About Me

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I'm a single Mormon Democrat, an NPR & BBC news junkie, a dog lover, opera buff, bookavore, migraineur, knows just enough about technology to be a danger to myself, fan of James Bond and Godzilla. 

Micah 6:8; D&C 11:20 

"do justly, walk humbly, judge righteously."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Some thoughts on American Lion, faith and politics

I have joined a new book club that will be focusing on historical books - fiction and non-fiction. For our first book, American Lion by Jon Meacham. This history has had some excellent reviews and was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. This biography focuses on Andrew Jackson and his years in the White House.

The times that Jackson lived through and the politics of Washington seem very familiar. Many people want to go back to a simpler time politically speaking. However, the more I read history, the more I realize that things never really change. Human nature doesn't really change. The ways we communicate, the ways we move in our world may change, but how we deal with our fellow human beings doesn't really change.

Back to the book, while reading Chapter 5, Ladies' Wars Are Always Fierce and Hot, I came upon the figure of Jeremiah Evarts.  "Evarts was one of the great American moral figures of the first decades of the nineteenth century."

What struck me about Evarts was just what kind of person he was. He was moral and religious, but he did not insist on inflicting his beliefs into the government. He wanted the government - and, by extension, the nation - to be virtuous. I believe that many of the evangelicals and those that believe we are an essentially a Christian nation could learn much from him.

One of Evarts great passions was to fight against what he saw as a grave injustice: the forced removal of the Indians from their homes to lands west of the Mississippi. He became a "force calling on the country to respect the rights and dignity of a persecuted people." He was infused with this idea of Christian service while attending Yale in 1798. The president of the college at that time was Timothy Dwight, a grandson of Jonathan Edwards. Dwight suffused the college with the idea of Christian service.  He gave  a sermon entitled "On Personal Happiness" in which he preached:  "In whatever sphere of life you are placed, employ all your powers and all your means of doing good, as diligently and vigorously as you can."

Evarts was influenced by Dwight and the whole atmosphere at Yale. He believed, like Dwight, that "faith was not only about personal conversion but social transformation and the health of the nation." He believed that "there was a direct connection between the godliness of the people and the fate of the country."

This statement really struck me. I imagine many of the evangelicals would say this as well. However, I believe that it is more than putting the word God and Christ into our government. In fact, we cannot do that. In my mind, godliness is more about our actions. By being virtuous and "Christlike" in our actions that is important.

Reading further in this chapter, I discovered that Jackson also believed "that virtue was essential to the maintenance of a republic." But he also believed - and this I believe is an important point - that "religious and philanthropic organizations were as corruptible and susceptible to manipulation by the powerful as any other human institution." Wow.

This is a very important point. I believe that our government does need to be virtuous. This doesn't mean that we should focus on hot button issues like gay marriage, prayer in schools, putting Christ back in Christmas, or abortion. I think it means more important things. It means that we should be more consistent with our values. We espouse the values of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and all our equal before the law. Then we should support these values in other countries and not prop up regimes and governments that crack down on these things. If we criticize one government from persecuting a sect, religion, or race, should we not let our allies know when they are committing these abuses as well?

We should put the individual back at the center of our government's responsibility. Our government's primary responsibility should not be protecting businesses and industry over the people that make up our citizenry. It should be protecting our interests. Now, this does not mean socialism - as many on the right erroneously accuse the left of - nor does it have to offend libertarians or fiscal conservatives. It should mean that everyone should have equal rights before the law - regardless of race or financial position. It should mean that government should protect everyone's right to live their life - financially, materially, and spiritually - not dictate their life.

I'll be the first to admit that I lean to the left. I believe that this country needs to provide a social safety net for its citizens. I believe that churches need to stay out of politics and the government. And I support gay marriage and abortion rights. But, I am not a socialist or an atheist. Our country should be more moral and I believe in the free market. But, do we truly have a free market? When we provide tax breaks to big business and industry and bail out companies and financial institutions that made very bad business decisions, can that really be classified as free?

Our politics have become so divisive. Pundits and special interests have created so many false ideologies and muddies the waters that many people cannot see that they have more in common than they think. The left and the right have vilified each other so much that people do not actually talk about the issues. The Republicans have spent three years opposing the Democrats and President Obama's every action over the interests of their constituencies. We need to get back to what really matters. I think we can learn from history.

Recently, a poll showed that people that get their news from Fox News are less informed than those that don't watch the news at all. The best informed get their news from PBS and NPR. Liberal or conservative, I believe that we can all learn from history. Being informed and well-read and educated should not be viewed as being elite. In the past some of our best presidents came from humble beginnings but devoured knowledge and took every chance to better themselves. Two that come to mind are Garfield and Lincoln.

Jackson thought of himself as a republican - "a man who believed that the best government was the one that meddled least in the affairs of the governed." I think that many Republicans today could identify with that. But, if you look honestly at the party, is it really true? Jackson felt the "primary duty of federal power, once invoked, was to protect the many from the few." I think both the left and the right could surely agree on that. Whether the few are the whites of South Africa suppressing the Africans or if it's the rich 1% suppressing the rest of the American citizens, shouldn't we work at stopping these injustices?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How can we fix campaign finance reform?

This is always a big question. It's always a big buzz word in the media. Today, on my walk with the dogs, I was listening to a podcast with Andrew Bacevich, author of Washington Rules, and I got to thinking about campaign finance reform.

First of all, what is the main problem? One, there is too much corporate involvement in campaigns and, two, there is too much money. My solution may be too simplistic. However, I do think it may have some merit in solving the main problem. So here goes:

  1. Only people can donate to campaigns. No corporations, no lobbyists, no PACs. Just people.
  2. Only voters in the campaign's constituency. What I mean by this is that people in Washington State shouldn't donate to a campaign in Idaho. 
  3. Also, only registered voters. I'm not sure about this. It may be limiting to limit to registered voters. 
  4. Finally, I believe that there should be a cap on how much an individual can donate.
I really think that maybe these rules could level the playing field. Perhaps more people that have good ideas could go to Congress. Maybe these rules could simplify our politicians, but also could limit the influence the rich and soulless corporations inflict on them.

