The Buffett List

February 28th, 2011

~ It has something to do with the “Bucket List”, the point being when you’re on it, it’s over.

OK, the above images and sentences are so complex that you probably don’t know where I am going, but you probably do understand where I’m going (with this) and this list.  The point is that Warren Buffett, whose wealth has dropped in the past three years by 15 billion dollars, is still one of the world’s richest men, meaning people, which includes the wealth of Queen Elizabeth II herself; reported to be worth only 1/2 billion (450 million dollars), but also being 7.3 billion dollars if you know where to look.  And if you keep looking the figure soon gets much higher.

Wealth is like that, it moves.  But, the point is that it moves from the rich to rich, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffett and then back again to Gates (William and Melinda maybe, which is money that they give to “friends”, which like any rich couple’s facebook page, probably does not include you or me).  But, then again the faster they give it away (to friends), the faster it seems to grow.

Anyway, I was listening, reading, whatever; and this is what I found.  This.  Let’s begin by pointing out that since Rana Foroohar and Time (the magazine on-line) can’t even research the proper way to spell “Buffett”, but spells it with just one “t” (as in buffet, meaning ‘to eat’), (then) it is reasonable to assume that they are missing something, if just a basic knowledge of how “spell-check” works.

Maybe Time (and Rana) remember the adage of the revolution in the 1960’s, “Feed the poor, eat the rich.”  We’re not there yet in regard to the current crop of revolutions, though really, they are much about the price of food.  But, beyond all that is the question of whether any nation, rich or poor, can really afford the rich.

What Warren Buffett, QE II, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz (of Saudi Arabia), Vladimir Putin and Hozni Mubarak (with his reported 70 billions of dollars) (and he didn’t even make the list), and a bunch of others, seem not to understand is that the rich really do get richer, and that means the poor as well as the middle class really will be getting poorer as long as the rich are allowed to keep getting richer – around and around it goes.

As Bill Bonner very ably pointed out “wealth creation” doesn’t create wealth as much as it creates shortages (artificial and otherwise) as (in my own words) the rich eat the poor by profiting unfairly from the fact that the poor need to eat.  Monsanto isn’t helping the world’s food supply by creating a demand for corn oil as a bio-fuel for cars and by diverting limited food acreage into fuel.  The point of the last link is to demonstrate how food prices lead to unrest, which leads to a spike in oil, which benefits the price of ethanol, which makes it more profitable to further reduce food production by planting even more corn for fuel.  What a remarkable business plan!  Starve the poor, fatten the rich; starve them more, soak the poor.

So now we see the relationship between “Buffett” and “Bucket” (as in ‘kick the bucket’).  So can the world, any nation, especially poorer nations afford the rich?  The simple answer is, “Probably not.”

The issue is the problem of idle money, money that isn’t necessary for the upkeep of self and family and other uses such as the beneficial use of leisure (meaning travel and education and volunteering type stuff).  “Idle Money” is an excess of money that can be used (and is used) for investment (which usually means speculation), which doesn’t create jobs but only wastes them and the human lives that are wasted by wasting time creating (and buying and selling) material gibberish that no human being in their right mind really wants, much less even needs.  Then you can ship this stuff on the railroads that Warren Buffett owns and meanwhile since he owns the tracks, now you know why the U.S. has no high-speed rail.  Warren doesn’t believe in it; he’s too old to believe in America or Americans, he only believes in money.

Amtrak’s Acela Express only moves at an average of 68 miles per hour, the speed of many passenger trains in the U.S. in the 1940’s, and the Acela does not have the “dedicated right-of-way” that the term ‘express‘ is now supposed to mean.

So “That’s it Folks”, maybe more tomorrow.

What you can see is that everything is tied together.  Warren Buffett could put more passenger trains into operation tomorrow than the Obama administration will create in the next ten (10) years; and all without public money, and all to great benefit to job creation and the economic health and prosperity of this once great nation.  He won’t.  He would no more side-track the freight trains to let people go through (on his rails) than he would side-track his wealth to save a single starving soul, and that Mr. Buffett is what is meant by the American public being “railroaded”.  You’ve proved it.  Neither capitalism, or democracy can work.

Going Green in Benghazi

February 27th, 2011

~Is the vision about oil and more cars or is it about the Libyan people?

I am not sure weather Benghazi, Libya would be on the direct main-line track on the (proposed) North African high-speed rail link linking the North African and Middle East worlds.  Tripoli, certainly, would be, as the line made a bee-line from along the coast into the heart of Cairo itself.  Benghazi, however, is probably too far north on the Gulf of Sidra in order to be a mainline city, although a branch line would do just fine.

I am not sure that the United States, especially Hillary Clinton, really should have too much to say about the political situation in Tripoli and Libya.  She, and the U.S., had their chance for the past two years, since back in 2008 (then) U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Gaddafi and announced that US-Libya relations entered a new phase.  Then, the U.S. could have reached out and spoken out and one of these two women could have spoken up for the rights of women, and the opportunities thereof.   They didn’t.  Which is why there are (were) only 600 Americans in Libya when the “trouble” started and 30,000 Chinese, not to mention 25,000 Turks.

No, the American nation seeking regime change and offering aid to rebels, military commanders, military juntas, up-and-coming despots, ‘cracked on crack’ dictators, and other “friends of the west” is nothing new.  From Mexico to Vietnam, including the original “shores of Tripoli“, chanted in the Hymn of the United States Marines, the United States has intervened militarily (or with force of arms) in virtually every nation of the world.  The result of 200 (see: Barbary 1804) years of foreign intervention has not been to make people free, to create “right” or to keep anyone’s honor “clean”; and No, I don’t think Heaven is guarded by United States Marines, I prefer the image of “dancing girls“, as any real Marine that I have ever known, would.

So, I don’t know what Hillary Obama has been smoking, maybe spice, but this post is supposed to be about train tracks and not just getting high:

Which, back to the green revolution – which the “green” part used to refer (in the 1960’s) to the real marijuana and not just energy and cars.  This of course brings up the Volt (meaning Chevy Volt by GM), and that brings up the “opportunity” of electric cars and that brings up the issue of price and cost and the alternatives (of course).

