October 31, 2011

Head of Italy's Central Bank takes over European Central Bank

Bloomberg: Draghi Takes ECB Helm
The Guardian: Europe Takes an Inspiring Leap

Italy has one of the worst economies in Europe. So when I read that the head of Italy's Central Bank has just taken over the European Central Bank I cannot help but wonder if the smartest people in the world might actually be guilty of plotting to destroy the global economy. The people who have the most to lose in a global economic collapse and the most to gain from a global recovery have spent the past three years consistently making choices that will hasten the end of our way of life. It is as if the top economic 1% of our world have all decided to commit a collective suicide, taking the rest of us down with them.

I don't understand why they keep shooting themselves in the foot. Stupidity? Ideology? Ignorance? Sheltered childhoods? Boredom? For the past five years I have been trumpeting the need to keep capitalism alive for the sake of our children and grandchildren and for five years men like Warren Buffett and George Soros have repeatedly made decisions and funded organizations dedicated to unraveling the world economy and impoverishing themselves.

Why? It doesn't make any sense at all! This latest move is just another nail in the coffin of global capitalism and free markets. Draghi failed to find a solution to Italy's debt crisis. Now in their wisdom and foresight the world's bankers have placed him in charge of the single most powerful central bank in the world.

It's enough to make me wonder if maybe Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones have the right of it. Maybe the people who really ought to know better do know better and have decided to destroy the very civilization that made them who they are.

October 28, 2011

1977 Community Reinvestment Act

The 1977 Community Reinvestment Act required banks to sign off on mortgages they knew would never be repaid. The bankers followed the law, knowing that someday it would blow up in all our faces. They used credit default swaps to preserve their positions as best they could and forestall the collapse as long as they could, but the law itself made the crash of 2008 inevitable. When the smart bankers saw the system about to implode, they did was any rational person would do, cashed out and retired in luxury.

And gee, whaddaya know, the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act is still on the books, has never been repealed or amended, and is just sitting there waiting for the economy to recover enough to do the same damn thing all over again! Congress knows this, the bankers know this, the talking heads at all the major networks know this, and NOBODY IS TELLING YOU!!!!!

The Tea Party brought the issue up, but then immediately shelved it. I still don't know why they shelved it. The Occupy Wall Street movement does not know it exists, does not undertand it's connection to the mess we are in now, and could really care less because fixing the problem is not what they are concerned with.

In 1977 Democrats controlled both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, was the President. This whole bloody house of cards, which is still sitting there waiting to strike again and again and again, is the product of the Democratic Party and their constant showering of YOUR tax dollars into the hands of people who will not work for a living, don't love our nation, and spend their entire lives with their hands out palm up waiting for someone to give them their daily bread. I grew up in that subculture. My parents are still in that subculture. Most of my childhood friends are still deep believers in raiding the "bottomless" pockets of Uncle Sam. Governor Mitt Romney, Governor Rick Perry, and Senator Rick Santorum are all deep believers in big government doing its best to help the little guy by offering them cheap credit, research grants, agricultural subsidies, and industrial subsidies.

Nothing is going to change until you and I stop expecting Uncle Sam to be our sugar daddy, stop expecting the government to solve our problems, and stop electing people who promise us access to the city, state, and federal treasuries.

It ain't pretty, but it's real, and if we don't get real this country will not last another decade, let alone another generation.

(Update: Oct. 30, 2011, 6:51 a.m. JST)

At least one economist at Bloomberg agrees with me:

Bloomberg: Americans are Addicted to Entitlements

I hope the American people themselves figure it out before our way of life and our Constitutional Republic both implode in a massive, global economic collapse. And yes, I know, we're already in the begining stages of one.

October 27, 2011

Grassroots? More like old-school anarchism

First things first. Here is a graph tracking employment vs. partisan control of the Congress:

Second, a comparison of important statistics between the OWS and Tea Party, both of which claim to be "grassroots" protests responding to overreaching government control, unemployment, and corruption:

I neither created nor did the research behind either of these charts. However, they are consistent with my own findings and observations.

Last of all, a poster using the pseudonym "Zombie" posted a vast collection of videos and photographs from the Oakland riots last night:

PJ Tatler: Oakland Occupiers Clash with Police

There are facts. Make up your own mind.


(Update, 12 hours later)

The NY Post reports that kitchen workers in the Occupy Wall Street protest camp are angry because homeless and others are coming to the camp for food.
NY Post: OWS Kitchen Workers Protest Feeding Homeless

There are a number of different aspects to this "protest-within-a-protest" that the article above discusses. One detail that caught my attention is that a small band of OWS protesters clashed with NYPD officers, resulting in ten arrests. They were angry over violence in Oakland, violence that began when Occupy Oakland protesters refused orders to disperse and began pelting police with M80 fireworks, spray paint, paint cans, rocks, and other objects.

Another graphic comparing the OWS and Tea Party protests appeared on Facebook while I was asleep. This one focuses more on divergent ideologies than statistics.

