Monthly Archives: August 2010

Our forests are too overgrown to fail

An economic analogy.

We have been preventing and fighting forest fires for a couple of hundred years believing it was the best way to preserve our forests and our way of life. We were wrong.

Left to themselves, naturally occurring forest fires were frequent, slow moving and limited. These fires cleared the weak, dead or dying trees. These fires burned the brush and vegetation from the forest floor, which supports destructive insects and has become the fuel of the major fires we know today. These fires diversified the environment, made the soil richer and forced the trees to develop thicker bark, which protected them from the heat. Many types of trees require the heat from these fires to release their seeds. New growth occurs most often within a couple of weeks as the vegetation thrives in the nutrient rich and uncompressed ash left from the fires and the lack of competition for sunlight.

Since we have protected our national forests, fires are less frequent. They are also much hotter – often consuming the old growth trees and moving too fast for the forest animals to escape. With enough firefighters and money, we can protect some special sections of the forest, but the moonscape left everywhere else takes much longer to grow back.

Mother nature, nor mother economy, will not be denied. No matter how many trees you plant, or how much stimulus fertilizer you provide, it is just going to take a while – that is, unless, there’s another fire.

###

Postscript: I was torn as to whether I should share this as it may have seemed that I was both uncharacteristically hopeful and suggest that I am anti-regulation or anti-stimulus. I am not. BTW, if there is another fire, it’s best to run like hell or jump in a lake with the other animals and the snakes.

Dog Days News

So Blago’s guilty of lying, but after six and half years of Justice Department investigations, many millions spent, federal prosecutors couldn’t convince 12 of his peers that he was guilty of any of the other 23 charges. Blago will likely be re-tried.

Our hemisphere is having the hottest summer ever recorded – wildfires in Russia, an iceberg four times the size of Manhattan has broken off Greenland, and Pakistan has more than 20 million affected by flooding with 8+ million in desperate need of food and clean water – yet, the Climate and Energy Bill is being held hostage by Senate Republicans who continue to deny global climate change has been caused by their hot air.

Caffeinated by the tea party, a one-word “no” platform, 309 Senate bills on Republican hold, gay marriage and immigration laws in the courts, a Muslim community center in Manhattan, and the Bush economy/legacy of failure abandoned on Obama’s doorstep, the Republicans are so poorly managed they only have $10.9 million for fall campaigns – now they get a $1 million partial bailout from News Corp., the owner of the Wall Street Journal and Fox Not-Really-News.

With a “real” unemployment rate of 16.5%, a net loss of 131,000 jobs last month, wage growth a misnomer, the current rate of bankruptcies near a 5-year high, record numbers without health insurance, record numbers of foreclosures, exports tanking, trade deficits exploding, bank earnings weakening, 80% of the exiting stimulus allocated to the states, but only 47% spent, and a second stimulus bill dead in the Senate waters –  the $10 billion subsidy just passed to pay states to keep or hire teachers has many school districts saying they aren’t going to rehire teachers, they’ll try to save it to help next year which is sure to be worse.

Haiti is still in ruins, 1.5 million people are still displaced, only about 10% of the money pledged (including the US contribution) has actually been given, Bill Clinton is out doing collections while Hillary is leading by example: she’s contributed $10 via text to relief efforts, but there’s still hope – Fugees’ rapper Wyclef Jean is running for President.

Gone in August:  Oscar-winning actress, Patricia Neal (84, lung cancer); Bobby Hebb, ‘Sunny’ singer-songwriter (72, lung cancer); “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” baseball player Bobby Thomson (86, long illness); jazz singer, civil rights activist, Abbey Lincoln (80, long illness); actor Paul Rudd (70, pancreatic cancer); film and TV producer, David Wolper (82, heart failure); former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (87, plane crash in the bad weather that they didn’t check for before taking off); celebrity plastic surgeon, Frank Ryan (50, texting while driving); writer, pundit, segregationist, James Kilpatrick (89, heart failure); Gap Band musician, Robert Wilson (53, heart attack); singer for the Diamonds, Ted Kowalski (79, heart disease); Pardon by Bill Clinton for accepting kickbacks, 18 term Congressman and former Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committe, Dan Rostenkowski (82, unspecified); bluegrass bassist, Mitch Jayne (82, cancer); guitarist, Catfish Collins (66, cancer); writer, philosopher, Mary Anne Warren (88, unknown); Georgia goobernatorial candidate, Karen Handel (48, failed to convince 1,244 more voters she was less evil than Nathan Deal); HP CEO, Mark Hurd (53, complications from greed and sex-related hubris); hate radio host, Dr. Laura Schlessinger (63, fatal hemmoraging of the N word on air); the last US combat troops in Iraq (7, campaign promise); unimaginable numbers of aquatic creatures and birds, plus 80% of the oil that leaked into the Gulf from BP’s Macondo well (3 months, greed, negligence, inadequate regulation and political bribery).

