December 31, 2008

Confessions of a Conformist

     I realized the other day I too was misled into thinking that Bush was the evil decider who has led this nation so far astray. Like most people, I too suffer from leader-itis, even if it's a mild infection. So like most of us, I underestimated Cheney's political skills, ruthless ambition, and commitment to sneakiness. But Prof. Shirley Warshaw of Gettysburg University is on to him.
     A panelist in a discussion about presidential transitions recently shown on C-SPAN, she summarized her upcoming book "The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney," from Stanford University Press ( 
     Bush only wanted to lead on moral and faith-based issues, leaving everything else, like business, energy, environment, health care, civil rights, foreign policy, etc., to Cheney, who wasted no time during Bush's transition putting in place the foundation of eight years of totalitarianism in democratic clothing.
     "Warshaw convincingly concludes that the legacy the Bush administration will leave is a testament to why two presidents equal one massive failure," says Stanford on the website.
     Transparency can prevent such corruption, but only if no one is above the law. And there is still the underlying problem that few want to hear that their leader is evil, bad for them, or even just a slacker. Government of, by and for the people only works well when everyone is vigilant and vocal. Which is of course far easier when government is relocalized.
     So I hope KJ figures out soon that people actually do expect more of political leaders than they do of NBA basketball stars, even though viewing audiences are smaller. I don't have to buy tickets, but I do have to pay taxes.
     I think I deserve a refund from Cheney.

December 28, 2008

Confessions of a Cootie

     Being a cootie means the other kids either bully you (the boys) or ignore you (the girls). I was lucky; somehow my spirit was never broken, although I became very defensive.
     But just punishing bullies, even gang members, especially via our adversarial criminal 'justice' system, just teaches them that might makes right, and that bullying is okay for adults and the government. This is really dumb, unless you like shooting yourself in the foot. 
     Suspension solves nothing either. I would rather sit that bully down with the victim/s, and facilitate the cooties' explanation to them of what they are doing until they are embarrassed enough that they will never forget to think about how others feel.
     As a matter of fact, I would like to do that to our way-overdue-for-indictment President. He deserves to be tied up and be forced to listen to the anguish of the millions of lives his idiocies and our country have irrevocably destroyed. And continue to destroy, in Palestine.
     It is equally important for victims to remember that bullies are people too, and bullying them back is really unclear on the concept. As Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind." We can refuse to tolerate scapegoating without being mean or violent ourselves.
     Justice is not vengeance, which latter I have been told belongs to the Lord, or to karma.

December 25, 2008

Charity & Sustainability 2

     In the Bee's Christmas newspaper, EJ Dionne wrote about liberation from the tyranny of material possessions, by sharing rather than accumulating. A few pages later, I found an AP story, "What happens to all that unsold stuff?" It admits some of it might end up in the dump.
     I wish we could liberate our economy from the tyranny of the GDP, from the idea that the volume of monetary transactions is an accurate measure of economic health and well-being. 
     Until we understand that real economic health is based on meeting everyone's actual needs, rather than just churning through more purchases of more stuff, we won't be smart enough to avoid another financial meltdown. Or more ecological disasters such as coal ash floods, decapitated mountains, and freeway construction.
     Awhile back (65 years to be exact) Maslow developed his "Hierarchy of Needs" which can help us put material possessions in their place. Our material needs are, as I may have mentioned, clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. 
     Additional material things are more or less essential for modern lifestyles, such as telephones, cars, and antibiotics. But they are not essentials for life. And they are less essential than more ordinary things like pots and pans, blankets, or shovels.
     Of course, a blanket will keep you just as warm if it new or used. But people who have mostly only ever had 'previously-owned' blankets feel more special when they get something that is new and just theirs, not someone else's adopted heirloom.
     I suspect our economy would be a lot healthier if every piece of stuff we have were as dear to us as our old velveteen rabbit.

December 21, 2008

Charity & Sustainability

     I'm sure some will find me Grinchy, but I have a problem with some of the requests in the Bee's Book of Dreams. WIND Youth Center wants more cooking utensils, but the picture shows unused equipment in the background, and hot dogs served on plastic plates in the foreground. Do they really need $$thousands to fill the gaps in their equipment? And no, I'm not interested in buying disposable diapers for someone who probably doesn't want cloth ones.
     Similarly, only new toys are acceptable donations for poor kids. But quality is more important than newness to any rational consumer. (Plus which, when I was a kid, one of our absolutely favorite toys was a packing barrel. We would take turns getting inside, rolling and being rolled.)
     Back in 1988 I helped start the local Greens because they were serious about integrating social AND ecological sustainability. (An example is my April post about "Soaring Food Costs.") So please don't settle for less. I certainly won't.

