Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April Depression

I've been feeling depressed lately but I can't quite put my finger on any single cause. My readers may laugh. After all, don't I seem like I am depressed all the time based on the things I write about? I'm sure I do. But this is even worse than normal.
First, I live in north central Maine and up here, winter is always a bit reluctant to let go. The ice isn't out of Moosehead Lake yet, or at least it wasn't out two days ago when I last saw it. Yesterday it rained hard, then it snowed a few inches last night and the wind blew hard for awhile. This morning the roads are slick, but the snowplow has been by. It's April 30. Isn't it time to leave all this behind for a few months? Let's have some sunshine! I know I should be feeling blessed because two weeks ago we had a really nice sunny thaw that took away nearly all of the two or three feet of snow that was hanging on in the woods and significantly weakened the ice in the lakes around here. But today, it just seems like today's weather is what really matters and today's weather just plain sucks.
The second thing that has me feeling down is the political climate. This thing with Obama and his "former" pastor just plain sucks. Maybe I'm somehow being shortsighted here, but I think it's over for Obama. Any high profile political campaign depends heavily on the media perception of a candidate. However the mainstream media chooses to perceive a candidate, and generally a consensus of that perception will be held throughout the media, that is how the average voter will feel about the candidate. It is the mainstream media that makes or breaks any major political campaign.
We all know that the mainstream American media is a propaganda operation. We may pretend that it isn't, but it is. The controversy last week over the media use of retired generals who were coordinating with the Pentagon to serve as propaganda agents shows the extent of media corruption. I mentioned above the consensus that somehow seems to form throughout the media concerning any particular political candidate or any political happening. That consensus doesn't just happen. It isn't the result of independent reporting by the media. It happens because of a concerted effort on the part of corporate-owned mainstream media.
This in itself doesn't have me depressed, although it should. What has me depressed is that Obama doesn't seem to be able to operate independent of this force. Obama has fallen into the muck and mire of this manipulated form of politics. All candidates fall into this pigpen so it shouldn't be a surprise to see Obama fall, but his whole message of "hope" depended on him not falling into this mud. Obama has now turned his back on all of us who believe that America isn't right no matter what. He seemed to understand our concern. Now? Now we just can't tell what he believes. He went political.
All he had to do was keep his mouth shut when the media had its Jeremiah Wright feeding frenzy but oh, no, he couldn't do that. Now he's so deep in the mud he's even slinging mud at his own pastor. Now Obama has no claim at all of a spiritual Christian basis. This church whose leader and pastor was Jeremiah Wright was Obama's anchor in Christianity. Instead of defending that connection, Obama has cut the anchor loose. And for what reason? To save his political campaign!!!
Zip!!!! All gone!
And you can see the toll this is taking on Obama. He just looks drained, annoyed, discouraged, disgusted.
Then there's this thing with rising oil prices and rising food prices and the falling dollar and the mortgage crisis and inflation, all mysteriously tied together by some economic force that, so far at least, no economist really wishes to discuss in public. We don't see anybody anywhere doing anything about it other than scratching their heads and saying, gee I wonder why the price of this or that keeps going up.
I can remember not all that many years ago when the Supreme Court told Florida to stop recounting votes and a few months later when America was cleaning up the mess after airplanes had crashed into the Twin Towers in New York and elsewhere, the stock market wasn't looking like a very good way to turn a quick buck. Remember that? So people started taking their money into another make-a-fast-buck market, real estate. And bingo! A huge bubble formed in the real estate market. People made billions by artificially inflating the real estate market.
But then the stock market recovered and real estate pressures declined and the Fed began raising interest rates and pop! The artificially created real estate bubble burst. Investors panicked. The stock market froze up again. So what did investors then do for a quick buck? They started artificially driving up the futures market for oil and food, the necessities of life. The result? Unbelievably instant inflation at the consumer level.
And what is the President doing about this? What is Congress doing? I just heard this morning that the President's solution is to open up ANWR for oil exploration. Congress pushed through that economic stimulus rebate but already it's clear that that isn't going to help. This week I saw an estimate that 18% of that money will actually be spent by Americans on anything that would stimulate anything.
What are the candidates saying? The Bobbsey Twins, McCain and Clinton, think we should have a "summer holiday" from paying federal fuel taxes. Oh wow! That sure would help, wouldn't it, if we dropped the federal fuel tax which is used to maintain our federal highways and let the increased demand for consumption or the commodities futures speculators drive up the prices to make up that gap? Then what? Tack the tax back on to the higher fuel price next fall? Or just simply not raise any money for highway maintenance until the speculators are finished having their little party? Oh, raise a new "windfall profits" tax on the oil companies? Like that won't further drive up energy futures?
And just how will any of this bring world food prices back down? People are starving out there while our little team of speculators blow bubbles with all their money.
Today is the last day of April. May will be here soon. The sun will come out. I'll take all my clothes off and bask in sunshine, soaking in the warm rays. July isn't that far away. I'll be skinny dipping in the warm summer waters. I need to go on a diet so the price of food isn't that much of a problem. Other than a few trips south, I really don't need to go anywhere so I'll survive the high gasoline prices this year. I'll be OK. But people are starving out there and all we can think about is how we can make money speculating on the inflation of food and energy prices?
Is there any light anywhere in this tunnel? Maybe I should invest in wind-up flashlight manufacturing.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Victim President

