New Posts on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- er generally

Monday, October 31, 2016

Samhain

Although I have a sort of regular schedule here to post on Wednesdays and Saturdays, sometimes something important comes along that I feel makes it worthwhile to break that schedule. I consider a major Sabbat in the pagan year, a Celtic festival, one of those times.

While for many, this is Halloween, a time for costumes and candy, for others it is the Day of the Dead celebrated with parades of skeleton masks, for yet others, it's the sacred All Hallow's Eve. The Catholic Church often usurped pagan holidays for their own significant days and November 1st, All Saint's Day is one example as this was a sacred day to the Celts long before All Saint's Day.

Samhain (pronounced sow-en), a Pagan Sabbat and Celtic festival is one of the major holidays in a Gaelic year. This day is when the veil between this and the other side is thinnest and contact most easily made. If your dreams are reflecting this, it would not be a surprise.

On the week-end, I dreamed of a friend dying, who is still alive, and was going to a memorial service for her while I tried to think of the right words to describe her life. Now this friend is not one near me, not even one I've met other than through the Internet, but in the dream she was in a house next to mine before she died in a town where I do not live.

The same night, my husband dreamed that he was observing a site that students had been building a platform. The students were not yet there. One of the smaller boards moved and was carefully placed in a particular alignment. He sensed they were spirits. His words are in quotes. Theirs in italics.
"Who are you?"
Ghee.
Another board moved.
"There are others?"
Yes.
"With you?"
From before me.
"Why?"
The alignment is important to see what will happen.
As the students arrived, he asked them why they were building the platform. And they answered to understand why the signs were left in the rocks. And they planned to spend nights to observe what happens. 
He said the dream ended when he woke, as I rolled over and the cat scratched at the door. He wanted to get back into it, but the connection had been broken.  

Samhain is a time for such dreams and for us to pay attention to them. Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic new year. It proves to be a good time to let things go, remember what they were but release them. It can be a time to remember ancestors. Some set up altar tables of mementos to this end. 

It is also a good time to look toward what comes next. When I turn over a calendar, there are words that go with it. For October, the words below seemed very apropos for this day. The photo is from a few years back in our yard. 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

economics

Economics is a tough one to write about. Economic inequality is discussed a lot but usually without solutions to issues that involve fair taxation, good jobs, and fair trade policies. Poverty is a cause of many other problems. If you look at it from a world perspective, it's impossible to get your head around how so many must live.  In terms of income inequality, while poverty has not lessened or even grown, CEOs have had astronomical increases in their pay even when they fail. Fairness is a word used a lot in such discussions...



In the United States, numbers don't really reflect how someone impoverished lives, as that varies with parts of the country. So a couple who earn $15,871 a year might live fairly well if they already own their own home in rural areas where they heat with wood they cut, hunt, fish, and grow a garden-- that is if property taxes aren't too high and they have no medical disasters. City dwellers don't have so many options to supplement their dollars with foraging. 


To help the poor, there are programs like SNAP, heating assistance, and Medicaid. All the helps have problems attached in getting them. I had a friend who lived in government housing, which meant every year she was inspected to be sure she was maintaining her home properly. That's demeaning. If she got a tiny increase in Social Security, the other agencies reduced whatever aid she was getting. There is no way up with that kind of system in place.

While all racial groups are impacted by poverty, some suffer more.
 
When I began voting was in 1964, and it was Goldwater vs. Johnson. Johnson began a war on poverty. Think about that. Over 50 years ago and a war on poverty. What has it accomplished?  22 trillion dollars has been put toward the problem but to what result? [the war on poverty after 50 years]

Would raising the minimum wage help as some claim? It might not as some of the companies using low wage workers are already switching to robots for some jobs. Besides ending wages, that saves them insurance and sick time. Evidently, a trucking company is trying out a computer driven truck with a trucker riding with it-- for now.