Update, August 21, 2010:

  • Blago: Jurors report that there was only one holdout juror unconvinced of Blago’s guilt on most of the other charges.
  • Hottest Summer: Now heavy rains have devastated China and North Korea leaving 4,000 dead or missing, more than 50,000 displaced and ‘extremely dangerous” cracks have been found in the Three Gorges dam threatening hundreds of thousands.
  • Republican Fundraising: Politico reports the RNC now has only $5.5 million on hand for the midterm elections and $2.2 million in debt.
  • Jobs: For the week ending Aug. 14, new unemployment filings exceeded 500,000 – the worst job report since Nov. 2009.
  • Hope in Haiti: The Haiti electoral commission ruled yesterday that Wyclef Jean is ineligible to run for president .

The verdict’s in

I was called for jury duty this week. Having polled the 300 jurors-in-waiting for Fulton County Court, our judgement was unanimous: if the price of voting is jury duty, we need to demand better candidates.

It is a tradition to bitch and moan about being called to jury duty, but with almost no exception, those of us summoned, recognized that jury duty is a humbling honor. Plus, it is a once a year chance to be in a room for a day filled with your peers.

I was again reminded of how diverse our citizen peers truly are. Beautiful people of all shapes, shades, sizes and political persuasion. Admittedly, my peer group was from voter registration rolls and are made of those who are old enough and take their obligations as a citizen seriously enough to vote, receive their mailed summons and show up for jury duty dressed suitably for court. Try as they might, the jury room staff had a tough time with the pronunciation of my Asian-Georgian, Middle-Eastern-Georgian, and Hispanic-Georgian brethren – often generating some good-natured chuckles and almost always requiring the spelling of the names that were called to have them recognized and answered.

I struck up a conversation with a woman from North Fulton during the time between announcements. Roughly half of Fulton County is “outside the perimeter” in a land similar to Cobb County, which generates high ratings for talk radio, Republicans and handgun sales. We immediately found our common ground: we both had been summoned to jury duty (OK, and both middle-aged and a few pounds past our prime).

I baited her about the current governor’s race, and she offered, “Georgia needs someone who could get something done – not like that Roy Barnes.”

I asked her what she thought those important things were. She responded, “like standing up for states’ rights.”

After suggesting that I didn’t trust the important issues with anyone at the state level, but preferred to count on the US Senate to not do anything, I asked her how “states’ rights” was going to do anything about the $2-3+ billion projected short fall in Georgia for the next two years and if she thought any of the candidates could do something about it, she said, “we need just need someone who’ll cut some of the spending.”

I asked, “like cut teachers, police and the like?”

She said, “No, but we need someone strong enough to get spending under control – certainly not Roy Barnes.”

I asked, “How does getting things under control do anything about deficit or keeping our teachers and police on the job, and since, Roy Barnes is Democrat and the Georgia House and Senate are solidly Republican, wouldn’t that actually be a good thing since he couldn’t get anything done anyway?”

Before she could answer the juror announcements began again. “I am going to call some of you to report to courtroom 2B. When you hear your name, let me know you are here and come up and get your number. Then go down to the first floor, but wait in the hallway and do not go into the courtroom. It-sas-so, It-sa-zo, Are-o-yo, Ar-o-ho, Lopez? I, L, E, A, N…”

At which point, a shy and blushing woman who appeared to be of Hispanic descent, rose and walked to the front. I turned to my North Fulton friend, saw her smiling proudly in support of another American, a Georgian, who was being called to serve. We don’t have an immigrant problem – not in Fulton or North Fulton – we have some laws that need to be changed so that those immigrants here illegally, can become citizens and join us for jury duty.