All of a sudden everything seems to be about victims. Ever since 9/11, Americans have identified themselves as the victims of Islamic terrorism just as the Jews were victims of anti-Semitism. Now we have three candidates for President of the United States and all three are where they are because people identify them as victims.
John McCain has right from the start of his political career been identified as a POW, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. He was shot down, injured, denied access to American medical care, then kept in cages, tortured, imprisoned for being in the US military. He was an American hero because he was a victim.
Barak Obama is, of course, the victim of racism in America by virtue of the fact that his father was black so Obama's skin is "colored." There's nothing he can do to change that. Being black doesn't necessarily make him a hero, although being black and facing up to racism and overcoming it certainly makes him a hero in my book. Geraldine Ferraro suggested Obama is where he is today because he is Black.
But Hillary Clinton is also the victim. She is the strong-willed silent suffering woman married to the womanizer. These women suffer in silence. As Chelsea keeps pointing out, Hillary's victimization is none of our business. Women who are victims by virtue of their marriage suffer in silence and we all know it. Hillary is a hero to women because she has remained strong through all of her suffering and humiliation.
There's a blog I was reading back before the 2006 election but haven't even looked at in over a year until today called Tennessee Guerilla Women. It is openly pro-Hillary and anti-Obama. One recent video post mocked the notion of Obama as a victim. Watching this gave me the same sort of feelings I get on a particularly bad day of hearing Rush Limbaugh. But clearly this blog is saying that Hillary, not Obama, has the real claim on being the victim. She is the real hero. She is the one being trashed by white men.
I tend to agree. She is the one running as the victim here. She is the one lashing out in self-defense. She is the one whose mudslinging is considered justified because of her treatment by powerful white male politicians including her own husband. She is the one appearing strong in the face of adversity. Obama is no underprivileged Black man. We have long ago forgotten the significance of Vietnam and the POW issue. But the issue of being a woman in a man's world is still fresh. What poetic justice it is to see Bill turning gray and old and even a bit frail while Hillary, the woman, can still paint her face young and rise above it all.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dirty Diapers

One of the trying issues in the family experience is dealing with the incredible messes to be found within the confines of a baby's diaper. Until you have your very own baby whose health and cleanliness is entirely your responsibility, you simply have no comprehension of the messes babies are capable of creating. And for every mess they make, the responsibility for the cleanup falls on the parents.
My wife and I had three such babies so I speak from some experience here. Yet I don't think at any point I was actually able to empathize with the babies. I don't think I ever really saw the situation the way they must have seen it. So I will only speculate here, not speak from unquestioned authority.
But put yourself in a baby's booties for a minute. From as far back as you can remember, every time your diapers were removed to discover these almost intolerably stinky messes, one or the other of your parents was right there in the middle of it. It must be their fault! Why do they keep making these messes and putting you through this humiliating experience while they clean up their messes?
It takes a long time for a baby to grow to be a child capable of eventually realizing that it isn't the parents who are making the messes. It takes even longer for this new child to realize that they actually own their own messes and if anything is going to be done to stop the messes, it is them and not the parents who will have to make that change. Only when the child makes an effort to end the humiliation of the mess will the mess end.
I wonder if young Republicans will ever reach that point in their growth.
Today's New York Times has an article that makes a good case in point:
"Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand"
We all know that Republicans blame the Democrats for the mess in Iraq and for the War on Terror. All of the world's ills come from liberals and social politics. Every time there's a mess in the world the liberals are right there in the middle of it. They must be the ones making the messes in the first place.
Well maybe that's not true. As this Times article clearly points out, it was Republicans making this stinky mess happen.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April's Fools

