Category Archives: My World

Confessions of A Pre-Middle Aged Man

As the days draw me closer to retirement my golden years a bedpan, my body and mind are developing a list of things they really do not enjoy.  Here is a sample of the myriad things that make this  pre-middle aged man grumpy:

  • Random Joint Pain:  When did my left knee start hurting?  I haven’t injured it, I haven’t smashed it into anything- Yet, It aches.
  • Dull Aches: Vague pains in potentially any part of my body is depressing.
  • Grunting When I Stand Up:  I make an audible “UGHHH” when I stand up from a seated position.  How sad is that?  Is that a sign the AARP flyers are being addressed as we speak?
  • Kids Driving Fast In My Neighborhood:  Really, Matt?  Yeah, I cant help it.  It drives me insane to hear kids driving the cars and trucks their parents bought up and down my street.  I can’t help it…I just can’t help it.
  • I Said “That’s just vulgar” And Meant It:  This was a shock.  I have unknowingly developed a “appropriate or not radar.”  If I knew this was happening I would have vetoed it, but its here.  SIGH
  • I Actually Used The Word “vulgar” In Public:  That just speaks for its self.
  • Inability To Open Glass Jar Twist Off Lids:  Latest proof- Marinated Peppers-  Small Jar, easy to grip, no excuses- Completely failed.  I made a prolonged “AGHHHH” sound as I struggled in vain to “pop” the top off.  Weakness, utter weakness.
  • Lack Of Cool Clothes:  My closet looks like a L.L. Bean, Gap, and Sears threw up in it.  Nothing is wrong with those clothes, but we can all agree that they are far from…hip?

*I felt odd using the word “hip” in that last example.  That’s exactly what I am talking about.  The only way I feel comfortable using the word “hip” is in reference to the part of my body that aches when I get out of a car that sits lower than a Ford F-150.

Where is my warranty?  I need see if I am still covered.

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Post Christmas Reflections

My Wife's Proposed Lighting Plan For Next Year

The tree has been put away or discarded.  The newly untangled lights start their year long re-tangling process.  The plastic Rudolphs, Santas, Jesuses ( I admit I do not know the plural of Jesus.), and plates with Frosty on them are all put into their storage containers and forgotten about by everyone for another 11 months.  Everyone except my wife.

Read the rest of this entry

Olbermann: If the Tea Party wins, America loses

As you know, if I see or read something that makes so much sense that I have to share it – I will.  This comes from Keith Olberman on MSNBC’s Countdown.  It is about the Tea Party and its agenda for America. Please read it, think about it, and check the facts contained within it – then decide for yourself if the Tea Party is something that you truly feel is good for this country.  Don’t decide solely because of this Special Comment from Mr. Olberman, but look around and educate yourself from the myriad of reports and analysis that draw the same conclusions.  These are important times my friends…get smarter.  I now yield the remainder of my time and my blog to Mr. Olberman. Read the rest of this entry

How Intellectuals Betrayed the Poor

Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.

Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.

This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com.  I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.

READ, WATCH, GET SMARTER

Transcript of interview:

Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?

Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.

And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.

Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?

Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.

But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.

Question: How can we strengthen the demos?

Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.

Recorded on: November 3, 2009

100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com.  Just thought you needed to see it.

Countrywide…unfortunately.

Countrywide Financial’s former CEO and founder Angelo Mozilo’s  2003-8 haul : $470 mil.

Total fine he is to pay: $47.5 mil. (Apparently, The fine for pioneering a mortgage system that has crippled our housing economy and sent this country into this current recession- is approx 10% of what you earn in your last 5 years on the job.)

Background:  The SEC alleged that Mozillo, along with two other colleagues, failed to reveal risks that the company was taking around that time. The civil charges however were related to claims that he had personally misled the market by wrongly assuring investors that his company was a premier quality mortgage lender that was able to avoid the excesses of many of its competitors. As well as this, Mr Mozilo was also found guilty of selling company shares in deals where inside knowledge of Countrywide Financial’s actual troubles wasn’t revealed. After Countrywide Financial crashed, Bank of America rescued it by purchasing 4 billion in non-voting shares.  Mozilo setteled.

