Archive for January, 2013

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VICTIMS OR HYPOCRITES?

January 30, 2013

Two issues caught my attention today that made me raise this question: Who are victims and who are the Hypocrites?

First, Israel needs to RETHINK and get this right!  Yesterday, they became the first country to withhold cooperationfrom UN Review of its human rights practices.  Whatever their reasons – still unshared – they now put people around the world in jeopardy; endangering the global human rights process as they set this precedent.  Yikes!  That new coalition voted in by the Israeli people to temper Bebe had better get to work fast to overcome this move!   

No country cries louder that the world owes them for what has been done to them in terms of human rights in the past.  And I do not blame them considering the long history of persecution they have suffered at the hands of Christians from the Crusades to Hitler.  However, that does not place their country today ABOVE the international organization charged with the guarantee of those same human rights Israelis once were deprived of. 

That aside, they now become an excuse to those many emerging and existing countries through-out the world in which there ARE significant  issues including North Africa and the Middle East.

Until we understand the WHY of this seemingly unconscionable position, we should hold judgment; but I admit, I immediately jumped to how this impacts our OWN American politics.  How does that faction of US citizens so critical of Obama/Netanyahu relationship as well as Obama’s non-war intervention in countries such as Syria reconcile this?  A country that we have nurtured since its inception and that survives partly due to US aid and investments thumbs its nose at a basic American principle.  Think about it.

The second issue is the three months it took Congress to respond to the storm victims in the Northeast.  It seems we can get US disaster relief to countries around the world faster than we help our own…

Rebuilding does not happen overnight, of course, but politically delaying the financial aid for these people is unconscionable and in my mind, destroyed more “political capital”/good will for one sector of our political system than “playing nice in the sandbox” on the immigration issue can recover.

This was a foolish move, I believe, in view of fact these same people who held up the aid are generally from states that get MORE AID from the US than they pay annually in taxes. I continue to miss the point they are trying to make by irresponsible actions like this.

Yes, I find these hypocrites frustrating and I accept I often need a “positive attitude” adjustment.  I tried to dwell on the good news…the US Military lifted its ban against women serving in combat, and-led by Minnesota and the North Star Council representing 75,000 scouts- the Boy Scouts lifted their ban on gays.   That helped- but obviously not enough – it does not take away the basic philosophical questions.

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NOTES TO SELF: CLEAN-UP

January 26, 2013

Three people have mentioned to me recently that I am not doing a very good job consistently posting to my blog.  Yes, I know I have been sporadic….for a lot of reasons including a recognition that this past election campaign has turned me into a “rant-er” rather than a rational person sharing opinions.  Nevertheless, I gathered a tall stack of notes today, and committed to getting my thoughts in order and communicated – not so much for the blog’s sake, but to get my desk back in some semblance of order!

So here goes – lots of topics; lots of thoughts:

REPUBLICAN STRATEGY 2013-2016

In 2009 on Inauguration Day for President Obama, Republicans met to plan their “success” strategy to confine Obama and guarantee a one-term presidency for him.  That strategy failed.  In 2013, they’ve been meeting for days to access why it did not work and how they alter the plan to achieve Democratic failure – not only in the second term, but also in the 2016 elections.

My thoughts?  No plan hatched by old angry white guys who still do not understand what went amiss as they clung to memories of good old days and cowered to the energized Tea Party generation is ever going to trump open-minded, forward-thinking majority of Americans who voted for Obama. 

Success may eventually come; but surely not until they are able to stop the melt-down and return to rational thinking.  So far, all reports from the meetings show they see specific “WHATS” that beat them; they simply do not recognize yet, “WHY”.

RESPECT FOR WOMEN

The treatment of Hillary Clinton at the Senate Hearings and the smearing of Susan Rice before that to ensure she would not be nominated as Secretary of State CLEARLY reflect in my mind the dismissal and lack of respect for women.  Was this week’s distasteful pandering a peak at the Republican “strategy for success” for 2016?   It was simply hard to watch…not for Hillary’s sake; but for their very attitude that so clearly showed what “little” men they were.  Perhaps that’s unfair; but I openly admit, as a woman in business in the 1970s-80s, living through that kind of male bullying based on their own fears and insecurities, as they recognized women COULD do more than breed and clean house – I STILL see red when it bubbles to the surface in today’s world.

