How Much Can You Afford?

We recently went camping in the Olympic National Park in Washington. Luckily, I have a senior pass, so I did not have to pay the $25 fee to enter the park, and only had to pay $10 a night for camping instead of the standard $20 per night. But this got me thinking. Without the senior pass, I would have had to pay $85 for 3 nights of camping. Washington State parks and local County parks are even worse.

The “mission” of the National Park Service goes as follows: “The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” And similarly, for the National Forest Service: “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” Its motto is “Caring for the land and serving people.”

Given the increasing number of Americans who are falling nearer, or even below, the poverty level, I have to wonder if these two great organizations should change their mission statements to say “…. this and future generations who can afford it,” and “… present and future generations who can afford it,” and “… serving people who can afford it.”

Now, I understand that it costs a lot of money to maintain our national parks and forests, and to staff these services, but aren’t the fees charged tied directly to the funding given by Congress to these services? Cuts in funding will inevitably cause increases in the fees charged.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. In today’s America, being able to afford it has become a requirement for just about everything, whether we are talking about the luxuries of life or the necessities of life. Plenty of health care, but only for those who can afford it. Being represented by your elected officials is prorated by how much money you have to spend. Freedom and liberty? The quality of your defense in any court of law also depends on how much you can afford to pay. It seems that even the inalienable rights our Founding Fathers so proudly described now only belong to “those who can afford it.”

Necessities of life, like food and shelter, all cost money. The determining factors of how much potential we are blessed with do not include wealth, skin color, gender, or nationality, but the determining factors of how much of our potential we fulfill do include such things as opportunity, education, and lack of hardship. Potential is non-transferable, and national potential is simply the summation of the individual potential of ALL Americans. So it follows that national accomplishment is diminished by wasted potential in ANY American, be they rich, poor, black, white, Christian, or Muslim. Without opportunity, potential is wasted. Without education, potential is wasted. With great hardship, potential cannot be fulfilled, and is wasted. With unchecked illness, potential is also wasted.

So, the conclusion that must be reached here is that helping your fellow American is helping yourself. The next great genius is just as likely to be born in the ghetto as in Beverly Hills, so things like health care for all Americans, education of equal quality in every school district, and social programs and taxation that helps the middle class and poor, instead of the wealthy, all serve to increase the amount of American potential that is fulfilled, and thus the level of accomplishment of America as a whole. And that is good for everyone and bad for no one.

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Think About It!

If you are a Conservative and think you hate big government. If you are one of those who thinks social programs are unfair and just take money out of your pocket and give it to those who are lazy or undeserving, then I have a question for you.

Do me a favor and think about your life, and what is important to you. Then try and identify that one person in history whose accomplishments have resulted in what now most positively impacts your life. Maybe this is a great scientist, philosopher, artist, musician, or politician. Whatever technology, medical discovery, idea, invention, or cultural accomplishment has been the most beneficial and important thing in your life, given you the most joy, happiness, money or other fulfillment, that thing exists and is available to you because of the accomplishments of those in the past. Maybe it is as simple as your parents or ancestors working hard and becoming wealthy so that you can be wealthy also. In any case, identify the one person most responsible in the past.

Now that you have a name in mind, imagine that person having been born into abject poverty and not being able to fulfill their potential and make those accomplishments because all their energy was required just to stay alive. Imagine that person dying at an early age because they had no access to health care, and the result was they never made the accomplishments that make your life so worth living.

My point is that every human being has some level and manner of potential for accomplishment, and where the greatest potential appears among humans has nothing to do with race, color, affluence, nationality, or any of the labels and divisions we create to separate and categorize human beings. And here is another relevant truth. Potential is non-transferable. You cannot take it from a poor kid and give it to a rich kid. Also, accomplishment can only come from potential, and the accomplishment of a family, a city, a state, a nation, or any other societal unit, is the summation of the accomplishments of all the people within that societal unit. If any member fails to reach their potential, then their accomplishments are less, and the accomplishments of the entire societal unit are less as well.