This is absolute insanity. …and I used to work for him, err Countrywide Financial when all this was going on.  It was a miserable experience for me.  The middle managers yelling (no, really) at you to increase production (“production” means convincing a person that knows NOTHING about loans or mortgages to take the loan they were being offered because is only gonna happen RIGHT NOW so they better take it) Unreasonable lending practices…when I started at CW you could get a mortgage with a 520 credit score!  I had a complete lack of job satisfaction/security due to fact that ole CW flaunted the ability to replaced you at a moments notice.  It was horrible.  I go to sleep knowing that I never sold a loan to a person who couldn’t afford it.  I can not say I did not hear about co-workers, managers, and other people talk about loans they floated or got approved that were…How can I say this…illegal, unethical, and wrong.  I heard about documents that were sent in to be used for evidence of income that were manufactured by the client on the coaching of the CW employee.  I would over hear conversations about how big this months check was going to be due to the number of sub-prime units that employee had closed on that month.

(Did I report any of it to my managers?  YES  Did anything happen?  NO)


The feeling of quitting that job: FREEDOM!

That experience sickens me when I think about it.

Unless you work or worked in a Fortune 500 company as a peon and tried to work your way up, you really have no idea about what corporate greed is and how it REALLY DOES prey on innocent, uneducated people.  I quit shortly before the recession “officially” started because I hated my job, hated my then GF, and had no other reason to stay in that god forsaken hell hole.

 

Oh, and here are some additional Mozilo/ Countrywide info for you from the Wall Street Journal:

Countrywide’s reaction to the crisis was to push for more market share in the first half of 2007, aiming to benefit from the collapse of rivals. That backfired when Countrywide could no longer find buyers for many of the loans it had originated, leaving the company stuck with billions of dollars of high-risk mortgages. Former executives say Countrywide, which still accounts for about one in every seven home loans made in the U.S., was so focused on increasing volume that it neglected quality control.

Mr. Mozilo made things worse for himself by postponing his retirement and by making frequent, heavy sales of Countrywide stock. He offered discounts on loans to friends so frequently that FOA — for Friends of Angelo — became a familiar loan type among employees. He was quick to dismiss criticism from analysts and shareholders.

When asked last year about proposals to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on compensation, he said: “The shareholders have no clue” how much Countrywide needed to pay to attract talent.

When an analyst fretted in 2004 about Mr. Mozilo’s sales of Countrywide stock, he snapped that those who had construed his share sales as bearish were “losers.” Mr. Mozilo stepped up those sales in late 2006 and unloaded more than $130 million of stock in the first half of 2007. That undermined confidence in the company, demoralized some of his own employees and drew a continuing investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He also faces a rash of lawsuits from investors, borrowers and state regulators.

Mr. Mozilo has said his stock sales were lawful and defended his right to dispose of what he regards as well-earned compensation. The problem in America, he said in an interview last year, is that “people are reviled if they make what people think is too much.” In Mr. Mozilo’s view, “if anybody makes a billion dollars, that’s America. That’s terrific!”

One final comment:

Mr. Mozilo, It is not “terrific” if that billion dollars is made on the sweat, blood, and ignorance of other people, you asshole.

Happy Monday!



Pay Day Loans and The Circle of Poverty

There are those “people” in this world that take advantage of people (any retail establishment, insurance company, or mortgage broker)  and then there are those that take advantage of the people who legitimately have no other viable recourse left and are grabbing at any straw they can to survive.  These predators are the worst people in this world.  I read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler recently.  That book has taught me more about poverty than anything else I have ever read.  The American experience of working, not one, but two full time jobs and still existing under the poverty line is an unacceptable, yet a REAL facet of many American’s lives.  The book speaks about the “circle of poverty” and how one act a poverty stricken family takes leads to the next act that keeps them in poverty.  It is truly sad.  When I read this article and had to share it with you.  Read, Think, Get Smarter

Legal Usury

The skeevy business of payday loans.

By Timothy Noah

Roughly 20 years ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, I wrote a news article for the Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s plans (later codified in legislation during the Clinton administration) to distribute food stamps and other government benefits electronically. Poor people would have debit cards and could have immediate access to the funds they needed. This was a more novel idea than it sounds today, because speedy, point-of-sale credit card terminals still lay in the future. In those distant days, when you went to the supermarket, you had to bring cash or write a check.

