Friday, July 15, 2011

Can We Save America From Ourselves?


Sancho, I see an Impossible Dream!
America has always embraced the entrepreneur, the Don Quixote and his formidable windmill, the David ‘sling-shotting’ his Goliath. We cheer his or her efforts as they attempt to reach their impossible dream and conquer their mammoth goal. The underdog fighting ridiculous odds.  And to some extent we still do. But something has changed over the years.
No I don’t mean we now root for the dreamers to fail, although there are undoubtedly some who do but they are in the minority. And you may still be assured of a path being paved to your door when you perfect that new mousetrap.
What has changed is the attitude of the entrepreneur himself.
While the public is still in awe of success and everyone still loves a winner the winners no longer seem to care about their public.
Okay obviously any new business enterprise still needs customers to pay for that which they produce but believe it or not the customer isn’t the most important part of the equation anymore.
The Alice's Restaurant of Drugs
When America was young someone would open an apothecary and people would flock to purchase items they needed, or browse, or just to say hi. The store owner became a part of the community and living among his customers became family. When a family member was in trouble the brothers would chip in to help. The formula worked for all involved and success was measured not by the size of the bank account but by the number of lives touched and the friendships cultivated.
Of course no one was na├»ve enough to believe that profits didn’t matter or that that whole bottom line thingy was wasn’t important it just wasn’t that important!
But the corner drug store is nearly extinct replaced by the ubiquitous, faceless chain of a million links. The family doctor is as rare as a unanimous vote in Congress and business ethics well let’s just say they’ve gone the way of the American buffalo. And I wouldn’t give you a nickel for them.
But before we blame the business owner for blindly climbing up the wealth ladder of success we must look at the whole picture. The environment has made it necessary for him to step on former friends to do so. The financial landscape of this country has been reshaped, eroded if you will into one of huge peaks and tremendously deep valleys. And while some may think it was easy to see it coming it was nevertheless impossible to stop. Like a heavy freight train careening down the tracks at breakneck speed it would need time to slow down let alone change direction.
The moment of conception was when one business owner realized he could replace a trained, trusted and loyal worker with five eager new employees overseas and pocket some cash. He could train the new employees, communicate with them despite the time difference, and have 24/7 coverage while still saving money! Americans suffered but who the hell cared?
Soon he replaced another and another and before long the bulk of his work force was from Asia, his ethics from hunger and his profit margins from the pages of Fortune Magazine.
His strategy and success caused his competitors to take note and in order to keep pace they joined the Orient express.
It became a “lead, follow or get out of the way” situation and before anyone could say high unemployment ‘Made in China’ had taken over as the most common label in America.
Wall St. Investors know a good thing when they see one and they rewarded the newly non-American businesses with fists full of cash with which to continue their business practices.
And the more Americans they fired, I mean laid off, the better the investment community liked them. This was famously noted when the stock price of IBM soared after the company divested itself of over 5,000 workers. It soared again when they dumped another 5,000 Americans prompting many to conclude that if they got rid of everyone but the CEO the stock price would rise to infinity!
You might think that the government would put the brakes on this seemingly unpatriotic practice. But you also might be accused of not paying attention. No tariffs or punishments of any kind were meted out and the flow of foreign goods into the country was equaled only by the flow of cash flying out.
At that point no one could seriously blame the board of directors of any large corporation for following suit lest they lose their share of the business. Remember that lead-follow-fall into obscurity thingy rearing its ugly head again.
And as the internet became easier and speedier a seamless “flat Earth” spawned a new normal. Customer service calls were now routinely answered by people from India and another few thousand Americans went from bread winners to bread lines.
Overall wealth in America remained fairly constant but the distribution was lopsided and top heavy. CEOs were raking in cash and record profits. Investment brokers and hedge fund managers gave new meanings to the word obscene wealth as their income grew out of sight. What exactly did they do for society again?
And once again the government chose not to act instead rewarding the people who were killing the American Dream with huge tax gifts. Billions in profits were instead taxed at ridiculously low rates with loopholes rendering even those rates laughable.
The money being shoveled into the already overstocked coffers was now eagerly being spent not on new employees or benefits for the current ones but on lavish gifts for the same lawmakers who kept the playing field tilted in their direction. “K Street” supplanted Main Street as the most important address in the lives of the wealthy businessman.
Some may call that practice bribery but truthfully the wealthy were just the paying for services rendered.
Football can thank Vince Lombardi for the phrase, “winning isn’t the most important thing. It’s the only thing!” but multi-national corporations scored big using it as their mantra.
And when the small business owner or entrepreneur saw how the big boys were doing it they followed suit. Now when a business grows large enough the workers are asked to do more and more for less and less. They are told to be thankful to have a job. Unfortunately without a champion in DC they realize they realize they are swimming upstream and acquiesce.
But in the long run if you don’t pay your workers a living wage then you cannot expect them to purchase the items you produce. Even Henry Ford, anything but a workers’ advocate knew the value of a fair wage when he said (sic) “I pay my workers more so they can afford to buy my cars!”
So can things change?
Can the genie be coaxed back into the bottle?
Would you go back in if you were him?
The only way for this country to change its current path toward destruction is for Congress and the President to act and act as one. They must force the issue.
The two factions fighting are as usual on opposite sides but they must realize that if the American ship of state goes down they will go down with it.
“Cut spending.” “Raise revenue.” “No cut spending.” “No raise revenue.” “Drop Dead!” “No, you drop dead!”
The argument is ridiculous and disingenuous. Spending is out of control but taxes are outrageously low, especially on that top 2%. Wisdom, something that appears to be missing from all sides these days, must be used to find a solution. If we cut off funding for our elderly while continuing to bestow the lowest tax rates in history upon the wealthiest we will lose the game.
Some Middle Class Americans still want the wealthy to get wealthier in the hopes that when they will join their ranks they will enjoy the same freedom from taxes. They are, to put it politely delusional. They will never make it into the top 2% without winning a lottery because the game is rigged.
The rich and powerful no longer meet on golf courses. The new high profile hideout is Davos or some exclusive resort in the Pacific Northwest. And if you are reading this you need not apply for membership as admission is by invitation only and you ain’t invited!
So is the American Dream now an impossible one?
Am I tilting at windmills?
Perhaps!
But with the same spirit that pushed our first settlers to the pacific coast and 20th century man to the moon I continue to sling shots at Goliath in the hopes others will join the fight and make our country great again.
In a way I am an entrepreneur. Except I have no employees, only partners, 300,000,000 of them!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Frankly Scarlet!