The argument is made that income inequality can be evened out by taking more from the richer and handing it to the poorer. Some countries have gone to a minimum income whether someone works or not and it's given out by a reverse income tax. The argument against that goes along the lines of if people don't have to work, some will choose not to. Is this kind of a system enabling lack of responsibility?

Paying better wages that involve the government paying part of the salary is another possible solution that is suggested. This has the advantage of having those capable of working out there, feeling good at what they can do, but still having a living wage.

In all the solutions, if the money used is not paid for by higher taxes on the income earners and is instead borrowed, the solutions are temporary. It is not possible for a country to borrow forever. This is especially true since the borrowing has to come from countries who may be suffering their own economic readjustments. An even worse temporary fix is for the country to start printing money with nothing behind it. That makes a dollar worth less and less until it's a bad joke. that becomes a cruel tax on the poorest.

Trump says he knows how to bring jobs back that are in manufacturing where the wages had been better for those not having a college degree. He would do this by making it less profitable for companies to go overseas, where they pay extremely low wages with no environmental controls or rules regarding working conditions, and then ship the products back here. Now raising the cost of the products, like clothing, will again hurt the poor as often while it cost them jobs, it lets them buy things much cheaper. Whether he could even do what he's suggesting with renegotiating or ending trade agreements is being debated

Clinton was for the Trans Pacific trade deal before she was against it when she ran against Sanders. Her Veep candidate said that all might change once they win. Sanders and Trump say that's a terrible deal for the US as was NAFTA and other pacts that helped oligarchs but not our workers. Her economic suggestions involve higher taxes on the rich (not sure where rich would start), a higher death tax, and government jobs as a way to deal with unemployment. When she implied those who hadn't contributed to the government weren't contributing to the society, it's clear that her solution is government oriented.  

If we had a tax on stock trades, even a small one, it'd bring in a lot of money and reduce some of the hedge fund gambling that has made some people fortunes and cost others their retirement income. Currently, it makes the stock market go up and down on whims. So, if we did that, how would we spend that money that had a chance of actually improving the lives of the poor?

Black Lives Matter wants reparations for years of slavery and Jim Crow. Would they want that money handed out to each black person or would they take it and use it to set up programs... involving higher salaries maybe for the administrators. If the money was handed out in a lump sum, how much difference would it make in the long run? I grew up when we saw that happen with a payout to Native Americans for land taken. It temporarily was a boost to the local economy, but the end result of changing lives wasn't so hot. The casinos have done a better job of providing jobs for those tribes able to have them. That is obviously not a solution for every poor. 

I wish I had solutions. Jesus said the poor you would always have, and we certainly always had. In our country poverty is nothing like it is around the world-- which doesn't make those who have so little feel good about it. While most poor still have television, computers, food to eat, and a roof over their heads, that's not a lot of consolation when they see others who have so much more, when they have to worry from day to day whether the money will stretch far enough. 

Personally, I have never known poverty but did grow up with a father who was out of work sometimes for strikes or other problems and where I considered secondhand clothes a good deal, where I never ate at a nice restaurant until I was long grown and even then it worried me for fitting in, where a treat was a Dairy Queen sundae, and doctor visits were paid by the visit without insurance-- but those visits were affordable back then.

Growing up in a lower economic level home, I came to believe you had to work for what you wanted. Also that you cannot take so much from the rich that you end up taking away their incentive. I worry that when you hand out money, you have to be sure the person really cannot work. That life is lived better with some responsibility for yourself and others. I also know after over 50 years of trying to defeat poverty, we haven't gotten it done. Frankly I don't see either of the candidates running for President with a viable plan that would now.    

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

who's behind it?

This next issue is one that has concerned me a LOT this year. It has not been in a debate and often someone who brings it up can find their post censored in comments. It's the issue of where we get our news-- television, cable, print, radio, and social media. It is where supposedly we get our information. Specifically, this is about news dissemination in the United States.