Since this car:


cost $40,280.00 to buy, and probably won’t last much more than 10 years, and since there are not a lot of parking lots, parking garages, freeways and roads in Benghazi and Libya and Tripoli yet (despite the 200 year history of the U.S. Marines) I am not sure that cars (even the green ones) are the best way to go as the new Libya gets its bearings; but, Hillary and Bush I know might differ.  But the “American Way” means this:

And it doesn’t look too green to me.

We’re getting there.  By that I mean to my point about the train (meaning trains).  The point is that since there are 6 million people in Libya, like there are 6 million in Wisconsin; and everyone (probably) would want to buy a car, and probably is a part of the “green revolution” (whatever that means); that means that one is looking at about $241 billion dollars available for the railroad (instead of cars) in just the next ten (10) years alone.  $241 billion would buy a lot of railroad, and create a lot of jobs, and save a lot of heartbreak and heartache and all that potential oil pollution, air pollution and nuclear power plant pollution that is part and parcel to going down the “road”.

The alternative (of course) is trains!  Train transportation is the real revolution; maybe all these “color revolutions” really are just about the oil, and about the opportunity to do things right.

Think rail.

Engineering News Record

February 26th, 2011

~ Making the case for a high speed railroad across North Africa from Tangiers to Istanbul.

Where to begin?  It depends on perspective.  It is the difference (meaning distance) between colonial perspectives and modern perspectives and revolutionary perspectives (perhaps).  I might have said “from Tangiers to Constantinople”, but “Tangiers” became “Tanger” and Constantinople of course, became Istanbul.  Maybe I should have said from Gibraltar to the Bosporus, but since Gibralter is in Spain and was British it does reek of Europe and European colonialism and too much of the past.  Besides, “Gibralter” is bad geography unless one wants to build a tunnel or a bridge.  Maybe let’s think big: high speed rail from Tanger to Afghanistan (connecting to China) and with a branch to the Bosporus.

I had fun last night.  In the Qala Bist web war Qala Bist did alright.  It’s Saturday afternoon and Qala is still high on the list about the “Baiji oil refinery bombing”.  You don’t need to quote me.  But the point, the sad point perhaps, is that not one, but two engineers were killed.  Since my father was an engineer, and my brother Ken Clayton, and my grandfather too and Alfin Backlund (too) my heart goes out when an engineer dies, is killed, you know the drill.

Of course the drill doesn’t include names.  “Engineers” are anonymous, mostly.  They are left generally unnamed.  It’s architects that get the credit (and get named), fancy designs, beautiful buildings – it is the engineers though that do the heavy lifting, do the calculations and the design, to make sure that the structures hold up.  Some architects don’t see the real need for good engineers, hence the carnage in Christchurch, no earthquake design even though 1906 San Francisco was a long time ago.

There are of course different types of engineers.  There are mechanical engineers, railroad engineers, chemical engineers, stationary engineers.  I guess it was a chemical engineer (makes sense, – petroleum) and maybe a stationary engineer (clerk of the works) that were killed in Baiji, Iraq.  My father was neither.  He was a “Civil Engineer” and a “Structural Engineer”; one of the big boys that dream high, dream far, dream wide.  Perhaps he was (sandwiched between endless hours of hard work), in some sense, a dreamer.

So, I grew up reading, or trying not to read, the magazines in his office, his offices, the various places that he worked.  The main magazine was Engineering News Record (ENR); he took the Military Engineer too.  ENR was an interesting publication; there wasn’t a newspaper for engineers; there wasn’t a Congressional Record for engineers, so ENR was both the organ for “news in engineering” and a record of what the profession had done (or wanted to do).

That last part is the kicker.  “What engineers want to do.”   You see, engineers used to have a lot of free mental time while they sat drawing lines on drafting tables or working their slide rules to calculate the math in the days before computers.  A good engineer could do most of these basic tasks in their sleep, and since they often did not sleep, this was good.  The rest of the mental time was often spent thinking up the next big project that might pay the bills, might help humanity, or might just get the investment financing that every big project needs.

The Golden Gate Bridge was such a project, and Hoover Dam, and Shasta Dam and the Grand Coulee.  The Sutro Tunnel project was one long before, and the Sutro Tower, the Empire State Building, the Suez Canal – you get the drill.  The Simplon Tunnel (in 1905 – 1921) revolutionized transportation in Europe and served to effectively connect Europe with the oil and oil fields of the Middle East (and also provided gist for novels about the Orient Express).

Many of the great engineering projects of the world have been about colonialism, and the purpose of such projects was to extend and foster the colonial aspirations and empires of Europe.  Every occupied city would have some grand “colonial” hotel, often some Parliament building or colonial office of administration.  Railroads were often built to connect the occupied nations with Europe, or to connect the colonial capitals with borderlands next to the next coveted colonial acquisition.

The last thing in the world that the colonial (think American and European) powers wanted to do was to create an Inter-nation (Inter-colony) infrastructure that would enable the different colonies of the different powers to unite and work together.  That “divide and conquer” mentality is what exploitation is all about.

So now we can look at the map of North Africa, the region, the area of one united people (perhaps), united by one big, fast, efficient train – railroad – and all the incredible advantages that rail transportation brings.  No more “high seas” and storms on the sea lanes to Europe; instead a united and connected North Africa where the wealth stays home and everybody there travels freely and gets along.  Now that is “Engineering News”.

A bit of history about the strategic importance of Libya:  Railroads were built from Morocco (and in Morocco) all the way to Tunis in Tunisia (and to points in-between).  The British built railroads in Egypt and throughout the delta and along the Nile to points south.  Mussolini might have made the trains run on time in Italy, but in Libya (an Italian colony) he built less than 250 miles of railroad track in a nation of 700,000 square miles of area.   The European powers in their “wisdom” made sure that the eastern end of the Mediterranean and the western end would never meet, the land would never be united, the different peoples would be isolated and on their own.

