What Is A Best Friend Worth?

              Back in the fall of 1994, we were living aboard our sailboat in Ventura Harbor, California.  My wife had been offered a new position in Honolulu, and was scheduled to fly over the ocean with our young daughter.

            My job was to sail our home – our sailboat – to Hawaii.

            Coming from the mountains of Colorado, blue water sailing had always been more of a dream than a reality.  To say the least, I was excited to make the voyage.

            Unfortunately, however, there were major problems in finding crew.  Many voiced a willingness to go, but few could drop everything for three or four weeks and a trip across the ocean.  Of all those I asked, only one person jumped at the opportunity without hesitation.  And, no surprise: it was Fred, one of my best friends from college and years of skiing.

            As the day to cast off lines for Hawaii approached, an acquaintance from Ventura named Russ was also able to join us.  Although Russ, like myself, had never made an open ocean crossing, he did have some sailing experience.  My good friend Fred, on the other hand, had never spent a single day of his life sailing on the ocean.

            We set sail from Ventura on a Saturday with two full weeks left in October, at the tail end of hurricane season.  The voyage took twenty-one days, and nights, to finally make landfall in Honolulu.  On the crossing we caught mahi-mahi on hand lines, surfed the boat down enormous waves in the trades, and gazed upon the same billions of stars the ancients enjoyed before the proliferation of modern night lighting on land.

            Over the years, stories of that voyage have been retold many times.  And though I don’t mention it until the end, I always toss in how Fred had never once been sailing on the ocean before this crossing.

            Often, the response is something like: “You’re kidding; how did he do?”

            I always tell them he did great.  For Fred, it was simply a grand adventure.

            I usually add as well: “You know, some people are just like that, capable of accomplishing whatever they undertake.” 

            To which the listener normally acknowledges with a nod.  Yep, they’ve never met him, but they all know Fred.

            But that’s as far as I go; I don’t usually tell them the rest of the story.  I don’t usually mention how a year and a half after our ocean voyage to Hawaii, Fred was stricken down by Guilliam-Barre syndrome and how he nearly died.

            Guilliam-Barre is a relatively rare autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the nervous system.  For milder cases, there can be near total recovery and a return to normal life.  Unfortunately, Fred’s case wasn’t anywhere close to mild.

            In the beginning, Fred had to learn how to talk, as well as walk again.  It took years of excruciating and dogged rehab to do once more what he loved best – to go downhill skiing again.  From being able to step upon a boat and successfully sail across an ocean without a lick of experience, Fred had abruptly become incapable of nearly everything.

            And yet, there are a couple things everyone has noticed about Fred over the years since Guilliam-Barre struck.  Even if life dealt him a bad hand, he never gives up and he never complains.  Sure, he still falls down sometimes when he starts to walk, and often the numbness in his hands won’t tell him if it’s coins or keys in his pocket.  And the meds he must take every few hours for the blinding nerve pain are enough to tranquilize a horse.

            But Fred never gives up, and he never complains.  He plods forward in his own way, cheerful and gregarious with all he meets, strong and confident in spite of fate.  He has a happy marriage with a wonderful wife, grown kids to be proud of, and scores and scores of friends.  To me, Fred is still capable of anything.

*

            Now that I’m back in the mountains of Colorado, I’m fortunate enough to see Fred quite often.  I also come across old acquaintances and, by virtue of living in a ski town, meet many new folks as well.

            When asked what I do, I usually say something about finally being lucky enough to write full time, something I’ve wanted since all the years ago in college.  When they inquire what I write, I mention the novel about those with dementia and their caregivers.

            Invariably, I’m then asked if the reason I wrote it was because of something personal.

            I know what they’re asking, so I reply how my father had short-term memory loss problems before he passed away.  Most seem satisfied with that, so I don’t go any further.

            But I could.

            I could go into detail. I could tell them it’s personal because the story is really about Fred and how he faces each day with a gritty yet upbeat resolve in spite of the calamity that sideswiped his life.  Or I could tell them it’s personal because of Janice, my daughter’s art teacher in Hawaii, who selflessly sacrificed more than a decade of her own life to care for her mother with ever worsening dementia.

            Or I could tell them it was personal because of Tom, a young man severely debilitated by spina bifida to the point where mere walking had always been next to impossible; yet, by virtue of a strong will and deep determination, he was able to achieve the freedom of movement and joy on a ski hill that he’d never before experienced in life.

            Or if I knew these old friends or new acquaintances better, I could tell them it’s personal because I was writing about that someone in their life that is a Fred, a Janice, or a Tom.  I could tell them I wrote a book about dementia and caregivers, and yes, it’s personal because I see “ordinary” people triumphing over the worst adversity, only to become stronger and more advanced representatives of our human species.  And, personally, I admire that.

            On the flip side of the coin, even though my other book about the years spent working among the elite 1% in Hawaii has only been out a short time, I have yet to be asked – in the same way – if it was written because of something personal.  And honestly, I doubt I ever will.

            Yet if someone did inquire, I’d respond that memoir too is a result of something extremely personal.  In fact, the high and mighty 1% elite present an enormous affront to me precisely because they are everything Fred, Janice, or Tom – are not.  Yes, I take it just as personally when it comes to the 1%, as I do when it comes to my good friend Fred.

            One thing I’ve noticed over the years is when a lot is taken away from a person’s life – as in the case of a Fred, Janice, or Tom, or similar people you may know – much more is given back in another sense.  Whether it’s defined as strength of character, more depth of personality, or simply a bigger heart, these “losers” – even if they aren’t totally aware of it – unfailingly display an uncanny ability to give back much more to others than they’ve ever lost.

            The same is true, contrarily speaking, for those who have been given too much.  After all those years working with the moneyed and magnificent 1% in Hawaii, it’s evident to me that most of their assumed value and worth as humans is a façade.  Indeed, much has been given them by hard work, fate, or whatever – but much too has been taken.  Speaking in generalities obviously, their natures tend to devolve toward the sociopathic, while respect and concern for others dissipates.  Life becomes a ceaseless drive to take and take some more, to deplete those lesser for an illusory gain at the ultimate expense of oneself.  But that, as we all know, is an old story.

