Friday, June 29, 2012

Taking a few well aimed shots at the NRA

There are a lot of sound bites going around about the Fast and Furious gun program that apparently, according to Congress, Attorney General Holder mucked up, by not stepping up prosecution of suspected gun runners.

Well here’s some news that hasn’t been covered by the teams of talking heads. The ATF agents approached the Phoenix office of the Justice Department, told them of their plans, and the office said, “Can’t prosecute. There is noting illegal in buying guns in Arizona, they way in which they are being bought. Yes, we agree with you– we THINK they are going to Mexican drug cartels, but until you can prove intent to distribute after a sale and distribute to a person or persons intent of using the guns in crimes – there is nothing we can do.”

That means the Justice Department had its hands tied. Why?

Three reasons.

1.     NRA…pressure from this gun organization caused huge back lash in officers raiding suspected unlicensed gun traders in Arizona, which lead to new state laws protecting the buying and selling of guns in that state. It is almost impossible to stop a gun transaction in Arizona.

2.     Arizona gun laws.  If you are 18, with no criminal record, you can buy a gun with no waiting period.  And not just one gun. You can a bunch. You can hundreds – perhaps thousands. And you can pay cash and once you buy those guns you can do with them as you please. You can give them to family, friends or even “strangers"…even if those strangers are from Mexico and have nefarious ideas about using them for bad things.

3.     The 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Citizens of the USA have the right to bare arms. How those arms are purchased has been deemed, for the most part, a state issue by the SCOUS. The nine justices for decades have been too cowardly to hear this one. They know the power of the NRA. Guns and gun control has been a hands-off issue for both the Federal courts and the Justice Department for at least three decades. Even the Reagan Administration lost on the Brady Bill, because it got so watered down that it was, according to prosecutors, worthless. They can’t win against the lobbying of the NRA. 

We just came full circle.

So when the Attorney General’s office in Phoenix got the Fast and Furious case dropped in its lap, it told the ATF agents it needed intent of the person buying the guns to show that they were going to re-sell them to outlaws.  That’s hard to get. But that is the bar at which the government lawyers felt they must operate, otherwise they would be trampling on the Constitutional rights of gun buyers in Arizona.

Kind of reminds you of Catch 22 doesn’t it?

Here’s the real rub. Most of this came down in top secret sessions, because the Justice Department wanted these guys caught and put away as much as anyone. So the meetings were very hush-hush and kept secret because of the on-going nature of the investigation. That is why Holder refused to give to Congress some of the information they requested. He even told them that some of the items they were requesting could not possibly be given to Congress, because the Justice Department didn’t know if the people identified in the documents had committed any crimes under Arizona law or not. And the Justice Department could not prove they had violated any Federal Laws. Want your name leaked to the news media in D.C.? That's got law suit written all over it. 

Plus, you start blowing this open in a wind-bag city like Washington, and an entire investigation and undercover agents and plants can be and would be compromised.

But wasn’t it the Republicans who compromised Mid-East and African CIA agents during the Bush administration to get back at Ambassador Wilson for writing articles warning the American public that the Weapons of Mass Destruction was a coax and the African nuclear stock pile trading had never occurred, as Bush said it had? 

Just to remind you – it was.  

The outing of Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, compromised years of CIA work conducted by Ms. Plame, all in the name of getting even. The real effect of the Bush-Cheney Administration's actions was the destruction of the CIA Counter-Proliferation Division (CPD), where Valerie Plame worked in the Iran and Iraq units. It is said those operations have never come back to full strength in a time when we could desperately use them.

Holder was not going to let that happen to the ATF program on the ground along the Mexican boarder. Was it failed? Yes. Even the ATF admitted that guns got into the hands of the drug cartel and even some of those guns were used in the murder of a U.S. Border agent. But the program, including the names it had generated, was still active and could be salvaged, so long as the people at ground zero were not compromised.