So what about now?  Why were there 30,000 Chinese in Libya and only about 600 Americans?  The answer is here:
Since 1965 no railroads have operated in Libya. In 2000 the newly created Railways Executive Board, employing about 750 staff, signed a US$477 million contract with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and began the first phase of a plan to build a national rail system in Libya. The contract was to build an initial 163-kilometer line with 16 stations from Ras Ajdir, the land frontier point between Tunisia and northwest Libya, to Tripoli. Site preparation and some construction were completed in 2001. Completion of the entire project was projected for 2004 at an estimated cost of US$10 billion but appears to be behind schedule.

So that’s it folks.  The entire region has oil, needs jobs, needs good paying jobs for many millions of workers.  There are many well trained and capable Arab and Arab speaking engineers.  The Chinese are rather good at the technical stuff and have built the factories that build the best trains and high-speed trains in all the world.  They seem to like the climate in North Africa, where it seems the British and the Americans don’t.  With regime change this trend could be regional.

So “all aboard” with a revolutionary goal.   Like the uniting of the rails in the U.S. experience with the building of the railroad and the uniting of the rails in the desert of Promontory, Utah the building of a “new national” railroad could be the best step forward.   Yes, the region (united) can leave America behind.

Baiji Oil Refinery bombed

February 26th, 2011

~ Al Jazeera (English) has reported that the oil refinery in Baiji has been bombed.

The time is 1:21 A.M. on Saturday, February 26, 2011 on the east coast of the United States.

The significance of this fact is that most American journalists are asleep, have gone to bed or to bars, will be gone for the weekend.  This gives blog sites like mine time to generate traffic because I’m not asleep.  Even Al Jazeera has not yet put anything up on their web-site that can be captured by the search engines.  The reports on this “Breaking News Story” are on the air, not out there in print.

While the story is now about 30 minutes old, new reports coming in suggest that, “there are many reasons why refineries might blow up, other than terrorists.”  Al Quida is of course the most quickly identified suspect, so maybe it is Muammar Gaddafi that is right – Al Qaeda is behind every act of violence in the rather unstable Middle East (meaning areas of the Middle East that are unstable).

OK, oil prices will rise before the journalists get back from the bars, oil it seems, never sleeps.  The Baiji Oil Refinery is in Baiji, Iraq, north of Bagdad, Google location is here.  Move out on this map, or move in to get an idea of what the area looks like.

Now we’ll see just how much power blogs have as opposed to facebook and tweets.  This is an experiment, mostly.  Stay tuned, or get tuned into Al Jazeera.

It’s 2:00 A.M. and Google is offering “Bayji” because Reuters Africa used that spelling, then offers 1,950 hits, mostly “Baiji”, and a lot of those are about earlier bombings.  Maybe I should have (lied?) and said, “Al Qaeda bombs Iraq oil refinery in Baiji”.  If Al Qaeda did it, oil is going up – if it was just the action of a few disgruntled democrats (meaning democracy protesters impatient for a change) then oil will be just fine.  If you are BP, crying “Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda” is so useful.  See you at the pumps.  The experiment continues.

Exciting news, on  “Al Qaeda bombs Iraq oil refinery” (at 2:15 A.M.) Qala Bist is number 17 (in order of hits, or something).  The story of the Iraq oil refinery bombing continues.

2:25 A.M., no hits for “oil refinery in Iraq bombed”.  We will see how long it takes to catch this angle on writing the news.

Al Jazeera seems to be using the term “blast”, as in an Oil Refinery blast in Baiji has been reported by the governor of Salahuddin province.  I’m not sure how many “updates” the Google search engines can handle on a given post.  No “oil refinery in Iraq bombed” response yet at 2:38 A.M.

2:45 A.M.:  Fantastic news, by using the spelling Bayji, and no quotes, Qala Bist is number three (3!).  Seems to be traction on the “blast” angle too.  I guess I should tune in to Al Jazeera and see what is the latest breaking news that they have…..

2:55 A.M.:  Al Jazeera is reporting that Algeria is supporting Muammar Gaddafi by transporting mercenary troops.  Other reports indicate a Gaddafi counter attack in the east; so is he beating Al Qaeda or just helping “Al Qaeda” to increase the price of oil, or is he just helping BP to rise the price of oil.  Where is Hillary Clinton tonight to tell us who really bombed the Baiji oil refinery and what the U.S. reaction to the Iraq oil refinery bombing really is?  The news never sleeps, I guess the government does.  To be continued…..

3:10 A.M.:  Photographs regarding the violence in Baiji are now coming in, or have been in, or thank you to people I don’t even know, like this photo by Chief Petty Officer Michael Heckman, Joint Combat Camera – Iraq, Bayji, Iraq on February 24, 2010 (which is like exactly one (1) year ago.  It looks like this photograph is a public record paid for by U.S. government expense:

3:15 A.M.:  Iraq’s biggest oil refinery has been bombed.  Trained demolition crews breached security and walked into the control room with explosives packs that they placed, without interference, at locations that would do the most damage.  The bombers were equipped with silencers in what is being described as a, “very carefully planned operation”.

This looks a lot like the type of thing that is burning at the oil refinery bombed in Iraq:

Anyway, check out Google “images” and there are maps and other pictures and stuff.  But this story is beginning to sound very strange, not the Al Qaeda type operation that most people are used to; no “underwear bomber” here.

3:30 A.M.:  An engineer was killed by what is now being described as “gunmen” in the attack on the Baiji oil refinery in Iraq.  The main fire is evidently now under control, but the oil saturated ground is evidently still burning.  The Iraq refinery will be out of commission (shut down) for at least several weeks, “make money, buy oil futures now”.

3:50 A.M.:  This experiment has been going on now for about 2.5 hours.  Qala is holding its own against the combined powers of the state media, the corporate media and others.  Maybe there is something to this “citizen journalism” after all.  Maybe the secret is to post on the weekends until the big boys learn to work hard and late like most people have to.  Don’t hold your breath.

