El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Current Events (page 2 of 6)

Stuff that’s pop-tastic, pop-o-licious, and currently playing on FoxNews

My Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street

I agree with them philosophically.  Yes, America’s values are out of balance.  We invest in making money, and it’s a wonder we’re not more screwed up.  You can’t invest in making money.  You can only invest in creation.  Creation drives growth.  Once the whole system becomes a circlejerk of ponzi schemes and mortgage-backed securities, you’re just playing roulette with someone else’s money.  There is so much hypocrisy in the system where we will bail out the richest corporations and banks while we tell American citizens if they get sick, it sucks to be them.

That said,  operationally OWS and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Here’s the problem as I see it.  First, Nelson Mandela declared that the oppressors define the battlefield.  If the nature of the oppressor is violent, then the only tool you have is violence.  Some disagree with it, but I think it makes good strategic sense.  If you’re being shot at, it’s time to get some guns.

It would follow then, that if the nature of the oppression is commercial, then commerce is where you should wage your struggle.

Start a business with a charter like Ben and Jerry’s, where the CEO cannot earn more than 7 times the lowest salary.  Start an insurance company like USAA.  Start a financial services company that only invests in sustainable technology and businesses.  Start something that reflects your values.  Vote for candidates that reflect your values.  Run for local office.

You cannot tear down the existing system.  It is too big, too wealthy, and too entrenched.  Yes, I know you are young and idealistic, but your boundless enthusiasm isn’t going to cut it.


On Steve Jobs and People Like Him

I have to admit, I’m a little ambivalent about the death of Steve Jobs.  If I am honest though, it hurts a little.  It hurts a little when great people pass on, never to conqueror again what they had conquered, never to achieve again what they had achieved.  For us, the peons, never to witness that level of greatness again is a bit bitter.

In my case, it’s strange, because I don’t use Apple products.  I don’t like them.  I don’t like Steve Jobs.  I don’t like his company.  I don’t like his business practices or caged computing environment. I personally have stayed away from Apple and Microsoft products completely. I don’t have any grand hatred toward either, but I do value the freedom to tinker, and to control where and how I create what I create. Way back in 1999, I swore it was the last time that I would have some proprietary piece of software tell me where and when I could install it and what I could do with it. And that was that.

So why feel even a twinge of sadness at the passing of Steve Jobs?  He fabricated products I don’t use and restricted people’s freedom to create pushing them more toward mindless consumption.  Perhaps, it’s our little monkey brains, terrified and mesmerized by the strength of one of our own, a brutal conqueror who was able to accomplish something no one else had.  Steve Jobs was ruthless, driven, ambitious, and intelligent.  He did not suffer fools, nor anyone.  His company conquered a particular consumer computing space thoroughly and completely.

Alexander the Great?  Great because he killed a whole bunch of people?  Yoda: Wars not make one great.  Genghis Khan, Gen Patton.  We worship them, revere them simply for their ability to ruthlessly conqueror and lay waste with efficiency in a way no one else has done before.

Sure, let’s not get carried away.  Steve Jobs is no Genghis Khan, but his greatness is familiar in that sense.  He had a vision for a part of this world that he felt he owned, and he shaped it, and nothing got in his way, not people, not money, not technology.

So, props, Steve.  You did it your way.  You were great in what you did.  I know why people worship you, but just shake my head.  I don’t think, in the end, your vision was the right vision.  Sure you and Apple made a lot of money, but I think you missed the point of the future envisioned by your 1984 self.

So Here’s a Perfect Example of Biased Reporting

California orders gay history in school textbooks – US news – Life – msnbc.com.

What the story is really about is a state law that removes the exclusion of key figures in California history.  You can’t do that any more, says the state law.  You must include the contributions of gay folks.

The way the title reads is perfect fodder for right wing reactionaries to screech, “See, THEY do have an agenda, and they are going to cram it down our throats.  We’ll have to learn gay history!”

Sigh, it’s just history.  There’s no black history.  There’s no gay history.  It’s all OUR history.  We should learn as much of it as possible.