            I do take it personally, and personally, I’ll always take someone like Fred.

            When it comes to one’s best friends, I doubt I’m much different from anyone else.  It’s the easiest thing in the world to be around them, even as you’re simultaneously awed by what they’ve been through and wonder if you could measure up.  All too often they are people you could never be – and yet, they are always kind enough to treat you as their equal.

            One’s best friends are of inestimable value.

            That’s what they’re worth.

 

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We Need Even More Money In Politics!

            It seems that too many of us wee folk of the 99% are a little too prone this election season to bellyache about all the big money in politics.

            We wring our hands with worry about the Citizens United decision by five justices of the Supreme Court, and the tsunami of unmarked bills it has released into the political equation.  We fret constantly about the millions and millions we know big time polluters like the Koch Brothers and gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson and others pump into a seemingly corrupt system.  And whatever astronomical sums the super PAC’s and corporations dump into the business of elections, well, those amounts seem so otherworldly that they boggle the mind.

            When we little people see this incredible infusion of money into the political process, sometimes we even go so far as to accuse the much maligned, “trickle-down” plutocrats of actually buying elections.  Can you believe that?

            Why, they’d never stoop so low – and we can prove it.  The fat cats are smarter than that!  Smartness, in fact, is one reason these top hats of society have so much money after all.  And in America, it’s accepted as a given that having so much money makes them that much smarter than all of us bottom-feeding bootlickers.  So, obviously, they’ve got to be smarter than to be blatantly buying elections, eh?

            Naturally enough then, the question arises as to what the rich and refulgent are doing with all that money they infuse into the electoral process?  What the heck are they actually buying?

            The most immediate reply might be that all the money from those of smarts and substance goes to buying ads, political ads for candidates they support, candidates that serve the interests of those supremely smart at the top of the heap.

            So is that buying an election?  Absolutely not: at the top of the pyramid, with all that money, we assume you have to be smarter than that.  What these wealthy and wise wizards are doing is buying smart ads.  And what kind of ads do most of them seem to be?  Well, they’re negative ads, of course.

            But why negative ads?  Those don’t seem so smart.  Very simply though, it’s because they work.  So if they work – even if they’re essentially stupid ads with narration as phony as the tone is desperate, and with background music that would have trouble finding a place in a third-rate horror film – these negative ads are only smart because they work.

            When all those smart guys are spending all that dough on all those stupid, but smart, negative ads – are they then directly buying our votes and thus buying the elections?  It might be hard to believe, but the moneyed and magnificent at the top are even smarter than that!  The bottom line: before they can have our vote, they first have to buy our stupidity.

            And even if there’s plenty of it – it doesn’t come cheap.

            Still, this bears repeating: anyone can have our vote in America but, first and foremost, they have to buy our stupidity above all else.  Not only do they have to buy our stupidity, but they have to authentically promote the stupid as well.  We like that crap, and fortunately it doesn’t have to be dumbed down because we’re already there.  In fact, we love our stupidity so much that – we need even more money in politics!

            Napoleon Bonaparte said, “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”

            And we Americans aren’t about to disagree.  We love taking sucker punches and getting kissed on the cheek while a dagger is twisting between our shoulder blades.

            There’s no way us good citizen voters would be alarmed or shocked as when Richard Ford wrote in “The Sportsman”, “People surprise you, Frank, with just how fuckin stupid they are.

            Nope, there’s nothing unexpected in store when it comes to stupidity and us Americans.  As for Will Rogers, when he said, “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out?” – all we need reply is, “we don’t want out, Will!”  It’s that plain and simple . . . and stupid.

            We Americans cherish the stupid in ourselves and especially in others.  So bring it on, you rich heartless greedy bastards!  We love being manipulated and conned.  Give us ever more misquotes and distortions, out-of-context sound bites and disinformation.  If you can buy my stupidity, you can willingly have my vote.  And then it’ll translate for all you smart guys with the money into an elected official that’s your patsy – and stupidity wins again!  But that’s okay, because more than anything else, we Americans like a winner!

            Of course, one side has an unfair yet clear lead in the stupidity vote quest, for they have a built-in constituency.  It is for these avid and astute ad addicts that the clever and cunning donators of dollars perpetually reinforce, promote, and celebrate stupidity – as much as they buy it anew.  You know whom I’m talking about; they’re all around us.  At one moment they might be denying climate change or promoting “legitimate rape”; at the next they’re getting a tongue lashing from formerly mild-mannered Bill Nye the Science Guy when he talks about how Creationists are, “misleading their kids.”

            But this is America, Bill!  And those fellow buffoons were “created” to be a built-in, self-sustaining, stupid constituency.  So despite your moaning and groaning about the intelligence of future generations Mr. Nye, take a moment to cherish what we’ve got.  Like: stupidity, here and now.

            Further, whatever you do aspiring Science Guys and Gals, turn a deaf ear as well to the likes of Christopher Hitchens when he says, “We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality.  On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid.

            Get with it, Chris Hitch – the cash is really what it’s all about, and the more cash, the more stupid we can put on display!

            Personally, I stand beside Santosh Kalwar when he said, in “Quote Me Everyday”: “Come on, gentlemen; let us drink to our stupidity.”

            Naturally though, in our quest to purchase so much stupid that it transposes into votes, there will be a few bumps in the road.  Occasionally you run into a George Carlin type that mildly professes, “You’re just another American who is willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick being shoved up your asshole every day.  The owners of this country know the truth . . . it’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it!

            Of course, George isn’t around anymore.  But if he were, we Americans would have to respond that – well – that’s how we like it.  That’s how we take it.

            Or we could be comfortable in reply with what another George said, this being George Bernard Shaw: “I have defined the hundred percent American as ninety-nine percent idiot.

