Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do you start at the bottom or the top?

There are many ways to divide Republicans and Democrats for how they tend to see the problems in the United States (maybe of the world). You hear it crop up whenever they begin discussing what has gone wrong.

If you are a Republican, one of the first things you will say is how the poor have been lazy, welfare is damaging our country, that some have gotten benefits that you have not. You work hard and resent the hell out of it. Socialism is your fear.

If you are a Democrat, fascism is what you worry about, and the problem will be the top has gotten all the benefits, that their greed, has caused the stock market problems and they are not caring about the workers under them. They are taking too big a piece of the pie already, what do you mean a bail-out or more tax cuts for them?

Republicans talk about trickle down.
Democrats say a rising tide lifts all boats.

I am not sure how many in the States are aware of the massive government 'welfare program' that Alaska has. It was $2000 per citizen (this is not per family) reverse state income tax, paid for by the oil companies and you at the pump. Under Sarah Palin, oil corporation taxes were further increased (make you feel good when the dollars are spinning around at each fill up?) and another $1200 per citizen has been added to that. Manna from the government is sooooooooooo bad... unless you get it?

McCain is proposing tax rates to further lower taxes on the highest incomes. You know who says that's good. Greenspan said it's not good because we are borrowing to do it; but hey what's a little borrowing? We have gotten good at it and are evidently about to get a lot better. The argument against progressive tax rates is why should the rich be punished just because they were successful. Republicans worry so much about the welfare of the rich.

Obama promises more tax relief for the middle class; but the fear that some might trickle down is causing many Republican voters to not care. They want it going to the richest. Maybe they figure they will be there someday. I am not sure of the reasoning but leaving behind the bottom is fine with them because those people are poor due to not working enough-- and so it goes.

Yes, the richest do pay the most taxes. They also have the most money to do it (even more after these last years). Most of the wealth in this country is controlled by the top 1% of the people. We are increasingly seeing a nation of haves and have nots. Does this matter?

One of the things that the Obamas did in their Republican derided community organizing work was to get young people into mentoring programs to help them rise up out of poverty. This is the goal of many groups like AmeriCorp who aim to get work for someone, with community paying the salary for awhile which then enables them to find their own jobs after a year or whenever the contract period runs out.

There is a saying and Republicans love it. Hand a man a fish and he only eats it, but teach him how to fish and he has the ability to get more for himself. This is the goal of Barack Obama. He has put his work into it for years and now hopes to bring his ideas to the whole country. It is why Democrats favor him while Republicans don't get it. They see this as possibly rewarding the bad guys (welfare moms) while taking it from them.

Some of their fear might have been justified in the past but in 1996, Clinton and a Republican controlled congress changed how welfare worked. Today there is a program called Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which put on a lifetime benefit of 5 years for receiving aid. AFDC was replaced Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

My niece benefited from this change as it took her (a welfare mom) out and gave her training in a business that received temporary help from the government. It taught her skills the workplace could use, and helped her go out where she began to earn a salary no longer government subsidized. Today, she has 6 kids (all from the same dad in case you wondered); so probably still gets food stamps. I haven't asked about that, but I know she has pride in herself for holding down a job which is teaching her children more positive values by seeing their mom earning the money that supports their family.

We avoid one generation after another of being on the dole by strict requirements for who gets welfare and through job training programs-- ideally excellent public education systems. For those who say private schools are best, they would leave behind the kids with parents who don't care. Can you see the problem eventually with such a system? If all that reaches you is self-interest, think crime. We already have one of the highest prison rates per capita. That's not cheap either.

Today Democrats advocate helping people for a period of time (except those who are handicapped), job training, and quality public education. Obama talked about this in his debate last week. Don't overly tax the middle class, help them to have more success, build infrastructure, and provide effective public education. It is why those of us, who believe we have to start at the bottom and it will rise up the whole ship, support him.

I understand the logic of thinking the rich will help others. It comes out of men like Andrew Carnegie, who built libraries across this nation to encourage literacy. It comes out of those like Bill Gates who provide computers to all schools. Wealthy people fund a lot of the investments in research and new development. Someone like Warren Buffet, with his many billions, has much of that money invested in the economy helping new ideas grow; and if he chooses those investments wisely, his own wealth.

It is not the same for all wealthy (anymore than it is for all poor). Some have made their fortunes through building products and creating something real. Others, however, have been into trading paper with no concern for a product or who gets hurt so long as they get their money out first. For people like that, regulation is essential. For someone like Warren Buffet, his own ethics would regulate what he did. Not all wealthy are bad guys but not all are good.

We have seen the results of bad planning for Democrats during the Johnson years where handing out money didn't work to change people's lives. We have seen the results of bad planning during the Bush years where some took advantage of a lax and unenforced system. The answer, in my mind, is a little of both ways of thinking accompanied by regulations that encourage good lives and jobs. Business needs regulation because some will abuse it if it isn't there.

Rise everyone up through their own labor, and we will all be better off. Forget those at the bottom because you aren't sure what would make a difference and you will pay the price other ways.

Here are some sites to read for further information:

Paul Krugman on who should get the 3 AM call on the economy

Obama on taxes and economy

Tax cuts offer most for rich, study says

Retirees taking the biggest hit with this troubled economy

Photos from Oregon Coast September 20, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Federal Budget

Before the latest proposed bail-out of Wall Street, here is what we were dealing with as a nation: United States Federal Budget. These are the things our Congress and President have committed to spending and generally do spend each year. Some expenses are discretionary and some mandated like Social Security.

The budgets, so far as I can determine, have yet to include the cost of the war in Iraq and probably not the costs we will be accruing for years to come in terms of increased Veteran Health problems. They also were put together before the latest proposal to bail out the stock market.

There are other sites that also explain it but they are not so easy to understand, like: US Budget. You can go from there to find individual departments and what they were budgeted for 2008.

Here is another site to help you see what we have been borrowing: U.S. National Debt Clock. To get some perspective on this, $.22 of every dollar of taxes goes to interest on this debt and it will rise as the debt rises. Senator McCain suggests that we can solve this problem with earmarks but they were a small part of the budget and some of them were for items that need solutions like bridges to somewhere.

Think about this problem in a logical sense for a minute. If an economic adviser was looking at your home expenses and you said you were paying $.22 of every dollar of income on interest but not paying down the principle, what would they say to you? How much leeway does this give our government to work on any problems anywhere?

