Saturday, April 24, 2010


Tea Party ProtestersNewt Gingrich see an evolving role for the Tea Party, as the " militant wing" of the Republican Party.

He makes that observation with a certitude befitting the groups recent activities.

The dominance of the two party system almost certainly puts the Tea Party in the Republican camp, given their conservative bent, and their obvious distaste for everything Obama.

A recent poll confirms Newt's prescience regarding the group:

"The 18 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters tend to be Republican, white, male, married and older than 45."

Also, according to the same poll, these white males aren't hayseeds, poverty-stricken, or likely to be, and neither are they grade-school dropouts.

"Tea Party supporters are wealthier and more well-educated than the general public, and are no more or less afraid of falling into a lower socioeconomic class...."

Assuming the accuracy of the poll, these aren't the typical malcontents, the usual suspects we might find protesting the size of government, or its overreaching ambitions to usurp state powers.

These aren't your "bitter" white men clinging to their "guns or religion." Obama captures this group with deft words, but is later skewered for it:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them…And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

"And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

We have a new breed: These are "bigoted" white men, clinging to their 401(K)'s and the religion of non-governmental interference in free-market activities.

It doesn't matter that this selfsame market and its unscrupulous adherents nearly brought our economy to near collapse. What's important is that it remains "free".

And this is the mantra that emanates from this movement.

Liberals, with their misguided efforts to address society's deficiencies, and ills, are perpetrating the greatest crime, the unforgivable offense: They're depriving Americans of their constitutionally protected freedom.

The freedom to participate, or not to participate.

It doesn't matter that that freedom was a myth, almost from the inception of this Republic, Tea Partiers are intent on resurrecting that myth, and expanding the mythology.

They distance themselves from regular, run-of-the-mill Republicans by holding "more conservative views on a range of issues than Republicans generally. They are also more likely to describe themselves as 'very conservative' and President Obama as 'very liberal.'"

And Tea Partiers are "angry," more angry than their fellow conservatives:

"And while most Republicans say they are “dissatisfied” with Washington, Tea Party supporters are more likely to classify themselves as 'angry.'"

Given the movement's emphasis on a "smaller government," you wouldn't expect it to give thumbs up to Social Security and Medicare. Yet, it does.

Even more telling is the group seeming antipathy for the poor:

"Tea Party supporters’ fierce animosity toward Washington, and the president in particular, is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich."

I suppose Tea Partiers see Obama as some modern-day Robin Hood, who takes from the rich and gives to the poor.

Were that the case! For decades we've seen just the opposite: The rich get richer, and the poor, poorer.

Take a look at what has happened to our automotive industry, and the once proud City of Detroit, and why a bailout of General Motors (condemned by Tea Partiers) may have kept the city from becoming as bankrupt as the car manufacturer itself.

Investment bankers have rigged the game to favor themselves, even if it means the collapse of our economy in their pursuit of more and more wealth, and the means of maintaining that wealth, using "too big to fail" as their edge in the game, all but insuring their survival while their less-powerful competition falls by the wayside.

And the most telling aspect of the poll is this revelation:

"They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people."

At the risk of painting this group with a broad brush, they have shown themselves to be ultra-conservative to the point of dismissing the poor, and the concerns of blacks, regardless of their merit.

The Tea Party folks are showing what may be the true face of America, a face that I'm all too familiar with.

How do we measure our greatness as a nation? Do we measure it by how many of our people have health care, or by the exceptional quality of our health care system; by the quality education extended to all, or by the state of our educational system for those who can afford it; by the number of people on welfare, or the number who don't require it at all; by the opportunities afforded to all regardless of social status, or race, or the number who are privileged with it from birth by virtue of color?

We're only as great as the number of us who have access to that greatness, the number of us who can rise as high as our talent, skills, and intellect will carry us, without, first, having to throw off the weight of social stigma, and racial inequalities.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Who's Minding the Mines

Coal and MoneyThe tragic West Virginia mining accident (It's hard to call a thing an accident that could have easily been prevented.) that took the lives of 25 coal miners, landing two in the hospital, and stranding four* deep within the earth (those four with a slim chance of survival, even if a rescue team can reach them once the methane gas has been pumped out) is emblematic of our economy as a whole--a microcosm of what's wrong with our country, when the virtues of capitalism are taken to an absurd extreme.

Here are the findings on the mine disaster that were submitted to congress:

"Parts or all of the mine where at least 25 workers died were ordered closed 61 times in the past 15 months, according to information from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

"The information was provided in a summary to several congressional lawmakers after the accident at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia. The summary has not been made public but was provided to NBC News.