While everyone not a millionaire or billionaire or a puppet of same suffers tremendously during our current economic borderline recession our leaders in DC bluster and position and blow smoke up everyone's butt!
That was a pretty long sentence but not nearly as long as the prison sentence our Senators and Representatives in government deserve for impersonating leasers!
In almost every negotiation since time began no one side has all the solutions to every problem.  That is why we have debates and compromises and horse races for that matter.
But in our current political climate and system of two main parties it's a fair bet that horses need not run since nothing will get done.
Republican leaders (I continue to use the word 'leaders' even though they do nothing like lead unless in Reverse) keep saying they are for job creation.  Yet they have not even proposed any legislation that would create one job let alone pas a bill in that direction.
Well that is not 100% accurate as there are more bankruptcy attorneys feeding at the trough than at any time in the past thanks to them.
But times were when the leaders would go behind closed doors with one thought in mind - get the job done.  Now they close their minds before closing the doors and come out with the same thoughts.
Their main objective, other than helping their friends maintain all their wealth is, "How do I look in  camera?"  And, "What do I have to say in order to get re-elected?"
And the last part is the problem!
In order to get re-elected pols must mainly keep their base happy.  Unfortunately the Republican base is just that - Base!
With no clear idea of how things work in the real world let alone America (and I wish they would let America alone) the Tea Party demands ridiculous unfathomable objectives and demands candidates kowtow to them.  Sadly many Republicans are giving in even thought they know in their heart of hearts the demands are unbelievably stupid.
There are many Republicans vying for the job of Tea Party poster child such as 'off the deep end' Bachmann but today we must crown a new winner, Mr. Eric Cantor.
Cantor with another of his boners!
Discussing the debt ceiling and the debt problem they are attempting to fix Mr. Cantor said he would not agree to close any tax loophole currently enjoyed by the uber wealthy unless, "the extra money collected was immediately returned to taxpayers via other tax cuts, with no net increase in revenue."
I wish I was joking with the above answer from this duly elected person in government but the stupidity of his reply is all his, or should I say right out of the 'FOX run' Tea Party mouth?!?
Any intelligent person would consider that kind of non-answer a 'boner' but John Boehner and his cohorts love this kind of talk.
Thanks to the NY Times for not letting this one disappear into the ether along with the long list of other idiocy from the right.
So to translate, the 'right' feels that the only way they will allow the wealthy to be taxed is if any money we take from their left pocket goes immediately into their right pocket.  That'll surely fix our deficit, no?
There must be a reason we call Republican territories 'Red' states.
I believe it's because when they control the government and the conversation normal humans see red! 
After listening to the news every day and calming down or trying to I am overcome with the thought that I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
It is clear that we are in trouble in America.
But it is also clear that frankly my fellow citizen our leaders don't give a damn!

