Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bernie Sanders says we need a political revolution!

Published on Friday, August 17, 2001
U.S. Needs A Political Revolution
by Bernie Sanders

In the midst of the summer congressional recess, Congressman Bernie Sanders asserted today that the United States needs nothing less than a political revolution that will revitalize American democracy and move the country toward social justice.
At a time when more and more Americans are giving up on the political process, and when the wealthy and multi-national corporations have unprecedented wealth and power, Sanders said, it is imperative that we launch a grass-roots revolution to enable ordinary Americans to regain control of their country.

The tragic consequence of millions of low income and working people losing faith in the ability of the government to respond to their problems, is that today the United States has, by far, the lowest voter turnout of any major country. Meanwhile, the rich and multi-national corporations are pouring billions into the political process and both major political parties. The obvious result is that many candidates who are elected end up being more concerned about pleasing their wealthy benefactors than representing the needs of working people, children, the elderly or the poor.

It is no accident, Sanders continued, that while pharmaceutical and insurance companies donate huge sums of money into the political process, American citizens must pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Those same companies and their political donations ensure that the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not have a national health care program providing health care to all.

The rich hold $25,000 a plate fundraisers for their candidates. Why would they pay so much for a chicken dinner? The answer is, they want access and special favors. It is no accident that after raising more money from the wealthy for his campaign than any candidate in history, President Bush and the Republican leadership passed a $1.3 trillion dollar tax bill which provides $500 billion in tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. It is no accident that, rather than raising the minimum wage, the President and congressional leadership are providing billions in tax breaks and subsidies to the major oil, gas and coal companies. It is also, sadly, no accident that almost 20 percent of our children live in poverty, schools throughout the country are physically deteriorating, college graduates begin their careers deeply in debt and millions of working class people are unable to find affordable housing.

We need a political revolution in this country, Sanders concluded, one that will revitalize American democracy and move us toward social justice. We should make every effort to achieve the 60-80 percent voter turnout that takes place in most European countries, rather than the 36 percent who current estimates say will vote in 2002. Americans must  all Americans  enjoy a decent standard of living, rather than having, as at present, the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major nation. It is time for a political revolution to revitalize American democracy and move the country toward social justice.

Freedom and justice don't come easy. As the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglass said; Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. We can learn from Douglass, and from many of our ancestors who like he fought against the slavery inflicted on black Americans and the genocide and suffering perpetrated on Native Americans. Americans fought for decades for a democracy in which all people could vote, rather than just the rich and landed gentry. Women struggled for a century before they could fully participate in the political process. Working people fought for the right to organize labor unions.

In my view, the major struggle that we have now is for economic and social justice. Once again, Frederick Douglass anticipated the need for struggle:

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters."

We have the wealth and resources in this country today to end poverty, make health care available for all, and provide the best education in the world. We wont accomplish those goals, however, unless all Americans reclaim their democratic heritage by fully participating in the political process: by using the power to vote and speak and act for social justice.

A Mormon's View Of the 20th Century:: The Rise and Fall of the American Middle Class

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Mormon's view of the 20th Century: The Rise and Fall of the American Middle Class: Thoughts on the Korean War

Back to civilian life

I had no problem getting back into rhythm. It was as if I had never left. My hands had gotten soft so I fought blisters for a few days but my skill hadn’t diminished at all. Neither had my love for hard work. Neither was fatigue a factor. When I checked out of the army my height was listed at 5’11 3/4”. My weight was 180 pounds. I had grown nearly and inch and put on 35 pounds. It must have been the easy army life because in three months my weight was back down to 150 pounds.

I think, today at my age, I still remember accurately what my feelings were when I got home. I was just so glad to be home that nothing else mattered. But having relived it in writing this book, looking at all the pictures and researching some of the contemporary events,  my extrapolated attitude, as it were, is considerably different. I still feel that I got more from the experience than I gave. I feel proud of having served in what some call the best military unit of it’s day. Being in the army prepared me for later life. It gave me discipline that was lacking before. It also taught me that no matter what you do in life, there will always be someone trying to stop you or at least slow you down. In fact, I learned that sometimes it is best if someone does slow you down, or even stop you. It taught me that sometimes you are on the ragged edge all alone and you have to work your way throught it alone.  It taught me that you have no control over those who are sometimes in a position to make you do things that you know are not the best approach. Were it not for my two years active duty in the United States Army, I could not have been a policeman and probably not a very good building contractor.

