The Liars’ Club – Restricted Membership

The Liars’ Club – Restricted Membership

Ted Folkert

August 26, 2015

Unfortunately, we can’t all be members of the liars’ club (aka, the rich and powerful). In order to accumulate enormous wealth it seems that one would have to stretch the truth a bit, actually more than a bit.

Driving to the office today, near Los Angeles airport, I just counted, within a two block area along La Cienega Boulevard, more than thirty homes on wheels – motor homes, trucks with campers on the back, small bus-type vehicles, and one sort-of-neighborhood set up with outdoor cookers and sun-shading tents. Most of these homes-on-wheels look like they were salvaged from the wrecking yard. This is a just another example of the effect of the housing situation in this area – along with the depressing drive along several streets downtown where the homeless seem to have permanent encampments and a walk along Venice Beach where they sleep wherever they can at night and hangout during the day seeking assistance from the visitors.

An article in the Los Angeles Times today – Tiny Houses, Big Dispute – features a young man who is fabricating “tiny houses” for shelters about the size of a parking spot on the street, and parking them on the street for a person to sleep, although without the luxury of running water or sanitation facilities. Of course there is a fierce battle looming over their legality, but it certainly seems preferable to sleeping on the sidewalk. Exactly where would be the running water and sanitation facilities there on the sidewalk?

None of this may last long since the city recently passed ordinances to make it easier for officials to break encampments and confiscate bulky items and personal belongings left about, as if the homeless had anywhere else to store their accumulations of belongings – you know, such things as clothing and sanitation and health related items.

Needless to say, they didn’t pass any ordinance requiring the city to provide shelter for the less fortunate. In their moderate defense however, they have been working on it but at a snail’s pace and way too late.

Another L.A Times article – New Tally of Life on the Street – tells us that about 13,000 people on public assistance tumble into homelessness every month in Los Angeles County. Although many of them recover to some extent, chronic homelessness continues to grow. During a period from 2002 to 2010 more than 9 million county residents received public assistance at some point from problems of disability, mental health, criminal justice and foster care – and of course from the Bush-Cheney economy prior to 2007, which drove many residents from their homes due to sudden joblessness and the impact of the unmanageable payment increases of the subprime loans so generously bestowed upon them by the Liars’ Club.

Is there any wonder why having a place to sleep is such a problem? How many of us would be there if we were jobless for any length of time.

If you work 40 hours per week at minimum wage in California you will have gross income of about $1,500 per month and net income of less than $1,400. Based on this, you could squeeze out maybe $600 for rent if you want to eat and have transportation, health care and clothing. That is if you live close to work and don’t have serious health problems. The median rent in Los Angeles County is about $1,800 per month. Good luck with your $600.

It takes an income of almost $50 per hour, almost $100,000 annually, to rent a median priced Los Angeles house. The median home price is $537,000, which would represent a monthly mortgage payment of more than $2,500 with a 20% down payment, an amount that few would be able to accumulate. With questionable credit the monthly payment would be much greater. The median household income in Los Angeles is $56,000, from which you might be able to devote $2,000 or less per month toward a mortgage payment if you want to eat, have transportation, health care, and clothing – and get your kids educated.

There is a boom of new apartment building especially in the downtown area. The rental rates for one bedroom apartments are advertised at more than $3,000 per month for the most part, not a normal solution for those earning less than $100,000 annually. Rental rate increases in California in general are in the 5% annual range, Los Angeles has been greater in the last few years except in rent control areas which cap it at 3% in recent years but allow increase-to-market on re-renting of vacancies. It seems those earning incomes lower than normal are being driven further to the East, making traffic and daily travel time all the worse and making it more difficult to work two jobs, which all minimum wage workers must do to survive.

The home ownership/rental price increase situation is not restricted to California, it is nationwide to some extent. The percentage of the U.S. population who own their homes has fallen to 63.4%, the lowest in 48 years, according to the census bureau. Recent data from Zillow states a 4.2% annual increase in rents in the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the wages increased in the U.S. by 1.9% for the year ending June 2014. Go figure!

The gap in income and wealth – income and wealth inequality – is no more apparent than by just examining this one example from one part of the country. If you read the real estate section and the glossy pamphlets therewith on Sunday you will find page after page of display advertisements of homes worth millions of dollars, some up to $150 million. These advertising pieces weigh enough that some people would need two hands to lift them. Good luck finding ads for smaller homes which might be affordable for those earning an average income. Of course, the property closest to the ocean appreciates faster than any other most anywhere in the world. But this situation affects about 10 million people in the Los Angeles area alone, not just those who live near the ocean, and similar examples can probably be found throughout the country. Those who are unable to break into the “liars club” are losing ground and the obstacles to a median lifestyle with equality in educational opportunities are becoming insurmountable.

We need to raise the minimum wage, which will benefit the class of workers who are mostly all renters. We need to tax capital in order to reduce our national debt to zero and enable us to rebuild our infrastructure, which will provide full employment and make housing more affordable for everyone. No one needs a billion dollars. No one needs a hundred million dollars. No one needs ten million dollars. No one will suffer from such action as taxing capital and everyone will win from a growing and healthy economy – and a better educated populous with equality of opportunity.