The Bush appointee I interviewed was very excited about the new scheme for one simple reason: It was going to put check-cashing companies out of business. This was an industry despised even by Republicans for exploiting society’s least advantaged by charging them outrageously high fees. Instant access to cash would eliminate this market. I don’t remember exactly what the Bush appointee said, but his overall message was loud and clear: Good riddance to a sleazy and predatory business.

Two decades later, check-cashing companies are still around and a thriving new sleazy and predatory business, the payday-loan industry, has grown up beside them. Payday loans replace check-cashers’ outrageously high fees with usurious interest rates. What neither the Bush appointee nor I anticipated was that the same technology that sent welfare moms and retirees their government benefits in the blink of an eye could give a new kind of predatory lender instant access to unwary customers’ bank accounts. Electronic banking giveth and electronic banking taketh away.

I thought about all this on Oct. 4, when the Federal Trade Commission announced that the co-founder of Swish Marketing Inc. paid $850,000 to settle charges that he allegedly debited customers’ bank accounts without their knowledge. According to the FTC, Swish operated Web sites that guided consumers to payday lender sites. (One of them piously named “Christian Faith Financial“; never mind Matthew 21:12.) To get the loan, you filled out a form giving the lender access to your bank account. That’s a bad idea, but standard practice for payday lenders, and perfectly legal. The illegal part (according to the FTC) was what followed. When you submitted your application, you were automatically sent to a Web page with a button that said “Finish matching me with a payday loan provider!” (example here). This Web page also happened to offer consumers the chance to acquire four additional items. Three of these offers were pre-clicked “No,” but a fourth was pre-clicked “Yes,” which was easy to miss. This fourth offer was for the purchase of a debit card on which you could load $2,500, in the unlikely event that you happened to have $2,500. (If you had $2,500 why would you be applying for a payday loan?) Just to purchase the empty debit card cost $54.95. Some sites billed the debit card as a “bonus offer” and revealed the $55 charge only in tiny type. In any event, it was very easy for the borrower to miss entirely the fact that in applying for a payday loan, he or she was also letting a separate company reach into his or her bank account to extract $55 to pay for an unrelated product that he or she almost certainly didn’t need.

The attorney for alleged perp Jason Strober said in a press release, “We are confident that [he] would have prevailed in court.” Strober settled only because “it became too expensive to continue fighting.” Strober, meanwhile, has created a blog, Prosmallbusiness.org, whose first entry states that the FTC’s “power to destroy businesses they don’t like is truly scary.”

It may or may not give Strober solace to learn that under the recently-passed Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the FTC will yield jurisdiction over payday loans to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose overseer, Elizabeth Warren, really, really hates payday loans. In a 2008 paper coauthored by Oren Bar-Gill of New York University Law School, Warren offered payday loans as a key example of “a credit product that can impose substantial costs on imperfectly informed and imperfectly rational borrowers.” Typically, she explained, you pay a $30 fee for a two-week cash advance on a $200 paycheck, which amounts to an annualized interest rate of 400 percent. That’s not particularly high for this type of loan; some of them go up to 780 percent. Thirty bucks “is unlikely to bankrupt any consumer,” Warren conceded, but the payday lender is counting on the likelihood that many customers will roll the loan over for another two weeks, and then another. Ninety percent of the industry’s profits come from suckers who do this five times or more over the course of a year. “This is very expensive credit,” Jean Ann Fox of Consumer Federation of America told me.

Indeed, interest rates don’t get more insanely high than this. That raises the question: Isn’t usury illegal? It turns out the federal government imposes no statutory maximum on interest rates. Many states do, and some states (for instance, New York) ban payday loans altogether. But under federal law, payday lenders who don’t commit outright fraud may operate with impunity. Well, almost. The Pentagon got fed up with its recruits getting ripped off by payday lenders and in 2007 got Congress to make it illegal to extend such loans to members of the military. But civilians remain fair game.