So here are the Republicans again wanting to out agents and undercover people to try and snare the Attorney General of the OTHER party in their political game. Trying to make hay in the spotlights of the Washington press corps.  Trying to get TV head time with quick sound bites against an Attorney General who stood up and said, the law is the law and this time it is working against us.

It is stupid. It is distasteful. It is little league.  And I love it that Fox News has called it Obama’s Watergate. No what this is, is totally patrician politics at a level that we have not seen in many years.

The GOP should be renamed GrOPe. Groping for anything and everything to smear the other side.  These are our elected officials, who should be above this juvenile behavior. They should be looking at real issues facing America. Instead of wasting time in a trumped up charge of gun  running by the Attorney General.

Governor Rick Perry, of Texas, got so worked up about this he went on the CBS  Sunday news talk show, Face the Nation and told Bob Schieffer he wanted to get Holder and even go after Obama. When Schieffer asked Perry what the Attorney General and for that matter what the President had done, the Czar of the Lone Star State said, “I don’t know.”

And that’s the point. The Republicans want to rant. They want TV time. And they want attention turned away from the fact that they have a rather weak candidate for President, when all the crap is peeled away. Look over here, America. Look at this shiny thing. Don't look too closely at our candidate, he won't look good under the spot lights. And forget that odor coming from his flip flops. It is just bad foot odor.

Listen, a federal agent lost his life because of this. And that is bad.  But we have some really dumb gun laws on the books, which tie the hands of police and federal authorities in doing their job. If you’re going to lay blame for Officer Terry’s death, lay it at the feet of the NRA.

They are the ones, whose lobbied laws, caused the delays at justice.

The NRA has every right to pontificate about the right to own guns. But some of the laws they force on states in the name of protecting the 2nd Amendment, are criminally stupid.

An open letter to Mitt the Nitwit

Mitt Romney is promising to fight Obamacare. He says it is wrong for America. Not totally wrong. But wrong enough to make it his number one goal, the first thing he plans to do if elected, in his new administration. He is going to repeal and get rid of Obamacare.

So, what is he going to replace it with? The black are his words…the red are mine. That’s what I am seeing today – red. This man is a lying son of a bitch.

He plans to get rid of Obamacare and provide us with:

Coverage for all Americans.
That is already in Obamacare.

People can keep their existing coverage.
            In Obamacare as it stands.

He wants to cut costs to seniors for prescriptions.
            Read Obamacare. It is in there. It has its own section in the law.

Make sure that people can get coverage even with pre-existing needs.
            Hello, Mitt. Have you even read the law you are going to repeal?
It is already in there. Pre-existing coverage is bedrock – a corner stone of Obamacare.

Allow people to move jobs or even move states and still keep their policies.
            Ditto.  This is getting ridiculous.
Wants to insure that states can get the federal backing to make sure every American can get affordable health care.
Mitt. It is in Obamacare. It is the Medicaid expansion program. (By the way, you need to talk to Rick Perry of Texas, he is against this. Don’t ask us why? It has something to do with giving women coverage. We don’t even know why he is still governor. But then again, until this year, in Texas you had to teach in sciene class that the Earth was but 6,000 years old.)

So, Mitt, you are going to keep every part of Obamacare ­ except the Individual mandate. But you had it in your law in Massachusetts. Why?

“We knew that we could not afford the Universal Health Act in Massachusetts without an individual mandate. It is like saying every one has to be covered by car insurance, then not making in mandatory to have car insurance. It has to be done to spread the risk and costs out over the broadest group possible.”  That is Mitt defending his plan he passed as a governor just a few years ago.

Now he says this.

“The individual mandate is a tax and it hurts middle class Americans.”

Let’s analyze this Mr. Two Tongues.

If you don’t have the mandate, you don’t get the coverage because the insurance companies will not want to cover the unprotected risk. (Remember this is all being done in the free enterprise system, NOT THE SOCAILIZM THAT RUSH SAYS IT IS.) So, if we do not have the mandate, rates go up. Costs for uninsured being treated at hospitals as charity cases fall to taxpayers and their taxes go up. And the system goes back to being the mess it was before.