Please comment on whether you think this might work.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What's Caught My Attention Lately

Lately, I've been mostly concerned about finances. Probably like most Americans, I'm sure. I am on what is politely know as a "fixed income".  My mine outlays are rent, phone, and health insurance. Even though I am on Medicare for a disability, I still need to get what they call euphemistically an advantage plan. I don't think you can really survive on straight Medicare. Which really begs the question... what is the point? And how do people who are unemployed and whose unemployment reimbursement has expired - how do they survive? And, finally, where are our country's priorities if they are more interested in helping soulless corporations than human beings?

Oh, well, such questions are beyond a single person. To continue, I thought I would share (with whoever actually reads this) some of the items that caught my attention this week. Some I read on-line and some I listened to as I walked my dogs in the morning. All, I expect, demonstrate something about me.

Podcasts I've listened to:
BBC Programme - Click - 06/09/2011
BBC Programme - Beyond Belief - The Three Wise Men
As a non-practicing Mormon, I was fascinated with the idea that the three wise men might be Melchizedek.
BBC - The Today Programme - An end to pain?

Music I listened to:
Song of the Day: Kopecky Family Band - Animal
The Drums – “Money”

Items I've read on-line:
A Rather Befuddled Note From Me To You About September 11 Specials
I read this item wondering if NPR's Linda Holmes felt the same way I did about all this fuss over the anniversary and all the programs. She didn't say it exactly but maybe she was afraid of the backlash, I don't know. Let me go on the record as saying I find all these programs as rather tacky. I can't bring myself to watch any of it. All the sentimentalization and personal stories hit me the same way those "human interest" stories strike me during the Olympics - slightly nauseating. There I said it. If I need to be pilloried, please keep any profanity to yourself.
Where Is Billy? A Giants Fan Goes Missing, And A Team Goes Searching
This story really got my attention. It was moving and mysterious and I really would love an update on the situation. Some baseball fans seem slightly - or significantly - obsessed. But some people become as much a part of the scene as the players. I love the Mariners and when a concession worker passed away recently - he had worked since the start of the franchise - they presented a lovely tribute to him. I really hope they find Billy. The thing with him is that so little is known about him. It's a little sad that it isn't until he's not there that any attention is given to his life away from the ballpark.
Candidate urges Kennewick City Council to take stand on illegal immigration
This guy is at turns frightening, repulsive, and pathetic. What really bothers me is that we have him in our community. I realize we live in a "red" county, but I still was bothered to know that he's here.
Burger King has 'disturbing trend' of serving undercooked meat
Everett Ruess: two new biographies
I love to find new books to read. I especially like stories of real people and real adventures from the past. I had heard about Everett Ruess on an NPR program a few years back, so I think I'll definitely look these two book up:  Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death, and Astonishing Afterlife
Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer
Tacoma Police: Man Asked Permission To Dump Body In Neighbor's Trash Can
Dumb criminal alert!!
Unitasker Wednesday: The Olive Oil Dispenser Pump
I love this website. I look forward to every Wednesday and their crazy items they find. This one isn't as dumb as some of the other ones, though.
Andrea Mitchell: I Have Cancer
Godzilla Cake
I'm a big Godzilla fan, so I had to go see this cake. It's really not so Godzilla-y. Looks more like an iguana or some other lizard. Or maybe that aberration known as the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie. The real Godzilla stands on two legs!

What I've watched:
Vandal attacks Rome's famous fountains
Don't know what's sadder - that someone would vandalize such a treasure or that people would just walk by and do nothing.
Dog Hates Bath
The look on this dog's face - and the play-by-play - is priceless!

Advocacy I'm supporting:
Our Lives, Our Laws
House Bill Attacks United Nations, Weakens United States
Such behavior frightens me. People need to realize that we need to accept that we are part of a global community, and that has certain responsibilities. Rules aren't just for other countries.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Maya, the Civil War, and the Tea Party

I know what you're thinking. What on Earth do those three items have to do with each other? Well, I have been reading the new history of the start of the Civil War by Adam Goodheart, 1861: The Civil War Awakening This is an excellent history and has been very well received. While reading, I have noticed alarmingly the similarities between the atmosphere in 1860s Washington DC and today's Washington. The partisanship, the demonization of your opponent, the demonization of the newly elected president, the sense of impending doom, the emergence of a new movement. The conservatives (not necessarily Republican) were worried about what would happen if civil rights were apportioned to a minority group. Then, it was slaves. Today? It could be the LGBT community, undocumented aliens, Muslims.

From page 77 of 1861:
On January 7, Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia used his departure speech to fire parting shots at "Black Republicans" and abolitionists: "We want no negro equality, no negro citizenship; we want to negro race to degrade our own; and as one man [we] would meet you upon the border with the sword in one hand and the torch in the other."
Alarming, isn't it? Remove the word negro and replace it with homosexual, and it would not be dated at all.

And on page 70:
...Senator Thomas Clingman of North Carolina, seizing the floor by responding to a routine motion about printing a document, swerved sharply into an hour-long attack on the president-elect as a "dangerous man" whose aim was "to make war on my section [of the country] until its social system is destroyed."
 Again, something you have heard in the volatile political atmosphere that we have today. For instance, I have a neighbor - a nice, gentle man - who once told me that President Obama had "Muslims and Communists" in his government. He was an older gentleman who spent his winters in Arizona - a snowbird as they're known. Yet, he thinks that Glenn Beck spreads the truth and that President Obama is one of the greatest threats this country has ever known. It took me back. I have a hard time understanding why wanting to provide healthcare for all, protecting consumers, providing better financial regulation - why are all these interpreted as a threat?

Because it's a change to their "social system" - as Senator Clingman would've said.

Another similarity was that the Senate was filled with younger members at this time. All the "old gentlemen" of the Senate had gone. Senator Crittenden was the lone remnant of the old gentlemen left. The old gentlemen of compromise. Compromising has not always been a dirty word as the Tea Party would have us believe. This country was founded and preserved by compromise. But the old Compromisers were gone: Webster and Clay were dead, as was Thomas Hart Benton, and others like John Bell and Sam Houston had returned home to their states.

