Oil Spill, Reprise

Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico (NASA, International...Image by nasa1fan/MSFC via FlickrIt was surprising to find myself spending a day (once again) wondering what was going on with the spilling oil. I did not expect any action until August except for the daily cleanup of beaches and sad animals. Suddenly they were going to fit a new oil cap and test it for pressure to see if the oil line is whole or if it is leaking elsewhere. But, as is often the case with constant news coverage, on Wednesday it was “much ado about nothing”. For safety reasons the pressure tests were postponed for 24 hours. Now they decide to be cautious! It’s OK, as long as they will remember to choose safety over cost cuts going forward. We’ll see. Our long term memory is really bad.

So it’s Thursday, the cap has been fitted and the oil has stopped leaking into the Gulf. There is no oil leaking into the Gulf. Even though we know it is a temporary cessation we will take one minute to celebrate that beautiful absence. Hooray! The oil has only been shut off for about two minutes and someone with a Southern accent is asking if we can now end the moratorium on drilling.

Stage Directions: Smack your forehead with your open palm and say, “duh.”

I know these guys are really talking about jobs. I know we will go back to drilling, although perhaps not in such deep water. We have not replaced oil with other energies yet. Let’s at least wait to start drilling until we get this oil spill stopped for good and until the Gulf is well on it’s way to being clean. Let’s wait for the day when that ugly cloud of oil stops pouring from that well head for good.

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“No” to John Boehner

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), S...Image by talkradionews via FlickrJohn Boehner is a Republican. He is the minority leader in the House. You probably already know this. He is planning to become the new majority leader in November. I’m sure that he would really love to become the Speaker of the House. John Boehner drives me crazy. I have met other men like him. They always sound reasonable. They never raise their voices. In fact, when they want to give an idea or statement more weight they talk so quietly that everyone has to physically lean towards them to hear what they have to say. This does not mean their ideas are always better than anyone else’s, it means that they are either masters of strategy or they really think their ideas are better than anyone else’s. Either way there is a level of arrogance and manipulation involved that, as I said, makes me crazy. I do not see women using this tactic, but a woman certainly could use it.

Maybe I’m just ornery, but I cannot understand why people say such negative things about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. They both seem so guileless and straightforward. However, I do not hang out in Washington so I do not know any of these three in the sense that I cannot observe how they interact with their peers on a day-to-day basis. Still I would rather have Nancy Pelosi at the head of the house than John Boehner. Women in top positions in Washington seem to catch an awful lot more flak than men in the same positions. There is still a huge amount of “sexism” in Washington.

I love the way Nancy Pelosi is so respectful to Barack Obama and looks so happy that her party has the majority. Harry Reid looks like he raised “Babe”. Let’s keep these two people who seem more like regular people. Let’s say “no” to John Boehner, who has said that word a lot this year, and who presents as a career politician. In case I haven’t been clear – please keep voting for Democrats.

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Raising Age is not the Answer

Scanned image of author's US Social Security card.Image via WikipediaSome genius has suggested that we can save Social Security if we make people wait until they are 70 to collect. How can we change the age to 70 when already there are not enough jobs to allow people to work until they are 70? This sounds like some kind of tricky Catch-22. It is difficult to get or keep a job after the age of 55. What will people do between 55 and 70? No wonder people think America is on the wrong path. Social Security is failing and it sounds like our government cannot think of a way to save it that allows people to actually collect it. Our jobs are gone and our government cannot think of a way to find more. We can’t always solve our own problems, that’s why we have our government. What will America be like without Social Security? It’s so American. Isn’t there a way to infuse some money into the system and then revamp the system. I’m nervous about an America with no Social Security.

Private investment plans are really “iffy” for most of us. Last year my annuity dipped 38%. This year I got 84% of that back, but it is hard to plan a budget with these kinds of income swings. My Social Security, on the other hand, remained stable. If you’re self-employed you can work until you are 90 if you’re able, but we can’t all be self-employed.

Add up how many years our Congress people have spent in college. Add up the cost of all that education. Surely with all that talent and brain power in Washington you folks can figure out a way to save Social Security without setting ridiculous age requirements which bear no relation to what happens in reality.

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Instant Gratification

Obama promised to make government more transparent. He promised to try to lessen the power of special interest groups. He did not promise that he would do these things immediately because I’m sure he knew he couldn’t. Washington has done business in certain ways for many years. Washington has always had a love affair with business. After all, there was, first and foremost, the matter of campaign financing. Business has always had money politicians need. Very difficult to pass up money even it if comes with expectations of favors. The money gets delivered before the favors come due and it is, therefore, easy to pretend there is no connection.

