Friday, October 24, 2008

Six Word Memoirs

I was recently introduced to six-word memoirs. As a writer who's always looking for brevity, I am enthralled by this concept. At a dinner a few nights ago, the speaker read a few of these brief memoirs and challenged the audience to come up with one of their own.

Within minutes, I had one that brought applause from the audience and that I share here.

"Found myself. Lived happily ever after."

Here are my six words on Love and Heartbreak.

"Love, lose. Love, lose. Keep trying."

I invite you to come up with your six word memoir and share it with me.

Power and Money Rule

Not that this is news to anybody, but once again we see that when those in power don't like the rules, they change them.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York City, decided that two terms were not enough for him. So, the term limits law ratified by Big Apple voters was overruled by Bloomberg and the city council. Now they can all run for another term.

Let's hope that New York citizens exercise the real option for limiting terms, voting them out of office.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


As Deepak Chopra points out; the only thing that can defeat us is our own apathy.

The progressive side of American politics feels done in by the nasty work of Karl Rove, following in the muddy footprints of the late Lee Atwater, a grinning, guitar-strumming master of demagoguery. The effectiveness of slamming Michael Dukakis with the horrifying tale of Willie Horton is now being revived using mug shots of William Ayers. Rove has been retooled as robo calls in a number of swing states, all of it to see if the old black magic will keep working. Instead of erupting in outrage and secretly dreading that a smear campaign will undo Barack Obama's lead in the polls, I return to the basics.

Why did the Republican smear machine work in the first place? The answer from many on the left is that the American electorate is stupid, malleable, covertly racist, easily frightened, and capable of falling for rich white Republicans who could care less about the common man. Let's say that all those things are valid (even though most are open to debate). Such factors can't be quantified, and if asked, many people give ambiguous or misleading answers about their personal beliefs. The second point to make is that Barack Obama owes his rise, in large measure, to overlooking people's worst instincts and appealing to their better ones. From the beginning, his campaign has posed a clear-cut choice between the best and worst in human nature.

The right-wing revolution went through three stages of moral deterioration. Stage 1 -- Resentment toward blacks, gays, immigrants, liberals, atheists, and the educated class was openly encouraged for political gain. Previously unrespectable, even anti-social beliefs were given entree into electoral debates. This was the Nixon 'silent majority' phase. Stage 2 - Splinter groups that preached intolerance and bigotry were praised for their "values." This was the Reagan phase, which preached the hollow slogan of "Morning in America" while ignoring AIDS victims -- just one symbol of institutional immorality. Stage 3 - As the right wing gained power, anyone who didn't agree with their ideology was smeared and labeled as immoral, unpatriotic, extremist, and disloyal. The term 'liberal' encapsulated all. of these. This was the high-water mark of the Tom DeLay, Karl Rove phase during the Bush years.

Obama isn't proposing a return to left-liberal politics so much as a reversal of these three stages of moral decline. His great adversary is apathy. As long as 40% of the electorate votes Republican out of inertia, the demagogues had an easy time getting another 8 - 10% to follow fear, intolerance, and xenophobia, the toxins that all democracies are susceptible to, especially in stressful times. Those wedge voters are probably still in place, even if they feel demoralized by the defrocking of their patron saint, Pres. Bush. Three million dedicated Christian fundamentalists, fired up by fringe issues like flag burning and gay marriage, can only sway a Presidential election if there is severely low voter turnout.

But now the apathetic majority has risen up for the first time since the Reagan revolution, not to vote for Democrats but against an immoral agenda that masked itself in sheep's clothing. I know many people who are afraid that McCain and the Rove machine can stir up the worst in human nature once again. For me, the right attitude isn't fear and suspicion but a clear-eyed realization that voters vote for immorality only when they are blind or asleep.

Waking up is Obama's best hope, and although it took an economic calamity to seal McCain's fate, the electorate seems more awake this year than in a very long time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Did We Expect?

So American International Group, Inc. (AIG) spent nearly half a million dollars treating their execs to a luxurious resort and spa a few days after they received the government bailout. What else did we expect? This is what corporate execs do, live luxuriously, which is one thing when they are using the money "earned" from gouging consumers, but quite another when taxpayer money is used to save them from bankruptcy. We knew who they were before Henry Paulson, our treasury secretary (who, incidentally is a former exec of one of those financial institutions), gave them the money. We've been had. Surprise! Surprise!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Have We Really Sunk This Low?

I'm sharing this article on the ridiculous Sarah Palin because it is better than anything I could have written.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chopra on Real Wealth

The Difference Between Wealth and Money

Ordinary people are outraged that the wealthy want to be given free money as a bailout, and at the same time they are frightened about losing their own money. Fear doesn't live in a vacuum. To cope with uncertain times, many turn to morality. They blame runaway greed on Wall Street, even though, as a commentator wisely said, Wall Street without greed would just be pavement. They blame the financial world in general for being selfish and rapacious. They blame government for not looking after the average Joe, and finally, many people wonder if God isn't blaming all of us for our sinful ways.

This flood of blame and judgment shows an impoverishment of spirit that is far worse than loss of money. Jesus was asking a serious question when he said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?" By the same logic he told his listeners to store up wealth in heaven, not on earth. This turns out to be good economics, because the more you attach your worth to money, the more harmed you will be in a crash. But there's much more to it, of course. To be wealthy in spirit means that you are confident, tolerant and forgiving of others. If that seems too idealistic in hard times, then consider this. You are wealthy if you don't need the things money can buy in order to prosper.

When we were young and didn't have money, what motivated us? Enthusiasm, a vision of the future, the desire to follow a personal vision, curiosity about the world, a drive to fulfill our own potential, and love for those we wanted to nourish and support. All those things are tied to money, but they aren't the same as money. They are the coins of spiritual wealth. Wealth of spirit gives you the ability to make a living. Having money in the bank doesn't lead to love of others or a vision that motivates you to be better tomorrow than you are today. The way out of this financial crisis is for Americans to regain more inner wealth. How is that done?

Reject fear and pessimism.

– Know what your vision is and act upon it.

– Don't blame others and seek payback when things go wrong.
– Prosper inwardly through love, generosity, giving, and altruism.
– Stop identifying with your salary and possessions.

– Work for the common good whenever you can.

No country has ever had a Golden Age when people lived by all these things, but there are times when these things dominate social behavior and other times when they are forgotten. I think it's foolish to try and calculate whether America is in moral decline. Individual lives are always full of promise and hidden potential. The rise of a corrupt ruling class and the huge inequalities between rich and poor aren't a good sign, but even here there's enormous will to pull back from the brink. The key to a turnaround isn't financial or moral, for that matter. It comes down to understanding the difference between wealth and money, and then living as if that difference matters.

Lest people think an idealist vision does not translate into practical economics, let us consider some of the specific policy outcomes that the current crisis could lead to:

1. A de-militarized economy that does not equate security with the size of the Pentagon's budget.
Investment in wisdom-based economies, including alternative energies, sustainable agriculture and ways to restore balance in the ecosystem.
A genuine re-investment in education that rewards excellence in science and creativity.
The building of infrastructure, including urban oil-free transportation, restoring our bridges, roads, parks, and forest.

5. Comprehensive health care coverage for everyone in the country.
Every crisis comes with opportunity. Knowing the difference between wealth and money provides the wisdom to seize these creative opportunities. A monetary bailout, on the other hand would merely serve as a band-aid, not a long-term solution.

I couldn't have said it better myself.