Indeed, one of the sketchier provisions in Dodd-Frank affirmatively prohibits Warren’s new agency from setting a maximum interest rate on payday loans. This was inserted at the behest of Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. (The payday-loan business was reportedly born in Corker’s home state and continues to thrive there.) You might think the banking industry would pressure Congress to shut down payday lenders because they give lending a bad name. But a recent report by National People’s Action, a network of community activist groups, and the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative revealed that big banks extend $2.5 to $3 billion in financing to payday-loan companies. Wells Fargo is in especially deep.

“The payday industry WELCOMES regulation,” according to Payday Loan Industry Blog, operated by Trihouse Enterprises, which owns 16 payday-loan stores. “It helps the industry legitimize their industry, it manages the few unscrupulous payday loan operators that exist in all industries, and it creates a level playing field for consumers.” Implicit in this assertion is the confident belief that no regulator would dare put them out of business. The authors don’t seem terribly worried that Warren will prove that assumption wrong. Do they know something we don’t?

An humble thank you.

Thank you to all of you who have written me with support, encouragement, and “constructive criticism.”  I appreciate you spending your time reading my ramblings about what ever is in front of me at the time.

Be safe, vote, and be happy.

Thanks again!

-Matt

A Conscience Examined

I was doing some reading and came across this.  Can’t explain why, but thought I should share it with all of you.  Enjoy.

-Matt

A Conscience Examined

I ask you, how can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?  Little children, let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.  This is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth and are at peace before him no matter what our consciences may charge us with; for God is greater than our hearts and all is known to him. 1 Jn 3: 17-19

It is all very well to sit each morning and meditate, doing our best to connect with God, filling our hearts with truth, rising edified.  But what happens in the rest of the day?  We have done the discerning of God’s will, now comes the aligning with it.  Now comes the participating in God’s work.  We have oriented ourselves toward heaven, now the rubber meets the road.  Now we put one foot in front of the other.  Now is the time for action.

And it is the action, the loving in deed and not merely talking about it, that is our way of knowing we are committed to the truth.  How do we know we are good?  How do we know we are Christian?  Or Moslem?  Or Hindu.  By your fruits.  By their fruits you shall know them.  By the fruit of our labor.  By actual labor.  By our work.  It is not a matter of belief.  Unless belief means action.  To find out what we believe actually, examine our actions.  How we live.  That shows what we believe more than our words.

So.  The theory is that God’s will for us will be some form of creativity and redemption.  Since these are God’s jobs and we are happiest when we participate in God’s work.  That’s not a lot to go on.  We don’t know whether our impulses are good, though we have dedicated ourselves to God and asked God to take charge of our impulses, showing the way.

And then there’s that troublesome bit from Paul about seemingly accomplishing evil when he intended good.  Poor me.  I can’t do the good I intend.  So you could have good intention, you could see the good that you are trying to accomplish, some creative or saving goal, and you fail to reach that goal.  You don’t know how to reach that goal.

A mother wants her son to stay in the state of grace.  To avoid drugs and drinking to excess and casual sex.  She wants to do things to cause this to happen.  She tries to think of things to do.  She tries kindness.  She fixes his favorite food.  She urges him to go to church.  To go to college.  She wants him to associate with good people.  He won’t listen.  Her attempts at conversation end up preachy and screechy. They get to be ugly encounters.  She nags.  She feels she has lost her boy.  Everything she tries fails.  Now she feels that she is a failure.  Her self esteem is low.  She doubts she is a good person.

Hundreds of things like this play out in our lives.   I don’t pretend to have the answers.  Certainly my simple religion is not the answer.  And I would argue that these things are beyond religion.  It is too much to expect a religion to find the answer to every problem.  It is too much to ask a religion to have a formula for converting each moment of your life, each phase that you go through, each phase of each relationship, into bliss.  Into each life some rain must fall.

Actually, the minor keys are richer.  A life without hurt is empty.  I am almost tempted to say that God knows this.  That God arranged it, strangely, contrary to logic and all expectations, to enrich life.  To give wisdom.  To improve our self esteem.  It’s even scriptural: the father disciplines his sons.  It is part of creation and redemption.  There is benefit in suffering.  It creates beautiful people.  Ones who have muddled through disaster and not lost faith.  Muddled through each morning consulting God, connecting with God, pledging themselves to participation in God’s creative and redemptive work.  Trying to discern the best course of action.  Taking whatever actions seem most likely to bring a good outcome.  Living through bitter times, always oriented toward the good, always oriented toward the ultimate outcome.  Striving for salvation.

