Monday, December 26, 2011


For the immigrant family it was to live a better life. Freedom. A chance to work and get ahead. Unbound by limits, limitations, and customs from the old country. Leaving behind parents, friends, and heritage, they traveled and became - and are becoming - Americans.

Somewhere along the way this American Dream has morphed. It’s been changed by the merchants of property and finance into home ownership, college for the children, and more wealth than your parents had. But hard times have come again, and this modified dream is not sustainable. To the immigrant’s basic needs in his new land - food, clothing, and shelter - we have added “all you can eat,” designer clothes, and 4500 square feet of a new home on several landscaped acres.

It is time for a new American Dream. A dream that is “Good Enough!” For the Earth’s sake, let us try not having it all. Not meeting every kid’s demand or every spouse’s wish.

We sometimes hear that a factor may be “necessary,” but not “sufficient” for a particular outcome. But for our mutual survival on this planet consider this: “Sufficient, (in other words, good enough) is going to be necessary.” A healthy diet - about two thousand calories - simple clothes, and comfortable affordable housing with basic utilities and available transportation. The earth continues to yield its bounty, but now it must support 7 billion human beings. The number of other species on earth is declining and many of its resources are becoming scarcer.

Let us have a new dream for America that is worthy of us in this Twenty-first Century.


As I followed the current news from different sources and varying perspectives this year I tried to frame my own take on events and trends on this blog covering major happenings. In 2011 I have posted 15 entries under the title "The Opinions of a Navy Vet." Looking back at these postings, it was pretty bleak. Let's hope we all can do better in 2012.

January 28 We Used to do Big Things
February 5 Recovery? Hardly
February 18 Are We a Selfish Society?
February 25 Our War Budget must be Trimmed
March 26 They Really Are Making This Up

May 1 Distracted? Yes
May 9 Can We Learn Anything New?
May 28 Words Matter, A Lot
June 25 The Whining States of America
July 9 The Last Big Thing

July 31 Kicking the Country Down the Road
September 10 Looking for Work In America
September 20 Palestine and Israel
October 22 More Gridlock in 2012
November 19 The Decline and Fall

These brief commentaries are found on this blog. That's


Saturday, November 19, 2011


How does a people slide from great to greedy?
The Romans had their bread and circuses.

Today there is pizza everywhere
and NFL football.

That long-ago empire ruled
the known world before its collapse.

We believe in exceptional America,
land of freedom, home of bravery.

But now become a battlefield
of bankers and borrowers.

The poem above was written in February 2011. In the last ten months there has not been much change in America. Now there is less than a year to the 2012 elections. The Congressional Super Committee that was created at the brink of a government shutdown was unable to agree on spending and taxes. Even a temporary payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits were too difficult for this warring branch of government. It feels like our country is in free fall.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


The media pundits are puzzled. The Occupiers of Wall Street are a disorganized bunch. Hanging out in Manhattan week after week in ever larger numbers. Their slogans have spread all the way to Brainerd, Minnesota, and lately to the Nebraska prairie. It is outrage and desperation. Suppose you had been promised a job or a mortgage with low down payment. Then find out that it was a scam. No job, no housing.

Adults in America have never faced today's economic hardships. Here is the richest country in history, and it can't keep school teachers on the job!
A country that refuses to tackle its problems of corroded pipelines and unsafe bridges. This "arsenal of democracy," has spent the last decade borrowing to wage three wars and build enormous supplies of weaponry and armies of troops to invade whoever it wants.

Big industry profits from these hostilities. Small towns, urban slums, and rural America have sent their sons and daughters to fight and die in undeclared wars. Now that they have tallied the cost of this wartime spending, Congress is crying out to cut spending, cut taxes again, close the deficit, and reduce social spending for seniors and the disabled.
If you are not outraged yet, you are not informed. You have been distracted. It will not be enough to vote again for "change" in the general election twelve months from now. Billions will be spent to show you how to vote.

Those in power have already come up with voter distractions - requirements by the states for picture ID to end non-existent voter fraud, and ballot issues about homosexuals getting married. The two polarized political parties are at war with each other.