So, here is the bottom line. Those of us who support social programs and universal health care do not do so because we have bleeding hearts. We do so because we know that increasing opportunity and reducing hardship are things that help people fulfill their potential and do great things, and the greatness of America depends on Americans, ALL Americans, reaching their potential and doing great things. If you agree that the purpose of government is to assist a nation in accomplishing great things, being strong, being safe, and having a high standard of living, then you must also agree that it is also the duty of government to do what it can to reduce hardship and provide opportunity to all Americans. Inequality is not only a bad thing because people are suffering and have less, it is a bad thing because people are denied the opportunity and freedom from hardship that they need to fulfill their potential, make great accomplishments, and thereby make America and ALL Americans greater, safer, and more affluent. Think about that!

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Are You Tired Yet??

My February letter to the editor:

So, Conservatives, are you tired yet?  Tired of the spoiled immature brat who grew up into a bully, and that you elected?  Tired of Trump pointing fingers and blaming everyone other than himself?  Tired of your incompetent President and his impotent Administration angering America’s long-standing allies and giving huge recruitment gifts to Isis and terrorists.  Tired of the Executive Branch of your government acting like The Three Stooges without the humor?  Tired of the petty, vindictive, clueless, blustering, egomaniac you elected to be your President?  Tired of the lack of respect and outright attacks on our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and every tradition, check, and safety net that history has shown us to be necessary to prevent a Democracy from slipping into a dictatorship?  Tired of the man who praised leaks of information when it was hurting his opponent, but when they are about him, he calls them illegal and wants to prosecute?  Tired of someone stupid enough to rant about classified information being leaked, and then calling the reporting of that same information “fake news” in the same sentence?  Are you tired of your President getting caught in a flat-out lie in a press conference, and shrugging it off by saying “that’s what someone told me”?  Tired of a President more concerned with lying about his “big election win” than solving problems?

Well, don’t blame me, I voted for a qualified, experienced grown-up, not a Russia-sponsored snake-oil salesman who pulled off history’s greatest, and most dangerous con job!

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Someone!

Someone needs to stop this maniac! And NO, I am not suggesting any form of violence!

Someone in the GOP, someone in government, someone in the Judiciary, someone somewhere knows the policy, procedure, law, or precedent that can be used to stop Trump.

Someone, somewhere has the information, the evidence, the proof, or the recordings that can be used to stop Trump. You do not live Trump’s life for as long as he has without leaving behind the evidence and proof that will reveal who you really are. There is something somewhere that is shocking enough that even Trump supporters will have to sit up and take notice.

Someone in the GOP needs to come to their senses. Someone with even a speck of common sense, integrity, or conscience needs to start the ball rolling and stand up to Trump. Someone, somewhere among the wealthy supporters of the GOP, someone among the Conservative pundits or bloggers, someone in the Conservative power establishment or in charge of a gigantic multi-national corporation must come to realize that, where Trump is taking us, no one will come out ahead.

Someone, somewhere needs to see past their greed and lust for power and realize that turning America into Russia or a third-world country is a threat to what they already have, and will not get them anything they want.

Someone in Trump’s family or his empire must see the insanity for what it is and do something to help stop it. Someone in the Religious community must finally feel the shame and get on the bandwagon to stop Trump.

Setting aside the millions of Conservatives who have been deceived into supporting their own destruction for a moment, someone, some few, among the thousands who create and control that deception must finally realize that they have gone too far.

To the World, to the Muslim world, to Islam, and yes even to ISIS and radical Islam, I say this. Please realize that the vast majority of the American people are victims in all of this, not culprits. We are either against what is happening, or have been deceived into supporting it.

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Is The Fat Lady Singing?

Is it any less a government coup if, instead of with guns and explosives, power is seized with lies, deceit, and manipulation?

Is it still a completely non-violent transfer of power if, instead of opponents being assassinated, their character, reputations, and accomplishments are assassinated with falsehoods and bullying tactics? Is it still a government for the people if those who seize power make policy changes that causes hardship, pain, and even death to all but the elite wealthy?

Is it still a Democracy, where the people decide, if the people are deceived, and their natural tenancies are cleverly manipulated in ways that cause them to believe in a completely false reality?

Yes, the pen is mightier than the sword, but the pen is only a neutral tool that can just as easily be used for evil as for good. In this day and age, the pen has been replaced by electronics – radios, television, the Internet, mobile phones, and a thousand other devices through which the people receive and disseminate information. Does it make sense that those sources of information that reach the most people are owned and operated, for a profit, by the same individuals that own politicians and want to own the government, all for even more profit?