Oh, here’s another interesting link I saw the other day.  I did not know this:



Why Weiner Took Photos of His Weiner

I’m not going to beat around the bush.  Laura and I suspect we know the reason he and a rash of other celebrities of a certain age are being caught with their pants down.  It’s male hormone replacement therapy.  Testosterone or something related.  It’s gotta be.   Access to it is becoming more commonplace every day and one of the side affects is teenage behavior.  Remember what it felt like?  Well, take this replacement therapy and your energy will pick up.  You’ll make better strides in your athletic performance and you’ll feel great!

Side effects may include stupidity.

There, I said it.  The reason these idiots (Woods, Weiner, Schwarzenegger, among others)  are imploding at such a rapid rate is that they are taking hormones.


Your Oil is My Freedom – My Freedom is Your Oil…

I’m seriously annoyed with the press coverage devoted to the oil gusher.  BP is bad, bad, bad.  Evil they are.  No wait, they are incompetent, lazy, greedy corporate bastards at best, evil fish killing, baby seal clubbing, agents of the apocalypse at worst.  It’s stuck in my craw, I tells ya, this BP bashing.  It’s so convenient to sit on our asses and bash bash bashidy bash.

Where does our complicity in this spill start for the average global citizen?  How do we, as a society, divorce ourselves from the problems that arise when we are addicted in a gluttonous fashion to free flowing black crude?  We need cheap food, because we demand value.  Farmers must consolidate their production farther and farther from the centers of consumption.  They must use fertilizers fabricated from petroleum, transport it long distances using petroleum, to supermarkets lit with electricity derived from petroleum, purchased by consumers driving their little metal bubbles powered by petroleum.  It’s in our plastics, toys, cars, winter warmth, food, and freedom.

Oil is in our freedom?!  Quick get a skimmer to get that shit out of there.  You can’t, and you know it.  It has flowed into America’s freedom wetlands, soaked into the sand of liberty, and been choked down the gullets of our winged agents of change.  Its slimy mess has turned to a thick oozing muck and seeped in so deep, extraction is impossible.

BP is evil though, we muse, and we continue to sit and wring our hands about how bad Big Oil is and how good we are because we care about the fishies, and the birdies, and the little shimpies, and those poor shrimping families that can’t feed themselves now.  Oh boo hoo; let’s go to Wal-Mart and buy a bigger TV so we can watch blue-ray.

Forget the news coverage.  Forget BP.  This tragedy makes two things clear:

  1. We are addicted to oil, and it is our collective fault, not only BP’s.
  2. We should not be doing deep water drilling at all if we can’t manage a worst case scenario.  To paraphrase Ralph Nader,  oil drilling currently seems to be unsafe at any depth.

You Know Something’s Wrong…

when the Brit is the tannest guy in the room.

Health Care Reform

With all the wailing and gnashing of teeth concerning health care reform, I don’t know why we just don’t start with something simple.  It is simple, people.  Fix what’s broken.  We do not have to over-complicate this.  Proponents of reform have been testifying mightily about the insurance industry’s agent provocateurs at town hall meetings, their paid ads denouncing choice, and their furious lobbying to crush health care reform.

I have a solution, though, something they would hate, and something they would not be able to combat. The public would love it, because in it, everyone could see themselves.  Everyone could see that there but for the grace of God, go I.

All it would take to start would be one law – one little stinking law.  And there is precedent for this type of law, the kind of law that says, if you want access to this market you can’t discriminate.

Have a store on Mainstreet?  You can’t refuse business to someone because of the color of their skin.  It’s my store, you say.  I can do what I damn well please.  If I don’t want to serve a certain type of person, it is my right.  It’s my store.

A-ha, I say, it’s not exactly your store.  You paid money for it, yes, a pecuniary outlay to build your establishment, but there are other costs too, costs paid by this town.  The town maintains the road that goes in front of your store, the cables that bring electricity, communications, the water treatment plant and distribution system that brings it to your faucet.  We the people have to look at your establishment in our society, in our town, on our Mainstreet, and we have to ask ourselves:  Are we better off for allowing this space to be used by you?  If you don’t let black people in your store, then we will revoke your right to do business here.