Do not expect a change to this gridlock in 2012. I believe it will take nothing less than a new birth of democracy, action and demonstrations, to fix what is wrong with the USA.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


One of the great ironies of history is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now doing her diplomatic utmost to keep the Palestinian leaders from bringing their appeal for an independent state before the United Nations General Assembly this Fall. It was Secretary of State George Marshall in May 1948 who did his utmost to dissuade President Harry Truman from recognizing the new independent State of Israel. The United Nations Resolution No. 181, "The Partition Resolution," in November 1947 had called for two indepentent states - Israel and Palestine.

Sixty three years later there still is no statehood for Palestinian Arabs or Jews, or Palestinian Christians, for that matter. Sporadic, and at times intense, warfare has continued between Israelis and Palestinians ever since 1948.

The United States has poured billions of dollars of assistance from government and private sources into the State of Israel. Much of it for military aid, as well as for economic development. After such protracted conflict across this region, I am ready to support the Palestinians' UN appeal for their long-denied statehood. Following World War II the United Nations Organization was created for just this purpose, the promotion of justice and peace.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Some of us started working as kids over half a century ago. We worked and earned our way through college without trust funds, allowances, or gifts. The campus was for learning, not partying. So the other day when the President told students in Richmond, Virginia, to "Hit the books!" I thought "It's a start."

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, with our nation at war, some of us signed up with the military, and even stayed in beyond our "obligated service." So I have a problem today when most upper class and middle class kids see no purpose for themselves in national service.

Now that the earned benefits from my lifetime of labor - social security and medicare - play a major part in my security for the declining years of life,
I get pretty angry at politicians who attack them as "costly entitlements."

Time was when the credentials I had gained through education and experience could help me find new work when an employer eliminated my position, or when I saw a better career path. I overcame such job crises in 1968, 1971, and 1977.

In recent months I wrote in a blog that "Hard work and hope" were essential in digging out of today's jobs crisis. Today it is only getting tougher for at least
14 million Americans who cannot find any work. Having been unemployed, but never filing for jobless benefits, I have some feeling for the daily depression that can overwhelm the long-term job seeker.

The President went before a joint session at the Capitol last Thursday with a legislative proposal he calls the Jobs Bill. Now that Congress is back in Washington after more than a month away I hope that finally they will get to work and pass something for those without a job.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


It is a bad dream that was no dream. Today the question out of Washington D.C. is "Will the Country Survive August?" After listening to a 30-minute review Friday night on PBS of the chaos and shouting in the House of Representatives, I retired to a sleep with nightmares. I thought it was the pain medication, but then I awoke and heard morning news. It is getting worse by the hour.

Not only is the leadership of both houses inept, but the members are unable to work together lest the right side of the aisle get voted out of office by more extreme partisans in the Republican Primary Elections of 2012! Heaven help Senate Minority Leader McConnell if he does anything that helps President Obama in any way. For we all know that his stated number one priority is the defeat of the President in the next election - and has been since the inaugural. Negotiating with this guy is talking into concrete.

So where does America stand on the last day of July in the year 2011? The country that can't write checks in two days? Elections are fifteen months away.

Out here in the world of farms and forests, factories and shops, we have just about had it with the power elite that stole the housing market, killed the construction industry, and asks us to go on believing that they can run things. Yes, they can. Into the ground.

Here at the grass roots and coffee shops, church basements and barber shops, we need new ideas. New ways of getting our money's worth at the counter. In the court house, at the legislature, and in our nation's Capitol.

God save the United States of America.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I followed the final launch of the Space Shuttle yesterday, Friday, July 8, 2011. A day that should live in our American History. On the NPR news coverage that I was tuned to, I learned that there was only a 30% chance that the stormy weather at Cape Canaveral would permit a go ahead. Yet it was scheduled, and close to a million spectators were on hand to see this final space shot... for now. A break in the weather occurred, during the ten-minute window for connecting with the International Space Station, and the countdown continued to Blast-off!

For moments I was back in those exciting days. Astronauts Shepard and Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin, rocketing down range, into orbit, and to the moon and safely home! Thirty years and two fatal missions with shuttle flight, and it's coming to an end.... for now.

What is next? The moon again? Asteroids and Planet Mars? There is no schedule, no budget.