Sound familiar? We have lost some of our giants: Robert Byrd and Teddy Kennedy are two I can think of, but there have been others. So, we are left we relatively inexperienced Senators (and Representatives) who do not have as strong a loyalty to the art of compromise and the deal. There was even a strange movement during the 1860's called the Wide Awake movement. These young men marched for change, though, not against it. It spread from New England to the Midwest. And it scared people - it made them think there was actually revolution in the air.

Media - like today - was also in the mix. There may have been no television, radio, or internet - but newprint had spread like wildfire. The average citizen could read about all these events and be roused up by the talent of a scurrilous journalist or editor. People were scared. They were scared that the Union would be destroyed and the stock market was scared as well. Like today.

And this is what takes me to the Maya. The Maya had a very complex calendar system. The Mayan Long Count calendar was divided into segments. One of these was the k'atun which was 260th of the entire Long Count which corresponded to 19.7 years. What makes these significant is that the Maya believed that time came in cycles.

Maybe they are right. It seems like we go through the same cycles here. Perhaps that gives me a little hope. If we go through cycles, doesn't that mean we will come through this to better times? I'd like to think so. However, we should also take responsibility of the world we are in. Another time that this is like is the 1930's - and I am not just thinking of the Great Depression. I am thinking of the rise of fascism. The union busting in Wisconsin and other states is similar to how corporations acted in that time. FDR was also demonized. But, remember, it was not a pleasant time to be alive. Think of the fascist takeovers. The populist groups like Mussolini's black shirts and Hitler's brown shirts. We all need to be aware and not swayed by the next talking head on the television or radio. Make sure your facts are right. And, above all, do not trust your neighbors to make the right decision with their vote. Democracy is a privilege - exercise it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunshine, the Theater, and Comic Book History

The temperature says 75 degrees but it feels much warmer. It's a beautiful day. Everyone seemed to be walking their dogs or doing yard work. (Why people want to work on a nice day seems odd to me.) There were even some poor people on the roof of the house ripping the roof off! Way too warm for that. I never felt up to walking yesterday so it was nice to go out today. The girls and I walked 3+ miles today; they were so happy when we got to the creek on the home stretch and they could wade through it. Misty especially likes it - she actually lays down in the water. Looked very inviting actually.

I listened to several different podcasts from NPR regarding the Theater. Several of them dealt with the tragic Spider-Man musical. It seemed crazy how many different things could go wrong with one show and how many people wanted it too fail. I'm not too sure of the idea of a Spider-Man musical - or any comic book musical - but people should really give it a chance.

Book of the Day: The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu. I am a big history nut and usually am reading at least one history or historical fiction book at any given time. This book is a great history of the rise of comic books as well as the great tragedy that befell them after the Second World War. It is always horrifying to hear of the terrible crimes against free speech that occurred against Americans in the '50s. The House Committee on Un-American Activities. Just the name gives you chills. But it is even scarier when you realize that many people on Capitol Hill learned nothing from this time. You just have to hear Congressman King to speak about Muslims to realize that these things can happen again. The so-called enemy has changed, that is all. FDR was right to say all we had to fear was fear itself. Fear can tear our democracy apart.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Without a reading, Alexie's book banned in Richland | KPLU News for Seattle and the Northwest

This is a fine example of the reactionary and conservative political atmosphere that can - unfortunately - be found in the Benton and Franklin communities. We like to pride ourselves in Washington State as well-educated and tolerant. That ends at the western edge of the Cascade Range. Here, in the east, the people like to watch and play sports, work on their cars, fish and hunt, and go to church. We have very large Catholic, Mormon, Protestant, and Evangelical communities. In Richland - especially - they control city government completely. Why? And why Richland especially? Because two of the biggest churches are there: Christ the King Catholic and Central United Protestant. Nearly everyone in Richland belongs to one of these two churches. And, so, censorship is alive and well in the Tri-Cities. We always seem to elect Republicans. Most people here probably do not believe in global warming. If you go to a restaurant or a bar with a TV, chances are Fox News is on - unless there's a game on. It's a hard place to be a Democrat, Progressive, or Liberal. But we struggle on...

Without a reading, Alexie's book banned in Richland | KPLU News for Seattle and the Northwest

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Typical Kennewick Day

It seems to be one of our typical days here today. Sunny and very warm - 75 degrees as I write this - with a gusty breeze. The breeze is consistent and warm, but not quite up to wind stage. You can watch the tall grasses sway in the gully behind our house. It's a lovely sight - makes me think of Little House on the Prairie (which I never really read or watched), but it makes you think that's what those amber fields of grain looked like. The dreaded Russian Olive trees rustle in the breeze and - if you look carefully - you'll see quail, pheasant, and even a coyote if you're lucky.

Sometimes, I even think the sunlight is brighter here, the air cleaner. We are hardly in the wilderness. It just sometimes feel that we are somehow separate from the problems you see on the news. You feel it even more here in south Kennewick - away from the more urban areas. However, urbanization is even seen up here. I guess when you're at my age - I can't believe I just said that! - you look at your home through the lenses of your childhood.

We walked 3+ miles today - going along the canal path. The ducks and their families were out, goats and their kids, and mares and their colts (or were they fillies?). It always reminds me of Bambi (Two-Disc Diamond Edition) and how everything was transformed for spring. (It's just too bad it's a couple of days near summer).

Book of the Day: Blood Brothers (Sign of Seven Series) by Nora Roberts.  I've read plenty of books by Nora, but all under the name of J. D. Robb, the "In Death" series. I really love that series and I come back again and again. So, I decided to download one of the Nora Roberts' book from Overdrive (via my local library). So far - and I am halfway done - it is really well crafted and plotted - however, I don't feel the romance and suspense that I get from a J. D. Robb novel.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seattle weather and Louis Bayard

It's a very drippy day out there today. It's sprinkling - not very hard - not a very Tri-Cities sort of rain at all. Of course, I think this is yet another example of the strange weather we're having recently. As I've said/blogged before, there's something wrong when it's forecast to be 75 degrees and it's mid-June. The slightly damp breeze and overcast weather just didn't feel like June - but it didn't stop us walking.