"Despite what experts said is an alarming number of so-called withdrawal orders, a total of more than 100 since 2000, federal regulators never took stepped-up action to cite the mine for a "pattern of violations" even though the mine met the criteria."

As with the financial sector, oversight of the delinquent mine, the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia--owned by Massey Energy Company--suffered as a result of regulators too cozy relationship with mine owners, and a governmental structure that favored the interest of mine owners over that of mine workers who risked their lives daily for a paycheck that put millions of dollars in the pockets of owners; and not to forget bankers, who turned to the government and taxpayers to bail them out when their financial woes threatened to bring down their greed-built empires; and, again, thanks to taxpayers who shouldered the risk, these bankers were able, over time, to hand out to themselves billions of dollars in bonuses.

Because taxpayers assumed some of the toxic assets of banks, but not all (a huge shift of risk), certain banks were allowed to remain solvent. Here, too, regulators failed, more eager to protect the interest of bankers, than the public, while the likes of Alan Greenspan (Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of Governors, 1987-2006) enabled bankers to borrow federal reserve dollars at such low rates, that they tripped over themselves to loan and invest it--most of the time not too wisely.

But who cares, if the money is so cheap and you're "too big to fail."

With the nation's economy on life support, and many Americans having suffered an economic mortal wound--foreclosures on their homes, bankruptcy, maxed out on their credit cards, and credit scores lower than perhaps at anytime in their lives--it seems that it will take a miracle to resurrect the corpus delicti, if it comes to that.

In the same way as owners of this non-union mine, bankers used every trick at their disposal, especially large donations to politicians, for one, to dissuade legislation and ensuing regulations that would have compelled greater responsibility on behalf of bankers and miners, and would have provided targeted oversight from regulators with power to actually do something about abuse--something other than warnings and fines.

In the same way, bankers put profits above people, almost always a sure recipe for disaster: For those who work in mines, injury, and a possible loss of life, and for John and Jane Citizen, an economy on crutches, and a loss of wages as a limping economy sheds jobs faster than it creates them.

In the same way as the owners of this mine, bankers are unrepentant. Even now, both bankers and this reckless mining company are resisting reforms that would have assured the lives of these luckless mine workers, and the continued health of our economy.

These persistent economic conditions--regulators too chummy with those they should be regulating, a governmental structure that favors corporations over the working stiff, incessant bowing, and toadying, to those who create capital, and employ people, and a government that facilitates, and enables abuses, further strengthening the hand of corporations so that they may unconscionably elevate profits above the welfare of people, and do it with impunity--are the Holy Grail of capitalism.

I'm not opposed to capitalism, but I rather doubt if we have truly seen it in actual practice in this country. What we have is some chimerical version of it, a voracious beast made of many parts, not all of which may be easily identified, or easily niched.

Consider for example, derivatives: "Securities that derive their value from other financial instruments that are used by the insurance company to hedge its bets on which direction the market is moving."

What in the hell does that have to do with the creation of capital? Wealth? Tangible assets? Goods and resources?

Capitalism is to "free market" what greed is to unrestricted.

*I have learned, since writing this piece, that the four missing miners were found, but found dead. This brings the total of mine workers dead to 29. We'd have to go back to the year, 1970, to find a disaster of similar magnitude. I have also learned that has offered to pay for the burial of the mine workers. This should bring comfort to the families--and I'm certain that Massey will receive all the attention that's coming to it, for this most beneficent of acts.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I haven't blogged here for somtime. I have posted on other blogs, and just in case you may have missed them, I'm reproducing a couple of those posts here.

To the question, Who decides who makes you happy?, I left the following response and expanded on the notion brought up in the comments section that "selfishness" and "self-centereness" spoil many realtionships where "happiness" is sought:

You are the single most important person in the world, indeed, the universe.

And if you're having trouble with that statement, read on.

If you're not having trouble with that statement, read on.

If you're that self-assured--as to believe that you're the single most important person in the universe--then the elevation of the self comes pretty easy, a walk in the park, falling off the proverbial log.

It's okay to be selfish. To be self-centered. I know: some may get this twisted. What comes to mind readily are some of the comments upthread that equates "selfishness" and "self-centeredness" with the pursuit of one's own needs, whether sexually, or emotionally, at the expense of others.

That's not the kind of selfishness and self-centeredness of which I speak. That kind is not truly self-centered, or that kind wouldn't be seeking outside of his or herself that which only the self can provide.