I have more than a passing interest. My classmate from flight school in 1958, Officer Instruction Class 34 (OI-34), Pensacola, Florida, was Ensign Ken (Thomas K.) Mattingly, a NROTC graduate from Auburn (Alabama Polytechnic Institute). Ken became an outstanding test pilot and an Astronaut, who flew in the Apollo Program. Today he is in his mid-70s and a retired Navy Admiral. I have followed the entire manned space program very closely.

But now will an American President imagine a visit to deep space and to the stars?

Could we staff it, pay for it? I don't think so. The dramatic launch of Shuttle Atlantis on mission number 135, was, I believe, America's "Last Big Thing."

While this symbol of a nation's spirit of exploration flies, the divided political leadership of our government is meeting tomorrow on Sunday to argue about how to pay our debts!

Don't increase any taxes. Cut back on current social security and medicare that we pay our elders. Will we pay our bills or go into default on August 2nd?

No, don't expect greatness again with these WE have elected. Selfishly, we let the arguments continue, to our lasting shame.

Once we were proud and knew how to fly.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Whining States of America

All it takes for the collapse of society is for enough of us to tune out, do nothing, and make no waves.

In Minnesota the partisan budget-deficit divide appears unbridgeable.
In Washington D.C. the GOP negotiation leaders, meeting with Democratic leaders, to prevent the financial default of the U.S. Treasury, just walked out on any further meetings and pronounced their ultimatum about taxes - no increases, regardless of debt and deficits.

Today's news stories have it that Minnesota's government could shut down on July 1. The federal government is heading toward shutting down on or about August 2nd. This morning an NPR reporter got my attention with a mention of social security payments halting after August 2.

Last night on the PBS Newshour, we saw the likes of Grover Norquist, famous for a remark about drowning a shrunken government in a bathtub. He was talking about any Republican office holder who dares to vote for any tax increase. Norquist is famous, since the presidency of the first George Bush, as the source of tax pledges across the country by Republican candidates. Pledges that they will never agree to any tax increase anywhere. This is what Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona and Representative Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader, said as they abandoned deficit negotiations led by Vice President Biden. Any tax increases must be "off the table."

And immediately after the Newshour, on "Almanac" from Twin Cities Public Television, GOP leaders from both legislative houses, Zellers and Koch, said the same thing. Governor Dayton must abandon his income tax proposal for a new bracket affecting only the highest two percent of earners, or there can be no budget agreement.

It has all the markings of a Republican No-Tax Cult. Coast to coast. Pawlenty to Bachmann. Walker to Romney to Palin. Analysis doesn't matter. Hardship, suffering, loss of jobs and income. Don't try to explain anything to me. No tax increases anywhere, period!

To my fellow Americans and my fellow Minnesotans, I say "Stop the whining and pay your taxes. Your citizenship and your freedoms require service and payment." We are all in one leaking boat in a storm.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I was getting to the opinion page of the New York Times (still for free). At the masthead was a changing colorful banner advertisement for a "Wealth Management" firm. I have recently noticed this buzzword phrase, wealth management, directed at retired geezers, who presumably have a lot more than their social security and medicare to help them through their declining years.

What's in a name like Wealth Management? What do wealth managers do? It's what bean counters, investment counselors, and CPAs used to do, when I was in school and at work.

I even minored, a half century ago, in Business Administration and Economics, as a supplement to my engineering degrees. And I once audited a course in Business Law to learn the language of corporate bosses.

In recent years the communications subject of "framing" has come into usage in the political world. It was featured in a best seller written by UC-Berkeley Professor George Lakoff. His descriptive book was titled "Don't Think of an Elephant." But of course, we who read it can't forget that title. Lakoff writes that the words we choose to describe our message already have conditioned the recipient to think about the topic, as we would have them think.

Gun Control or Firearms Safety? Global Warming or Climate Change? Tax and Spend or Share the Sacrifice? Can you tell when you are being "framed?" I was just looking for an op-ed page.

As a senior in high school we had a very useful social science segment on Propaganda, and I still recall our teacher John Mather telling us about the Big Lie and other devices used by those who would control our minds.

So who will I go to for help in "managing" what money I have left, after a life of work, climbing and descending corporate ladders?

Public television has its corporate sponsors with pictures of whales to move us to "Pacific Life." NPR broadcasts with the help of a very peaceful "PAX Mutual Fund."