December 19, 2008

Inaugural Invocation & Hypocrisy

     The link (at right) to the video about President Moral Midget's International Medal of Peace (!!) awarded by Rick Warren adds another dimension to Obama's choice of Warren to give the invocation on January 20. 
     This discount version of Gore's Peace Prize comes from the P.E.A.C.E. coalition of over "400,000 churches in 162 countries." This stands for Promote reconciliation, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. According to Warren, Bush deserves this award for his "outstanding contribution in attacking the 5 global Goliaths of spiritual emptiness, corruption, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, and illiteracy."
     Listening to Bush talk about God, freedom, etc., I feel I am in looking-glass land. Whatever Bush may have actually done to help African AIDS victims is dwarfed by his criminal wars and all the death and destruction, past and future, that this unlawfully selected president bears responsibility for. What will he say to God? Will he get the karmic reflection of what he has inflicted?
     What does this choice say about Obama? I guess he wants to be a uniter, not a divider. But what is the moral way to unite with people who are apologists for terror? Choosing Warren is the next thing to pardoning Bush II for his international war crimes.
     As for us, we have another month to send a picture of the shoes we would like to throw at him to: President George 'Moral Midget' Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20006.

December 14, 2008

How To Train Great Teachers

According to Malcolm Gladwell in the Dec. 15 New Yorker, the "expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire" turn out not to make a difference in the classroom. As with pro quarterbacks and financial advisors, it turns out that the best way to get good teachers is to screen out those with known ineffective traits, put the rest to work and winnow them after a few years. 
     "Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree - and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before." The payoff is that really good teachers can cover the same material - and properly - in half the time a mediocre one will take. A really great teacher has "withitness," and can offer instant relevant feedback as needed.

Cutting Government Fat

     Steinberg and KJ both want to root out waste. Hiring a no-bid outside consultant isn't a good sign for KJ, but Steinberg's project is off to a better start. But the problem is the power of the people.
     How many people want to work themselves out of a job? How many people work just as conscientiously without a raise? Who wouldn't spin the truth for an extra $20? Answer: Somebody who knew that someone they know is watching.
     So the best way to root out waste is to relocalize, because it's always easier to notice mischief that's visible to the naked eye. Most authority and responsibility should be transferred from federal to state to county jurisdiction. The only question is what criteria to use to decide which few functions really require centralization.

December 9, 2008

Do-It-Yourself Economic Recovery

     Yes, you can do this at home!
     Reduce your expenses in the many ways that you hear about or read elsewhere. But don't stop there. Proceed to radically reconsider your true economic security, and review future plans for obtaining your real economic needs: clean air and water, healthy food, and warmth. 
     You have the ability to act now. You can convert your lawn to food production. (If you don't want to garden, invite someone else to grow there and share.) 
     You can replace your flush toilet with a composting toilet. (But you probably can't get a rebate on wastewater fees, because the Sacramento building code doesn't yet recognize this advanced technology.)
     You can make your own job, by analyzing what you can make or do that people need or want. The economy is really nothing but people taking energy and resources from the planet, and using them to do things for each other.

December 4, 2008

How to Bail Out Detroit And Not Lose Your Lunch

     The only way to make this a good investment for the average U.S. consumer is to absolutely require the vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to radically retool and switch to products that are more useful and more diverse. 
     Vehicle manufacturing is simply the last really big manufacturing industry left in this country. The rest, like textiles and bicycles, are all pretty much already offshore. Reclaimingand relocalizing the traditional basic processes at the base of the industrial pyramid can only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing freight transport, and increase economic security by making sure nothing is too big to fail.
     But back to the auto manufacturers. They need more discipline to get them in line with the mission of creating economic security for consumers. For instance, why can't the Detroit CEOs persuade the recently bailed-out financial institutions to lend them some of the hundreds of billions they have gotten from Congress and the Federal Reserve? Why is this a good deal for us taxpayers and not for Wall Street? Where are the vehicle finance companies? They seem to be financially healthy. What about the profitability of freight vehicles, not just passenger? 
     If, like Paulson, they can't answer questions like these in a responsive way that deserves our trust, we should administer more analytical discipline before loaning them any money. 

     The best way for U.S. taxpayers to not lose on this deal is to make sure we are investing in green enterprises that make things like food, lunches or shirts that *directly* provides for our needs. We don't *need* to drive.