Friday, January 25, 2008

America's decaying infrastructure: teeth

As if we need another reason to get this country un-Scroogified.

Dental Decay: The Hidden Health Crisis at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The credit crunch versus the income drought

Robert Reich's Salon article "The politics of an economic nightmare" and tons of articles on the same topic are doing a very nice sleight of hand using the age old tactic of misdirection.

The real heart of the problem we are facing is that greed has been allowed to run amok causing a stampede of brainwashed "individualists" to believe they too can have a lifestyle of the "Rich and Famous" while the real institutions of civic democracy have had the rug pulled out from under them. This includes our own government which is now owned and run by the mega-rich and uber-wealthy.

The real drain has been the exporting of jobs overseas and the resulting lack of a decent income for millions of people in America. What jobs remain for these workers pays a pittance that no amount of credit can make up for.

Those who are still in the middle class making more than $60k/yr are a different story for they have no excuses for being in debt up to their eyeballs. Perhaps they are the greatest engines of greed having become so enthralled as "consumers" chasing visions of rich and famous lifestyles they forgot or never learned that restraint and impulse control is the first sign of maturity.

The root of all of this comes from a mindset that profit is the end all, be all of existence. And when one's humanity is subverted and lost in the process it goes unnoticed in the same way Scrooge lost his and had to be reminded of it by the intervention of four ghostly spirits who visited him one Christmas Eve.

I do not think America will be as fortunate as Scrooge in rediscovering its lost humanity. I think it will take the actual destruction of our country as a nation before the spoiled brats who occupy this country will know true suffering and the requirement of each of us to treat others as we would wish to be treated. There is no "us v. them" when the sorrow and grief and the stench of death is in every household.

Only then do I see the true consciousness of our interdependence penetrating the hard shell of selfish individualism. Only then do I see the possibility of the great masses of the people throwing off their chains of wage enslavement and mental thralldom to reclaim their souls and turn their energies to restoring the life and health of the land, their bodies, their families, and their communities.

The powers that be that have enslaved the entire planet to their ideas have soiled the nest for everyone and risk all our lives for their own petty desires. They have ensured that the peasants remain poor, that true democracy is never exercised, and that their profits are given holy sanction at whatever cost to the rest of humanity and to the life-giving properties of this planet. I just hope when they get sick and die that they will know that they did it to themselves.

As for the rest of us, we do have a choice to make. Either to go along with their view of life and existence or use our sovereign powers as morally acting human beings and give them the finger. If the powers that be are incapable of growing up then it is up to the rest of us to show them some of that tough love they like to espouse for others. To me, the first step is to pay what you can, ignore the interest rate, and when you think you've paid fairly and equitably for what you got, then turn off the spigot. Usury is evil. We the people must once again assert our sovereign right to live, to be free, and to pursue what little happiness can be found in life. It is time to wake up.

In other words, you cannot squeeze blood from stones. No amount of credit can make up for not enough income for workers. And as we can see, without a decent income, real savings, and a real valuation of the common good, the whole thing is a house of cards and everyone suffers when it falls down.

To make the point even shorter, no rain means no crops and no harvest and everyone starves.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger - Rest in Peace

I like good talent when I see it. Heath Ledger is a real loss. A really good match up would have been Heath and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Oh, and I don't buy it for a second it's a drug overdose.

[Update] NY Times article that gets at what I feel about the loss of Heath Ledger and the enormous talent he possessed.

When I first saw him in "10 Things I Hate About You" (on HBO) I kept having the impression I'd seen him before. However, a search of IMDB came up with nothing I would have seen him in. So I was left with a lasting impression of someone to keep an eye on in future films. His role in "Brokeback Mountain" proved the depth of his talent with a promise of much more to come.

This isn't about some cute guy or being a fanatic about movie stars. This is about a real appreciation of a very rare talent. That movies and acting has become a titillating giggle-fest for both guys and girls or a shocking horror-fest for the emotionally/experientially depraved should not be confused with the true art of thespianism and playwriting going all the way to the Greek Tragedies--in the modern era we can include cinematography in this.