There were 169,365 Americans who were killed, wounded, missing in action, or captured in the Korean War. 54,229 of those were killed and probably many of the wounded died of their wounds  or died earlier than they otherwise would have and, sadly, it was all for nothing. The day I was discharged they were still arguing over trivia. Most young people today don’t even know about the war. Korean vets never got so much as a free lunch when they were on leave. I feel no guilt about getting a stateside assignment. I do feel bad about my buddies from basic training who went immediately to Korea in April of 1951. Some of them surely died there.

The Korean War was totally preventable. It was a product of an insane foreign policy forced on Truman by people who used the “Red Scare” as a tool for gaining power. Some of those responsible had their own view of what China should look like that was totally at odds with what China wanted to be. Powerful business interests were so lacking in confidence of capitalism that they were afraid of it falling to system that was doomed to fail. Truman was also irrationally afraid of it but without the pressure from these groups, he probably would have acted differently. The only reason he continued to support Chiang was because he was forced to by political forces. The fact is, the Chiang regime was as brutal as Mao’s and more hated by the Chinese people.

That was bad enough but to blindly refuse to admit that China now had a different government and to refuse to communicate with them left Mao with the only logical, and correct,  conclusion that America wanted to destroy his revolution. If he had not believed this, he would most likely not have sent troops into Korea. Were it not for the egomania of McArthur, his insistence of surrounding himself with sycophants who only told him what he wanted to hear, his unforgivable racist disregard for Asians concommitant with the lack of preparedness, the troops in Korea would have easily squelched the invasion attempt. This was all exacerbated by his egomaniacal belief in his genius, his disregard for military battlefield organization, his disdain for civilian rule and, arguably, his personal desire to escalate the war.  The incompetence of this heretofore military genius assured the Chinese success and together with the political decisions led to the unneccesary death of all these Americans, not to mention the UN personnel.

So my adjusted attitude at the time of my discharge was resentment and sorrow for my fallen fellow soldiers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A glimpse of South Gate, CA in 1937

Snippet from my book

The San Juan Street Gang amazon.  I don’t remember much about San Juan except my cousin lived on it…and so did Valerie Rice. Ahh, Valerie, freckle faced, with braces and corn silk hair always braided! This game must have been after my stage debut and the strange stirrings inside that girls engendered because I would walk out of my way to walk by Valerie’s house to go somewhere. I was one of the few, if not the only one, that saw the beauty that was lurking in that awkward little girl body.  I don’t know if Valerie shared this enigmatic emotion but she seemed to be emerge when I was on the sidewalk in front of her house.

One overcast day, she didn’t. It was one of those winter days when it wants to rain but doesn’t,  the clouds hover overhead and the sun never makes it out. The kind of day that makes you lonely and wistful. I was about to head back home when a group of kids, older than me, walked down the opposite side of the street with a football and started to choose up sides for a game. I recognized some of them from Home Gardens but they were older. They recognized me too, I could tell, but they quickly looked away not wanting to appear too friendly to a younger kid from another gang; nothing hostile but not friendly. If any of them had been alone, we probably would have had a conversation.

The unusual thing about this game was that there was a girl involved. And she was chosen first! In 1937, in South Gate, girls didn’t play football with boys…at least not on San Gabriel. She was probably older than the rest and bigger than most. I believe she wore knee length shorts that were too small for her. As the game progressed, she held her own with the boys. On one play she ended up grappling with an opponent and a heated argument ensued. The boy, smaller than her, told her that he was going to rub her face in the dirt if she didn’t shut up. She swore at him, using the F word. I gasped! I knew the word but had never said it and I don’t believe any of our gang ever did, except maybe, no probably, Buddy Stephens.

This was too much for her male opponent to take and the fight was on. It was actually a pretty even match. They were both covered with dirt.  He was competing with a handicap. I knew how to “rassle” and he was breaking all the rules of good “rassling.” She was trying to hurt him and he was…well, he was more interested in what we later called copping a feel. She knew that and it made her all the more angry. It was humiliating for me, and I think for all the other boys too, to see a girl put a boy on the ground, sit on his back and rub his face in the dirt.  By now, he was humiliated too but it was too late. He finally freed himself, got up, grabbed a handful of dirt, moist dirt, and with a quick motion rubbed it in her face with the triumphant statement, “I warned you that I would rub your face in the dirt.” Personally, I was embarrassed for him and I think the rest of the players were too. The game never resumed and everyone left without speaking to each other. It was a sad day and probably set women’s rights back ten years. As I sadly walked home, I felt glad that Valerie never saw it happen. Valerie would never play football with boys!