Before this election, I thought we had so many places to get news that we could always find both sides of an issue. I thought where some sites presented one perspective, there'd be another with another side. I thought news meant journalism.

That was naive taking into account the history of news where the media has often driven public opinion to suit its own agenda. Yellow journalism is a way to get attention by sensationalism-- often to distract from real purposes. An example is when the Hearst newspaper empire wanted the Spanish-American War and created headlines that stirred up the populace-- especially using a ship destroyed in an explosion. Remember the Maine! became the battle cry. Who cared what actually caused that explosion. It was how it could be used. 

Through time humans have been manipulated by those who supposedly give them the information they need for intelligent decision making. It probably was true in tribal living also. Today though, didn't many of us think we were beyond that, and both sides would be presented?

When Hillary Clinton ran against Bernie Sanders, the DNC wanted her, and they did what they could to make it happen. I get that. It's the establishment protecting itself. Someone else though worked on Hillary's behalf, while they barely covered Bernie's speeches or his large crowds. Media glossed over or ignored that she couldn't fill even a small auditorium. Where she got constant positive coverage, he was ignored. 

The fix had been in to such a level that the head of the DNC had to resign in the middle of the convention. She was immediately added to the Clinton campaign and will doubtless be rewarded in a Clinton administration. But whether we should trust a party to be fair, shouldn't we have been able to trust the media to cover the full story and let Americans know both sides? Well, whatever we should have expected, it was not what happened.

At the same time, we had Trump who proved to be a showy candidate in positive and negative ways. His large crowds excited interest, and he got more media coverage than the other Republican candidates-- much of it often negative, but coverage is coverage. But the media often twisted headlines to mislead as to what Trump had actually said. Sensationalism stirs people up. Yellow Journalism does sell papers-- but it also directs the reader/viewer to a desired conclusion.

Then came the conventions, and two major candidates were left. Coverage on the two minor candidates, who would appear on most ballots, was minimal to non-existent. They were forced out of the debates because the polls said they didn't have the requisite number of followers.

For someone like me, who is not a leftie or rightie, as a writer, observing what came next was interesting in terms of human nature. As a citizen, it left me cold. The media bias became so obvious that eventually they admitted they were trying to direct voters to vote for Clinton. Probably for a leftie this seemed good. Can we trust Americans to sift through all that is out there? Why don't we make it easy for them by only giving them what we consider good for them!  Someone had to stop a dangerous candidate. So the headlines became even more distorted, and the fear talk covered with more vigor.

Along came the hot mic video followed immediately by women who said yep, he did it to me. Salacious details followed, and they were covered without question. Where Bill Clinton had the same accusations against him, those women didn't make the mainstream media's news shows. There was no alleged in the Trump headlines. Even though these incidents happened twenty or more years ago, you'd think they were today. It allowed the 'press' to wallow in sensationalism as if it was news. Trump had made it easy for them with his loose, boorish talk on the video.

And that might even be fair-- except when Wikileaks brought out unflattering things about the Clintons, it was treated as stolen words and not worthy of even telling viewers or readers. If someone got all their news from mainstream media, they would be told it was all about Russia trying to sabotage our election. Don't confuse your little heads with trying to find out what had been in those emails. We'd tell you if it mattered... So they ignore the Enquirer story but if it was against Trump, we know they would not.

News media people not only donated to Clinton but also slanted their headlines to make Trump look even more dastardly. Now he does help them out with his loose talk and lack of focus, but even when he doesn't, they make those headlines look as bigoted, misogynist, etc. as they can. How many people bother to read the actual stories?