I needed to shop for Father's Day and being on a fixed income, I thought I could just go to Yoke's and buy him some cheese and other food items. I know that's being cheap, but he does love cheese. The cheese section is quite good at Yoke's with all kinds of cheese. There are even some that look kind of disturbing. The only problem shopping for my father is being careful of his diabetes.

My audiobook today was The Black Tower: A Novel (P.S.) by Louis Bayard. I have read his previous books: Mr. Timothy : A Novel (P.S.) and The Pale Blue Eye: A Novel. His books are mysteries and thrillers with a literary bent. What makes them interesting are the central characters. Mr. Timothy's main character was Timothy Cratchit from A Christmas Carol - Original Unabridged Version and The Pale Blue Eye used Edgar Allen Poe.

This book is not his latest. He has another book out called The School of Night: A Novel too. This book also features a historical figure - Vidocq - the famous French crime fighter. I am only 10% done with the audiobook, which is narrated by Simon Vance. It's very atmospheric and reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes story, so far. There is only one thing that is noticeable about the audiobook. The decision to have Vidocq speaking with an East End accent. Isn't he French? It is a little irksome. I wonder if that was a conscious decision and why?

I also listened to an interesting podcast from Australia. The Book Show did a segment on the 400th anniversary of the King James bible (400 Years of the King James Bible). Some of the points that expert historian made were really interesting. I never realized that Hebrew and English were very similar in rhythm. He made the point that the Bible in English has a better rhythm than in one of the romance languages (i.e., Latin, French, et al). He also explained what certain phrases meant. For instance, "cover his feet" was a colloquialism for going to the bathroom (!!).

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Cold Pea Soup - Recipe and Video - The MInimalist - NYTimes.com

I saw this article on-line and it just made me chuckle! There's nothing funny about the article or even the recipe. It just reminds me of a story my mother told me when I was growing up. It was about how pea soup doesn't taste as good cold as warm. When my mom was young, she didn't want to eat her hot pea soup. But my grandma wouldn't let her leave the table until she finished. (Weren't those the days!) My mom was the same way - if not as severe as Grandma Micki - I remember a lot of nights that I was at the table a long time. However, my mom NEVER served pea soup - cold or warm!

Cold Pea Soup - Recipe and Video - The MInimalist - NYTimes.com

Colm Toibin on a Nice Spring Day

A beautiful spring day outside as the girls and I started out for our walk. It was sunny, with hardly any clouds in the sky, and just a slight breeze. I love the breeze in the Mid-Columbia area - it always feels so clean and refreshing. Our atmosphere here isn't as dry and baking as it was when I was a child 30 years (!!) ago, but it's still better than most of this country.

Unfortunately, I fear climate change is upon us even here. I left the house at a quarter after nine this morning and it was not yet sixty degrees. This is a good temperature for April or early May, but certainly not June - and four days from the Summer Solstice. It is usually getting quite warm here this time of  year. The hills are yellow and brown, not green and lush. The fire hazard is up. I am not complaining - I like the temperature and the nice spring day. But, it is abnormal. Is it global warming/climate change? Or is it a more recent event? Like La Nina or the Icelandic volcano with the un-pronounceable name.

Today was a day to walk down to the library. It's actually a lovely walk passing lovely yards, boys practicing football without gear on, and a baseball game on the way back up via Olympia Street. I walk down Garfield Hill, but I go up Olympia. Garfield has a very steep grade, and Olympia is less steep, though it is still a great workout. The round trip is 4.8 miles. Walking down Garfield is a nice cool walk. It is a very leafy hill, and there is a channel to walk by where run-off water flows.

The chip-and-seal work to repave Garfield is finished, and most of the tar smell is dissipated. The smell of tar has always made my stomach turn. School is out - so there are less teenagers about in some ways. We walk down past the high school - GO LIONS!! - on our way to the library. Unfortunately, the girls get very nervous around anyone under the age of 40. Though, even with school out - Dayton - the street in front of the high school - seemed much busier than normal.

I tie the girls up at the bike rack in front of the library and I even gave them some water. Why they are always so hesitant to drink water while they are away from home always flummoxes me. I put it down to stress and neuroses. (I don't think we've ever had dogs that didn't have some neurosis or other.) They just are too worried to drink.

I love libraries. Like I love bookstores. Hell, I just love books! Our library system is a wonderful place to get videos and books. Today, I picked up 4 books and 5 DVDs. One of the books I picked up was Skippy Dies: A Novel by Paul Murray. I've been meaning to pick this up for a while. It was longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize - one of the most prestigious of book awards. I have already read another book that was shortlisted: Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue. (I couldn't believe that Room didn't win. It was incredible.)

One of the DVDs I picked up was the film The Tourist starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. This movie got really bad reviews. I really like Angelina Jolie and what red-blooded American woman doesn't like Johnny Depp. So, I've decided to take a chance on it.

On the way back, we noticed a cream colored Husky or Malamute type dog and a Pug running about together. I didn't notice a collar on either. Some people are very irresponsible. Not because these dogs were aggressive. No, they seemed to be dogs like from some Disney or other animated film. They seemed very happy-go-lucky. They didn't mess with girls at all. We ran into them a second time on 1st Street. No, the problem is that, if they get picked up or - God forbid - hurt, they may never get back with their owner. Of course, they might be chipped. But the info attached to the chip must be current and accurate. We discovered this when we found a dog trapped in our back yard. (Though, luckily, she did have a collar and we managed to track down the owner via the rabies tags.)