Okay, maybe we should just tax the capital that was accumulated by stretching the truth a bit, such as: false advertising, outright swindles, robbing the poor to pay the rich, vulture lending, penalization for having poor credit, manipulating interest rates and stocks and bonds, unreasonable rents, Ponzi schemes, unfair tax avoidance, monopolization, patent protection, offshore tax evasion, other tax evasion, eminent domain, and one of the biggest – the due process of law, in which the working class cannot afford to participate.

The above methods of wealth accumulation are all standard operating procedures of the Liars’ Club as  sanctioned by their Board of Pilferers. They have all passed the test of time and are considered as legally valid professions and been deemed as rewards for hard work, unlike the easier work, such as: garbage removal, street sweeping, construction labor, and teaching school to all of the undisciplined future Liars’ Club heirs.

Think about it!

 

 

 

Operation was successful but the patient died

The operation was a success but the patient died

Ted Folkert

August 13, 2015

Just imagine the unforeseen causes for the millions of displaced people with “no place to sleep” – those seeking refuge from their homes, cities, countries, and societies. Imagine entire communities fleeing from tyrannical invasion, political uprising, genocidal massacre, religious cleansing, territorial expansion, economic starvation – you name it.

The first frightening feeling of those seeking refuge or asylum is probably survival – that sickening feeling of fear, helplessness and despair, escaping death or painful injury, protecting your loved ones from harm. Standing your ground to protect your home or your way of life suddenly is blanked out of your psyche. That thought disappears from your mind as the only hope of survival is to flee. You take flight, leaving your home, your job, your education, your comfort, your community, your basic link to society.

You flee to another area, across the border into another country, across the ocean to a more protective society – seeking safety, food, shelter, a promise of survival and a peaceful existence.

This has only been going on for a few thousand years now – at least that we know of – way too soon to have determined a reasonable approach to lessen the pain and suffering, to place the refugees in comfortable arrangements, to provide hope of a peaceful existence, people helping other people.

This is a feeling that most of us have never experienced. One might be inclined to tell those who are frightened out of their wits to stay put, stand your ground, fight to the death, and don’t give up the struggle. However, most of those giving such advice would not follow their own advice. Most would flee. Most of those faced with the choice do just that, they flee.

The United Nations tells us that there are 60 million people who are now displaced by wars and other conflicts. Reading or listening to the news would tend to make those numbers sound understated since it has become a daily conversation. There are more refugees in the world today than at any time in recorded history. Some are migrating for economic reasons, some seeking asylum for political reasons, some running for lives from warfare, in fear of marauders, some escaping starvation and miserable living standards.

A troubling question for which we are not offered an estimate is: how many of these 60 million are displaced due to the “help” from powerful countries, like the US, as those “helping” countries ravage the areas with bombs, torpedoes, missiles and other forms of mass killing and mass destruction? That might be a number that would give us all that sick feeling. Many of those displaced from their homes and communities are still in their own countries but their city or community has been destroyed or is unsafe for human life. How many tent cities have we observed in news reports? We glance at them and view them as happening in distant places and to less advanced societies?

The question that seems unanswered regarding “help” is like that old cliché, are you here to help or are you part of the problem? Do we, the “helpers”, provide temporary housing, food supplies, health assistance? Do we provide permanent housing, livelihood opportunities, employment, or education for those seeking survival? We attempt to provide some of these, but what do we provide for the most part? For the most part we seem to provide complete destruction of the areas vacated and relinquished to the invaders, so completely that the areas are suddenly uninhabitable for anyone, especially those who had hoped to return to their homes and communities. Entire business districts are leveled to the ground. The housing is destroyed, the utilities are destroyed, potable water destroyed, health facilities destroyed, churches destroyed, entire communities destroyed. It becomes difficult to recognize where the help has landed.

How would we feel if suddenly all of our worldly possessions had to be discarded or vacated – all of our clothing, furnishings, transportation, employment, schools, churches, health facilities, government, and protection – literally all of our possessions and necessities of life. There is no way we can imagine it. It would be inconceivable, unimaginable.

We have a functioning United Nations. Why is there no united force that is organized, educated, and trained to deal with refugees – trained to move in immediately and provide temporary food, shelter and clothing, trained to rebuild communities and provide necessary services while livability is being restored? We move in quickly with bombers, why can’t we move in quickly with human assistance?

We have literally destroyed much of Iraq and Afghanistan and now are helping to destroy much of Syria and other Mideast countries.

Are we winning the battles and losing the wars? Are we destroying cities to save them, destroying countries and communities to save them? Was the operation a success but the patient died?

One report states that there were 14 million people displaced in 2014. Those who were able to return home numbered 125,000. That would be less than 1 returning home out of 100 displaced – an embarrassing and sad record.

Some numbers of refugees and asylum seekers to think about: Syria – 11 million; Iraq – 4 million; Ukraine – 4 million; Congo – 4 million; South Sudan – 2 million; Pakistan – 2 million; Nigeria – 1 million; Myanmar – 1 million; Jordan – 2 million; West Bank & Gaza – 2 million – and the list goes on and on.