The mandate, if anything, lowers the tax on middle class people, because they will now be paying for their own insurance and not Joe Blow -I -just -came -in -off –the- street- with- NO -Insurance -and -need -a -hip -replacement. That Joe Blow, if he chooses not to buy insurance, will get taxed to cover his health care needs.

That is fair. Don’t want to pay an insurance company to cover you. Okay. Pay the government in advance and it will cover you. But one way or the other, everyone has to have coverage. (Or a single payer system, but don’t get me started on that.)

So Mitt, other than working up the idiots on the right, who not only haven’t read the healthcare act, but probably can’t read to begin with, what say you start telling the truth.

Obamacare is a good thing. It will not wreck the country’s economy.  You know that. It will not put small businesses out of business.  You know that, too; yet you continue to give the old chamber of commerce speech the sky is falling, the sky is falling. It will not sink the Union. Hell, by itself, it won’t even get your opponent, Mr. Obama re-elected.

But admit it and be honest. It is good for America.

Maybe what is NOT good for America, is you, Mr. Romney. Ever thought of that?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Five to Four: A close call for what ails us.

5 to 4.   

That is the difference in America taking care of its own, or turning its back on its less fortunate, it’s sick and its under-insured.

I didn’t expect this outcome, especially with Justice Roberts stepping over the line and being the deciding vote.  But I give him his due, he dug deep and wrote a tough opinion. He had to know he was upsetting his right-wing colleagues. but he did what was right for America.

It is Congress who passed the law and it is up to the Administration to see that it is carried out. But what this really says, is that on a very narrow – a paper-thin margin, America has come of age in our health coverage for all citizens. ALL CITIZENS.

To the four who ruled against the coverage, I must admit at this writing, I have not yet read your positions. But if they are like the other opinions you have crafted recently, I am sure much scorn is due you way.  It won’t come from me. I am simply satisfied that Americans can now get complete coverage the way most of the world does.

And thank you, Mitt Romney, for developing a model for us to follow when you were governor of Massachusetts. I realize you will distance yourself from it until after Tampa, but thanks anyway.

A sigh of relief.


And for the lady in the CNN picture in front of SCOUS this morning with a sign that read “Obamacare is Immoral,” I would remind her that the definition of immoral doesn’t cover helping fellow citizens who need assistance with healthcare. Plus, ObamaCare is now constitutional. So put away your signs and go back under the rock from which you came. Sorry to pick on the woman, but the word immoral struck me as callus and insensitive, considering that people health was at stake.

Now, let’s turn our collective attention to the deficient and the budget and lets work together to improve both. Spend less. Tax a bit more (I know I hate it too, but it is the medicine we must take). And give our children a fighting chance not to have a country drowned in red.

One final note:  Governor Perry of Texas…you lost.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The citizens are united. And the court isn't going to like it.

I was at a lunch the other day and was surrounded by three or four tables of middle-aged to older folks who looked like they could have been members of the Tea Baggers and I was sure they were all carrying Medicare and AARP cards. (hey, for that matter, so am I…) So I asked each table what they thought of the Citizen’s United ruling that the Supreme Court has ruled, yet again on, making it official that corporations can and do have an unlimited say and unbridled free speech (again emphasis on unlimited) even in state and local elections.

There were eleven potential votes, not counting mine. Unlike the biased phone calls I get from Washington State asking me to take part in a survey about the horrible way in which America is being run…(talk about unbiased????) here’s how I phrased my question:

            Excuse me. Are you aware of the Citizen United ruling brought about by the U.S. Supreme Court?  Of the eleven, nine were aware of it.  We will count only their votes. The others will vote Republican anyway because they are uninformed.

            Of the nine, six said they thought the court had missed the mark. (The scale was 1 strongly disagree with the court to 6 strongly agree with the court’s ruling) Of the three dissenters, only one agreed with the court. The others were threes. (Right on the fence in the middle. One guy even said, “I can see it both ways.”)