I hope what I'm going to say next will surprise or even shock: You shouldn't need anyone. You shouldn't need anyone to love you, to cherish you, or to make you happy.

As someone upthread has suggested, and I state plainly: No one outside of yourself can make you happy. It's impossible.

And if you turn to others, a mate, friends, your family, or strangers on a plane, to make you happy, you'll be sorely disappointed.

They don't have the power to do so. And many marriages, and other relationships suffer drastically, because one or the other in the relationship is looking to the relationship to provide what is missing in one or the other.

No one. And I mean no one can give you what is missing in you, or what you think is missing in you. No one has that power.

And even if you find someone who you believe is giving you what is missing in you, he or she will resent you for it, because you will make unreasonable demands for it, and blame him or her if those demands aren't met.

You may not see it as such, but a need is an addiction. And like any addiction, we're always, at least most of the time, in need of a "fix," and when we don't get it, or in sufficient quantities to suppress the craving, we languish miserably within our world, and within our universe, bitterly blaming those we look to--to provide the fix--for failing us. (and those others may show up en masse or serially).

Disillusioned, you may eventually fall back on the person who created the need, and who can offer the fix to remedy the need. You. Yourself.

Here's what you need to know: Within is where all your supposed needs may be met. In time, you may come to realize that you have within all that you have sought to find without. Love in abundance. Self-acceptance in abundance. Self-forgiveness in abundance. Joy. Happiness. Peace. All in abundance.

You merely have to turn to the self in earnest, and do what many on this thread has suggested: Love yourself. Forgive yourself.

Perhaps then you'll find that decisions have power. You can decide to be happy, notwithstanding the seeming absence of conditions to evoke it; decide to be joyful, notwithstanding the seeming appearance of a joyless surrounding.

Does that mean, then, that relationships are no longer important, of whatever kind? No. They become more important than ever!

But now you enter them, not seeking something, wishing for something, desiring something from the other. You enter them for a much grander reason.

Further, you will easily know those others (They will now stand out!) who are seeking, and entering relationships for the purpose of fulfilling, satisfying, a need that they perceive within themselves.

You will pass them up, not because they're inferior in some way, but because you don't have what they're seeking, what they're needing.

You will seek out those like yourself. Those who have turned within and found a treasure trove of fullness, and completeness.

And you, with them, will use the relationship to celebrate your completeness, and celebrate your fullness.

There's no other reason to establish a relationship, than to harmonize your life with that of another.

Out of your fullness and completeness, do you share the essence of who you are.

Responding to my comment, one commenter observed:

"I never quite got how one could be happy without the actualization of some dream or desire being fulfilled or interaction with others."

I followed-up with this:

Let me attempt a response. Happiness is not about what you're doing, it's about what you're being.

Otherwise, you set yourself up to fail at the outset, if doing, or having, or interacting dictate your state of mind, or state of being.

It's what you're being why you're doing what you're doing that should be your goal.

But even then, people confuse the two. Oftentimes, you hear the saying, "I was happiest while pursuing my goal. Now that I've achieved my goal, my happiness has dropped considerably."

It dropped because they believed that the doing brought the joy, and not the other way around--that their joy (which they brought forth at their behest) attended the doing.

Your state of mind belongs exclusively to you, and is always yours to do with as you choose.

Were it otherwise, our dreams, desires, and external fulfillments would be at the mercy of life's many vagaries, which, oftentimes, would place our dreams and desires outside of the control of most of us.

It doesn't have to be that way, but that discussion is outside the scope of this one.

Let me illustrate:

If it's your desire and dream to be an astronaut, and that dream and desire is thwarted because of a heart so severely damaged that it disqualifies you--forever ending your hope of attaining what you may have worked your whole life toward--you may choose to be unhappy, or you may choose to remain untouched by the loss of the dream.

You see: The choice is not outside of you. Your state of mind is still yours to control, is still yours to command.

It's the same with interactions, and with relationships. If we put our happiness in the hands of others, then we're forever at their mercy. If they withhold that which we say makes us happy, or don't deliver it in sufficient quantities, then the outcome is predetermined.

We experience unhappiness.

We become emotionally dependent, when what we should be aiming for is independence, where we call the shots as to our state of mind, and not others; where we decide how we will feel about a thing, and not others.

Don't take this to mean that all dreams, desires, and interactions should be abandoned.

They shouldn't be.

What should be abandoned is the power we give them to shape our state of mind, to tell us whether we shall experience joy or sadness, a sense of fulfillment or loss.

Ruyard Kipling in a poem entitled "IF" states it best:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

We're always at choice.