I was at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C. It was a peaceful, enjoyable day and we left the Washington Plaza cleaner than it was when we arrived. Free water was available to everyone who asked, even if they weren't there for the rally. Granted, passing out bottles of water is much different than preparing organic meals on outdoor stoves, it still strikes me as odd that people who are demanding a more tolerant and generous American society would complain when they are forced to be both tolerant and generous as individuals. That level of hypocrisy is too much of a paradox for my poor old mind to grasp. How can you demand the government be generous with you when you are unwilling to be generous with the people around you?

October 24, 2011

Book Review: The Crossroads Cafe

I have read thousands of books, maybe tens of thousands. Books from every genre, every style, and dozens of cultures have passed through my hands. There are probably a few librarians and editors who have read more books than I have, but not many. Reviewers in magazines and newspapers don't even come close. At one point in my life I was reading a new book every single day. For a very short time, two books a day. And not speed reading, either. I've never studied it and never wanted to.

Because I have been an avid reader my entire life, I'm also hard to please. Over the last couple of years finding a book worth reading has become a painful experience. I have reference books a plenty, but most modern novels bore me to tears within the first few pages. There have been far too many occasions in recent years where I spent hours prowling the aisles of a bookstore only to finally walk away without spending a dime. I have over three hundred books on my Kindle, but most of them are merely replacements for favorite hard copy books lost by the U.S. Customs service when I moved from Japan to Ohio. Some of these books (like Heinlein's "Glory Road" or Gaiman's "Stardust") I've read a dozen times over the past couple years just because nothing else has interested me.

Awhile back, I was browsing through Amazon.com's "Recommended" list. For some reason a book called "The Crossroads Cafe" had wound up on my personalized recommendations list and it was available for free (or nearly free) because the writer was about to come out with a new novel. Amazon reviews written by readers were mostly positive, so I took a chance and downloaded the book. It sat in my Kindle for almost a year before I opened it. I read the first five chapters or so, got bored, and put it aside.

The characters kept haunting me. I'd find myself thinking of them as I was reading something completely unrelated. The ambience of Crossroads Cove and Wild Woman Ridge lingered in my subconscious and popped up during political discussions, while watching news reports, or when reading sociological and anthropologic works that were attempting to "define" modern American culture. I'd see Jennifer Lopez advertising her fashion line or Lindsay Lohan back in court and find myself wondering what had happened to Cathy (a movie star main character who I'd left in the burn ward of an L.A. hospital when I put the book aside). This constant bubbling up from my subconscious fascinated me and took me completely by surprise. Very few modern writers have had the skill to create characters that could catch my attention so completely. Even some of the minor characters. For example, Alberta and Macy (lesbians whose berry farm is also a halfway house for battered women) would march out from time to time to compare themselves to Ellen Degeneres or Janeane Garofalo before finally marching off again satisfied that sane women do not belittle people and political movements they disagree with.

There was one scene in particular that simply would not leave me alone: Thomas (one of the main characters) coaxing a suicidal local off of a ridge. Thomas is so hung over he can barely see straight. The only thing on his mind is getting off that ridge so he can get back to the Cafe and have a cup of coffee, or better yet, back to his truck for another dose of vodka. And yet, he has the presence of mind to actually listen to the suicidal man's words, reply in a constructive way that shows he is listening, and by doing so, allow the fellow to convince himself that jumping is maybe not the best solution to his problems after all. There is nothing therapuetic or formulaic about the dialogue that passes between the two men. There is nothing shallow or unnecessary in Deborah Smith's descriptions of their emotional state, their body language, and their expressions. The passage is not only technically perfect, it is emotionally charged, suspenseful, and demonstrates with calm casualness the normal, everyday use of strong, positive communication skills that I get paid top money to teach to weary, burnt-out business managers who are struggling to understand and motivate much younger workers with whom they have nothing in common. This brief scene, barely two dozen pages, is one of the most powerful literary passages I have ever read.

"The Crossroads Cafe" unfolds with deliberate, measured slowness. The characters are in no hurry to go about their daily lives and the writer is in no hurry to get to the meat of her story. There is a powerful poetry in the slow, casual, and skillfully drawn-out prose. True, it bored me at first, but even after I put it down it would not leave me. Since at the moment I'm in Japan and I have nothing to do, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to pull up "The Crossroads Cafe" and finish it. To my pleasant surprise, I picked up right where I left off over six months ago and did not have to spend a single minute reviewing the material. I opened to the page where I had stopped, started reading, and was instantly back into the story. It was like I'd never stopped reading. That takes a powerful writer to pull off, so powerful that almost no writer in the past century has achieved it. This is the magic of a Charles Dickens or Louisa May Alcott. Ever since Hemmingway's journalistic terseness swept over the field of modern writing, this ability to capture the essence of a story on every page has been lost. It is beyond refreshing to see it revived. It approaches the miraculous.

Consider this scene: Cathy, a starlet who has been disfigured from massive burns suffered in a car crash, is now paranoid of flame. She finally gets up the courage to visit her cousin Delta, the owner of the Crossroads Cafe. As they are renewing their acquaintance, one of the employees lights the gas fireplace that heats and decorates the main dining room.

