Yet another rambling, undisciplined poem by me…

Yet another poorly written pseudo-poem by me.  The word, “poem” is waaay too self-complimentary.  Call it a ramble with a few rhyming words.   A troll called people like me “sheep”, so I wrote this in reply.  Again, I find it…relaxing…to respond to trolls with rhyme.  It’s about one of the gazillion GOP presidential debates for the 2012 election…

In Des Moines they “debated”, self proclaimed warriors all,
To beg, borrow, steal, for the chance to battle their proclaimed Great Satan next fall,

Paul wants only churches to grant the right to marry,
While Bachmann, well, she’s downright scary.

Gingrich says, nothing, really, but in his special long winded way,
While Perry says to get out of this mess, all we have to do is pray, pray, pray 

(and execute people).

But things get close…sort…of 
When Santorum cries over people Googling him and witheld love

Not to be beat, Herman Cain, as quick as a dancer,
Then wept and wept about his colon cancer.

With 14 MILLION unemployed 
And the American working class almost destroyed,

The Dems looked on in dismay…
Are THESE the so-proclaimed “toughs” with whom we must play?

First Boehner cries often and like the cowardly lion
Then McConnell only grants tears for 18 minutes in fear…
…of losing his favorite aide who knows the tricks of the trade…

These crybabies are the ones to call us sheep?
When all these creeps do is weep, weep, weep?


A Poorly Written Poem

This is a reply on Facebook…I find it easier to respond in rhyme to trolls.   “Poem” is too much of a compliment for the below.  Think of it as more of a ramble with some rhyming words to make it slightly more readable…

It’s an answer to a troll asking me what I wish to see and warning me about fascism from what I guess are government programs supporting the common good…

What is it that I wish to see?
More of what was taught to me and thee.

As Catholicism teaches, health care for all
Because it’s right THERE and perfectly clear,

In our Catechism on paragraph 2288
And as it’s commanded – really – it’s not up for debate.

And much MUCH more of a government commitment to the Catholic concept of the common good
Like the Living Wage – another Catholic invention- it must be understood.

For the last 120 years,
Teaching such matters to oft-deaf ears
These great teachers were often driven nearly to tears:

Leo, Pius, John, and Paul

 Not to mention the great John-Paul
They wrote and wrote

preached and preached
They traveled the world
And teached and teached

With encyclical after encyclical
Book after book

It is the the plight of the POOR
That government (yes), church and each one of us
Must look

And to do that, respect must be given
They told us, they taught us, they wrote us, they were indeed driven!

To unions, yes, that IS what they wrote
Because they’re “mediating institutions”, I do NOT misquote!

From Rerum Novarum and 

Quadragesimo Anno- as bright as snow

With GREAT wisdom these books are aglow:

Respect for workers, a pillar indeed
of everything Catholicism teaches in its creed


The economy exists for the betterment of all
And as Gaudium et Spes insists, the economy’s FIRST port of call

Are the *least* of us, NOT the wealthy
And that too much accumulated wealth is morally and economically unhealthy

These core teachings say this, I do NOT tell lies
If you don’t believe me, look them up with your own eyes!

Instead…as I watched those debates, I was saddened to see
Santorum, Gingrich – loudly and lousy self proclaimed Catholics deux,
The majority of their own religion’s teachings…they smoothly eshew!

Rather…they teach a strange creed
That greed is good
With that, I WILL NOT agree

Then they insist that all government is evil!

Sorry, my and their sources teach us that such beliefs create
guaranteed and total upheaval….

(…especially for the poor and unemployed).

The poor and unemployed are so seldom mentioned by them…
…such suffering is quite beyond their comprehension.

Fascism you say?
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps one day

You’ll pick up a book
On the matter and look

To see the definition by one of its founders
Mussolini, got the definition right – no man got it sounder:

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

Make up your own mind who the uber-wealthy devour…
When money equals “free speech”…it’s the uber-wealthy who are the dictators of power.

The Conundrum of Rights

The implication of rights are that they are absolute; while the inference is really that they are not the unrestricted freedoms that many interpret them to be.

Without such functional parameters, I submit that they cease to become freedoms and instead become instruments of tyranny. A person can be grievously harmed by slander and libel, for instance, to the ruin of his or her career and livelihood.

The use of “free speech” in the First Amendment is meant from that perspective, and is therefore defined in the context of the opportunity to speak one’s mind without doing another unjust or grievous harm.

Note that the writers of the pre-Bill of Rights Constitution kept an arm’s distance away from boldly using the word “right”, probably because of the then-and-now misinterpretations that all rights are absolute. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, the only right mentioned explicitly as such in the original, pre-amendment Constitution is the Copyright Clause: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” No other “rights” by name, anyways, are mentioned as far as I know, until Madison penned the “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” in the First Amendment. Now that right was at the top of his list!

People also seldom hear that the Bill of Rights is really the finalized list that Madison came up with. He asked for a list of suggested rights and amendments to the Constitution and was given well over one hundred to work through, which he narrowed down to ten. Hence he purposely was vague in his syntax on some of the more controversial amendments, such as the wording of the Second Amendment. Yes, the intent of the Second Amendment was as vague then as it is today. It was a politician’s way of getting the amendment passed.

Hence my temptation to laugh when I hear people insist that the Constitution is a divine document that’s up there with the Bible. It’s a form of idolatry to insist as such. It’s a special, special document, for sure, one certainly worth swearing fealty towards. But a sacred document brought down from the Mountain like the Ten Commandments?

I don’t think so.


Are We More or Less a Militarized Society?

Reading the attached link reminded me of something I wondered about off and on again over the last few years: Are we more or less a militarized society today than, say, 50 years ago?