            There we go!  That’s soothing enough!

            Face it: we Americans are proud of our stupidity and there’s no way enough money can ever go into politics!  We’re not about to register a passing thought on how we’re cooking up the planet enough to kill off our species, or that men have been brutally dominating and exploiting women for millennia, or that apathy and ignorance are bigger problems than all the money the smart guys could ever inject into politics.

            We don’t even care if some silly comic strip named Pogo had it right, or wrong, when it said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

            More apt for us perhaps: “We have met our friend and, stupid, he is us.”

            Another bottom line: we Americans require and desire the stupid.  So, all you smart rich guys, keep the big money pouring in!  Drown us in your negative ads, for even if we complain, we can’t get enough!  Only a month remains until the elections, so shove it down our stupid throats!

            As H.L. Mencken said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the American middle class.”  And we’re surely not about to prove him wrong!

            We need even more money in politics!

            “Can’t you see that I’m only advising you to beg yourself not to be so dumb?” said Titus Petronius Niger.

            But like Sherrilyn Kenyon in “Infinity”, “Far be it from me to ever let my common sense get in the way of my stupidity.  I say we press on.”

            Admittedly, however, in the end, the only regret amidst all this stupid praise is, as Oscar Wilde stated, “Irony is wasted on the stupid.”

Women Deserve Better

            ”There is a religious war going on in this country,” former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan told the 1992 Republican convention in a primetime address. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America.

            Have the times changed much since 1992 – or have they merely grown more intense?

            Might there actually be full-blown, cultural civil wars underway today?

            One might tend to think so, even though the vitriol is admittedly exacerbated in a Presidential election year.

            If indeed the cultural civil wars are underway though, the so-called “War on Women” can certainly be regarded an incendiary flashpoint in the conflagration.

            Of course, one side says there’s no such thing as a War on Women, or that it’s all a con game by liberals hoodwinking for votes.  Some even go so far as to turn it upside down and declare it is actually the Democrats, not the Republicans, that are waging a War on Women.  Out of curiosity, I’ve taken the time to peruse some of these arguments and have honestly been astounded yet fascinated by the twisted reasoning and fallacious logical trails they follow.  Much like the climate change deniers, those denying a War on Women – or foisting it on someone or something else – are oblivious to scientific and/or demonstrable facts, and often use religion as their sole justification for their assertions.

            Women deserve better.

            In reality, it’s simple enough to take a look at what has actually been happening since the Tea Party movement thrust the GOP back into power in 2010.  These Republicans promoted their mandate as reigning in government spending, while simultaneously promising jobs, jobs, jobs.  In attempting to reduce spending, they nearly caused a government default; they provoked a national credit rating drop, and now have us rushing headlong in the direction of a fiscal cliff.  And as far as the pledged jobs, jobs, jobs campaign is concerned, the GOP has actually led concerted efforts to obstruct and exploit, with little tangible being instituted employment-wise.

            In spite of such smoke and mirrors, the Tea Party and GOP have been quite busy with other matters at the same time.  There has been no hesitation when it comes to leading sorties, sallies, and all out assaults in the cultural civil wars on female autonomy and independent, individual choice when it comes to a woman’s own body.

            Early on – and merely through March of 2011 – almost one thousand anti-abortion related bills were introduced across the country.  A timeline by Emily’s List also vividly displays continuing Republican assaults on the autonomy of women’s choices through mid-July 2012.  And all this was before dunderhead candidate for Senate Todd Akin made his infamous pronouncement about “legitimate rape” and magical qualities he believes the female body might retain.  Of course the GOP’s strict anti-abortion platform carried the same cultural civil war message at the Republican convention.  To tally things up when it comes to House Republicans, it’s calculated that there were fifty-five anti-woman votes since 2011.  And as if to prove there is no letting up, in the last week or so the Missouri legislature chimed in on yet another attack on women’s health.

            Women deserve better.

            The question obviously arises: Why are the Tea Partiers, the GOP, and conservatives so obsessed with turning back the clock and denying free and independent choice for individual females, when it comes to their own bodies and decisions regarding their bodies?

            The answer is simple.  The GOP and their supporters at this flashpoint in the cultural civil wars admit, without hesitation or chagrin, they are driven by religion.  What that generally refers to, of course, is the Judeo-Christian tradition that tells them what is morally right or wrong.  Naturally, they aren’t cognizant enough to admit they simultaneously become moral bigots when attempting to inflict their beliefs and values on all, but rather they are quite willing to allow that it’s all about religious liberty when they don’t believe a woman has an open right to birth control, abortion, or contraception.

            Justifying their religious restrictions that can consign a woman to death to save a fetus, or give zygotes “personhood” rights while stripping a woman of her rights, or a host of other misogynistic degradations, these social conservative-regressives claim their “Good Book” legitimizes the same on the basis of  “Divine Inspiration” – whatever that is.

            Divine inspiration or not, however, it is still written by man.  Or, to be more specific – written by men.  Paternalistic and domineering men that sought, and still seek, to suppress and subjugate women.  These were and are men that believe women morally incompetent and incapable of ordering their own world, and of taking charge of their own reproductive choices.  And the only remedy, of course, is that they must be managed and controlled by fathers, husbands, and sons.

            But really, what type of men write these paternalistic Bibles and who are their ilk today that follow in the stead of dominance, control, and suppression?

            Even though their mindset teaches them to believe the opposite, they are in truth the weakest and most unmanly of men.  First and foremost, they are bullies; anxious and fearful in their hearts, and insecure in their own skins.  What they don’t understand becomes a threat to them and their inner powerlessness.  They lack the depth to breathe the free air of a soul’s independence and interdependence; as a result, they strike out from their baseness to dominate, control, and suppress what is beyond their ken.

