Sunday, August 28, 2011






















































Our past vs. our future: When reality swims upstream


Collectively, most of us Americans seem to be experiencing the same common thread running through our lives right now -- we used to have a whole lot of stuff but are now facing a future with not so much. And almost each of us has a story to tell about his or her own personal loss of stuff. And almost all of us also have stories to tell about our childhoods, our expectations for when we would become grownups, our reality today and what we think will happen to us in the future.

This week I too went on a quest for my past. My first stop? Brad Pitt's latest movie, "The Tree of Life". Pitt's film could have been based on my own childhood experiences too, back in the 1950s, when we all had a whole lot of stuff (Somalian famine victims would have LOVED to be you and me back in 1953) -- but somehow, back then, a lot of us were miserably unhappy as well.

My mother used to sit on a fancy leatherette couch in our spiffy new tract house front room and cry her heart out. She cried every day for a whole year. My sister tried to run away from home. My father lived for the moment when he could walk out our door and go back to his job the next morning. I was an outcast loner who had no friends at school, even in kindergarten. And in the midst of all this 1950s prosperity, we all suffered in silence and tormented each other -- just like in "The Tree of Life".

For the next stop on my journey back into the past, I actually went off to visit my old childhood home. My strict old elementary school had gone all Montessori. My former neighbors had mostly moved out or died. All the new residents have remodeled. No one is a McCarthy Republican any more. The bowling alley is gone but the ice cream shop is still there (only with new owners and a new name). I couldn't see any signs of foreclosures, however, because my former home town is still sort of posh in its own small suburban way.

Next I stopped by the big house across the street from where I was raised, met its new owner and told her some of the history of her house. "This whole housing tract was built for veterans returning from World War II," I said, "but before that, your big old home used to be the only one for miles around, built by some wealthy gambler in order to live next to Green Hills Country Club so that he could play golf. Then he died of a heart attack while hitting his ball onto the first green." I also heard that the gambler was from Texas, drove a new yellow Cadillac convertible and had ten slot machines installed in his front room.

"Then Col C.W. Jones and his wife Rita moved in. She used to be an FBI secret agent." How exciting that seemed to me, just a bored, awkward and lonely little suburban kid. "The colonel and his wife served as a haven for all us kids in the neighborhood who had no place else to go."

After that, I went off to visit my parents' graves. Much as I hated my mom growing up, I always visited her grave first. "Hi, Mom. How are things going wit' you up in Heaven?"

Next to my mother's grave, workers had dug out a large pit and lined it with copper in preparation for a funeral later that afternoon. What? They think that if they line their grave site with copper, it will keep out the worms? Not.

And like we all have our own individual pasts, every single one of us Americans also has a future. What will that be? Of course we'll all die in the end, but before that happens, over 300 million different American stories will be lived out.

What will the rest of my story be like? And what will the rest of your story be like too?

What I am hoping will happen is that whether it turns out that we are to be well-off and surrounded with stuff in the future or poor and surrounded with little more than cardboard boxes and shopping carts, that on the inside, deep down in our souls, that we will all be living a meaningful life and be relatively content with what we have -- just the oppose to what happened to Brad Pitt's family in "The Tree of Life". And also the opposite of what happened to me back in the 1950s.

PS: I just finished watching "Citizen Kane" as well. Charles Foster Kane's story fits right in here nicely. Material stuff isn't the end-all and be-all in that movie either.

PPS: The moral of this story? Americans might consider the benefits of ceasing to live in denial about the future and then actually start preparing to not only survive but to thrive in a future that contains a lot less stuff. We all seem to be still living in the fantasyland that our whole happy future depends solely on the accumulation of things. However. If we continue to think that our entire happiness rests on how much stuff we have, what will happen to us if we start to have less stuff? We're screwed.

And another big fantasy that we have is that America's future happiness is based solely on getting its annual gross national product to grow. If we think that this fantasy is ever gonna be true in the future -- when it was hardly ever even true in the past, then our reality is definitely swimming upstream for sure.

And another moral here might be that Americans need to start becoming much nicer people if we are ever going to survive these coming hard times ahead gracefully. My country's current "I'll do anything for money" attitude has gone on for far too long. "Lie for money? Steal for money? Kill for money? Sure!" Are we sick of that yet? Obviously not.

And the most important moral of all? We need to start getting rid of the corporatists and oligarchs who got us into our current economic mess and our slavish dependence on stuff in the first place. Let's start taking away their "stuff" too. I personally would love to see how gracefully they can live their lives like the rest of us do -- without a billion extra dollars to prop them up.

Their greed has gotten us into our current economic folly -- but their greed ain't gonna get us out.

PPPS: In mid-September, I am lucky enough to be going off to St. Louis to attend the annual BoucherCon http://bouchercon2011.com/ convention, where mystery writers and fans will honor Colin Cotterill for his excellent (and humorous and exciting) murder mystery series which takes place in Laos in the 1970s.

