Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

Mort Mather's Happy Blog

How to improve your life and save the world.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Easter-- another Orvie story



I don’t care much for church goin’. Mom likes to go but the church she likes to go to is in town which she would have to drive to and would cost gas money she doesn’t want to spend and, besides, there’s lots to do on the farm so she doesn’t really have time. Mostly I like that she doesn’t go because she usually cooks a big dinner on Sundays.
She took me to the church in town Easter. It’s a nice church with big stained glass windows. Mom said it was stained glass but I can’t figure out how you can stain glass and it was all different colors and shapes making up pictures of people in the Bible I guess.
In front of where we were sitting were a whole bunch of gold pipes standing on end, all different sizes some of them as big around as our toilet vent pipe and different lengths, too. Mom said they were organ pipes and that I’d hear the sound come out of them when the music started and, boy, did I! That music felt like it was inside of me vibrating my pipes and then a bunch of people came in and lined up right in front of the pipes and they waited a little while and then they let out a whoop and started singing. It sounded nice and then everybody stood up and started singing the same song from books that were right in front of us. I took out a book and mom handed me the one she was singing from and pointed to the place where the words were but I didn’t really get into it.
The minister got up and read from the Bible about Jesus getting killed and how his mother went to the grave and…no, wait, it wasn’t his mother; it was another woman named Mary. I guess that was a pretty common name back then and anyway he was gone from the grave. It was a pretty interesting story. Then they found him walking around though they didn’t recognize him at first and I wondered what he was wearing since the stuff he had been buried in was still in the grave and later when Thomas, who said he wouldn’t believe it until he saw it did see Jesus and he put his hand in the hole that had been poked in his side and blood and guts had poured out. Anyway after he read this story he sat down and the organ played and some men passed around trays with little glasses of grape juice and other men passed around trays with little squares of white bread and Mom told me to hold the bread and juice. Then when everybody had some the preacher got up again and told us the grape juice was Jesus’s blood and the bread was his body and we were supposed to drink his blood and eat his body which I thought was pretty yucky but I did it. Then there was some more singing and then the preacher got up and gave a speech about Jesus and going to heaven and that Jesus was sitting on the right hand of God and that we could all go to heaven because Jesus had showed us the way. Tell you the truth I was pretty glad to get out of there.
On the way home Mom asked me how I liked it and I said it was OK. I didn’t really like it except for the windows and girls and women dressed up in dresses and stocking and their hair all done up pretty. What I didn’t like was that I had to get dressed up in a suit and tie. My grandma gave me the suit for my birthday and said it was my birthday suit which got everybody laughing and so it’s always called my birthday suit which is a joke because everybody says I’m in my birthday suit when I’m naked ‘cause that’s the way I was born. I think my other grandma started that back before I can remember.
Dad asked what I thought of church and I told him the windows were awful pretty and I described the organ pipes but I thought the rest was pretty boring. I told him I wasn’t too happy about drinking Jesus’ blood after Thomas had stuck his finger in it which made him laugh. It seemed like he already knew the story. I asked him what he thought of heaven and he said he didn’t think much of it. He said he was busy enough worrying about this life to get involved with another one which made sense to me.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Instinct -- an Orvie story


I'm writing another book, this one about a boy growing up on a small farm in the 1940s. His name is Orvie and these are his stories. 

Dad docks my allowance a nickel for every Colorado potato grub he finds Ya see, if I can find and squash all the orange bunches of, what-a-ya-call-it, eggs, I guess, before they hatch there won’t be any of those red things hatching out which is what eats the potato leaves. You wouldn’t believe how much they can eat and how fast they grow. Why I’ve seen it where there was just stems left. That was before Dad had the idea of hiring me to go after ‘em. I can spot the eggs easy enough, they’re bright orange, but it sure would be easier if they laid ‘em on top of the leaves. I gotta to pull back every plant on both sides to check for the buggers. Once they hatch the bastards head for the top of the plant to eat where, of course, they are easy for Dad to spot and he checks the patch every day.
My dad isn’t a bad guy. If I do a real good job on the egg clusters once a week in normal weather and twice a week if it is nasty hot, I can kill all of them before they hatch. Besides, I can tell when dad is getting ready to do his tour of the gardens and get out there ahead of him just squashing any grubs that I missed. He usually leaves his inspection of the potato rows ‘til last and I don’t think he counts all the ones he sees. I’ve seen him squash a few without saying anything or docking my pay.
I gotta tell ya, that is tedious work though--bending and looking under the leaves. I try to keep my mind off the heat and the mosquitoes. Mostly I think about Ginny. She’s not my girlfriend. I don’t even talk to her ‘sept maybe “hi”; but she just pops in my mind a lot. She’s on my school bus and I try to work it out so I’m right behind her when we get on the bus coming home and on a really good day I’ll be able to sit behind her; that way, when I’m getting into my seat, I can bend over real close and smell her hair. Gosh, I can smell it now.
She lives on a horse farm nearly five miles away. Last week I rode my bike over to her house, well, to the end of her lane. Her house is down a long lane and all their fields have white fences around them. I was hoping I would see her; maybe she would be out brushing her horse and I could just ride down her lane and say “hi.” No luck. I just sat there on my bike rocking back and forth wishing I could at least catch a glimpse of her. She has the most wonderful really blond hair.
I get paid for picking cucumber beetles. That’s the allowance that gets taken out of. Pretty good allowance, I’d say. It only took me two years to save up for my bike. I’m saving up for a car now. I don’t get docked for any cucumber beetles my dad finds. They’re a lot trickier because you can’t see their eggs and when they are grubs, that’s before they turn into beetles, they are underground. Worst of all potato beetles don’t hardly ever try to get away so they’re easy to squash but when cucumber beetles see me they usually stop moving but as soon as I move toward them they fly or drop or run. Ya gotta wonder how they know I’m after them; and why do they do different things? And how am I going to get down this row without being bored out ‘a my tree?
When I’m not thinking about Ginny I get to thinking about the beetles. I’ve got this game I play with the ‘em; I pretend they’re my friends in another life. Well, it’s not exactly another life it’s like if life was a pinball game? I would be the pinball? But I’d also be playing the pinball game but as the pinball I wouldn’t really know that someone, actually myself, would be playing the game. Awe, well, I hope you get it. Now in this game it’s not just me and my pinball. In this game I am the star of the show but my friends can also come into the game as different characters.
So my friends are watching me in the game in the cucumber patch, like they are hanging around the pinball machine, and one of them says, “Let’s go play hid and seek with Orvie.”
“Count me in! I’m going to freeze when he comes along so he won’t see me,” says another.
“That won’t work. Have you forgotten the yellow stripes on your back? You’d have a better chance if you dropped off the leaf.”
“I’m going to do a Peter Pan and fly away,” says a fourth.
Got to admit that’s a pretty good strategy but the one I hate the most is: “I’m going to run down the stem. If he tries to squash me, the spikes on the stem will hurt like hell.” Now you see, that’s not real friendly.
I wouldn’t exactly say that hide and seek (and thinking of Ginny and a car) make the job fun but it does help pass the time plus now I’m wondering if instinct really is something like that. I haven’t heard of a better idea.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bad Words


