Thursday, December 29, 2011

You Do Matter - Your Actions Do Count - Don't Stop Trying

I've only recently returned from what has become a Christmas tradition for me, and that's visiting my brother. He, his lovely wife and their two very bright and kind boys, have been my way of connecting to the holidays in a way I just cannot do without.

My brother and I have never shied away from talking about politics, I'm the dreamer, and he's the cold dose of reality I always need to provide balance. We don't always agree, but that never stops us from a spirited conversation while he graciously drives me from and to the airport.

Our conversation ended true to form, we were unable to solve the troubles that ail this country, but as I sit here pondering our discussion, I can't help but notice that we ended it as always, with a feeling of hopelessness.To be fair, let's just say that was my feeling. We both agreed that the following topics needed to be dealt with, though we had few immediate answers as to how to go about dealing with them. I'll list them in the order of importance as I see them, again my opinion not necessarily my brothers.

  1. Big money needs to be removed from politics. At present, we have a sitting government that only provides the public with lip service during an election, and once they've won our votes, proceed to work for those who provided the greatest financial backing. These backers are of course never too shy to remind their benefactors of the consequences they will incur if they are ignored and their needs go unfulfilled. Campaigns need to be publicly financed, with a rigid set of controls and 24 hour auditing. Anyone caught spending money in excess of what was allotted them, to be disqualified.
  2. Corporations are not people too! But because a Supreme Court who is supposed to rule without bias, has said otherwise, they can vote, and they can spend unlimited funds on ad campaigns that support the politicians of their choice. These are the same corporations who aren't liable beyond the occasional fine, for crimes that any actual PERSON would go to prison for.
  3. A plan must be set in place to generate living wage jobs, with opportunities for all to do more than just live to work. The middle class in this country are rapidly disappearing as all the once solid manufacturing jobs are headed overseas. Cheaper foreign labor has allowed corporations to continue to provide their primary share holders a 10% increase in profit sharing every year. Our government has done little to nothing in order to stop or reverse this, instead - we find out that not only is China providing incentives to lure the jobs overseas, but so is our own government!
I'm going to stop at these three, because it's easy enough to see the snake eating it's own tail. Yeah we could and did talk about corporations and the rich dodging taxes, public entities like the Post Office and our school systems going bust, or illegals ruining everything, but really I see no point in continuing.

If this country were a tree, an arborist would tell us what we already know, it's sick. If you want it to live, you gotta take care of the roots.

As I said, our conversation was more about identifying what was wrong, and less on how to fix. It wasn't from a complete lack of trying, but human nature, the need for cheap and easy instant gratification, and it's availability...makes any solution, hard to implement.

As a consumer based economy, we have only two real means of power afforded us by the Constitution, the freedom to organize and the freedom of choice. What does that mean to you, even if you don't feel like pitching a tent on city property? Well, it means you can be as involved as you want to be, in the change that's going to happen in this country. Here are some of my suggestions...
  • Vote! Yeah even if it's just for the lesser of two evils.
  • Stay aware of current events that effect you, your neighbors, and your country. Use multiple sources for news, avoid using the major networks as your soul source, and for what ever gods you choose to follow - sake, DON'T WATCH FOX NEWS! 
  • The next time you make that major electronics purchase, ask yourself if you want it or if you need it. Consider what went into it's packaging, what effect it had on the environment, and ultimately what effect it will have going back into the environment when it's no longer functional. The next time your shopping for flat screen TV's, try running a search on the companies that made the units. What's their record on environment, how do they treat their workers, etc...
  • Try growing some of your own food and when you can, buy local fruits and vegetables, you'll be supporting local growers (jobs), and helping to maintain a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Use recycled goods, shop with reusable bags, and of course - RECYCLE!
  • Avoid using or purchasing food goods packaged in plastic if you can. My rule is, if I can buy it in glass or cardboard, than buy it that way. Folks, bottled water, unless you have a health issue or the water available to you is not drinkable, get a filter and bottle your own. You'll save money, and you'll help in a huge way towards reducing the amount of CO2 put into the air, and plastic into our oceans.
  • Those of us who can afford it, try and shop for all your goods locally. Avoid shopping at the big box stores for basic needs, use them only if you must or in an emergency.
  • Banks - Bank locally, avoid using the big banks, stick to local community and union banks.
So what? Am I a saint? Do I do all of these things? No, but I do some of them and mean to do more when I can. It isn't about just me, it's about all of us trying to do these things, to effect change.

Singularly we can do very little but as a cooperative group, there's very little we can't do.

Here's hoping we all have a very Happy New Year.

Just Joe

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What the Hell?

As the year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting upon all that has transpired this year, and with emphasis on this countries banks.

Folks, if your doing business with any of the major banks of this country, and you can afford to go elsewhere...why haven't you? Seriously, after all that has transpired, after all that has been revealed to us, why would any of us continue to trust them with our money?

What's that? Your unaware of any wrong doing by said establishments? Wow! OK, let me preface my response to you with a question of my own... Have you had you head up your ass for the last five years?

Let me break it down for you in simple facts...
  1. Banks and Mortgage firms gave home loans to people they knew were at risk of default.
  2. Banks and Investment/Management firms took advantage of relaxed restrictions in regards to retirement/401K options, by converting low risk and low fluctuating slow growth packages to very aggressive, far more volatile and risky ones. This strategy optimized the banks possible gains, while exposing the investors to greater possible losses. Many of those losses at the height of the crash in 2008 exceeded 30% of a persons retirement package.
  3. The bottom of the market nearly dissapeared when investors realized what had happened and started to sell their shares. This was avoided when the government stepped in and threw a very public 700 billion dollar life jacket to the banks, in order to secure confidence in risky mortgage backed securities markets. By the way this was a ruse by the federal government, the truth is, the sum of money loaned to the banks was in the trillions of dollars in cash and loan guarantees.
  4. The banks took advantage of the interest free Federal Reserve bailout, and were able to not only save themselves, but turn a tidy profit to the tune of 13 billion dollars by loaning the Federal Reserve the money back to them with interest.
  5. Bank of America is paying no Taxes for 2010, and is instead receiving a one billion dollar refund from you and I.
  6. What was our award for giving them that refund? Oh! Yeah they tried charging their customers an additional monthly fee of five dollars for using their ATM cards. After a media shit storm of epic proportions, and the worst possible timing of it's announcement to do so...the Occupy Wall Street Campaign had just begun, they shelved the idea - for now.
Here's something we all need to remember, were doing banks a favor by letting them have our money in their vaults. The deal has always been, please keep your money with us, we'll keep it safe as long as you let us play with it...I.E. - Make More Money. Somewhere, over the years we have forgotten about that covenant, and allowed them to charge us for basic use of our fucking money!

So here's what I suggest to those of you who for some insanely dumb ass reason have stayed with the big banks, pull your money out, and invest it in a local bank or credit union. Sure, they too are likely going to charge you for services, but never to the degree to which these other criminal establishments like Bank of America have.

Don't reward criminals, don't give them reason to think that the public doesn't care, make them pay - even if our elected leaders refuse to.