With the stock market taking another nose dive, major financial institutions have proven deregulation doesn't work where it comes to money and it never has. The supposed capitalist manifesto, Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith was not about totally unregulated capitalism allowing the greedy free rein.

Smith wrote: " It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages." He referred to this as rational self-interest-- something we haven't been seeing much of in these markets. When you kill the golden goose, there are no more eggs-- unless you can talk someone else into handing them to you.

There are two key provisions in our Constitution about federal responsibility and one is regulating commerce. Who forgot about that? Somebody not paying attention? Or did they financially benefit in their forgetting? Don't forget how lobbyists have grown in numbers just since Bush got in office.

Right now, we are as individuals facing one heck of a mess-- as will our next president. We have to worry about our own investments, our salaries, loans, our family member or neighbor who is losing their home or out of work, and then what happens if the country cannot continue to borrow from the rest of the world?

Currently the United States borrows the bulk from the Federal Reserve. They are certainly making a tidy profit; so long as we can continue paying that interest-- and that doesn't pay anything down. A lot of people listened to Cheney when he said the debt was insignificant. Our grandchildren will find their options as a people far less because of what they have inherited from their insolvent parents.

The talk goes that Democrats increase the debt, obviously proven false by when it has grown biggest. The question I was left with is-- who benefits from this debt? Who is profiting from it? My best guess is it's not those welfare moms that some Republicans worry so much about.

Chart from: zfacts

Whoever becomes president in January will inherit some nasty problems on a federal and domestic level. If the American people expect a band-aid response to those problems, the end result will keep escalating and being pushed into the future, but it cannot be ignored forever.

Sacrifice was denied even after 9/11. Go shopping! That's still the answer with the government's $600 rebate to most families. What can $600 buy? Go get a new DVD player and find out. Suppose the government had used that money in another way and put it into our crumbling infrastructure, done the kinds of projects we can't individually finance-- maybe rebuilt more bridges before they collapsed, improved our rail lines or airports?

One of the things that helped a lot of families during the depression was work projects, which we still have as benefits today all around the country. Projects like that provide jobs but also leave us with something real for our money. Oh yeah, I know a DVD player is real too-- until it gets replaced by newer technology and ends up in the garbage dump.

Investment in infrastructure is what we see in other countries that are sometimes surpassing us for the quality of their lives. It's something that Republicans often argue is the duty of the private sector. Fine, do you want to pay to use that new freeway every time you turn onto it? Tolls for the bridges? There are many ways to pay taxes and a lot of them have a profit tucked in for somebody else.

[Update or should that be downdate: The vote today on the bail-out leaves me depressed. From the sounds of this, from Kos, this bail out will give wall street what it wanted and leave main street holding the bag. Typical.

Yes, I get it.Without this we head for a depression. I understand the banks are saying without this, they will crash, but explain why those who failed should get fat cat salaries? To me this just delays something worse coming and with the government having less money to handle it.

I operate on logic and to me this bill doesn't sound logical but is likely to be voted through on fear mostly by Democrats... ugh! A depression will be bad. Loss of our stock market investments will be bad, but does this do anything but delay when that happens? The government, with a population unwilling or able to pay more taxes, cannot keep going into this kind of debt forever!]

Sunday, September 28, 2008

But she's a woman!

Sarah Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Hillary Clinton.
She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

- By Gloria Steinem September 4, 2008

Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.

But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton . Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."

This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience.

Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq , she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq "

She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular, and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and gays" ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.

So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq ; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine . McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.

Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.

So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.

Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan gains from this contest.

Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.

And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children.

This could be huge.

Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder of the Women's Media Center . She supported Hillary Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Who is Sarah Palin?

You know, the hardest part of writing all of this, in particular about Sarah Palin, is avoiding high blood pressure. It's a good time to practice meditation regularly. *taking deep breaths* That this women is seriously considered to be president of the United States, a leader in the world community... Ohhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm

Choosing a vice president at a time where we are in such difficult straits economically and around the world, was a critical choice for a presidential candidate. With John McCain's age, his being a cancer survivor, his own dad dying at 71, the way he mixes up his facts (although he held them together for the debate) his choice was even more critical.

Every interview with Sarah Palin shows once again how totally out of her element she is. I am not sure she could even get educated. If she was an intelligent, curious, interested woman, wouldn't she have had some opinions on Iraq before she was tapped to potentially be president? Who do you know who had so little interest in any of it and would you trust them to govern the country tomorrow?

She can memorize short talking points but as soon as she has to explain anything, it becomes embarrassing. This is just one tiny example and it's even worse if you listen to her while she's speaking: Palin on Kissinger's ideas.*

This woman is worse than an embarrassment. She should immediately be replaced by Joe Lieberman now that McCain is safely past that right wing Convention who would have rebelled at his actual preference. I might disagree with these two on everything, might think McCain has a better chance to lose with Palin on the ticket, but this is about our country in a difficult time. Nothing could be as bad as keeping Palin on the ticket where her only contribution is to win the vote of people who know as little about the world situation as she does.

How much of this did McCain know before he chose her? From what he says, it sounds like he knew (still only accepts) spin, not reality. He has learned well from George Bush. If you say something enough times, some people will believe it even if they see the truth in front of their eyes. This choice says more about John McCain than even Sarah Palin. Despite his words, this choice says that he's no patriot, that he would potentially leave such a woman in a position where she could become president; and he doesn't appear to be very farsighted.

Try this link to start learning about Palin's actual record if you have only been paying attention to her gender or gotten caught up in the tabloid spin: Once elected Palin rewarded friends and lashed foes. Does this sound like somebody we might already know? Somebody without a vagina? Clue: he posed on a flight deck of an aircraft carrier after the Iraq war was mission accomplished in 2002.

How about this: As mayor of Wasilla, Palin cut own duties and left a trail of bad blood. Does any of this matter? Do you care that she might think the world began 7000 years ago but she will lie if you ask her about that? Do you care that her answer to any world problem is either reform (not sure of what) or drill more oil followed by god will take care of it?

Palin has been operating in Alaska with a reverse state income tax (increased under her tenure and funded by you at the gas pump) and one of the higher rates of acquiring federal pork. Timothy Egan-- Moo. She is a 6 year mayor with a mixed or worse reputation who won the governorship based on religion, beauty, ambition, and a lousy preceding governor who was so corrupt that anybody would look good.