When my grandson accused me of using a bad word I learned my son-in-law had told his son that “stupid” is a bad word. I quoted George Carlin to my son-in-law: “no such thing as bad words, bad thoughts, but no bad words.” He disagreed and we left it there though I have been thinking that the so called “bad word” could be an opening for discussion of why it was used; what was meant; might it be hurtful, etc.
I hadn’t seen Mike for a dozen years though we had been corresponding since college—first mail and phone and now mostly email. We were heading for his house from the airport when I, for some reason, said something like, “Birthers” are stupid. When I concluded my mini-rant there was silence from Mike and then he said, “My son and I have a word we use when a discussion should be stopped. We say “football”. Pause. “Football”.
I said no more at the time. Mike keeps his thoughts pretty close. Over the years I have asked for his political opinion and it has usually differed from mine though thoughtfully and not radically different which is why I had barged into the birther issue, I really hadn’t imagined he would believe someone could become President of the US without unquestionably having been born in the US. Before my visit ended I learned that he thought Obama was part of a conspiracy. That thought hadn’t occurred to me so I put my mind to it.
I’ve read enough Robert Ludlum to be able to imagine someone getting into the birth certificate files in Hawaii and inserting a forged document. It would probably be even easier to insert a birth announcement in the newspapers and to change the records in the hospital. I’m sure there are modern day G. Gordon  Liddys around but who hired the person or persons to carry out the conspiracy and when was it initiated and why?
Why, I suppose is a quest for power. Someone or some group like Americans for an Americaner Way or My Way or the Highway wants to own a president. They see the speech Obama makes at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and think, this is a guy we could probably control and we could probably get him elected so they go to work...damn, that doesn’t work because Obama had already written his memoir loaded with information about his life that could be checked; unless the memoir was not quite true. In that case the power-seeking group does some fact checking and finds that he lied about his birthplace. They go to work to fix the problem.
It’s actually more difficult to figure out how Obama could have been born outside the United States since his mother was never out of the country until he was six years old. 
Unlike my grandson I don’t have a father to sit me down and discuss my use of the word “stupid” so I’ve had to give it some thought on my own:
Thought one) assumptions are always dangerous. Tread softly.
Thought two) “Stupid” is not a word that should be applied to an individual or even a group of individuals. If done directly, it is sure to raise hackles. If done indirectly (behind the back), it is dishonest.
Thought three) I’ll try but there are times…