I don't go out on walks without my mp3 player. I listen to podcasts that I download - mainly from NPR or the BBC - and I listen to audiobooks too from Audible or from my library. Today, I listened to a free download of the first story in Colm Toibin's book The Empty Family: Stories. First impressions are that this story is very atmospheric and dark. In some ways it was even sinister. This could be because of the narration. The download was narrated by the author himself and had a very Boris Karloff or Vincent Price air to it. I'm waiting for some sinister occurrence or strange ending. (He really should do narrations of Edgar Allen Poe or H.P. Lovecraft for Halloween collections!)

On the way back up Olympia Street, we passed several signs for yard sales, and a couple of Little League games. As we walked the home stretch down 27th Avenue, I thought about this blog. I could write up thoughts of my walks. Things the girls and I saw. Maybe I could use the blog to expand my writing and get back in practice. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why all the fuss over jobs?

Yes, I know the job situation is serious. I know people are worried. It may not be technically a depression - but the circumstances are very clear. But, hear me out...

We can't afford health care... it'll cost jobs. A good scare tactic. But, if we had universal health care, people wouldn't have to worry about their health care going away when they lose their job or finding a job with good benefits. Businesses would have healthier, more reliable employees - and would probably spend less for health care.

We can't have taxes... it'll cost jobs.  Now, I'm sure you can find economists people to argue this either way. But I look at taxes differently. If we care about our citizens, we need to realize that we need to money to protect our citizens.

We can't have financial regulation... it'll hurt the economy. Oh, really? And who exactly got us into this situation in the first place? If you were burgled, or raped, or hurt and beaten, wouldn't you expect justice?

We can't afford environmental regulations... they're destroying business. Do we really need businesses that damage our environment. That destroy land so that it can never be used (i.e., farmed) again due to toxic contamination? Businesses that cause health ramifications that disable and kill our citizens - their possible employee base?

Businesses need tax breaks... or they'll leave and we'll lose more jobs. Now this is ridiculous. I hear this all the time from Republican, Tea  Party, conservative, and even swing/independent voters. I don't buy it. One, if we believe in a free market, then we don't need businesses that can't survive the market without help from the government. Two, if everyone needs to make sacrifices in this economy, so do businesses. And, three, the main point that has come to me... why, why are businesses and potential jobs more important than the welfare of the American people?

This is my main problem and frustration. People that are conservative - whether they be libertarian, republican, or "tea party" - they all seem to want less government. But they want government to help businesses. It seems like all Republican suggestions have one thing in common - support business. Anything that business considers harmful is bad. When did businesses start voting in elections? We need to support people.

Some of these people that talk about getting back to the Constitution need to realize that this country was not founded to protect big business and stock markets. I realize that Trade was an important issue to the Founding Fathers, but it was really about tyranny. About governments - kings - usurping our human rights for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." LIFE. Allowing businesses to destroy our health and our land and our air and water, doesn't that infringe on our right to Life? LIBERTY. Shouldn't we be free to make our own decisions? Shouldn't we be free to know our environment won't harm us? PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. If we knew that our health was guaranteed, if we knew that banks/financial institutions were stopped from harming our way of life, wouldn't we be free to be happy?

Now, many people will call me a socialist. I don't think I am. I've never read Marx or visited Sweden. (Closest I've gotten is that I prefer listening to the BBC over ANY American media organization.) I just think that we have certain rights. (Besides, where in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, does it declare what economic system is "American"?)

When it comes right down to it-- we need to make our priority the welfare of the American people. I believe jobs, the economy, businesses, the free market - will settle themselves. In the end, which is more important? I CHOOSE LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. What do you support?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What are our priorities

I had been thinking lately about posting. I thought maybe about posting about the Rapture. The craziness that is the GOP presidential horse race. Or even the obsequiousness of the Congressional reaction to Netanyahu's speech. In the end, I wanted to respond to all this posturing over the federal deficit.

Now, first off, I am not entirely sure this whole thing about our children's future and not living within our means is really all that critical. I seem to remember this whole issue being up during the late 70s and early 80s. I remember that everyone was concerned that our country was going to be owned by the Japanese. Now, those children from the 70s that had no future are now convinced they have to protect their children's future.

So, I am going to address this issue by accepting the premise that we have to accept that the deficit/debt is a critical issue to our nation's future/survival. The Democrats' approach is to just ignore it and hope it goes away. This is not a good solution as it just upsets the Americans who take this issue seriously. It isolates them and upsets them, and gives some politicians an opportunity to demagogue. The Republican approach is to cut taxes, provide more subsidies/tax breaks to business, and to cut spending. This is not helpful, either, as it isolates another section of the American population - the working poor and middle class, the disabled, and the vulnerable.

The obvious solution is to provide an integrated solution. But politicians, as we know, are not too good at obvious. I have observed lately that politics in this country has become more and more emotional and reactionary. It has become very like the stock market in that respect. People are so quick to insult and attribute evil intent in the party to which they are opposed. Instead of confronting the issue or stand he objects to, he instead attacks the person. Why don't we step back and look at this from the point of view of what are priorities should be?

First of all, my opinion is that our government should be there to protect the interests and welfare of the American public. Unfortunately, these our not the same thing and it seems that our government over the past two centuries to the position that our interests settle down to financial. Many politicians (and citizens) seem to think if you protect American business interests and economic well-being, it will - in turn - protect the American citizen. I personally know that this is not the case. It works on the premise that businesses (companies) are entities with a moral and ethical core and will protect their workers. It also works on the assumption that communities will take care of the members of their communities that - through no fault of their own - cannot work.

So, what can be done? First of all, it needs to be acknowledged at government level that they are responsible to the citizens first, and the businesses second. I am not some radical socialist that wants to dispose of the free-market system (although, the system is obviously flawed). Neither am I a libertarian who believe if we remove all regulation and trust the market all will be well. I'll be honest - I never paid much attention to business and economy or even the government  until recent years. So I am going to try to apply a little common sense - it may not be practical, but I feel I need to say something.

Number one, let's be fair. If we need to make spending cuts, spread the pain. Don't just tell the American people that they have to make sacrifices. Why is it the cuts are against children, the disabled, the seniors, and other disenfranchised? Let's just take the budget and spread the cuts equally based on percentage of spending a group/department/service takes up. For instance, the military has a huge cut of government spending. Shouldn't they shoulder a higher percentage of the cuts?