It seems we could do better.

Think about It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s Failure to Fail – Krugman

G.O.P. Candidates and Obama’s Failure to Fail

“If I had to summarize the G.O.P.’s attitude on domestic policy, it would be that no good deed goes unpunished. Try to help the unfortunate, support the economy in hard times, or limit pollution, and you will face the wrath of the invisible hand. The only way to thrive, the right insists, is to be nice to the rich and cruel to the poor, while letting corporations do as they please.”

PAUL KRUGMAN, NEW YORK TIMES

AUG. 10, 2015

What did the men who would be president talk about during last week’s prime-time Republican debate? Well, there were 19 references to God, while the economy rated only 10 mentions. Republicans in Congress have voted dozens of times to repeal all or part of Obamacare, but the candidates only named President Obama’s signature policy nine times over the course of two hours. And energy, another erstwhile G.O.P. favorite, came up only four times.

Strange, isn’t it? The shared premise of everyone on the Republican side is that the Obama years have been a time of policy disaster on every front. Yet the candidates on that stage had almost nothing to say about any of the supposed disaster areas.

And there was a good reason they seemed so tongue-tied: Out there in the real world, none of the disasters their party predicted have actually come to pass. President Obama just keeps failing to fail. And that’s a big problem for the G.O.P. — even bigger than Donald Trump.

Start with health reform. Talk to right-wingers, and they will inevitably assert that it has been a disaster. But ask exactly what form this disaster has taken, and at best you get unverified anecdotes about rate hikes and declining quality.

Meanwhile, actual numbers show that the Affordable Care Act has sharply reduced the number of uninsured Americans — especially in blue states that have been willing to expand Medicaid — while costing substantially less than expected. The newly insured are, by and large, pleased with their coverage, and the law has clearly improved access to care.

Needless to say, right-wing think tanks are still cranking out “studies” purporting to show that health reform is a failure. But it’s a losing game, and judging from last week’s debate Republican politicians know it.

But what about side effects? Obamacare was supposed to be a job-killer — in fact, when Marco Rubio was asked how he would boost the economy, pretty much all he had to suggest was repealing health and financial reforms. But in the year and a half since Obamacare went fully into effect, the U.S. economy has added an average of 237,000 private-sector jobs per month. That’s pretty good. In fact, it’s better than anything we’ve seen since the 1990s.

Which brings us to the economy.

There was remarkably little economic discussion at the debate, although Jeb Bush is still boasting about his record in Florida — that is, his experience in presiding over a gigantic housing bubble, and providentially leaving office before the bubble burst. Why didn’t the other candidates say more? Probably because at this point the Obama economy doesn’t look too bad. Put it this way: if you compare unemployment rates over the course of the Obama administration with unemployment rates under Reagan, Mr. Obama ends up looking better – unemployment was higher when he took office, and it’s now lower than it was at this point under Reagan.

O.K., there are many reasons to qualify that assessment, notably the fact that measured unemployment is low in part because of a decline in the percentage of Americans in the labor force. Still, the Obama economy has utterly failed to deliver the disasters — hyperinflation! a plunging dollar! fiscal crisis! — that just about everyone on the right predicted. And this has evidently left the Republican presidential field with nothing much to say.

One last point: traditionally, Republicans love to talk about how liberals with their environmentalism and war on coal are standing in the way of America’s energy future. But there was only a bit of that last week — perhaps because domestic oil production has soared and oil imports have plunged since Mr. Obama took office.

What’s the common theme linking all the disasters that Republicans predicted, but which failed to materialize? If I had to summarize the G.O.P.’s attitude on domestic policy, it would be that no good deed goes unpunished. Try to help the unfortunate, support the economy in hard times, or limit pollution, and you will face the wrath of the invisible hand. The only way to thrive, the right insists, is to be nice to the rich and cruel to the poor, while letting corporations do as they please.

According to this worldview, a leader like President Obama who raises taxes on the 1 percent while subsidizing health care for lower-income families, who provides stimulus in a recession, who regulates banks and expands environmental protection, will surely preside over disaster in every direction.

But he hasn’t. I’m not saying that America is in great shape, because it isn’t. Economic recovery has come too slowly, and is still incomplete; Obamacare isn’t the system anyone would have designed from scratch; and we’re nowhere close to doing enough on climate change. But we’re doing far better than any of those guys in Cleveland will ever admit.

The Dog and Pony Show?

The Dog and Pony Show?

Ted Folkert

August 6, 2015

How can they call this a debate? It is actually a public venue to express sound-bite opinions about how each would-be leader of the free world will make life better for everyone in their own selfless and benevolent way. It is a contest to see who can do the best job of converting the question they are asked into the question they came with a canned pitch to answer. You know – circumnavigation, sleight of hand, evasive strategizing, political campaign-speak. If you listen carefully, you will note that their answer to each question ends up the same way, peace on earth, goodwill to all mankind, and “I” am the only one who can make it all come true. Count the number of times each one says “I” and how many times they say “American people”, as if that wasn’t something of which they were a member.