Is freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness still possible in an environment where there are no limits on the number and size of lies and deceptions in politics, and no limit on the amount of money that can be spent producing and spreading those lies?

The decades-long campaign by the elite wealthy to use their power and control of information has finally achieved its goal. They now control the White House AND Congress, and the Judiciary will soon be theirs as well. We are entering and era where nothing is sacred or protected from the chopping block. Not The Constitution, not the Bill of Rights, not the right to vote, and none of the ideals upon which America was founded. With Trump in the White House and with the GOP in full control of Congress, only the Judiciary can stop this from happening, and the Judiciary is standing on it’s last leg of integrity.

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Inauguration Day

Friday, January 20th, 2017 is inauguration day in America. For true Americans and America, it is a day of mourning. We should all be flying our American flags at half-mast that day.

On 9/11 in 2001 we watched the horrific, incomprehensible, mind-numbing collapse of the twin towers in New York City. A devastating blow to America on American soil, perpetrated by outsiders, and causing immense pain, heartache, and loss of life. But at least is was quick and a single event that left America determined and able to immediately start the healing process.

On January 20th, 2017, when Donald Trump becomes President and Congress is turned over to the GOP, we will all have to watch the beginning of the horrific, incomprehensible, mind-numbing collapse and destruction of the very core of America and American ideals, perpetrated by insiders on American soil. This will not be as sudden or as shocking as 9/11, but in the long run, the heartache, suffering, pain, and loss of life will be a thousand times worse.

For all but the wealthy top one percent in America, life will get harder and less fulfilling. More and more of the middle class will fall below the poverty level, and those who are already destitute will simply die for lack of food and health care. And the top one percent will reap the completely meaningless benefit of having even more wealth and power.

This is not only a collapse of American ideals, but also of Democracy itself and the great American experiment of self-governing and equality for all. With an egomaniac in the Oval office, and a Congress in the hands of the GOP, which are nothing but foot soldiers for the one percent, nothing in the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Declaration Of Independence is sacred and exempt from the collapse. What’s to stop this from happening? The Judiciary??

Trump and the GOP are not even in power yet and they are already attacking the US Office of Government Ethics and the Office of Congressional Ethics. It is blindingly clear that Trump considers himself above all laws, rules, and Constitutional limitations, and the GOP has demonstrated that it is willing to change, subvert, and ignore all the rules to get their way. So, what will stop massive voter suppression from becoming outright elimination of the right to vote?

Are you ready to have to learn Russian as the official language of America? Are you ready to have Christianity become, not only the official, but the ONLY religion in America? Will we see science and Evolution removed from all school curriculum, to be replaced by Creationist and religious teachings? Will immigration become a thing of the past with America’s borders closed to all but the very wealthy? Will health care become unaffordable to all but the wealthy? Will Wall Street and Corporate deregulation bring us into another great depression?

When all of this happens (not if), take a walk over to your nearest Conservative neighbors thank them for their stupidity, and them punch them in the face.

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December Letter To The Editor

Mr. Trump says that his is not part of “the establishment.”  Unfortunately, he is not talking about the political establishment, he is talking about the establishment of a government of\by\for the people.  He means the established laws, rules, processes, and procedures that were put in place by the Founding Fathers to prevent America from becoming just another dictatorship or kingdom.  You know, things like The Constitution, Separation of Powers, and Checks and Balances.

Donald Trump considers himself above all of that. He thinks he is above the law, The Constitution, and all the established traditions and procedures that provide a stable government and a smooth and non-violent transition of power every 4 years.

Not releasing tax returns and financial information as a candidate and not divesting himself (and his family) of all possible financial conflict of interests with foreign powers are both serious and unprecedented violations of the laws and traditions that protect us as a self-governed nation.  Congratulations Conservatives!  I know you wanted to go back to the good old days.  Well, you just sent America back to 18th century England!  We now have to start calling the 1% “Royalty” instead of just wealthy.

According to CNN, Trump got just over 46% of the popular vote, and according to Mother Jones the overall voter turnout was just under 60%.  That means less than 30% of the American electorate voted for Trump.  So Conservatives, don’t insult anyone’s intelligence with talk of mandates, political capital, or the will of the people.