Secondly, there is always the matter of attracting business to your home state. If you keep your state prosperous, you keep getting reelected. You get the plush committee appointments. You get to tuck little presents for your constituents back home, little projects (earmarks) into the bowels of bills and use your influence to get them to pass. These “you oil my palm and I’ll oil yours” tactics have been used successfully for decades. What will Congress switch to? How is business to be accomplished? Pocketbooks will suffer if these strategies go away, all kinds of pocketbooks; the government’s, the politician’s and the citizen’s. Can we afford to become transparent and above-board? We can see that our economy gets unhappy if our corporations all go away. If we really want transparency and above-board politics, all these financial issues must be addressed. The Supreme Court just ruled that a corporation is a citizen, just like any other constituent. This makes it Congress’s duty to consider a corporation’s needs and rights. I don’t think we’ve experienced the full implications of this ruling. Our tight economy makes it especially difficult for Obama to fight this fight right now.

People say they were carried away by the excitement of the campaign. They are acting like they were tricked into voting for Obama. Now he’s so boring, they say. Governing is never as exciting as campaigning. Obama had a lot of charisma during the campaign. Perhaps he doesn’t get to sparkle quite so much in the world of recessions and bank bailouts and stimulus packages and oil spills.

Did we really believe that things in Washington would change, boom, overnight? The Republicans have been running scared. They have been blaming any and everything on the Democrats and they have used this game plan before. Because they are not happy unless they are the party in power they have been trash-talking the Democrats and creating obstacles to any progress in the Democratic agenda. And many people seem to be falling for all this. Even though most of us are not rich enough to be Republican. They have used the deficit to put themselves in position to resume stealing our money for special interests and big business and to end services to American citizens. And people are falling for this. We are thinking of abandoning Obama already and sending masses of Republicans, who have promised to lower the deficit, back to Congress They will control spending by redirecting it right back to big business, special interests, their own pockets, and their campaign chests.

Maybe we will be disappointed by Obama, he doesn’t seem as liberal as I would like him to be (but he didn’t even when he was campaigning.) He still is more liberal than any Republicans. I don’t think we have given Obama a fair chance yet. We need to keep a Democratic majority in Congress for at least two more years.

It’s our fault. I guess we like a good dog and pony show better than the daily tasks of governing a country. Minute-to-minute thrills are our current addiction. Government as entertainment.

House Shopping V

I thought house shopping would be fun but I was wrong. It isn’t. Every used house has some problems; some structural, some cosmetic, some that can be overlooked, some that cannot. Even in this down market houses are selling quickly. If you waffle you lose your dream house (or your approximate dream house.) Last time I shopped for real estate the internet allowed totally easy access to information about houses. If you just browsed, or if you knew the neighborhood or the address or the MLS # you could access all the information about the house. Now it is more difficult to search by neighborhood. When you see a house you think you might like you can only print out the most basic information about the house. The companies hold back the complete listing specs. Sometimes they hold back the pictures of the interior. You cannot retrieve all the info from a real estate company unless you register and allow the company to contact you. Companies are hoarding data to drum up customers. It makes searching very frustrating and it’s difficult to choose a good house when so much information is being withheld. If you have signed with an agent you must bother the agent for every house you wish to study, no matter how casual your interest might be.

I have a property I need to sell before I can buy so my real estate agent does not want to show me properties until I have a firm offer. So even though I have signed with an agent, I have been conducting my search by myself and running into all this chicanery. It is not pretty to see the “business” techniques being employed to sell real estate in this crazy market and to compel customers to commit to an agency.

The crisis in the housing market has hurt home buyers in almost every way, except the interest rates.

A Great Consumer

These are the technological “gadgets” that I cannot afford but might like to have if I could:

Nintendo DS or DSi
Wii
Apple Tablet or iPad
iPhone with calling plan
iPod with charging dock
Digital Camera
Photoshop
Pagemaker
3G/4G Wireless with plan
External Hard Drive
GPS
Kindle

I would just spend all day fiddling with one device or another and the days would slip by in a daze of electronics and solitude. Human interaction would be totally unnecessary except when I wanted to buy or learn to use a new “gadget.” Well I guess if I had an iPhone I would have to have someone to call or I could just use it to order in, but then I would have to see the delivery person. OK, good, we’re not quite to the no human interaction stage, but we are close. Also I may have missed some things I really want because I don’t know about them yet. If you think of something be sure to clue me in.

True Compass 3 – Confirmation Hearings

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) meets with Sup...Image via WikipediaStill talking about True Compass by Edward (Ted) Kennedy and no I am not going to go through the whole book. I want to talk about a time Senator Kennedy describes when the Democrats (Senators) held hearings (as they do today) to confirm Nixon’s Supreme Court appointees. In those contentious days there was often quite a distance between what Republicans and Democrats wanted (also as is true today.) The Senate was not divided, in those days, on strictly partisan lines though, but more on a North-South divide. Up to this time the Senate usually rubber-stamped a President’s Supreme Court appointees, but this was not required by the Constitution. The Senate is supposed to act as a check on the President in this regard

The Democrats under Nixon, along with some Republicans were the first to decline to confirm a Supreme Court appointee. And they did it twice. They would have liked to turn down a third appointee, but the country had no stomach for it. This precedent has come back to bite the Democrats in the case of the hearing for Elena Kagan. Although it looks like she will be confirmed, I have heard Republicans pointing the finger (not that finger) at Democrats saying, “You set a precedent. We could decline this candidate, if we wished. It would be payback. It would not mean that we would always support cutthroat confirmation hearings.”