Keep the experiment going.  Keep Googling and counting and clicking on Qala Bist, on this story, to keep it alive.  In a few minutes, a few hours, we will know more, but the point is to expose the lies, to challenge the myth of Al Qaeda and Gaddafi – to stop the fears about more oil refineries blowing up, being burned down, being bombed, being attacked by gunmen, by bombers, by strange men in underwear.  Power to the people!  Maybe the real revolution has begun.

Emergency in Wisconsin

February 25th, 2011

~ I would rather that you read this, but it’s too late for a vote.

I used to like Amy Goodman and her crowd at “Democracy Now”.   She has stood firm against many wars and given voice to many freedoms and a lot of vilified and marginalized people.  She has been a patriot, and I note her logo is patriotic too.

But!  But, today’s program is different.  Amy goes off the deep end.  She doesn’t just advocate and report and comment and editorialize, she takes sides.  And this time her side is wrong.  This time she sides with war, for war, she stands on the side of civil war and civil division in the State of Wisconsin and for the overthrow of the very “Democracy” that she advocated for, for so long and hard.

Let me explain.

But, before I explain let me say that maybe this post should be added to the continuing discussion about the perils of democracy with emphasis on the fact that “democrats” as well as republicans don’t do well when it comes to making democracy work, because (maybe) they don’t really believe in real democracy at all and their followers, meaning the people, don’t understand democracy even if they get on TV; watch TV; carry signs; demonstrate by the numbers (100,000), in numbers big enough to cause the call for the call-up of the National Guard (or something); but, I don’t like the direction and the way this thing is going – like Libya and Muammar Gaddafi, maybe the point is that neither side is right when the whole situation is wrong.

Some day, one day, back in the 1890’s or 1920’s or some time in between; when the people of America found that DEMOCRACY just wasn’t working they rose up (sing “Rise Upmaybe?) and passed some Progressive legislation, not to be confused with Progressive Education.

Anyway, the idea included two important ideas – recall and referendum.  The point is this.  If you have a situation where some nut case (or cases) actually steal an election (elections) then you recall the bastard (bastards) and you do it quick.  Also, if this legislature or group of thugs or brown shirts or red herrings or whatever they are or were or pretended to be pass bills before they are recalled then you (meaning the people of Wisconsin) use democracy to call for a referendum, a citizens bill, and you undo in a special election or at the next election what these addle-brained pretenders at democracy did.  If Germany had have had referendum and recall in 1933 (and a population of informed voters and journalists) Hitler and his party would have never had a chance.

The sad part is Germany didn’t and Wisconsin did, but doesn’t.  Let me explain.  Wisconsin does have recall, (alternative source for but if you read the PDF file you will see that for some very stupid reason the good people of Wisconsin are willing to let stupid people stay in power for a full year, which is time enough to do a lot of damage (and be, or to be, a witness to Hitler).

So, I don’t really know if 100,000 or more people demonstrating and maybe rioting in the streets and taking over public buildings and creating a real public mess represents the will of a state, out of a population (in population, a population of 6 million) (a chilling number to say the least), or not.  I don’t live there, I’m only watching.  From a very safe distance I am watching.

Yes, knock heads if you want to in Wisconsin; bash heads, or bash your own head against a wall; take to the streets; start a revolution; maybe Amy Goodman can make a new logo that reads “Revolution Now!“, same colors, same patriotic imagery.  You get my point, and so should she.

What I would suggest is a bit different.  Write a bill of referendum Wisconsinors, do this thing right.  If the state wants collective bargaining and unions and the way it was (or is) let an election decide, not street theater, not just marches of the masses.  And meanwhile, circulate another referendum to change the recall, so that the citizens can recall a tyrant, an out of control tea party, before it’s too late.  Wake up America; Wisconsin may be first, but you certainly might be next.

Referendum, Recall – legislatures are in session – pass the bills that safeguard democracy NOW!  It’s not too late to maybe make it work, but don’t say that I said so, don’t quote me.  Because, if you are a journalist, revolution makes such better, more action-packed, press.


February 25th, 2011

~ Reversing the reverse engineering of engineering.

My brother Martin Clayton (Frederick Martin Clayton) took typing in High school.  “Typing” was not called “keyboarding” in 1955 and since Martin was a male it was extremely unusual, if not impossibly rare, for a male to be found in a typing class back then.  I think it (meaning his taking the class) required special permission and his advisor was against it as Martin was considered “college material”, as he was a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship contest in its first year of 1955.

I was, of course, a bit younger.  In the fall of 1955 I was just entering Second Grade at Fremont Elementary School in Carson City, Nevada.  The school was not located on Firebox Road then as Firebox Road did not then exist.  As a first grader I had first entered school at the brand new school that Fremont School was then, or then was; not unlike the new, new John C. Fremont Elementary School that exists on Firebox Road now.  I (again) digress.

High, but not high enough, on the curriculum that year was reading the (new) book Horton Hears a Who!.  The book, needless to say, captured my imagination as it had two points going for it – One, the star was an elephant (which brings up my father’s time previously spent in Burma in 1951 and 1952); Two, it was a story about hearing the voices of the “little people” who’s voices had never been heard before.

Needless to say (again), I carefully read and re-read the story, liked it, gave it a “thumbs up” and immediately decided that in some ways the story was lacking, (and the plot) was lacking in clarity, vigor, courage or something and had to be rewritten.  My teacher (of course) disagreed and insisted that the story was, “Just Fine.” (the way it was) and probably insinuated something about text books and school books and good public money spent on good reading (material) by the good city of Carson City and for any second grader that should be enough.

Being young then, naive, and voiceless (the point of the book was not listening, and here my own teacher was missing the point and not listening); her objections did nothing but prove (that) I was right.  So maybe (I thought) if she could see it on paper (paper being like Horton’s big ears), then she could see the who’s too and how to’s and how to listen to a “Who” (which was me) and see the wisdom of “Horton Hears a Who! – rewritten by Donald Clayton“.  Amen.

