Sunday, December 23, 2012

First Amendment:
Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly
 
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

"Congress Shall make no law...." This amendment starts with bold, assertive, exclusive language.


 

Second Amendment:
Right to keep and bear arms

A WELL REGULATED MILITIA, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

"A well regulated militia...." The first words proclaiming this right bespeak caution, limited scope, oversight, a recognition that abuses are predictable and will require regulation.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fifty years ago...



Two of the most jolting experiences in my life came at the opening of the 60s. The first was fifty years ago this week. I was nineteen, 1,500 miles from home, a college freshman. We didn't have TV in my residence, thought radio news was available all day, full of foreboding, frightening stuff: a confrontation between hard-nosed Premier Nikita Khrushchev and and a callow young president of the U.S.    Kennedy was being pushed to "drop the big one" by self-confessed genocidal war criminal, head of the Strategic Air Command, General Curtis LeMay. Kennedy chose to talk, negotiate, agree on mutual stepping back from the precipice.

This album cover was propped up on the hi-fi console in the reading/music room. Black humor, gallows humor, nervous laughter.

Choices made that week led to the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and--briefly--a conscious stepping back from nuclear Armageddon. Fifty years later, the world has at least seven more nations with nuclear weapons, aggressive talk growing more intense, bigger threats, much more vulnerability to annihilation. Russia and the United States have 19,500 between them; the junior members have barely a thousand among the seven--France, China, United Kingdom, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea.

Another jolt came 13 months later--November 22, 1963. I told that story here a few years ago--nuclear war was still at the heart of the matter on that day.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A close relative is a State Dept. Vice Consul in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, finishing up a yearlong posting there this week.

(here's some spot-on analysis from Anti-War.com):
In Foreign Affairs, Alexander Cooley writes about how ... the American Empire is costing a lot more.
Most dramatically, in 2009, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan, host to the Manas Transit Center, initiated a bidding war between the United States and Russia by threatening to close the base. He extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from both sides, in the form of a Russian assistance package and a renewed lease at a higher rent with the United States....
Comparisons to the Roman Empire and the overextended expansionism that helped lead to its downfall can sometimes get stale, but all of these examples make it clear that maintaining an empire of military bases and client states is getting increasingly unaffordable for a US government $16 trillion in debt.
Incidentally, the late, great Chalmers Johnson predicted the very scenario .... In Baseless Expenditures he wrote:
 “I have a suggestion for other countries that are getting a bit weary of the American military presence on their soil: cash in now, before it’s too late. Either up the ante or tell the Americans to go home. I encourage this behavior because I’m convinced that the US Empire of Bases will soon enough bankrupt our country.”

Monday, August 06, 2012

One big new reason to despise the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"New Berlin school custodial workers swept out in budget move."

The stinking rag that wants us to buy what they are selling chose to put this nifty headline on a suburban edition news story about a group of workers being fired and replaced by low-paid contract workers.

Ok. New Berlin school board members certainly had the go-ahead from Act 10 to do it.  I'm sure many of them are damn proud of it. And it's is done.

But, did the MJS absolutely have to put a smart-ass headline on it. "Sweep 'em out" like so much trash.  Nominate that copy editor for another Pulitzer.

I'm actually surprised that they rejected using a more hard-hitting image of  flushing them out.

The sooner the stinking daily rag goes out of business, the better this community will be.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

So much talk of "Midddle Class". So little agreement on a definition.


Blogger Charles H Smith @ Of Two Minds has dealt with this definitional thing thoughtfully and often.  It is, at the heart of it, a matter of defining one's terms.  Lots of folks who believe themselves to be middle class are, in fact, in an aspirational (dare we say hallucinated) state.  They strive aggressively for middle class appearance, claim that as their status, yet lack so much of the underpinning that realistically defines it.


Five "threshold" characteristics of membership in the middle class:

1. Meaningful healthcare insurance
2. Significant equity (25%-50%) in a home or other real estate
3. Income/expenses that enable the household to save at least 6% of its income
4. Significant retirement funds: 401Ks, IRAs, income property, etc.
5. The ability to service all debt and expenses over the medium-term if one of the primary household wage-earners lose their job
I would now add a sixth:
6. Reliable vehicles for each wage-earner
Author Chris Sullins suggested adding these additional thresholds:
7. If a household requires government assistance to maintain the family lifestyle, their Middle Class status is in doubt.
8. A percentage of non-paper, non-real estate hard assets such as family heirlooms, precious metals, tools, etc. that can be transferred to the next generation, i.e. generational wealth.
9. Ability to invest in offspring (education, extracurricular clubs/training, etc.).
10. Leisure time devoted to the maintenance of physical/spiritual/mental fitness.
Lagniappe attributes:
11. Community altruism (volunteer time and/or money).
12. Pursuit of continuing education (not net surfing, but some exploration and growth in the real world).
The key point of these thresholds is that propping up a precarious illusion of wealth and security does not qualify as middle class. To qualify as middle class (that is, what was considered middle class a generation or two ago), the household must actually own/control wealth that won't vanish if the investment bubble du jour pops, and won't be wiped out by a medical emergency.
In Chris's phrase, "They should be focusing resources on the next generation and passing on Generational Wealth" as opposed to "keeping up appearances" via aspirational consumption financed with debt.

Only after finishing this did it occur to me that this is Bastille Day.  A day on which class conflict rose to new heights (or. was it a descent to new depths?) Out of the French Revolution came a far-reaching sense that revolt against the hereditary nobility and the stinking monarchy, abetted by the fawning clerical estate would bring about an independent class of citizens, defined in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. 

And, ultimately, a middle class.  

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Waukesha, Wisconsin, United States
Of my biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I'm a "somewhat combative pacifist and a fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay some portion of them). And I always, always vote.