THE FIGHT ON GUNS

I am convinced now.  I listened to the President’s plan; I thought it made sense and clearly stated gun ownership is not the issue; no one is taking away the right to guns….although I agree, I also recognize assault weapons will be a hard one. 

But although I really knew better, I did not anticipate the same people that advocate for MORE, BIGGER AND BETTER GUNS are so entrenched in a world of distortion and lies that they truly fear that  they need to defend themselves from their country.  How sad would that be – to live in such a threatening  “reality”? It is unimaginable to me…not only to have that fear; but to think that if it were true, they could defend themselves against the military power THEY insist the US needs to be safe.  This is a circular argument that makes no sense to me; and yet, it makes me sad that there are those for whom it does make sense.

Not something I can alter however; so the harm of guns and lives lost aside, I think an equal tragedy is the NRA.  They have ranked big company gun and munitions companies’ profits and support of their own existence ABOVE the lives of its members, their communities filled with American people and their children.

Generally, Obama is correct.  This is NOT an “either/or” solution; it is both a gun access and mental health issue and we will not be free and safe until we address it accordingly.

WALMART AND GUNS

It is no secret what I think about WalMart and their business practices.  Their treatment of employees, their negative actions that impact urbanization and costs of infrastructure aside, their role in the gun issue has made me think that perhaps it is time to confront this organization head on.

As the issue of guns resurfaced after Newtown, and Biden was charged with gathering input from all sides to help determine our country’s next steps, WalMart originally stated they would NOT participate in any White House meetings.  Great attitude, huh?  I assume they determined since they were the largest SELLER of guns in the US, they could simply ignore public opinion…one more time.

Eventually, they consented and agreed to send ONE representative to meet with Biden.  That certainly shows the spirit of collaboration to solve (or at least minimize) the problem, doesn’t  it?

Think about it:

US Congressional study shows US WalMarts alone cost US $2.5 Billion annually in public assistance to subsidize a company with US $10 Billion in profits.

Walmart is the largest private employer in the US; with average wage of $11 per hour for 34 hour work week for non-management positions.  There is no defined benefits plan and inadequate health care.

Globally, well-documented statistics show that at end of 20th century 660,000 WalMart employees around the world had no health insurance and were forced to rely on government assistance.

Yup, these people are part of the 47% Romney dismissed – “the takers”!  Facts show in the Walmart case, it’s the employees and the government that have BEEN taken.

 

OK, the sun’s up, the to-do list is beckoning, and only one pile of notes and thoughts has found its way to the trashcan…..more to come, later.

 

 

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WASHBURN HIGH

January 18, 2013

This is a school that markets itself as a place “where students are amply prepared to thrive in a multi-racial world” ??!!?

I was so saddened to hear and then read more this morning of the Washburn School racial incident….these are the very students that will grow up to become “influencers” in our city, state, and country…in a time when the country flips from that of a nation of white majorities to a multi-cultural world in which the whites become the minority.

And now, instead of hope that there are efforts being made to move us in the right direction, we learn that in this school, white students think it is FUNNY to hang a dark skinned doll in the school stairway.

It certainly raises the question….is the school failing in its purpose?  OR, is there such a strong element of bigoted white folks in our city/state/country that efforts to recognize and prepare for the reality of our multi-cultural future cannot offset this warped supremist view?

Yes, I also recognize, this is a single incident and I should show caution about over-reacting.  And yet, I learned in grade school and Sunday School that we are all created equal and for 60 years have watched this country SLOWLY try to move forward to put slavery and white supremacy behind us…and yet at the core of many of us, there has been no change.

It is discouraging.  I understand change threatens. And perhaps I have simply reached the tipping point after four years of watching adults who have been elected to run our country do all in their power to denigrate and bring down our first African-American president-because of his race.   But this kind of thinking and activity does not bode well for the future of the United States. 

I fear we shall have no one to blame but ourselves as we reach mid-century and find that rather than global leaders of the world, we have been left in the dust.

And so, I remain saddened and concerned by the incident at Washburn High.

 

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EXONERATED…But Maybe Not This Week!

