Sunday, November 24, 2013

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra - Deja Vu all over again.

The Koch Brothers' sycophants are out in force again. I use the Koch Brothers as a symbol for all the mega rich and the mega rich wannabes who have been bribing legislators for over two hundred years.

First, to set the tone, lets look at America's icon for right wing politics, the man who did more to dismantle the legislation that created the greatest middle class in history, Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was rolled out early in the fight against Medicare in 1965. Here he is in his infamous prophesy of doom speech. Even in his grave, he must be a little embarrassed.

Now with the blundered start of ACA, they are back at it. It is true that the Obama administration was careless (giving them the benefit of the doubt). As a liberal, I am disappointed in the way the president handled it from the beginning. I have to question his commitment to the liberal cause in general and health care specifically. Most liberals favored a single payer system but the more realistic of us realized that this was not possible given todays political configuration. A government option, where people had the option of buying into Medicare was possible and could have passed. Had it been included, the individual mandates would not have been necessary and the website problem would never have arisen. Ironically, the individual mandate was a GOP concept and was based on "making the deadbeats pay for their own insurance." It was adopted at the urging of Obama who thought it would eliminate GOB resistance. It didn't work. A GOP concept became a bad plan automatically when endorsed by Obama.  Ironically, again, the individual mandate included in Mitt Romney's Massachusett plan was a source of initial resistance. At this point in setting the plan up, the progress in the nation is further along than it was in Massacusetts.

Early in the webpage nightmare, the complaints were mostly from individual horror stories. Before I discuss it, we need to put some numbers on it - perspective. A very small percentage of the non-elderly population, 5.7% are in the individual market and the number of people at risk of not keeping their current individual health insruance and who also will not be income-eligible for financial help to purhchase new coverage under the AFA is less than 1 percent of the non-elderly populationOf course, it becomes very important if you are one of those negatively effected but in the macro picture, we are not looking at very many"victims". The importance is overly stressed by the "big story" oriented information media. It has been, unfortunately, unfairly addressed by the corporate ownership of that media.

Here are some of the arguments you hear in the dialogue:

1. Rates are going up. This is a duhh. Rates have been going up on health insurance premiums since health insurance was created and are growing now at an all-time low. Previously, the average annual rise was over 10%. Many, if not most of the horror stories stem from the minimum coverage requiremtnent of ACA. People were being sold or porvided junk voverage which amounted to nothing more than disaster coverage with a high deductible and low percentage coverage. Even most of these include a maximum benefit clause. In reality they had no health care coverage. Naturally, more inclusive and thus meaningful, coverage costs more. People are being charged more for better coverage.

2. Both sides wanted the AFA to fail; liberals because they want a single payer and conservatives because it is a bad law. It istrue that most liberals favored a single payer or, at least, a government option, but is doesn't make sense, and is not true, that they would want it to fail. The ACA is imperfect and even weak but it is an improvement and includes some 47 million people who were not previously covered. It also provides a system that can be tweaked and improved. The conservatives want it to fail, at best, because they think it will hurt business, and at worst because they want Obama to fail; and it's no secret that they want him to fail. An interesting aside; the media compares Obama's unpopularity with Bush's but there is no comparison. Bush's drop came from just one direction - center/left. Obama's is coming from both directions, the right which never liked him and never would or will simply because he is 1, an African American and 2, a democrat; and from the left, people like me, because we feel that he has sold out to the corporations.

3. It is hurting small business. This depends on how you define small business. The act defines it as a business that employs less than 51 people. These businesses will be subsidized by the government for 50% of their health care insurance costs. This is a tremendous advantage for the truly small businesses. To be fair with the critics however, even half of the added costs is still added costs and marginal businesses could be hurt. Businesses with more than 50 employees, think about it, 50 employees, are not really small.  If they can't afford to provide health insurance for their employees, maybe the shouldn't be in business.  Unless they are paying minimum wage (which is probably too often the case), the added cost of heath insurance has to be a relatively small increase in total cost of providing their product or service. Someone did a computation how much McDonald's would have to increase the price of a Big Mac, fries and a coke and it came out to about $1.50.  I would be glad to pay it and to be honest, probably wouldn't even know it.  After all, Carl Jr.'s had to increase their price too! Re-ntering the arena of liberal vs conservative, if the liberals had their way, businesses would  pay nothing for health care insurance and would be more competitive with foreign businesses where the government provides it. Interestingly, business leaders are the most vocal in opposing government provied health care. This epitomizes the collective intelligence and objectivity of corporate America.

Complaints are rife about how small business is being hurt. There are no details provided, however, of the size of the "small business" and of the details. It is hard to really understand without details. It is also hard to understand exactly how they know how they are being hurt as the requirement is not as yet effective. One complaint has legs  and this is the fact that some businesses are cutting back on hours of employees so they will not be full time employees as defined by AFA. I know for a fact that this is true. This is a weakness in the act that was unforseen by the legislators. In restrospect, it is hard to understand why it was unforseen given the "bottom line" tunnel vision of business leaders and owners. Personally, I think the weakness was deliberately included as an escape clause for business.

One horror story with a face is the plight of the benevolent Goodwill Industries. If there was ever a business misnamed, that is the one.

4. ACA is just another step in the inevitable government take over. This, of course, is nothing more than sophistry and it is difficult to disprove this kind of argument. I will just point out that I have been waiting for the government "takeover" since the New Deal legislation was passed in the early thirties. I have been covered by Medicare since I turned 65 nearly 20 years ago. My wife has been covered for the last 13 years. I can't count the number of office visits, rehabilitation hours and various therapy we have had but there has been three heart surgeries, two knee replacements, another knee surgery, two foot surgeries, rotator cuff surgery, two hand surgeries and a thyroidectomy. I may have forgotten some! The total cost to us, aside from our very reasonable monthly premiums has been $40. Never have we seen a government employee. The only time we talk to one is when we have a question obout Medicare. I see any doctor I want. I haven't ran into a doctor, other than a chiropractor, that didn't accept Medicare.  I call the specialist and unless they require a referral, I don't need one. This saves money as there is one doctor visit that is not required. I should point out that I am still a responsible citizen who pays taxes and contributes to the economy. I have built probably more than 35 house that have become homes for someone and paid taxes on my profits and payroll taxes on my employees.

The Ronald Reagan speech linked above sums up the emptiness of the right wing argument and the futility of trying to overcome their singlemindedness. If the recent GOP obstructionism and the weakened economy does not provide enough reaction to overcome the Teaparty 51, we will see the type of government that those waiting at the bottom for the elevator to come back down and take them to the top have haplessly enabled.