The entire herd surrounded Cathy with kindly but obsessive scrutiny. She plastered a smile on her ashen face as Delta introduced each family member in colorful detail. Cathy's anxious gaze went to me. Sign language. They're staring at my face.

All I could do was nod. So let them.

"Thomas, people will remember this day a hundred years from now," Delta whispered to me. "The legend of Cathy Deen has begun."

"Lord, thank you for bringing Cathy to be with us," Cleo announced, looking heavenward. "But excuse me while I get this room warmed up for the dinner crowd." She hurried to a hearth on one wall, squatted on the heels of her running shoes, pulled a long-handled butane lighter from her jeans' pocket, fiddled with a control for the fireplace's pilot light, then clicked the lighter.

The logs ignited with a loud whoosh of orange-and-blue flames.

Cathy bolted out the front doors and staggered to a porch rail. She vomited over the side with ragged, humiliating force, splattering a neat coil of garland on the ground below, waiting to be stapled along the balustrades.

"Somebody get a wet dishcloth," Delta ordered, then went to Cathy and held her forehead while she vomited again.

I grabbed a pile of paper napkins off a serving table and started out the porch doors, but both Becka and Cleo stopped me.

"What's worse than puking all over the Christmas garland in front a bunch of strangers," Becka asked.

"Having your new boyfriend wipe the puke off your face," Cleo answered. "Amen."

"I'm not---" I began.

"Like hell you aren't," Becka said drolly.

They took the napkins from me and I let them.

The whole book is like this. Intimate details woven seamlessly into a narrative that is essentially a romance between two broken people. Characters are writ large with nothing more than a few lines of dialogue or a carefully placed bit of body language, and often both. The world of English novel writing has not seen this kind of artistry in over a century. There are many passages where my breath catches and tears well up in my eyes. Nothing affects me this deeply anymore. I have not experienced this kind of visceral emotional reaction to a story in so long I cannot even remember the last time it happened.

In reading "The Crossroads Cafe" I have had to go back and relearn how to read a novel. I am exercising critical facilities that have grown rusted over from lack of use. Walls of cynicism and disappointment are melting before the warmth of characters drawn so realistically it shames me to think that so very few of us in the real world still display this level of humanity. Deborah Smith has captured something that I have not seen from a novel since I was a teenager: real human emotion. Modern novels have become too fantastic to interest me (The Twilight Saga), too dreary to bother with (Einstein's Shutter), or too depressing to recommend even to an enemy (Fated).

I don't know why the "Recommendations" algorithm put "The Crossroads Cafe" onto my list, but I am very glad it did.

October 23, 2011

Don't tell me you can't reach the global market!

There are multiple channels for an individual artist, writer, or musician to reach the global market. Here are only a few:

CreateSpace Publishing on Demand

Kindle Store Submissions

iTunes Content Submissions

Android Market Content Submissions

Naturally, before you can submit you must create something! Your failure to create something does not constitute a failure of greedy capitalists to appreciate your genius.

October 22, 2011

Book Review: God's Not Dead (And Neither Are We)

God's Not Dead (And Neither Are We) is one of those books that deserves a far wider readership than it will ever attain. There are important lessons on these pages for young musicians, lessons learned the hard way and told directly by the people who learned them. To his great credit, Jerry Wilson stays very much in the background and lets the musicians speak for themselves, telling their stories in their own way, with their own words. At times the prose rises almost to the level of poetry, at other times it is dark, gritty, and as in your face as a heavy metal power chord riff a dozen bars long. Some of these stories are heartbreaking, some of them are encouraging, all of them carry a profound lesson in faith that far too many modern Christians have been spared. Faith is not faith if it has not been challenged and the faith of every artist in these pages has been hit hard, with most of the attacks coming not from the audiences, but from the people the artists trusted to guide their careers and get them their royalty checks on time.

I don't like the music produced by most of the artists Jerry Wilson interviews. I don't like it at all. That does not matter one bit. These stories are not apologetic essays in defense of a genre. These stories are battlefield tales of passionate individuals who sought to bring their message to a fallen world only to have their path blocked not by Satanic minions, but by their own Christian allies. These are real stories of real people with a real desire to be heard above the racket of modern life. Their victories are rich, powerful, and memorable. Their defeats hard lessons in the perils of life on the cutting edge.

Christians of all stripes, non-Christian musicians looking for inside stories of their industry, curious adolescents wondering what it takes to be a rock star, and historians trying to capture the essence of the cultural warfare that swept America in the seventies and eighties, can all benefit from reading this book. There are important life lessons here for anyone willing to learn them.

October 16, 2011

Time moves forward, it never does a 180

Matthew 21:28-32:
"There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father asked?"

"The first," they (the chief priests and the elders) answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

As I watched the video "180", this parable kept repeating itself in my head. The videographer approached his topic with good intent, but that does not make his approach right and it does not make him righteous. The lesson I took away from the video is that American youth have very poor critical thinking skills and they are easily manipulated. To draw a parallel between Hitler's extermination of "undesirables" and the free exercise of an adult woman's choice for her own life is, at best, extreme. These two issues are not the same. They are not even close.