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Porcupines and gardens


I thought it was groundhogs eating my broccoli until the day I saw a porcupine up on hind legs munching happily. In my opinion the only good thing about porcupines is that they don’t run away relying on their quills for protection. The fisher is their only predator; fishers have learned to grab the porcupine’s nose, flip it over and attack its unquilled belly. Few porcupines have learned that Homo sapiens have learned how to shot a gun. The porcupine was still munching away when I returned. One down but I soon learned that was just the tip of the problem.
            Porcupines are generally nocturnal. Trying to protect my crops I pitched a tent next to the garden. Sure enough the animals woke me; I shot two in the Brussels sprouts and one in the apple tree that night. It took two years and about a dozen porcupines shot before I found an electric mesh fence that worked well for a couple of years. I thought the problem was solved. Since it is a bother (not much of one but nonetheless) and who wants to do something that isn’t necessary, I decided to wait until I had a problem before putting it up. At the first sign of damage I put up the fence but this time the animal managed to get through the fence.
            The porcupines won time after time. All they had to do was find a place they could get their nose under the fence and the quills would insulate them the rest of the way. I pegged the fence down where they got through and they found another way in. I pegged all the places they might be able to get through and they dug down far enough to make it. I got a motion detector camera thinking if I knew when they visited I could be waiting for them. There was no pattern to visitations. I got a motion detector that would turn on a light. That didn’t work.
            If you have a problem with porcupines, I think I can help. Things you need to know: 1) they like to eat corn, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears and the bark on trees, 2) they mostly eat at night but can sometimes be seen in the garden or eating grass at sunset 3) I’m convinced they can communicate something as complex as how to get under an electric fence 4) they are excellent climbers and if you are looking for them during the day, your best bet is to look up.
            Solution: 1) The electric fence is great. I have 20 inch VersaNet from www.premier1supplies.com  Put it up before the animals get a taste of your garden because once they find such delicacies they will be persistent in getting through. If they get through the fence, put it outside the garden on mowed sod as it is harder for the animals to dig under.
            Solution  2.) If the garden is close to the house and you have a gun, get a motion detector and set it up to pick up motion in the area they will be interested in. Set it up so the motion detector turns on a radio in your bedroom. You also need to have the motion detector turn on a light as it will not work with a radio alone.
            I hope you don’t have a problem as great as mine. I am still killing 6 to 10 porcupines a year.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Benghazi flap


From my conservative friend in Ohio:
I’m very angry over the Benghazi fiasco, but I am absolutely astounded that the liberals around the country (yourself included) are not.

The Benghazi flap (not the incident but the flap that you support and are angry liberals are not) is primarily political; an attack on the Democratic President and on a potential future Democratic President. Before you throw up your hands or throw up please consider your reaction to previous terrorist attacks.

April 18, 1983 a suicide bomber drove a truck load of explosives into the US embassy in Beirut killing 63, 17 of them were Americans. Of the Americans killed, eight worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA's top Middle East analyst and Near East director, Robert Ames, Station Chief Kenneth Haas and most of the Beirut staff of the CIA. President Regan said that the attack “will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region.” Senator Goldwater said, "I think it's high time we bring the boys home."

Did you feel similarly after the October 23, 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen? U.S. President Ronald Regan called the attack a "despicable act” and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, who had privately advised the administration against stationing U.S. Marines in Lebanon, said there would be no change in the U.S.'s Lebanon policy. Did this make you very angry?

December 12, that same year, a suicide truck bomber drove through the gates of the US embassy in Kuwait City killing 63. It would have been more if the bomb hadn’t misfired. Three terrorist attacks in one year! Were you outraged that nothing had been done to protect our embassies in dangerous places after the first attack? I don’t recall liberals attacking Republican President Reagan either.

Feb 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, first terrorist attack on US soil killed six and injured over 1,000. Were you angry at the Democratic President Clinton?

August 7, 1998 two US embassies in East African were bombed by al Qaeda killing 223; 12 were Americans. President Clinton ordered missile attacks in retaliation one of which knocked out a pharmaceutical factory. The administration said there was ample evidence the factory was producing chemical weapons, but a thorough investigation after the missile strikes revealed the intelligence to be false. I don’t recall an uproar from the right or left.

October 12, 2000 seventeen American sailors were killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole.

Did you feel the same about any of these as you feel about Benghazi?  My feeling about all of them is pretty much the same, sadness over the loss of life and hope for a better future.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Congress can cut spending


Line item expense reduction
Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton both asked for line item veto power in State of the Union addresses but the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional because it circumvents a power vested in Congress. I suggest the concept should be used by Congress to decrease federal spending. Here’s how it might work:
Wire the House Chamber with “voting” buttons that will record each congress person’s vote. When a button is pushed by the congress person their vote is recorded and available to anyone to see so that a voter or a newspaper can easily find out how any individual has voted. The total is displayed in the Chamber at the time of the vote.
Both Houses of Congress meet together as for the State of the Union. They are informed beforehand on what will be voted on that day giving lobbyists and voters time to fill their ears with biased information or, less cynically, to inform themselves more fully on the issue. There will be no discussion or debate during the meeting. A question will be projected on a screen for all including the television cameras to see and then the vote will be taken. The results of the vote, totals, will be projected for all to see. Television pundits can comment to their audience.
An Example: Congress and the media are told the farm bill will be up for spending cut review in a week. On the fateful day Representative and Senators take their seats and log into the network that they are present. The issue flashes on the screen:
Crop Insurance
Over the past decade taxpayers have paid $59.5 billion
Your vote”
A.     no change
B.     eliminate for wealthiest farmers
C.     reduce premium subsidy
D.     eliminate federal subsidy of crop insurance