Recommended reading:

Monday, November 4, 2013

State of disUnion

The end of democracy?
I've been around awhile. I was born before Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected and became, IMO, the greatest American president. I witnessed the hate thrown at him by the media and political opponents. I saw Harry Truman at his best and worst; I saw Ike, unspectacularly become a great president and Ronald Reagan, one of the most loved president, probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's and led by his right wing mega rich backers, start the dismantling of the banking reforms and pro union legislation of the New Deal, and watched as this dismantling lead to the great recession and the unstable and endangered economy of today.

I never dreamed, however, that I would see what we are experiencing today. I first became politically aware when I was a young man in the 50's while serving in the army in the south. I witnessed the shameful mistreatment of African Americans (colored or Negros, then) and to a lesser extent, Mexican Americans. Even in the turbulent 60's with all the conservative resistance to the civil rights movement, the political process was at least honest.  The hatred that drove the resistance then was open.  But it was driven underground by the success of integration and early affirmative action, and the emerging of the black athletic superstars. The election of a black president, however, has re-opened it. It is somewhat more subtle now, more disguised, as it were, but just as ugly. The Teaparty, financed by the mega rich like the Koch brothers and fueled by an irrational, even frantic,  hatred of the president and government, have managed to shut down the government process to a large degree. Fifty one congressmen from districts so carefully gerrymandered that they are insulated from electoral competition have campaigned on the mantra that government doesn't work and have made their only goal to make sure they are right. Even in the senate where this attitude is tempered only by the fact that they are elected at large the only goal has been to make sure that Obama fails.

The GOP has used the veto, threat of the veto actually, to  block most legislation and filling many critical appointments. In short, we no longer have democracy. It is an embarrassment throughout the world. The only thing on which the two parties can agree is the killing of suspected terrorists and twice as many innocent people. The short fix would be to pass a constitutional amendment permitting states to secede with a 50.01% vote. I'm joking, of course, but it would be an interesting solution with ironic consequences.

Government Shut down
The recent government shut down is the epitome of the problem. The out of control House of Representatives with it's 51 Teaparty lunatics, tried to hold the country, including their own clueless constituents hostage with their withholding funds to finance the government. Sorting through all the verbiage there are two principal issues (other than the goal of the Teaparty to make government fail): One is the conservatives attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the other is the issue of revenue. The Democrats want to reduce the deficit by increasing the marginal tax rates on high incomes. This is universally opposed by the GOP who would prefer reducing the deficit by decreasing expenditures on what they call entitlements. Their preferences are mostly embodied in the Ryan proposed budget. Democrats consider this to be balancing the budget on the backs of the poor. Whatever it is called, it clearly depends more on spending cuts which effect lower income groups than on raising marginal tax rates on high incomes.

Where the increased rates would start varies from $250,000 to $300,000 incomes but has always been subject to negotiation. This would be a raise of $30 annually for every $1000 dollars of income above the income selected. Really barely noticeable by the tax payer with no effect on the level of economic activity. Cuts in entitlements would be less affordable with immediate consequences to economic activity.

Without consideration for the relative merits of the two plans, the way the Teaparty 51 approached the issue is unconscionable! The 16 day stoppage has cost the economy $24 Billion. This has hurt everyone. In addition to the economy, the right wing of the Republican party has put another nail in the GOP coffin. In all likelihood, the 51 will take a hit but still maintain control of the House and, totally oblivious to good of the nation, will continue to cripple the legislative process.

Embarrassed Republicans and their apologetic sycophants have been trying to rewrite history again. They are trying to focus blame on Democrats for "being unwilling to negotiate."  This argument fails from the start. You don't start negotiations by taking hostages. The Teaparty and some in the senate were willing to destroy the economy, to force defunding a law that has already been enacted. It's like a football game when the quarter ends with one team having the ball on the opponent's one foot line. The team on defense wants to change goals but leave the ball on the same goal. Or as illustrated in this conversation:

"I'd like to burn your house down."
"How about if I just burn the second floor."
"Then just let us flood your basement."
"You are refusing to negotiate."

I'm sorry, friends, this was  GOP attempted extortion from the beginning. Support dropped off one by one as they were about to drive the nation over the cliff and their constituency pointed the finger at them.

The ACA computer glitch
This was a massive administration blunder. This is typical of what is happening in so many areas with the push for privatization.  One only has to look to the breaches in national security with private corporations being charged with sensitive issues. Think Edward Snowden and Blackwater!  The GOP has been making hay with the situation and trying to use it as evidence of a bad law.  The law is sound.  Implementation is flawed by the computer glitch.  The 14 states who sat up their own system have been signing up applicants with much less difficulty. Just as with early problems with Medicare and Bush's Medicare Part D reform, problems will be worked out.  The government needs to set up central repositories with registered providers and hire the best computer programmers in the world to work out the bugs - then fire the private contractors along with Kathleen Sibelius.

The whole thing could have been avoided with a single payer or even a government option making Medicare available to all, without the individual mandate. Make those not buying pay more income taxes. We are the only nation in the western world that doesn't make health care a right. It's interesting to note that governments with universal health care systems are among those with the lowest citizen's perception of corruption. The United States ranks among the worst with 73%.  Obama's failure to push for either of these options was the first clue we got that he was in bed, to some extent anyway, with the insurance companies.  The appointment of wall street based advisers was the first clue that he was in bed with the big banks.

This is the shame of the Obama administration. Given, that the same thing would have been happening under Romney were he elected and it is better than the Bush/Cheney doctrine of invasion, it is never-the-less murder and is not what we liberals voted for.  The alternatives being offered are unsatisfactory. The most acceptable is Alan Grayson's who would leave it up to the countries where the terrorists are located to hunt them down.  To make his point, Grayson had the victims of a drone attack testify before congress. Not mentioned by anyone, even Grayson, is the option of pulling out our fleet from the gulf, leaving the oil companies to hire their own protection and pushing harder for electric vehicles. Not only is the drone attacks a violation of Christian teachings (What would Jesus say?), they are counter productive. Some say they create 40-60 new enemies with each attack! Many of the new potential terrorists are home grown according to an opinion in CNN.