Hitler's grand plan was created by Adolf Eichmann and sold to the public by Joseph Goebbels. No one can say for certain what the true motivation for such a slaughter might have been. Eugenics was certainly a major factor, as well as the wealth and land the government was able to confiscate and sell off in order help pay for the war effort. The ready presence of a mass body of people for scientific experimentation was also an important consideration. None of these reasons justify their actions to us here and now, but to those men in that time and place these reasons and others led them to design a method for the mass slaughter of somewhere around six million men, women, and children. To call the Holocaust "evil" is to deny the very realistic justifications these intelligent, rational people came up with in order to move forward with their plans. We must face the reality of these justifications, recognize them for what they are, and fight to prevent them from ever being used in this way again. Yes, at first blush, almost anyone would wish Adolf Hitler's mother had aborted him during the first trimester and saved us the nightmare of World War Two.

That would have been a terrible and tragic mistake.

If Adolf Hitler had not lived there is no telling what kind of world we would be living in now but I can guarantee you this much: we would still be arguing over abortion!

The horror of World War Two was a massive wake up call for planet Earth. Free trade, the benevolent hegemony of American "imperialism", the G8, the G20, the United Nations, the power of a global market to drive innovation and design, none of that would have been possible if Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito had not tried to divide the world between them. It would be nice if there were some way to rationalize traveling back in time and preventing the birth of Adolf Hitler, or at the very least, his rise to power. The problem is, there is no way to insure his absence would give us a better world.

We'd still be stuck with the League of Nations. The United Kingdom would still have the most powerful navy in the world. Germany and France would be the industrial center of the entire world. China would be controlled by Japan and Japan would be so powerful no one could stand against her. By now, the Emperor of Japan might very well be the Emperor of the World and that, my friends, would be a far uglier, far more oppressive, and far more primitive world than the one we currently live in. Like it or not, everything you see around you, both the good and the bad, is the direct result of Hitler's rise to power. The creation of a super-nation bent on global domination in the heart of the most industrialized economy in the world forced America to abandon her preferred isolationism and rise to the power she is today. We had no choice!

According to the video, in the first thirty-seven years after the Roe v. Wade decision 53,310,843 American babies were aborted. I don't have any way to verify this statistic, so I'm going to assume it is accurate. That means, American abortion doctors have slaughtered nine times the number of human lives the German National Socialist Party destroyed during World War Two. Using the very same logic as those who would prefer to see Hitler aborted, one might wish that Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington had been aborted as well. I'd bet a dollar to your dime the producer of "180" would never suggest those two women were the moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler! And yet, that is the logic of his argument. If abortion is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, then the two lawyers who carried Roe v. Wade to victory in the Supreme Court are the moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler.

I hate abortion. I really do. I believe it is murder. Unfortunately, there are millions of young women living in industrialized societies who do not agree with me. I do not have the right to tell them to carry their unwanted child to term and then give it up for adoption. I lived with my wife through two more or less trouble-free pregnancies and births. Even so, it was at times an incredible burden on her both physically and emotionally. Once the children were born, the first two years were an enormous economic, physical, and emotional burden on our marriage. We almost did not survive as a couple. If it were not for my wife's greater emotional fortitude and my own sense of morality, we probably would have wound up divorced while the children were still toddlers. The toll was so great that at one point I left and she dragged me back. We talked through it. We negotiated a different apportionment of the burdens, then we moved forward one day at a time until arriving at the here and now.

I agree with the videographer on this point: there is no moral justification for murdering an unborn child. I agree. Given a choice, I will always prefer a pro-life politician to a pro-choice politician. I applaud states like Georgia (see: MSNBC Lies About an Anti-Abortion Bill) where legislators seek for ways to overturn Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, Rep. Bobby Franklin (the author of the Georgia bill) wound up dead before he could get his bill passed. And no, I'll not fuel conspiracy theories by claiming foul play in Rep. Bobby Franklin's demise when the public record calls it a natural death. If someone wants to build a conspiracy around it they'd better have some irrefutable evidence because people in high stress jobs die of heart attacks all the time.

Nonetheless, all of that aside, I am not God. I do not have the right to demand people agree with me. I do have the right to argue against their choices and to exercise every intellectual and rhetorical skill I have to convince them to see things my way, but in the end, the choice is theirs. As long as they keep voting against politicians who favor pro-life legislation, then Roe v. Wade will stand. I don't like it. I argue against it every chance I get. None of that makes abortion in America the moral, social, and cultural equivalent of the Holocaust! To draw such a parallel will only weaken your argument with anyone who has the critical thinking to point out that murdering people on the basis of their religion is not the same as individual women exercising their personal control over the life growing inside them. It is equally tragic, but there is no moral equivalence.

The only way to create a moral equivalence would be to demand they accept the Bible as the only morality worth following, and while this is true for me, they are free to ignore it if they so choose. When we start demanding laws based on religion we are no different than the Taliban, Iran, and any other society where a single religious creed is the sole arbiter of social morality. That road leads straight to a religious version of Hitler's Third Reich and a far more destructive world than the one we live in now.