Laos at the time of the Vietnam war was the most frequently-bombed country in the world -- thanks to the warped morality of Henry Kissinger. And in my new and hopeful American future, I would also love to see Kissinger finally go to jail for dropping 280 million bombs on Laos (yes, that's .84 tons of explosives dropped per person)
-- and who is still busy killing and maiming Laotian children even to this day https://legaciesofwar.org/resources/walt-haney-papers/ with his left-over evil and deadly unexploded cluster bombs. Damn his eyes.

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Want something good to read? Buy my book! "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Your-Own-Flak-Jacket/dp/0978615719/ref=cm_pdp_rev_itm_title_1. It's like if Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and/or Janet Evanovich went to war.

I also wrote a book about going on Hajj (also included as a chapter in "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket," but this book is cheaper -- but it's worth buying them both!) My book on the Hajj is so outstanding that I bet even Christian fundamentalists will love it! Please buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Mecca-Hajj-Lessons-Islamic-School/dp/0978615700/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238806637&sr=1-2

****

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World peace in one generation!"
You can now buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for parents and teachers. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

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"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds." You can also buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for those of us who are still idealists in these troubled times. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

****


I just got my Notary Public commission!

Need a Notary Public? Have seal, will travel. E-mail me at jpstillwater@yahoo.com and I'll stamp your document, make it official and only charge $10. Of course if you live outside of Berkeley, I may have to charge travel expenses -- but am well worth it!























































Upstairs Downstairs: Libya and the new British Empire


Britain these days is more and more starting to resemble that famous old PBS series, "Upstairs Downstairs".
Shades of Queen Victoria! For example, Britain currently has all these posh folks in the drawing rooms of Knightsbridge and Mayfair drinking tea with their pinkies held out -- while their used-and-abused servants downstairs in the slums of London and Manchester slave away for shite wages and no respect. And, in the background of all these modern strict divisions along class lines, Britain's colonial empire still stretches from Afghanistan to Libya.

The only difference between 19th-century Britannia and today's 21st-century Albion seems to be that the downstairs servants no longer know their places. The recent London riots proved that.

But the "Upstairs" contingency is still carrying on with a stiff upper lip, still imagining that scullery maids hang on their every word and that the London rioters were merely criminal thugs.

As for the new British Empire? Afghanistan in the 19th century and Afghanistan now? 200 years later and not much has changed. Colonialism.
Shock-and-Awe.

And then there's Libya. Sure we all hate Gaddafi -- just like we all hated Saddam. Iraq folded and was plundered. And now Libya has become part of the White Man's Burden too.

Have things changed at all from Queen Victoria's day? Not so much.

PS: Who cares about Britain? Not me. I'm much more worried about the USA. With 5% of our population now owning 95% of our wealth, we're obviously becoming all "Upstairs Downstairs" here too -- only with a twist. Instead of lords and ladies only taking advantage of "the help" economically, American overlords are now taking total advantage of our working class -- hearts and minds, body and soul. Over half of all freaking Americans these days seem to be almost begging to be exploited and abused.

Unlike what happened during Queen Victoria's time over in Britain, what is starting to happen here in the United States today is entirely new. Our American working class isn't just being economically used and abused, even though the easy availability of cheap labor does seem to be one of the goals of America's new corporatist aristocracy. But from what I can tell, America's corporatist leaders also have a dictatorship in mind as well as just a convenient new source of butlers and maids. Think banana republic. That's never happened here before here -- or even happened in Britain before either. Or at least not since the days of Prince John.

And the truly sad part of this new trend toward allowing corporatist Top Bananas to take over our federal and state governments is that no one seems to be willing to stop this from happening. And I see Libya as a pivotal turning point here. Now that a majority of countries in the Middle East are under the sway of U.S. corporatists, these new "Upstairs" lords have nailed down a strong position to suck more and more power and more and more wealth out of both America and the Middle East -- and thus become stronger and stronger. And who is left to stop them now? Not the American "Downstairs". They just sit back, go to tea parties and think that they also are holding their pinkies out -- but are actually just bending over. We're screwed.

American corporatists have traveled the world (on our taxpayers' dime, BTW) and taken over all-too-many of its countries, adding one dictatorship at a time to their list of scullery maids. And Israel was the first to fall under their malevolent influence in the Middle East. No, it was Saudi Arabia. Or was it Iran, first given to the evil Shah with no strings attached?

Then the corporatists replaced do-able Iraqi leaders with Saddam, who started to exhibit a mind of his own and so then was replaced by various "provisional governments" who knew their place -- downstairs. Afghanistan also became another American corporatist colony. And now Libya has just fallen to Exxon and BP via a dreary repeat of Iraq's Shock-and-Awe.