Where do we go from here?
The 2014 elections are going to tell us a lot about what is going to happen to our nation in the future. A recent poll shows a deepening distrust of government. If the constituents in enough of the 51 Teaparty districts wake up to what is happening and realize that they are not immune to what will happen with the continued efforts of these representatives to destroy government, there is hope. If not, we will see another 1929.  It may be that the results of the continuing sequestration have already taken us to a point of no return. So far, the negative impact has been felt only by lower income groups. The middle class is disappearing and income disparity is increaseing to the point that, globally as well as in the USA, there will be no more customers to buy the products that are produced. War goods can only employ so many people! For liberals like myself, who have declared themselves independents because of lack of respect for Obama, we have no place to go. I cannot support the modern GOP.

Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Recommended reading

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rape on an American Family - a novel by Brooks W. Wilson

Longer synopsis:
Rape of an American Family: 4 Generation Family Predator
By: Brooks W. Wilson
This is a novel about a child molester who victimized four generations of children in his family.  The author is a former police officer. While this is a fiction,  it epitomizes situations occurring daily in our society.

Bart Ferguson was born in Stillwater Oklahoma to a dysfunctional family. His father was a drunk and molested his daughter who fled to California.  He abandoned the family when Bart was young.  Bart was bright but had to leave school early to help his mother.  His proclivity for sex with young females emerged when he was a teenager and he was caught molesting two of his young cousins.

He was forced to leave home and matured while “riding the rails” as it was called in the days of the depression.  He was industrious and bright but remained uneducated.  He was a gifted mechanic and had a good head for business but he was ignorant and professed knowledge he didn’t have.  He was crude and short on personal hygiene.  He arrived in Long Beach, California and found work as a mechanic.  He located his older sister, Olivia, a divorcee with two children and they became a family.  Once again, his compulsive sex perversion got him in trouble.  Livie discovered he had molested her daughter by manipulating her vagina with his finger.  Livie moved out of Bart’s home and remarried.  Her new husband learned of Bart’s molesting his new step daughter, Bart’s  own niece, and forced him to leave the area.

Bart ended up in the army and was very successful.  His skills as a mechanic gave him a part time business while at Fort Hood and made him popular with the officers who exploited his skill.  He married  Mattie Harper, a young divorced mother from California.  Mattie caught Bart manipulating her daughter, Cindy,  sexually while bathing her and beat him unconscious with a hand mirror.  He was cashiered from the army without prosecution.  He returned to California and set up a successful auto repair shop in Gardena.  While there he met Connie Cross, a young woman with two pre-teen daughters, Nancy and Mary.  Their father had been killed in the war. It was a situation made to order for Bart; a beautiful wife and two new victims. 

Bart and Connie were married and Connie’s family, the Rileys, adopted Bart as one of their own and accepted him, more or less, as their intellectual leader. He wasted no time on attacking his two new step daughters.  Mary, the younger of the two, resisted verbally while Nancy was totally intimidated and was abused for years until she left home and married.  Mary married a young man, Bruce McDougal who had been in the army; he immediately clashed with Bart. Bruce worked in construction and then became a police officer.  Ironically, Bruce knew the family of Bart’s first wife, Mattie. She had returned to Riverside and was in the real estate business with her father. When Bruce retired from law enforcement, he built houses for Mattie and her father in the Riverside area.  Bruce was married to one of Bart’s victims and was in business with another; and unknown to him, he was the father of two more.  Bart continued his criminal rampage on his family for years, victimizing Nancy’s daughter, two of Mary and Bruce’s daughters, and his own blood granddaughter.

He was exposed when his wife Connie died and Bruce and Mary’s daughters saw evidence after Connie’s funeral that he was molesting his great granddaughter.  His exposure led to a complete and irreparable schism in Mary and Nancy’s families.  Nancy’s family chose to marginalize and even forgive Bart’s crimes in hopes of inheriting his money. Bruce, who had found out that his own daughters had been victims, became focused on making Bart pay for his crimes. Bart was tricked into a taped confession by a family member of his first victims back in Oklahoma.  Even with the incriminating results of a lie detector test that Bruce had forced him to take and the taped confession,  Nancy’s family never acknowledged his guilt.  Nancy was prosecuted for forging Bart’s signature on a check.  She pled guilty and received probation.  Bart died in disgrace and virtually friendless but still defended by part of the family.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

JCPenney Keystone Kop Kooks! Avoid them like a plague.

This would be funny if it happened to someone else.
In 2008 we bought this very comfortable love seat recliner - pictured below. It is called, by Caye, Phundamental Console.
 You will please observe that the left footrest is extended - this is important. It was manufactured by Caye Upholstery, LLC.  Avoid them too.

In January, 2013, we purchased a single recliner.  The model is Jillian. It's a piece of doodoo but I blame myself.  I sat in it for about 20 seconds on the store floor. It was well used and the recliner control was worn and easily manipulated.  When I got the new one,  the control was so stiff that I had to call a neighbor to help me manipulate it.
Note that these two pieces of furniture look nothing alike and, even without the model numbers and names, a verbal description on the phone should clearly distinguish them; like red vs brown, single vs double, etc.

In April, the cable on the console broke.  It is a tiny cable, about 8-10 gauge  and it connects the finger pull on the arm to the ratchet release that pushes the foot rest out.

The only way we can use it extended is to turn the sofa upside down and release the ratchet manually. In the picture it is so positioned.  The problem is that every time some sits in it, they push the rest back and it is locked in the position shown on the right seat. 

I called JCPenney and they were very courteous. By way of side-note, they are always courteous.  When they end up telling you they have just ripped you off, and no one will, or can, help you, they are extravagantly apologetic.  Their employees get minimum wage and are incapable of deviating from their script regardless of the degree of outrage you express. Anyway, they gave me the phone number of their service department. I called them.  I couldn't give them the exact date of my purchase but I didn't expect it to be under warranty and was willing to pay for the part and the service.  I gave them the model number, manufacturer and serial number.  I was placed on hold, for a long time.  Then the agent told me that the piece was no longer under warranty but the part was.  I was elated. It was probably worth $5.  They told me that the part would be shipped and as soon as it arrived, I was to call them back and they would send a technician out to install it. I was even more elated, the entire process never took much longer than two hours!

As the date approached for arrival, I got a phone call from JCPenney service and the woman asked me for clarification,  "was the part  a cord or a cable?" I was confused.  "I don't know what terminology you use for it but it is a metal cable to me,  a cord implies a rope, string or electric." She replied that she was referring to an electric cord.  "This is a recliner," I told her, "how could you possibly think it was a cord and not a cable? "Some of the new advanced models have electric cords," she told me somewhat pedantically.  I was getting a little annoyed.  It was clear to me that the part had not yet shipped. I reminded her that they had the model and serial number as well as the manufacturer and there shouldn't really be any confusion.  She must have been a higher paid employee because she digressed from the script and told me in what could only be described as a snotty manner that  she just wanted to make sure I received the right part. She didn't know when it would be shipped - that wasn't her department!