The project of course involved typing.  My mother typed of course, but she also worked (of course), not at typing, and since I was a latch-key kid I knew that she would not be doing the typing for me – even if I were a male and even if I were just seven years old and not even eight (8).

Deep breath.  There were at least two old typewriters in the old house on Roop Street.  One was my mother’s and one was my brother’s.  I figured (correctly) that since he had championed the right of males to take classes where here-to-fore females only were welcome that he could have no objection to sharing his typewriter with me (unless of course he was hypocritical enough as to make dividing lines based on age, being small, being voiceless – you get the idea).

In no time I was typing away, hunt and peck about the way I do now, and pounding on the keys and keyboard and straightening pages of paper between rollers and learning which of the silver handles and black knobs would give me the return that I needed or the red ink that I needed to make emphasis as then there were no italics.  Underlining required backing up and retyping what had been typed before which also made an “x” over “o” image easily possible which is now hard to do on the latest of “keyboarding” machines.  The point being that some things are lost by advancing technology, but again-again I digress.

Oh well, I should show you the machine so you can have an idea of what I am talking about:

The above machine is an Underwood, we had a Remington too (typewriter, not rifle).  Olivetti bought Underwood in 1959, which led to the craze about “portables” (portable typewriters), which is a lot like moving from desktops to laptops and who says that history does not repeat – repeat?

My mother sent a copy of my manuscript to her mother who immediately (or fairly immediately) lost it.  Yes, I had made a carbon; or my mother made a copy of my carbon by re-typing my re-written manuscript herself and in case you didn’t know carbon paper was the photo-copying technology of the time; it was good for type, but not for pictures and required an extra “pounding” on the keys.

Hemme Martin (my grandmother) was a school teacher herself so she probably agreed that if Horton Hears a Who! had any merit at all, there certainly was no point in having it rewritten, especially by a 7 year old, even if he had learned to type.  But, “Can he write,” she might have said, knowing then that cursive wasn’t taught yet in second grade as an art, ignoring the idea that writing might be writing and not an advance from printing which was “block letters” (then) and not what my effort at typing was all about – which was to create something at home much like a printed book.

It is easier now to just publish on the web.  Copies (of things) are cached automatically so there is no need to hope that a distant friend or relative or grandparent or something keeps a copy.  But, the story continues to be written, or rewritten.  Horton and I both know that there are “Who’s”, and who they are, and where they are if only people might listen, might read, will right (or write).

The question is, “Can I write?”  My answer, “I haven’t used cursive in years.”

Race baiting

February 24th, 2011

~ Continuing the discussion on the perils of democracy –

(American) Democracy is not unlike the plight of Pauline.  She is tied up, placed face up in the middle of the tracks, feet and head upon the tracks; a train is coming.  What to do?

Of course it is the bad guy (should be bad “person”) that tied her up, placed her there, and is wearing black just for good measure or because it is so fashionable or something.  But, I digress.

What you are witnessing is a crime, a murder.  What you see is the difference between practice and belief.  There is no Constitutional right to have “beliefs”, at best it is common law; in reality the right to believe in the right to believe may be almost universal.  Governments, democracy in fact, have no problem with what anyone “believes” as long as they don’t act on their beliefs, act out their beliefs, practice their beliefs.

The above image is of course hateful, hate speech, demeaning to the status and dignity of women.  The image too is deleterious to the image of men; it casts them as rouges and scoundrels, it makes it seem as it is men that are to be feared.  Would a remake portray a woman in the role of the powerful villain; would a woman ever do this to another woman?  What do you think, believe?

This (of course) brings us the the “right” to Freedom of Religion, and to Speech.  You can think (believe) that it is perfectly OK to yell “FIRE” in a crowded theater with no exits and made entirely of dry wood (and add the smell of smoke).  You just can’t do it.  You can talk about doing it of course, but you can’t advocate doing it – that’s conspiracy to commit a crime.

So you see my point.  Much of the media is based on not exactly advocating crimes, but watching (and seeing, and listening to) portrayals of “how to do it”, of how to be a bad one, of how to create and engage in a conspiracy with others.  You see how to deny and deprive others of their rights and civil rights and dignity and opportunity and chance to be themselves.  Then when you do as you’ve been shown “you” say everyone is doing it, did it, “I’m just imitating art” – I’m an artist, just an actor, “all the world is a stage”.

In this light, is “freedom of speech” such a good thing?  Is it good for Pauline?  Is it good for the rights and peace and dignity and opportunities for good and honest men?

And that brings us to “Freedom of Religion”.  What are ones core beliefs?  Does one have the right to believe in science, in superman, in the belief that there is no God?  One can say these things, believe these things – but only if it is a religion can one act them out.  I didn’t make the democratic rules; I just cite them.

So dropping an H-Bomb on someone would be a “crime against humanity”, but if it were a “religious” act it might be OK.  America and Americans tolerate and have tolerated the most shameful acts, attitudes and advocacies purely under the guise of religion; ignoring the fact that the real word should be beliefs.  Who can seriously believe that only men should be priests?  Who can advocate the circumcision of men and not of women, or of women and not of men?  What “democratic” source says it’s OK to keep women in headscarves or a veil or in a life just mostly stuck at home?

Who in a “real” democracy can stand and criticize others who might have different religious beliefs and practices different than their own?  Isn’t that what democracy is all about; tolerating Arabs and Muslims if you are a Christian or a Jew, and tolerating Christians and Jews if you are a Muslim, and tolerating religion even if you don’t have faith in anything at all?  No, I don’t think that many Americans believe in democracy at all.

The term race baiting is as broad as it is wide.  It’s not good to see individuals as members of a race, and in fairness it is not good to not to.  One day there may be an end to racial diversity, racial differences, all racial ethnicity and identity at all – all amalgamation for us all.  One day our planet may be all one color, the racial card, the racial past will be all gone.  Then what would politicians and the powerful talk about in public and in secret; how would they conquer and divide?