            I am not a researcher by trade, but I have spent umpteen years behind the glass in research focus groups and studying surveys in advertising and marketing, so even I can see that Six to three – SCOUS loses. (And two of the three were neutral at best.)

            But why? A ha! Now it gets gritty. Of the six who stood in opposition of the court, five said that it was because the original intent of the Constitution was to protect people’s free speech from corporations and monopolies from distorting our free exchange of ideas. “It is why we fought the revolution against the King in the first place, “ one old geezer said. (I loved this guy.) “The king, his church, his buddies were all aligned against the freedom of people to think and speak their minds. There was no intent of letting giant businesses take over that role under the constitution.”

            I asked who agreed with James (his name). A show of hands showed that of the nine, five were backing his argument. The hold out from the original six dissenters was a woman who thought that the court had given in to Republican pressures and big money. She sided with the six, but only from a practical aspect. She didn’t care about the constitutional issue. She saw it as money– big money– trying to buy the space where citizen’s speech should be. “They are squeezing us out,” she said. (I loved this woman, too.)

            I returned to the backers of the court. “What do you think of these arguments against SCOUS rulings?”
            One man snorted and said, “It’s Obama’s damn fault we no longer have freedom of speech. I want that boy (swear to God he said boy) out of Washington and fast.” I asked him how the SCOUS decision was related to Obama taking away his freedom of speech. He shrugged. “You know.” That’s all he would say.

“No I don’t know. I am trying to find out. What has Obama got to do with the SCOUS ruling that corporations and big business have unlimited access to our electoral process?”

“They were just trying to protect us,” he said.

”From whom?” I asked.

            “The Democrats.” This was going nowhere so I turned my attention to the others.

The other two thought the arguments were good, but felt that corporations and unions should have access to the playing field, if laws were going to be enacted that affected them. “Good enough. But unlimited?” I asked.  There was a pause. Even those who had agreed with the court thought that taking the limits off of corporate spending only made the buying of elections easier and more dangerous for all Americas. (So you might say it was nine-nill against the that part of the court’s decision.)

Final question: that being the case, if SCOUS had ruled that corporations and unions could have a voice in elections, but it would be limited to, say, the same amount as an one individual, would you think that was fair?

Get this– all nine agreed that it would be fair and the right way to do it. Even the three who had no idea what we were talking about thought it sounded fair. How they came around so fast is anybody’s wonder.

I thanked them, and with one exception, the old guy who still wants the “boy” out of the White House, they all thanked me. Then he (the boy man) asked me “why I was sticking my nose in this business.” I told him I was interested to see just how off base the SCOUS has become in interpreting the constitution, based on original intent.

            “Why is original intent so damn important to you, son?” asked the guy who used the “boy” phrase.

            “It is not to me, sir. But it is to Justice Scalia. He claims it is how he interprets the Constitution. What were the original framers intent…”

            Then that man asked me, “How did the negro vote?”

“You mean Clarence Thomas?” He nodded. I said, “Justice Thomas voted with the court to allow corporations the unlimited freedom to buy a voice in any election they so desire.”

            “Well, hell if that negro voted for it, I want to change my vote. I am against them, then.”

            Yes. I was in Texas. I had almost forgotten that. So that skews the vote six-nill with two on the fence. I’d say the United Sates Supreme Court didn’t fair too well in this exercise….even in Texas.

            As I as about to leave I stopped and aloud asked them, one last question. “Obamacare – for it or against it? They all booed and hissed and made Bronx cheers. “Good to see,” I said. “Who at these tables has Medicare?” They all raised their hands.

God Bless America. We get the government we deserve. We truly do.

John Crawley's latest novel, Stuff is available at Amazon now.

Don't run your dog into the ground.

People love to exercise. They love to go running, ride bikes, or just take long walks. And a few even love to include their pets in this daily activity.