Palin's record is one of rewarding her high school friends with high paying jobs, lying about her accomplishments, firing those who don't tow the line, of ignoring any investigations, and of being in general clueless about anything but getting elected. She is another George W. Bush but prettier-- for now. She won't end up pretty.

The so-called PUMAs are smugly stating they will vote for Palin to pay back those who didn't give the nomination to Hillary. How very... Ohhhhhhhmmmmmmmm

Even though I know laughter is good for us, I have had a hard time finding anything in this humorous. I admit though the following became funnier when I heard her refer to the campaign as the Palin/McCain. From YouTube:

*After McCain saying once again that Kissinger didn't say we should negotiate with Iran over their nukes, here is the quote: "Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says the United States should begin direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. Kissinger, speaking Monday at George Washington University along with four other former U.S. State Department secretaries, said the next president should initiate high-level discussions with Iran "without conditions," ABC News reported."

Kissinger is saying he agrees with what Senator McCain said in the debate that there have to be preconditions but Obama didn't say differently. He has said there have to be preparation; but he also was not saying that the preconditions must be that it's all been decided and the figureheads get together for a photo-op. We have had a president incapable of negotiation but that has not always been the case, and it won't be if it is President Obama in January.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate number one

I had written the blog for tomorrow before the debate but thought I'd write something here about how I saw the Obama McCain debate. Listening to pundits dissect it leaves me wondering what they saw. For me, since I liked Barack Obama to begin, it enhanced my belief he's the right man to be president in 2009.

McCain constantly looked to the past. While I see value in learning from history, I agree with something Obama said earlier. If we can't find new ways out of our problems, we are doomed to repeat them. It is through strengthening this country and our young people, education and restoring our infrastructure that we can make ourselves strong again. Obama focused on the future and on what we must do to make ourselves strong in this 21st Century.

People who liked McCain will like what he said. Pundits on MSNBC saw McCain as doing better for reasons that have nothing to do with the issues like that he was more emotional. This might win with Americans for all I know since so many people seem to vote on things other than real ideas and issues. I think many of them, like me, were predisposed to see their candidate win. That's how pundits are these days.

McCain had the ads already printed saying that he won. I hope Americans watched this and judged it for themselves, not like an American Idol contest but like whose ideas had traction for the problems we face.

To me McCain lost the debate because he isn't the right man with the right ideas for the future. His biggest example of that will be discussed tomorrow morning in my blog on Sarah Palin.

Clinton is for what's his name

To my dismay, I had seen clips from Bill Clinton's comments on the View and was aghast. He was defending those who vote on gender saying it was a valid way to make such a choice. Is voting on race alone okay too?

He's been everywhere lately. When he was on David Letterman, Chris Rock came right afterward and had this reaction: Hillary Lost.

It seems to me there has been little doubt that Hillary's most bedrock supporters want to see McCain win no matter what damage it does to the courts, to wars, to the environment, the economy, to anything. Bill says he supports Barack but then he says things to undermine him. For Bill it appears to be resentment about losing the primary and looking toward 2012 with Hillary running again (guess he doesn't think a Vice-President Palin will be a factor in blocking that ambition).

I would have added Hillary to the above paragraph except if she's doing this, it's not in public. What I have seen of her, her campaigning for Obama, it seems she really wants to see him win. What she does behind closed doors, that I don't know; but this is about Bill and all his recent appearances.

So Clinton says he supports what's his name; even as he constantly says what a good man and how ready to govern John McCain is. He even defended McCain for saying he would cancel the debate to solve the whole economic disaster in a couple of days.

Bill said on The View, voting for a woman, because she's a woman, makes as much sense as voting on say issues or character. By now, it shouldn't have, but it still flabbergasts me. A vagina, that's all it takes? But then we were talking about Bill...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 'We Deserve it Dividend'

I got this from a friend in an email and it made sense to me. Hey if Congress is handing out money, why not?

We Deserve It Dividend

Hi Y'all,

I'm against the $85,000,000,000.00 bailout of AIG. Instead, I'm in favor of giving $85,000,000, 000 to America in a "We Deserve It Dividend". To make the math simple, let's assume there are 200,000,000 bonafide U.S. Citizens 18+. Our population is about 301,000,000 +/- counting every man, woman and child.

So 200,000,000 might be a fair stab at adults 18 and up. So divide 200 million adults 18+ into $85 billon that equals $425,000.00. My plan is to give $425,000 to every person 18+ as a "We Deserve It Dividend". Of course, it would NOT be tax-free. So let's assume a tax rate of 30%. Every individual 18+ has to pay $127,500.00 in taxes. That sends $25,500,000, 000 right back to Uncle Sam. But it means that every adult 18+ has $297,500.00 in their pocket. A husband and wife has $595,000 .00.

What would you do with $297,500.00 to $595,000.00 in your family?
* Pay off your mortgage - housing crisis solved.
* Repay college loans - what a great boost to new grads
* Put away money for college - it'll be there
* Save in a bank - create money to loan to entrepreneurs.
* Buy a new car - create jobs
* Invest in the market - capital drives growth
* Pay for your parent's medical insurance - health care improves
* Enable Deadbeat Dads to come clean - or else

Remember this is for every adult U S Citizen 18+ including the folks who lost their jobs at Lehman Brothers and every other company that is cutting back. And of course, for those serving in our Armed Forces. If we're going to re-distribute wealth let's really do it, instead of trickling out a puny $1000.00 ( 'vote buy' ) economic incentive that is being proposed by one of our candidates for President.

If we're going to do an $85 billion bailout, let's bail out every adult U S Citizen 18+!

As for AIG - liquidate it.
* Sell off its parts.
* Let American General go back to being American General.
* Sell off the real estate.
* Let the private sector bargain hunters cut it up and clean it up.
* Here's my rationale. We deserve it and AIG doesn't.

Sure it's a crazy idea that can "never work", but can you imagine the Coast-To-Coast block party? How do you spell Economic Boom? I trust my fellow adult Americans to know how to use the $85 Billion. We Deserve It Dividend more than do the geniuses at AIG or in Washington DC. And remember, the family plan only really costs $59.5 Billion because $25.5 Billion is returned instantly in taxes to Uncle Sam. Ahhh...I feel so much better getting that off my chest.

Kindest personal regards,

A Creative Citizen.

Did you think a maverick is good in a leader?

If there are any McCain supporters still reading here, please help me understand how you can possibly support this man after the latest irresponsible, weird behavior?