We won’t shoulder the cost of your discrimination.  It is too high.

Ownership is a lie.  Operating a business is an implied social contract with certain responsibilities, duties, and burdens.

So, here’s what I propose:  Pass a law making it illegal to deny coverage or raise rates based on a pre-existing condition.

The commons, this commons that we call the US, is the platform upon which business operates.  We the people own the platform, and given some basic rules, we allow people to operate businesses upon that infrastructure.

It has been said that people do not have a “right” to health care.  I counter that corporations and businesses do not have a right to yield infinite profits at the expense of the margins.  If you do business in this fair land of ours, there are certain liabilities, responsibilities that you must shoulder.  There are going to be very sick people among us.  Those very sick people deserve the protection of a just society.  They deserve to be subsidized by those that never get a runny nose.  They deserve to be subsidized by the stock holders of the insurance companies, and the great mass of caring and decent people within our borders.

“It sucks to be you.” Is not an acceptable response to the unfortunate circumstances of a cronic, debilitating, or otherwise serious and incurable medical condition.

If it’s illegal to deny coverage or raise rates based on pre-existing conditions, I think it goes a long way to delivering justice to those burdened unfairly by a simple and cruel twist of fate.  Let’s look after our sick, shall we?  Let’s ease their suffering and we can start with a very simple and easy to understand piece of legislation.

Suffering from a acute case of Not-Stupid

SAN FRANCISCO – An American linguistics student traveling in northern Iraq didn’t go on an ill-fated hiking trip because he had a cold — a twist of fate that prevented him from mistakenly wandering into Iran where his three friends were reportedly detained.

“Dude, we’re going to hike into the northern territory today – see if we can fuck with the border guards.”

“Um, I’m not feeling so well.  You guys go ahead without me.”

“Whatever – It’s gonna be a blast, pussy.  You can be lame if you want.  Cya.  Let’s roll.”

I think what he was really suffering from was an acute case of Not-Stupid.

Salary is Not a Prize

I was watched a little bit of the last auto executives grilling (smoky flavor), and I have to say they were a huge group of clueless morons.  For all the money they make, you’d think they would get the simple things, like:

Your salary is not a prize, or yours for that matter.  Your salary is a reflection of your commitment, responsibility, and risk you assume heading a company. 

As the cookie cutter executives blathered on and danced around a word, a word that was clearly "victim", I began to realize it’s not the market that brought down these companies, it was their clueless CEOs. 

You see, they are victims just like everyone else.  They are just guys, regular guys, employees at their respective companies, paid just like everyone else and worried about their salaries, families, etc.  I’m just a regular joe trying to fix a problem, they seem to say.  This isn’t about me, they say.  It’s about the company.  Please help us.  Help us poor working folks.  You see, I drove here in a hybrid.  Aren’t I special.

You’re not showing me anything special, Mr. Auto-exec.  In fact, I’m starting to wonder why we paid you all that money. 

Let me spell it out for you.  Here’s what happens when things go awry.  You take the hit, Mr. Auto-exec, until such a time as the company improves.  It’s your fault, Mr. Auto-exec.  You get the big salary, as an indication of risk, your responsibility for performance.  You have the most to lose, so you get a big salary.  If things don’t go well, we fire you.  We blame you.  It is your fault.  In some cultures, those responsible parties feel such commitment to their company that they commit suicide.  That’s going a bit far, but in this case I’d like to see top executives stick to a few simple rules.

I’ll call them, Jim’s nine rules to successful leadership at a car company.

