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.