            Never are they awestruck, nor are they capable of delighting in the mysteries of the feminine, for they fear their capabilities in dealing with it.  In so far over their heads, these archaic cretins have no viable options open when it comes to what confounds them.  Thus, the only recourse is to viciously attack outwards in order to dominate and control.  Justification for such contemptible actions is accomplished with ease, however, for the belief in the rectitude of such injustice is validated by virtue of their patriarchal religious teachings that have always strong-armed and subjugated the “weaker” sex, with “fatherly concern”.  And if that power and control and suppression nowadays manifests itself in involuntary transvaginal probes (read: induced rape), or in suggestions that women should carry stillborn fetuses to full term because cows and pigs do, well, so be it.

            Simply put, these truly weak and most unmanly of men are anxious and unnerved by all things feminine.  And there is nothing worse to this primitive mind than the woman who is autonomous, independent of their control and exploitation.  What they fear most, in their heart of hearts, is metaphorically becoming a word of their own creation, a cuckold, a man who has lost his power and control over a woman – or collectively, women – who have claimed their independence.  In fact, it fills them with dread.  In such a situation, the only recourse for such primitives of the soul is to redouble their efforts with more bullying, more oppression, and more bills and legislation against women and women’s health rights.

            Women deserve better.

            Fortunately, many women today are very much aware of this world and are demanding their rightful autonomy and independence.  In a modern age where technology has provided birth control and safe family planning, no longer must they be perpetually constrained to being barefoot and pregnant – and under the suppressive thumb of those truly weak and most unmanly “men”.

            Women deserve better – than to be at the flashpoint of the cultural civil wars being waged by mutton-headed bullies that are shored up by the oppressive patriarchy of the religious.  Yes, women deserve better.  And what would happen if the worst fears of these domineering male brutes and misogynistic power mongers came to pass – as it someday inevitably will?

            Indeed, what is in the offing when a more egalitarian interaction between the sexes becomes the norm?

            A collective shift of consciousness from what is prevalent today would be unavoidable.  Just as LGBT rights are becoming more acceptable to the general society with each passing year, so too when the repressive male bullies are cuckolded, when women and men of integrity and honesty fully spurn the religious moral bigots, it is likely interpersonal relationships will necessarily evolve toward an authentic partnership, instead of a “war of the sexes”.

            At the heart of such a consciousness shift is obviously a progressive maturation of power relations between people.  The need to wield power over others is a sign of developmental immaturity: for the greater one’s own emotional advancement, the less need there is to stifle, control, and suppress others.  When not hobbled by the weakness of male-dominant exploitation and subjugation, women and the species as a whole can only benefit.

            Back in 1992, Pat Robertson might well have been quite prescient in what he said about religious and cultural wars – although not necessarily in the way he might have imagined the outcome or longed for.  What we may have here, in 2012 and beyond, is not merely a war for the soul of America, but a battle to set a new course into the future – for both women and men of this planet.

            It is past time for the charlatan male bullies and brutes and religious moral bigots to be unmasked and seen for just how despicable they are – when they seek to enslave and suppress the feminine.

            Women deserve better.

It’s the Culture, Stupid!

            It’s the culture, stupid!

            Or is it the stupid culture?

            Pollsters, prognosticators, pundits, and politicians tell us otherwise, of course.  Constantly we’re bombarded by the drums pounding jobs, jobs, jobs, and ominous reminders of how – “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

            But is it really the stupid economy?

            It must be, for so we’re told at every turn.

            Simply snatch up any convenient article, like this one from the Washington Post, with the latest Washington Post – ABC News polls, and you get statistics that explain, “the still struggling economy amounts to a huge political weight around President Obama’s ankles.”  And because of economic factors, the simple conclusion here: “Obama could win the day-to-day part of the race and still lose on November 6.”

            If perhaps you want something even more demonstrative and definitive to prove the point, take this piece about a computer-forecasting model done by political scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Blithely, the reader is informed that this analysis of election factors has accurately predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1980.  And guess what – Mitt Romney will be the big winner this year.

            According to CU Professor Kenneth Bickers, election prediction models “suggest that presidential elections are about big things and the stewardship of the national economy. It’s not about gaffes, political commercials or day-to-day campaign tactics.”

            It’s the economy, stupid.  . . . Or, so we’re told.

            Even when a harmonic is sounded corresponding with what’s really going on underneath all this blathering about the economy, when a dunderhead like Congressman Todd Akin spouts his gibberish about “legitimate rape,” and how “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down,” writers like historian Dr. Tim Stanley note: “For the Democrats, Akin’s comments are paydirt.  Obama has been trying for eight months to switch the narrative of 2012 away from jobs and onto culture, and this is his perfect opportunity.  Still, since Akin’s standing in the polls altered little after his remarks, Dr. Stanley suggests that, “economics continues to eclipse social policy in the popular mind.”

            So, it is the economy, eh, stupid?

            It must be.  Why otherwise would Mitt Romney select House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as his running mate?  Preaching the gospel of fiscal austerity, promising to take from the poor and give to the rich, Romney/Ryan know full well the 2012 election is all about the economy and if they harp on it enough, they might prove computer generated models correct.

            But maybe, just maybe, it could all be the smokescreen of the economy, stupid!

            Don’t for a minute linger on (one example), the lack of job bills produced by the recent obstructionist GOP that drummed jobs, jobs, jobs – even though they concurrently attempted to push over thirty abortion-related bills through the House.

            And why in the world would we want to focus on Romney’s specific jobs plan?

            After all, writer Mike Konczal easily perceives Romney’s plan is the same old GOP plan as John McCain had in 2008, and the same as George W. Bush had in 2006 and 2004.  Konczal sums it up by noting: “The same exact playbook is there in 2006, as it was in 2004 and 2008, and as it is in 2012. Domestic oil production, school choice, trade agreements, cut spending and reduce taxes and regulations — it’s been the conservative answer to times of deep economic stress, times of economic recovery, times of economic worries, and times of economic panic. Which is another way of saying that the Republicans have no plan for how to actually deal with this specific crisis we face.”

            Regardless, even if the Republicans “have no plan,” could it work?