Sermon on the stump

The Damnitudes:
Now when he saw the ratings, he went up on each of the networks and sat down. His disciples tuned in to him, and he began to teach them saying:

Damned are the poor and unemployed, for theirs is the kingdom of the street.
Damned are those who mourn, for they will be mocked.
Damned are the meek, for they will inherit the nothing, though it will be tax free.
Damned are those who hunger and thirst for leftedness, for they will suffer and starve.
Damned are the merciful, for they will be shown no mercy.
Damned are the pure in heart, for they will be blind to my truth.
Damned are the peacemakers, for they will be called cowards.
Damned are those who are persecuted because of leftedness, for theirs is the kingdom of MSNBC.
Damned are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Mourn and be sad, because great is my reward in Washington, for in the same way they persecuted their political opponents who were before you.

Crude Oil and Darkness
:
You are the crude oil of the Gulf. But if the crude oil loses its wellhead, how can it be made into gasoline again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by beach goers.

You are the darkness of the news cycle. A ghetto in the city can easily be ignored. Neither do people turn off their spot lights and security systems. Instead they turn them all on, and it gives light to everyone in their gated community. In the same way, let their light shine for them, that they may see only what they perceive as good deeds and praise their party on AM radio.

The Fulfillment of the Law:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Constitution; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you what you think is the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in on nightly news, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of prime time. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of Reagan and the teachers of the constitution, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of the party.

Murder:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother will not be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Obama,’ is answerable. But anyone who says, Bush and Cheney’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be accuse your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Settle matters slowly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it during an election year while important issues are before Congress, or he may hand you over to the electorate, and the election may hand you over to the lobbyists, and you may finally have the money to subvert them all. I tell you the truth, you will not get their votes until you have paid the last penny.

Adultery:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has not committed adultery with her in his heart until it is on YouTube. If your right eye causes you to sin, call it your left eye and point at something else. It is better for them to lose one part of their body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut theirs off and throw it away. It is better for them to lose one part of their body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce:
It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to come on Larry King, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery, which is fine.

Oaths
:
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the party.’ But I tell you, swear to anything at all: either by heaven, claiming it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great political victory. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘No’ be ‘No,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this, say it comes from the evil one.

An Eye for an Eye:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to Fox News, and say it was the left. And if someone wants to investigate you and make you tell the truth, let him have your lies as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, force him to go two miles. Take from the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to give you free trips and campaign contributions

Love for Enemies:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: hate your enemies and pray for vengeance for those who persecute you, that you may pretend to be sons of your party in heaven. Just say that He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and not the leftous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? All of it. Are not even the tax opponents doing that? And if you only greet your brothers, what are you doing in the Republican party? Do not even pagans do that? Be imperfect, therefore, as your heavenly party is perfect.

Giving to the Needy:
Be careful not to do your ‘acts of leftedness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from me in Washington.

So when you take away from the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, but make sure you do as the hypocrites do in the churches and on the streets, to be honored by voters. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you take from the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your taking may be in secret. Then your party, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Prayer:
And when you pray, be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the churches and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, do not go into your room, close the door and pray to your party, who is unseen. Then your party, who sees what is done in secret, will not reward you. And when you pray, do keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Be like them, for your party knows what you need before you ask him.

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our party in heaven, hallowed be our names, our kingdom come, our will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today their daily bread. Bailout our debts, but not as we also have charged 33% to our debtors. And lead us into temptation, but deliver us from being called the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, you really should join another party. But if you do not forgive men their sins, our party will forgive your sins.

Fasting:
When you fast, look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they will received their reward in full. But when you fast, put crude oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will be obvious to men that you are fasting, but to your party, who is unseen; and our party, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Treasures in Heaven:
Store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  Pretend to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body and looks good on TV. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

You can serve two masters or as many as you like. You can hate the one and love the other, or  be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can serve both the party and Money.

Do Not Worry:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly party feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his political life?

And do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how the party clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the lobby firms, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ‘Who would vote for me?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly party knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself and it will be really really hot. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Judging Others:
Judge, or you too will be judged. For in the no way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will not be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in a brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to a brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of his own eye, and then you won’t need to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Demand, Seek, Knock:
Demand and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a few dollars? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your party in heaven give good gifts to those who ask! So in everything, do to others what you would not have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Constitution.