The truest and purest of the art form is how well it opens the soul to the greater mysteries of existence and enables empathetic communion with others. Heath Ledger had such talent and the ability to be a conduit for the expression of the greater soul of the universe. It is for this reason I feel such an incredible loss.

Too many of the very best are cut short as if the Salieri's of the world cannot stand to have such a light in the world. What a crying shame.

[Another update] Though I failed to mention it, let it not be forgotten that he leaves a 2 year old daughter without a father. The loss to her is incalculable. I do not believe he would have left her willingly regardless of the breakup with her mother.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Speaking of power...

Is this article posted at

The Financial Tsunami: The Financial Foundation of the American Century.

Toward the end of the article is this:

In his book, Rockefeller declared the establishment’s determination to roll back concessions grudgingly granted by the wealthy and powerful during the Great Depression. Rockefeller issued the call in 1973, long before Jimmy Carter or Margaret Thatcher came to office to implement it. He called for a “deliberate, consistent, long-term policy to decentralize and privatize many government functions…to diffuse power throughout the society.” 10 The latter was a witting deception as his intent was not to diffuse power, but just the opposite—to concentrate that economic and banking power into the hands of a tight-knit elite.

I just don't get it. To want that kind of power is just not something I can wrap my head around, especially when it's purpose is "global domination." This is the stuff of the "evil-genius bad-guy" in comic books with which the "super-hero" does battle to thwart his plans.

Unfortunately, we have no super-heroes to save the day. What we have is a mess and a royal ecological disaster coming our way. The only "heroes" we can look to is ourselves and friendly neighbors. Our purpose will be to exit out of this nightmare of enslaved existence into a new paradigm based on the real value of life, health, heart, and family--in short, restore our lost humanity.

Is might right?

Only when used properly and for the right reason. The following article by David Swanson at is what Martin Luther King Jr. had to say about what ails us even to this day.

These are some of the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

"The nonviolent strategy has been to dramatize the evils of our society in such a way that pressure is brought to bear against those evils by the forces of good will in the community and change is produced. The student sit-ins of 1960 are a classic illustration of this method....

"So far we have had the Constitution backing most of the demands for change, and this has made our work easier, since we could be sure that the federal courts would usually back up our demonstrations legally. Now we are approaching areas where the voice of the Constitution is not clear. We have left the realm of constitutional rights and we are entering the area of human rights.

"The Constitution assured the right to vote, but there is no such assurance of the right to adequate housing, or the right to an adequate income....

"The past three years have demonstrated the power of a committed, morally sound minority to lead the nation.... Even the presence of a vital peace movement and the campus protest against the war in Vietnam can be traced back to the nonviolent action movement led by the Negro."

King was decidedly pro-change. But these are some more of his words:

"The white establishment is skilled in flattering and cultivating emerging leaders. It presses its own image on them and finally, from imitation of manners, dress, and style of living, a deeper strain of corruption develops. This kind of Negro leader acquires the white man's contempt for the ordinary Negro. He is often more at home with the middle-class white than he is among his own people. His language changes, his location changes, his income changes, and ultimately he changes from the representative of the Negro to the white man into the white man's representative to the Negro. The tragedy is that too often he does not recognize what has happened to him."

Yes, this is right-wing corporate-media color-blind hero, Martin Luther King Jr. speaking about the white man and the Negro people. He was speaking about what was, and what largely still is, not about what he dreamed might someday be.

He was for change, but not for electing just anyone who said the word, and not for letting pass the uncomfortable but necessary warning.

"A time comes," King said, "when silence is betrayal."

"As I have walked," King told the crowd assembled in Riverside Church a year before his assassination, "among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

King could be imagined today asking a Senator who would claim to oppose the occupation of a distant land while funding that violence with enough wealth to remake the globe: "Why, Senator, will you not filibuster future bills to fund this occupation? Ordinary citizens are sacrificing far more than the embarrassment of attempting a legislative maneuver that might not succeed?. Why will you not use the power you now possess for the good you claim to endorse, prior to asking us to bestow still greater powers on you?"