            Now that would be a smart economy, eh? – not stupid!

            Well, after the RNC, the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch chimed in on the doubts concerning Romney’s claims to create 12 million jobs. They said, “Romney’s 12 million jobs plan was met with skepticism, however, as economists wondered how he would be able to create 250,000 jobs a month in the current financial environment. The U.S. created 163,000 jobs in July, the best showing since February.”

            Further, Michael Moran, an economist with Daiwa Capital Markets was quoted in the same article saying, “I think that would be a challenge.  I think it’s unlikely to happen.”  Moran also said, “12 million is an ambitious number,” even as Market Watch noted, “Earlier in the campaign, Romney had suggested 500,000 jobs a month as a target — one that he’s evidently dialed back.”

            Romney’s “plan” may indeed be smoke and mirrors, yet to be fair, what Obama is accomplishing or can accomplish with the obstructionist GOP is obviously not enough.

            So what might be happening here on a deeper level if the air could clear of the ongoing and repetitively shrill verbal smokescreen about the economy?

            Could it be the culture, stupid?

            Or is it the stupid culture?

            Maybe it’s not a stretch to suggest that to have truly sustainable economic progress for the long-term (read: jobs, jobs, jobs), it is necessary to first effect cultural changes.  In fact, it is likely that true cultural change is absolutely necessary and antecedent for authentic economic change to be possible.

            For a moment, let’s imagine a very different cultural future by briefly examining what we have today.

            What we have now is a stupid culture, a very stupid culture.

            It is the product of thousands of years of history and most of us have been brought up under its sway completely unaware.  It is a culture both patriarchal and hierarchal.  It is thoroughly rooted in male dominance that extols virtues of ruthless competition, exploitation, greed, and even violence to achieve self-aggrandizing ends.

            The plutocrats at the top, those we now commonly call the 1%, are forever hell bent on appropriating more and more of the productive surplus of the whole, while consequently reducing what’s been called the 99% to lives of increasing marginalization and destitution.  In a stupid culture ordered and organized this way, half of our species – women – are repressed and suppressed by males of this archaic and cretin mindset and, as a whole, the human species suffers as a result.

            Unfortunately, in this stupid culture, the 99% unwittingly aids and abets the 1% male-dominant organizing principle when heeding either Republican or Democrat calls for jobs, jobs, jobs, and/or “fixing the economy.”  The sad truth is when, “it’s just the economy, stupid” – as in recent election cycles – what’s being promoted is merely a temporary fix for one part (the economy) of a broken culture, a stupid culture.

            Our American economy, indeed, our global economy, often appears anymore to be in a tailspin of disastrous proportions.  And this is not because of the Eurozone crisis, George W. Bush’s economic policies, Obama’s policies, or Romney’s supposed economic “cures.”  The crux of the problem is that we are reaching the tipping point for the viability of that stupid culture.

            Our species on this planet now faces dangers of epic proportions we’ve never before encountered.  Because of the stupid culture, we are confronted by environmental havoc and the reality of diminishing resources while driven relentlessly forth by mindless overconsumption and senseless waste.  A prime example of the lunacy of the stupid culture course is that even while denying the reality of global warming and melting ice in the Arctic, “the companies that caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it.”  And as far as governments are concerned that are guided by the stupid culture, “their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes.”

            The long and short of it is that the stupid culture has been aggressively destroying the very conditions on which it depends – and is indeed reaching its tipping point.

            So what is the solution?

            It is at once both simple and extremely difficult.

            Change the culture, and you will change the economy.  Change the culture, and you change the politics.  Change the culture – and you rise beyond the stupid culture.

            It is easy enough to imagine a culture different from what we inherited and what is the opposite of what we now “enjoy.”

            It would be a culture where cutthroat competition, exploitation, and greed are not paramount; but people would work cooperatively and collaboratively for the good of the whole.

            It would be a culture where the quality of life is more important than the quantity of possessions.

            It would be a culture where we get it through our thick skulls that this is the only planet we all have, and resources for the survival of our species are limited and must be equitably shared.

            It would a culture where women and men are equal for the betterment of all, an environment where stupid old men no longer attempt to impose their dominance over women with transvaginal probes and suppressive dictates concerning autonomous female bodies.

            The problem is the stupid culture.

            Change the culture, and you’ll change the economy.

            It’s the culture, stupid.

Revised, Reworked, and Reenergized Website!

            After a hiatus from blogging for a few months, it’s time to return with a newly revised, reworked, and reenergized website.  Since you’re reading this, you’ve probably had a chance to take a look around the site, and if not, I hope you take the opportunity.  This revised website is relatively simple, but as complete as it needs to be at the present time.  Thanks go to Linda Lee of AskMePc-WebDesign for her expertise and assistance in getting us up and running!

            My apologies, however, go out to those readers that had previously been kind enough to peruse these blog posts on a regular basis before the break.  A few months ago it simply became imperative to concentrate fully on the completion, edits, and revisions of my latest book, a memoir entitled BEHIND THE GATES WITH THE RICH AND HAPPY 1%.

            So even though not blogging during that time, it was time well spent while recalling the remarkable years working with the rich and happy 1%, behind the gates of a World Class Resort in Hawaii.  The book takes a somewhat satirical look at the social behaviors of the 1% and their interactions as equals when gathered behind the gates, as well as the course we are seemingly on as a species with the interests of a plutocratic elite commandeering the helm.

            To get a notion of some ideas contained in this new memoir about the 1%, please feel free to click on the Internet audio interview on Blog Talk Radio with Cynthia Pooler.  It can be found on any page of this website in the middle of the right hand column.

            As I leap back more fully into blogging mode, it can easily be anticipated that many future subjects will naturally be reflective of current events as we all swing fully into the intensity of an American presidential election year.

            Be that as it may, I still retain an interest in dementia related issues that were raised in my first book, a novel called THE COMING TSUNAMI.  This year’s presidential race will come and go, yet with a baby boom population growing more elderly with each passing year, an unprecedented medical, financial, and personal crisis relating to dementia is racing towards us all that will inevitably have to be confronted.