If the vote for A or D is 60% or more that vote carries. If B receives 41% or more another vote screen is displayed:
            Define “wealthiest farmers.
A.     grossing over $5 million annually
B.     grossing over $2.5 million annually
C.     grossing over $1 million annually
D.     grossing over $500,000 annually
If C receives 41% or more:
            Reduce premium from current 62% to:
A.     50 %
B.     40%
C.     25%
D.     10%
The congressional delegation from Rhode Island might vote to eliminate the subsidy while the delegation from Nebraska will most likely vote for no change. This system is far from perfect since lobbyists might well tell the Rhode Island folks that they will make a significant contribution to their campaigns if they vote no change. Perhaps we should allow them to vote for a secret vote. If the substantive vote was one their constituents, we the people, didn’t like, someone running against them would have them on record as voting for a secret vote.
This is a rough proposal with room for refinement but the basic idea is the best shot we have at making serious budget cuts. Both Republicans and Democrats have refused to get specific about budget cuts because any specific cuts will stir up a hive of reaction and no elected person wants to stick their hand in the hive.
I do think that corporate welfare could be cut without loosing votes--gross contributions from the corporations that now unduly influence our congresspeople but not votes. I would sure like to know if my congressional delegation voted to keep subsidizing Exxon just to name one of the very profitable companies our tax dollars subsidize.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Genetically Modified Salmon

FDA poised to approve genetically engineered salmon despite unknown risks to human health. Inevitable accidental release of transgenic fish into the wild could devastate native fish populations and ecosystems!


I used the following link to submit my comments to the FDA

http://app.streamsend.com/c/17771811/11320/mwzfwTR/9pOA?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.regulations.gov%2F%23%21submitComment%3BD%3DFDA-2011-N-0899-0001



One must wonder what the point of the FDA is if it allows something so potentially dangerous to our health as genetically modified food without extensive testing. Your past record is bad enough. It should be clear that a) many people don’t want to eat genetically modified food that you haven’t tested (The industry should be urging you to test the safety of these foods. That they aren’t should be a red flag for you.) b) The industry fights every effort to label GM food; another indication they know there are problems. c) Most importantly GM crops have already escaped into the wild. You must know that genetically modified salmon will. If you allow it, ultimately, salmon will be contaminated world-wide.

Please, please, please don’t do this.



For more information:

http://app.streamsend.com/c/17771811/11318/mwzfwTR/9pOA?redirect_to=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cornucopia.org%2F2013%2F01%2Faction-alert-genetically-engineered-salmon%2F

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Strap on your weapons


       I chided my friend for getting a concealed weapons permit “as a deterrent”, he said, and I suggested a better deterrent would be if he strapped it on his hip. Right here in Portland, Maine someone apparently thought my idea was a good one and wandered around the city carrying a loaded AR-15. The police received 65 calls but, since he was doing nothing illegal, they could not even get his name. Imagine the Wild West with assault weapons—Wyatt Earp, Jessie James, Tombstone, OK Coral. Imagine the good old days with today’s weapons. Surely one of the three cowboys Wyatt shot in 30 second at the OK Coral would have gotten him first.
          The NRA got all upset because a newspaper printed the addresses of all those with gun permits in its reading area. Hey, NRA, we keep hearing that owning a gun was a good idea for protection and that it would be less likely nutcases would open fire in a school if there were armed people there. If you believe that you ought to believe that letting people know you were armed and dangerous would be a pretty good deterrent. Wouldn’t criminals take a list like that and decide those were the houses to avoid?
        Instead the reaction has been that publishing the list has made it dangerous for the gun owners. What?! The neighbors without guns are going to attack with baseball bats? Or will those with guns start attacking others with guns, you know, like a feud.
        Assault weapons should not only be banned, they should be confiscated. That would do little to reduce the nearly 30 deaths by guns that occur daily in our great country but it would slow down the insane.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eric Weiner, an author I highly recommend


Eric Weiner has given me great pleasure in two books, The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God. There is nothing better than learning good stuff from a thoughtful person with a good sense of humor.
Toward the end of his quest it dawns on him: “God is to religion as food is to a menu. Both the menu and the religion suggest a variety of options, and while the waiter can make recommendations, ultimately the choice is ours. To say you know God because you are religious is like saying you have dined well because you read the menu.”
I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying Mr. Weiner’s books.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Put an armed person in every school.


     Geraldo Rivera opined that there should be armed guards in every school or, at least, have someone, the principle, a janitor, a history teacher, with a gun. This is a bad idea on so many fronts but take just one.
     Turn Sandy Hook into a video game and give the principle a gun and you play the principle. You hear gun shots, breaking glass and someone coming down the hall. Do you, gun in hand, open the door? Would you be able to shoot the man with the automatic weapon before he shot you? Would you have an automatic weapon, too, and just spray bullets through the door without seeing the intruder, without any care for any other person who might be in the hall?
     Let’s change the game and give the gun to the janitor. He hears shots, grabs his gun and goes running. He sees the principle lying in a pool of blood and hears shots from a classroom. He runs to the classroom and shoots the man with the gun. Good job! Only ten kids dead instead of twenty.
     My idea is to eliminate automatic weapons, that is, weapons that fire continuously as long as you hold down the trigger. If this guy had to pull the trigger each time he fired it would have slow him down. He would not likely have put so many rounds into the principle and each of his victims. Unless he was an excellent shot there would probably have been more survivors and he would not have been able to shoot as many people. Sure demented people and/or people who have been desensitized by shoot-um-up video games will still be around and will still do horrible things. Sure we should try to keep any gun out of the hands of the demented and we should do something about the desensitizing effect of some video games but the number one, hands down, action we should take is to make it illegal to manufacture, sell or own any weapon that fires multiple rounds with one pull of the trigger.
     I have asked the members of my congressional delegation to sponsor such legislation. Now!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

US debt, defict


A letter from my sister
A few weeks have passed since the election, and what is happening is all pretty boring.  I am getting turned off from politics.  All that hype about Benghazi and now Egypt and Syria…it is so depressing, in particular with regards to America becoming involved.  America has its own problems.  America is deeply in debt.  Why the hell does America have to lend money or provide military support to other countries unless we are OK ourselves?  Gosh darn, we are not OK!  Our debt is humungous!  Now as you know I don’t know anything about economics, but I simply cannot understand why the US for example continues to lend enormous amounts of money to other countries when we are in debt ourselves. It is just so disgusting, I am about to crawl back into my shell.