You still like the idea of a maverick? Do you know what a maverick is? It is a calf without a mother, who has not been trained by the herd how to behave. It's a disruption, something running around with no idea where it belongs, or where it's going.

John McCain has shown us over and over how unreliable he is. He runs off half cocked, says things without thinking, wants to do this and then that. He's for something until he's against it and then back for it.

Last summer it was suspend a gasoline tax that pays for our road work which is mostly done during the summer and has a budget that doesn't have room to keep going without incoming funds. So let's see: people could drive their cars farther but wouldn't have repaired roads on which to do it?

Then there was the Sarah Palin choice for veep. If Republicans cared about their country, wouldn't they have laughed this choice out of the convention center? Instead, they were told small town American experience mattered more than anything like good judgment, a diverse life experience, a quality education, or being intelligent. Their egos went rah and still do when she tells them how exceptional they are.

The right wing loved that she is a religious extremist who believes the earth was created a few thousand years ago, that witches should be driven out of African villages, that god is speaking to George Bush and her too; and that she believes in right to life proving it by living it for her daughter and herself. It no longer mattered that McCain had been saying he'd pick someone experienced in foreign policy. Never mind anything. The maverick had spoken and chosen another maverick.

Then there's his reaction to Georgia being attacked by Russia. Yes, bad situation but we are all Georgians? If he had had the presidency, what would his statement have meant? What was he thinking? Never mind, that's why he's a maverick. He isn't supposed to think before reacting.

Never mind all his mistakes about countries. The world is used to us having an ignorant president with no clue that Spain is an ally or who Sunnis and Shiites are.

He condemns golden parachutes for failed CEOs. When they ask him (logically) what about the one for Carly Fiorina, who was fired by Hewlett-Packard and walked off with a huge golden parachute from a company she put in terrible financial condition, he says she did a good job! Does he have a clue that she was fired, that she got that payoff because these things are negotiated by the corporate boards and they all get them-- failed or not? Those parachutes are bad for somebody else but not her because she's his adviser and lovely to look at? Does he understand any of that or just lie about everything and he's always gotten away with it?

Is John McCain a pathological liar? Does he know when he lies? Can anybody trust anything he says? When he told David Letterman he had to cancel his appearance because he would be on a plane back to Washington to save the country, didn't he know Letterman would find out about his lie?

If you accept an invitation to a dinner party, get a better opportunity, turn down the first to go to the second, you better be sure the first can't find out what you did. When Letterman found out, he evidently was on the air and didn't mind letting everybody else know by sharpening his wit. How many have covered up for McCain instead?

The whole thing was triggered because McCain suddenly (after polls show him dropping) decided he has to run back to DC and solve the whole bail-out problem. Time out for the debate on Friday and also all campaigning (but Republican attack ads can, of course, continue to run)! You know presidents have run for office and debated even during wars. But not the maverick. It was another impulsive without thinking decision.

The day before he had said he wasn't sure how he'd vote on the bail-out. Now he's going to head back to DC to solve the entire mess. Oh and his plan would involve delaying the Palin/Biden debate. No surprise they'd want to do that. They still aren't letting her face anything but carefully controlled interviews.

This man is ready for a nervous breakdown, not the presidency of this country!

Surprisingly, the conservative, George Will Agrees with me: McCain loses his head... and this was before the latest proof.

What Will said, that resonated the most with me and should with you, was, "It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

The answer is obvious-- no, it cannot!

For a laugh, here is the clip from Letterman:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ice Bergs? What Ice Bergs?

Consider taking 26 minutes and watching this interview: Kevin Phillips on Bill Moyers. Fran from Sacred Ordinary put a link to it in comments yesterday but it was apparently a Mac link and didn't work for me.

Phillips, who has written a lot of books saying this was going to happen, gives an excellent explanation of where we are and what is coming. Also an analysis of both candidates for what they might/might not do next with the economic Titanic that we are facing.

One thing that he mentioned that I particularly liked (well not liked but showed the gravity of the situation) was his explanation of what is going on. Phillips said, "There are seven sharks in the tank with the economy."

"And the first is financialization because we're so dependent on this industry that's sort of half lost its marbles. The second is that you have this huge buildup of debt, absolutely unprecedented anywhere in the world. The third is you've now got home prices collapsing. The fourth is you've got global commodity inflation building up."

"The fifth is you've got flawed and deceptive government economics statistics. The sixth is that you've got what they call peak oil where the world is, to some extent, running out of oil. So it's not just commodity inflation, it's a shortage of oil. And then the last thing is the collapsing dollar. Now, whenever you get this sort of package in one decade, you got a big one. And when Greenspan says it's a once a century, I think it's another variation but on a par with the Thirties."

(Quote from the transcript which is also online.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wall Street vs Main Street

Currently, writing anything about the economy is one of those things that goes out of date as soon as it is written. I won't count how many times I have rewritten this and doubtless could again the moment it gets published.

Having a degree in economics, which I most certainly do not, might not have helped, as some of the best economic minds have not been sure what to do. The one thing many are starting to agree on is let's look carefully at this bail-out proposal. Giving the foxes more money to guard the chickens is not likely to help. [Dirty Secret of the Bail-out]

When McCain said our economy was fundamentally sound and then revised it to say our workers were, he was ignoring the connection between banking, loans and jobs. Here's one article about what was happening and could have happened: Almost Armageddon.

A lot has been thrown at us at once. They (many theys) tell us that our economy was on the point of collapse but we can bail it out with a trillion dollar loan gift with no guarantees, no promise that this all won't happen again, or that it really solves the problem. Somebody made bad loans and now want the taxpayer to absorb those loans while letting somebody keep all their profits. Bad loan = yours. Good loans = ours! And the fix has to be enacted immediately or our economic structure will collapse like a house of cards (which it kind of was).

If you haven't already read Naomi Klein's 2007 book, Shock Doctrine the rise of disaster capitalism, head down to your bookstore or library and take a look. Create a disaster, an emergency and then offer a solution that they wanted but couldn't get without the shock. Make it an emergency and you get what you wanted.

Americans have been duped into such rapid movements that ended up giving away even their precious freedoms, duped into wars that have worsened our financial situation, and this is no time to be railroaded again-- but Congress looks ready to do it anyway.