After I hung up, I called the first number I had called and related the call.  The agent had no idea who had called but assured me that they knew what part to ship and it should have been shipped two weeks ago.  She told me she would call the manufacturer and call me back.  She gave me her name and the order number.  The day ended and no one called me back.  The next day, I called and related the order number and it was as if they had never heard of me.  She asked me the date of purchase, etc. and placed me on hold.  Twenty minutes later she told me that the sofa was purchased from their outlet warehouse and that the sofa was no longer under warranty.  I asked to speak to the Valerie, the agent who I had talked to the day before. Valerie was on break but they would have her call me back.  The day ended and Valerie never called me back.

I called again the next day and asked for Valerie.  I finally got to talk to Valerie and she had things under control.  She told me to just ask for her because she was on top of it. She told me that she couldn't call the manufacturer the day before because they were closed but had talked to them today and the part would be shipped the next day and I should have it in two weeks.  Don't forget to call us as soon as it arrives, she reminded me.  I was still a little concerned but happy.  The arrival day came and no part.  I called and was assured that it had been shipped and to be patient.  I was running out of patience and told them so. 

The next day I received a call from the same woman I had talked to earlier about "cable or cord."  She once again wanted to know whether it was a cable or cord.  I lost it at this point and my voice was elevated (my wife was worried about disturbing the neighbors).  She hung up on me and when I called the number she had called from, no one there knew who or what I was talking about.  I called Valerie and she had no clue as to who had called me but the part  was shipped and not to worry. The part arrived the next day. It was neither a cable or cord.  It was a handle!! It was a handle that might be for the red recliner pictured above.

I was livid at this point and called Valerie.  She was very apologetic and exuded efficiency. They would replace the recliner with a brand new one.  Three delivery dates came and went and no recliner. Now we are in the month of July, late July, six months later.  Finally I was given the exact day for delivery.  The trucking company had no instructions for picking up the old one but I got that cleared up. The day of delivery came.  The driver called me early in the window I was given for delivery.  He would be here in five minutes.  He was. A knock on the door. I answered. They were delivering the Jillian - the red one pictured above.  I felt my heart fibrillating, or something.  I knew I had to kill someone, but I wasn't sure who.  Surely not the two polite young men who were just doing their job. He made some calls and told me that the order number they gave me was for a Jillian.  I told them to take it back to wherever they got it.  They took it somewhere. 

I called the service department and Valerie was on her day off.  I gave them the order number and the woman started all over - when did you purchase it. I lost my cool.  My voice wasn't elevated but it was deadly.  It dripped with venom.  Let me talk to the boss, I hissed.  Can you hold please?  Twenty minutes! Finally a woman answered.  How can I help you, she asked.  My voice became a little more elevated and still dripped with venom.  I gave her a brief rundown and she was quick to respond.  She was a FLOOR SUPERVISOR!. A brief conversation and the problem was solved. I was to go to the nearest JCPenney store and buy a recliner of my choice, someone would pick up the old one and I was to get a refund for the purchase price of the original. It would be a check in the amount of $702.  I thought I had payed more but I'm not complaining because it was out of warranty and all I wanted originally was a $5 part.  JCPenney has come through! I asked the FLOOR SUPERVISOR how the store would know what was going on and she said give them the order number.  I told her that the order number last time got us a Jillian replacement.  No problem, she said, I will know!  I will personally make sure you are reimbursed the day the old one is picked up.  To be sure, I repeated that the old one was made by Caye and was a console two seater. No problem.

The very next day, early the very next day, we drove to Montclair and went to the furniture department of the JC Penney story where we had bought the Jillian.  The only problem was that they had no recliners and no store in the area had any recliners and they didn't know when they would get any.  It was the same woman that had sold us the Jillian.  I told her the situation and she told me she would call the service department and ask them what to do. The FLOOR SUPERVISOR I had talked to was not at work yet.  I was to go home and wait for them or the Montclair JCPenney to call me.  No one called. I called the service department.  The FLOOR SUPERVISOR was not available.  I'm on the edge.  Someone needs to help me, I hissed.  I thought I was quite scary.  Finally, I talked to someone higher than the FLOOR SUPERVISOR. That order number is for a Jillian recliner she told me. The console was bought years before from our outlet store and there is no warranty. Now I'm over the edge.  I was so loud and angry (no profanity) that I was scaring my wife.  "ALL I EVER WANTED WAS A STINKING PART FOR THE STINKING CONSOLE SO I COULD GET SOMEONE TO FIX IT"  I screamed, "AND I WAS TAKEN DOWN THIS SIX MONTH PATH OF BROKEN PROMISES AND FRUSTATION." 

The JCPenney super supervisor was above the fray - obviously paid over the minimum wage.  She told me that all they could or would do for me is to refund my money for the Jillian. I screamed some more but decided that I hated the Jillian so I would take the deal.  The Jillian was to be picked up on a certain date and they would put the refund on my CC.  I don't have that card anymore, I told her.  Major problem. Since I bought it with my CC they could only refund it via my CC.  How about my new CC. No, it has to be the same one. I demanded to talk to someone else.  I seemed to me that the JCPenney inflexibility was not possible.  She told me that she would check further and then call me back.  I screamed NO, that nobody from JCPenney ever called back and I want an answer now.  Twenty minute hold.  OK, she said, we CAN give you a refund by check.  It would go out on Monday.  OK.  Five minutes later she called back and told me that the check would go out the next morning. I'm so beaten that I actually felt like I had won.  OK, thank you.

The next day, I received a call from JCPenney.  We can only pay you the price in cash, the tax will have to be a gift certificate. I'm fighting a desire to hit someone. No one is around. I finally agreed.  This time I never said thank you.  I said I'm going to give it to the closest drunk in the area of your store and tell him it has to be used that day.  She laughed.

Here's what I am thinking of doing.  If the check comes before the pickup, I'm going to show them the console as the piece they are supposed to pick up - or not answer the door when they come to pick it up. I'm sure they will never know the difference.  Is this dishonest?  


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Conservatives vs. liberals historically

The Declaration of  Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

First paragraph makes it clear that it reflects the liberal view: equality of opportunity and affirms the purpose of government which derives its power from the people and exists for the purpose of protecting their rights; safety and happiness.