If we could open our eyes we might see in the disabled, in those muddling through with little mental capacity or physical grace, without limbs or sight or hearing, the bravest people on earth.  And those most connected with God.  Those being creative and redemptive in their own persons, just by living their own lives.  We might see a thing of beauty.  Instead we avert our eyes.  We shut off empathy.  We do not want to feel what these people feel.  We cannot put ourselves in their place.  We would rather not see.  We feel awkward and embarrassed.  We don’t know how to act.

Wait.  Didn’t we just this morning pledge ourselves to Godly action.  To lives of creation and redemption.  And we know this only when we act on it.  So OK.  Focus.  Look.  What a brave person this is.  One of God’s best.  Good morning to you.  A cheerful good morning to you.  Praise God for your bravery.  Show me how to live will you?  Let me in on your secret.

What?  Can’t we say these things?  Shouldn’t we?  Can we at least acknowledge their existence? Can’t we at least affirm them?  Make eye contact.  Give a smile.

And what about seeing my brother in need.  I who live well.  Who have furnished myself with a sufficiency of this world’s goods.  What about all those in distant lands who are starving.  Those suffering from war.  Those whose lives are hard because of local politics.  Because they live in the wrong place. Because they were born there.  The author of John could not imagine a world where the suffering of others around the globe is brought daily into our living rooms.  Still he or she seemed to speak to that.  How can God’s love survive in a man who has enough of this world’s goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?

I am a man who has enough of this world’s goods.  I do not wish to close my heart.  But what do I do?  Should I give away my stuff until my brother has as much as I have.  Until I am in the same state as those suffering from famine?  Do I need to suffer from the same level of violence as the least of my brothers?  Or is it enough to write the occasional check?

Gee I wish I had an answer.  I know that some people have given up everything and put themselves in harms way for the poor and downtrodden of this world.  I haven’t.  I enjoy my wealth.  I wish I had a way of knowing that I am not called to follow their example.

OK maybe this.  Think of Beethoven.  Think of Newton.  Think of the entrepreneurs of the industrial age.  We are not all called to work with the poor.  We are all called to be charitable in our own constellations of personalities, in our own circumstance.  We are called to share our lives and our sustenance, but not to the point of not caring for ourselves.  Becoming dependent on others for necessities.  If I were poor in my old age, I would be a burden on the state or on my children.  They write of Jesus that he said the poor you will always have with you and you can help them whenever you wish.  As if the goal of creation and salvation is not an utterly equal distribution of wealth.  As if we should not stop all other efforts until the problem of poverty is solved.  As if poverty is not only the only priority.

Some are called upon to push creation further.  Some are called upon to achieve in other spheres.  To push back the frontier that divides ignorance from knowledge.  And many of the greatest breakthroughs, many of the enterprises that have changed our lives for the better, alas, even the inventions that bring the pictures of poverty and war into our living rooms, were motivated by profit; by the lure of great wealth.  As if there’s a place for greed.  A benefit.

We are all called upon to create beauty in our relationships. To pour out love in them.  To sustain them.  To make them holy.  And to redeem whatever relationships and persons we can.  Help with self esteem.  Affirm.  There is enough to do in our own circumstances.  And to some degree we should remaining open to helping those in other circumstances.  And yes some of us are called upon to take ourselves out of our comfortable circumstances and put ourselves in those of the poor and suffering.

Our actions show our faith.  And so to see our faith, examine our actions.  If we believe in love, we will love.  If we believe in redemption we will redeem.  If we believe in sacrifice, we will lay down our lives for our friends.  What form this takes in our circumstances cannot be predicted or prescribed.  You must be creative.  You must connect with God and learn to discern.   Let us love in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it.

Written by: James Stemmle

The same old, white tea in a different cup.

In response to this Tea Bagger billboard, a Tea Bagger leader, said:

“That’s just a waste of money, time, resources and it’s not going to further our cause,” said Shelby Blakely, a leaders of the Tea Party Patriots, a national group. “It’s not going to help our cause. It’s going to make people think that the tea party is full of a bunch of right-wing fringe people, and that’s not true.”