The Narrow and Wide Gates:
Enter through the narrow gated community. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gated community and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

A Tree and Its Fruit
:
Watch out for true prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are really sheep. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is can be elected this fall. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘party, party,’ will enter the kingdom of Washington, but only he who does the will of my party who is in Washington. Many will say to me on that day, ‘party, party, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders
:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a rich man who had his house built on hight ground on the rock overlooking the ocean. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because he could afford to have its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

When He had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

————

Author’s note: Apologies to the original author (Matthew, generally gets the credit) for my parody of this beautiful sermon epitomizing the moral teaching of Jesus. My intent was simply to remind us of these wonderful words and the perverse ways our politicians (and bloggers, including me) have chosen to distort them.

Mission Accomplished

Mission-Accomplished-Obama_in-AtlantaATLANTA — Today, President Obama announced to the National Convention of Disabled Veterans of America that he is keeping one of his campaign promises – America’s longest war will be unofficially* over on August 31, 2010. Twenty years and eight months since our Middle East invasion. More than 4,000 American lives have been lost and 30,000+ wounded or disabled. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians lost or maimed and millions more have been displaced or are refugees. An estimated five million orphaned children. Two failed Bush presidencies. Well more than a trillion dollars of treasury spent so far. No WMDs found. Thousands tortured. Untold damage to American foreign policy. One American-installed dictator hung. Oil prices back to record highs. Halliburton stock price has more than doubled. Pentagon, CIA and NSA spending above cold war highs. Record combat deaths this month in Afghanistan. Osama still has not been hunted down. The world much more dangerous than when it started. It is finally over.

Speaking for all Americans not currently running for office as a Republican**, I am relieved that our heroes can finally come home. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. We will never forget what you have done for us and your families have endured. We will try to keep our politicians from forgetting you.


________________________

*50,000 American soldiers and, perhaps, twice that number of American private contractors will remain in one of the top two most dangerous places on the planet in “non-combat” roles until the end of 2011. The war won’t ever be officially  be over because Congress never officially declared it. They can only stop paying for it or promising for us to pay for it.

**Georgia Democratic goobernatorial candidate I-want-an-immigration-law-like-Arizona Roy Barnes, was MIA during the Obama’s visit, claiming, according the the AJC’s Jim Gallaway, “I told him that I already had a date planned.”

ASSume the position

WADR for those in romantic relationships with a banker and actually want it in the ass, the banking industry, aka: we caused the greatest depression since the last and are too big to fail this election cycle so we get money from the Fed for as close to nothing as is measurable and may or may not lend it to you for 33.3% plus fees, are, surprise, taking advantage of real, or will be real loopholes in the passed, but not litigated, totally ruled or commented, but well-monikered Credit Card Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009.

Duh? Just what do you think more than a million lobby dollars a day will buy in DC? Dinners? Jets? Sex? Condos in Puerto Rico? Elections? Sure, but the money is really for the details and the details are for loopholes.

Sure, the new law, aka: just another in a long string of Obama’s historic legislative achievements surely to pay off for one party this fall, has some truly wonderful consumer reform spins. Of course, only the banking industry has enough federally subsidized lawyers to turn reform into form instead of substance. The Wall Street Journal, not exactly a bastion of kiss ass progressive advocacy, has detailed some of the new ways the banking industry, aka: we aren’t as bad as Wall Street, because try harder to convince you we will love you in the morning, plus we offer KY jelly with each new qualifying account.

Here are some of the low lights from the low lifes:

  • Annual fees are up 18%.
  • Cash-advance and balance-transfer fees up 33%.
  • Promoting “professional” cards – similar to corporate cards and almost identical to credit cards, but somehow, not under the new law.
  • Issuing “rebate” cards – credit cards not covered by the law that issued at maximum allowable state rates which are promised to be rebated to very low rates until the nefarious bastards catch you doing something that violates line 47 on page 23 of their 6 point type disclosure at which point you are to assume the position.
  • Shortening the billing cycle before late payment and higher charges.
  • Setting the due date on a weekend or holiday, accepting payments, but not opening their mail.
  • Charging “inactivity” fees.
  • Charging upfront “processing” fees so that they can charge more than 25% of your credit limit before you’ve even used it.

Grab your ankles and smile.