January 13, 2013

For 40 years, I occasionally have tried…I’ve gone to a gym, promised to join a gym, or lived in a facility that had a gym so that I could benefit from it.  And over and over, I have the same reaction.  I do not like gyms!

So last week, I felt exonerated by two articles in the Health and Fitness section of STRIB.

The first was a report on a study of aerobic exercise vs resistance training.  I walk; I swim; I do not run nor do I lift weights.  Well, good news, aerobic exercise alone is better than resistance training OR a combination of resistance AND aerobic.  Hmmm….I like that study….I don’t have to “go to the gym”!

But the article about the winter workout was the one that REALLY caught my attention!

“Five reasons …to blow off the dark, dreary gym and enjoy some crisp air”      

  1.  You will go for longer.  Time moves faster when you are NOT in the gym because you are distracted by the environment and thus less aware of your effort….easy to go for an hour.  YES, I say, I often do that!      
  2. You’ll blast more calories.  The varied terrain is just what the body needs to challenge itself to move in varied, more complex ways…then add in nature natural resistance training, the wind and temperature and generally, expect 5-7% more calories will be burned than on a treadmill!.  
  3. You’ll save money.  This does not apply to me today, as I have a gym and a pool in this building but I understand walking or running outdoors saves money on gas.    
  4.   You’ll fight germs.  Moist studies show gyms are breeding grounds for germs and bacteria…so, you can either wash hands often, change socks daily, use foot powder, wipe down equipment before and after use and wearing flip flops  in the shower. OR you can simply exercise outside.  Add to that the Environmental Protection Agency studies that show indoor air is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air, and you’ll see the contradictions of a gym life.  One goes to the gym to “get healthy”…instead it is the one single place you are most likely to encounter germs and bacteria and get sick!   
  5. Mental health studies comparing indoor activities vs outdoor activities over a six week timeframe, show that closeness to nature: increases our well-being.  It has an immunizing effect by protecting us from future stresses and helping us concentrate and think more clearly.”

 

So, for a week now, I have felt exonerated.  It is ok not to spend an average $475 a year on exercise facilities.  It is okay to walk on the earth not a treadmill; it is ok to have a little personal interaction with those I meet along the way; it is ok to be inspired and sometimes overwhelmed by what I see along the way, and it’s a great help to be thinking clearly and solving problems – especially as I age!

This week, will be a challenge; however.  It is cold outside!  So I am sitting here this afternoon contemplating if I can STAND to head to Target via the skyway or if I should just curl up and read a book.

Because of course, I think the skyways are almost WORSE than a gym.

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PENNY/HORNER: Obama Economic Legacy

January 13, 2013

We seem to be off to the races again in the political scene..guns have moved to the fore; immigration is being discussed; and speculation of other “Obama” legacy issues fills the news.  It all reminded me of a year-end STRIB column by Penny and Horner so I searched my desk to find the column I had clipped for later reference.  And yes, sure enough, it was still on my desk in the midst of two weeks of accummulated notes and bills, and books.

“Reaganomics helped produce a robust economy through much of the 1980s….Clintonomics contributed to another sustained period of economic growth in the 1990s. Bushonomics left the economy in freefall.”

Accompanying that assessment, Tim and Tom reminded us that soaring national debt was the concern of the 1980s; a balanced budget under Clinton; Bush’s policies sent our debt on an upward march again from 2000-2008.  That climb continued through Obama’s first term as he tried to hold the country back from freefall.

[CEK Edit. Comment: in last 34 years, 24% of the time, we had a BALANCED Budget to debt under Clinton; 59% of the time, the national debt grew and grew under Reagan and the Bushes; and 12% of the time, under first Obama administration, debt continued to increase. If 59% is a bigger number than 12%, I still cannot understand why OBAMA – in the eyes of the Republicans – is the one influence at fault for our national debt problem…particularly when a good bit of the debt incurred was to stop the economic freefall brought on by Bush Jr. actions.-guess that is why I am neither an economist nor a Republican – I do not understand their math!  🙂 ]

Nevertheless, I think the two Minnesota “Independents” had some good suggestions for Obama to consider as he “cements” his economic legacy:

  1. Build tax reform for the next generation, not just the next political deadline- take the Republicans up on their offer to reform tax code, eliminate loopholes, make system fairer, and promote investment and savings over consumption.
  2. Spend some political capital to tackle tough spending issues such as entitlement programs and Obamacare adjustments.
  3. Economic policy is not just about taxing and spending.  As Tim and Tom point out, trade, immigration, energy and monetary policy also help define our economic future…and (best of all) Obama has Presidential authority with or without COngress to inhibit or advance policy in all these areas. 