Monday, July 4, 2011

All That Ailes Us

There appears to be a debate over whether or not Fox News contains any news or is merely a propaganda arm of the 'right.'
Frankly I do not like Fox News as anyone who has ever visited this blog or heard me speak or for that matter has a brain will know.
But I still believe that they have a place in the world.
After all this is America and we do allow free speech along with our many other freedoms.
And on this Fourth of July I certainly will not be the one to argue against freedom and ours is great!
But with great freedom comes great responsibility, sorry Spidey.
And the responsibility lies with all of us to know the difference between fair and balanced news reporting and out and out self-serving propaganda.
One cannot stop fear mongering but one can recognize it for what it is!
One caveat for the Fox viewer re the whole 'free speech' thing is that we do not allow the yelling of "Fire" in a movie theater when there is in fact no fire to run from.  That inciting to riot thing annoys people!
There will always be prejudice against anyone 'not us' but education and the use of a brain could reduce the incumbent hate it produces.
I love using Will Rogers' famous, "I never met a man I didn't like" line to show that we should get to know someone before deciding we don't like him!  (Of course Mr. Rogers never met someone like Andrew Breitbart.)
There will always be greedy people hell bent on getting ahead at others' expense.  But knowing unbridled greed for what it is may help you not get burned a second time.
Even "W" knew the "Fool me once" phrase.  Well, at least he almost knew it!  (His buddy, the infamous disgusting turd blossom Rove knew it far too well!)
The article to which I link at the top is biased against Fox.  The writer will tell you that he is merely pointing out tactics used by the quasi news corporation to get you to believe his lies as truth.  Unfortunately all too many people have already fallen into the trap of listening only to Fox for their daily dose of delusional dogma and drama.
Hey I like many different comedy channels and watching Fox once in a while can be fun.
Where else can you see a grown man making faces, screaming and ranting with a terribly bad fake accent point out that the ills of all mankind are being caused by illegal aliens?  Okay, you can't do that anymore but Beck will be replaced, trust me.
So the problem in America now is how to convince these people to open their minds, broaden their horizons and use their remotes for the good of mankind.
I am not proposing that we make CNN our only source for the dissemination of news but that we ask everyone to understand that there are other points of view out there and they must be given thought.
As for Fox and its head 'disseminater' I read many of the comments left on the blog post I allude to here and left shaking my head.
I felt it necessary to add my 1½¢ to the ridiculous argument in the spirit of the Fourth and for your amusement I copied it below
But don't take my word for any of this - do some research and fact check my words.
Then for goodness sake change the channel once in a while!


Partners in Crime:
Ailes - Nixon - Rove
Ailes & Rove - Separated at birth?
Debate all you like but the best argument against a 'fair and balanced' moniker for Fox was given by the fear mongering BS artist himself!  Richard Nixon asked his people to come up with some bogus stories and put them 'out there' for people to read and make their own minds up as to their veracity.  Many of Nixon's people rejected the idea (ah what a simpler time it was.)  But one of his aides, one Roger Ailes, yup that Roger Ailes told Nixon that he thought it was a fantastic idea.  He basically said that if you could place enough false stories with a touch of truth in them in the media you could control the minds of the electorate.
And the rest is history!
On the whole Fox News is as fair and balanced as is the state owned news media of North Korea without the show of weapons.  But their weapons are more insidious since they are hidden within innuendo and inference and catchy and misleading phrases such as "Death Panels."
The only way to get a truly fair and balanced view of the world is to listen to all sides, including Fox and then do a little research on your own.
If you can do that then you will be able to use your brain to make decisions rather than having it washed for use by Ailes.