I am a “Boomer”, a war baby is the term I like the best.  The next generations are largely color-blind, don’t see race as a barrier or an issue.  They don’t snicker and whisper racial jokes.  They were not brought up on “Pollack jokes” and words like “Japs” or “Huns”, “Germans”, “Gooks”  (or “Women”) as a derogatory type thing.  Ronald Reagan was.  He was not a hero, his was not the greatest generation at all.  His life and generation now (gratefully) are past and almost gone.  But, Boomers are caught in the middle.  We find it hard to let go and learn to unlearn what we were forced to learn.

In some ways, some say, the world will be better for our passing.  Maybe so.  But watch out too for that other word, “democracy”, left over (too) from a long past generation and the Second World War.  The idea of the United Nations was to create states based on colors, on races, on ethnic divisions and divides, on religious beliefs and often on the belief in a national religion – a religious state.  It’s race baiting.  It’s a formula for war.  It’s “democracy” in action.  Get over it.  Please get over it right now.

Housing and the price of capitalism

February 23rd, 2011

~ You don’t need pictures of New Zealand to know to get your house in order.

OK, I really don’t know if the price of housing in New Zealand has collapsed like the prices for houses in the U.S., like in Nevada (and elsewhere); but I do know that in parts of New Zealand the houses (and housing) have literally collapsed, which is a lot worse than just a price fall.

The morning rag (meaning the Albuquerque Journal) just reported that home prices in the U.S. are at a “five year low”, which makes sense since on one fine day just last week the paper had only one (1!) ad for a house for sale in the City of Albuquerque itself.  I’m not sure whether to worry more about the fate of housing or the fate of the newspaper itself.  With the last of the Bookstores failing newspapers can’t be far behind.  It’s clear my life is changing.

So, that (meaning the pictures from New Zealand, maybe Tunisia – Libya and elsewhere) seem to provide evidence of why one should have their vital information (and pictures, and photographs) upon the web and not just stored away in some box or file in the attic or the basement.  Church records too might be hard to find when the church itself is hard to find, as in the churches of Christchurch and there I go again talking about New Zealand.

This of course brings me back to my late efforts (not yet too late) that involve recording (is the word “webbing” better?) the addresses of where my family has lived and that of course brings up the issue of housing (meaning hotels, motels, apartments, homes rented and homes once owned).  The really cool thing about making this list now and posting it on the web is the ability to link the satellite imagery with the residence address and maybe a front door shot if the structure still exists and in some cases (because of street and address changes and new parking lots) there is no way of really knowing.

Add the bank run data base of housing prices and square footage and maybe even a count of bathrooms and lot size and you have a lot of information that (1) the person that lived there might never have known, and (2) a good idea of how these computers got us (meaning America) in so much trouble.  So – since I lived in Reno once, like in High School, and my parents bought in 1963 a house built in 1963 that cost them $20,000 (then) I can now see how this property is doing.

First click here, then scroll down on Zillow to the graph and reset the sine curve to “10 years”.   First, you will find out that the Associated Press article (reprinted in the Albuquerque Journal) by David Kravitz is all wrong.  The house in question (my old house) and maybe a million others is selling now for less than it was in 2001, which is like ten (10) years ago – not five (5).  Second, you will notice that the house has “lost” maybe 55% of its 2006 value and is going down further at a rate of about $285 per day.   As they say in the market, it looks like a very good time to “sell”, unless you are making at least $350 per day and then you are willing to work or invest for literally nothin, as in zip, nada, no return.

$350 per day is like $128,000 per year, which in Reno, Nevada is a little more than most people make so maybe you can get married, stay married and have your husband (or wife) work too – all for nothing: just to have a home, but the money for food or transportation or clothing or health insurance is not even included in this financial mix (meaning “fix”).  But hey, “Consumer Confidence” is rising and the economy is already into “the big return”.   Oh sure.

My mother, Lloydine Clayton, always hated the game board game Monopoly and the earlier Parker Brother’s version named Finance because the story of her life was all about her father building houses, mortgaging them, selling them and making another bank loan to start anew.  Often, the money just wasn’t coming in, her father was in poor health, her mother’s work was not work enough.  She concluded that real estate, debt, bank loans were not a game.


Fast forward to the future (meaning now).  Every one in my generation played Monopoly and learned the tricks and wanted to be the bank or the real estate baron dolling out and taking in all that Monopoly money, plain paper – the game could have been really high stakes with plastic money and not just plastic hotels and houses.  We learned too well.  We forgot too quickly that “WE” were not the bank and that the only one getting rich off the game was Parker Brother’s and nobody knew who the brothers really were after all; except that they also soon made an “enjoyable” war game called Risk.

So Life imitates art, Art imitates life, and imitations imitate imitations.

How is your money?  How much of your life is art?  I think I hear my mother calling.  It’s time to put the games away.

Myths of Democracy

February 22nd, 2011

~ Real revolution is about going where no one else dares to go.

Yesterday I wrote about the waste of time that democracy, or arguing about it, represents.  Heads up to those in Libya (or Afghanistan), democracy is not something you want to die for.  But here I am writing about politics and political “solutions” when I could be scanning old photographs and letters and putting up more meaningful posts.

And that’s the point.  Life is about the life one lives despite the overlay of the political system.  Regardless of the political system life is pretty much the same – except for the lives of the very rich and those with power, and political power – i.e. those in “politics”, and the politicos.

Two examples of this fact come to mind, in my mind, from my past.  The first example comes from my life in Afghanistan where there were of course Afghans, but also Germans (my age), Russians (my age), Egyptians my age and a few Indians (from India) and a few others from elsewhere too (like England).

The significance of this fact is that under the “global theory” of conflict, political passions and war, all of the opposing “systems” (meaning of government and governance) were represented in what maybe was my fairly small handful of “friends”.  Afghanistan was an absolute Monarchy – meaning had a King; like England had when thousands of lives were lost overthrowing his “power”.  Germany was (recently) a fascist state, my German friends had fathers that generally fought in the war (on the Socialist side) when they were twenty or maybe twenty-two and mothers who had endured (and survived) the allied bombings of cities in which only civilians did reside.

