Hope for the Homeless – Steve Lopez

Hope for the Homeless

Steve Lopez


Well worth the read!

Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times is a hands-on, on-the-street reporter who gets down and dirty with the daily life of the people in need of a voice. He is the reporter who discovered Nathaniel Ayers, a gifted musician who was a helpless victim of mental illness, heard him playing a broken string instrument under a bridge in the skid row area, worked with him, became his trusted friend, and finally coaxed him to live indoors after many attempts to do so.

In his article “A ray of hope for homeless” he discusses the severity of the homeless situation in Los Angeles. He quotes Mollie Lowery, who states that “skid row is worse than it’s been in 30 years.”

He discusses the “encampment of 31 tents in one block for the mentally and physically sick, and the addicted – a human catastrophe situated just a short walk from the halls of L.A. power.”

Former state senator Darrell Steinberg is promoting a plan to create $2 billion worth of supportive housing in California.

Lopez quotes John Maceri, Ocean Park Lamp Community, “what does it say about us … that the richest country in the world, where we have enormous capacity for innovation … we have massive encampments on our streets and let senior citizens veterans and people who are gravely disabled … fend for themselves?” “This is not an acceptable way in a civilized society for people to live.”

Read the article: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-0930-lopez-homeless-20150930-column.html

Corporate Criminals – the cost of doing business

Corporate Criminals

The “cost of doing business”

Ted Folkert

September 22, 2015

Her we are – again and again and again reminded of the greed and avarice bestowed upon us by some of the great corporations of the planet.

One of the great corporations of our time, General Motors, has plead guilty of killing people with faulty automobiles, not only prior to being aware of the unintentional deaths, but even after becoming fully aware of the fact. These deaths can only be classified as murders, although the perpetrator of the crimes apparently determined them as “costs of doing business.”

Whose cost? Theirs or those who were murdered? Their cost, as it turns out, will only be monetary. Those who were murdered? Well, we know their cost. It cannot be defined in dollars, however, that is the cost to General Motors, or should they be newly named as General Murderers or General Marauders.

I sat through jury selection for a murder trial last week for three days while the prosecution and the defense arrived at consensus as to which potential jurists should determine the guilt or innocence of a young alleged gang member who was charged with killing two other alleged gang members. These murders, whoever committed them, were apparently premeditated – part of doing business for criminal gangs. At least that was the allegation.

What about the murders committed by General Murderers? It seems that those were also premeditated – part of the cost of doing business. The big difference in this comparison is that General Murderers has to pay a monetary fine, while the young man, if convicted, will be incarcerated for the rest of his life. And, if he is guilty, he should be.

So, why are there no comparable criminal punishments for the General Murderers? To make it fair, the criminal gang that allegedly ordered the murders mentioned above should be able to pay a monetary fine for killing others as a “cost of doing business”, just like General Motors.

We previously had this situation with Toyota for killing people with their automobiles as a cost of doing business. Now we have the same situation with VW, whose executives decided to create programs to cover up violation of air pollution standards, intentionally emitting people-killing contaminants into the air. Now they will apparently be fined a large sum of money – another cost of doing business.

We have another case of a peanut butter manufacturing company whose executives sold peanut butter that they knew was contaminated with salmonella. Caught red-handed, now they admit it and apologize. Unfortunately for the peanut people, this case results in a cost of doing business much greater than monetary fines and compensation. It includes incarceration of the chief executive. Now that isn’t peanuts.

Fines for corporations, including banks that defraud customers, are obviously not deterrents to crimes – they are peanuts. They are simply regarded a cost of doing business. The only way to have a policy that deters criminal behavior is to impose criminal punishment – incarceration, including permanent banishment of those convicted from participating in the business from which the crime was committed.

How about the energy companies contaminating most of our underground water with people-killing waste products from their lucrative activities? Have we seen any criminal punishments there?

Remember what happened to Charles Keating, who went to prison for defrauding investors? (Unfortunately, the senators who aided him, the Keating Five, were not incarcerated). Remember what happened to Michael Milken, the junk bond king, who went to prison for defrauding investors? Remember what happened to Bernie Madoff, the Ponzi scheme perfectionist, who went to prison for defrauding investors?

Whatever happened to those kind of penalties, those punishments? Those were deterrents to future criminal activities. But they don’t seem to exist today.

Is it because the corporations own us lock, stock, and barrel now?

Is it because our fearless leaders are addicted to corporate contributions which are repaid with corporate welfare?

Is it because our leaders’ greatest desires are to be employed by these corporate behemoths as lobbyists and pocket huge sums of wealth?

Is it because our SEC has become toothless by our elected leaders and has little real regulatory or enforcement power?

Is it because the former Republican Party has become an assembly of radicals who have lost all touch with reality and choose to destroy whatever semblance of a democracy to which we still desperately cling?

My guess is that it is all of the above and we need desperately to elect a government to protect us from murderers and fraudsters acting under the protection of the corporate veil. That veil should be penetrable to punish crimes committed by the participants.

Think about it!