Biblical collectivism is no different than Marxism or Fascism. The only difference is the foundational justification. Individuals must be free to make their own choices, even when those choices disgust or horrify me. For some people the murder of a child after it is born is a much different issue than the murder of a child before it is born. I don't like it, but I cannot control how they think and I have no right to demand the law use my definition. No, this does not please me. It is, however, the reality of the world we live in. The only way to preserve my religious freedom is to allow them the freedom to disagree.

Now, if they try to force me to demand the abortion of a child I've fathered (such as would happen in China), then we enter into a realm where I do have the right to demand my child be allowed to live. China's "one-child per couple" law can be seen as a moral equivalent to Hitler's Holocaust, but Roe v. Wade is not. If it is not my child, or if I am foolish enough to impregnate a woman who favors abortion, then that changes things yet again. It is always about the rights of the individual and until that child is born, there are some women who will never see the life growing inside her as an individual. The only thing I can do is not impregnant a pro-choice follower while working to convince society to change their cultural assumptions. On that level, 180 succeeds. It is one man's attempt to persuade the greater culture.

Many people will think I am arguing against the intent of the film. I am not. I support the intent. I am arguing against the weak, pitifully easy to dismiss premise that abortion in America is no different than the Holocaust in Germany. Such an argument is historically invalid and critically flawed. We have got to do better than that if we are going to change modern culture. Much better.

October 15, 2011

OWS goes global, becomes more violent

CNN: Occupy Wall Street Goes Global
Fox News: Occupy Wall Street Goes Global

As their movement expands around the world, the George Soros backed "Occupy Wall Street" movement turns more violent. Seventy people, most of them police officers, were injured in Rome while vandalism and frontal assaults on police lines in New York and other American cities has been completely overlooked by everyone except Fox. Does MSNBC hope no one notices that their coverage spins the protest as something righteous while their network completely ignores Solyndra and Project Gunrunner? The "origin" is right there in downtown New York, and yet the New York Times is so firmly behind these people they took time out to say, "Despite the difference in language, landscape and scale, the protests were united in frustration with the widening gap between the rich and the poor."

Nope. I ain't buyin' it NYT. I don't care what's on the surface, that load stinks to high heaven of Karl Marx, Saul Alinsky, and Mao Tse Tung.

On Monday I fly to Japan. I am wondering if these fools will manage to collapse the system while I am gone, trapping me in Tokyo where for the moment, the protests have been relatively peaceful. Not that it matters. If the global economy goes into a tailspin it could be a very long time before I make it back to my house in Ohio.

I don't know about anyone else, but in my mind, these "protesters" have now moved into the realm of low-level terrorists and enemies of the state. When you start charging police lines and burning cars you've crossed the line from protesting over a legitimate grievance into practicing terrorism.

October 13, 2011

Chasing the Rising Sun, the story of a genuine icon

Some things in life are truly iconic. They carry down through the centuries because they embody an essential lesson about the frailty of life, the fallibility of humanity, and the consequences of making the wrong choices. "House of the Rising Sun" is an old folksong that no one knows the original author of. It goes back to at least the 19th Century, and might even have been written in the early 18th Century. It has carried down through the ages and been covered by hundreds of performers in a variety of genres because it, like other universal icons, changes every life it touches. Contrary to some biased and unfounded disinformation spread by the drummer of the British band, "The Animals", "House of the Rising Sun" is also a uniquely American folksong originating in the still rough and tumble mountain communities of the Deep South.

"Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song" is a masterpiece study of this song and its impact on American culture. No one, and I do mean absolutely no one, uses this level of scholarship in today's world. The book covers the earliest appearances of the song, the evolution of the song, the various theories about the origins of the song, and the archeaological survey of the obscure, "Rising Sun Hotel" (built around 1800, destroyed in a fire in 1822) that could very easily have been the original inspiration for the song.

The story of "The House of the Rising Sun" is the story of America. The song embodies our puritanical spirit, our inherent fallibility, and our continuing hope that the next generation will learn from our mistakes. The evolution of the song begins in those hazy, uncertain decades following the birth of our nation, arriving deeply modified but still ringing true in the nightclubs and honky tonks of today's America. I can promise you one thing, somewhere in America tonight some cover band in a seedy honky tonk is playing "House of the Rising Sun", someone is singing it at a upscale karaoke bar, and someone new to guitar is slowly mastering it.

"Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song" is the story of a song. That song is the story of us.

October 10, 2011

The 53%

I am the 53%

Now these are real grassroots Americans! These are people who truly understand what American life is all about.

I am the 53%

(Updated several hours after the original post)

I just now caught wind of this and decided to add it here. Naturally, the entire "Occupy Wall Street" protest turns out to be nothing more than the Democratic Party supporters convincing their paid community organizers to whip the masses into a feeding frenzy.

All the Usual Suspects are Behind OWS

A choice quote:
Now let's talk about Zucotti Park. That is the "privately owned" park where the protesters are camped.

Zucotti Park is owned by a property group called Brookfield properties.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's girlfriend, Diane Taylor, sits on the board of directors at Brookfield, so obviously there is a Bloomberg connection, but it gets even more incestuous.