Let me simply recall a time-honored warning, Buyer Beware!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Watching a little television on a Sunday night in May I was assaulted by the commercial advertising my son-in-law sells. A previous show on PBS from Great Britain had entertained us, uninterrupted, with a drama titled "South Riding" It was a masterpiece.

Then, wanting to watch Horatio Caine's final episode of the season on "CSI: Miami," we sat through more than a dozen loud commercial pitches for our attention, before a wounded Lieutenant Caine was left on the ground to endure the long summer break.

Circuses and Bread. TV, professional sports all the time, and pizza everywhere. The American Empire declines, while we watch passively.

Around my house I have books, magazines, newspapers, several musical instruments, and a collection of LP records, cassettes, and CDs. Shutting off the television provides time to read, enjoy music, think, talk, write letters, essays, and poems.

This past week has marked a milestone in American history. Our terrorist enemy number one, Bin Laden, has been killed by a commando team after a ten-year hunt. President Obama has just reported why and how it was done.

I am taken back over my lifetime of listening to Presidents. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush. From the White House our Presidents have spoken to us about war, sacrifice, and the defeat of America's enemies. But a couple are still out there, in Cuba and Korea.

It was during the Korean War that I first put on a military uniform, and it was during the energy crisis of Jimmy Carter that I took it off. I went to GTMO with the Navy four times, before it became an off-shore prison where United States civil and military regulations were adjusted.

What have we learned about war, peace, and freedom in seventy five years?
Do the religions of our forebears instruct us?
What are we teaching our children today?
Perhaps it is "Do not kill, steal, or bear false witness."

This week, as we reflect on what just happened in Pakistan, it can be a time to ask where should America be headed in this world. Who is our neighbor? And how can we be of service?

Sunday, May 1, 2011


For a couple weeks I have been complaining about the foolish or hateful distractions by extemists in the Republican Party. Distractions in the U.S. Congress, and in the Minnesota legislature. These are distractions over "Issues" that do no public good (in my opinion), but potentially can do great harm - to the poor, the elderly, and to many ordinary folk.

At the national level - with the painful, endless Great Recession going on for the unemployed and the underclass - conservative representatives and senators bloviate endlessly about deficits. They ignore how they put us into deficit by voting for the Bush tax cuts. They threaten to shut down the government - unless all of their Non-defense spending cuts are passed. These "Deficit Hawks" are distracting all of us, framing the national debate into a fight about "smaller government." Meanwhile, the people's business of immigration reform, environmental decay, and a bloated pentagon, goes unattended.

In the Capitol at St. Paul, Minnesota - we are given a proposed Constitutional Amendment for the people to vote on - about what they think marriage means. In this state of proven election integrity, there is a serious attempt to require voters to present a picture ID card before they can cast a ballot. Minnesota is only one of dozens of states where the national GOP is pushing this measure. The thinking is that this can reduce the number of votes by the poor and the elderly, who often have no drivers license. These are voters who often support Democratic Party candidates.

These two major distractions are sucking the oxygen from the State Capitol, where there is a financial crisis. To keep our state government running, we must provide additional revenue to undo the lingering deficit from former Governor Tim Pawlenty's eight years of "NO NEW TAXES!" This pledge of his was the only way he could capture the Republican nomination for Governor in 2002. And now he thinks he can ride a "smaller government" record to the White House in 2012.

The month of April has been filled with conflict and toxicity from these angry debates about nothing constructive. But then something else happened.

Wild fires in Texas. Tornadoes in Alabama. An awareness that Japan's recent catastrophe has lessons for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and nuclear plant radioactivity are threatening the entire Pacific Rim. We are not prepared.

Ait traffic controllers, time and time again, fell asleep at their control centers in the middle of the night - unsupervised. OMG!

For more than a week the news media told us about an upcoming Royal Wedding and the same-day space shuttle launch of Representative Gabriel Gifford's commanding husband.

Too much! said the pundits, of the Kate and William event. What a distraction.

But very early on Friday morning, in a rented hotel room, I heard the NPR Morning Edition host describe a wedding ring ceremony from London's Westminster Abby, so I switched on the TV.