"There is nothing wrong with power," King actually said in his final address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, "if power is used correctly. You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love.

"It was this misinterpretation that caused Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject the Nietzschean philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love. Now, we've got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."

The strongest politicians do not support the waging of war against weaker peoples. The strongest voices in the United States today oppose the occupation of Iraq, and do so out of love for the people of Iraq and the world, and do so with more than words.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An example of voting for "none of the above"

Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 by The Nation
Michigan’s Ominous Message for Hillary Clinton
by John Nichols

The question in Tuesday’s Michigan Democratic primary was not whether Hillary Clinton could beat anybody.

The question was whether Clinton could beat nobody.

As the only leading Democratic contender to keep her name on the ballot after Michigan officials moved their primary ahead of the opening date scheduled by the Democratic National Committee, Clinton was perfectly positioned. She had no serious opposition. She also had the strong support of top Michigan Democrats such as Governor Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Usually, a prominent presidential contender running a primary campaign without serious opposition and with strong in-state support from party leaders can count on winning 90 percent or more of the vote. That’s how it went for George Bush when he was running without serious opposition in Republican primaries in 2004, and for Bill Clinton when he was essentially unopposed in the Democratic primaries in 1996.

But Hillary Clinton got nowhere near 90 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Michigan primary.

With most of the ballots counted, the New York senator was winning uninspiring 55 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

A remarkable 40 percent of Michiganders who participated in the primary voted for nobody, marking the “Uncommitted” option on their ballots. Another 4 percent backed Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who brought his anti-war, anti-corporate campaign to Michigan and made some inroads among Muslim voters in the Detroit area and liberals in Washtenaw County — where he was taking almost 10 percent.

But “Uncommitted” was Clinton’s most serious challenger in Michigan.

“Uncommitted” was actually beating Clinton in some counties and holding her below 50 percent in others, including Detroit’s Wayne County.

Ominously for the Clinton camp, the former First Lady was losing the African-American vote — in Wayne County and statewide — to “Uncommitted.” African-American leaders such as Detroit Congressman John Conyers, who backs Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, had urged an “Uncommitted” vote. And the message seemed to connect. Exits polls showed “Uncommitted” winning by a 70-26 margin among African-Americans. (Had Michigan voters been allowed to choose between all the serious contenders for the Democratic nod, CNN’s exit poll found, Obama would have won the African-American vote by a 73-22 margin over Clinton.)

“Uncommitted” also beat Clinton among independent voters who participated in the Democratic primary, and among young voters.

The message from Michigan, suggests veteran Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson, is that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee she’ll “have a real challenge building an electoral coalition that can win in November.”

“(A) Democrat won’t win without carrying a significant slice of the African-American vote or reaching out to independents,” explained Henderson.

It is hard to argue with that assessment.

It is harder still to believe that Clinton will get very far claiming Michigan handed her a meaningful victory Tuesday night. When two out of every five voters choose nobody rather than a prominent candidate who is running with little or no opposition, that candidate’s got no reason to celebrate.

John Nichols’ new book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism. Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson hails it as a “nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use of the ‘heroic medicine’ that is impeachment with a call for Democratic leaders to ‘reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by the founders for the defense of our most basic liberties.’”

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Right of the People

From the article "Most Likely to Secede" passed on by Carolyn Baker from the Atlantic Free Press (currently offline) is this excerpt:

"The deepest questions of human liberty and government facing our time go beyond right and left, and in fact have made the old left-right split meaningless and dead," said the declaration. "The privileges, monopolies, and powers that private corporations have won from government threaten everyone’s health, prosperity, and liberty, and have already killed American self-government by the people." The answer, it went on, was that the American states ought to be "free and self-governing." Two hundred and fifty years earlier, the Declaration of Independence asked for a similar dedication to self-governance: "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive," wrote Thomas Jefferson, "it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

Not sure why this struck me as revelatory having quoted the Declaration of Independence so often myself but it did. Perhaps it was because of the BBC report on "The Century of the Self" and the video short "The Story of Stuff" where the world has been turned into a giant plantation for rich aristocrats and the average person turned into a serf, peon, or slave.

