Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Government is the problem, not the solution.

Government is the problem, not the solution.”
Dear old St. Ronald. He got so much wrong during his lifetime that one wonders when he began slipping away into the fog of Alzheimer’s. But that particular canard has proven most damaging over the years since he slipped away, even more so than his disastrous fiscal policies.  It paints “Government” somehow as the enemy of the people. The truth is that Government is the people. We the People simply make up the government and then ask it to do our bidding. It is a creature of the people of America, invented by us to protect ordinary citizens, and to resolve problems that we create ourselves, or that others create for us. Because Government is just a group of people—other Americans-- we pay through taxes to handle problems.
Ever since St. Ronald, republicans have gone round the bend about how Government is the problem and how, even, Government is somehow the enemy of the American people.  But the truth is, Government is Us.  It doesn’t even begin to resemble an enemy.
See, when we (collectively) don’t like something that Government is doing, we can change it. That’s the basic truth that republicans prefer to ignore when they demagogue about the evils of “Big Government.”  It is arguably true that Government today is big, but then so are “we the people.” America today is a bit larger than it was in 1776 when we created ourselves as the US of A.  Our government has grown along with us. It gets larger as we add more functions we wish it to carry out. And, as it gets larger, the bill to pay for it increases, so our need for taxes increases. That’s the other thing. See, taxes are an unpleasant reality of life in the modern world, not just here.  My view of taxes is that, whether I like sending out those checks quarterly or not, taxes represents a kind of glue that binds us together as a civilized society.  They’re neither good nor bad in the abstract, despite what republicans would have you believe.  The arguments today about the debt seem to be about taxes, but they are really about the central question of what kind of civil society it is we wish to create and maintain. Over time, we have created a complex society that has within it features that would please most, and features that displease many. But that’s the bargain we need to understand if we are to live together. Current republican arguments suggest that they really no longer wish to live together with non-republicans, even to the rather bizarre talk by people such as Perry and Palin that perhaps some states should consider seceding, i.e., we should literally break up this country that so many fought and died for to preserve.
I think that we need to sit back and think a bit harder about all this inflammatory rhetoric being tossed about by our republican friends.  Increasingly, they are sounding more like enemies of the republic than friends and countrymen who simply disagree about some things in the country.  What am I to think when it turns out that the bankers of the land simply defrauded the American people . . . bilked us . . . asked for and received a handout from the dreaded Government, and then went back to business as usual as though nothing had happened. They aren’t even chastened. And these people, along with the soil and air polluters like the Murdoch’s and the Koch’s are currently financing the republicans in their quest to destroy the basic agreements under which we live together as Americans.
Who I ask is the enemy here?
It sure as hell isn’t the Government.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Recovery?

Good news as of this morning. The koi's seem ok. No fish bodies floating on the surface, and they all came eagerly to our morning feast for them.

The air stone may have saved the day. Turning it on yesterday, after we saw them all gathering at the waterfall, in search of oxygen we believed, may have re-oxygenated the water sufficiently to give them what they obviously needed. With koi's, you can not be certain for a while how well they have accommodated to their near demise, but we are hopeful.
The pond again looks normal, and they are acting normal.

Let us hope.
And on another front, the Faux News Network now reports that God is really pissed at the righteous for presuming to know her. She has thrown this massive heat wave, especially at the South and West, where the righteous tend to congregate.  Unfortunately, her aim was a bit wonky and she hit Newark as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heat, heat, heat. Are you aware that, on checking, our Concord heat is worse than that being experienced by the folks who live in New Delhi, India.  Amazing, at least to us who used to live through the New Delhi heat and monsoons.  Concord, North Carolina is hotter than New Delhi. Wow, who’d a thunk???
And as we were running around town yesterday, getting hotter by the minute, we were really running down physically. Around 6:00 PM or so, we were changing our clothes upstairs in our bedroom suite, ready to begin our evening rituals, one of which involves sitting by our lovely pond sipping a glass of wine, and feeding and watching our fish and our various flying critters fitting about in our back garden.  It’s a pleasant way to begin the evening hours.

So, as I was changing, I happened to look out our windows. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but . . . a pond rather lacking in water. It looked to be around ¾ empty. We rushed downstairs and ran outside frantically to look at the horrible mess.  The pond had maybe a foot of water in it, tops. The lilies were splayed all over the place. All the plants looked topsy turvy. The fish were only dimly visible, with the remaining foot of water firmly in the grip of its algae cover.  A couple of our large koi’s were occasionally visible, looking in distress. Koi’s don’t take kindly to changes in their environment.