Conservatives are more concerned with government protection of commerce; an important function but only as it exists for the purpose of ensuring the citizen’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Modern conservatives see the “rights to life” as only pertaining to anti-abortion and not to rights to health after birth. Conservatives see corporations as having all the rights of people without the concomitant responsibility.

The Revolutionary war.
Liberals brought it about.
Conservatives remained loyal to the king.

The Bill of Rights.
Conservatives, called Federalists then, opposed the bill of rights. Liberals or Anti-federalists insisted on a promise of it before approving the original constitution. Basically the Bill of Rights articulated individual and human rights.

Women’s right to vote.
“The opposition to women's suffrage in the United States included organizations like the National Organization Against Women's Suffrage and women like Helen Kendrick Johnson. In New York, upper class women who thought they had a behind-the-scenes voice often opposed suffrage because it would dilute their influence. At first the anti-s let the men do the talking, but increasingly they adopted the mobilization techniques pioneered by the suffragists. The antis easily won the 1915 New York State referendum, using the argument that women voters would close the saloons. But the suffragists won the 1917 referendum, arguing that the saloons were Germanic (at a time when Germany was hated); the Tammany Hall machine in New York City deserted the antis as well. Nationwide, male voters made the decision and the opposition was led by Southern white men (afraid that black women would vote), ethnic politicians (especially Catholics whose women were not allowed a political voice) and the liquor forces (who realized correctly that most women would vote dry”

Lend Lease – the program to provide equipment and supplies for the governments fighting the Nazis.
The American position was to help the British but not enter the war. In early February 1941 a Gallup poll revealed that 54 percent of Americans were unqualifiedly in favor of Lend-Lease. A further 15 percent were in favor with qualifications such as: "If it doesn't get us into war," or "If the British can give us some security for what we give them." Only 22 percent were unqualifiedly against the President's proposal. When poll participants were asked their party affiliation, the poll revealed a sharp political divide: 69 percent of Democrats were unqualifiedly in favor of Lend-Lease, whereas only 38 percent of Republicans favored the bill without qualification. A poll spokesperson also noted that, "approximately twice as many Republicans" gave "qualified answers as...Democrats."

Opposition to the Lend lease bill was strongest among isolationist Republicans in Congress, who feared that the measure would be "the longest single step this nation has yet taken toward direct involvement in the war abroad." When the House of Representatives finally took a roll call vote on February 9, 1941, the 260 to 165 vote fell largely along party lines. Democrats voted 238 to 25 in favor and Republicans 24 in favor and 135 against.

The vote in the Senate, which took place a month later, revealed a similar partisan divide. 49 Democrats (79 percent) voted "aye" with only 13 Democrats (21 percent) voting "nay." In contrast, 17 Republicans (63 percent) voted "nay" while 10 Senate Republicans (37 percent) sided with the Democrats to pass the bill.

Actually the aid was already happening. Roosevelt did it without approval from Congress. The aid, arguably, prevented an Axis victory and the end of freedom.  A collateral and important benefit was the end of the depression and proof of the Keynesian theory.

Integration of the armed forces – Order signed in 1948
Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

Opposed by the conservatives and most of the officers and noncommissioned officers in the  armed forces.  I personally experienced the integration of the 82nd Airborne in 1951 and it was ugly.

Integration of the in schools in 1954.
Violently opposed by the conservatives.

Governor Wallace blocking school house door - 1954
The right to an equal education had been granted to African American students in 1954 by the United States Supreme Court, when it ruled that segregation was illegal. Governor Wallace of Alabama personally stood at the entrance to a Alabama school to turn away black students. 

Unfortunately, three years later, many African Americans were still being forced to go to separate and inferior schools. African Americans also still suffered under "Jim Crow" laws that forced them to use separate public facilities from whites. Especially in the South, city buses, restaurants, hotels, public bathrooms and even public water fountains were segregated.

In spite of the repression, courageous African Americans, as well as some equally gallant whites, challenged segregation. These freedom fighters met resistance from segregationists at every turn. The segregationists fought back not only in the court room, but on the streets, hurting and even killing African Americans and other supporters who spoke up for equality.  A republican governor blocked a group of black students from entering a previously all white school.

September 23, 1957 was no ordinary school day for Elizabeth Eckford and eight other African American teenagers in Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock Central High School, like many schools across the country, was segregated. Only white students were allowed to attend. But the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation, or the legal separation of blacks and whites in public facilities, was illegal. And these nine students, who would be known as The Little Rock Nine, would be the first African Americans to attend Little Rock's Central High.

As they drove toward the school that morning, the students knew what awaited them--an angry group of white protesters. Just a few weeks before, the nine had walked past just such a crowd to the high school's entrance. That morning, Arkansas National Guardsmen had turned the nine away, and, along with police, stood by while the mob pelted the black students cars with stones, assaulted them, and threatened their lives. But even though they were scared, the nine hadn't given up. Like many of the figures in what came to be known as the Civil Rights movement, they would keep trying.

African Americans also still suffered under "Jim Crow" laws that forced them to use separate public facilities from whites. Especially in the South, city buses, restaurants, hotels, public bathrooms and even public water fountains were segregated.

In spite of the repression, courageous African Americans, as well as some equally gallant whites, challenged segregation. These freedom fighters met resistance from segregationists at every turn. The segregationists fought back not only in the court room, but on the streets, hurting and even killing African Americans and other supporters who spoke up for equality.

The civil rights movement in general:

This has been a knockdown, drag out fight from the beginning with probably the clearest delineation of libeal vs conservative. As recent as the late 1960s, blacks, particularly in the south were prohibited from voting, eating in white restaurants, staying in white hotels and living in white neighborhoods. For an American
Selma Alabama march
younger than 55, it may be hard to believe how black people and, in some parts of the country, latinos were treated.  I witnessed it. Every step forward for gaining access to the advantages that whites had was resisted by the GOP (Eisenhower and Nixon excepted).  White conservatives had their own vernacular: Martin Luther Coon,  MLK day was called “nigger day,” Federal Bureau of Integration, etc.  Speaking out in favor of equal rights by a cop was risking ostracization.  There was no doubt in the conventional wisdom of the right that the communists were behind the civil rights movement and that the NAACP was a communist front organization.

The great crash and the Glass-Steagall Act.
In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the financial crash was caused by a speculation binge that involved commercial banks over-extending themselves with their clients’ money in a totally unregulated market, conservatives opposed passage of such legislation as  The Glass Steagall Act, also known as the Banking Act of 1933, that would regulate such activity.  In addition, the legislation set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation which protected deposits by individuals

Social Security.
This was passed over the resistance of the conservatives.