But there is something else about this right that seemed to tease its way into my brain. It is the right of the people to establish rules of behavior and to admonish those who transgress those rules whether they be individuals or institutions.

At the individual level I am thinking of a listserv or email list. At the institutional level we have, of course, the corporation. In each case rights are asserted that are inimical to genuine preservation of life or the promotion of peace.

In this regard, I consider it the right of the people to ensure that the rules are followed. The problem is when there is no enforcement. Just as parents must follow-thru when setting limits with children or making "no" actually mean "no," it is this lack of enforcement that engenders an "any goes" attitude in society. Unfortunately, parents who don't enforce the rules end up with spoiled brats who throw tantrums have no respect for others.

There is no "right" to profit, especially when it comes at the cost of what sustains life on the planet or actively causes death either through poisoning or denial of the basic necessaries as shelter, food, water, clothing, warmth, and medical care. Any government or any world-view that is destructive to life or its capacity to restore itself is one that certainly needs to be abolished.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Story of Stuff

This is a really cute and really good 20 min. video about the true life-cycle of the consumer goods people buy and throw away every day.

It also goes along very well with the BBC report The Century of the Self. These two dovetail very nicely.

The question you gotta ask yourself: is this really all there is? Is there nothing more to our existence than going to work and buying stuff and then wondering why your life feels empty?

The Century of the Self

This a four part BBC report. It is extremely informative and well worth watching all 4 hours of it. For those who think they are not being manipulated and are "in control" of their lives, I'd suggest moving on so as not to ruffle that finely manicured "inner-child" self importance.

The Century of the Self

This link is the 4th part of the series about how politics fans the flames of childishness and keeps people from ever having to become mature human beings. These are very same techniques used by business and for exactly the same reasons. In fact, it is from the business world that politics got it from. No wonder we live in the business model of the world now. That model, however, is now thoroughly bankrupt and promises to make the world itself uninhabitable.

The presidential campaign charade

In no particular order is a crop of articles about the presidential candidates and the Chinese Fire Drill we go through in electing the pre-selected. For some reason many several of these are from Online Journal, but I got there from Information Clearing House and then found a trove of other articles. When I find others I'll add them onto the list.

2008 presidential charade promises deepening of government criminality and expansion of war
By Larry Chin
Online Journal Associate Editor

Paying No Attention to the Presidential Campaigns

Leaderless and clueless America heads for the trash can of history
By Paul Craig Roberts
Online Journal Guest Writer

Pardon my laughter and cynicism: observations on the US presidential primaries from Canada

By John Chuckman
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Vote for "None of the above"

It has often been said that ballots need a "None of the above" box. Perhaps doing a write-in for "None of the above" is one way to get that point across.

If a whole lot of people do it, it won't just be a throwaway vote, it will become a real story and has the advantage of not being seen as "voter apathy." Then, when the votes are counted and the candidates' percentages are tallied, an anomaly will show up as a lower percentage of total votes than if voters opt for deliberate non-participation.

For example, suppose there are 5 people who will vote and 5 who deliberately don't vote. Then, suppose you get a 3/2 split between the voters. That's 60 and 40 percent, respectively, of the total votes. But if the 5 non-voters do a write-in for "None of the above", then the totals completely change with the candidates receiving only 30 and 20 percent, respectively, and "none of the above" receiving 50 percent of the total vote.

I can then safely say I have done my civic duty in more ways than one.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The origin of the principles of humane government

The origin of humane government begins with the human heart. It is the human heart that determines the nature of our experiences in life. It is these experiences which determine everything else.

According to Mencius, without the feeling of commiseration one is not a human.