What's going on? We have a media that seems determined to only tell Americans what they think they should know. Often they go off on a story like kneeling for the Anthem to cover up other stories that might actually matter. I think they managed to divert attention to something like Benghazi when the real story of interest, in terms of a leader, is why the US became involved in the Libyan civil war, why the Obama administration, encouraged by Hillary as Secretary of State, backed rebels to destabilize a sovereign nation. Another question has been raised as to whether it involved guns to Syrian rebels that ended up in the hands of ISIS? Benghazi was a tragic event, but the whole issue of our involvement in Libya is a question of judgment, not bad luck. Sometimes it looks like Republicans also like to divert attention from the real issues, but should the media be helping either major party do this?

Mainstream media outlets have more or less ignored [Standing Rock and the Native American protests]. The few reporters who have tried to cover the story have been arrested and threatened with long jail sentences. On the other hand, the Malheur takeover got a lot of coverage. Anyone who thinks about it a bit can probably figure out why. The thing is for me it's led to less trust of the mainstream media.

There is an agenda in the news today, and it's not to tell us what happened. It's to indoctrinate and manipulate us to think what they want us to think. With major mergers like AT&T buying Time Warner, fewer and fewer people control not only the news but entertainment. Universities, through lucrative grants, are often indoctrinated also with the 'proper' view on like economics. Who is behind this? Not likely the Clintons, as they obey their masters, who pay them handsomely and remain in the shadows. Hillary didn't get paid those big bucks for speeches without some expectation of return.

The following is a thoughtful link on what has been stirred up; but unlike its author, I wouldn't blame this all on Trump. It's been here since Obama got elected-- and before. Media thrives on anger and fear. Never forget that when you give it time in your life. The problem is-- how do we keep track of what is actually happening and more importantly find out why?


What disturbs me is what can we do about it? It's not like we get to vote on fair and balanced news coverage. When the news says what we want to hear, is that all we care about? Just remember-- next time it might go against our interests (frankly, it already does) and we won't be so happy at the manipulation and limited coverage when it's our ox being gored.
 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

the environment impacts it all

   “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”  Edward Abbey

In terms of voting, for me, there are a couple of big issues and among them are those that impact our environment. Climate change is one. Protecting wilderness is another, and of course, nurturing and wise use of land, water, and air.

While the earth is very durable, man's ability to live on it and sustain a good life is more limited. Those who live in cities often forget that their life there is not self-sustaining. In countries like the United States, many things impact our ability to live with a life similar to what we have known-- ability to produce food is only one-- transporting it to the consumer is another. They all involve environment.

Not to make any one key issue more important, I'll start with water because it's so often under assault both for pollution but also how some want to own it. Recently in the Columbia River Gorge, a small town voted to not allow a big corporation to own a spring. Jobs that it would have brought were outweighed by concern to protect the water. Is the question decided? Those things rarely are. 

"Water is blue gold; it's terribly precious," Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians, told the Monitor. “Not too far in the future, we're going to see a move to surround and commodify the world's fresh water. Just as they've divvied up the world's oil, in the coming century, there's going to be a grab." 


Years ago California looked toward Oregon's rivers to solve a potential shortage looming for their lawns, agriculture, golf courses, and even drinking. It was put down by Oregon, but California's thirst for water has dried up some of its own agricultural areas-- while other such regions consider water cheap compared to improving their usage of it. Canals stretch down the state to bring water to more populated areas as well as agriculture-- but those canals are dependent on rain or snowfall enough to fill the reservoirs from where they flow.

Nebraska's legislature had to make a law not allowing any water to be taken out of its state, including by truck, to protect the Ogallala Aquifer because they feared Denver would take so much that it would drain the aquifer. Relatively arid states like Colorado are always looking for more sources of water, and it often comes at the expense of agriculture. How people plan to eat in the future is of little concern for those who think their food comes from a grocery store.
 

Because it's mostly in the states and counties where these issues are settled, this is where voters need to pay attention and vote their interests-- whatever those might be. 

The federal government is theoretically more invested in air and water quality for safety, and yet as Flint, Michigan found out the hard way, you can't count on them for checking what the states are doing. They should be able to but too often have not.