What happened next was a distraction. I was a young Navy Ensign on his way to Pensacola, Florida, to learn to fly. Next to me was the most beautiful girl I have ever known. I put a brilliant cut diamond ring on her finger. We pledged our lives to each other, and there was stirring church music. Then it was Kate and Will again in London, instead of Jean and Gordon in St. Paul.

It was time to go to work at the Minnesota Waters Conference in St. Cloud. It had been a distraction and a reminder, that there is work for us to do, ALL of us.

We are bigger and better than our current elected legislators.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

They Really ARE Making This Up

In this first week of Spring 2011 I have watched political theater from the U.S. Congress and the Minnesota Legislature with dismay. Urgent public business is on their plates - poverty, unemployment, senseless weapons violence, global climate degradation, and three overseas war efforts, in Washington, D.C. In St. Paul we have
borrowed money from the public schools and other dedicated funds to "balance the books," but still are in the hole more than five billion dollars. The triumphant Minnesota Republican Party is churning out budget messages that slash programs and priorities that bi-partisan state governments have built up for the last four decades.

One searches for an explanation - why has our democracy apparently gone nuts?

Listening to the set speeches and talking points of a Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader McConnell, a Tea Party Spokeswoman, or in St. Paul, to Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, one hears rhetoric of alarm at an expanding government that is threatening our freedoms. Spending is out of control! Rampant fraud, waste, and abuse! Reform now! It's about public employee pensions, the K-12 education system, local government, higher education, and on and on...

Who is making this up?

Since Governor Reagan of California became President, we have had drummed into us that "Guvmit" is The Problem. It follows that Bigger Government is a terrible problem, so we must reduce it's size.

Since the early 1980's we also have "watched" as the income disparity in America has become huge. Ordinary folks have not benefited from gains in productivity, but a narrow upper class, that runs our institutions, has benefited mightily. By spreading this nutty speech, that defies logic, science, reality, and common sense, these favored few keep THEIR taxes small and shed responsibility for anyone else.

Let's examine a few of the "facts" they would have us accept.

We are "Broke." That is true only if no one expects our representatives to ask for a fair contribution from everyone, based on what they can afford. Governor Dayton has proposed adding an additional tier onto the Minnesota Income Tax that will gather several billion dollars to address the huge deficit left to him by former Governor Tim Pawlenty.

We need to "Reform" the way we teach High School. Use electronic technology, distance learning, new media. Leave no child behind. I suggest these speakers visit some nearby high school media centers and shop classes. Count the number of students in the classes. Talk to their teacher neighbors. Our Superintendent, School Board Members, and Teachers in my district need that withheld share of state financial support to do their jobs effectively. They are coping, but they also need more parental involvement and community support - Not Reform.

I must conclude that there is a concentrated effort, run by a handful of corporate masters, to poison the waters of public service in order to maintain their control and to continue to siphon off a lion's share of the profits of a captured free enterprise system.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Time was when Newsweek was a pretty good magazine and a way for a busy person to get a weekly digest of important news and opinion. But then they were sold and sold again. Stripped of writers worth reading and of reporters who covered the news well.
There used to be a feature in Newsweek for volunteers with a fresh and important point of view. It was called "MY TURN."

Here is MY take on the past week -

A People's Party, according to Robert Reich. It's time to give up the compromises that are losing ground for ordinary folks, at the expense of the rich. Class warfare is underway, but noone dares to call it. We've got to fight for justice, for fairness, and for an end to the military empire that America has become. Major corporations have seized the levers of power. Join Robert Reich and Jim Hightower, of the Hightower Lowdown, and let the battles begin!

Rebellion against Gadhafi in Libya, whatever should we do? Dictators once were cool for U.S. foreign policy. Now we can't stand the sight of slaughter anymore. One pundit has eleven options for our Commander-in-Chief. Defense Secretary Gates warns that a No-fly Zone requires us first to destroy EVERY anti-air installation in the country.

Does anyone remember that after World War II the United Nations Organization was created with a Declaration of Human Rights? We were UN champions once.

Let's call again on the UN, like we did in June 1950 when South Korea was invaded.
This international organization was formed to end wars and to ensure human rights. We can support humanitarian and peace-keeping efforts of the United Nations in Libya right now. That is Option One from this observer.

Your turn!