Regardless of (or maybe because of) how holier than thou they sound I sincerely wish we could sit on the Republicans for a long, long time. They have really not changed their tune at all between Nixon and now (perhaps between the Civil War and now). It’s a monotone tune without harmony. We do need a third party, but not the tea party. So reactionary. We need a liberal hand for a while.

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Gut-Punched

Kennedy brothers; left to right John, Robert, Ted.Image via WikipediaI’m still reminiscing my way through True Compass by Edward (Ted) Kennedy. I’m knee deep in the Civil Right’s movement and the Vietnam War years are just revving up. Ted Kennedy knew Martin Luther King because they were contemporaries. We all owe MLK a lot. He could have advocated violence and that would have torn America up, but he didn’t. He stressed peaceful resistance. “Black” Americans bore the brunt of the white backlash, but his tactics allowed for a national mood of shock at the hatred and sympathy for the cause of civil rights that violence might not have produced. Then we lost Martin Luther King.

Then we lost Bobby Kennedy who had been successfully campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President. These were very bad days for America. Something was very wrong. Ted Kennedy, personally gut-punched for the second time in five years, describes how his life reeled out of control for several years. It it difficult to imagine the pain in his life. His brother Joe, dead in World War II, his sister Kick, dead in an accident, his dad unable to communicate due to a stroke, Jack, assassinated and now Bobby, also assassinated. How does one family absorb all of this. And we know there was more to come. Although Senator Kennedy discusses Chappaquiddick he maintains that it was an innocent accident and one that he never, ever got over. He is gone now and that is the last word on that.

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Senator Kennedy and Me

I’m reading True Compass by Edward (Ted) Kennedy. It’s like a time machine to my life. Those Kennedy boys (and girls) were a bit older than me and a lot richer, but we lived through the same events and changes.

Jack was actually a participant in World War II, but Teddy was too young. I missed World War II completely except that all my cousins were in the military and I remember how imposing and important they all looked in their uniforms. But that was at least 10 years after the war. Dwight David Eisenhower (Ike) was my first president, his election slogan, “I Like Ike”,” perfectly designed to appeal to a child. He had a presidency that was sweet with success and the optimism of the 50’s. He was a war hero. He had little or no controversy to deal with. Everyone was so happy the war was over. They just wanted to sing and dance and drink beers and buy homes and raise families. They wanted life and comfort after years of blackouts.

Jack and Jackie were American royalty. I really did experience this presidency as Camelot, although the national dialogue was heating up. Communism was as close as Cuba and the South was in upheaval as our African-American citizens insisted that their rights be respected once and for all and Caucasian-Americans had to be persuaded to agree. Although this sounds so civilized, we all know it was not.

I do remember where I was when Jack Kennedy died. I was in front of a jewelry store in the town where my college was located. I was a Freshman. The jeweler broadcast his radio outside his store. We all listened in shock, walked back to school in tears, and sat for several days in the student lounge in front of the TV watching the shooting over and over, the swearing in of LBJ, and the funeral with John-John standing with his sister Caroline and with Jackie saluting his Dad as the funeral procession went by. America was in grief and in shock. It was the end of our rosy days.

Feel Your Way

E. S. Curtis (1904): Canon de Chelly – Navajo....Image via WikipediaThe universe is the trickster – the Navajo’s certainly have that right. It is a master of sleight-of-hand. Look over here, something will happen over there. Take the overview, something will begin on the “down low.” Never take too long to breathe your sigh of relief, always expect the unexpected. We humans don’t like this uncertainty. We like to be able to predict, to plan, to put a plan into action, to succeed and when successful to enjoy our success for a long, long time (like forever). Sometimes this happens. Sometimes, however, when a person, or a family, or a country get to feeling comfy and complacent, there is a zap!

They tell you you have a pension for the rest of your life and then, zap, they take it away, or they want to take it away.

They tell you you have a job and then jobs go away.

They praised you for being such a hard worker. You were a success. Now they imply it’s your fault that you don’t have a job.

It’s just the universe. It’s big. If it has a plan that plan is too vast to comprehend. To us it looks like some kind of randomized chaos.

Who are “they”? Are “they” susceptible to the same uncertainties as us. Probably, although they seem invincible the “they” we refer to keeps changing. I’m guessing there is no way to prepare for all uncertainty. Sometimes a savings account just isn’t enough. Sometimes our religious beliefs just don’t seem like enough. We just have to “feel” our way through life and rely on each other.

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