I am not suggesting we can ignore the seriousness of this situation. How many of us know enough to even understand what it is-- except for one thing. When I grew up and became an adult, there was such a thing as pensions. Someone would work many years for a company and be guaranteed a pension based on their salary and length of service.

Today very few people, who didn't work for government, have pensions. Main Street depends on Wall Street and investments to fund retirements. Social Security, despite the resentment the right feels toward it, offers only an emergency cushion for most people.

If you think a collapse of Wall Street wouldn't matter to you, because your money is in a box under your bed, think of the jobs of your neighbor, your food, trucking, the whole ball of wax. You might not be depending on loans or investments, but a lot of everything around you is. Check out this in-depth analysis for what has been going on while we were sleeping.

Ariana Huffington wrote this for a simplified explanation for what she believes led to this point: "Phil Gramm, then chairman of the Senate banking committee, did the heavy lifting, and John McCain was an ardent supporter of the deregulation, but Rubin and the Clintonites were certainly up to their eyeballs in pushing legislation gutting so many of the regulations designed to bring accountability to our complex free market system. These bills included the the Financial Modernization Act, which obliterated Glass-Steagall; and the Commodity Futures Modernization act, which gave us unregulated trading of derivatives and the kind of credit default swaps that threaten our economy -- both signed into law by Bill Clinton."

Obviously plenty of blame to go around! At a rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday, before the bail-out proposal, Barack Obama said, "We can't steer ourselves out of this crisis if we're heading in the same disastrous direction. We can't steer ourselves out of this crisis using the same old map, we can't steer ourselves out of the crisis if the new driver is getting directions from the old driver, and that's what this election is all about."

In his latest speech, Obama proposed: remarks on the economic bail-out and our economic situation. Did he got far enough with recognizing Americans have some blame in this too? Is good judgment something that has to be legislated?

Paul Krugman said when the government stepped in we were only days away from a total crash of the stock market, led by money market funds, ending in another great depression like we had in 1931. The situation was dire, is dire, but the question of exactly what we will gain for the taxpayer bailout it less certain. Many, who do understand this, are saying go slow now. Talking Points-- put on the Brakes.

One thing that seems clear to me is you don't want those who got us into this mess to profit from this bail out. Bush disagrees with this and thinks we should not penalize those who led us to this point. Not hard to figure out why he'd think that way.

Robert Reich, who has an excellent blog on this, [What Wall Street should be Required to do to get a Blank Check], said we should also immediately block the lending and insurance groups, that are looking for a fix, from lobbying. They are like wolves scenting prey nearby. They created the mess and now want to tell us how to fix it? hmmmmmm does that smell bad to you?

The problem with any of these guarantees, like the one at your bank for insuring $100,000, is that guarantee is dependent on the federal government's solvency. Feeling good yet? The whole banking and loan system is based on trust between the people, business and government. What happens when fundamental trust is broken?

This is what Greesnpan said: This is the worst economy I have ever seen. Greenspan is not a young guy and doesn't he have some responsibility in what happened?!

Here is another helpful link from someone not in the US but looking at a breakdown that is impacting more than us: For Wall Street, Greed wasn't enough by Paul Wilmott

Often, Republicans run and win on two arguments-- tax cuts and an unfettered business economy. Let capitalism work and it will flourish for us all. Except, we don't have a pure capitalism system. Have we ever? And if it's so great, how come we have to bail it out with tax money?

Sarah Palin and John McCain talk a lot about reform. I am not sure she has a clue what that would really mean (get rid of earmarks which she has been scooping up as mayor and governor?).

After what he said last week, I doubt John McCain understands it either. His best friend financial adviser is still Phil Gramm. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, was paid $30,000 a month for five years by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac [to do what exactly?] Then there is the new McCain ad accusing Obama of having connections to a Fannie Mae insider except [he doesn't] and McCain does. Amazing,isn't it!

If any of this reassures you, you aren't paying attention yet.

During Bill Clinton's eight years as president, for all but two years, it was a Republican controlled Congress. We now have had 8 years of a Republican presidency-- four of them with a total control of both Congresses by the Republicans and the rest with enough Republicans to sustain any vetoes if they so wished.

At the end of Clinton's tenure, there was talk of a recession. I am not sure if that loosening of regulations was intended to circumvent that. I would guess sub-prime mortgages, where you let someone get a home loan with nothing down, that was supposed to make our economy look more robust even if it wasn't. Some blame the poor now for taking those loans. Doesn't whoever gave them bear some responsibility? Was someone making money off this until the bubble burst?

Homes were bought which buyers often couldn't really afford but counted on home values constantly going up. Worse, other homeowners financed their consumer debt by equity loans dependent on the value of their property rising. The bubble was a lot of what made the Bush economy look like it had real growth (that and buying war supplies, which we also couldn't afford and had to borrow to fund).

This is another good article on what has happened and what we need to understand. It also adds to why you don't want a bad reputation in your neighborhood if you someday need favors: The Fleecing of America by Roger Cohen. It might give some second thoughts in those who thought it was enough to have a president who is a fun person at a barbecue or a beauty queen.

If we have been irresponsible, the federal government has been more so. Instead of paying down our debt, which was $10.6 trillion but jumped to a potential of $11.3 if all the debt we just assumed ended up being bad debt (it won't), the government just keeps adding to it.

Try this little film: I.O.U.S.A

The pelicans were dining on their Main Street when I was at the beach Saturday. I have never gotten closer to them. Whatever was coming in on the tide was definitely more appealing than my presence was upsetting.

The beach was full of birds which was encouraging to me as last year about this time, it wasn't. This was a healthier looking coastline. Some say the currents have shifted and at least for now that has made it good on Oregon's coast for birds and people.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Letter from Parapluie to her grandchildren

My dear grandchildren,
I have great hope for you and our country. In four years one of you will have the opportunity to vote in a presidential election and possibly even defend our country. In eight years three of you will be able to vote for a president. So please let me share with you my passion for the 2008 election in three painted boxes that I made for you.

Today the 14th of September some 50 days from election day, the race is tied - McCain is gaining ground over Obama. Only 9% of the voters are undecided. In this land we are one people and resolve our differences by election. When the results are in we unite together as one United States of America supporting the voice of the majority.

My paintings are a comparison of playing basketball to politics and running for political office. In my paintings the opponent is not the dedicated politicians of the opposite party but the jerseys that either side may put on when the politics get dirty - the jerseys are made of string from Greed, Big Lies, and Fear. The candidate of my choice is the one that blocks these political jerseys so as to make a door for a team of his supporters. When the plagues are blocked people can voice their hopes. They are confident that the issues that they care about are heard. For me my hope is for my most loved ones, my grandchildren to be able to pursue their American dreams. What they need most is an EMPOWERING education.