Most every day, or at least often, I drove or walked by the Russian Embassy (C.C.C.P.), a very real and very tangible symbol of “communism” and the power of the Soviet state (or estate).  The diplomats there wore hats like my father would do and occasionally took their children out to the bazaars to see things and maybe buy things like I would do and maybe my father would do, except that he worked in his office far too hard, so basically didn’t.

England (then) was the most socialist of socialist nations (like Israel) and had socialized medicine which meant free health care like I had because my father (too) worked for the government, or with the government, but it was OK because being sick without medicine can be bad.  The Brit rails were government owned (but efficient), the London double-deck buses were owned by the government too.  The Russian built (from GMC molds) “Russian” buses run by the Afghan government were government owned, as were the GMC built streetcars that still graced the streets of Washington D.C. at substantial government expense.

In Egypt the government was run by Nasser.  He liked Hitler (a little) maybe (though Hitler was dead), but that was because Nasser didn’t like the Brits because of the canal (the Suez Canal) that the French built before it was stolen and Egypt was stolen, and all that other Middle East history that you don’t want to know.  What Egypt and Israel had in common was a hatred for Great Britain, but the democratically (read democracy) elected President of Israel didn’t matter because it was Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (who was educated in Turkey) that had the power to share power with Nasser which meant keeping the Persians, the Iranians, out – or at least out of the Suez Canal, but let’s just say, he, or they, didn’t.

Let us remember a few basic facts.  Hitler himself and his party were freely elected in a democracy by a totally democratic process.  David Ben Gurion helped “find” Israel without any democratic vote where any Palestinian (read “Arab”) could vote.  Afghanistan and Egypt were members of the U.N. (created to foster democracy), but even though they (like other nations) were not the slightest bit democratic were let in and were encouraged to stay in the U.N.  America itself never voted to leave England, never voted for war – if those without land (meaning estate holders) had been allowed to vote, or women, or Indians, or people of color or indentured servants even, the composition of Congress would have been quite different – even with the secessionist, virtually absolute, control of the press.

The point is that every one in Afghanistan had their friends, their families, their lives and their memories – all important, all dear.  If pictures are posted today of the past most all of the people look about the same; the clothing may be different, the uniforms may be different, but the faces show the same mix of happy, worry, or sad.  Life goes on, and has gone on for a very long time without this “democracy” thing and in most cases, even in America, democracy is irrelevant to daily life except as an outworn (basically meaningless) political ideology.

The first Myth of Democracy says that An Election legitimizes power.

The simple truth is that an election doesn’t.  “Being elected”, means nothing unless one knows who is (allowed to be) an elector, who is actually allowed to vote, who actually votes, who is allowed to even run and what information about the candidate or the issue is known.  All this must be juxtaposed against the false choice paradox illustrated by the question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

The point is that a two-party system can (inherently) never be fair.  Real life, like in nature, never squares off in contests of one against one.  There are always multiple challengers, coming in succession or in profusion.  Political multiplicity, like diversity, must be real to avoid the real rule by an elite.

The whole discourse about what constitutes (and how to run) a “free and fair” election is beyond the pale of most advocates of democracy.  The simple (inconvenient) truth is that nobody knows how.  Voter ID’s are necessary for an honest election, but can dissuade some honest voters.  Public money must be available for the poor (to run), but it is unfair to silence the voice of the rich, every candidate is allowed by every democracy to lie, to conceal, to mislead, to confuse, to obfuscate, to exaggerate, to trivialize (and more) without any legal sanction.  Voters (the electorate) is composed of the immature, the selfish, the self-centered, the criminally insane, the insane, the senile, the ignorant, the stupid, the uneducated, the unaware, the uncaring, the angry and the mob – not to mention the great army of the unwashed and the unreal (meaning voters who don’t and never did exist).  This does not include the issue of armies of “hanging chads” and ballot box stuffing and simple computer programs designed to steal the vote.

The ideal democracy is composed of nothing more than a council of the wise, the interested, the altruistic who have learned from life of the perils of self-assertion, self-interest and of greed.  They meet alone in private and peaceful council, perhaps upon a hill or by some small stream of flowing water or in a meadow if it is the spring.

No building ever surrounds them.  They must meet the wind and cold, enjoy the sun and flowers, see the stars at night if their counsel lasts too long.  They come not with I-pods, notebook computers, sketchpads, legal pads or other notes.  They are not surrounded by well-paid staffs and staffers with lists and reminders of contributors and contributions and promises of money yet to come.  There is no one there to remind them of the things to say that they themselves could not remember to say.  The council members bring one thing, the clarity of an honest and open mind.

Creative thinking helps.  Everything, every day is seen as new.  Life experience is necessary, but the council is not just of the elders, seniority never holds sway.  Discussion is cordial and shows self respect and always includes respect for the interests of others; especially of the infirm, the halt, the poor, the lame, the powerless, the poor and huddled masses yearning to breath free and to stay free after the wishes of the council have passed judgment and are done .

Decisions are made by consensus, never by a vote.  There may be those that will never go along or get along or be happy or be sad when it’s time for sadness.  Their opinions matter, but they are not given the veto right.  Their voices are there to be remembered if the councils decision goes wrong.  Things can always improve the next time.  Perfection, truth, fairness, kindness and justice is probably the goal.   Self-sacrifice is the watchword.  The possession of personal wealth is the only bar to council membership (meaning inclusion).

We’ve come close to this (form of government) on this continent in our time (meaning within the past three hundred years).  These traditions are real and remembered – in the heart as well as in the mind.  The government that governs least governs best if it is wise.  Any government that requires a murderous military to defend it is not worth defending.  A standing army is the greatest impediment to freedom.  The powers of search, of seizure and of the police must be thoroughly contained.  The government should not be allowed to keep files on any citizen not an employee or a person convicted of a serious crime against the law.

So, the dialogue and the discussion (about government) does need to be redirected.  New ideas and the old ideas need to be visited and revisited.  We need governance, perhaps not government, that works.  But VOTING is not the answer, DEMOCRACY (as we know it) is not the answer, nor is it even real.  “Freedom of Speech”, sure – you’ve just seen it; but I would need the wealth of Mark Zuckerman to get my point across; and guess what, this message is not the message that he (and his handlers) wants to get across.  Freedom of speech works only if you have the money.