But in 100F weather like we are having here in Texas, is that a good thing? Yesterday I was at my vet with Sadie, the wonder-dog, and ask that question. My vet said that a little exercise in this temperature is okay, but it doesn’t take long for any animal to get superheated and lose a tremendous amount of water and energy. Here are the signs she said to look for if your pet is ready to rest:

1.     Starts slowing down. Doesn’t have the same bounce to their step.
2.     Gets distracted easily. (Mine is always distracted, so not sure how this works.)
3.     Pants excessively. (She said it will appear as if they can’t catch their breath. They are actually trying desperately to cool down.)
4.     Has trouble walking.
5.     Legs get shaky.
6.     Dog pulls back on leach. “I want to stop, Marvin!”
7.     Becomes easily agitated at other dogs and people.

She said these are some of the telltale signs that your pet is getting overheated and needs water right away. Don’t wait until you get home. Get them water out on the jogging trail or wherever you can find it. Borrow a sprinkler and hose from a neighbor and cool your pet down if you have to. If the neighbor complains tell them TGFT, it was an emergency.

There’ s a sign on a jogging trail in Dallas that reads: “You wouldn’t run in a fur coat in this weather, think about your dog.”

The truth behind that is dogs may not be able to shed heat away from themselves as efficiently as humans can (cats, too, have a difficult time in cooling down during exercise in the heat of the day).

So take it easy on your dog. Either slow down, or shorten your route for their sake. My vet also said that she doesn’t think it does a dog a world of good running long distances. It is not in their DNA to be distant runners.  Sprinting a few hundreds yards several times and then taking a long, leisurely walk – that’s good. But just because you can jog 3.5 miles a day doesn’t mean your pet should. Or really wants to. Sure they wag their tail when you get the leach out. That’s because they want to be with you and please you. That is in their DNA. But the distant running is something they may not have signed up for, especially in superhot weather.

This summer in the heat, take it easy on yourself. But more importantly, take it easy on your dog.

John Crawley's new novel, Stuff is coming to a book seller near you soon. Already available at Lulu and Amazon. Get inside this hot, hot thriller.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A snapshot of what is wrong in America today.

Clarence, you should know better. And so should your wife. But you don’t. you don’t have to because in the conservative movement afoot in America, following the laws and playing by the rules is passé.  Clarence, you are the quiet one on the bench, but one who has sided with the conservative administration in Washington during the Bush years 100% of the time. That’s okay. It is your right to feel that way. You just shouldn’t make money at the country’s expenses feeling and voting and rendering verdicts that way.

That is unethical.

And since you sit on the highest bench of the land, when you do something that unethical, you should step down, or at least be impeached and then forced to step down.

I never had a problem with you having a public hair on your coke can. But getting paid huge sums of money by the very side who is arguing cases before your court is a disgrace.

Step aside Clarence. You have tainted your vote.

Order John Crawley's new novel, Stuff, from Amazon or LULU Press today. The books will soon be at other national booksellers by the end of the week.

Hot town, summer in the city...

Summer is here and it is time for cookouts, mosquito repellant, swimming pool parties, watermelon, and vacations.

We are going to take a driving vacation this year. Haven’t done that for a long time. Normally we cram ourselves into a most uncomfortable American Airline seat near the back of the plane and zip our way to some far off destination. When we get there we unpack, head for the beach or the mountains and spend the next few days enjoying the fact that we can’t get cell service, so the umbilical chord has been cut. Hallelujah.

But this year we are driving. Taking Miss Sadie, the mutt, with us. She loves to ride in the car. We are going to take it slow and easy, giving ourselves plenty of time to stop and see the sights of our great land. I want to try a lot of barbeque. Michele wants to stop at all the local wineries. Sadie wants potty breaks every two and half hours with a treat to follow. Last time did this the kids were little and the oldest was reading out loud to all of us, the first harry Potter novel, which had only recently been published.

So that us. The all American family, piled into the family car cursing the back roads of the USA. All we need now is Dinah Shore signing: See the USA in in a BMW…(kind of loses the flow wouldn’t you say?”)