Vast Migration Worldwide

Vast Migration Worldwide

Ted Folkert

September 11, 2015

One billion people – yes, 1,000,000,000 – one out of every seven people on the planet – that is the newest estimate of the number of those migrating from their homeland to another region or country – as refugees – seeking asylum, relief, assistance, livelihood, safety, peace – a new place to call home, to earn a living, to raise the family, a place where their kids can get an education without being blown to bits by explosives or asphyxiated with chlorine or mustard gas. They leave everything behind except the loved ones of their immediate family. They leave their clothes, their furnishings, their dishes, bedding, cookware, their toys, their employment, their vehicles, their pets – everything they cannot carry, never expecting to retrieve these belongings.

They are starting over, starting a new life – in a new place. The apprehension must be frightening. They must be uncertain of acceptance wherever they end up, uncertain if they are to be allowed to cross a border, wondering where they can eat, drink, sleep, or find sanitation facilities. The must be uncertain of where they can find employment, send their children to school, or find a safe neighborhood for family life.

The urgency and determination is so great that, if transportation is not available, they will walk hundreds of miles in unpleasant conditions seeking refuge.

I can’t imagine even picking up and moving in the spur of the moment to the next county, let alone another country tens or thousands of miles away – a place where you don’t know a soul, don’t know where to go for assistance, don’t know your way around, where to find healthcare, employment opportunities – not knowing how long before you can find help with food and shelter.

This is how far to which civilized society on the planet has deterred in recent years. There has always been some incidence of migration around the world for safety or sustenance, but the current situation indicates a deteriorating social condition. One out of seven of us aren’t any better off than the early migrants who roamed this planet for thousands of years in small groups, living off the land.

Fast forward a few thousand years.

Now, there are so many small countries crammed together in Europe and the Middle East that getting along has become strained by the continuously growing population striving to share limited resources. Poverty, along with despotic governments, some controlled by intolerant religious organizations, have provided the turmoil and lack of compassion and cooperation in maintaining a stable society, which engenders political unrest, which engenders the creation of resistance groups, which necessitates the government in power to invoke violence in order to maintain control. This, of course, becomes a vicious circle and an effort to overthrow becomes imminent, which incurs more violence against the population. They begin to eat their own, as some animal species do in desperation of survival.

And now that society is controlled by explosives, entire communities are destroyed in order to maintain order and make the populace behave and be satisfied with their lot in life and respect the authority of the leaders they no longer respect. Then as this becomes prevalent in country after country, as employment becomes less available, as education becomes less advantageous, as life becomes intolerable, the people take to the street and become migratory beings, like those who roamed the planet in small groups before humans were considered civilized.

Looks like we have come full circle.

Of course, this could be over before you know it. The aggressive countries have enough explosives to destroy everything on the planet several times over. And some of them are considered “loose cannons.” It only takes one misguided action by one of these loose cannons to start the tirade of devastation and then the rest could be history with no one to read it.

Think about it!

Obama’s disclosure of Republican rebranding

Excerpts quoted from President Obama’s speech in Boston on Labor Day, speaking of the Republicans:

  1. They are trying to “re-brand themselves as the party of the middle class” while opposing efforts to raise the minimum wage and bragging about busting unions.
  2. “You can’t say you care about working people and then do things that hurt working people.” Obama said in a Labor Day speech to the Greater Boston Labor Council.
  3. Obama signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to offer employees up to seven paid sick days a year.
  4. He said: “I say to Congress: find a way to make paid family and medical leave a reality for all Americans,” the president said. “It will be good for business, not bad for business.”
  5. “Republicans know that with a quality education, a good job and the freedom to make their own economic choices, there is nothing an American can’t accomplish.”
  6. Without naming names he said: “one Republican was “bragging about how he busted unions in his state.” The president was clearly referring to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who became nationally known for restricting the collective bargaining power of state employee unions as part of his efforts to cut the state budget.”
  7. He also slammed Christie for saying: “a union deserves a punch in the face.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said last month that the American Federation of Teachers deserved a punch in the face for endorsing Clinton.”
  8. “Quoting Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, Obama said, “What is it about working men and women that they find so offensive?”

This is who we are!

This is what we stand for!

The only way we can win is to be aggressive.  We can’t “policy-wonkify” our way through this process, we have to speak with one singular voice as Obama did and punch them in their political faces.

Tell them to their faces to quit lying about supporting the middle-class and back it up with facts.  I’ve learned all of their code words now:

  1. “small businesses” really mean large corporation
    2. “simpler tax” means more tax cuts for the wealthy
    3. “secure medicare” means destroy it
    4. “repair and replace obamacare” means destroy it
    5. “secure the borders first” means treat Hispanics as second-classed citizens
    6. “all lives matter” means we need to shut-up and take our murders like men
    7. “horrified by planned parenthood” means I really need evangelicals in my camp
    8. “take America back” means get them AAs out of our White House!
    9. “the economy is in turmoil” means obama saved America from a great depression
    10.” I won’t lead from behind” means I’m starting wars with Iran, Syria and maybe Russia too.

That my friends is their story and we need to make them choke on their own words.  End of quote

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.”


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!