I went out campaigning for Obama in our neighborhood. I inroduced myself as the volunteer for Obama. I went on to say I am the neighbor with a Republican husand. He has always been Republican to the last ounce of his being. He lives his belief that there should be less government because citizens like himself should volunteer. He is a full time volunteer for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This year he volunteered more than full time April and May thinning an overgrown Christmas tree farm in the center of our urban neighborhood. He greatly reduced an ugly fire danger. More than six full log truck loads of dead and dieing pine trees were donated by a neighbor to fish habitate in lakes at some Interstate 5, rock quarries.

The continuance of life requires stewardship of all of us to enhance the world's environment. To me this is a high priority of our life ever since we met 45 years ago. So the candidate with the best policy and leadership focus on the environment is my candidate of choice.

Some neighbors that I talked to have given up on government. They have lost the sense that they count. But we can make ourselves count. The candidate of my choice is the one that inspires me. And the biggest most important point is to know that we can make ourselves count if we team up.

As Obama said "Government doesn't bring change to the people. People bring change to the government." Not all change is in the same direction. The Republican change is the kind that government brings to big corporations in the form of tax loop holes. This is confusing because the Democrats used to be the ones that gave out the handouts until John F. Kennedy said,"Don't ask what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country." As I speak change is happening. I am excited because the Obama team has empowered the democrats to own this election a real change to make citizens feel that they can make a difference.

I'll be sending you soon another note with a picture of the second painting where I visualize how Obama and world heads of state team up against the same plagues as in the campaign Fear, Greed, Lies, and Inertia to start peaceful diplomacy. I visualize the way Obama plays basketball will extend to diplomacy in the world.

Love and kisses and hugs from Grandma

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Is winning all that matters?

Just out of curiosity, before I get into the candidates and issues, I want to ask a question: Is it important how people win or is winning all that counts?

Suppose you knew the candidate from your party was telling lies about his policies, his abilities, his running mate's ability; suppose that person changed their policies every time they spoke to a different group; suppose you knew that one of your candidates had abused their power and was trying to avoid having that be proven; would you care? If your candidate had been proven to be lying with actual footage, would you care?

If we go through these issues over the next month and you begin to really think about what has gone wrong, realizing your side has screwed you royally and the 'other' side has a better plan, would it change anything or was your mind made up before the campaigns began and it was a matter of looking for a reason to vote as you already intended and overlooking anything that didn't fit?

Is the idea to win at all cost or is it how you play the game? Does that get taught early in life? Do one group of parents teach that it's more important how you win than whether you win? Do people then carry that attitude through life?

I am a realistic woman. I understand that no leader is perfect. Voting should not be about expecting them to be heroes, but is it really enough that they are like the guy down the street? Worse, is it okay if they are a rat if they are our rat?

When we look at presidents, should we look at what they have done for the country, for the world or are we told what we should think or even see-- like the emperor's new clothes that weren't new or clothes?

President George Herbert Walker Bush was disrespected by Republicans because he was responsible economically. After the Reagan years of increasing our debt (charts on that to come), Big Bush looked at the situation economically, saw it for where it was heading and did what needed to be done-- raised taxes. Pay for what you are doing? Cover your debts? This is a strangely conservative attitude for how conservatives talk today.

When a situation arose that Big Bush saw required war (and that does happen), he asked what is the exit strategy? He said, you don't go into a war without knowing what you want to win, what it will cost, and when to get out. Many in this country, most especially neo-cons, wanted to occupy Iraq, and so they didn't like that. Not to worry there is always another more pliable leader coming along.

Little George was elected twice by not caring about exit strategies or responsibilities. He won by promising something for nothing; and I might add, on that he has delivered. His party defended him throughout one debacle after another. Even now, as the full cost of his presidency is beginning to be clear, some overlook it and think it wasn't his ideas but how he carried them out. They are prepared to vote for those same ideas again (think pie in the sky).

Experience matters until it's your own party? Hero worshiping is bad until it's your hero? Is it only about winning? Palin said Obama will regret nominating Joe Biden instead of Hillary Clinton. She believes that for one reason, she thinks Biden won't help Obama win. It doesn't matter who would be best in the office afterward. It's all about who can help win. To hell with the results later and literally that is what happens!

If someone runs a campaign for the presidency where they lie, where they call upon the worst nature of people, where they introduce fear whether it makes sense or not, where they use fascist political tactics to win, will they run an administration that is any different?

Back to my question, does it matter how someone wins or is winning all that counts?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obama on change

Unless we deal with who Obama is, getting into who McCain is doesn't get us anywhere. We, who support Obama, don't just think McCain and Palin are wrong on issues and character, we think Obama is right on them.

Here's a clip from the campaign trail where he brings up the McCain propensity lately for using Obama slogans like change we need. For those who do not get YouTube, the gist is he would like McCain to steal his ideas instead of slogans. It is through ideas that real change can happen. As I see it though, the problem with McCain taking those is his understanding of them would be as shallow as the speeches Palin has been memorizing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Political Roots

Recently I heard a book being discussed about how something in our DNA might determine if we are Republicans or Democrats. I don't know about that, but I think it is impacted by our family histories which could turn us one way or the other.

My family is Democrat. At least on one side of the family, we have been for as far back as I know. My folks were union people who often argued about unions as well as a lot of the other political ideas that would seem to be currently impacting their lives. Sunday family dinners, often ended with loud and heated (but never obscene) discussions about any and all political issues. It was the dads and uncles mostly. They could sometimes get quite angry with each other but never to the point of physical attacks. I remember them sitting back in their chairs, their dinners digesting, and going at each other on where the country was going wrong. That all might end with a nap in those same chairs.

After my mother had died and I went through her things, I found the above letter. She had kept it, proud of receiving a reply from her representative. I treasure it as an indicator of who my mother was as a person, her passion, her concerns. She and I didn't always agree politically either, but she cared and she was informed. She voted proudly to the end of her life.

My first vote for a president was in 1964 when I was 22. When I was 21, I had registered as soon as it was possible. I have voted Republican and Democrat but mostly Democrat. There are times I have been unhappy at both choices but I have always voted.