Brookfield also owns a company called Granite Wind, a subsidiary of Brookfield renewable energy. They just received a $168 million dollar green loan from Obama's DOE.

And these people have the gall to call the Tea Party "astroturf"!

I mean seriously, does any sane person still support the Democrats and their minions? No wonder they are dressing up like zombies! The brainless walking dead are who they are most aligned with!

Now I understand the CDC Zombie Apocalypse warning. They were warning us to prepare for the Occupy Wall Street movement!

(Further update an hour or so later)

Jonah Goldberg reports in the National Review Online that the Democratic Party Backs OWS.

Friends, enemies, and casual observers. This is the crossroads. This is the pivotal event in American history. The academic and political elite is demanding the American people choose between the Constitutionalism of the Tea Party and the Monarchist Globalism of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is the opening confrontation of Second American Revolution and if we do not tread carefully, things will get very bloody, very quickly. This moment is the new "shot heard 'round the world". I am deadly serious. This is the moment of crisis I have been feeling approach for five years now and warning against for three. This is the breaking storm.

This is where we choose between tyranny and freedom. The lines have been drawn, both sides are prepared to fight to the death. This is the Old North Bridge of our day. There can be no more fence sitting, no more hesitation. You must choose a side or be swept away by the chaos about to break across our nation.

Like it or not, you must choose.

(Another update, this one late in the evening)

Todd Kinsey has assembled a graphic and disturbing comparison of the Tea Party protests versus the Occupy Wall Street protests. While I understand that every movement attracts a lunatic fringe, the more we see of the Occupy Wall Street movement the more I am convinced it is just the opposite, a lunatic majority that has gathered a few rational participants.

Tea Party vs. OWS at ToddKinsey.com

How can any sane person throw their support behind this group? How can anyone who claims to represent mainstream America say with a straight face that the Occupy Wall Street protest is a genuine grassroots movement?

Seriously. These people are completely and totally insane. This is not Main Street, U.S.A.! Not even the idealized and commercialized Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland gets this crazy!

October 05, 2011

I am the one percent

The "Occupy Wall Street" protest movement has a new website up, well, a blog of sorts. They call it, "We Are the 99 Percent". There are a large number of very sad stories about individuals who for one reason or another have wound up broke, unemployed, hungry, homeless, and so on. Reading through them will bring a tear to most people's eye, annoy a small number of folks, and make a few of us very angry. For the sake of this post, I'm going to assume that every story I pluck from this labyrinth is true. However, this is still cyberspace and anyone can appear to be anything, so as you read through their tales of tragedy and woe, don't assume every last one of them is telling the real truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Life is never that simple and life in cyberspace is never completely honest. It is one of the shortcomings of the medium.

Today is October 5th, 2011. As I sit down to write it is 8:51 a.m. here in Ohio. None of the stories have titles, but the story at the top of the page is one I'm going to call, "My Girlfriend has Cancer". This is truly a tragic story. Apparently these two young folks live together, one of them has cancer, and the cancer victim is working two jobs to pay for her chemotherapy. My mother died of cancer a few years back, and my mother-in-law died of cancer about a year later. Cancer is a nasty, destructive disease and the treatment for it is even harder to bear than the disease itself. My mother died in America, without insurance. By the time she was approved for Medicaid the cancer had reached Stage IV and the prognosis was grime. After a couple of months of treatment she died, but it wasn't the cancer that killed her. The radiologist set his machine wrong causing one of the tumors to explode. She died from blood clots and other damage resulting from the radiologist's mistake. My mother-in-law was Japanese so she had Japanese National Health Insurance. She went to the Aichi Cancer Center in Nagoya, a modern, well-equipped, well-staffed facility that rivals anything in America or Europe. The combination of radiology and chemotherapy caused her kidneys to fail and without access to a transplant, she died within a couple of days.

I'm telling these two stories of my own not to gain sympathy. I've worked through the pain of both deaths and I am at peace with how things turned out. I bring this up to show that I know exactly what this young couple is going through. To my mind, the real tragedy is not that they are struggling to pay for cancer treatments. The real tragedy is that someone so young is stricken with such a terrible, unrelenting disease. The young woman is fighting for all she is worth, working two jobs to pay for her treatment. She is not a "victim", at all. She is brave, heroic, and deserving of her boyfriend's respect and admiration. Personally, it appalls me that he would take such a heroic tale and recast it into some kind of victim state so that he could make a political statement. That is not the kind of support she needs right now! She needs his faith, his love, and his undying belief in her will to live. He shouldn't be protesting the system that keeps her working so that she can pay for her treatments. He should be telling the world about her strength of character and celebrating her will to live.

The second story is, well, the second one on the page today. I'm going to call it, "I Sell my Body to Survive". This fellow's father (I assume) invested heavily in WorldCom and lost everything. He himself apparently had some kind of union-supported job and that ended in 2009 (although we aren't told what kind of job or why it ended). So now he "sells his body" to pay the bills, but he is not "walking the street". In short, he is a male escort or some other kind of sex worker.