 Dear Sister Chris,
Unplugging the news is not a bad idea, especially if you are getting riled up. I did that for several years and it was great. However, if you want to stay in touch there are better sources than FOX news. If you can get the News Hour on public television or news on public radio, you will get a much more balanced and intelligent report. If not on television, I'm sure you can get them on the internet.
 
The debt is a problem. When George W. sent taxpayers back their money because, he said, it was our money and we should get it back, he should have used it to pay down a chunk of debt because the debt was ours too. At the time I commented that he was planning to destroy the government by starving it. Then came the wars, one with some justification the other for no reason than to further bankrupt the country. Then came the recession.

There is an interesting thing about the federal government. It makes money when people make money since it taxes income. Thus when someone buys a dinner at our restaurant, we pay income tax on what is left over after expenses. The expenses include buying food and booze and paying employees. The employees pay taxes on the money we give them as do the purveyors on the money we pay them and they in turn pay money to the people who supply them and so on. This is why stimulus programs, though turning up on the expense side of the ledger, make sense on the income side.

     I have been an advocate for getting out of debt for many years. I would love to see a balanced budget amendment but, if put into place without a long range (not too long) plan to reduce the current debt load, it would probably put us into a depression. A part of that plan needs to be putting money in the hands of people who will spend it because the more money changes hands the more revenue the country gets. That is part of the President’s plan (stimulus spending) Cutting government programs that put government workers out of work is recessionary. That is also part of the Presidents plan and the Republican; it better be balanced with stimulus which the Republican plan is not. Giving money to people who will spend it will help growth.
 
Whenever someone talks about cutting foreign aid as part of deficit control they are either stupid or blowing smoke. Write them off. The money we give to foreign countries is minuscule, less than 1% of the federal budget. I won't go into reasons for it as you can Google US foreign aid as percent of budget to find answers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

FOX again


            People who think FOX is “Fair and balanced” should not watch it because they will buy the distortions, inaccuracies and lies; but for those who know that this is entertainment, not news, it can be fun.
Lou Dobbs has his own show on FOX which I haven’t watched but he is frequently brought in to other shows for his political insight. A persistent theme on FOX is ridiculing Obama supporters for blaming Bush for all the problems of the past four years, especially the economy. It gave me a good laugh when he said last Friday that the economy is coming back because of the Bush tax cuts which President Obama wants to do away with. My initial bubble of mirth came from the hypocrisy that Bush should not be blamed for anything bad but he should be credited with anything good. Here is Lou blaming Obama for wanting to raise taxes on the wealthiest because their low taxes are the reason the economy is rebounding.
            That’s also funny because the tax cuts came in 2001 yet they somehow did nothing to avert the recession that began in December 2007 and by the time Obama took office unemployment was up to 7.8%. It had gone up steadily from 5% to 7.8% in Bush’s last year in office. Now, in November 2012 Lou, credits The Bush tax cuts with turning the recession around. I mean, come on, that’s funny.
            I recognize that saying the economy is “rebounding” is an overstatement since unemployment is really just back to where it was when Obama took office  but in the ensuing 4 years it got as high as the scary 10% figure.
            Since I do try to be fair I’ll tell you that unemployment in 2006 and 2007 was below 5%; so we could point to the tax cuts made 5 years before as being responsible for those two years. But then, again, unemployment when Bush was elected was 3.9%  (4.2% when he took office but I couldn’t resist mentioning that it was below 4% for the 4 months prior to his taking office and went above 5% for the four years after the tax cuts.
            I can hear Lou now, “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind’s already made up.” That should be the FOX theme rather than fair and balanced.

Legalize drugs


            I want to go on the record, along with ultra conservative William F. Buckley Jr., that drugs should be legalized. http://old.nationalreview.com/buckley/buckley200406291207.asp
            The article I’ve linked to was written in 2004 but Mr. Buckley first wrote about legalization of drugs in 1996. You might enjoy this youtube interview.
Reasons for legalizing drugs:
1. Eliminate this source of money for criminals
2. Tax it
3. Regulate it through licensed outlets that would have an investment and a license to protect which would deter them from selling to minors.
4. Millions of dollars saved in law enforcement
5. Better use of law enforcement.
6 Millions saved that is now spent on incarceration.