  • The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity or benevolence.
  • The feeling of right and wrong is the beginning of wisdom.
  • The feeling of deference and accommodation is the beginning of propriety.
  • The feeling of shame and dislike of the shameless is the beginning of righteousness.
The truth of this is found in a work as far in time and distance as one can get from ancient China. That work is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Although modern western civilization has little in common with ancient China in terms of taste in food, music, or beauty, there is little doubt that we share much in common with the human feelings of kindness versus cruelty.

It is on this basis of common feeling that Mencius says:

"All men have the mind which cannot bear to see the suffering of others. The ancient kings had this mind and therefore they had a government that could not bear to see the suffering of the people. When a government that cannot bear to see the suffering of the people is conducted from a mind that cannot bear to see the suffering of others, the government of the empire will be as easy as making something go round in the palm." (Chan, 1963)

This is not say that lesser men in positions of power will not abuse that power for their own ends. It is for this reason that Confucius clarified the principles of humane government based on the record of exemplary rulership of the ancients, particularly Shun and Yu. Philosophically, the principles of humane government are rooted in commiseration being the beginning of humanity. Without this foundation there is no manner of interpersonal relations whether in a family, among friends, or in government that will bring peace to the land and enable people to enjoy any happiness. It is therefore important to understand that the ultimate basis of all our relations are moral and not merely legal. Even the Declaration of Independence makes this point that all people are created equal and are inviolably morally worthy beings and thus the purpose of government is to ensure that this is so.

Both the Declaration of Independence and the Chinese Mandate of Heaven are clear that when any government is in violation of not only its own principles but of the greater moral basis of all our relations then the people have not only a right, but a duty, to change or abolish it and institute a new government.

Commiseration, therefore, is indeed the basis of humane government.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year 2008

I'm not putting the "Happy" in front of "New Year" this year. I've haven't been paying much attention to the ticking over of the new year for a few years now, but still, this one seems the most anti-climatic I've ever experienced. This is probably because I was paying attention to it this time and wondered where all the year-end summaries and celebrations were that used to be everywhere on tv counting down to midnight. With all the cable stations it was hard to find anything in the local tv listings except ABC and FoxNews. The rest were ones I found surfing through the channels.

For most of the evening though, I've been watching The Twilight Zone Marathon--something I haven't done in years. Rod Serling was indeed a prophet providing much needed social commentary and criticism about the direction our society was/is heading.

I, among others, believe this year, 2008, will be the year of reckoning. The financial situation is melting down and has all the hallmarks of the onset of a major depression far worse than the 1930s.

In its own way, I think this will actually be a good thing since it precedes the onset of true diminishment of the oil supply which peaked in 2006. With conservation the oil supply will last longer. Without conservation, it will diminish rather quickly. But, because of the economic depression people will already be learning to live with less which is what the peaking of global oil supplies portends.

Unfortunately, this will also have the effect of setting our society into disarray worse than the previous depression. I'm not sure what will happen in general, but I do know what I'll be doing before it gets really bad. I will be working to rebuild community in my small town and revamping the local economy so that we may weather what is to come.

As a result of just these two things, the corporatocracy that runs the squashes the life out of most things on this planet is facing bankruptcy. More importantly, the moral bankruptcy of the system is becoming ever more evident and people are beginning to wake up and look for alternatives.

I suppose in many ways I am actually more hopeful about the future than I have been in the last several years. There's only one thing that really bothers me though. It is the totalitarian nature of the American government. They are on the cusp of wreaking untold havoc on everyone, not just in the Middle East. I don't the money or the oil will run out soon enough to prevent that. And because the politicians are all part of the deluded and actively anti-spiritual nature of life in the U.S., they have become all but irrelevant except at the most local levels of city and county government. These are places where the most good can done to provide much needed leadership in rebuilding community, restoring its spiritual dimension, and making the local economy work again.

Anyway, may the new year be one of true renewal into a new paradigm that values life and treats people like they really matter. For that I shall welcome the New Year 2008.