But as always this is just my opinion, I could be wrong. (Sorry Dennis.)

Friday, July 1, 2011

What's NOT in a Name?

For some reason John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the rest of their contrary party call their opposition the Democrat Party.
One would have to assume that these gentlemen are too smart to continue making such a childish and stupid mistake.  Therefore one must also assume they are knowingly dropping the "IC" from the back end of the party's name.
Truth be told if either of the parties should have an 'IC' at the end it would be the party of Vitter, Ensign, Foley and on and on and on.
But this is not about the family values of the party of Family Values or the lack thereof since we all can agree both sides have their problems.  This is merely about name calling, or incorrect name calling in our political discourse today.
These leaders who drop the ic are doing so because they feel it is an insult to their opponents and they would rather insult them than work with them to heal the nation.
It has long been a tactic of criminals to point police in the wrong direction, fingering if you will a patsy to do the time for their crime.
It's a shame that Boehner's and McConnell's party has taken up that act.
And once again knowing how smart these gentlemen are it is surely an act.
Just about every legislation proposed by the majority party from 2008 to 2010 was filibustered by the opposition who seem to have taken that term to the highest extreme possible.
They have even opposed their own proposals which some would say is borderline insanity or flip-flopping at the very least.
But they did so knowingly and on purpose once they realized President Obama agreed with them.
Mr. McConnell hinted this would happen after he greeted the new President with a promise to do whatever it took to take him down.
It appears as though the "whatever it takes" threat includes the future of the American Middle Class and the entire world's economy.
Perhaps the President should come out and say he's for long life for all Republi party members.  That would cause a real dilemma on the 'right' right?
They party occasionally labeled the 'Party of No' has earned that moniker.
But in keeping with a tit for tat childish theme I hereby propose that the country respond to their dropping the 'ic' when speaking of the President's party and drop the "can" from the back end of their name.
To wit from now on let's call them the Republi Party.
It actually fits since 'can' is not in their psyche.
They are still the 'party of no' but now they are also the 'party of can't.'
Remember John Boehner ranting "HELL NO YOU CAN'T" on the House floor?
He didn't even care what the proposal was just that it was being brought forth by the duly elected President of the United States and he didn't like him!
The "Party of Can't" says you can't have an abortion no matter what.  That includes rape & incest. Forget the law of the land, they don't like it so you can't follow it. So there!!
Republi Governors and legislators across the nation are spending long hours and tax payer dollars figuring out ways to stop women from being able to follow the law.  They even have gone so far as to label Planned Parenthood as a terrorist group! Talk about insanity! (Please click the "Who needs medical care" link at the top right of the page for an important message and a funny video on this subject.)
And of course speaking of can't how about health care for all tax paying law abiding citizens of America?  The party's response - HELL NO YOU CAN'T!
The "Party of Can't" says no new taxes or any taxes for that matter on the wealthiest of the country!  Billionaires must be revered and taking any dollars away from them will hurt the economy and kill jobs! Whose economy; whose jobs?  THEIRS!
Want to balance the budget and lower the deficit?  Steal from the poor for crying out loud - they can't argue since they don't have money with which to do so!
The "Party of can't" says you can't have unions bargaining for higher wages or better benefits because that would hurt the wealthy business owners, who happen to be funding the "party of can't" in the first place.
And speaking of CAN'T what better representative as poster child for the opposition to everything human party than Eric CANTor?  Did you know that he stands to make a fortune (again) if America fails?
Talk about a conflict of interest!
WHAT A TREASONOUS SCUMBAG!
The list of "Can'ts" goes on and on but this blog post cannot so I'll let you add in the hundreds of others on your own.  Don't think you can? Trust me with a little thought Yes You Can!
Americans must wake up and smell not the coffee or even the tea but rather the stink coming from the right!
If we the people are ever going to get OUR country back from the childish "fingers in the ears" Republi Party and keep the American Dream alive for the disappearing middle class we must not allow them to gain the majority ANYWHERE!
Can we accomplish this?
HELL YES WE CAN!