Marijuana is at the forefront of discussion these days. The primary argument against legalization of marijuana is that it leads to more dangerous drugs. I have not been able to find any research that supports that claim, however, intuitively I can see how it well might—that is, as long as it is illegal. Some who sell marijuana might well be tempted to expand their product line and sell more dangerous drugs thus someone buying marijuana illegally is likely to be introduced to a salesperson offering crack, coke, heroin… whatever.
The following links give two views on pot vs booze.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/norm-stamper/420-thoughts-on-pot-vs-al_b_188627.html
            Anyone who looks at pot vs booze and still thinks liquor should be legal, as it currently is, and that marijuana should be illegal, as it currently is, is getting their information from a very suspect source. We tried making booze illegal and made Al Capon very rich so going that direction would not be smart. Legalize marijuana at least and think seriously about putting all drugs under federal regulation.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Attention FOX "News" aficionados


Attention FOX “News” aficionados, I assume you are Republicans as I once was. If you care about your party, if you hold the view that smaller government is best, that government that does less is best, that government should be fiscally responsible; you need to stop getting what FOX puts forward as news and try some other sources. FOX was and remains so wrong about the last election from their pundits being 100% wrong in pre election predictions to their analysis of why Governor Romney and so many other Republicans lost the election.
What I’m hearing on FOX now is that it was demographics; they need to get the Latino vote by bringing in Republican Latino stars like Senator Rubio. There is no discussion about how Romney had to turn himself into a pretzel to get support from the Tea Party and social issue folks and then try to untwist himself to appeal to the rest of us. There are some good Republicans out there. John Huntsman would make a fine president in my view and Cristy would probably do a good job; certainly his straight from the shoulder persona is appealing. If O’Riley and Hannity could get their heads around the concept, they might be able to bring enough focus to make it possible for the Republican Party to become a positive force in our government but I see no interest at FOX for bringing us together and they are enough of a force to make divisiveness work. Clearly some Republican politicians in Congress get all their news views from FOX. Perhaps all the conservative media (Murdoch Media) and their Congressional followers want is to keep government from working. I see some of them nodding their heads. Unfortunately, they really don’t have a concept of what that would mean…to them personally.

FOX folks are found of saying that they are the most watched news. I will listen more carefully the next time I hear the claim to make sure they are saying “on cable” which is true; they have more viewers than MSNBC or CNN however MSNBC and CNN combined have more viewers which is significant when you consider that FOX stands alone for biased conservative television. If that is what turns you on, you have only one source. All other sources--CNN, MSNBC ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS--by FOX’s definition are “liberal media”. FOX does have more viewers than MSNBC which is liberal biased television, not many more viewers but that, at least, is a reasonably fair comparison.
FOX’s liberal media might better be called corporate media as they all, even PBS, rely heavily on corporate sponsors/advertisers. There is even evidence that mainstream media has been influenced by the federal government (I’m thinking of the lead-up to our preemptive attack of Iraq which cost over 4,000 American lives.)It may be impossible to get unbiased news but The News Hour on PBS and National Public Radio are pretty close and checking in on the biased folks can be helpful as long as you balance them yourself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Are Maine Voters Crazy?


My friend from Ohio wrote: What’s with the recent election … Ron Paul?  Can he even find Maine on a map? Considering the mild winter, the good folks of the north woods can’t even claim brain freeze. They’ll have to go some to match Minnesota … Wrestler for Governor and gag writer of US Senator … However, this is a good start. So, what gives?

Dear Old Right-wing Nut Friend:
I gather you support Mitt which is fine; I think he has the potential to be a reasonably good president. But if not Mitt, who was your “anybody-but-Mitt” front runner—Gingrich, Santorum?
All things considered I think the good Republicans of Maine (you do realize you are questioning Republican voters?) made a fine choice. It was unfortunate that the Republican establishment apparently, to the Paul supporters who followed it all very closely, pulled some fast ones on the vote count of the local caucuses. The Paul supporters, those I know at least, are very dedicated. When I talk with them they sound a lot like you. They certainly pulled a good surprise on the establishment folks at the state convention.
I’m rather proud of Maine’s voting record in the 40 years I’ve been here. Senators Cohen and Mitchell were two of the best Washington has ever seen and Senator Muskie… well you probably don’t like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act so I guess you think we Mainers were brain dead giving him 4 terms in the Senate. Of course his tears did knock him out of running for President. I guess it’s a darn good thing Republicans are allowed to cry otherwise your Rep Boehner might have to go back to the family bar.
Our current governor, however, is reason to question our voting acumen but he got less than 40% of the vote.
I’m proud of our two current Senators, both Republicans. Unfortunately Olympia couldn’t stand the partisanship and who could blame her after working on health care reform for months only to be told by Republican leadership to lay off and then having Boehner say repeatedly that Republicans were left out of the debate. The good news is that Independent Angus King is running for her seat and I’m sure he will win. He was one of two Independent governors we have had and was the best governor of all in the past 40 years. He has a great sense of humor and a great record. He is a friend and I love him.
In a way I wish I lived in Ohio so I could join you in your throw-the-bums-out voting pledge but our congressional delegation is really quite good.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Defining Love