On the one hand, the US Navy has greater firepower than the next 13 navies combined. We have…last I checked…something like 716 military bases in 38 countries, with troops stationed in 148 nations. The percent of GDP dedicated to DoD, Homeland Security, etc. has increased dramatically since 9/11. When we combine the Pentagon budget, the cost of wars, intelligence agencies, contractor costs, military foreign aid, the cost of building and maintaining hardened embassies, the total comes to $1 trillion. A year. Every year.  (Source- Pat Buchanan here).

Fifty or so years ago, as a percent of the national GDP, our defense budget was much larger than it is now.  Go ahead and take a look here.  There was a national draft.  However, it seems, looking through a half-century or so lens, that we were a much less militarized a culture.

It’s an intangible that I’m going to investigate as time goes by.

US Defense Spending as a Percent of GDP 1950 - 2015

Related link:  UC Davis Pepper-Spray Incident Reveals Weakness Up Top

Home Ownership: Those who are sinking and those who aren’t

We purchased our first home in 1993. We sold it nine years later and purchased the house we’re in now. We were lucky (thank goodness) to have purchased-sold-purchased at the right times. We were also cautious about what we believed we could afford.

All during these times, I was amazed at the houses other people where purchasing.  Huge houses- “McMansions”, if you will.  Houses in many cases that were way beyond the ability for people to afford.

And now that the bubble has popped, now that the housing market has crashed, many people are of a mindset of, “Well, that’s the bed they made.  Let them sleep in it.”

That’s an overly simple and I daresay selfish way to view it.  It ignores ignores the collateral damage of what happened.  It’s a small step away from a “Let’s punish them!” mentality.

Always a heartbreak

The issue isn’t only a matter of personal responsibility. Neither is it just an issue of business ethics where loan officers were transformed, thanks to the repeal of many Glass-Steagall provisions, into the mindset of the lowliest caricature of a car salesman, pushing loans on people who did or didn’t don’t know better.

The problem is, when such things happen, we are *all* damaged. When banks run amok, and people act irresponsibly, their actions aren’t confined to their circles.   The ruin spreads to people who haven’t done anything inappropriate. It spreads to the children of those families who purchased homes much too big for them. It spreads to a general collapse in land values that affect jobs and the economy as a whole. People who were cautious and frugal get swept up in the tidal wave of the collapse.

It’s hard to believe for some, but the “9/11” crises that seared and traumatized the Great Depression generation was the banking collapse caused by rampant market speculation. Speculators didn’t just hurt themselves in those days, they damaged everybody. People don’t know it as much today, but when FDR uttered his famous, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” line, people weren’t listening that much to him. Rather, they were anxiously watching to see what was happening with the banking collapse- to their money. This was a time when Hoover placed machine gun emplacements on top of federal buildings -and ringed some of them in barbed wire!- for fear of the populace rushing the capital in their desperation.

We can say, today, of people who irresponsibly went way over the heads in real estate, and with perhaps a bit of self-satisfaction, “Screw’em. They got themselves into this mess. Let them wait until it fixes itself.”  The emotions that bring on those statements may be valid.   But is it true for the children who lose their homes? Is it true for the innocents who were swept up in this, unfairly losing their homes, too, or losing their livelihoods?

The problem with confining oneself to that attitude is that it throws the baby out with the bathwater. It forces the innocents who were caught in this wave (to mix metaphors) to endure the deprivations of the mess. It ignores that we live in communities that seek to raise and protect all of us.  As members of  our community, we *must* act to protect the innocents, if we can. Otherwise, we are turning our backs on what it means to be human.

The present housing crises is the worst ever. Worse, even, than the housing crises of the Great Depression.

FDR faced not identical, but not dissimilar issues with a real estate collapse.   He and others responded with healing, not punishment.  During the Great Depression, people were losing their homes in droves. Home ownership was down to about 40% of the population (I believe it’s hovered around 60% in recent decades). Back then, lenders could call in the full amounts of their loans arbitrarily- and because of the economy and their shortage of cash, they did! Lenders could suddenly up their rates arbitrarily- and they did!   Banks could suddenly demand half the value of the home in cash, or they’ll foreclose- and they did!  Like I said, the banking collapse was that generation’s 9/11.  It’s not remembered as much because a dozen or so years later Peal Harbor came along, blocking out the memory of the earlier national trauma.

The first step that balanced such rampant issues was 1932’s Glass-Steagall Act. Among other things, it created a “wall of separation” between investment banking and commercial, deposit-taking banks. Depositors’ monies were insulated from rampant speculation. It kept banks from getting too complex, from making them “too big to fail”, from making investments/speculations and deposited monies from being too intermixed and tangled.  And it worked.  It worked, that is, until Phil Gramm pushed through the repeal of these provisions in 1999.

FDR’s second step was the establishment of the Federal Housing Authority in 1934. No more could lenders arbitrarily and immediately call in the balance of their loans.  For the first time, really, people could transact 30 year fixed mortgages, which in many cases could be more expensive than ARMS, but lent a huge stability to the market.   The FHA operated solely on self-generated income via mandatory mortgage insurance- not a penny of taxpayer monies were spent on this agency.   The last 30 year mortgage offered to people who were part of the original FHA program was paid off in the mid 1960s. The result: A huge pillar supporting middle class wealth via land ownership.

That pillar that so much of our common wealth depends on is cracking thanks to the largest bust of a real estate bubble in history. Shall we simply say, “Well they brought it on themselves!”, while their damage continues to spread to innocents?      Shall we sacrifice our future so that we can stand up with stiff necks, cross our arms, hold up our heads, and say to those whose profligacy wounded us all, “See, I told you so!”

If that’s what you think, that to punish the foolish we must ignore the harm to the innocent, nonexistent readers who never read my invisible blog, I suggest you read God’s conversation with Lot at Genesis 18: 22-33.