POSTSCRIPT MARCH 10th! Yesterday, 3/9/2010, Newsweek arrived in my mailbox one day late. But it was worth waiting for. That same morning new editor Tina Brown was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition talking about the many changes she has made by combining her Daily Beast Blog and Newsweek. Hillary Clinton is on this week's cover. There are good writers again and some important news reporting. Even MY TURN is back. You saw it here first. -Gord

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The Dictator of Libya is holed up in Tripoli - "from the Halls of Montezuma to these Shores of Tripoli" - our Marines have fought gallantly for centuries. Today's news reports that tanks are circling Gadhafi's hideout. Earlier we learned that armed Libyan helicopters and fighter aircraft were firing on protesters in the streets. Since the United States has been the world's largest manufacturer and exporter of weapons for decades, it is no surprise when we learn that overseas tanks, aircraft, bombs, bullets, and even tear gas canisters are made in the USA.

The American gunman in Pakistan who killed two alleged assailants on the street turns out to have been a former employee of Blackwater and currently is working under contract for the CIA, in "protection." He has diplomatic immunity according to our government. It says so on his passport. We also heard reports that more than one passport was on his person. Is "Mr. Phelps" on a Mission Impossible?

Should you choose to accept our story, there still remains this question for America in the 21st Century: "When will we learn to live in this world as a force for justice, equality, and peace, without war?"

It is time to disarm ourselves of the unnecessary 20th Century weapons for wars we will never fight again. It is time to stop building a military global empire with American weapons assistance and military training of foreign personnel.

Our trillion dollar annual war budget must be trimmed, if we are to afford a decent society within our own borders. A society with justice and liberty for all Americans.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Yesterday in the news two Midwestern politicians declared emphatically, "We're broke!" Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, both argued their case for drastic measures to cut state government expenditures. In this angry political winter, apparently "any lie will do" as loud voices shout their talking points. Cut spending! Keep yuour money! Low taxes mean more jobs!

We are a prosperous nation. Wealthy beyond anything previously known on earth. But we also are becoming selfish and insensitive to anyone in need. Unwilling to suggest any shared sacrifice or fairness, when it comes to recognizing human obligations. We are far from broke.

From municipality to township to county, state, and nation - all across America - there is enough wealth within our borders to provide decent support for the most vulnerable among us. Shame on the hypocrites who try to persuade us otherwise!

Governor Dayton has addressed Minnesota's deficit with a balanced and fair budget - with spending reductions and revenue increases. Republicans dogmatically reject any revenue increase from the individual income tax and insist that only spending cuts to education, health and human services must cover the billions of dollars in deficits and overdue deficiency payments, that have accumulated over years to reach a crisis.

Governor Walker across the border in Wisconsin has declared war on the bargaining rights of his public employees - in the name of eliminating a budget deficit about half the size of Minnesota's. With conservatives in control of the executive and legislative branches of Wisconsin government, Walker hopes to roll back the legacy of progressive labor rights and achieve a balanced budget by cutting the take-home pay and pensions of state workers.

Time was when we aspired to be a "Great Society." The threat in our state capitols today is the drift toward a "Selfish Society."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


The "Social Media" - Twitter, Facebook, et al, is on every news person's lips and fingertips. OMG, WTF,... literary scholars are shocked, shocked that language changes. So must a Blog (Website-Log) from time to time. A limit of 140 characters won't do. My newspaper won't publish over 300 words. (That's Brainerd, not Aitkin)

And a posting on Facebook of more than three or four lines is... BORING! Without a digital photo.

So, on to the Federal Budget, the Minnesota Budget, and the Voter.

The USA pays a slender amount of taxes - local, state, and federal - in comparison to all other industrialized nations. The State of Minnesota - in the last 12 years - has fallen into the middle of the pack in its spending, compared with the other 49 states. We are nowhere near becoming a Cold Mississippi or another Nebraska, but we are moving in that direction

The BIG items in Washington are War (now known as "Defense'), Medical Care for the Over-65, Disabled, and Poor, Social-funded Pensions (Security), and Transportation (air, highway, rail, and space).

The Major State expenditures are Public Schools and Colleges, Human Services (nursing homes, women and child support payments, hospitals), Roads and Bridges, Prisons, Conservation and Parks.

We are the most prosperous people in history! But for several decades we have squandered our largess. The wealthiest have snatched the gains of our rising productivity and invention. Working people and ordinary folks have lost ground - seen an actual flattening of their incomes.