Well here we are in the midst of another political sham. It seems that both Hillary Clinton and John McCain - both mega-millionaires - are trying to paint Barak Obama as elitist and out of touch with America's working class. Why? Because Obama brought up the fact that many in America's industrialized Midwest are bitter about how they have suffered from America's industrial downturn while administration after administration in Washington has fed them only empty promises of how things will be getting better. So now these people, instead of embracing Obama's message of hope, embrace reactionary issues like gun rights or religious issues or immigration fears or foreign trade.
Hillary says she hasn't met these people while McCain's campaign accuses Obama of being out of touch.
What are Hillary and McCain saying, that these people don't exist? Are there not Americans in the traditional industrial areas of America who have not lost their jobs, their healthcare, their retirement, their homes, and not been able to find good-paying industrial jobs since Reagan decided to throw open the doors to foreign trade? Are there not Americans who have been unable to compete with the low wages and poor working conditions first in Mexico, now in China and other Asian nations? Do these people who should be embracing the hope of progressive Democratic politics but instead are turning away from progressive change and are embracing reactionary political issues not exist?
Do these people not exist in the minds of mega-millionaire senators?
The thing that I understand the least is why in the minds of these high-minded older senators like Clinton and McCain it is seen as elitist for someone of power and influence to acknowledge the existence of these problems in our country. It's just like with the war. In what way is it unpatriotic to acknowledge the problems with the war? Why do we use patriotism to enforce conformity and political correctness? How is that good for America? How is it bad for America to acknowledge that America's blue-collar workers are suffering under these policies that are destroying blue-collar union labor? What is it about WalMart's price-slashing, union-busting, and outsourcing that makes that the ultimate solution in America?
Why is it wrong for someone like Obama to say that the solution lies not in returning to the past, but rather in embracing the future? America needs energy conservation, alternative energy, sustainable agriculture, healthcare that focuses on health rather than maintenance of illness. Americans need employment, affordable housing, public transportation, and above all, hope for the future. Why is it wrong to advocate for this kind of change? Why is it patriotic to advocate for what we had in our heyday but will never have again unless we become the world's master imperial power? Why is it wrong to advocate embracing the entire world as our equals and advocate for their welfare as well as our own?
One thing is becoming very clear, though, as this campaign moves on. What is at at stake here is that either we embrace our past or we embrace our future. McCain and Clinton clearly are trying to say that we need to focus on what was the best in our past, cloak the past and call that our future. Obama is saying we need to move on from our past failures and embrace a more sensible, more rational, and more intelligent future that can be sustained.
It would appear that the majority of Americans are quite content with the cloaking.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Y2K Bug