I'm really going to go out on a limb with this one. Any family and friends reading this are probably going to be a bit horrified, but so be it.

Personally, I think the fellow is doing just fine and if anything, I think his case should become a "cause celebre" for the legalization of prostitution. Yes, Bible-pounding Christian that I am, I believe prostitution should be legal. From the very dawn of time prostitution has been part and parcel of human experience. The very oldest cuneiform tablets we have celebrate the temple prostitutes, both male and female, working in the temples of Ishtar. Cross-dressing is not a modern invention and neither is sex for cash. The prostitutes of Ishtarian worship were leaders in their communities, respected members of society, rich beyond belief, and held gala parades and parties to celebrate human sexuality and the joy of life.

Instead of using his story to bring down the system that provides his clients with the money they need to pay for his companionship, this young fellow ought to be marching in the streets demanding the repeal of the draconian, medieval, and uncivilized laws condemning prostitution. These laws create the conditions that keep prostitutes from seeking healthcare, keep their pimps using drug addiction and physical abuse to assert power over them, and cause far too many of this fellow's colleagues to walk the streets of every major city in our nation, performing their trade under the most dangerous, unsanitary conditions imaginable. He shouldn't be protesting capitalism because capitalism is what keeps him fed and clothed. He should protesting the puritanical laws (mostly put in place by liberal progressives by the way!) that make his trade far more dangerous than it already is!

I lived two doors down from a streetwalker when I was in Denver. Because I'm always looking for ways to improve my little corner of the world, I wound up taking she and her co-workers back and forth to Denver General Hospital for any number of pimp and client-induced injuries. I made soup for them when they were sick. I brought them coffee while they walked their turf. I reported their pimps to the police when they were abused. And no, I have never paid for sex, nor have I ever accepted a "freebie". I'm much too paranoid of sexually transmitted diseases and I always have been.

Legalization of prostitution would bring people like this young fellow out of the shadows and into socially acceptable positions that would allow them to receive healthcare benefits, retirement plans, and all the other union benefits he had at his "regular" job. Legalization of prostitution would also provide a safer, cleaner sex industry that could provide part-time work for people in need and full-time work for those few who actually enjoy the sex trade. This young man is not a victim of capitalism. He is, in fact, a victim of draconian laws put in place by liberal progressives in their undying search for a utopian society that can never be realized. He should be protesting, alright, but he should be protesting against the people he is now supporting!

Then there are a whole passel of stories that I personally feel are far too silly to bother with. A "public sector worker" who complains he is a target for budget cuts would be someone I would label "a tax-fed parasite afraid of losing his cushy job". A 23 year-old newlywed "afraid for the future" is simply living life. When I was a 23 year-old newlywed I was afraid for the future too. It's called, "starting out in the adult world" and it's completely natural. There is a former sailing yacht captain and ex-goldsmith who failed to invest properly and plan for his own retirement. Sorry buddy, but that's your personal failure not a failure of capitalism. Same for the young woman whose husband works 15+ hours a day. Get used to it, kiddo. At fifty years old my wife still works 15+ hours a day with no sign of slowing down. Life is hard, but free market capitalism is what provides the jobs that keep this woman and I both fed. As for the "fire science" student, dude, I've been there. I know it's hard but you'll make it and you shouldn't be looking to the government. You should be looking to yourself and your own ingenuity. There are way too many of these kind of stories. They are, quite frankly, delusional.

Life is hard. When I was 19 I woke up one day $24,000 in debt from student loans, unemployed, far from home, and with zero prospects. I joined the Army and spent four years learning how to stay alive in a combat zone. Thanks be to God I never actually went to combat. I have deep, abiding respect for those who do go into hell in defense of our country and our way of life. They are genuine heroes. While I was in the Army I married a woman who had originally come to my high school as an exchange student. With absolutely no knowledge of what I was getting myself into, I let her convince me to move to Japan after my Army tour of duty ended. I spent twenty-five years in the Land of the Rising Sun, minus a couple years back in the states to finish the education I'd started before joining the Army. One of my sons was born in Japan, the other in America. My failure to enculturate drove me so insane that at one point I left my wife. Thankfully, she chased me down and dragged me back home.

Even now, with both sons grown and starting lives of their own, it is so hard for me to live in Japan that in order for me to stay sane we had to buy property in the middle of corn country and build a house for me to live in. I spend about nine or ten months out of the year here where I can keep a calmer head on my shoulders. I fly back and forth to Japan two, sometimes three times a year. And let me tell you something, when it takes a full twenty-four hours door-to-door, those six trips nearly kill me every single time I take one. It takes me about three days to recover from each trip and I'm not getting any younger.

My wife works at a bank. Her bank has a huge, very profitable operation on Wall Street. Now, finally, after a lifetime of 60-70 hour workweeks, she has worked her way into the very bottom edge of the top 1% of American families. Since her job is in Tokyo, we are actually in the top 1% of both Japanese and American families. And yes, life is good. But here's the catch, life has always been good!