War spending and tax breaks for the upper class have robbed most of us.

Let's be clear. One Trillion Dollars a year - for a decade - has bought us little Defense, a lot of regret, and an enormous loss of opportunity to become a more perfect society.

So in Washington, in the "Defense Department" - let's cut the numbers of aircraft carriers, strategic bombers, tanks and artillery. We won't fight any more 20th Century wars in which all of these weapons were so necessary.

In Minnesota - let's give Gov. Dayton one more individual income tax bracket, so that the wealthiest Minnesotans can pay a fairer share of their wealth towards the public good.

What about these wealthy Minnesotans who may decide to move away and take their businesses with them when their state taxes rise a little? Looking for a poorer state where they can "keep more of what is theirs?"

Well, they are not the ones I want as my neighbors. OMG that's 402 words!

Saturday, February 5, 2011


The Great Recession of 2007 is not over. Far from it.

Today's "News" from the Labor Department reported a surprising drop to 9 percent in the percentage of workers actively looking for work. That's one way of reporting how many in the work force are unemployed. Political pundits are feeding on this report. The sudden drop over the last two months was from 9.8 percent. Manufacturing jobs are now increasing. What about the pay scales of newly-hired workers? Overall, fewer new jobs were created than are needed to keep up with the population entering the workforce.

This writer has been there - in 1970 and 1982. I never filed and took unemployment pay, so I went unreported. Writing about these gaps in my resume took some creative skill. Just like the fictitious reasons top executives give when they "resign" their positions. In news accounts these missing workers (without jobs) are termed "discouraged." They know that after trying for six months, one year, or longer, there just aren't any decent opportunities in their line of work. They will have to face relocation, retraining, or early retirement. They already carry the humiliation of failing to succeed, failing to hold on, and the loss of their dream.

Did you leave to "spend more time with your family?" Or to "manage your personal investments? Truth is, "You were fired!" Terminated. Down-sized. Let go. So now the work force is "leaner" and more productive than ever. Profits are up. Costs are down. But consumer demand depends on cash, bank deposits, and credit.

Welcome to 21st Century America! The era of tax cuts and unemployment. Yet sales taxes have never been higher. Property valuations have fallen, but property taxes are rising. It's all about the Middle Class. Millions are sliding into poverty where many already reside. Recovery? Hardly.

Friday, January 28, 2011


This week I sat down by my TV and watched two shows. The first was PBS' "The American Experience: The Panama Canal." The second was "The State of the Union: January 25th, 2011."

In 1957 aboard the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) I transited the Panama Canal en route to Panama City, Panama, and Valparaiso, Chile, as a trainee on Midshipman Cruise Baker. Just three years later I would transit the Suez Canal aboard the USS Essex (CVS-9) en route to Aden and Karachi, Pakistan, as a Navy pilot headed for a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean with units of CENTO, the Central Treaty Organization (known as the Baghdad Pact). During my Navy cruises we were given a lot of background on these two canals - how they came to be constructed. Who were the leaders who succeeded and who were those who failed? When the United States of America opened and dedicated "Our canal" in 1914, we had surpassed the French and every other country to emerge as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth. In the decade of construction we had overcome tremendous obstacles - disease, jungle, and mountains - to connect the shipping lanes of the two great oceans. The dream of seafarers for centuries.

When President Obama took an hour to describe the State of our Union today I took special note of his remark that "Americans do Big Things." This is what my elementary education taught me 65 years ago. In the decades since there have been great national achievements, to be sure. But, since the dawn of the 21st Century there have been substantial failures. How, I wondered, will this president convince enough of us that we can even "attempt" any Big Things today?

Looking at the screen I was pleasantly surprised to see a Congress that could sit and applaud and rise to their feet as one body, not two. I listened for the issues and for the promises that always fill these politcal occasions. It was a hopeful speech. Uplifting and positive. Calling on national pride. Honoring the sacrifice of other people's children in war. Sharing the sorrow and pain of the shooting victims in Southern Arizona. Remembering those suffering today from joblessness and foreclosure. Now what actions will we take to deal with our challenges?