We looked about for some sign of the cause of the problem. Carol spied the problem—someone or some thing had caused the hose from one of our two pumps feeding our filters to pull away from the filter. The pump was madly pumping the pond dry.

We shut off the pumps, as they both were gasping for water, since the water level had finally dropped below the pump level. Not a pretty sight. I re-attached the hose and then, desperate measures, used duct tape to keep the hoses in place--mind you they are kept in place with clamps and screws. Something pulled really hard to separate the hose.
Our task was then to refill the pond, which we began doing. A major problem with this task, however, is that tap water is heavily chlorinated and fish can’t tolerate chlorine—it’s quite toxic. So we added whatever dechlor we had remaining, plus some stress coat—an additive that helps top coat their skin and helps them to cope with the stress. Then we ran out to PetSmart to get some more of both.

It took totally about five hours of water filling to complete this task.
The final step is to wait.  What do you wait for?? Well, to see who lives and who dies. Koi’s really hate it when you mess with their environment, and many will not make it.
We thought we were home free, since the pond looked on by midday, and no signs of distressed koi’s. Then we went out to the pond at around 4:00 PM. All of the fish were gathered at the waterfall, where the oxygen level of the water would be higher.  Sad, very sad.  That’s the first sign that they are in extreme distress. 

In the past, when we had the pond cleaned, we lost one of our favorite koi’s, Harry. He followed that same pattern of behavior—first gasping near the top of the pond, then finally giving up. We will await the bad news tomorrow morning, when the situation should have stabilized.  Hopefully, we will still have some of our stable of koi’s left. They give us much pleasure.
More later . . .

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lazy days of Summer

Ahh, those lazy summer days . . . when one drifts, half awake, as in a canoe, drifting downstream gently. In our case, i.e., the good old US of A, we are drifting downstream, somewhat lazily , but we seem to be headed downstream in the direction of Niagara Falls. You can sort of hear the Falls from here, but the roar is not yet deafening.  By that time, of course, it is too late, and we will plunge over.  The Falls represent, to me, any of the several catastrophic landings, after the Fall.