If you want to muddle your mind, try to summarize the political position and convictions of each candidate and determine how they would perform the duties of the office. Be sure to have a full bottle of your favorite beverage, this will be an exasperating experience and you may end up where you began, like in a mindboggling labyrinth or a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle. Like some politician said recently, “I voted for it before I voted against it” – so, in other words, I was on both sides of the issue, so I am safe no matter how it turns out, I can stay where I am or revert to my previous position.

Speaking of mindboggling, how confusing must it be to try to remember the “correct” answer to each question when you aren’t even sure how you feel about it but, like a good politician, want to tell everyone what they want to hear – at least until after the election. Like Rank Parity, former Texas governor, when he couldn’t remember the “third” thing, or Gorge W. Shrub, another former Texas governor, and the lapdog for the leader of the national wrecking crew who destroyed our economy and killed our kids back in 2000 to 2008, who got all twisted trying to say “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Most of us learned that one in elementary school on the playground. Of course, he and Dark Chimney probably had better things to do in grade school, just like they did when they evaded the draft.

The big problem is, no one knows what they will do as president. The job is so vast, it stretches throughout the world, it takes them four years to learn their way around. They usually surround themselves with a few good advisors and lots of no-so-good ones, after keeping campaign promises and appointing people to positions they cannot handle. Can you imagine your first day on the job as president when they tell you that now you have a million employees who are your responsibility and a trillion dollar budget to control while improving the welfare of all the people, like you promised you would? The answer would probably be: you’ve got to be kidding me.

So who should we elect? The person with the most wealth, the most education, the best record in Congress or their state, the most religious person, the most honest person, the best looking person? Or should we elect the person that we believe can understand the big picture, see fifty years ahead, remember the lessons of history, recognize the mistakes of the past, focus on what can be accomplished given the political framework within the government at hand, think rationally and not whimsically, make decisions based upon compassion and empathy, understand the difference between toughness and prudence, consider each citizen to be of equal value, with equal rights and equal opportunities, with the right to a good education. Should our president be someone who is totally focused on protecting our borders or banning abortions? Should he or she be someone who espouses religious principles or law and order and equal rights? Should the president be someone who hasn’t fully given up on racial favoritism or racial discrimination? Should he or she be someone who favors hydrocarbon production over environmental concerns or corporate power over equal rights and opportunities? Should the president have personal ties to the financial behemoths or to the educational leaders of the country?

Unfortunately, there is no educational course for being president. There is no test to take to see if you qualify. The only basis for determining someone’s ability is by looking at their past, not what they say they are going to do, but what they have done in the past. An athlete’s potential is not based on what he or she says but what they have done. The same should be the basis for judging a politician. What have they done? How have they voted? What principles have they stood for? What issues have they supported? With whom have they associated? Who are their supporters, the Kook Brothers or Common Cause? The Southern Poverty Law Center or Faith & Freedom Coalition?

It is going to be a long road to the 2016 election, which will absorb more billions of dollars than ever before. Efforts to buy the electoral offices will come from all directions. What does that tell us? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. It pays to buy electoral offices, it is a great investment. Otherwise it would not attract such massive wealth.

Is this the democracy we think we have? No, of course not. It is an oligarchy, an aristocracy, a winner-take-all society, and one which cannot endure without rapid and substantial changes.

Think about it!

That Sinking Feeling

That Sinking Feeling

Ted Folkert

August 4, 2015

Part three of our sad story about “water-water, everywhere” – another shocker to jog our minds away from our I-Phones and back to the reality of the fragility of the necessities of life. And what could be more necessary than water? And what could possibly be more fragile?

A Sinking Feeling is what Diana Marcum called it in her recent article about Lake Oroville, California in the Los Angeles Times.

A hundred miles or so north of Sacramento and maybe 200 miles from San Francisco, is a place called Lake Oroville. Never heard of it? Well, neither had I, but Lake Oroville was created by damming up of several branches of the Feather River, a dam completed in1968, which took the lives of 34 men working in unsafe conditions. This dam is 770 feet high, the tallest in the U.S., and almost 7,000 feet across, for many years the largest dam of its type in the world. Oroville Lake has more than 160 miles of shoreline and the catchment area covers nearly 4,000 square miles. The tributaries that feed the lake drain parts of the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades and the Sacramento Valley.

This lake, it is said, serves drinking water to more than 20 million people between Napa and San Diego, provides hydroelectric power, protects Sacramento from floods and irrigates the Central Valley. Unfortunately, it is running out of water. The capacity of more than 3 million acre feet of water is now at 33% of its normal level, forcing the many house boats afloat there together like sardines in a can. I suppose the lake can still protect Sacramento from floods, although that doesn’t seem to be an immediate problem, but providing drinking water to 20 million people, providing hydroelectric power and irrigating the Central Valley may be a real challenge with the diminishing supply of water to replenish its capacity.