It changed my attitude toward girls, subtly, but permanently. I avoided physical competition with girls. At Home Gardens every spring, we had a “Field Day,” track and field with competition limited to the same grade. Naturally, there were girls competition and boys competition.  I don’t like to brag but I won the 50 yard dash, broad jump and high jump every year I competed. Actually, I do like to brag…a little. My nearest competition was my best friend at Home Gardens, Johnny Jones.  No one else ever came close. The next year, or maybe the year after that, we had an influx of “Okies” fleeing the dust bowl. They dressed differently. They were even poorer than I was. Actually, by 1937, we were doing pretty well, better than average. These were tough kids, hardened by years on the road, living in camps and working the fields picking crops. We made fun of them at first but not for long. One became a friend of my little group, Nate, John Jones, Dick Gordon and one other whose name I can’t remember. We called the new kid, Okie. That’s all we knew him by. He never minded. He was only in school for one year.

There was another of the refugees who stands out in my memory. Her name was Helen. She wore the same dress every day as long as I remember. She was sorta cute but her hair was never combed. At the next Field Day, she wanted to compete with the boys because there weren’t many girls who competed. Girls in those days, for the most part, knew their place. I knew about Helen. She played kick ball in the school yard with the boys. She was strong, too strong, and she could run like a deer. Anyway, the teacher in charge was obviously considering making an exception. She commented that she thought Helen could compete with the boys and was just too good for the girls. What kind of deviate was this woman? How did she ever get a job teaching impressionable children?

I huddled with Johnny and we agreed that it was morally wrong to compete with girls. We, in effect, went on strike, telling the teacher that it was wrong to compete with girls and we wouldn’t take part. The chubby girl rubbing the guys face in the dirt was in the back of my mind…no, it was in the front of my mind. The teacher saw the light. You have to remember this was 1937! I won all the events, just edging out Johnny. Helen won every event she entered and that was all of them. I am real glad they didn’t keep time in those days.

The whole ugly scene was witnessed by Joan Johnley and Irene Grupe, the two most popular and prettiest girls in our grade, and who Johnny and I visited from time to time. When they asked us why we were afraid to race Helen, they smirked at our (my) answer and we dropped the subject.

Roosevelt still had his hands full with the Depression but we were inexorbaly climbing out of it. By 1940, our Gross National Product was virtually the same as it was before the crash and he was warily observing the  chaos in Europe and Asia.  In spite of opposition by the Republicans, Roosevelt quietly supported Britain and China with trade agreements and non-military support. Some feel that our lack of military support early on strengthened Axis resolve and lengthened the war.

Meanwhile the older members of my generation, my big brothers and older cousins were being honed in the crucible of the depression preparing them to become the greatest generation and literally and heroically save the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Mormon's view of the 20th Century: The Rise and Fall of the American Middle Class

My book is now available on Amazon and will soon be available on Kindle.

I take readers back to 1929, when America’s first economic crisis began. It is the story of the generation that experienced the Great Depression, the New Deal and three major wars, and grew into what I considered to be the strongest middle class in history and is now being emasculated by economic policies that shifted wealth from consumer to investor.  It is a mostly lighthearted story of my life in juxtaposition with deadly serious events in the last 82 years of our Nation's history. 

A snippet from circa 1937 in South Gate, California:

The parachute jump. We didn’t have television in those days. Some  had radios, we didn’t until later, but there wasn’t much on the radio for a kid except for the evening shows like Little Orphan Annie and Red Ryder.  We didn’t get bored, though, we could always find something to do…even when there wasn’t enough for a football or baseball game.  One day,  my big brother Jack,  in the absence of anyone his age to pal around with decided to honor Jimmy Rogers and me with his creative skills. He was going to make a parachute. Hadn’t he made kites for us! “After all, a parachute is just another kind of kite…one that a human could ride?!” He sold me. What did I have to lose!  And if I was sold, Jimmy, the only soul on earth whose soul I could control, would like it too.

This was much easier than making a kite…and he already had the materials: an old thin (thin meant lighter, Jack told us) worn out blanket that he borrowed from Bubbles’ (our big brother) bed in the garage and some small gauge rope that he had cut in four pieces. He carefully tied a piece of rope on each corner of the blanket. “It was important” he explained, “that the rope didn’t come off the blanket when the chute opened.” That was before the expression of “duhh” but that’s what I thought. I didn’t say how obvious it was because Jack could be testy and I didn’t want to be excluded from his experiement. Jimmy, I’m afraid, didn’t have many “duhhs.”  Much to my relief he spared us the explanation of why it was important to make it secure, and safe, with each corner. I was flattered. Maybe he was warming up to me as an intelligent playmate. He finished by tying the four ends together with an even more elaborate dissertation of safety and how it would make it easier to hang on to the chute.