The Nation has already undergone a dramatic change since 2008. The republican party was captured by extreme right wing forces, a combination of religious fascists, borderline criminal commercialists (i.e., the Koch’s and Rupert), and old fashioned racists. Those groups represent the core of the republican party at this stage.  One can tell both from the leadership and their proposed policies, such as:
1.       The anti-Gay & Lesbian, and anti-abortion stand;
2.       The anti-regulatory stand, ignoring the growing evidence of man-made global warming, and the specific demonstrated harmful practices and effects of their own leadership, e.g., the Koch bothers industrial pollution practices;
3.       The anti-tax stand;
4.       Continued attacks on the middle class;  and let us not forget,
5.       The stated policy of the leadership that will oppose anything President Obama does or proposes to assure that he will be a one-term President.
They effectively have no other policies. That their own party brought us to this point of near economic insolvency, through their inane tax and regulatory policies, is dismissed as mere rhetoric. All current problems are labeled “Obama problems.” Their willingness to allow the country to go into default rather than to negotiate in good faith suggests that they have crossed over into some new territory that at least borders on Anti-American (at least as we understand America).  It is hard to forget things such as Governor Perry’s suggestion that his state should secede, and Sarah Barbie’s husband arguing the same case for Alaska. Does this make them proud Americans?? I think not.
So, as we approach our economic Niagara Falls moment, I will be watching, along with many millions of people, to see both how the republicans react at this end-game stage, and how our President negotiates an end to the crisis. I am less than positive about any outcomes. The President has shown himself too willing to cave under pressure to republican extremist dictates. Perhaps he really does believe in compromise always and under all conditions. That he has caved early on in such negotiations does not bode well for the current demand set from our republican black knights, who operate under strict orders from their dukes—the Murdoch’s and Koch’s of the land.  It’s really a shame that republicans forgot that they are Americans first and Murdoch-republicans second.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Texas . . . I have been thinking about Texas a lot lately. I know, I know, why would anyone think about Texas a lot?
Well, the news reports about the weather have set me to thinking about the good Governor’s suggestion that maybe Texas should secede from the Union (that having worked out so well the last time).  And what does the weather have to do with Governor Perry’s wish to be rid of us?
Well . . . the latest blast of fiery weather afflicting the great southwest has been accompanied by discussions about water, or the lack thereof.  See, it has been very, very hot in Texas—well the entire southwest—and it hasn’t been raining much.  The long range weather forecasters are now saying that Texas may be headed for, say the Sahara.  See, we’re still talking about the Southwest drought in the context of their current weather. But, it is pointed out that no one uses the term “drought” when speaking of the Sahara. It’s just a big desert. And apparently, Texas is headed in that direction.  Our great grandkids may someday refer to the great Southwest as the Great Southwest Desert.
So, that sets me to thinking . . . maybe, just maybe, it’s time to cut Texas loose.  I mean, do we really need another Sahara, right here in our midst, especially with all those whiny republicans, armed to the teeth?  Perhaps we should let Governor Perry go, while he can still cut a deal with Mexico. At first I was thinking, “hey, why don’t we just sell Texas to Mexico?” But that wouldn’t be kind. I mean what has Mexico ever done to us??
So, if we just let the good Governor of that great southwest desert state cut his own deal, we might all be able to sleep better at night. We would probably have to negotiate whether Texas democrats would be able to sidle over to our side of the border before the deal is consummated.  Then, we would have to begin fairly quickly building that Great Wall of Texas that the southwesterners have been whining about.  Only, in this case, the Great Wall would seal off our southern border, i.e., it would separate the Great Southwest Desert from the US of A.
And besides getting rid of a lot of sand, it would seem that little else would be lost by cutting them loose. George W (aka Shrub) apparently tried to find oil in Texas and couldn’t find any, so I assume all the oil is gone.  And there really isn’t anything else there . . . well there’s a lot of cowboys and a lot of guns, but I doubt we would miss those. And think of all the whining that would disappear.
Oh, oh, and a really big bonus . . . the Bush’s, well Shrub at least, would be left behind in that Great Southwest Desert, along with his library and the book deposited there. Now, that’s a really big plus, huh??
See, I’m always thinking . . .

Friday, July 15, 2011

Viewpoints . . . Other

So two bright and shiny young men, dressed identically—dark pants, white shirts, dark ties, shiny faces—showed up at our front door and rang the doorbell. I answered. “Yes, may I help you?”
“I’ll bet you never saw missionaries like us.”
I thought, “hmmm, what is different about them? Oh, one is white and one is black.”
“Um, well, yes I have, thanks.”
“But I should tell you that I find missionaries profoundly disrespectful, and we don’t engage with them.”
“Oh, and we don’t play church.”
They looked at me baffled, the smiles frozen on their faces. The taller young man asked, “may I give you a card?”
“Well, no, I don’t need or want one. Thanks. Bye.”
Now what I didn’t tell them was why I found missionaries profoundly disrespectful. Around here, in the Concord region, many people refer casually and with great enthusiasm, to the whole notion of missions. Whenever someone discovers that we lived in India, the first question asked is, “Oh, did you go on a mission?”  When I say no, their relative interest quietly disappears.  But back to missionaries. Think of the concept. First, I only know of Christians going on missions. I have never heard of or encountered a Buddhist missionary, or  Jewish missionary, or a Muslim missionary. Think about that. What would their reception be, were a Buddhist or Hindu missionary to wander about Concord, NC , knock on doors randomly and inquire whether they would like to talk and could they pray for the person living therein? I’m thinking . . . borderline hostility.
So, why do Christians believe it to be useful or necessary to traipse around the world trying to convert other non-Christian souls? Aren’t they really saying, “Look I know you’re not a Christian, and that’s why I’m here. You are profoundly lost and I will save you if you let me.”
Now, isn’t that the definition of disrespectful?
Well, I find it so.
Oh, and we were interviewed by a reporter for the local Independent Tribune on the subject of my agnosticism.  The resulting article ( was entitled, “Can Faith and Uncertainty Co-Exist?”  It was a really fine article about my agnosticism, and how I arrived at that belief (or non-belief).
Within an hour of the paper arriving at people’s doorsteps, we had our first telephone call. A pleasant woman expressing her sadness at our plight. She offered us solace, and said she would pray for us. The next day, a long note in a card arrived in the mail, expressing the same sentiments, and suggesting that we should consult a minister and she had just the man for us. She felt sorry for us, especially since we seemed to have such a nice pond. Poor souls.  That same day, yet another telephone call, telling us that we clearly needed help and should consult a minister about our plight. We thanked him and hung up.
See, that’s the missionary thing writ large. The article indicated quite clearly that we thought it was ok for people to believe whatever they wished, but that people really ought to respect the beliefs (or non-beliefs ) of others.  In short, they really should respect us, by essentially leaving us to our beliefs. We neither needed nor wanted their  consolation and , frankly, the last thing we need is a consult with a local minister. I regard priests (that includes ministers) largely as charlatans, even the nice ones. So, why would I want to consult a charlatan, or a local Ponzi master?
Um, I don’t think so.
But we survived, and the community at large seems to have survived this assault on the belief system at large. The world goes on. If only everyone would understand that life really is a journey, and there may be no “there” there at the end.  So, the best thing is to try to enjoy the journey without harming anyone along the way.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Morons for Bachman