I look forward to traversing the country on our own four wheels. Would love to do it on the motorcycles, but with no side car we’d have to board Sadie, and we promised her the next trip she could come along with us.

It has been a long time since I got to see our country up close and personal like this. I plan to do a lot of photography and talk to a lot of people. Maybe you can read about here on the blog. I hope I get some good stories.

Well, it is hot here in Big D today, so I think I’ll go jump in the pool. In a couple of weeks we’ll be packing to head to the hills (or valleys as the case may be.) If you see out there on the American’s highways and byways, give us a shout.

And enjoy your summer. Stay cool.

Stuff, by John Crawley.
Coming to a book retailer near you and your computer soon. (like this week!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Elite Eight

This blog may not appeal to a lot of my readers, but it is on my heart today. The NCAA should have an eight-team playoff for college football in division I. That’s four games to the championship. Most of the athletes on the field today have played a championship caliber high schools that played at least that many games. It is not a big deal.

It would be exciting and the whole nation could get behind it, as they do March Madness. Of course we’d have to overcome the money and greed of the bowl system, but college football needs to be purged of that anyway.

Playoffs could start the first week in December and run up to January First and the National Championship Game could then be played on New Year’s Day. It would be huge. A real championship game. Crowning a real champion.

That’s all. Have a good Saturday.

Stuff, by John Craley
Coming to an eRetailer near your WIFI this week.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bankrupt the Banks

(Combination of news feeds) … Wall Street appeared headed for a higher opening, a day after the Dow sustained its second-worst loss of the year. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.4 percent to 12,546 and S&P 500 futures added 0.4 percent to 1,323.50.
Sentiment was also shaken after Moody's Investors Service lowered the credit ratings of 15 major banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, saying their long-term prospects for profitability and growth are shrinking.
Downgrades generally make it more costly for banks to raise money by selling debt because investors demand higher interest in return for taking on riskier debt.
"Of course, they deserve it for years of mismanagement and speculative trading activities ... and also the exposure to sovereign bank debt," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong. "So, as a result, all these major international banks are being downgraded to a more realistic level."

Welcome to the world of banking. Speculation and risk-taking on a par not seen in fifty or sixty years. Why?  They want to make more and more money to feed the greed of Wall Street. A greed that is out of control.

Now to be honest, I am not anti-banking nor am I anti-profit. I invest in the stock market. I believe in the free enterprise system and I have a place in my heart for making money. BUT enough is enough.  We have grown a system that is feeding itself, it is gorging itself. And when it gets reprimanded for faulty practices, it sulks and retrenches, bringing the entire market down in its wake.

Here’s some news to use. DO NOT INVEST IN BANKS. They are going to have a very rough time in the next few months (maybe years). And if they get into trouble again, don’t count on Congress to come to their rescue. Washington is tired of their sad song. So, too is Main Street.

Three days ago the stock market was sailing along, recovering from a very bumpy May, when all of a sudden it took the second worst dive in the year. Had ExxonMobil gone out of business? Had Chevron’s profits fallen through the floor? Had Hershey quit making candy bars? Had Apple’s launched a dud?  Did ford have to recall every car it ever made? The answer is no to all of these questions. And it would be no to about any company on the big board or Nasdaq. The Dow was doing just fine. Profits up, dividends peaking and business growing, even in the midst of a sputtering economy.

So what happened? 

 Moody’s slapped the banking industry and basically said, “You guys are screwing up. Again. Get your house in order or you are not going to be able to borrow money as cheaply as you want to.” And when thier hands got slapped the cryed and the market slid down a coulle of billion dollars in value. Really?  I don't think so. I think American companies were worth just as much yesterday as they were the day before. What came down was the greed factor – and banker's egos.

By the way, this is the same industry that got huge TARP bailouts from Uncle Sam only to pay themselves and their like-minded banker brothers huge sums to get out of debt. I owe you, you owe me, so let's pay each other off and clean our books up. Very, very little of this precious tax-payer money went to actually helping real people with mortgage or upside down personal or business loans, which it was supposed to.