Another big (potentially the biggest) environmental issue is, of course, climate change, which some deny is happening while others think the sky is going to fall tomorrow. The statistics are hard to come by because some are projections. Mankind has a pretty short recorded history; so scientist rely on geologic and biologic evidence of the past, which they must interpret. 

To me, if the federal government has any responsibility to its citizens, it ought to be their safety. If the seas rise, if storms increase in ferocity, if droughts become more widespread, if migration of peoples becomes a reality in more than a few places, if cities are destroyed because of their proximity to the seas, you'd think there'd be plans in place or even steps being taken to deal with what could become a huge humanitarian crisis and not just in places like Bangladesh.

Climate change and actually the whole issue of the environment shows up in  Presidential platforms but hasn't been in the debates, which is too bad. While one candidate, the Democrat, does believe in climate change, would be putting measures in place regarding cleaner forms of energy. The other candidate wants more coal production and would back the XL Pipeline because he doesn't worry about oil spills into our rivers and lakes. He should. The federal government has done nothing to deal with the concerns of Native American neighbors of a pipeline that they fear will damage their water source not only in the construction but the leaks later. 

Is it possible to vote for someone who will care, or in the end, are our current leaders not that much different in what they do regarding the environment? 

The earth impacts every part of human society, and of course, some of that is out of our control. For me, environment is a big issue in terms of for whom I vote-- state and federal. Loving wilderness, open spaces, wildlife, and personally living an agricultural lifestyle, I am very invested in Gaia. 

Gaia involves a concept that says organisms interact with their surroundings, including inorganic and in a sort of a synergistic complex system that helps perpetuate conditions for life on this planet. When the earth gets out of balance, it will work to correct that-- often not in ways humans will like. We should be helping it stay in balance just out of self-interest.

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached 
to the rest of the world." John Muir


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Globalism or Nationalism

It's truly a shame that this election has become so mired in the mud. It's nearly impossible to discuss real issues without being dragged into accusations of this or that unfaithfulness-- whether economic, legal, or social. We watched Bill Maher on Friday night where he was interviewing Ann Coulter, a hated name in liberal circles. All Maher wanted to discuss were the sexually titillating details while Coulter kept trying to get him back to issues. Issues were why she was supporting Trump despite his personality defects. 

One of the biggest of those issues, which Americans should be seriously considering is globalism or nationalism. This issue impacts a lot of the rest of them. The first link is a general overview, put out in May-- when it was still hoped it could be seriously discussed in debates.



             Liberals and Neocon conservatives tend to agree. [globalism] 

Tea party conservatives have another view [battle against globalization-- Sanders and Trump on same side]  

A firm libertarian view was harder to come by. On the one hand they appear to be against big government but on the other hand, they like economic exploitation as a way to profit. When I think about the libertarian view on anything, not hard to understand why they don't have a consistent policy. Here's their [political platform] on it but if you do a search, you find a lot of arguments either way. Just the Ron Paul forum can have a reader's head spinning.

Green Party says this about [globalization].

When you go evaluating what economists think about globalism, remember most came out of economic departments which have a very heavy bias toward it. That can occur when donations from corporations influence curriculums. It is a problem today with our university system, where pure thought is not easy to find-- nor is real analysis.

Hillary is being coy about what she believes but she has been quoted, in a wikileak hack, as saying in one of her lucrative speeches to private groups:
“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” [05162013 Remarks to Banco Itau.doc, p. 28]

In her remarks to Banco Itau, Clinton also denounced the idea of putting up barriers to global trade, a statement which will likely raise concerns with grassroots and working-class voters in her own party. “We have to resist protectionism, other kinds of barriers to market access and to trade,” Clinton said.
If she said that in speeches at her rallies, how would that go over? With the liberals-- great. Neocons probably also. With working class Americans, maybe not so much given how that would impact jobs and wages. 

When Trump, as a nationalist, says the opposite, that he wants to close the illegal crossings at our border and control immigration to be sure terrorist supporters are not among them, the media accuses him of being a racist, xenophobe and downward.