I wonder whether Michelle Bachman could really be as stupid as she sounds.  I mean, she makes Sarah Palin seem like a deep thinker.

Michelle’s latest is her proclamation that EPA is a job killer. Apparently Michelle prefers living in a polluted world in which Exxon gets to say how much oil in your drinking water is really ok, and smog from polluting cars is just the product of the overactive imagination of liberal-terrorists.  Michelle, let me say it. “You’re a world class idiot, an asshole of the first order. I assume that you are on the payroll of the Cock Brothers, your very own Lords of the Manors. “
Thinking of this dimwitted Minnesotan/Iowan as President is enough to bring back all the dark thoughts from the darkest days of the Shrub. No, he doesn’t look good by comparison, but I am reminded of the old “bottomless barrel” theory, in which it is held that each incoming administration is intended to make the last look good.  It didn’t work with Obama. No he didn’t make Bush look good, but Bachman just might. Remember . . .

Or even that classic . . .

We really need to begin thinking again in this country, and I don’t mean wishful thinking, because then we would need to:
“be careful what you wish for folks.”

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th

Everyone please enjoy the 4th celebrations. May yours be filled with joy . . . and a few night-time boomers in your very own son et lumiere. Last year we celebrated the 4th with our daughter and son-in-law. Kathy and Denny took us out on their boat off the coast of Virginia and we saw, from a fair distance some lovely celebratory fireworks. may yours be as beautiful . . . and as safe.
So, a Happy 4th of July to one and all.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

56 Years

July 2, 1955. A year to remember.  "Why, I remember it well", he thought.  "Why might that be?" he answered to himself. Well, it was the specific day and year that I committed myself, to my best friend and lover, to become married . . . "til death us do part." A lot of people speak that phrase. Fewer mean it.
 But mean it, we did. It was a very hot day, close to 100 degrees in Spring Valley, New York.  One of our favorite people, Mr. Z (aka Reverend Zeltner) oversaw the procedure, looking resplendant in white Episcopal gown.  Below, he is looking a bit more ordinary, with that sweet, boyish smile he always displayed.

We were young, oh so young, when we committed to each other. People like Newt Gingrich probably utter these same words, but, since they are older and think themselves smarter than everyone else, they don't really mean any of it. See, we were young, and sweet, and we meant every word.  And so, we cut the cake and waltzed into our adult, married life..

We stayed the night at the LaGuardia Hotel, at the airport, because we were flying out the next night, to California, our home for a while, so I could finish college. The next day, July 3, 1955, much of New York City seemed closed, because it was the Fourth weekend.  So, we took in a movie--The Seven Year Itch". Funny film for newlyweds.
Then we had dinner someplace in Manhattan. Don't remember where, except that I ordered shrimp cocktail and shrimp creole--exotica. We just wandered around the city, trying to look married and adult.
And then we flew out very late that night on World Airways. We flew on a Lockheed Constellation to San Francisco, departing New York at midnight and arriving 14 hours later in San Francisco.
After a year spent finishing my studies, we moved briefly to the LA area, so I could work at Firestone at the first of several aerospace jobs. My first company, at which I earned the grand sum of $5100/year, was making a thing called the Corporal Guided Missile, a slight improvement on old Werner von Braun's V2 missiles, with which he beguiled the Brits during WW II.
Then, being unable to tolerate the lifestyle and the smog of LA, we moved back to Northern California.  We eventually bought a home in what is now Silicon Valley (then just Sunnyvale).