Passed over the objection of the conservatives using their mantra of fear like in this ad featuring future president Ronald Reagan.

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
As early as 1904, liberals had been trying to keep children out of the work place but it was always opposed by business and their conservative friends in the legislature. In 1938, as part of the new deal, child labor laws were enacted, along with other labor standards were passed as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal. The act was opposed by republican and its provisions have been under attack since.

Minimum wage.
Conservatives have opposed every increase in the minimum wage.

Air pollution .
Government has been aware of deadly pollutants since the early forties and efforts to deal with it have been resisted by polluting businesses and their conservatives in the government from the start.  Los Angeles had a fair public transportation system in the forties but it was systematically dismantled by friends, in government, of the auto, oil, and rubber industries. A good mass transit system is vital to cleaner air.

The current recession.
This recession is a direct result of wall street practices that were made possible by dismantling of the Glass - Steagall Act and concentration of wealth at the top engendered by tax cuts for the upper income groups.  This, along with the oil wars, all supported by conservatives, is the reason for a dangerous deficit.

Efforts to apply Keynesian economics in an effort to stimulate the economy, even though they were proved effective in the thirties, have been resisted and marginalized by the use/threat of the filibuster by conservatives. The conservatives (republicans as currently being lead), have stated that their number one objective is making Obama an one-term president.  In other words, his failure is more important than reviving the economy.

In conclusion.
Looking back over the years, it is difficult to see one thing that the conservatives have accomplished or advocated that has been good for the people of the United States.  To me, the primary value of the conservative politicians in our history was to provide a mass of inertia, a crucible, as it were, through which progressive ideas and movements have to pass in order to become public policy.

Today, the GOP has been effectively taken over by a handful the extreme right calling themselves the Teaparty. Through gerrymandering, more than 50 seats in the house have been assured to be occupied by ultra conservative representatives.  This almost assures that no legislation by Obama will be passed. Supported by the GOP leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who either supports the Teaparty or is intimidated by them, along with the exorbitant and unprecedented use of the filibuster the mantra of the GOP has become that government does not work and their goal is to make sure it doesn't. 

It’s perhaps symptomatic that the one vote against a declaration of war by congress after Pearl Harbor was cast by Jeanette Rankin, a conservative republican from Montana!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking for a new party

Both the old ones have sold out to the corporations and/or The Project for a New American Century (PNAC). I don't like what my country has become and neither of the present parties are going to change it. I have just read Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill and am still in a state of shock. I am not surprised at what Bush did.  He not only admitted it, he boasted of it - both before and after the murders. I would expect it from his team, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Gates, McRaven, McChrystal, Patraeus, et. al., but I was dismayed to learn that Obama, except for the invasions, has adopted the same murderous policies and, for the most part, the same perpetrators.

Political assassinations started long ago, at the beginning of the cold war.  The CIA has bloody hands and a history of incompetence.  Read Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner.  In those days, an out of control CIA was at least limited in scope and in the shadows.  Today, we have declared the the entire war a battlefield and have adopted terrorist techniques that puts Bin Ladin to shame.

After 9/11, Rumsfeld put the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) under the White House. This hasn't changed under Obama. Personally I feel betrayed by Obama.  He campaigned on a promise to end the wars.  What he really meant was to end the wars in their existing, if war can ever be called civilized, civilized way - with rules. Make no mistake about it, the concept of killing people because they might someday attack us - even if their is only a 1% chance of that happening - began with Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Israel first minded Neocons.  His plan was much more grandiose and impractical.  He would invade the offending countries and/or reduce them to rubble. After the fiasco in Iraq, it was refined by Rumsfeld and Bush, replacing invasion with, kidnappings, renditions, torture and assassinations. Sometimes with the JSOC and later (after Rumfeld's resignation) by attacks by the CIA.

These are things, we liberals expect from the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and PNAC, but we have been totally ambushed by Obama who has established a new paradigm for assassination at the same time he has lowered the bar nearly to ground level for identification of targets.  Every Tuesday, Obama meets with the leader of the JSOC, reviews the hit list, decides on the final list and gives his approval. The lists are compiled by what may be the worst intelligence agency in the world and includes de facto complimentary killings for the war lord or tribal chieftain in Somalia or Yemen in exchange for their fighting Al Quaeda. Of course Al Quada had no significant presence in the Arabian Peninsula or the African Horn until mindless policy in Iraq and Afghanistan created a recruitment field of victims.  Now Al Quaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a thriving organization. The Somalian Al Quaeda is less populous but healthy enough to provide a means for the nominal leader in Somalia to extort Billions of dollars every year in exchange of their suppression efforts.

Our policies are self defeating. Every drone killing or secret JSOC operation kills more innocent bystanders than actual terrorists - sometimes, in fact, there are no terrorists killed, just innocent people. Each operation leaves a pool of Al Quaeda recruits. Our hit list is growing mathematically while our enemies are growing exponentially.  We can't win. At least the American people can't win.  The war industry, munitions manufacturers and mercenaries like Blackwater are doing very well - and our oil supply lines are well protected by our military. Anwar Al Alawaki is an example of an American Muslim who was transformed into a traitor. He was a Republican had voted for Bush because he "admired his family values" and his sermons initially decried the 9/11 attackers as enemies of true Islam. He morphed into a Muslim who supported the actions of Al Quaeda. Alawaki was changed not just because of policies in Iraq and Afghanistan but by FBI harassment and probable attempts, early on,  to enlist his aid as a spy by setting him up on a prostitution solicitation arrest; activity that was totally inconsistent with his life and for which he was never tried.

Scahill's book chronicles a shameful litany of mistakes we've made since 9/11 in our "Global War On Terror
(GWOT) and our declaration that "he whole world was a battlefield." Since becoming the neighborhood cop, or bully as some would say, we have violated the sovereignty of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in killing suspected terrorists or people who we suspected were terrorists or who might someday become terrorists. These killings typically were covered by the national leaders, whoever they might have been at the time, by saying their military did it in the fight against Al Quaeda who they saw as a threat to their leadership. In exchange for the cover, we would literally shower them with money for their continued fight against Al Quaeda.