My children registered as soon as they could which was 18 for them. The ladies down at the polling places thought it was so cute as they had watched them grow up and then take their places as adults to make decisions impacting the country. How can anyone not vote?

Whenever we are all together, we discuss politics, sometimes heatedly though we all mostly agree on the main issues. I have been told that politics and religion are not to be discussed in polite gatherings. I know nothing about that thinking from my own experience.

So I have strong views on the candidates and the many issues facing our country which I will be expressing over the next 47 days. I will be happy to post alternate viewpoints from others. I will try to have links, some reasons why I feel as I do as for me politics is about issues. No candidate always agrees with all that I think should be done, but the one coming closest, if their character seems strong, they will be who will get my vote.

Through the years, I have had many of my friends say-- well it's just your opinion (these are friends, who usually are disagreeing with me). Yep, it is my opinion and I express it freely and sometimes passionately because it's how I grew up seeing it should be; but I do try to keep it to what the issue is, not tear into someone else by implying (or saying) they are inferior as humans for how they see it (even if I might sometimes wonder).

Comments here are much appreciated as only through comments can a blog have meaningful dialogue. Having been to other sites and seen how nasty it can get, if it's required, I will exercise censorship to protect this site from pointless venom-- something that has not happened here to date.

It is possible to passionately discuss politics and not become defamatory. It is possible to totally disagree with someone politically and still love them. What ruins meaningful dialogue is when one begins to berate another personally.

It is a passionate time and we feel it strongly in this country. We have been pretty evenly divided about it also. It won't surprise me if this election goes right down to the wire as have the last two.

If politics are a turn-off to you, if you come from another country, I will be inserting photos (usually of scenery and probably a lot from the Yellowstone region) into these discussions to make them more enjoyable for others and myself; but if that isn't enough, well come back and see me in November when I can get back to things I enjoy writing about a lot more than politics. The thing is, it's too important right now to not try to do what I can to inform and do my part in trying to get us all to think about where we have been and where we believe we need to head.

Photo 1 is from many years ago of one of those after dinner naps-- my father, an uncle, and their two sons having some fun with it. I took the photo with my Brownie.

Photo 2 is me, Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire this last week-end. Clearly I am talking (and I never like photos of me talking but this one seemed to be about passionate discussions. I have no idea what we were discussing but politics did come up a lot during the morning there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

foxes guarding chicken houses

This morning, Roger Cohen wrote a really good piece in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times. It's worth reading and thinking about since we are at a point where it is being decided once again what our own government should be about. What philosophy best serves the people? What happened to infrastructure as a government responsibility?

"The leverage party’s over for the masters of the universe. Shed a tear. When you trade pieces of paper for other pieces of paper instead of trading them for real things, one day someone wakes up and realizes the paper’s worth nothing."

This wouldn't be so sad if the only ones losing money were those who were doing the gambling, but a lot of people had their future pensions in these companies. This is grandma and grandpa and younger people who have hopes to retire but not just yet. These people didn't know they were gambling. They thought the whole thing was being managed responsibly. How could they know?

Greed is one of those things that carries people along like a tide. They start out just wanting some money, then more money, then looking over and see what someone else is doing to make money. So they do it too and the next step can be a doozy where there is no turning back without a wholesale revamping or admission of wrong doing. Who wants to do that?

Cohen's point is that without government oversight and regulation, we have ended up with parts of the stock market run amok. Companies, even those with good reputations, have been gambling to increase their own profits. It worked for some of them-- if they didn't break laws to find themselves in prison like some of the Enron gang or back to the Keating 5 when the Savings and Loans went under.

For readers too young to remember McCain's role in the Keating 5 scandal, he certainly won't want to talk about it. Here is a synopsis from Slate: [Keating Five]. This is what showed up on the public, proven side anyway. McCain didn't do four years in prison as his friend Charles Keating did, he was admonished by the Senate for using poor judgment. With no paper trail to prove any wrong doing, he was re-elected and the whole thing put behind him.

Others weren't so lucky. Savings and loans went under, ordinary people lost money. The savings and loan we had our money in was sold and reappeared with a new name, but we had more loans than savings in those years. Big depositors might have lost their deposits, but they didn't forgive loans. *shucks*

You'd think after that Senator McCain might have learned that government can't turn a blind eye to what is going on in the financial markets. After all, this is where McCain would like to have some of our Social Security funds. With no oversight, what would that mean?

Government either oversees what is happening or the people are at the mercy of any swindler out there. How can we personally investigate someone like Lehman Brothers to determine if they are sound? How could we know (before this summer) that Fannie Mae was a risky investment? Even our own financial planner didn't get out all of what we had in Fannie Mae and that was not a stock that went down and might come back up. That money was lost period.

So Senator McCain, with a wife who has wealth beyond most people's imagining, says the economy is fundamentally (is fundamental a word that should alert us to be concerned?) sound. Does he know? Does he care? His economy is fundamentally sound as long as people keep drinking beer and his wife doesn't leave him.

As recently as June, McCain saw regulation as a mistake. Capitalism will police itself, no need for government oversight. Now he's talking regulation and a commission to study what has happened. A commission? Come on, when you leave the foxes guarding the chicken house what do you think happens?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yellowstone's Spiritual Essence

It would be possible to go to Yellowstone, drive the roads from one beautiful scenery location to another, see the buffalo (grizzly or moose if possible), eat at the lodges, and miss totally the spiritual heart of the land.

It is possible but would mostly happen if you got lost in the crowds, if you didn't find quiet places, if you didn't sit on the ground or commune with an antelope, if you didn't quiet your own voice to listen to the wind.

You will feel the spirit of Yellowstone through its elements by holding a rock, walking a trail, wading its creeks and rivers (other than the hot pools), and feeling Yellowstone against your skin.

You could miss its spirit if you didn't look up at the unbelievable, almost supernatural appearing skies.

The sky after a storm the night before, in Lamar Valley had a purity and power that swept me away. I kept thinking this is like an enhanced photo, like something unreal. How can it be so perfect? Photographs don't do it justice but they are closest when one cannot be there.

If someone gives Yellowstone time, it will creep into their soul. They will want to be on that bluff watching the wolves in the distance and feeling a oneness with their free but also risky life. Yellowstone talks to our hearts through its beautiful hills and skies, through its animals.

There are some great human (one animal) spirit stories in a little book I purchased at Old Faithful Inn called Yellowstone Ghost Stories by Shellie Larios.