Number two, let's face it - there have to be taxes. I am always surprised at the paradox of the generosity of the American public. Look at all these disasters. Earthquakes in Japan and Haiti. Hurricanes in the southeast. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The tornadoes. The Mississippi flooding. Americans have historically responded to such disasters with great generosity. You look at international aid and we donate millions of dollars as a country, and many people work hard to help the less fortunate. Yet, we don't want to pay taxes to provide services like education, health care for all, etc.  I don't really understand why that is.

Number three, stop the subsidies and tax breaks for businesses. Why do we do this? If we really believe that the free market system is the way to go, let's put our money where our mouth is. So many people were furious about the bailouts. And, rightly, in my opinion. If the free market system works, shouldn't we let these companies free in the marketplace. If they are strong companies, they should be able to survive without help. And that tax money could go to better use.

I think that - in the end - it comes down to priorities. Do we want to protect the wealthy and entitled? Do we want to protect the financial and business interests in the United States? Or do we want to protect our citizens? When I hear Paul Ryan talk about making hard decisions, I am appalled and a little frustrated. If he truly wanted to make hard decisions, he would be spending more time finding ways for business to contribute to our country and less time finding ways for the public to give more and more.

I'd like to know what any of my readers has to say. Especially if you disagree. The only way to fix this country is to get together constructively and find solutions.

For good reading about the national debt and the history of it and the debt ceiling, check out the following
Planet Money - When the U.S. Paid Off The National Debt

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bill Survillo deserves better!

I'll admit it right up front. I am a public radio news junkie. I listen to podcasts from KUOW (Seattle), KPLU (Tacoma), Spokane Public Radio, and Northwest Public Radio (Tri-Cities/Pullman), as well as some programs from WBUR (Boston) and - of course - NPR.org.

That is how I heard about Bill Surwillo's story. He is a combat veteran with the Stryker Brigade out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He has been diagnosed with the PTSD and has been unfairly discharged by the Army, and lost his GI Bill benefits. I was moved by this story - so much so that I actually wrote to my Senators (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell), my Representative (Doc Hastings), and even Governor Chris Gregoire. I rarely do this - though there are many times I think of doing it.

I guess this moved me because I have veterans in my family. I have a cousin who is an active Marine who was deployed to Iraq at the start of the war. His stepfather has a Purple Heart and served as a Marine in VietNam. A friend of mine served as a nurse in Bosnia. And, finally, my grandfather and his brothers all served in WWII. In fact, one of my great-uncles served in the Pacific theater and never talked about what he saw in the Islands and was affected by it for the rest of his life. Many of these people have taken the opportunity of the GI Bill. My great-uncle even became a scientist.

I guess that is why this story affects me. This poor man who has given so much to his country and lost friends and colleagues in Afghanistan and he has returned with an affliction that will most probably lasted his entire life. The impact on his quality of life is incalculable. The military owes him for that.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Save our Liberal Freedom

Only a strong dose of the left can save liberal freedom.
 This is a quote from a talk given at the London School of Economics (LSE). They have public lectures that are free to download. Sometimes I listen to some of them on walks with the girls. Contrary to the name of the institution, they are not limited to economics. The school also focuses on history, public policy, government, politics, global affairs, etc.

The one I listened to this morning was Living in the End Times, given by Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. Much of the talk was philosophy and economic theory and very over my head. I would think that he would not be very popular here in the States. Familiar with Marx, Mao, Stalin, and communism and socialism, I think that most Americans would have a knee-jerk reaction. Unfortunately, words like communism, socialism, social justice, liberal are considered un-American. This is a shame, I found much of interest in this talk.

As I said, there was much I didn't understand. He referred to many different living and historical philosophers. (For instance, I'm not sure just how bad it is to be a Hegelian.) At one point, though, he discussed the emergence of far right and anti-immigrant political parties in Europe. He talked about how the left had fallen down while these voices emerged. The problem, apparently, is that many mainstream parties have incorporated some of their policies and stands to - supposedly - reduce this threat. However, Mr. Zizek claims that this is more dangerous as it gives legitimacy to these voices. This is why the Left needs to act to "save liberal freedom."

This is where I perked up in the talk. I could see how this applies to us here in the United States. Our own conservative party - the Republicans or GOP - have adopted so many of the far right stands from the anti-immigrant and evangelical Christians that they are hardly recognizable as the GOP of my youth. When I first became 18 and could vote, I occasionally found myself voting Republican - it was safer to do so then. But, now, it is far more dangerous.

Perhaps it is the time for more than a two party system. I know there are many card-carrying GOP that must be disturbed by the takeover and transformation of their party. Once it was the party of pro-business and fiscal conservatives, now it is much more focused on things like stopping gay civil rights and women's health issues. Equally, the Democrats have the problem of their being too many forces pulling the party in all directions: social justice, anti-War, economic reform. This is where the independent (swing) voter has so much influence.

The Independents voted Republican quite a bit in this last election. This is due to objection of certain platforms in the Democratic administration. Unfortunately, this had disastrous results. Funding cuts to vital programs, blaming Unions for the current economic ills and persecuting them, favoring the rights of big business over the basic welfare of the American citizen. People must take care not to let these fringe elements to destroy our society. Take responsibility for your community. Vote and vote with care.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

FIRST DAY OF SPRING

Today is the first day of spring. To many of us, it can't have come too soon. I live in a relatively temperate area of Washington State. But, I haven't failed to notice how bad some areas of this country (and the world) were hit this year. For those, I imagine Spring can't have sprung too soon!

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. We naturally want this to happen not just in Nature but in our lives as well. We wish that while the world outside and the weather warms up and life returns outside our windows, that maybe, just maybe, the people and governments and society could be reborn too. However, the problem this is rarely just up to us.

So much of our life is out of our hands. All we can really do is try and live our lives in a way that reflects spring. But - in a way life is being reborn to many people have been going through a political spring of their own. The Tunisians - the Egyptians - the Libyans - and maybe even the Yemenis and the Saudis - are struggling to get out of their political coccoons. We can only hope that a beautiful butterfly will emerge. But, it is their springtime and they must suffer on their own.