  1. Drive yourself to work everyday in a base model (or car that your company wants to promote).  Love that car, know it inside and out.  Do your own oil changes.
  2. Get down in the dirt with the mechanics once in a while.  Walk the production floor EVERY single day in some plant across the country.
  3. Sit in on and understand engineering meetings.  If you are not an engineer, use your company’s education benefits and get a degree.  This is not an option at a car company.
  4. Sit in on and understand marketing/advertising meetings.  If you are not a marketing person, use your company’s education benefits and get a degree.  This is not an option at a car company.
  5. Understand the finances of your company.  If you are not a CPA, take some courses, and take the certification exam.  If you are not an MBA (which isn’t very likely, I suppose), get one.
  6. Stay late at the office and talk to the cleaning staff.  Talk to your designers.  Have lunch with union leadership.  Meet with your plant managers, line workers, dealers, customers, all the time, constantly.
  7. Give up your salary at the first hint of trouble.  Live off your carefully managed investment portfolio. 
  8. Take blame yourself in the bad times
  9. Give credit to others in the good times
Any questions?

Oh Come On, I Actually DO Like Obama

And here’s why:

First, I know he’s not going to enter into illegal wars.  I also like the idea that a leader isn’t the doer-in-chief.  He seems to realize that change comes from the bottom up, and that it is the role of the leader to inspire, nurture, or not get in the way.

I like that.

I also don’t think he has a problem sitting down at the table with Iran, Venezuela, North Korea and having a talk.  How can we turn down the tension, he would ask?  He realizes the strong nation reaches out, makes concessions, looks for peace, and isn’t afraid of diplomacy.  It is the weak nation that stonewalls dialog, refuses to listen, and uses the thread of force as a weapon of first resort. 

When I picked up my little dog Billy from the street, he was a nervous little crazy nut.  He was nippy and erratic, a little lunatic.  I reacted to him with anger and authority.  I tried to cow him into compliance.  It just made him more insane.  Then I realized if I spoke softly to him, stroked him gently, put myself on an even plane with him, he was much more reasonable.  It didn’t take anything away from me.  I knew I was still in charge, but if I could make him feel like he was a little bit more in control of his domain, it made all the difference.

I think Obama understands that.  He’s multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, well traveled.  I think those things give you a perspective on the world that makes you less afraid.

I’ve had discussions about the "illegals problem"  I always ask what is this problem?  It doesn’t seem to be a problem to me.  At some point, the erosion of the English language is mentioned.  I would ask again "Okay, so what is the ‘language problem’?  What is this problem? I need to know, because it doesn’t seem to be a problem to me."   Thinking the "problem" self-evident, we end up devolving into game saying and catch phrases gleaned from talk radio, until finally when all is exhausted, out comes the final appeal to authority,"they broke the law."

But it’s just fear, fear that they are bad, and they are bad because you don’t understand them.  I get the impression from Obama, that he sees lack of understanding as an opportunity to understand.  He may not be fully informed on all issues, but he’s not fearful about getting to know them.  He might not speak Spanish, or Farsi, or Arabic, but I think he’s willing to accept that those people are just like our people.  We aren’t that different.  And we shouldn’t be afraid.

That’s the key.  I’m sick and tired of politicians pandering to fear.  Elect the Dems and it’s a vote for terror!  Elect the Dems and dirty Mexicans will overrun the border, take your jobs, and marry your daughter!  Elect the Dems and the economy will stagnate further, turn to socialism and your lives will be over… or worse, be like Europe.

Bah!  Obama says, your future can be as bright as you want it to be.  He says, I’m not going to pander to your fears.  I’m going to be fearless.  I’m going to be a black man running for president in a still decidedly racist country.  I’m not afraid.  You shouldn’t be either.

What the republicans won’t tell you, and this is their dirty little secret:  Lowering taxes does not help the economy.  Raising them doesn’t either, but that’s neither here nor there.  The secret is this:  hope builds the economy.  When people have hope, when they see a future that looks bright, they create.  They build.  They grow.  That is why the economy booms.  Right now the economy is in the tank because people are afraid, and the current leadership doesn’t want to give up that tool of oppression and control.  A vote for McCain is a vote for fear, a vote for more foreign wars, more erosion of the Constitution, and a continued lessening of the collective national spirit.

Obama, I think, has this idealistic, audacious child-like hope, not dashed by fear, not crushed under the heal of bureaucracy.  The grownups at the table might snicker at his audacity, "Son, you just don’t get how the world works, do you?  Let the grown-ups handle things, okay?"

Obama, "And how’s that been going, hmm?"

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