And while they were getting bailouts that were bigger than most countries’ GNPs, the CEO’s at the seven largest banks all gave themselves raises.  Let me repeat that. While you and I bailed these idiots out, they gave themselves raises. And I’m not talking about two and three thousand dollar raises either. We’re dealing with millions. Each.

“Well we don’t know how to run a business properly, but we are going to make more trying to do it.” What an attitude.

So the next time a bank – any bank wants a loan from me, I say screw ‘em. No bank is too big not to fail. Let them go down the drain with the millions of Americans they foreclosed on who were upside down in home loans they shouldn’t have been in in the first place – oh yeah…predatory lending by the banks. Hum, what goes around comes around. It’s an old adage apparently not shared in the halls of high finance.

Stuff, the exciting new novel from Gallivant Press, by John Crawley is at an eRetailer or on-line bookstore near you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New Novel From Gallivant Press

A novel
John Crawley


You are awakened before 6 am, before the sun has had a chance to warm the drought-parched land around your home. You are awakened by a fire brigade and told you have less than an hour to pack up your things and vacate the premises. You are told your home is going to be destroyed. There is nothing the fire fighters can do to save it.

Get out. Get out. There is fire on the way.  A forest fire breathes down your community and your home is in its path.

What do you take?  What do you keep?  What secrets, thoughts, dreams, lies and history are in those possessions you call precious? Your neighbors are collecting their things, life is spinning by you in a blur. It is time to leave, but one more thing. Just one–

And so goes the day David Taylor faced the ravaging forest fire that attacked his hometown. As he gathers his things to escape, we discover who he is, what he stands for and how fragile life, itself, can be. We urge him on, waiting for his final escape from the cul d’ sac that he has called home. We urge he and his neighbors to leave before it is too late. But there is always one more thing. There is always some more stuff.

Stuff is a novel based on the Bastrop fires of Texas in 2011. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and lives turned upside down. David Taylor’s was just one of these stories. But his tale reminds us all that stuff is not what life is made of – not entirely anyway.

A son away in the dark ops of the U.S. Navy, an ex-wife who stays on the edge of his life, neighbors with whom he has shared his small place on the planet– they all become witnesses to the devastation that rains down on the peaceful community of Holloman, Texas.

And for some, there is no escaping. There is only one more trip back inside for more stuff.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Overpriced. Overpaid. Over and over again.

JC Penny is going backward. The fired CEO gets $23 million.  Verizon is going to lay off 17,000 workers and the CEO gets $22 million. And on and on it goes. What’s wrong with this picture?  I’ll tell you what. There is not a CEO in America worth more than $1 million a year. Period. Not one.

I’ve worked for a lot of thee men and women. They have been my clients and I can tell you, most of them are dullards. They are good with numbers when it comes to spreadsheets, but come with a new idea? No way. They haven’t got a clue.

And because of the outlandishly high salaries that the executives of companies are getting to “manage money,” that is what the truly smart brains are going into in B school. Money management. Forget making something. Forget coming up with an idea that will start a new industry or revitalize and old one. Forget about creativity being taken to the marketplace and tried out in a free-enterprise situation. Forget about creating something new and exciting.

No. Today, America is about paying a few people tons and tons of cash and stock options to run the ship for a few years. Really?  To guide JCP into the ground cost $23 million? I would have done it for a quarter of that. And so would a lot of you.

CEO and CFO and CMO and COO’s are all overpaid fat cats who are sitting back collecting the rewards of the American worker who is making less and less and less. That is unless you are the CEO of Apple and you really don’t have many American workers. Most of yours are in China and Indonesia. And Apple is not alone in this.