Samir Khan
One of the more grievous attacks was in Gardez, Afghanistan in February, 2010, ordered by Stanley McChrystal, where three women were killed and the shameful cover-up involving the removal of the bullets from the victims' bodies to disguise the wounds as stabbings. The killings of Anwar Alawaki and Samir Khan, both Americans, has opened up the Obama administration for criticism, not nearly enough in the opinion of many liberals, of killing Americans without trial. Critics say these were nothing short of murder and while these were done in foreign countries, how long before our government will be doing it on American soil?  Although Alawaki and the young American, Samir, Sammy, Khan
from North Carolina, could well have been convicted as traitors, our government could have captured them and tried them.  The presumption of innocence,  vital to a free country, has been dangerously compromised.
Abdul Alawaki - age 16

A sadder note in the Anwar Al Alawaki killing was the killing of his teenage son. This can be described as no less than murder. He was a boy who hadn't seen his father in the eight years since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who sneaked out of his family's home in Yemen in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the cousins, with whom he had lived while on his search, and the friends he'd made in Sana'a. He was a boy among boys who were eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all. 

Trayvon Martin body
When they first learned of his death, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Joe Biden described him as a 21 year-old combatant. After the truth was known, Robert Gibbs, in ignorance of the details blamed his father for becoming a terrorist.  Abdul was born in New Mexico and was a typical American teenager. It is ironic that Obama made such an emotional and appropriate speech regarding the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, a 16 year old like Abdul and his own daughter, after he had given his approval of the drone attack in Yemen that mistakenly killed Abdul.

Another shameful killing of innocent people took place in Lahore, Pakistan. Raymond Davis a CIA contractor, a former Special Forces member, and a former employee of Blackwater,  killed two Pakistani men who he claimed were threatening him with a gun.  Investigations showed that he had fired at the two men, both members of the Pakistan  intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) through his windshield when they were sitting on a motor cycle.  Both were shot in the back. Davis claimed they brandished a gun at them.  ISI was not on favorable terms with the CIA.  Our government claimed diplomatic immunity and the Pakistani government refused to recognize it. He was being tried when a judge decided to try it under Sharia law which allows the family of a victim to forgive the killer in exchange for what they call "blood money."  The families were forced by the government to accept money and forgive Davis.  A wife of one of the victims killed herself by taking rat poison.  Further aggravating the situation was a hit and run fatality when a car driven on the wrong side of the street by agents en-route to back up Davis hit a motorcycle, killing the rider.  The occupants of the car were never named and were quickly flown out of Pakistan.  The United States was anxious to resolve the issue because they were making plans for the killing of Bin Ladin - without authorization from the Pakistani government. No one is lamenting the death of Bin Ladin who openly admitted planning the attack on 9/11 and boasted about planning more, but the facts are that he could have been taken alive and a woman in his house was killed unnecessarily.  And this was in a foreign sovereign state.

I am dismayed at what has happened to my country. The drone killings are popular. We like to call ourselves a nation under God.  Conservatives like to call ourselves a Christian nation.  I recognize that there are millions of Americans who are not Christian but I am a Christian and I wonder what Jesus would say about the practice of killing people who we think may harm us in the future and about the accepted deaths of innocent bystanders who we dismiss as collateral damage.  I recognize the fact that in conventional war, there are always non-combatants killed.  I also understand that the Allies and Axis both bombed civilian targets in what were nothing less than acts of terrorism.  In that war, however, we were actually, and for the first and only time, fighting for our freedom.  Our freedom has not been threatened by terrorism.  Someone was roasted by the press for saying that they were more of a nuisance than a threat.  IMO, he was right when put in perspective of traffic fatalities, murders and natural disasters. The Patriot Act has impinged on our liberty and way of life more than terrorism or communism. In a sense, the terrorist have won if they hate us because of our freedom and way of life.  Our government has adopted terrorism, worldwide and insidious terrorism, as our modus operandi in our declared global war. As in Viet Nam, we cannot win this war.

I was born in 1929 and have a very good recollection of events since 1935. In retrospect and on reflection, I don't like what I have seen in recent years and particularly what I am seeing now. I lived through the Great Depression.  I can remember government and a  president who supported the people and opposed the greed and political power of banking and overgrown corporations; and the accumulation of wealth at the top. I lived through poverty and WWII.  I was in the army during the Korean War.  I never served in Korea but I asked for deployment there. The Korean War was a foolish war but an honorable one.  It cost the lives of 34,000 American soldiers and changed nothing, geopolitically.  The Viet Nam war was a stupid war and was based on faulty intelligence and a totally erroneous premise - that of world communism and the domino theory. It cost us 58,000 American soldiers. Again, nothing changed. The collapse of the Soviet Union proved that there never was a military threat to the United States and any realistic economist knew that a centrally controlled economy wouldn't work. The Cold War was all about American corporations fearing that capitalism could not compete with socialism.  It is still their worst nightmare. Ironically, the biggest threat to capitalism is and always has been unbridled greed and self emasculation.

The so called Global War on Terror is another war to protect our corporations, now globalized and internationally owned.  They don't care about America, they only care about profits. All the wars in the oil countries and the current new approach, GWOT were and are to protect the oil business; it has nothing to do with freedom.

President Obama sounded to me like another FDR.  I was wrong. When FDR was faced with a banking crisis, he drew a line in the sand and took them on - and won. Obama, faced with a banking crisis, turned to the people who caused it for his solutions.  Is there any surprise that there has been no solution and we are headed down that same road to ruin?  I applaud his stimulus package which stopped the hemorrhaging brought on by the Bush administration.  Were it not watered down by opposition from the GOP, our economy would be humming, our infrastructure would be getting the needed attention and we would not be seeing the critical reduction in vital locally provided public services such as we are seeing in Trenton, New Jersey

Obama promised he was going to end the war in Iraq and place our focus in Afghanistan where the real problem was. All he did was pull the troops out and turn the problem over to Milo Minderbinder's private warriors. In blustering through Afghanistan, all he managed to do was increase the strength and popularity of Al Quaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the African Horn - particularly Somalia. I like what he is saying about energy independence but talk is easy; and I like his announced plans for the economy but he has surrendered to the group of 51 Teabaggers and the filibuster. He is weak. Even if he were strong in those areas, even if he had supported the public option in Obamacare, he would still be killing innocent people and increasing our enemies for nothing more that keeping the oil lines flowing.

The annual spending budget for the Department of Defense it $500,000,000,000.00.  In layman's terms, that is half a trillion bucks a year. One of our only friends in the House, Allan Grayson has called for the following amendments:

  • A ban on torture;
  • More money for suicide prevention for American troops;
  • An end to NSA spying on Americans;
  • A ban on the funding of video games by the Pentagon;
  • A ban on the Defense Department naming people killed in a drone strike as "enemy combatants" unless we know for sure they are enemy combatants;
  • An end to the Pentagon censoring the internet on its internal networks to stop troops from accessing news media sites;
  • A ban on fees for military families enrolling in military health care;
  • More money to find a cure for "Gulf War Illness";
  • A prohibition on the U.S. using the military to pilfer any possible oil resources in Afghanistan;
  • No defense contracts to companies that are convicted of fraud or bribery;
  • No defense contracts to companies that lie about their products being made in America; and
  • No more no-bid defense contracts to foreign corporations

 Where is FDR now that he is needed? Alan Grayson, perhaps?