Maybe I should just get back to posting, pictures of Korea or Afghanistan or of Carson City or perhaps of the Armstrong clan.  I could post a few more letters.  I could post pictures of my friends, my pets.  I could finish this list of residence addresses that is mostly about my mother, but says a lot too, about me.  More deaths and deliberations about more democracy in Egypt, near Egypt, or elsewhere?  Count me out.  My second point about democracy?  I just made it; and you don’t need to vote.

There is a story.

February 21st, 2011

~ A bifurcated post about North Africa, Afghanistan, Carson City and beyond.

I might begin by posting two links that tend to prove, or at least provide evidence, that I have been a bit right about the “new” Arab Revolution.   I have been posting about two points for days if not weeks:  One – Democracy is highly over-rated; Two – The revolution in Egypt and elsewhere is largely another U.S. plot.

I have said to myself and many others that I wish it were otherwise, that I would really like to “believe” (meaning believe in hope and revolution and democracy et al.) and that I would like to believe that the bad guys had given up, were easily defeated, could be put down in a week or two with a weak revolution of simple facebook postings, tweeks and happy faces shown upon the tube.  I further said that what was missing in all these revolutions was a clear and realistic (detailed) list of wants, simply said a list that says, “This is what the revolution wants.”

“Democracy is not like that,” I’ve been told.  Democracy revolves around the tools of vagueness, of generalities, of generalizations.  Democracy elevates those that simply say, “Change, Hope, Better, Democracy for all, the Autocrats should not rule.”  Or as they say (in China today), “Food, Housing, Jobs.”  It sounds a lot like America (today), land of freedom and opportunity.  Or maybe (as Trini says) it sounds a little more like conditions in San Juan (puerto rico – U.S.A.!)

In Wisconsin we have a taste (and a view) of what real democracy in America looks like.  The “Democrats” (root word is democracy) have run away from the capitol, the capital, and the state itself.  They hope to rule (and make rules) from over the border, from Chicago, from Washington maybe, if not just Illinois.  In Wisconsin democracy has gotten specific, though probably not specific enough.  Democracy (there) is not just about throwing the despot out (he was overwhelmingly elected); it is about not just the legality of unions, but what they pay and the question of union pay being the same as a fair pay for all.  If everybody in Wisconsin made $87,141.00 (dollars) per year there would be enough taxes paid to pay the teachers (and their union).

The problem in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) is that for each $50,000 in pay (for maybe nine months, technically 180 days, of work) there is another $30,000 in benefits that also must be paid – retirement, health care, continuing education, travel.  These are four things that democracy in America does not provide – maybe these are the real “four freedoms” that democracy should be about.

   The new version is here.

We’ve had maybe 235 years of freedom of speech in America and what has this freedom brought us?  Is there a law that requires an employer to pay their employed (employees) enough to have even 235 square feet of personal space in which to live or in which to retire?  Is there any guarantee that a working family of four (in San Juan or New York City or elsewhere) can afford a rental, a mortgage, a homestead of 1,340 square feet of living space, or even half that (meaning 670 square feet for an apartment or a house)?  NO!  The world’s second oldest democracy (a “big maybe”, after the Swiss) provides no real guarantees for American citizens (except “rights”), which are meaningless without the pursuit of money.

America (and democracy) makes no guarantees regarding food, nutrition, housing, employment, health care, retirement, freedom to travel, freedom to move – migrate – relocate, freedom of safety, any guarantee of clean air, clean water, much less even a guarantee of clothes!  What are these “revolutionaries” thinking with all their whoopla about “democracy” being the thing?  What do they want?  Look around.  Almost any type of government would be better.

But that is the point now isn’t it?  The American (USA!) version of democracy is about feeling better and DOING better than anyone else and being glad you did, that you are.  There is no true or real altruism involved.  It is all about ego and “the ego”; “more money than the other guy (gal) and that proves I’m best.”  And add: “I don’t have to feel guilty because everybody believes in democracy, and has a chance,and so if they are not rich and famous (meaning both) they just didn’t try and didn’t work and didn’t take advantage of the rights the government gave them.

Those are the three (3) big lies of democracy.  Democracy is dangerous because it empowers the people that don’t really care about the personal welfare of others.  It is as dangerous, and very much like, the National Socialism advocated by Hitler in the propaganda movie Triumph of Will where the “ideal” of the state is to elevate to positions of power those that are best at playing the rules in the government controlled game – the rich, those motivated by power, those that feel and act superior to everyone else and pay them (next to nothing) accordingly, and substitute jargon about “rights” for a real advance in human welfare.

Life, of course, is not about materialism or materialistic prosperity.  It is not about cars and roads and “roads to drive on”.  Life is about ideas and experience.  And for life to exist (for a free person to exist), that person needs sanctuary in the form of safe space, basic healthful food that is unquestioningly affordable, freedom to move and travel and the wealth to make that possible, an opportunity for a free college (vocational, or higher) education, clothing that is both dignified and creative – dry and if necessary, warm; and most importantly of all, everyone needs a fair and just compensation for their every utterance or effort that improves the beneficial lot of humanity – and you know; based on this standard – democracy just doesn’t make it; it doesn’t do the job.

So “fire democracy”; it’s a workplace anachronism; it’s anti-nature and nature’s bane.  Democracy does not inspire people or empower people; it weakens people and takes away from them the very life and opportunities for which every person yearns.  Democracy wastes peoples time.  Democracy creates dialogue where none need exist and conflicts where both choices lead only to ruin.  Democracy supports and upholds the notion of the depravity of man and not the inherent goodness that without the propaganda of democracy would be self-evident to everyone.  Democracy is complicated, where life itself and the means to enjoy it should be simple.

I rest my case.  No need to vote.  In your heart you know I’m right.  People, it’s the ideas and the past experience with democracy that counts.  “Into the buildings, and out of the streets.”

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