I live in a very stable - or is it stagnant? - community. So many of these troubles happen in other places. The demonstrations in Wisconsin - the uprising of students in the UK over funding cuts - the large tea party demonstrations - happened in other areas. But, it doesn't stop me from being moved - proud, frustrated, admiring and disgusted by their activities. But I do have the internet. It brings so many of these things closer to me.

I have discovered that I am quite the news junkie - and that I love downloading podcasts to listen to on my walks. I cannot imagine what would happen if I was back to what news was like - say 20 years ago - with just one local-yokel newspaper and some very iffy local television.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Oh, Egypt, Sweetie - You Made Me Cry

I've been glued to Al Jazeera English all morning spellbound by the event in Egypt and Tahrir Square. (Kudos to Link TV and Free Speech TV for carrying the service!) It's so thrilling to see that people without violence or hatred can command respect and achieve what seemed the impossible.

Listening to interviews with people in the square I found myself tearing up and becoming emotional. I knew I was invested in what was happening there, but I didn't realize how invested until I heard an interview with an Egyptian professor talk about his feelings at the resignation of a autocrat/dictator. It was beautiful.

What's really beautiful is the breadth and diversity of the protesters in Tahrir Square. There are Muslims and Christians. There are educated and uneducated. The women are veiled and unveiled. There are whole families protesting together. A whole community has emerged in the 490,000 square feet of the Square. (See How many people are in Tahrir Square for some interesting info on the statistics.) What moved me is how people are keeping the entire area clean. Informal clinics have been set up. An art installation has been created using some of the stones that were thrown at them. A couple decided to get married in the midst of the protesters. Coptic Christians protected Muslims as they prayed.

What really moves me about all this is it is exactly the kind of actions that appeal to truly patriotic Americans. We love the story of the underdog rising up and overthrowing their chains. Look at the movies we like. Dirty Dancing (Single-Disc Widescreen Edition) & Red Dawn (Collector's Edition) for example. Both of these are at their base about an inferior force overcoming a person or force of oppression. We like sports movies where some regular guy or small town team beats overcoming odds. Look at Rocky, Miracle [Blu-ray], Seabiscuit (Widescreen Edition).

So, on the surface, the actions and events in Egypt should appeal to every American, red-blooded or not. This is why a lot of the punditry and opinions expressed in the press are appalling to me. Glenn Beck has talked about "a Muslim caliphate" and politicians such as John McCain are worried about the Muslim Brotherhood. These fear mongering statements supporting a dictator over a democracy are at their heart un-American. Others bring up Iran and what happened to the revolution there. But there is a bigger picture that I think  people are missing.

Our country - unfortunately and at our shame - has supported dictators several times over the popular choice. We have done this in the past because of different reasons. In Chile, we helped Pinochet not only overthrow the popularly elected - but unfortunately for our government leftist - President Allende (father of world famous author of  My Invented Country : A Memoir and other novels, Isabel Allende). President Allende was assassinated. We can place this crime on our own conscience.

We supported the autocratic Batista in Cuba. We alienated a possible friendly relationship with the popular Fidel Castro. He may have supported a democratic government in Cuba - who knows? And why were we so opposed? He didn't start out a fervent Communist. He didn't align himself with the Soviets until after he was brutally snubbed by our government. And why? We were worried about our sugar plants.

And, today, we our worried about oil. We are worried about fundamentalist Muslims attacking our country. But why do they do this? Muslims as a rule don't just want to attack anything that is different. (As a rule, Christians are better at this behavior historically than they are.) I believe we only have ourselves to blame. We express our ideals as one thing - but our behavior says something different. What is the saying? "Practice what you preach."

If we had not supported dictators worldwide, if we had not ignored human rights abuses, who knows where we would be? Who knows how different the world might look? Egypt may - MAY - become something that is not as democratic as we like. But that is no excuse for supporting someone like Mubarak.

I personally don't think this will happen. Unless of course there is some sort of military coup. Egypt is - and has been for centuries - a cosmopolitan country. A diverse country. A country where Muslims come out to protect their Christian Coptic neighbors after an attack on Christmas Eve. A country where Coptic Christians protect their fellow Muslim countrymen as they pray during protests. This is NOT a country of hatred and vitriol.

Now, speaking of hatred and vitriol and intolerance for that matter. Don't you think that we should look inside rather than outside when it comes to intolerance? Rather than complaining about the possibility of religious fundamentalists in the Arab and/or Muslim world taking over governments, maybe we should think about the religious fundamentalists taking over ours? What is the difference between Levitical law and Sharia law? Not much. If you think we have nothing to worry about, I suggest you watch Fox News or read Max Blumenthal's excellent book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. Watch this excellent episode of NOVA which documents Christian fundamentalists trying to infiltrate our school systems: Judgment Day - Intelligent Design on Trial.

Remember - those that live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Again, thank you Egypt for a wonderfully emotional and inspirational day. You inspire and validate my belief in the dignity and courage of the human spirit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sometimes 140 Characters Just Isn't Enough

Hello, blogosphere! I hope that this will be a long and happy relationship.

I decided that 140 characters just isn't enough sometimes when I want to express my opinions. In future posts, I will be expressing those opinions in a clear and - hopefully - constructive manner. I invite all of you that read these to comment on the pros and cons of my opinions. I only ask that all comments leave hatred and profanity and vitriol behind.

First, let me introduce myself. I am a 45 year old woman living in eastern Washington State. I am a Caucasian American citizen whose family can be traced back to 1600s in America. I worked for over 10 years as a secretary for engineers working at a government contractor for the Department of Energy until I was laid off. I was unable to find work and eventually had to apply for disability, which is where I am now.

I now live in my parent's basement with my two dogs. I'll be up front about this -- I am an unabashed dog person. I prefer medium-sized to large dogs. Small dogs are very irritating. And don't get me started on cats. My dogs are sisters.