            But again, most pieces forthcoming will likely focus on current events leading up to the U.S. November elections. This and other issues and problems on the road ahead will be examined, if we are to turn the tide on what seems a societal rush to deplete diminishing resources and wreak environmental disaster, all within a frantic cycle of overconsumption and waste.

            I could go on . . . and indeed I will!  Yet for now, welcome back to those that were kind enough to visit and read previously, and a welcome as well to those now just jumping on for the ride.

Signs of the Times: Denver War On Women Rally/March

 
 

A War On Women – or Religious Freedom?

            In an interview with Newsmax on April 6, Mitt Romney, the likely Republican candidate for President of the United States, was quoted as saying:
            “But there’s no question that over the past several weeks, that a discussion about religious liberty was distorted into a discussion about contraceptives. And there was the somehow Republicans are opposed to contraceptives. I think it was most unfortunate twist by our Democrat friends. I think this will pass as an issue as people understand our real position.”
            Earlier, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said:
            “If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars.  The fact of the matter is that it’s a fiction . . .”
            And then there was Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on a local Kentucky radio on April 9 talking about the GOP and the War On Women. He had this to say:
            “Talk about a manufactured issue — there is no issue,” McConnell said on Louisville, Ky., radio station WHAS-AM, ”Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine I think would be the first to say — and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska — ‘we don’t see any evidence of this.’”
            What the heck is going on here?
            One commentator this week, Annie-Rose Strasser, noted Senator McConnell is either confused or in denial, as three of the four female Republican Senators mentioned – Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – have already come out against their own party’s War On Women.
            Murkowski, in particular, appeared to directly repudiate McConnell by saying:
            “It makes no sense to make this attack on women.  If you don’t feel this an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and daughters.”
            So really, what the heck is going on?
            Writer Stephen D. Foster Jr., in a piece you can read here, believes:
            “Clearly, there is a split among Republicans by gender. Republican men say there isn’t a War On Women, it’s all about religious freedom. While Republican women see this as a War On Women’s reproductive rights. By having the courage to speak out against their male colleagues, female Republicans are confirming that their own party is in fact waging a war against women and that religious freedom is just an excuse being used as a crutch to falsely justify it.”
            Vincent Moore, in his article entitled “The War On Women: A Progressive Man’s View,” goes a little further when he states:
             “The morality-based attack (most recently dressed up in the guise of religious freedom and thereby a question of Constitutional freedom) on women’s reproductive health issues across the nation certainly seems coordinated and calculated by the Right-wing and carried out by the Republican Party and their minions (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Fox News) to disrupt and or upset established societal norms that were hard fought for and codified in establish law since the mid-1960s.”
            In all fairness, it’s not too difficult to agree with Mr. Moore, the father of four daughters and with eight nieces, that the GOP’s War On Women is a morality-based attack and dressed up in the guise of religious freedom.  One doesn’t have to be an Internet search genius either, to find representative examples of the same, but some quick references with links can be found in “No Retreat: 101 Assaults in the War On Women” by Stephanie Whiteside, as well as in Mr. Moore’s articlementioned above.
            Sorry, poor ole rich Mitt, but with respect to your quote above, I don’t think the “unfortunate twist” was done by your Democrat “friends.”  It feels to me more like the twist of a knife between the shoulder blades – while you with your religious liberty, Priebus with his caterpillar women, and McConnell and all your ilk with their confusion/denial – are simultaneously attempting to deliver an endearing, yet utterly duplicitous, peck on the cheek.  And the War on Women is certainly not going to pass as an issue!
            Sorry all you good old boys, but women simply aren’t that stupid!
            On top of that, I tend to agree with Mr. Moore when he also states in his article:
            “For me, the War On Women being waged by Conservatives/Republican Party is neither a moral nor an ethical issue, but one of the fundamental civil and human rights of women. The moral argument fails if the rights of women as full citizens in this nation are to be respected and upheld, and if women are to be afforded equal protection under law! This is a war with abortion and religion at its corrupted core.”
            It is indeed that, Mr. Moore, and yet, I’m fully convinced it’s more than that.  It’s “corrupted core” likely runs much deeper and wider.
            Pulling back, attempting to take in a bigger picture, this chasm, the “corrupted core,” might indeed be seen as a facet of the grander cultural “wars” that have been waging for some time, and will inevitably continue until the necessary changes transpire.
            As mentioned previously in this blog, as the shackles of the cultural mindset that has ensnared much of the planet for thousands of years – that of the male dominant, hierarchical, exploitative, kill-or-be-killed destruction mentality – are cast off and rejected, cultural “wars” such as we’re experiencing here are inevitable.  As our society as a whole painfully struggles its way to a Higher Consciousness by stressing elements of the long-repressed feminine such as cooperation and partnership, as women are indeed afforded full and equal protection under the law, there is no choice but to confront the unavoidable.
            Cultural “wars” are indeed already underway, and they are absolutely essential, if we are collectively to rise to a higher plane so as to realistically deal with long-term sustainability issues for our species on this  planet – the truly overriding concern and ultimate end gauge of success or failure.  And yet these cultural “wars” are not wars in the primitive sense common to the male-dominant understanding.  An “I-conquer-you-or-you-conquer-me” desperation does not fit into the equation here; unfortunately, however, this is something the shallow-pated of a more archaic mindset will never comprehend.  Instead, these newer cultural “wars,” these inevitable cultural transitions now ongoing, are characterized by peaceful shifts to a more enlightened awareness of collective mutual dependency and equality of human rights for all.
            Environmental rape, obsessive consumerism and wasted natural resources, the War On Women and much else are all fronts in the grander cultural “wars” underway.  But with the War On Women now at the forefront, with half our species under attack by the primitive male dominator mindset and its current good-old-boy leadership of confused deniers, it is essential to focus on that very War On Women and firmly reject it.
            And while we’re at it, we might as well note: The War On Women has nothing whatsoever to do with “Religious Liberty!”
            Sorry, poor ole rich Mitt: but we’ll never allow things to get so twisted!