This problem is yet another hole in the boat of water to drink. So, my questions are: How do we resolve these incessant water supply issues for the future? Can we reapportion the water allocations from the Colorado River? Can we reapportion the water allocations from the Oroville Lake? Can we build a few hundred desalination plants? Can we depend upon there never again being another drought? Can we assume that the demand for water will diminish even though the population continuously increases? Can we reduce consumption sufficiently to solve the supply deficiency? Are we going to stop watering our lawns? Are we going to continue wasting water like it has no value?

The answers to these questions are: uncertain, probably not, probably not, probably not, no, no, probably no, probably yes. Alas, no favorable answers, none of the answers we were seeking to solve the problem.

And now we ask the final and most important question, like the unanswered question about saving our environment for the benefit of future generations: are we going to wait until it is too late?

And the answer is: Based upon our individual fixation on material possessions, based upon our obsession for being constantly entertained, based on our fearless leaders’ fixations on getting reelected, and based on our dependence on the other person taking care of the problem, and on our lack of concern about the infrastructure of city, state and nation – we have a problem! It may not be too late, but the problem is not going to wait for us, it is going to press on. If we think wars over politics, territory, religion and power have been brutal – wait until we have a war over water, then all the rest will seem like they never really mattered.

Think about it!

Who owns the water?

Who owns the water?

Ted Folkert

July 25, 2015

Who does own the water? Doesn’t it fall from the sky as rain or snow? Doesn’t it create rivers, lakes, streams, aquifers and such? Just because it falls out of the sky on your property, does it mean that you own it? Maybe the rain was formed by evaporation from water on your property and fell on someone elses. Maybe it was formed by evaporation from the ocean. Who owns that water? As we can see, these are tough questions. Not tough many years ago, but becoming tougher now that we are in short supply. And now that this short supply has become exacerbated by lack of adequate rainfall and snowmelt, it is becoming the battle of the day and legal warfare.

It was more than a few years ago, on a plane returning to California, when the awareness of this question came to mind. I was sitting next to a man by the name of Oppenheimer, son of General Oppenheimer, the founder of the Kansas City firm, Oppenheimer Industries. They own ranchland in the Southwest, which, I assume, makes water rights important to them.

He made me aware of the water rights situation in this country, explaining that water rights, although not a new legal issue, was becoming rapidly more important, particularly in the western part of the country.

Now I better understand his concern. We have a problem of providing enough water to fill the needs of our growing population and those who own the rights to the water may be in the driver’s seat. This, of course, is becoming a huge issue now that Mother Nature has made us aware that she is actually in control of this commodity of short supply.

We discussed recently on this site the serious depletion of the huge underground water source that is utilized by numerous states in the Midwest, the Ogallala Aquifer. Now the discussion is about the huge water source for numerous states in the West, the Colorado River.

The Colorado River is fed by the snowmelt of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and meanders 1,450 miles through Utah, Nevada, California, and Arizona and terminates in Mexico into the Gulf of California. The Colorado River Basin includes parts of these states as well as parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. This is the river that is dammed up for hydroelectric power at the famous Hoover Dam in Nevada.

William Yardley, in his Los Angeles Times article, “Running Dry”, tells us that 40 million people depend upon this river and this number could double in 50 years. The saddest part of the story is that we are in the 16th year of a drought and the river cannot continue to meet the needs of the urban, agricultural, hydroelectric and recreation demands that it now serves.

Some fields that now produce crops may have to remain fallow. Some communities may have to recycle waste water and restrict urban growth. Las Vegas gets their water from the Hoover Dam project. The farms in California, Arizona and New Mexico rely on this water to grow the crops that feed a large portion of the nation.

The water from this river is now legally apportioned as follows: 4.4 million acre feet to California, 3.9 to Colorado, 2.85 to Arizona, 1.7 to Utah, 1.0 to Wyoming, .85 to New Mexico, .3 to Nevada.

As we can imagine, there will be a battle brewing for reapportionment which should keep the legal profession in those parts busy for years, but the outcome, no matter the apportionment, will be the same – there won’t be enough to go around.

We obviously have to take water more seriously.

Think about it!

Deception!

Deception!

Ted Folkert

July 16, 2015

Deception – sometimes it seems to be the driving force of the human race. It certainly plays a big role in our economy, our government, our entertainment, our styles and habits, our careers, our conversation, and our education. Without deception the retailers couldn’t entice us into the stores as frequently, the Wall Street tricksters wouldn’t be able to do what they do best, hook us and reel us in after we take their bait and swallow the hook. We might not have as many novels to read or movies to watch. And, of course crime would only be used by criminals that we can actually incarcerate.

Life might be boring without deception. Careers might be quite different. We wouldn’t have need for so many courtrooms, judges, juries, lawyers, bankers, accountants, prisons, government employees. Without deception everything would be settled based on truth and consequences, out-of-court, between honest, truthful, considerate, compassionate citizens of the community – obeying and adhering to the laws of society.

No one would get ridiculously rich like the masters of deceit do. We wouldn’t have the upper class or the lower class. The only class we would have would be the school class. We wouldn’t need mansions or palaces – we wouldn’t feel compelled to have a bigger house or a fancier car, so we can look as successful as the deception experts appear as they prance before us and flaunt the rewards of their deceit.