I forgot to mention that he put the thing together on top of the garage. I don’t remember whether it was our garage or the Rogers’. When he was finished, he stood up proudly and proclaimed, “It’s ready for the test” and looked straight at me. I blinked a couple of times and realized that he was going to order me to jump from the garage with his contraption in my hands. I shook my head violently and started to say NOOO!  He was quick and rather than risk an open rebellion, he turned to Jimmy and gave him the honor of being the test jumper. Seizing the moment, I turned on Jimmy and slapped him on the back and told him how he would be the hero of the San Gabriel Gang. (actually, I probably said other kids).  Jimmy was always eager to please me (except to share a candy bar or ice cream cone) and reluctantly agreed.

Jack took over from there, explaining how he had to hold the knotted risers firmly in his hand and jump as high as he could to make sure there would be enough time for the “chute to open.” Exact words. I was getting so excited that I almost wished that I had had the courage that Jimmy was displaying. Almost! With everything except a drum roll, Jack held the tail end of the chute in his hand behind Jimmy and yelled GOO! Jimmy went. Well, it turned out it wasn’t as easy as making a kite. The chute never opened. Jimmy went down from about ten feet high in a full streamer, as later paratroopers called it. It didn’t break his fall much, if any. But it did adjust his body position so he landed on his back instead of his feet. Jimmy looked up, stared at us as if to say, “When will I ever learn not to trust you two a**holes” and ran screaming home. Jack and I never even had time to get off the roof (we climbed down the old fashioned way), before Mr. Rogers was out of the house and calling us the names that Jimmy had wanted to. We were told that Jimmy would never play with us again. This was worrisome because he owned 95% of the equipment, bats, balls, etc.. And, as a matter of fact, it was several days before he was allowed to talk to us.
But as we climbed out of the depression peacefully, Nazi Germany was climbing out violently. The new German airforce was training for the future take-over of Europe by bombing cities in Spain in support of Franco, who eventually took over the government and became a right wing dictator. Mussolini and Hitler became best friends. Mussolini adopted the word Axis to describe the alliance of countries, Germany, Japan, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. Germany, Italy and Japan became the three principle opponents of the Allies in WWII. Germany occupied the Rhineland unopposed in 1936. Japan continued it’s occupation and war with China and Chiang Ki-shek’s preoccupation with the communists made it easy for Japan. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Globalization for Dummies...

like me who bought into it. The only guy who got it right was the little guy with big ears and a brain, Ross Perot. He got it right. And America is paying the price and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

I was naive. I was educated in Economics and I saw what Clinton saw. Maybe he was naive too and maybe he was part of the new wave of corporaholics that saw big as better. What went wrong. Why was Bill and I so stupid?

I saw it as a beautiful way of exporting our middle class, our American standard of living to underdeveloped countries. I saw a world of regional specialization, where countries contributed what they had most of or did best. I saw the increased demand in labor enabling unions, collective bargaining, forcing wages up - just as it had done for us after WWII. Can anyone who lived and worked in the USA the 40 post war years deny that it happened here?  What went wrong. What did Perot know that Bill and I didn't?

He knew that instead of exporting affluence, we would end up importing poverty! I probably should have known it but my education in Economics blinded me with the love of free trade. But Bill should have known better. Free trade never had a chance. Maybe Bill didn't foresee what Reagan's supply-siders and the Bush Corporate cronies knew and wanted. They were not satisfied with a large but constant slice of an expanding pie, they insisted, and got, a larger slice of the pie. How did they do it? It was simple. Every third world country needed money to develop their economy. The money came from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; both pretty much controlled by the USA.

The money loaned to those underdeveloped countries always comes with the requirement of ending or preventing any workers rights. Consequently, the money saved by reduced labor costs never reaches the hands of the people forced to work at subsistence wages; instead, it ends up as increased profits and lower wages. The result has been the largest inequality in wealth distribution in history. This is a totally unsustainable situation and unless something is done soon will end up in a collapse that will make 1929 look like good times.

I voted for Obama and will vote for him in 2012 but with guys like Geithner and Bernanke on his team, I'm actually voting for the best of a bad outlook.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Obama stimulus package is working

to clean up the environment and reduce our dependence on oil.

I just had a solar panel electric system installed. It will accommodate approximately 90-95% of my power usage.  My panels were manufactured in the United States.

After California and federal rebates, the reduction in my power bill will amount to approximately 9% per year on my investment...which was previously earning less than 2% on corporate bonds. In addition to saving me money and kicking the oil addiction, it has created jobs for American workers not only for the workers installing the panels on my roof but those making the panels.