HANG ON!!!

The Tea Party is NOT “a bunch of right-wing fringe people?”  WHAT WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!?!?!

(PAUSE FOR DEEP BREATH)

If that is a fact (which it isn’t) then the Tea Party has a worse advertising group than the Democrats- and that is saying something.

Let’s break that quote down.  It says that the Tea Party is not:

1) right-wing

or

2) fringe people

Let’s look at each assertion separately:

Let’s take a look at the Tea Bagger Party and their views vs. Republican views (source from HERE) and maybe we will see that they are not right wing in their views at all (* NOTE: NOT HOLDING BREATH HERE) :

When asked what they considered “extremely serious threats” to the country’s future wellbeing, tea partiers cited the exact same things as run-of-the-mill Republicans. Shocker, right? Both groups overwhelmingly pointed to federal debt (61 percent of tea partiers, 55 percent of GOPers), Big Government (49 percent, 43 percent), health care costs (41 percent, 37 percent), and “terrorism” (51 percent, 51 percent) as the biggest threats to American prosperity. And in the category of unimportant threats, both groups dismiss the environment/global warming and discrimination against minorities. Here’s a good breakdown from Gallup:

Looks pretty close to right wing mentality to me…

“Yeah Matt what about the “FRINGE PEOPLE” part of that quote..but what about that, huh?  So what they are conservative,  but they aren’t extremists are they. You haven’t shown anything to support that HAVE YOU SMARTY PANTS?

I hear your cry and well, since you asked for it…

So media coverage of the tea party is overblown? Maybe they’re not such a novel group after all?  That’s the message gleaned by the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent:

The Tea Party movement gets a disproportionate share of media attention because of all the funny costumes, Hitler references, and fantasizing about armed revolution…

…and that doesn’t sound like “ fringe people” to you?  What does then?

Maybe this Tea Party platform outline taken from http://www.teapartyplatform.us/Welcome.html will illustrate the “fringeness” of the Tea Party belief system:

Get government out of our lives and eliminate social security and medicare now!

As strict constructionists we believe the Constitution should be amended to protect life and prohibit all abortions, without exception.

Speaking of the Constitution, we believe citizenship should be denied to children of non-citizens born in the U.S. even though the 14th Amendment, says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.” Common sense tells us they didn’t really mean all persons born in the United States. Did they?

Put God back in the schools and let curricula tell the truth – that evolution is just a theory, like the theory of gravity. Freedom of religion for all Christians. Jews might be ok too.

Appoint a special prosecutor to thoroughly investigate the probable foreign birth of Barack Hussein Obama.

On libertarian principles, private restaurants and other businesses should not be forced to serve minorities. Though we abhor discrimination and if there is a minority out there who wants to join us they are welcome!

Protect the 2nd Amendment rights of people who are on the terrorist no-fly list!

I seriously doubt you will find many “non-tea party” Republicans who will agree to this platform.  At least, in public.

So there, RIGHT- WING FRINGE PEOPLE you are!

WHAT??? YOU NEED MORE PROOF???

This nugget is gleaned from The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press (found here.)  Please note the last sentence of this paragraph:

Eight-in-ten Tea Party Republicans are closely following news about local candidates and campaigns, just half of Republicans who have no opinion about the Tea Party say the same. Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) Tea Party Republicans are absolutely certain they will vote, compared with 68% of Republicans with no opinion about the Tea Party. Roughly two-thirds (65%) of Tea Party Republicans say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than usual; about half (49%) of Republicans with no opinion of the Tea Party say the same.  On all three measures, Republicans with no opinion of the Tea Party movement share more in common with Democratic voters than with Tea Party Republican voters.

According to the article, You Tea Party wackos are ALL ABOUT SOME VOTING, way more so than Reps and Dems, (which is cool) but you have less in common with other CONSERVATIVES than the LIBERALS do!

SO, SIMPLY PUT THE DEMOCRATS (YOU KNOW THE SOCIALISTS, MARXISTS, ETC. ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN BILLBOARD) HAVE MORE IN COMMON WITH YOUR ALLIES THAN YOU DO.

SUMMARY:

YOU ARE “RIGHT- WING FRINGE PEOPLE.”

I rest my case.


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