The challenges are many. Assault weapons readily available for anyone. Corporations still being rewarded after decades of exporting our jobs and shipping actual factory equipment to foreign countries to exploit the cheapest labor on earth. Bankers, lenders, and hedge funders who cheated and lied their way to enormous wealth still walk unpunished on Wall Street today.

It's a long list of challenges. Including those media moguls and talking heads who exploit the news media, old and new. Confused and distracted, we listen and watch, searching for honesty and truth.

I want to believe, Mr. President. I, too, was once involved with Big Things.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I walk to our rural mailbox on most days. Sometimes I meet our mail lady "Lisa."

I refuse to let my health care provider send our prescription drugs through the mail to be placed in this unprotected, remote container. Our mailbox is in the deep freeze in January and becomes a hot box for unattended hours or days in July. Thieves can ransack these mailboxes for the drugs they contain.

Why any sensible doctor or pharmacist would allow for this unwise temptation, that offers their patients very deep financial discounts on drugs, is beyound me. The "health" industry is all about profits and competition for those in charge. But it is not about "care" of persons (I'm afraid). So drugs are "Missing from our mailbox."

Yesterday I went to my nearest public library to collect our 2010 Federal Income Tax booklet. A few days ago I was clearing off my desk and took a careful look at the "Minnesota" 2010 Income Tax booklet that the mail lady had recently delivered.

"Suprise!" I read that this year the Feds are not mailing out our pre-printed tax booklet, with the envelope and labels - who we are, and which destination to choose: refund or payment.

Yes, that's right. "You may pick up your forms on-line or at a public library near you." If they don't bother to send me the forms, why should I bother to file? Millions of taxpayers will get no reminder, no prodding to start looking for their 2010 receipts. Will our employers and financial institutions bother to send us their 2010 statements? Was I the last citizen to get this word? Why wasn't I notified by the U.S. tax collectors of this change?

NO NEW TAXES! Are Grover Norquist and all the anti-tax Taxpayer Leagues behind this?

Did somebody get to the IRS? It will cost millions to track down all of us who can't or won't get the forms filled out. Internet on-line book keeping is just great - until the computer's hard drive crashes or your printer fails.

Oh yes, our librarian told me that the library doesn't have the 2010 tax booklets yet. As of January 18, 2011. Only the 1040EZ forms are now on the distribution table.

Now tell me, have you been told about this by anyone?

The new Federal Income Tax booklets are "missing from everybody's mailbox."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


At the start of 2011, with a glance back at 2010, the national news is abuzz with talk of debt, of deficit, and.... more Tax Cuts! One economics professor tells us we are down in a deep hole and we'd better stop digging. The Republican Party announces that their Top Priority for the new Congress in this time of economic crisis is "Cut Government Spending," shrink the size of government.

OK, I hear that. And an op-ed column I just read from the Boston Globe tells me where the spending is that needs to be cut. Listen to James Carroll, from "The Rich Get Richer Quicker" -

"... with current annual military expenditures now exceeding $1 trillion - the most ever. Ironically, nothing undermines American security like the cuts in public spending (infrastructure, schools, libraries, etc.) made necessary by exploding budgets for outmoded weapons. Not guns over mere butter now, but over bread - and books and bridges. This monetary calculus leaves aside the most corrupting dynamic of the war economy, how the nation is driven into unnecessary wars simply by the unleashed momentum of hyper-war-readiness. Over-investment in arms leads to their use, period."

Famous bank robber Willie Sutton answered the question "Why rob banks?" directly. "That's where the money is!" Americans know the answer in 2011. The money is at the Pentagon. One trillion dollars worth.

Since President Bush's inauguration in 2001, a decade ago, the annual outlay for the military has climbed from one third of a trillion (roughly) to over $1 trillion. We have borrowed to finance two wars, new weapons systems, and the medical care of thousands of our crippled troops far into the future, all this in a decade of lost opportunity for a society.

So let's climb out of this pit together. Bring down our lavish spending on wars and weapons until it meets the needs of our vital national DEFENSE.

Hands off my health care! Build back a strong infrastructure of pipelines, bridges to somewhere, rail lines that don't derail, modernized air traffic systems that can manage safe air travel. Viable airlines regulated so that maintenance is no longer sent to foreign shops where it is under-inspected.

You readers know what we need. I think I just found where the money comes from to get it done.