Book Review: WHEN MOM AND DAD NEED HELP

            I honestly wish I could have read this book before my father’s health began to seriously decline.  Had that been the case, it’s likely my mother and I would not have felt so overwhelmed and as if scrambling all the time to find the best options for his care.
            In WHEN MOM AND DAD NEED HELP, by author Mike Campbell, the adult children of aging parents are fortunate to have a most valuable resource at hand.  Thorough and complete, this book clearly covers the wealth of options available to you when your parents need help.  Mr. Campbell reveals the pros and cons of everything from having your parents move in with you, to adult day and home care services, to independent and assisted living, as well as dementia care, nursing facilities, and hospice care.  He also details relative costs of each option you could possibly choose with your aging parents, besides where support opportunities may be found.
            As any who have experienced this stage of life will attest, this is not an easy time for all involved.  Routinely, it seems, things go until the 13th hour before a necessary adjustment in living or care arrangements transpire, and often only after a traumatic event precipitates the transition.  Whether it is a fall, growing cognitive problems, a stroke, or whatever else that usually forces the living adjustment, Mr. Campbell recognizes that such desperate situations need not be the case.  Accordingly, in the early chapters of the book, the author details many of the telltale signs and indicators that point to the necessity of an aging parent possibly needing some form of assistance or care.  And, no doubt, if adult children of aging parents paid more attention to these warning signs, much of the stress and anxiety surrounding these difficult times might be alleviated.
            Wisely then, the author stresses the importance of proactively discussing long-term care needs with aging parents and planning for the inevitable before it becomes absolutely necessary.  He also brings up multiple approaches for engaging in this difficult but necessary discourse, all in an effort to make the inevitable life changes as comfortable as possible for all involved.
            As adult children and aging parents eventually come to agree that some form of additional help is necessary with aging parents, the author outlines a five-step process to selecting the best senior housing and care option for one’s aging mom or dad.  This includes assessing parents’ current and future care and assistance needs, identifying all senior housing and care options available in their area, conducting telephone surveys of senior housing/care options, conducting in-person interviews of the same, and making your final evaluation and decision.
            An admirable counterpart and complement to WHEN MOM AND DAD NEED HELP can be found on author Mike Campbell’s website at www.iffenwen.com.  Here the adult child of aging parents can find free checklists to conduct telephone surveys, tours, and interviews of various senior housing and care options.  These checklists are very powerful tools whether you are interested in home care, adult day services, assisted living, nursing care, or Alzheimer’s/dementia and hospice for your parents.  As the website notes regarding these eighteen free checklists: “It’s like having your own personal long-term care expert assisting you through each step!”
            Mr. Campbell concludes his book with chapters about helping parents cope with their new environment and more regarding how essential planning ahead for aging parents can be.  An informative section about long-term health care insurance can be found as well – with a subtitle, “Is it worth it?”
            Sooner or later, nearly everyone will find himself or herself in the situation of being either an aging parent, or an adult child of an aging parent.  What Mr. Campbell has done with WHEN MOM AND DAD NEED HELP is to give us all a viable and exhaustive roadmap for successfully traversing these difficult and stressful times.  My expectation is that this book will prove itself a valuable resource to more and more people in the years to come.  Thank you, Mr. Campbell, for the time and effort you expended in writing this book!

It’s Not Just a “War on Women.” It’s Worse.

            I bumped into a friend I’ll call Kim four or five days ago on my way to the chairlift for some afternoon skiing.  She was on her snowboard and riding single for a few hours before her evening shift at a local restaurant.  It was a beautiful day and we decided to take a few runs together.
            In her mid-twenties, Kim graduated a couple years ago with a science degree from a university in Kentucky.  Currently, she’s enjoying the ski town life for a while before grad school becomes a reality.
            Riding to the top of the mountain on the chairlift, we spoke conversationally as always.  She knew I had a daughter close to her age that had been living in Europe for some time, and Kim kindly asked after her.  I responded, saying my daughter was doing well and mentioned a few of her latest exploits, but also added that she was astounded by the “War on Women” that Republicans back in America seemed so hell-bent on waging.
            To this, Kim shook her head and rolled her eyes behind her goggles.  She admitted she had little tolerance for the news at this point in time, and simply couldn’t believe the extreme statements coming from the right.  We didn’t really touch on any of the issues, nor did we need to.  Yet minutes before we got off the lift to enjoy skiing/boarding down the mountain, Kim off-handedly made a statement that’s been churning in my mind for the last several days.
            “It’s not just a “War on Women,” she noted, “it’s a war on all of us, a war against everything that’s progressive and sensible.”
            After ruminating on her statement for a few days, I couldn’t agree more.  Whether it is denying a woman’s right to contraception, mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds, or redefinitions of when life begins or what constitutes rape – it’s actually all boils down to a War on Higher Consciousness.  It’s a war against much needed and inevitable cultural transformation and, without question, women are the focal point.
            But why is this the case?  Why do we seem to be going backward in time?  What is behind the onslaught of legal attempts to deprive women of choices regarding their own bodies and their own reproductive related decisions?  Why is there even such a thing as a Blunt Amendment or an obsessive drive to de-fund Planned Parenthood where millions of women receive basic health care – not just abortions?  What is behind the insanity that makes women the focal point in this war?
            It would too easy to explain away this war in terms of the brain-dead marching to the dictates of paternalistic and mind-manipulating religions.  That of course is part of what drives this “War on Women,” and yet might only fit into what is a bigger picture.
            In truth, it doesn’t take much imagination to view this “War on Women” as a consistent and even expected reaction coming from a cultural mental tradition thousands of years old that stresses male hierarchal dominance and control.  It is only in relatively recent history compared with the thousands of years preceding, that the shackles of wrathful male gods, the warrior culture, and institutions promoting oppression, privilege, and fear are being cast off – and traded for a new awareness.  That new awareness is viewed as a threat to those of male-dominant controlling elite mindset – and it should be – but naturally they misapprehend why and accordingly overreact most viciously.
            For millenniums women have been treated as subservient to the all-powerful male, and wives have been viewed as chattel to their husbands just as poor are servants of the rich.  The essential nature of the feminine has long been violently repressed, and as it now emerges, as women also rightfully demand and receive more freedom to take control of themselves, as a new awareness pervades many in society – the only answer for the cretins still entrenched and entranced by the male-dominant, conflict-oriented, elitist power-and-control, conquest-and-subjugation, kill-or-be-killed mentality, is to declare an all-out “War on Women.”
            It is truly a shame these dunderheads lack the mental enlightenment to perceive the most basic attributes of the feminine – basic attributes that revolve around generative powers and nurturing.  If they could comprehend the same, perhaps their eyes might open to the fact women are not attempting to conquer them like they conquered women, but are more interested in cooperation, partnership, and life-centered initiatives for the species and planet as a whole.
            Like my friend Kim implied as we rode up the chairlift together the other day, we’re all in this together – both male and female.  The importance of an egalitarian balance amongst the genders is essential if the necessary cultural transformation is to transpire, so as realistically confront long-range planetary sustainability issues such as peak oil, global eco-rape, and the consumer madness depleting planetary reserves.  A Higher Consciousness celebrating and promoting what the previously repressed nature of the feminine can contribute to the whole is essential; the repudiation of the right-wing, male-dominant culture’s “War on Women” is most immediate and imperative.
            Women are indeed the focal point, but it’s not just a “War on Women.”  It’s worse.  It’s an assault on all of us, women and men, seeking to escape the chains of a more primitive consciousness; it’s a war on all of us seeking a cultural transformation so as to leave a livable world for future generations of our species.
            There is no alternative: we must engage the warmongers by joining together – by heartily renouncing and repudiating the current “War on Women” – initiated by chauvinistic blockheads both unaware and unevolved!