I was on the ladder painting the house when a nearby religious radio station overpowered NPR and I heard someone railing against homosexuals.
I was amazed at how much hatred I was hearing. The evangelist said God defined homosexuality as a crime and further that God requires death for homosexuality. I started down the ladder but before I could retune the radio this same person said that he loved homosexuals. He mused, “How can I love these criminals who should be put to death? I love them because Jesus teaches that we should love our neighbors and even our enemies.”
“How sad,” I thought. “That person doesn’t understand love.” But then I thought, what is my understanding of love? I turned off the radio and climbed back up the ladder to think that over.
It certainly didn’t seem loving to condemn someone to death or call him a sinner saying he would go to hell. That seemed more like hate than love yet he saw no contradiction in what he was saying. As a Christian he knew that he was supposed to love everyone even his enemies. Did he understand the notion of loving everyone in some way I didn’t? It seemed that he was just using the word without giving it any meaning. Try as I might I couldn’t come up with any nature of love that would allow such harsh judgment. However, labeling what he was saying as hateful sure wasn’t getting me any closer to my understanding of love.
When I climbed off the ladder I went straight to my dictionary but no definition was particularly helpful even in describing my love for my wife, Barbara. Closest was “strong passionate affection” but my feeling for Barbara is much more than that. When I tell her I love her I mean I will do my best to never make her unhappy. The definitions for the verb “love” all started with “to have”. Shouldn’t love be an active verb? If so, what action? The dictionary tells me that to run I should move my legs rapidly. I’m not expecting to find a graphic definition like that for love but maybe there should be some reference to the body. We are fond of thinking of love as coming from the heart. Have we placed the seat of love in the heart because we don’t think we have any control over loving? Love and the heart don’t really have any connection. To love our neighbors or our enemies has got to be a conscious action. If someone sticks a gun in my ribs and says give me your money, I can’t see ever getting to some higher plane of consciousness in which I will be flooded with a feeling of love for this guy. It will take some work, some thinking to get over my gut feeling.
Nose still in the dictionary I look for definitions for two words similar to love (venerate and like) and the opposite of love (hate). These definitions all begin with “to regard” and the definition of to regard is “to think of with a particular feeling”.
Hate, venerate and like are things we do in our mind. While feelings are involved, still, we have some control.
Affection figures heavily in the definitions for love. Back to the dictionary. “Affection n 1. a settled good will, love, or zealous attachment: as the affection of a parent for his child. Good will could describe my desire to never make Barbara unhappy but it still doesn’t go far enough. Not only is it important that I not make her unhappy I wish happiness for her at all times from all angles. The same for my children. Ditto for my friends. In fact, I don’t wish anyone ill will. But the definition is not just “good will” but “settled good will”. Apparently, by this definition, there has to be some history involved with affection.
I could also say I have a “zealous attachment” to my immediate family but I wouldn’t say I am zealously attached to my friends. Are there different kinds of love? Did I love my father the same as I loved my mother? Do I love my son the same as I love my wife? Do I love my daughter the same as I love my son? As I think about these real relationships I realize that my feelings for each are different. Feelings! Do I feel the same about my father as I feel about my mother? My son as my wife? My daughter as my son? No. My feelings are different. My emotional response when I think of each is different.
What of the love for my neighbor or my enemies as expressed in The Bible. I don’t see anything in the definitions of love or affection that addresses love for everybody. Then it occurred to me that perhaps there was just one love, or rather a core love, a trunk from which the various forms of love branch.
On the ladder the next day I didn’t seem to be any closer to understanding love and then it occurred to me that what bothered me about the radio preacher was his judgment of homosexuals. I thought of my yoga teacher, a vegetarian which she carries to a judgment of all animals that eat other animals. She also preaches universal love. I once asked her if she loved hawks.
“Yes, but I don’t love how they eat. I wish they would learn to eat nuts and berries.”
“If you love them, shouldn’t you accept their nature, their being, as it is?”
Acceptance. Yeah. Can I imagine love without acceptance? No. Acceptance must be in the definition of love I’m looking for.
At some point in every session my yoga instructor tells the class to breathe in good thoughts, among them unconditional love. Of course love should be unconditional but, hold on a minute, is there even such a thing as conditional love? What might be a condition of love? I love you as long as you don’t kill someone. What kind of a friend would that be? If you kill someone, you will need my love more. Would I abandon a friend in the time of greatest need? Even traditional wedding vows deny conditional love—“to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health … until death do us part.”
Love must be unconditional acceptance. That covers the problem I had with the radio evangelist. If he accepted people’s sexual orientation or preference, he wouldn’t be judging them. It is something that I can actually do if I put my mind to it.
I’m still working on this core definition for the verb to love. I’m sure unconditional acceptance is necessary. A warm feeling also seems like a good addition at least for those with whom I come in contact—maybe not the guy with the gun. I’m also thinking that respect would be a good addition. These are all things that I can actually strive to do.
Getting away from my judgment that the radio evangelist doesn’t understand love is difficult. I want to rationalize and say that I accept him but I judge his belief. I certainly don’t hate him. I have no illusion that I could change him. I have thought about him, given him a family, found respect for his commitment to his beliefs accepted that he believes he loves his neighbors and his enemies and through this empathy exercise I have developed something of a warm feeling toward him. He must be good at his job to have a radio show. He probably brings hope and solace to many. In a way he is my enemy because of the hatred he preaches. Loving my enemies is tough.
All this thinking about love has helped me get over road rage. When someone pulls out in front of me now I’m just thankful I was able to slow down without an accident. It has done wonders for my blood pressure; much better than the days when I would ride up on the back of the offending driver and turn on my lights. Once, with the whole family in the car, I turned on the windshield wipers by mistake in my road-rage. “You sure showed him, Dad.” That has become a family joke.
I may never learn to love my enemies but I certainly enjoy driving more now that I have accepted that bad driving practices do not make bad people and I am making progress with my feelings for the evangelist.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pity the Poor Rich