I spent twenty years living off rice and whatever small meat and vegetable dish I could put together to supplement it. When my son was just starting elementary school he developed a very rare condition known as "Legg-Calve-Perthes disease". The treatment regimen we chose for him involved two surgeries and over a year in a wheelchair. Life in Tokyo is unbelievably inconvenient for a person in a wheelchair, even though nowdays it is a thousand percent better than it was at the time. Twenty years ago life in a wheelchair in Tokyo was pure torture! Someone had to stay home to help my son get back and forth to school, make sure he didn't open the surgery wounds while they healed, change his bandages, and for a long time after most kids can get up and go to the bathroom on their own, change his diapers. My wife earned more money than I did and she had the hope of a real career, so I quit work and stayed home.

It has been a very long, very difficult life, but it is the hardship that makes life worth living. I am profoundly grateful to be where I am today. I love my wife. I love my two sons. I love the little house on the side of a hill where I spend ten months out of every year. I enjoy my visits to Tokyo far more than I could ever enjoy living there. Life is good now not because my wife has been successful in her career and earned her way into the top 1%, but because life has always been good. It isn't wealth that makes life good, it's the people you love and the people who love you. That was true even when my wife and I lived in a one bedroom, cockroach-infested apartment just outside the gates of Schofield Barracks.

Hopefully someday soon my wife will feel comfortable enough to retire and then she'll join me in this little house where I am living alone. If not, our separate lives could easily go on like this for another ten or fifteen years. So believe me, I know all about hardship. Whether it involves being woken up at two o'clock in the morning by a prostitute neighbor who begs for a ride to the other side of town to look for a broken, beaten friend abandoned in a cheap motel or being woken up at half past one in the morning by a hysteric wife who announces Tokyo has just had a huge earthquake and she is scared to death only to hang up and leave me spending three days deep in worry. Yeah, life in the modern world is hard, very hard, and sometimes it royally sucks. I know exactly how every one of those "99%" feel. And guess what, being in the top 1% doesn't change any of that. In many ways, it makes it even harder.

My car is eight years old, has 140,000 miles on it, and needs about $3000 of work to make it through this winter. I still have bills to pay, and my wife has even larger bills to pay. We took advantage of the collapse in housing prices to pick up this land and build this house, but we paid cash so we wouldn't have the damocles sword of a thirty-year mortage hanging over our heads. True, if we gotten a mortgage (and we could have gotten a huge one quite easily) my house would be the talk of the town and I'd be living in luxury.

Smart people don't do that. Smart people, the kind who wind up in the top 1% at the age of 50, don't spend more than they earn. They eat beans and rice when they have to, live in roach-infested apartments for decades, and start out at multinational corporations working as secretaries, mail clerks, or even janitors. Life is hard in the modern world, but if you ignore the flash and glamor of Hollywood movies, do the right thing and live smart, then even in today's world of limited opportunities anyone at all can find their way into the top 1%. And that, my friends, is the real power of a free market capitalist economy. In a free market you might start out starving, but you and you alone are the only thing that determines where you wind up.

I have no sympathy for the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. I've been there. I paid my dues in blood, sweat, and sleepless nights. My wife paid her dues as well, paid them in far higher physical and emotional tolls than I paid mine. She is the breadwinner and I am the kept man. It might be untraditional, but hey, it works for us and it works well. The only difference between the top 1% and the other 99% is the top 1% never gave up, never stopped trying, and most important of all, never once expected someone else to come along and rescue them. Sure, a few of the top 1% inherited their money and lifestyle. Good on them! Those are very few in number, mere dozens among the millions who earned their way into the top 1% through the sweat of their brow, the groaning of their joints, and countless sessions of 24, 36, or even 72 hour workdays.

Life sucks. Get used to it! Monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, and communes are even worse. In those systems you cannot improve your life no matter how creative you are, how industrious you are, or how resourceful you are. In those systems you are either born into wealth or you marry into it. And guess what, even in a free market capitalist society you can still be born into wealth or marry into wealth, but if you happen to be born poor, free market capitalism is the only system that allows you to rise to the top based on your own abilities. And that, my friends, is what makes the modern world far better than anything that has come before.

No, it's not utopia. I'm sorry, but there is no golden past, no golden future, and no utopia. If the "Occupy Wall Street" movement and their supporters succeed, dystopia is the only possible result. That's just simple reality.

October 02, 2011

Sign some petitions, bring back your freedoms

Stephen Wright over at The Bluff has links to four important pro-gun petitions at the Whitehouse website. This is a golden opportunity to make your voice heard.

Petition to remove regulations on Silencers
Petition to allow private ownership of modern automatic weapons
Petition to support national CCW
Petition to remove restrictions on short-barrelled shotguns

None of these restrictions have been effective in reducing violent crime. The only real reductions in violent crime have come with the expansion of CCW over the past two decades. We are at a point now where the only cities still struggling with violent crime are the very same cities with the greatest restrictions on firearms ownership. If the past two decades have proven anything they have proven that allowing law abiding Americans to own, train with, and practice with firearms is a better crime deterrent than mandatory sentencing or the creation of a virtual police state such as we see in Oakland and Washington D.C.