If you majored in deception in school and excelled at it, you would be in great demand and could just about name your price. The cleverest advertising people are the ones who understand deception the best and know how to make it work to sell people things that they don’t need and that aren’t nearly as good as they make them sound. “More doctors smoke Camels that any other cigarette”. You have to be my age to remember that one. That is what they told us as we were inhaling the carcinogens they packed into every pack. “If you have an erection for more than four hours, call your doctor”. A very clever deceptive enticement to desire the regaining of sexual prowess. That is one of the best advertising lines I have ever heard. I’ll bet that deceiver that created that line is well paid. He would make P.T. Barnum look like a beginner. And P.T. Barnum was truthful when he said “there is sucker born every minute” (or something like that). He would run Elmer Gantry out of town with his blustering and pompous style of loud-mouthed persuasion, while this prince of deception dazzles us with his charade of using a CYA (cover your _?_), medical disclosure, to actually help sell the product.

The interesting thing about deception is that some deceivers actually come to be believers of their own pitch. I remember the story about the kid who told his dad that he couldn’t sell his car because it had more than 100,000 miles on it. So, his dad says “well, you could always have the speedometer spun back like the used car dealers do.” So, he saw his son a few days later and asked him if he had sold his car and his son said “why should I sell it now, it only has 20,000 miles on it?”

Deception drives Wall Street. The fastest talker and most convincing deceiver makes the most money. Just ask J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, David Rockefeller – or more recently some of their successors, Robert Rubin, Sandy Weill, Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon – and a few thousand other financial deceivers. There was recently revealed an email comment from one financial tycoon to another “if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying”. They were discussing the illegal manipulating of the basis for establishing and adjusting interest rates for many types of lending – the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), a rating process that is supposed to be untouched by human hands – the holy grail of banking – the one market rate we can all trust to be honestly established and sustained, you know – not manipulated. Well, surprise, surprise, It was being manipulated to the tune of billions of dollars for some unscrupulous bankers – or should we say – “masters of deception”. (To date there have been no disclosed incarcerations, only fines unrepresentative of the magnitude of the crimes or the rewards enjoyed by the manipulators.) We all know that the bankers must remain whole and not lose money, even if they are stupid gamblers of our money with the intent to defraud. That was proven beyond any doubt by Clinton, Bush, Obama and our congressional deceivers.

I suppose deception’s role in society does help us eliminate some troublesome terms that we don’t often cherish these days, terms such as honesty, integrity, compassion, or empathy. These traits don’t drive the human race – deception does.

If Mom hadn’t dragged me to Sunday School every Sunday morning and Dad hadn’t accompanied me to the Boy Scout meetings every week, I wouldn’t be so confused with all of these useless traits that they talked about – traits that interfere with obtaining wealth and fame – the terms just above mentioned – honesty, integrity, compassion, and empathy.

I have a small collection of hand carved, mostly African, masks which I find quite intriguing. Looking at them, you tend to wonder what deception the craft-person had in mind. After all, we all wear a mask of some kind, even if it is not meant to terrify, somewhat deceptive, but not the kind meant to harm others or transfer their money to your pocket. It is human nature meant to display the character and personality we wish to project to others.

The path to success seems to have been driven by deception for all of modern day civilization – the best deceiver gets the most toys and bragging rights, the biggest house, the fanciest car, the private jet, the best colleges for their kids, and wealth to survive them with the family superiority.

I guess the only reward to the non-participators in the deception game is the happiness and satisfaction with life determined by the way you feel about yourself in dealing with others, as opposed to feeling good about being a master of deceit, which may require special traits to which some of our parents failed to introduce us.

Think about it!

Singing in the Rain

Singing in the Rain

Ted Folkert

July 9, 2015

Where is Gene Kelly when we need him? He could cheer us up with his song and dance routine of “Singing in the Rain”.

Some of us may remember the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” with the sailor’s phrase: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” Well, Kansas City residents certainly understand the first part, since it seems to have been raining nonstop for the last few months. The Missouri River and the Lake of the Ozarks must both be out of their banks by now.

Those of us who spend our time in California are singing a different tune. We have had drought conditions for three years running and no hope in sight until MAYBE next winter when Mother Nature may bless us once again. The folks in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Brentwood are squirming in anguish as they are frowned upon for watering their beautiful lawns … and … Tom Selleck is accused of stealing thousands of gallons of water from a fire hydrant for years to water his 60-acre California ranch. And all of this while the city folks are asked to stop flushing the toilet so often and the real farmers are forced to limit their withdrawal from the underground water supply, water which they must have in order to grow their crops, sustain their livelihood and feed half the nation.

This water debacle brings to mind a serious problem for a large section of the country where the farmers obtain water for their crops from the Ogallala Aquifer. This has been of special note for me for the last 25 years as I have flown across Kansas hundreds of times. As you look out the window on a clear day you can’t help but notice the large circular patterns in the wheat fields as you pass over. Those patterns are created by the circular watering systems as they distribute water on the fields from the water wells that reach down into the Ogallala Aquifer. This huge underground lake is about twice the size geographically of the Great Lakes and lays beneath parts of South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.

