lives in assisted living where he enjoys the good life with his wife and writes political commentary to his personal friends. 

I also would like to comment that it is unconstitutional to have private militias on our own soil, yet we tolerate firms like Xe/Blackwater building bases in North Carolina.  Then we cut domestic spending in order to bankrupt our treasury waging endless foreign wars paying top dollar for "security services" from private militias funding their massive buildup of strength.  

When US militaries and National Guards all are exhausted from endless foreign wars, the private militias building up on our own soil will easily overtake the skeleton crew left behind by budget cuts. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Your administration and your party are in trouble. That is clear from the elections in Massachusetts and Virginia, from the drop in your approval rating, from the rise of conservative opposition groups.  In fact, the whole USA is battered and on its knees waiting for the final blow. 

This is a time when progressive forces in this country need to mobilize to prevent a backlash that will take this country further to the right.  Without decisive Congressional action to benefit the Common Good, opposition candidates will win big in the next election.  Progressives, as well as your own supporters, are disappointed and demoralized. Look at me.

In 2008, I realized that "Hope and Change" is not a substantial political platform, and remembered that George W. Bush ran on the same platform.  I understood that when you talked about getting out of Iraq, that it meant waging wars elsewhere.  I realized when big media, while broadcasting over the public airwaves, excluded all "peace" candidates from the presidential debates, that they were pre-selecting for the US public exclusively pro-war candidates.  I was not fooled by your vacuous rhetoric of Hope and Change.  I did suspect that you might attempt to put through populist programs while appeasing the war profiteers with endless foreign wars.  But you haven't. 

As 2010 dawns, change looks to me like more of the same.  We got more war, more torture, more innocent collateral damage, more fodder for spawning new, young terrorists.  Your concept of health care reform is to mandate Americans to buy private health insurance without any real cost controls.  You block what is known to work well, Medicare-for-All, and instead, provide a massive giveaway to the health insurance industry.  Health insurance companies are reporting record profits for 2009 and are raising their rates by 40%. 

After being laid off my job at school due to the budget cuts, I am now working 7 p/t jobs and barely making ends meet.  My union-provided insurance has high co-pays and deductibles and doesn't cover my children.  My income is too high for them to be covered by Healthy Families, so they remain uninsured. 

On the environment, one of your top priorities, you came back from Copenhagen with yet another non-binding resolution, more clean coal & clean nuclear, and a closed-door decision to wait until the planet's average temperature rises another 2º to catastrophic levels, to boot. 

Instead of helping struggling homeowners and small businesses during the financial crisis, bank executives were protected and rewarded and we have yet to see reform.  And Ben Bernanke, who enabled the world-wide financial collapse, was reappointed!  Wall Street firms ended 2009 with record bonus and profits while unemployment remains in double digits.

President Obama, after the Citizens United decision, I am hopeless!  Your concept of change is to exacerbate the injustices enacted by the Neo-Cons.  The change I believe in puts people and our planet before industry, it promotes Peace, international law, and human rights instead of militarism. As you are asking Congress to approve the largest Pentagon budget in history, plus another $33 billion to pay for your Afghan surge, the prophetic works of Dr. Martin Luther King sound a clarion call: A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.  The endless wars are also bringing our country to economic death. 

We have 3 branches of government that all collaborate with big business instead of defending the Constitution and the well being of the natural people. 

We need renewed leadership, we need you to show us—not in words but in deeds—that you can stand up to corporate interests that are blocking us from real healthcare, environmental and financial reform. We need you to show us—not in words but in deeds—that you will stand up for the Constitution, for due process, for the rule of law.  We need you to show us—not in words but in deeds—that you lead this country out of endless war to a nation that lives in peace with its neighbors.

In the meantime, without a change from pro-corporate to pro-populist policies, I pledge to replace your administration and Congress with a new guard (and mobilize others) that will not collaborate war-profiteers and other big business, but enact and defend policies of social and environmental uplift.

May 2010 be a year of renewed commitment and movement toward the change we so desperately need.


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Liberation in Buddhism

In Buddhism, there is nothing to depend on.  There is no force outside that will give us salvation.  There is nothing permanent that we can always count on.  Some say we can only depend upon ourselves.  Others say that even our selves are not dependable.  That leaves us with nothing permanent in which to set anchor. 

Many people have a high value for Hope.  In fact, the last 2 presidents used Hope as their campaign platform.  The proselytizing Christians bring Hope for Salvation to people of color with a blonde, blue-eyed God man while exploiting these same people for natural resources and cheap labor.  Hope in Buddhism is defined as Delusion.  Delusion believes, for example, that something is nothing, and that nothing is something.  Delusion is a form of ignorance, which is the root of all becoming (making Karma). 
Buddhism Dictionary on Delusion (Ignorance):
"Delusion refers to belief in something that contradicts reality.  In Buddhism, delusion is ... a lack of awareness of the true nature or Buddha nature of things, or of the true meaning of existence. "

In the same way, every thing (karma, n.) only has the meaning that we ascribe to it.  There is nothing to hang on to.  Its a true wonder how much of our existence is constructed on beliefs.  And how so many of our beliefs are founded upon nothing more than morés. 

The facts that there is nothing permanent to hold on to, or that things have no intrinsic meaning other than what we ascribe to them, or that our own self may be completely void of anything substantially permanent beyond a force of becoming, is not depressing, but good news!  "Freedom's just another word for 'nothin' left to lose, but nothin' ain't worth nothin,' but its freeeeee." 

It is here when we realize the joy of putting down the Wheel of Karma, and just terminate the becoming force (bhavanga).  Making no more Karma doesn't mean dead or nihilist.  It is a state of Grace in which the right thing occurs without the Ego craving or clinging.  Such a state of Grace is full of joy and energy.  Quite the opposite of depressing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Catastrophic Blow to Democracy

Just when you thought that every last vestige of Democracy had already been shot down, now it's official.  Corporations no longer have to hide the cash they invest in our elections.  Thanks to the recent decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, corporations now have the right to donate unlimited amounts of money to politicians.

The 5-4 ruling reverses a century’s worth of federal legislation and court decisions limiting the influence of corporate money in politics.  From now on, all elected officials and the laws they enact will be funded by big corporations.  It is the worst decision made by the Supreme Court since Dred Scott in 1857, when the the Court ruled that people of African descent were not protected by the Constitution, could not be US citizens, and no law could prohibit slavery in federal territories. The Dred Scott decision resulted in the Civil War.

I wonder if Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission will instigate another civil war?

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