But the point is simply this. I don’t think there is a picture worth $20 million in baseball. I didn’t think Alex Rodrigues was worth his fortunes. Not then. Not today. I don’t think the head of Chase, Bank of America, Texas Instruments, ExxonMobil, G.E., PepsiCo…the list goes on and on are worth the money we pay them. And we, I mean the stockholders of these companies. I’ve owned most of these. My dividends haven’t shot through the roof. They haven’t gone off like skyrockets on the 4th of July. But the CEO’s salaries sure have.

Classroom teachers make 40-50K in Dallas. The new DISD Communications Director is going to make $180,000. See the disparity? And it only gets worst as you climb the ladder. I can tell you a great classroom teacher is worth a whole lot more than some talking head bimbo the DISD is now going to pay. For that matter they are far more important and worth more to America than most CEO’s.

It is time we get salaries realigned with reality. The top guy in the company might not be the CEO. That position might well belong to the design engineer who comes up with the next great widget that sets the industry on its ear. The CEO shouldn’t make $20 gazillion just to watch it and hold press conferences and meet with the board. But that engineer might be worth it.

God knows the schoolteacher is worth more than we pay them, because it was that schoolteacher who motivated that engineering student in math and science.

American: the land of the rich and the home of the getting richer. Not an idea I signed on for. How about you?

Dressed to fly

So, now Southwest Airlines wants to be the judge and jury on what is appropriate for a woman to wear on one of their flights. This, the same airline that gave us skin tight hot pants and go-go boots, is now telling women your skirts are too short, you necklines too low and the words on your t-shirts are offensive.

Yesterday’s offense marks about the fifth time this year that the cheap airline has made the news kicking someone off its flight it deemed inappropriately attired. Really? Your female gate agents in Dallas are that good – that they can spot a fashion terrorists.  And why in Dallas, the hot bed of neo-right wing churches do these reports come from? Salt Lake City?  Nope. Boise?  No way. Vegas? You’re kidding of course.  Just Dallas and the ultraconservative mind set of a few miss-guided gate agents (who happen to be all female so far.)

I was about to spend a couple of grand flying some folks around this summer on SWA, but I am not now. I am going to use American Airlines, as much as I dislike them and what they are doing to the unions, I will at least abide their taste tests. If you pay, you fly, as long as your fly is zipped and remains so.  I can live with that.

In each of the Southwest incidents, airline spokespeople have had to come on an apologize to the wrongfully delayed passenger(s) for an over exuberant employee. In other words, the bubble-headed bleach blonde at the gate screwed up and we’re terribly sorry, here is a free ticket to fly anywhere SWA goes.

It is time we move past this. Time we focused our energies on important things. Like impeaching the Supreme Court if they overturn Affordable Healthcare Act. (Odds are that they will.)

So in conclusion, fly Southwest if you feel your wardrobe is up to their gate agent standards. And cover you face and the top of your head and do not let your ankles show. Good trip!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are you sick of the GOP?

They talk of things like family values. They sing the praises of those who defend the righteous way of life as espoused by the so-called Christian church. Then they try to withhold insurance coverage from cancer patients. 

Yes it happened yesterday as a GOP representative tried in vain to get a bill passed that would allow business not to have to cover workers with cancer in their insurance plans. Really?  Cancer?

Excuse me you are sick with cancer…fuck off…we don’t have room for you in the Republican agenda. We want white, blonde hair, blue-eyed Arians marching to our meter. We don’t want the sick and the infirmed.

I wonder if Christ came back today and listened to the GOP, if he would even recognize family values and human concern in their platform? It is interesting that Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax men: he called out for murders and fishermen to follow him and establish his church based on Loving God first and others second. Others…not the other 1% but all others.  Help the poor, dress the naked, feed the hungry and take of orphans and widows. Love your neighbors…and not just the ones in the McMansions next door to you, but all neighbors. Even the sick and the poor.

The GOP is a far, far distance from this philosophy. 

So, I wonder why the church in the US is so damn tied at the hips with this renegade bunch of hooligans. They certainly don’t care for the poor, the ill, the hungry or any other people who can’t give them money and extend their power.

Family values…the GOP preaches it…they just don’t act on it.