We have finally decided that they are Australian Shepherd/Catahoula mixes. They (and their whole litter) was found out near a big truck stop in a box on the side of the road. 

Another opinion I have about dogs. ADOPT! ADOPT! ADOPT! If you are planning on getting a dog - don't go to a pet store, don't go to a breeder - rescue a dog! If you are planning on showing a dog or something special, then I can understand getting a purebred. But if you want a pet - there is no reason for this. In fact - in some ways - it is irresponsible. There are so many rescue organizations and animal shelters where you can find great dogs. Most animals at animal shelters and other places are there not because they are bad, but because people are!

Whew! Glad to get that out.

More about me. I read an awful lot. I check out books from my local library. I listen to audiobooks while walking my dogs which I download from Overdrive or Audible. I even downloaded the Kindle app onto my Android smart phone. My favorite kind of books are mysteries, historical fiction, and true crime. Though, I probably will read anything (except maybe westerns). My favorite news magazine is The Economist. 

I guess I became a real news and politics junkie about a year after 9/11. And, then, after the big economic meltdown I really started actually following the business news. I get my news mainly from non-mainstream media. I listen to NPR and BBC radio - I love the On Point program from WBUR out of Boston. Other media sources I turn to are France24, Deutsche Welle, BBC, PBS, and - recently - Al Jazeera. For local news, I turn to the NBC and CBS affiliates. I sometimes turn on CNN or MSNBC but very, very rarely. 

I also love listening to podcasts from BBC and NPR. If you really want good analysis of political and economics, try the Planet Money and It's All Politics podcasts from NPR.

On to politics, I have decided that no party really represents my views. However, I have voted solely Democratic since 9/11. Why? At the time, I was very scared that President Bush and his neo-con friends were taking this country closer and closer to fascism. People today compare President Obama to Hitler. But at the time, I felt that Bush and his friends were very close. I was so, so grateful that Bush had the dignity and respect for our American ideals to step down. This, I think, is what separates us from other countries. No matter the vitriol and the hatred and the public anger - we always seem to handle power turnovers with dignity and respect. 

So, back to politics, I think I am a liberal-tarian. (I would  like to thank my friend Donna's son Aaron for this term.) Liberal-tarian means that you are a libertarian when it comes to social issues but a liberal when it comes to fiscal issues and other government issues. I think this is very close to my beliefs. For about 80% of politics, I am very much a centrist and very open to compromise, but I do have some red lines:
  1. Church and State. I am very hot and bothered when this topic comes up. We are NOT a Christian nation. Any one that reads Thomas Jefferson and others will see that separation of Church and State was a big red line for them too. Therefore, I am a dues paying member of Americans United and am very concerned whenever this comes up in the media. Basically it comes to this - the government needs to keep out of the churches and vice versa - the churches need to keep out of our government. Fair warning - this will probably come up again in future posts.
  2. Checks and Balances. Lately many people complain about "activist" judges. Well, duh! That is their judge. The judiciary is the third branch of the government. It is their job - and duty - to keep an eye and a check on the other two branches of government - which are the legislature and executive for those who don't remember their US Government classes. Unfortunately, however, the checks and balances have gotten kind of hazy. The signing statements that President Bush overused to negate legislative decisions. The House and Senate rubber stamping executive decisions rather than representing their constituents. 
  3. The Rule of Law. There were so many hacks and slashes to the rule of law in the last decade. I was so hopeful when Obama was elected. Now - I thought - the rule of law will be restored. The Constitution will be respected. Ah, well, it was a nice dream. We have to respect the legal ideals of our Constitution. No illegal search and seizures. Legal representation guaranteed. You are able to face your accuser. These are not just ideals reserved for the white man. Nor are they reserved just for US citizens. These ideals should be respected for all US courts - military and domestic!
These are issues I feel strongly about. Other political beliefs I have:

  • Health care. I believe that Obamacare is flawed. However, I also strongly believe that every human has the right to access to affordable and competent health care - and that includes dental and mental. 
  • Abortion . I am pro-choice as a public policy - but, personally, I think that it is wrong. But it is a choice. Government has no right to tell a woman how to handle her body.
  • Foreign Policy. I believe that our foreign policy should reflect our constitutional ideals. We should support countries that reflect our ideals and support the growth of those ideals in other countries. 
  • Fiscal Policy. We need regulation of our businesses. We have many examples in the past that left to their own devices, it leads to disaster. We need a complete restructuring of the tax code. People should get basic deductibles for the size of their family and then just pay a percentage of their income. The more you earn, the more you pay. When it comes to spending cuts - if we really need to cut our debt and deficit, which I'm not sure is as bad as people think it its - everyone should pay. Every department should take a cut - that means military and defense spending too!
These are political issues that will probably come up in future blogs. Fair warning!

I am single. I have never been married and have never had a child. (Not counting dogs.) I can even count my relationships on one hand. So, sometimes I have trouble relating to people that do. So, I rarely get out socially. I spend most of my time with the internet, books, music, and movies.

I love Godzilla and James Bond. I love movie musicals and monster and sci-fi movies from the 50's and 60's. I love Hammer Horror films. I loved Kolchak - the Night Stalker and The X-Files. I love great detectives from the great mystery authors: Hercule Poirot, Inspector Roderick Alleyn, Inspector Thomas Lynley, Commissario Guido Brunetti. I love true crime books and true crime television: Forensic Files, The First 48, 48 Hours Mystery. I also like shows like Criminal Minds, Law & Order (the UK version is terrific!), Detroit 1-8-7 -- detective shows are a lot of fun!

PET PEEVE ALERT! I can't stand the CSI shows. Let's face it. CSI employees/officers do NOT investigate. They do not interrogate the suspect. They do not carry guns. They do not arrest anyone. I respect all the science and investigation. But the shows should at least have had detectives and police doing the actual interrogation and prosecution of the suspect.

Well, that's enough about me. What about you? What kind of people read this post? I hope to have fun in future posts. I hope to do a little venting, a little cheerleading, and maybe a little weeping and laughing.

Thanks!