PayPal Reverses Course Regarding Censorship!

 
            We the People – have Spoken!
 
            Without further adieu, following is an email from Mark Coker of Smashwords this afternoon (3/13/12) notifying all that PayPal has reversed course regarding their intentions regarding censorship:
 
 
“March 13, 2012
 
Smashwords author/publisher update:  PayPal Reverses Proposed Censorship
 
Great news.  Yesterday afternoon I met with PayPal at their office in San Jose, where they informed me of their decision to modify their policies to allow legal fiction.
 
Effective last night, we rolled back the Smashwords Terms of Service to its pre-February 24 state.
 
It’s been a tumultuous, nerve-wracking few weeks as we worked to protect the right of writers to write and publish legal fiction. 
 
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Smashwords authors, publishers and customers.  You stood up and made your voice known.  Thank you to every Smashwords author and publisher who wrote me to express opinions, even if we disagreed, and even if you were angry with me. You inspired me to carry your cause forward.   
 
Smashwords authors, publishers and customers mobilized. You made telephone calls, wrote emails and letters, started and signed petitions, blogged, tweeted, Facebooked and drove the conversation. You made the difference.  Without you, no one would have paid attention. I would also like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). These three advocacy groups were the first to stand up for our authors, publishers and customers. Their contribution cannot be overstated.  We collaborated with them to build a coalition of like-minded organizations to support our mutual cause. Special kudos to Rainey Reitman of EFF for her energy, enthusiasm and leadership.
 
I would also like to thank all the bloggers and journalists out there who helped carry our story forward by lending their platforms to get the story out.  Special thanks to TechCrunch, Slashdot, TechDirt, The Independent (UK), Reuters, Publishers Weekly, Dow Jones, The Digital Reader, CNET, Forbes, GalleyCat & EbookNewser and dozens of others too numerous to mention. 
 
I would like to thank our friends at PayPal.  They worked with us in good faith as they promised, engaged us in dialogue, made the effort to understand Smashwords and our mission, went to bat for our authors with the credit card companies and banks, and showed the courage to revise their policies. 
 
This is a big, bold move by PayPal.  It represents a watershed decision that protects the rights of writers to write, publish and distribute legal fiction.  It also protects the rights of readers to purchase and enjoy all fiction in the privacy of their own imagination. It clarifies and rationalizes the role of financial services providers and pulls them out of the business of censoring legal fiction. 
 
Following implementation of their new policies, PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.  Will Google Checkout and Checkout by Amazon be next now that the credit card companies have clarified their positions, and have essentially given payment providers the permission to adopt more enlightened policies?   Finally, thanks to Selena Kitt of Excessica and Remittance Girl for helping me to understand and respect all fiction more than I ever have before.
 
This is a bright day for indie publishing.  In the old world, traditional publishers were the arbiters of literary merit.  Today, thanks to the rise of indie ebooks, the world is moving toward a broader, more inclusive definition of literary merit. Smashwords gives writers the power and freedom to publish.  Merit is decided by your readers.  Just as it should be.
 
Thanks,
 
Mark Coker
Founder
Smashwords”
 
 
This is not only a “big, bold move by PayPal” and a “bright day for indie publishing.”  It is also another day for the progressive, democratic denizens of the Internet to celebrate no longer being under the thumb of the gatekeepers of supposed “rectitude” and “moral authority” and to move forward with a bottom-up, localized coalition everywhere of individuals re-ordering our society away from predatory competition, greed, and mental control toward mutual cooperation for the benefit of all.
 
I sincerely hope, as Mark Coker expresses, that “PayPal will have the most liberal, pro-First-Amendment policies of the major payment processors.” I sincerely believe, however, that such will only transpire with them and others mentioned, if We the People – on the Internet – are constantly on guard.
 
Much gratitude goes out to all that put out their efforts in responding to PayPal, as well as SOPA, PIPA – and whatever comes next!