I almost didn't buy it, thought it'd be silly, but then remembered my regrets in the past when I didn't yield to that kind of impulse. Besides, what ghosts? How would I ever know if I didn't buy it?

The book is full of small vignettes and many documented ghost stories. The author approaches it from experiences others have described of possible encounters with the other side but more importantly trying to decide who might that spirit have been when living?

Some of the people she writes about helped make Yellowstone into what it is; they were heroes or scoundrels, sometimes plain, ordinary people drawn to live or visit there and leaving part of themselves behind.
Their ghosts might be ones who didn't want to leave and still knock around the old buildings or land, now and then making their presence known.

The wonder of the book is in the little historic vignettes. There are the victories, the tragedies, but also stories of love for someone and the land. Whether you believe in ghosts, the imprint of those people's energies can still be felt-- if you open yourself.

When I drove past Nez Perce Picnic Area, I wish I had already read the book. The book says there are eight individual graves scattered around the park, but Mattie's would be the headstone I'd have looked for and taken a moment to visit. She died young of tuberculosis, leaving behind a grieving husband, a child, and her own life of love and tragedy.

They say her spirit, along with her husband's (he was not permitted to have his body buried beside hers because of park rules) can be seen walking along the Firehole River, or some have heard her humming to birds in the trees. They say no one, who visits her grave, doesn't feel her strong spirit beckoning their return.

I don't need that to want to return. It's my own spirit that pulls me back to Yellowstone. Each time it enriches me for my time there, no matter how long or short.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yellowstone's Emotional Flesh

Of all the things people go to Yellowstone most hoping to see, it's wildlife-- wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, antelope, mountain sheep, cougars, buffalo herds, eagles, and all in a natural habitat. Its appeal is that it's no zoo.

These are the flesh of Yellowstone Country and as much out of control as whatever is under the surface. Yellowstone is a place mankind, from all around the world, can come and see what it was like so long ago before we closed ourselves off from nature.

Those who take Yellowstone's wildlife too casually pay a price and sometimes it's with their lives. There is the story of the photographer who kept photographing a grizzly, closer, closer, closer... The camera's film was recovered along with what was left of his body.

Whenever I go, my first destination is the Lamar Valley. I could miss everything else about Yellowstone if I could spend several days in the Lamar.

When the first vast herd of buffalo appears in the distance, a pale imitation of what they must have looked like to the first explorers, I feel a stirring of excitement. They represent power in its basic element.

This time the buffalo herds were in the midst of breeding, and it led to a lot more interesting photos. This spring's calf was determined to nurse while the bull wanted to push him away. Perseverance won out, but it took some maneuvering.

While fishing on the Lamar River, I watched an antelope as it watched me. It had left the herd maybe for the same reason the bulls leave the buffalo herds-- pushed out. I saw his lip curl up a time or two though as particularly fragrant smells came on the wind-- nothing I could appreciate.

There was a pretty sizable antelope herd that we watched cavort and I don't know what they were doing. They stuck close to one of the large buffalo herds, who totally ignored their activities. From what I can tell, not much excites a buffalo, except another buffalo.

In this photo you can see antelope running with a few looking on as though what is that all about. This went on for the whole time we watched. Male chasing female? Male chasing male? Playing? Threatening? I have no idea, but they were certainly getting exercise. I hoped they weren't wearing themselves out in case a wolf did come along.

On Slough Creek, I knew there were two buffalo taking naps not far from where I was fishing. Everyone is warned to not take them lightly as they can run 30 mph and have gored more than a few tourists, but they didn't seem to mind fishermen as long as the fishermen persons kept to their business.

Although I didn't catch a fish, I did get to practice my casting. I also saw some gorgeous dragonflies and photographed one, but the biggest, like the fish, got away. There were a few other fishermen where I was casting, but I stayed out of the most likely pools as my goal was learning to work the line.

'Further down the Lamar Valley, there were, as there often are, a lot of cars parked alongside the road with people on bluffs watching through scopes and binoculars as the wolves moved around on the far side of the the valley. We climbed the bluff even though we knew from experience we would only see moving specks in the distance and that only through binoculars or the telephoto lens. It is still stirring to see them over there and know they are living free. Hearing them howl, which I have heard only a few times in nature, is even more exciting.

Someone told us that there were 17 pups and that most of the pack was off hunting. I took their word for it as we saw only a couple of wolves. Several buffalo grazed near them, not concerned that the wolves might be a danger because unless a buffalo is very young, separated from the herd, old and ill, the wolf is no threat.

Although I saw a mountain sheep herd, something I haven't seen there before, I was disappointed to not see any moose. I really love watching them especially if I see them in a stream where they are grazing with those big impressive antlers. I kept an eye out, when in their kind of habitat, but no luck.

Still, the time of watching the buffalo herds interact was compensation. I love listening to buffalo as they grunt and make those threatening sounds to each other. We saw even cows and calves butting heads. The herd was excited by the hormonal changes in the cows. It permeated the whole valley.

Although I have seen and photographed grizzly, black bear, and wolves close enough to recognize what they are, this time, I only saw wolves and nothing worth posting here.

This coyote was running and scared enough to run right past a bunch of tourists watching and photographing. Someone said they had seen two wolves down by the Lamar River and that would explain the coyote's fear of what was behind being greater than what was ahead.

This coyote had already been marked by the park service for research or checking its range. They did have a warning sign, down by Slough Creek, that a coyote had been aggressive and if anyone saw that behavior, to report it. This coyote, if it was the same one, was only in a hurry. The wolves do kill the coyotes; so it had good reason to not dally.

Although we saw three, separate, large, buffalo herds in the vicinity of the Lamar, this herd was in the Hayden Valley and seemed to feel roads were for them, not autos. Nobody was about to argue with them.

Everywhere in Yellowstone, there are lone buffalo grazing, taking a dust bath, or sleeping. It appears that some find the herd not worth the trouble or have been pushed out. Maybe they just like being alone.

One thought that occurred to me while watching all these beautiful animals. Very very few of them die naturally. Life in a wilderness is violent. Something will kill them all and many will survive from their flesh. It is the law of their land.

We humans are the ones who try to make ourselves exempt from that law-- sometimes by giving up things that may matter more than a violent end. Safety may not always be worth what it costs and dying by withering up as a very old person might not be superior to the antelope or coyote that finally cannot run fast enough.