Does ANYBODY remember back when Bill Clinton was still President of the United States and EVERYBODY was worried that somehow our newly computerized world would come crashing down around our ears because the gurus who designed the beasts never took into consideration that their designs would survive to the turn of the century?
I know, that's so far back in ancient history now that it seems almost pointless to even remember it. But something else happened back in the "Year 2000" that does seem to have come back to haunt us this far into the future. Y2K was Bill Clinton's last year in office. It has significance now because his wife Hillary is running a campaign that I am convinced is based on an undercurrent of feeling in this country that what we need to do to correct all of the problems introduced by Bush and the Republican extremists is to REBOOT BACK TO THE YEAR 2000 and do it over again. I think Hillary must have the Y2K bug! Her clock didn't update at midnight December 31, 1999.
I cite as an example a discussion in TPM Cafe concerning a letter from Barak Obama dated March 22, 2007, addressed to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that makes some suggestions concerning the looming financial crisis relating to the mortgage foreclosure problem. This letter references Obama's colleagues on the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs but doesn't identify Obama as a member of that committee, nor is he shown on that committee on either Obama's own Senate website or on Wikipedia, so one might suspect that Obama's interest in this matter was political. Yet the interesting point is that Obama was citing the problem as it existed at the time and proposing measures that Bernenke and Paulson could take to deal with the existing threats.
The TPM Cafe post triggered a debate in the comments section where in true-Democrat style, commenters quibble over who came first, Obama in this speech or a Clinton speech which she gave on March 15, 2007. The bickering in these comments might be laughable if it weren't so childishly pathetic, but I tend to think it overlooks a key issue. Obama's letter suggests that the problem be dealt with from that point forward. Clinton is proposing that the problem would be solved if the government did what it should have been doing all along. She links foreclosures in 2006 to healthcare costs, job loss, pay cuts, and stagnant wages and reflects rosily back on the 1990s. She goes on to suggest that the solution is to loan money more responsibly and to restore the FHA role in mortgages. She advocates for better disclosure and better counseling for those not qualified for FHA loans. Then she proposes a time-out for borrowers in trouble. Time out? Predatory lenders, go to your room?
More like, you know, what we really need is to reboot back to when Bill was president, back to the year 2000, and start again the right way. That's a great idea, Hillary, one a lot of us can associate with. It's just that... well... how do you propose we undo the mess we're in now? Can we really wipe it all clean by rebooting the PC? Is that the "safety net" that you are suggesting we toss out there if worse comes to worst?
To be fair here, I do see where Hillary goes with this speech. She goes on to talk about micro-credit, about developing more opportunity for investment in the small business sector. She advocates for eliminating the brutal effects on families and individuals of sudden unexpected healthcare costs. This makes an interesting contrast to her earlier comments about the Bush tax cuts and the increasing wealth for the CEOs and corporate profits. But can the damage that has been done in the Bush years really be that easily undone? Is it really as simple as replacing the post-Y2K Republican operating system with the pre-Y2K Clinton one?
There is, though, a sense of deja vu here for an old-timer like myself. I do remember the prevailing pessimism after the Reagan/Bush era. I remember feeling the very same way that I feel now about the US economy. I remember wondering how we could ever rise again as a prosperous nation. I remember the deep pessimism. Yet under Bill Clinton, the US economy did turn around. There was a very long boom-time while Clinton was president.
I know that we have to do it again somehow. I don't know how, but I know we need to do it and I know the blessings will come when we begin doing it right. The Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress - and many of the Democrats as well - have been leading us on a path of greed through a time of self-focus on personal wealth at any cost. Many believed that to be the way to national wealth. God Bless America. It didn't work. The pessimism is back because the majority was left out of the wealth formula. The majority was the means to wealth, not its beneficiary.
But I find it hard to believe that the answer is to reboot back to Y2K.

Friday, April 04, 2008

BATy

Now here's something to think about. Don't cite me as the source of any of this information, but I stumbled across an interesting little report on the smuggling of tobacco into China by a world-class tobacco company.
Reminiscent of the Opium Wars, anyone? Is this how responsible companies do business in a Globalized economy?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Communities in Blight

I was just watching The News Hour on PBS. A debate with representatives from each of the three presidential campaigns was covering the mortgage problem that at least up until today seemed to be troubling Wall Street and by extension the rest of the world. Here's the mp3 of that segment.
The Clinton campaign was represented by a younger man - I didn't catch his name - who was throwing out things that weren't really making any neural connections in my brain. Hillary Clinton is calling for thirty billion dollars to blah blah blah... Communities in blight blah blah blah...
Wait, communities in blight? Now there's a visual I could grasp. Picture giant federal government crop dusters dropping billions of freshly minted dollars backed by U.S. Treasury bonds on all these Midwestern "communities in blight" to solve this financial crisis. Now there's a picture of the Democrats in action! That grabs my neurons!