We were still really, really young. We produced a couple of kids. I worked at Lockheed. Carol cared for our kids. That's the way it worked in the 1950s. I worked for a while, until I grew tired of secret stuff, and working on things that would go boom in someone else's night. I went to work for a small consulting company.
Then in 1964, our company asked us if we wanted to go to India. "India?" we asked. We thought about it for a few minutes, then said, "Sure, why not?" And we prospered there, and grew there as a couple. Carol took to this exotic place (that was before India handled all of our telephone tech support) .

She wore saris all the time, and looked, well . . . spectacular, if I might say so. We were happy.
Then we decided to add to our modest family of two children. We tried for a bit and then produced another health baby girl. Indian friends were disappointed it wasn't a boy. We were delighted.
Now we felt complete. After another couple of years (four total) we returned home to find much of the US in chaos--Martin Luther King shot and killed. Bobby Kennedy shot and  killed.  Later, in Chicago, the protesters tried to burn down Chicago. What is going on??? Well Vietnam was going on. And a lot of ordinary folks didn't like this war in Asia.
 But we kept on truck'n. We had moved to Washington, center of a lot of the craziness (before all of Congress turned terminally crazy).  Our family enjoyed Washington.

Right around that time, in the early 1970s, it seemed as though we were the only ones who stayed married. Our friends began divorcing, as though it was some disease suddenly afflicting our whole population of friends (this was before Facebook, when friends were actual  . . . friends).
But, we worked. Carol finished her college degree and joined the working class (she had worked her whole life, but we don't count being a full-time mom and caregiver as work. Dumb us).
We stayed married. Mostly, though, we stayed happy. See, we liked one another, as well as being in love. We were best friends.

Then as we aged, our kids aged also. Our first, Karen, took off and lived in a commune for a while. She produced a baby and so we became grandparents at a very early age.  Our second, Kathleen, decided to become married, and, guess what, she and her hubby are still married . . . going on 26 + years now.  Our first, the rebel, also got married, and guess what--she and her hubby just completed 25 years  together.
Then, our baby, Erika by name, went off to college, became a doctor, got married and, after 20 years, she and her hubby remain happy together. Hey, the whole family has now been married 56+26+25+20 years. You do the math--a lot of happy years together.
And then we turned 65 and retired.
 Yeah, it happens when you aren't looking. One day, you're a young sprout, full of piss and vinegar. The next, you're 65.
So, we retired. We moved to North Carolina. We bought a 1920's bungalow, similar to the kind of house we had seen in India during our years there. We stayed up to bring in the new millenium.

We continued our habit of traveling to celebrate stuff. For our 49th together, we took a 9000 mile road trip out west.  For our 50th, wow . . . biggie . . . we traveled to one our favorite places--Niagara on the Lake in Canada. We dined at the Peller Estate Winery, outdoors, and we toasted each other, as we do every day--"To us" we say.

And we mean it. It's one of our daily rituals. In the morning now--every morning--, we have a cappuccino, beside our pond, and we toast each other--"To Us" we say. Then we just relax and watch our koi's cavort and the birds play and eat what we feed them.
See, we still like each other. We're friends and lovers, the best of all possible worlds.
So, tonight, we will dine for our 56th at Giannis, our very favorite Italian restaurant in Concord.  I will update this saga a bit later, by adding a picture of us at Gianni's, toasting each other--"To Us" we will say, before we begin our sumptuous meal prepared by Heather, our very favorite chef. Gianni's not only serves wonderful Italian food, freshly prepared and savory. But the owner, John Goode, greets each customer during their meal. And his maitre de, Kathy, greets each customer. They treat us as though we are a member of their family . . . and that is nice. It makes each meal memorable. And of course, our 56th anniversary meal, will be special.
So, "To Us" I say. "To Us."
As promised, an update. Our anniversary dinner at Gianni's was wonderful, with the hosts, John Goode, the owner, and the chef, Heather, greeting us as members of their family. The meal, as always was extraordinary. Heather really is a master chef. And John is a true Restaurateur. Together, they combine to create special evenings for their guests. So, to us again. A memorable conclusion to a very special day.