This sounds reasonable and doable to me and I am hoping it’s all integrated into the plans emerging in the White House.

 

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HOME SALES IN MINNESOTA

January 12, 2013

Before the Bush-era crash, home sales here numbered 60,000 / month in the metro area.

We all know the causes for the collapse- among which were banks and lenders, an American Dream combined with lenders “taking advantage”, then all made worse by a total market melt down recession and widespread unemployment.

We all heard the caution as we hit bottom and started a slow and painful recovery…the housing boom was unsustainable; this is a major reset.  We need to search for a “new normal” that reflects what we’ve learned.

Then, this morning, a painful 4 years later, I read that closed home sales in Twin Cities reached 48,622 purchases -a 17% increase ; with a median price increase of 11.9% to $168,000.

My reaction was “good news”…and then I read the following…..

“After falling more than 40 percent from peak to bottom, prices still have a long way to go to recover what we lost.”   STILL, I thought – what about the reset of expectations?

Hanley Wood Market Inteligence was quoted as saying they were seeing similar trends in most markets and in Twin Cities, investors and regular consumers are bidding up the price of distressed homes as the inventory declines.

Home Sales and financing is not my area of expertise but remembering the gut-wrenching assessments of cause for the 2005-7 market decline, I could not help but think…..

Is this more familiar, better times, thinking run amuck again and we need to move forward cautiously?

If the numbers we aare shooting for were unsustainable in 2005, what has changed now…particularly in the wake of boomers retiring/selling homes and Millennials not necessarily interested in buying as they prefer, for now, the urban, no car, rental life.

Are we unrealistically measuring progress and success?

Are we applying OLD STANDARDS to expectations because that is all we know..and setting ourselves up for another collapse?

Or am I the one whose thinking is off-base?

 

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THE NEWS “LULL”

January 11, 2013

With no other top controversial news as we “wait” for the next financial fight and the gun rights battles to heat up, the Press has chosen the make up of Obama’s next cabinet is the target – it’s too” white male ” for them.

I certainly am not one to overlook race and gender issues; I have quietly “won” a great many of the gender battles through the 1970s-80s, am pretty sensitive to the old white male women put-downs and continue to have my antenna out  for “good old boys” mischief in that arena.

But pointing a finger at Obama on these issues?  This really is ridiculous.

Let’s not forget:

WHO made Susan Perry’s potential appointment to Secretary of State and issue….the angry old WHITE men in the Republican Party;

WHO thinks women in government are epitomized by selections such as Sarah Pahlin and Michelle Bachman…the angry old WHITE men in the Republican Party;

WHOSE caucus is 89% while male…the Republican Party;

HOW many House Committee Chairs reflect our diverse population….just one-the rest are angry old WHITE men in the Republican Party;

And don’t even talk to me about the “token” multicultural players like Rubio and Scott in the Republican Party!

It is not Obama, my friends, who is the issue here. He represents a new emerging style of leadership for the 21st century; looks for a variety of points of view and generally collaborates during the decision-making process. He, of course, wants a cabinet that he can work with; he, of course, is not all-knowing; but one thing he is NOT:  He is not of the genre of politicos in smoke-filled rooms; doing under the table personal deals, more concerned about his OWN future and job than he is about the country.  And he certainly is NOT anti-woman, or anti-black or anti-diversity in general.

There are enough issues in our world today that we need not have the PRESS manufacture more.  This is not an issue; let’s get over it, and put our focus not on who “won” the last little skirmish, but instead, on how we MEND the riffs, division, and total incompetence shown in the political arena in the last few years and try to move forward doing what is BEST FOR THE COUNTRY.  If the Press does not have enough real bad news to fill their time on the airwaves and space on the internet and in the news, here’s a novel idea:  Maybe you could focus on some of the good things happening in the world today.