Friday, September 30, 2011

Debit Charges

Today Bank of America announced that it will charge, starting in 2012, $5 for any month in which you use your debit card for a purchase. Once again, banks are scrambling to find wqays to re-capture the revenue they lost when Congress declared limits on how much they could charge for overdraft, over the limit credit balances and late fees. They already charge most of us just to use their services, and now they want to add to it. This means that cash customers -- and debit cards ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE SAME AS CASH -- now will be penalized for not using credit.

What I don't understand is how they can get away with charging us to use our own money. They already hold that money and use it for loans, and charge the loan customers a higher interest rate than they pay us. In addition, these fees will impact most the people whose economic status in America has already been badly shaken -- middle America. Do they care? Do we still bank with them, pay the fees, and smile when we bend over?

Bank of America is the first bank to do this, butthe rest will follow suit. What each of us has to decide is how to respond. Maybe we should all pull out our cash, start dealing locally on a cash and carry basis, and slide back a hundred years to keep these greedy uncaring corporations from raping us yet again.

Oh, gee, I wish I had something cheerful to write about today, but the news is just too overwhelming. If you don't feel like a slave yet, maybe you are staring to feel like an indentured servant. Even your hard earned money has bewcome subject to hidden fees -- and some blatantly open.

Once upon a time Americans believed in integrity. Sadly, integrity has gone the way of common sense, compoany loyalty, competitive products made in the USA, and jobs. And when they figure outr a way to charge for using the ether to voiuce our opinions, I guess I'll shut up, too.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just for Fun

After talking politics and other sad things lately, I thought it might be time for a "lesser" observation. We here in Montana particularly know the following to be true -- the most subversive man America ever produced was Walt Disney. How do we know? Because of one word that still lingers in our memory banks after seven decades that Uncle Walt made a household name: Bambi.

How many great hunters return from a successful trip only to hear a wife or child say, "I won't eat Bambi!"

It's almost enough to put you off. Except for that other word: venison.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Did They Die For This?

Ten years ago America was brought to her knees by nineteen men and an investment of $500,000. Over three thousand citizens of the world perished, and we declared war on a word. :Terrorism" is a tactic, not a philosophy, and ten years later all that has changed is that America has spent herself into near insolvency and her people have, as well. We mourn the dead, grieve with their families. The wound has not healed -- there remains a gaping hole in our consciousness.

But the question begs to be asked -- was our response over the top? We toppled one dictatorship, certainly, and killed Bin Laden (after ten years of hunting). We have engaged in the longest and most constly war in our history against an enemy whose numbers remain small, whose governments pose no viable threat to our or anyone else's national security, and whom we vastly out-gun and out-man. And yet we haven't closed the deal (moxed metaphor, I know, but this is America the land of the Businessman).

If our enemies are nothing but anarchists, let us define the term. Anarchists actively pursue the disruption or dissolution of the existing order with no clear alternative to present; the lack of order IS the goal, by any means available. This sounds a bit like Congress to me, where a handful held the economy hostage in the hopes of further lowering public opinion toward all members of Congress -- in the bargain they are betting the voters (those that show up) will side with no government at all. Anarchy. Is that what the victims of 9-11 died for?

Thank you, Catherine, for cluing me into Jon Carroll's commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle today. In it he suggests strongly that the Republican Party is not the party of opposition, but now only of obstruction. I hope he is only partially correct. But I always state the one obvious point -- follow the money. Find out who stands to make a profit out of anything our :deciders" decide -- or stonewall.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Standing Still

Digging through my stuff I came across a book: "The Next Century," by David Halberstam. I had forgotten it, and flipped through it to remind myself of its contents. In 126 pages, the author showed us the likely outcome of the collapse of the Soviet Union, then the rise of Japan because of that nation's focus on practical education, and finally on us. He was not kind about us, but uncertain. Could we compete in the modern world with our service-oriented economy? Was the rest of the world catching up with us and surpassing us on the global market? Would our standard of living be sustainable into the next century?

Halberstam's book came out in 1991, twenty years ago and ten years before "9-11" pushed us into a collision course with national bankruptcy (fueled by all that unchecked spending on two wars and everything else as if we had the money to spend, plus sponsoring that very attitude among our people). The housing bubble was a symptom pf our economic malaise, not its cause. The cause was a combination of corporate greed and political myopia.

Niel Degrasse Dyson recently asked (paraphrasing) how we would create jobs unless we actually manufactured something. But he's just a scientist; what does he know? Still, I look around at the lack of industry or industriousness across the nation as we sit back and are spoon fed reality TV and fat-laden cheeseburgers with sugar coated french fries. And I see others streaking ahead of us. I am reminded of an exchange in the play, "Inherit the Wind" (by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee -- being an author myself, I can't pass up an opportunity to mention their names).

Matthew Harrison Brady asks his former friend Henry Drummond, "Why have you moved so far away from me?"

Drummond replies, "Perhaps it is you who have moved away by standing still."

America is standing still. Perhaps our politicians should be thinking about THAT.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Amber Waves Discount

I have dropped the price on AMBER WAVES to 99 cents. There are many independent writers selling their wares on Kindle at that price and I want to price myself fairly and competitivelty. I WANT TO BE READ!

To those of you who paid $2.99, I thank you. Your sacrifice has been a great encouragement to me. But let anyone and everyone know that there are many books at Kindle for under a buck. How can you go wrong? You get a great book for less than just about anything in the world these days except at the 99 cent store. And you lend encouragement and hope to aspiring writers who could not publish in the competitive Best Seller only environment that has taken over Publisher's Row.

Plus, there's an app for downloading a Kindle product directly onto your personal computer, and it's free. But Kindles are cool, too.

The Ugly Americans

Watching the political process, or lack thereof, over the past few months, brings me to a dire conclusion: the people charged by the people with running the show are clueless about what is really important. They listen to select minorities pounding away while the -- once tragically called -- Silent Majority is left scrambling to maintain a decent standard of living. One in five AMERICAN children goes to bed hungry every night. One in eleven Americans is out of work, and if you're Hispanic or Black the numkber is worse. Now I am told by my union (ah that other ugly word to those in power even though only one in eight American workers belongs to a union) that the US Postal Service wants to pull out of its agreed upon contributions to its workers' retirement benefits. An echoing in my head are words, always words, but once upon a time a man's word was his bond.

So I am here to remind you, and I hope you pass it on to anyone and everyone who might listen. Not my words. Not even new words expressing new ideas. They come from a speech made in 1944.

when you read them, think about all that we have achieved as a people over the past eighty years, since the Great Depression began in 1929, all that we have gained regarding the rights and protections of our working force, of Middle America. We remain the backbone of the country, and yet Congress coldly and assuredly is working toward destroying Social Security, Medicare, unions, health care, and personal freedom, all in the name of profit. Not my profit. Not your profit. So here come the words. Let them echo in your head, too, and resonate throughout this once great land.

“The Economic Bill of Rights”Excerpt from President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union[1]:

“ It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.”[2] People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens.

For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.