Recommended reading:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ode to Mo! 1953 - 2013

60 years ago today, I snuck out of Downey, California, with my future wife hidden under my superman cloak. Maureen Muir, running for Miss Downey at the time had agreed to be my wife. I had known her for several years - even before my hitch in the army and my older brother was married to her mother's sister. We dated for two weeks while her mother and step father were on vacation and she was staying with my brother. I asked her to marry me and she said yes.  She was 17 and I was 24. Her parents returning from vacation was a major roadblock. They didn't like me. This was exacerbated by the fact that I didn't like her stepfather even more. 

Our plan was for her to ask her parents for permission to date me and to have an engagement and a proper marriage. Our fall back position, if they said no, and I knew (and hoped) they would,  was to elope immediately. I consulted an attorney regarding marriage laws. He told me Arizona was the easiest and a legal marriage in any state was legal in the rest of the country. The only potential flaw was that a parent’s permission was required, not for the marriage to be legal but for the JP to perform the ceremony. Her parents returned home on Sunday, July 12, and told her she couldn't date me. I called her on Monday and we agreed to do it on Thursday, July 16. Both her parents worked so I was able to talk to her on the phone every day.  She arranged to have her best friend, Pat Duncan, stand by on Thursday to answer the phone and tell the JP that she was Maureen’s mother and her marriage was approved.

I never told anyone but my mother. Maureen never told anyone but Pat so there were only four people on the earth that knew about it. Wednesday night I was worried; about being caught on our way, about the JP seeing through our scheme and about getting married in general. I talked to Mom about it and she told me, “That young woman is expecting you to pick her up Thursday and marry her and you need to do it.” She lectured me about young single men getting wild and drinking, etc. I wasn't seriously considering backing out but I welcomed the advice from Mom. Thursday, I picked her up right after her parents were both at work.

I can’t express how I was feeling when she came out and got in the car. She was wearing cut off Levi shorts and a blue gray shirt with a collar. It was not buttoned all the way to the top. She had a tan and her natural hair was light brown with some sun bleaching.  I didn't want to drive to Quartzite, I wanted to be in Quartzite. I was in love. Through the years, I realized that it was Maureen’s physical beauty that attracted me but it wasn't why I loved her. I love her because of her unselfishness and inner beauty. I had dated other pretty girls (none as pretty as Maureen) but they lacked Maureen’s inner qualities. Inner qualities that made her a good wife and mother. Everyone else always came first with Maureen. That’s why, when I look at her today at 77 years, I still see the 17 year old beauty that I picked up on Samoline St., in Downey on July 16, 1953, and drove to Quartzite to marry.

There was no freeway then of course. We drove on the state highway that was two lanes for the most part and not crowded…at least not on a Thursday. The route is for the most part the same as I-10 today. We went through Redlands, Yucaipa, Beaumont, Banning and Blythe. It was a hot day and we drove with the windows down. I don’t believe I had air conditioning.  But there was nothing that day that could have made me feel uncomfortable. Well, almost nothing. Maureen sitting very close to me with her left arm behind my neck and her hand out the window with her right hand resting innocently on my thigh wasn't uncomfortable at all, but it nearly made me wild. I’m sure she had no idea what she was doing to me.

In Banning, we stopped at a Safeway market to get some soft drinks and some fresh fruit (cherries) and I kiddingly suggested we find a shady spot and park for a while; well, kind of kiddingly,  more of an overture.  She smiled at me and said, “Quartzite, driver.” Quartzite it was. I’m not sure what time it was when we reached Quartzite but it was mid day. We found a JP and went in and told him that we wanted to get married. He asked how old Maureen was and she told him and added that her mother knew where she was and what she was doing. She gave him the number if he wanted to talk to her to make sure. He did and Pat came through like a champion. Maureen had left a note for her mother telling her that she had left to get married. She forgot to tell her to whom; probably a good thing; one shock at a time.

The ceremony took about five minutes and cost, I think, $5. It was an unusual wedding to say the least. The JP told us that he had just returned from the desert where they were looking for some illegal immigrants that were in trouble. They found them, all three of them were dead. We drove back to Blythe, the closest thing to civilization in the area, had a quick dinner and got a motel. The temperature that day, they told us, got up to 120 degrees and the motel had no air conditioning except for open windows. There was a pool and we spent quite a bit of time in the pool but most of our time in our room. The heat didn't bother us. Maureen’s bathing suit was a couple years old and she had outgrown it a little. I had words with some dirty old men at pool side who were ogling her and making what I knew were lascivious remarks to each other but I didn't want to get into a fight on my wedding day and I didn't want Maureen to see the dark side of me…at least not yet. The first order of business the next morning was for her to buy a new bathing suit.

Maureen and I had planned on taking a week off and spending some time in the mountains. I had withdrawn my life’s savings, $350 and she had $45, but Friday morning I started feeling guilty about abandoning my softball (fast pitch) team in the playoffs. I was also anxious to present my new wife to family and friends. Maureen, as usual, was agreeable and we drove home later that afternoon. Mom had moved back in with my oldest brother, Spiers, and his wife, Catherine, for a while to give the newly weds some privacy. I think, for a while, she moved back and forth between the three of us, Me, Spiers and Jack, and eventually moved into a trailer behind my Uncle Ashley and Aunt Pearlie’s house in Fontana. She stayed there for a long time and became known to her grandkids as Grandma Trailer.

We won our game on Saturday. We went to church Sunday for the first time as husband and wife and Monday I went back to work. My life as a married man had began. The next order of business was to make a family. 

I don't have any pictures of her just before we were married but here is on two years before when she was 15 and in the Downey marching band:

Here is one taken just a little over a year after we were married with our brand new baby, Brooks, just home from the hospital. 

Ages 41and 34, circa 1970 in Sacramento:
Over chicked with Maureen and Coe in Downey in 1974.  Ages 45, 38 and 18

Family reunion circa 1996 in Vernal, Utah.  Ages 67 and 60.

Circa 2007, in Rancho Cucamonga, with Kobe.

Last year in front of our home in Rancho Cucamonga

I love her more than ever and she still looks the same to me as she did in 1953.