There have been stories in the past about the sucking down of the water table of this huge aquifer but the situation is now becoming more imminent. The experts now estimate that about 30% of the original water table has been pumped out and that an additional 40% is expected to be gone in the next 50 years. It apparently would take thousands of years to replenish it to its former level if they quit pumping. The effects of the depletion of our fresh water supplies is obvious for the food supply and the livability of the nation.

We have ignored the value of fresh water forever. It seems like there was plenty of that life-giving fluid around when there were only a billion of us on the planet but now that we have 7 billion and counting it is a whole new ball game.

We waste this precious resource enormously and we contaminate it at will. The hydrocarbon extractors, in order to keep an estimated one billion cars on the planet running and our homes and water heated with oil, gas and coal, contaminate our streams, lakes, rivers and oceans with their waste products and sometimes with their finished products. We shake our finger at them, fine them, and then let them get right back at it. If you rob a bank you have to stop that and be locked up for decades. If you contaminate water supplies and injure or murder people, you get a fine and a hand slap. Go figure.

One solution for providing water, water, with a drop to drink is being set in place in San Diego County. There is a desalination plant under construction that will be providing 50 million gallons of water per day to as many as 300,000 people. The cost is $1 billion. Now we have more than 35 million people in California. If this process were necessary for our entire water supply, it would require at least 150 of these plants to serve the residents of the state at a cost of $150 billion – and they would probably be lined up side-by-side all along the coast of the state.

And then, if the underground water and other fresh water sources become depleted in the states without a coastline, where will they get water to desalinate? Even if it were possible, it would cost gazillions of dollars to build enough capacity to serve the nation. Not billions, not trillions, but gazillions (or whatever is the next mathematical number).

As we can see, we need to take water more seriously. It has been taken for granted forever in our civilization. But now that we are over-consuming, wasting and contaminating our fresh water at will, we may be making human life that much more unlikely down the road.

Let’s be sure we can once again be “Singing in the Rain”.

Think about it!

 

War Crime

War Crime

Ted Folkert

June 24, 2015

People keep asking me questions about war. I haven’t even been in one, so questions such as these are hard to answer.

What is this term “war crime”? Is this an entendre? An oxymoron? Or a double negative? – Would it be the opposite of a war legality, a peace crime, a peace offering?

Would it be on the order of an “illegal robbery” or a “dishonest scam” or an “intentional murder” or an “accidental fumble” or a “painful ache”?

Would it be like a “rule of war” being similar to a “legality of murder” or a “right of assassination”.

What are the rules of war? Do you have to get the war approved by the War Mongers Association? Or can you just contact Dark Chimney or Gorge W. Shrub and request the right terminology to make it sound like you are just going to spank an errant child?

What are the penalties if you violate a rule of war? Do you get a fifteen yard penalty for being off-sides? Suspended for one battle because you killed the enemy before the starting gunshot? Evicted from the war for unsportsmanlike conduct? Give up free-throws of grenades for fouling the enemy?

How about participants? Can you choose them from a pool of would-be warriors, like the football draft? Can you trade warriors with other participants? Is the pay universal, or can you offer a wicked warrior more money to fight for your team?

What would constitute a war crime? Killing the enemy too harshly? Taking captives who have already surrendered? Sneaking up on the enemy without warning? Intercepting enemy communication? Spying on the enemy? Taking too much territory is any given battle? Dropping too much napalm, too many bombs, destroying water supplies, destroying cities, homes, roads, railroads, communication? How about unnecessary killing of women and children? How about beheading a captive troop or hostage? Would dropping 10,000 bombs from 1000 bombers on civilians be a war crime? Would it be covered by a rule of war?

How do you go about proving a war crime? Where are the rules of war written down? Are they written down somewhere and sworn to by all participants who agree to abide by the rules of the war or just understood amongst warring countries such as ours, which has had lots of war experience? If you commit too many war crimes can your enemy be declared the winner by the War Mongers Association?

Can you change a rule of war? Who decides? Do you get together with the enemy and negotiate the rules before the war or stop and negotiate changes to the rules during the war? Surely you wouldn’t just want to walk away and refuse to fight because you disagreed with a rule violation.

Taking it a step further, how do you decide who wins? Does someone have to throw in the towel? Can the referee call the fight and declare a victory if he or she decides one side is beaten badly and cannot survive? Or do you have to kill all of the enemy participants and destroy their habitat such that it would be unlivable?

Do they have officials who count the killings and injuries and, according to their severity, award points to the opponents and keep it posted on the score board? They must, otherwise you wouldn’t know if you were winning or losing. And then you might not know when the war was over.

In so far as being a legal participant in wars, do you have to qualify by being in previous wars? Do you have to have a favorable win/loss record in order to keep getting matched up with an enemy? Can you pick your own enemies, or are they assigned by the war officials? Are the various battles seeded like a tennis match according to your record in previous wars?