References:
http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/11/politics/popular-vote-turnout-2016/
http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/raw-data-turnout-rates-2016-election
http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/trumps-conflict-of-interest-problem

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Letters To The Editor

Here are my two most recent letters to the editor at the local newspaper:

11/10/14

It seems that Republicans had a huge victory in the mid-term elections.  It is difficult to fathom why Conservatives in this country continue to support the GOP.  For 6 years, the GOP has grid-locked the government with unprecedented obstructionism, including unprecedented use of the filibuster in the Senate and government shut-downs.  The GOP has only one agenda – get as much money as possible to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor.  The GOP still thinks women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, they continue to preach the huge hoax known as trickle-down economics (which has never worked and never will), if they could they would get rid of Social Security, Medicare, welfare, unemployment insurance, and any other social program that puts spending power in the hands of the non-wealthy.

The GOP has blocked (or tried to block) immigration reform, student debt relief, equal pay, women’s rights, health care reform, minimum wage increases, gay rights, and just about everything else.  The GOP still wants to deregulate corporate greed and make slaves of workers, while causing financial meltdowns and destroying the economy.  They want to force everyone into the same religion. At the state level, they have engaged in massive voter suppression of minorities, and disbanded elected local governments in minority areas.  The anti-science GOP adjusts the facts to fit ideology instead of the other way around.

And yet, they win elections??  America is dying a slow death from self-inflicted wounds.

12/15/14

Do you miss the economic collapse of 2008?  Do you long for the good old days of double-digit unemployment, predatory lending practices and skyrocketing foreclosure rates?  Do you wish that the DOW was below 8000 again?  Well take heart friend, the Republicans are taking control of Congress, and they can get us back to those good old days in nothing flat!  In fact, they have already started deregulating the big banks again by slipping an amendment into the current budget that removes restrictions preventing big banks from practicing high-risk behaviors (like derivatives, etc.), while putting at risk the money entrusted to them by their depositors – one of the exact practices that caused the 2008 collapse in the first place.  And guess what?  That amendment was actually written by CitiGroup!  Way to go GOP!

Nothing good ever comes from a Republican-controlled Congress, but heck, just blame it on the black President and an imaginary massive invasion of illegal immigrants like you always do, and throw in them Gays for good measure. That will fit right into the alternate, anti-reality universe called the “Conserverse.”

But don’t worry about those of us who have escaped our Matrix pods and can see clearly and think for ourselves.  Don’t worry about the increasing number of Americans born into such deep pits of poverty that they can never climb out.  If any of us protest, we can simply be shot down, unarmed in the streets, by some para-military police force, right?

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Simple Truths Number One

A series of simple statements, each on a graphic.

Feel free to download and/or share!

Religion

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Enough is Enough!

In response to a letter to the editor in a local newspaper yesterday, one that ranted on against Obama by listing every crazy conspiracy every invented, I sent in the following letter of my own (we’ll see if they actually print it):

“It is more than disappointing to see such baseless anti-Obama ravings in the local newspaper (“Obama’s Secrets” 3/6/13), it’s downright disgusting and subversive. Face it, the only thing questionable about Obama to such folks is that he is Black. Obama is far from perfect, but he has more integrity, honesty, brains, and yes Americanism, in his little finger than Bush, his entire administration, and all of today’s Congressional Republicans, have in their entire bodies combined.

Beyond the fact of legal citizenship, being American is more about the basic philosophies of equality, opportunity, freedom, liberty, and doing what’s right, than anything else. By that measure, Obama is more American than the entire GOP. Sorry to be so harsh, but I am sick and tired of Conservatives believing the multitude of lies that vindicate their irrational hatred of government, their impossible insistence on having everything exactly as it was in the 1700’s, and their short-sighted and narrow-minded evaluations of the issues of today, while destroying the country and lives of millions in the process. You can lead Conservatives to the truth, but you cannot stop them from denying it.

The realities are that the America people had the good sense to vote for a liberal and progressive agenda in 2012. Only GOP-led state redistricting kept the House out of the hands of the Democrats as well as the Presidency and the Senate. Democrats got more votes, but Republicans got more seats. Government of, for, and by the people my butt!”

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