When my son was born we were living below the poverty level. I’m bragging because it was more or less intentional. I grew up lower middle-class (After my father left when I was 13 my mother went back to work as a teacher and raised me with no child support.) Currently my wife and I are middle to upper middle-class. When she wants to buy something that before our changed circumstances would have given me grief which I would pass on to her I now say, “No problem, we’re rich.” which she hates to hear me say.
Am I happier “rich” than poor? Not at all, in fact, I believe the years we lived below the poverty level were the happiest of my life. I believe the reason was that I was doing meaningful things: raising food for my family, cutting, splitting and carrying wood to keep us warm, making do on a shoe-string, fixing things that broke. I had occasional part-time jobs during that period but as a bartender, for example, making a good drink or making a customer laugh or getting a big tip did not provide much satisfaction. Earning enough money to pay for utilities, insurance and the like was necessary but didn’t have the same instant payback in satisfaction over an accomplishment as work around the farm had. Getting through a very busy shift in which I was so busy the time went by in a blur was satisfying, doing a good job perhaps better than most others could have done it, felt good; but so much of the job was, well, just a job, whereas fixing a leaking water pipe, rebuilding the mower carburetor, raising, slaughtering, and butchering the beef that would feed the family for a year, growing, harvesting, canning, pickling, freezing and otherwise storing enough vegetables and fruit to feed the family for a year; ahh, nothing I did before or have done since provided that kind of satisfaction.
The difference now? Someone comes and picks up my riding mower to perform annual maintenance and to fix anything that breaks. There is no pride in that. I tell myself I am providing work for others; my financial good fortune is trickling down and that’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s good for the economy, right? Plumbing was my least favorite home maintenance job but I did it and though I hated squirming around in the crawl spaces under our house and hated it even more when I turned on the water and found that one of the joints I had soldered had a leak and I would have to drain the water and dry the pipe before I could try again; but when the joints were good I came close to doing cartwheels. Now we call a plumber.
I was healthier when we heated with wood. It was our only source of heat for 20 years. Carrying half a dozen armloads of wood in every day in the winter kept me fit during the time of year when there wasn’t a lot of exercise. We still have the stoves and a woodshed full of wood but we also have an oil burner. I don’t have to carry in wood all winter so I hardly do it at all. Burning oil doesn’t make me feel good but, what the hell, I’m rich. Do you think that is an excuse for lazy?
Perhaps my years below the poverty level helped me avoid ethical problems studies have found with the rich. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Integrity

The pundits say Greg Smith who left Goldman Sax in a very public way will have trouble getting another job on Wall Street. If I were in a position to hire him for a Wall Street firm, I'd be offering him a job right now. Following is part of the op-ed appearing in the New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/opinion/why-i-am-leaving-goldman-sachs.html?_r=1&ref=business
"It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief."

He is the kind of person Wall Street needs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Raise My Taxes, Please!

Dear Senator Snowe,
I just read the "Snowe Report" and I agree that the LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) should be funded at a higher rate than in the budget and that deficit reduction is important though the juxtaposition of these two statements in your report is a bit ironic, don't you think? Every spending program (like LIHEAP) is important to some people somewhere which is why spending cuts are so difficult.
There is one thing that the majority of people all across the country and in Maine agree upon as a deficit reduction measure yet you don't mention it. Why? Why don't you support raising the income tax on those of us who are doing well? The answer I keep hearing is that it will kill jobs, that the wealthy who create jobs will not bother to make more money and thus create more jobs if they are taxed too much. That is a bogus answer. We have had tremendous job losses under the low tax on the wealthy for 8 years running which should prove that argument to be spurious.
Did you know that the highest income tax bracket was over 90% throughout the decade of the 50s and that was a time when a family could be raised on one income. Perhaps the reason middle class people could get by on one income in that decade was because there was little incentive for entrepreneurs, business owners, corporate boards, bankers and the like to make gross amounts of money so they paid better wages and charged less for their products and services. That explanation, at least, makes a lot more sense than saying that taxing incomes over $250,000 will stifle job creation.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston

Only in Tinsel Town would they do a spur of the moment tribute for an addict who just OD’d, This from my right wingnut friend.

Perhaps they were looking at the positive things about her.

but they wouldn’t do anything to help her while she was still alive.

I guess you know more about her life than I do.

This is one very messed up world we live in, but nowhere is it more is it as messed up as in Hollywood. So people want to rely on advice from those idiots on issues like global warming and who should run this country.

Ah, yes, those liberals in the entertainment world should be silenced. They should not be allowed to express their views. I mean really, Jane Fonda for flake of the year, right? She tried to stop the war in Vietnam. Maybe there should be a Constitutional amendment to stop liberals from expressing opinions. It would have to be just liberals because if you said actors or all entertainers were not allowed to voice their opinions or give money to candidates, that would affect people like Charleston Heston and goodness knows you want someone who has the weight of Moses behind him to speak out against gun control. And who was that actor who was governor of La La Land California, and then became president? He was quite a dashing figure in Tinsel Town, wasn’t he? Then there is Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, Loretta Lynn and Tom Selleck whose voices and candidate support must not be hindered.