After fully considering all these unanswered questions, reading the Bible and the world history books and considering the record of human behavior over the last 3,000 years, and all of the war mongers’ imperatives to do God’s work with a sword, and all of the self-imposed leaders’ imperatives to take over more territory, more resources and more riches, it would seem like there were rules to go by somewhere along the line, otherwise everyone would just keep killing each other and if they lose just declare rule-of-war violations, and then just have to start the war all over again.

Boy am I glad we got all of this settled many years ago and now we all just get along. The world is pretty much at peace now, with the possible exception of a few dozen countries that may still have some unresolved disputes and are murdering each other. Fortunately, we are only involved in a couple of dozen of them, so – “peace be with you.”

Now that things have settled down, I guess I don’t have to try to answer all of these questions. It seems unlikely that we will have any more wars anyway.

Peace!

Walk away and think it over

Walk away and think it over

Ted Folkert

June 19, 2015

Stacey, one of my favorite daughters, sent me the article about the State of Kansas passing the law to allow concealed-carry of firearms without even a permit. This, of course, comes at the same time that the nation is grieving over the heinous crime committed in South Carolina, wherein nine people were sadly and needlessly murdered while worshiping in their church, by a racist, angry, mentally-disturbed young man with a concealed firearm that he recently acquired. This would not have happened if he hadn’t had the firearm.

This Kansas legislation is just another perfect example of pathetic governance by self-interested and politically-owned leaders who cater to their donors and ignore the best interest of the common good – you know, me and you. I suppose these misguided legislators were elected because Kansans either were influenced by adverse advertising financed by political contributions from the likes of the Kook Brothers or they ignored their civic responsibility to be aware of the character, intelligence, and intentions of those they elect to run their state.

It is hard to imagine who can be helped by a law that permits anyone to carry a concealed firearm. They should at least have to expose them on their gun belts like Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp did. Then they could turn around, take ten paces, and draw – like the OK Corral. Where is Doc Holiday when we need him?

Those who are inclined to carry guns are usually cowards, bullies or criminals. So where is the benefit for the average law-abiding adult citizen or for the children who we would not want carrying a loaded weapon? Just another example of laws passed for the benefit of the wrong people or the manufacturers of these weapons – weapons that we don’t need on the street. (Or the hunters who kill helpless animals for pleasure – humans are the only animals that kill for pleasure, you know)

Now, back to the murderer in South Carolina. This young man is obviously mentally deranged. He says he wanted to start a race war. He has confessed and is unrepentant. It is easy to say that he should be killed, but one could also have sorrow for him along with sorrow for the loved ones of those he murdered. He, like all of us inhabitants of this planet, is a victim of a character with mental demons which probably were formed by circumstances and influences that were beyond his control. Perhaps bullying, perhaps brainwashing by misinformed racists, perhaps by listening to the wrong blabbermouth on the radio. He, of course, must be removed from our free society so he can’t do it again.

But this is only one incident of many, this is only one incident among millions of inexplicable examples of sick and sad human behavior yesterday and today and tomorrow, around the world. There are actual wars going on in dozens of countries as we speak, with millions of people being injured, murdered, or displaced from their homes and countries, entire communities destroyed, infrastructure destroyed. There are thousands of examples of unjust actions by abusive rulers, political tyrants, human vultures, power mongers, all of them criminals, going on as we speak.

So, we can’t solve this by distributing more weapons to everyone? More killing hasn’t seemed to work – just read the Bible or any other book with historical information – or read any newspaper in the world – more weapons creates more killing, not less.

Neither more weapons nor more liberal use of weapons is going to solve this problem, a problem which becomes more prevalent as our population grows and our leaders continue to be unable to achieve a more equal distribution of education, opportunity, resources and living standards.

We don’t need to build and distribute more weapons, we need to build and distribute more education -from the young to the old. Education is the only thing that has made life better thus far and it is the only thing that can enable us to sustain a livable planet in the future. We need more education about racism, bullying, empathy, sympathy, helping those in need, dispute resolution – or in Biblical terms, loving thy neighbor.

We need more of what most of our leaders profess and less of what some of them try to enforce upon each other – with weapons, explosives, starvation, impoverishment and exploitation. We need more of what those of us who practice passion for good government and compassion for treating each other with respect and less of what the cowards, bullies, and mentally disturbed now have access to – weapons and explosives.

Our brave and diligent police officers have a tough job of protecting us from harm. They do a great job of it. With more weapons on the streets it only makes their jobs that much tougher. We have had several incidents recently where officers killed or injured those they were apprehending. Maybe some of them made a mistake, we don’t know for sure. But think about doing their job. They want to go home to their families every night just like you and I do. Think how much tougher their decision-making is as the number of weapons on the street continues to increase. Think about how much tougher their job will become with everyone carrying a concealed weapon. Talk about trigger-happy. They would have to be trigger-happy.

It is so easy to pull out a weapon and use it in a rage – and so easy to walk away and think it over – if there is no weapon.

Think about it!

 

 

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. Louis Brandeis