Nationalist or globalist would be a good debate but it isn't even asked. I guess they figure Americans can't understand the concepts. The pros and cons could take up the whole debate. Why it doesn't come up is likely because some would prefer it be presented as a fait accompli. Do it and talk to the people later about it. You can learn the details later. Trust us.

To be a globalist explains why the Clintons would believe our troops should be engaged around the world and go to war to defend places where it does not impact American interests. To a globalist, there are no American issues. Globalists are good for business and explain how we ended up with the long war in Vietnam. It explains Kosovo and Libya. It is also why Jill Stein said Clinton is likely to get us into a nuclear war. Think a major war is unlikely? With a global view, we are putting ourselves out there; and it's a real risk maybe even before Clinton gets in there [Turkey warns WWIII is inevitable if Syrian conflict continues].

We are in Syria for global interests even though some would say oil in the Middle East is an American interest. Actually today with the tar sands in Canada and our fracking, that is probably not true. We export our oil because oligarchs determine a lot of our policies. The idea of keeping that oil, storing it for American needs, is nationalism.

Nationalists are where we find 'American exceptionalism' and where we find a reluctance to go to war other places. Nationalism is about making your own country good first and then helping others. Nationalists can believe in charity overseas but would not see it as required but rather as spiritually needed.

There is a bumper sticker we used to have on a van-- Think Globally! Act Locally! That actually would fit a nationalism concept. Care about the world but take care of your own backyard. Our crumbling infrastructure is evidence we are not doing that.

Nationalism would favor a solid border to prevent illegal entries. Nationalists could also favor a strong policy of green cards to allow workers, who are needed, to come in legally.  Globalists would say we have no need or right to a border as the world  is one big family of humans.

Nationalism favors traditions and rituals unique to your cultural history. Globalists would see those pushed aside as too often divisive. Through PC, we are constantly trying to eliminate a lot of culture that isn't correct.

Businesses often benefit from globalism as it enables them to take their factories where workers are cheapest to hire and where environmental standards don't make their products more expensive. Nationalism tends to do more for richer countries than poorer.    

Excessive nationalistic thinking leads to isolation and decline. Totally open borders and trade [mercantilism] also can cause decline bringing everybody down leading to chaos under the excuse of highest return for a few is 'really better'. Balance is necessary, but not easy and not flashy sounding.  

When the Hearst media empire wanted the Spanish American War, it served purposes far beyond Cuba and the Philippines. It began a system of global expansion of American military and invasive wars. No, we don't 'occupy' as such other countries. We put large bases there, and it lets our corporations go in for their profit and safety (if you ignore sporadic terrorism outbreaks).  

Globalization both creates and takes jobs.  Trade policies when they are fair can benefit a nation. But there is a downside to total open trading because with so much of the world in poverty, it will have to take down the richer countries-- not their oligarchs, of course, but the workers. For a globalist, that's a fine deal.

Americans need to think on which side, of what is a very real divide, they are. This election will not be decided on it. It is going to be decided on Trump's failed personality as a leader, but the winning side will move ahead on what has mostly been a hidden agenda. In my mind, Obama is a globalist. He's been moving in that direction by the ongoing wars, that never let up, and his TPP plan that would allow laws and trade policies to rule over US laws. Is that what voters wanted when they voted

Here's my take on this. Know if you are a globalist, nationalist, or something in between and then don't think for a second you can now ignore what government does for the next four years. Too much is at stake. Have a position. Care more about that then about who won Dancing with the Stars. Care because it's your children and grandchildren who this will most impact. 

Nations do not remain static. They are constantly changing. Make sure you know which way you believe yours, whether you are American or from another nation, should go. 

My next post will be on the environment and in particular water. It's a biggie that again many don't think about until their water is found to be dangerous-- or they realize someone big like a Buffett now owns it...