And will America be the next country to go "Downstairs" -- in every sense of the word?
We have already entered our "Colonialism" phase. Will Shock and Awe be coming next -- after having been touted as necessary in order to "protect civilians"?

The future of America is now at a crossroads. In another few years, the corporatists and oligarchs will have become too entrenched and too dangerous to ever overthrow at the ballot box. Think Hitler at the 1938 Olympics, gloating happily over how he had usurped power from all those gullible Germans. If we ever want to see a return to democracy, we must act now before the corporatist python's hold on us gets too strong -- and we wake up to find our kids out rotting away in "Downstairs" gulags in Ohio and Arizona and Chicago and New York.
Shock-and-Awe. Colonialism. "Protect civilians".

So. What to do to stop being swallowed alive by the oligarchy of "Upstairs"? Participating in the upcoming October march on Washington might be a start. If 20 million people show up, who knows? An American spring?

Eliminating electronic voting machines would be good. They have clearly been hacked. And let's also either vote out or impeach every congressional representative or Supreme Court justice or president who supports war and/or Wall Street. Demand better healthcare, better schools, more jobs or else. Return manufacturing to the USA. Demand high tariffs. Bring our troops home and make them defend US, not corporatists profits. We'll never see a dime of all the oligarchs' spoils of war.

Next, let's stop the so-called "privatization" of our resources, buildings, labor pool, national parks, education, prison work force, hospitals, banks, Social Security, etc. That's all just one big corporatist scam to steal what is rightfully ours. Would you let a thief steal stuff from your home? No. But everyone seems to be all willing and even eager to bend over backwards so that corporatists can steal stuff from our government.

Also, there are currently many perfectly good laws on the books in our country that can and will defend our rights. Isn't it time that these laws apply to the rich as well as the poor -- to say nothing of the pure pleasure to be found in persecuting blatant war criminals. Did we or did we not have Big Fun at the Nuremberg trials?

Our very futures, our very lives and our children's very lives are dependent upon what we are going to do in the next few years -- while we still have a chance.

PPS: What do Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya all now have in common? Of course they have all suffered Shock-and-Awe. And colonialism. That goes without saying. But they have also become sources of incredible wealth for corporatists -- and money pits where American taxpayers go to die.

According to economist Samer Araabi, "
To continue to ignore the democratic aspirations of millions [in the Middle East], in the interests of misguided short-term strategies, is to doom U.S. efforts in the Middle East for decades to come." http://rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/the_saudi_counter_revolution

Guess what, Araabi. You are wrong. What will really happen here at home is that America and Britain will continue to become more and more like the dictatorships and anti-democratic figureheads that they support in the Middle East -- until both America and Britain, as well as all the various world-wide satrapies that they have already painstakingly created, will completely come to resemble "Upstairs Downstairs" at its worst.

Colonialism. Shock-and-Awe. "Protect civilians."

PPPS:
Americans know from first hand experience what it it like to be colonized -- and yet they (not me!) are still ready, willing and able to do it to others. What ever happened to the Golden Rule in this country? Long gone.

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Want something good to read? Buy my book! "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Your-Own-Flak-Jacket/dp/0978615719/ref=cm_pdp_rev_itm_title_1. It's like if Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and/or Janet Evanovich went to war.

I also wrote a book about going on Hajj (also included as a chapter in "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket," but this book is cheaper -- but it's worth buying them both!) My book on the Hajj is so outstanding that I bet even Christian fundamentalists will love it! Please buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Mecca-Hajj-Lessons-Islamic-School/dp/0978615700/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238806637&sr=1-2

****

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World peace in one generation!"
You can now buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for parents and teachers. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

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"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds." You can also buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for those of us who are still idealists in these troubled times. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

****


I just got my Notary Public commission!

Need a Notary Public? Have seal, will travel. E-mail me at jpstillwater@yahoo.com and I'll stamp your document, make it official and only charge $10. Of course if you live outside of Berkeley, I may have to charge travel expenses -- but am well worth it!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011




































Nancy Pelosi" "Workers are people too!"


(Originally published in the Berkeley Daily Planet -- http://berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2011-08-17/article/38267?headline=Nancy-Pelosi-Workers-are-people-too-)

When I was in Minneapolis in June, I was fortunate enough to attend the kick-off event for this summer's "Speakout for Good Jobs Now" tour, sponsored by http://action.progressivecongress.org/t/5854/content.jsp?key=3369, wherein various members of the progressive caucus of the U.S. Congress spoke to their constituents regarding the desperate need for creating more jobs in America. At this first event, Rep. Alan Grayson and Rep. Raul Grijalva fired us all up.

And so when the Speakout tour arrived in Oakland this week, I really wanted to go to this event too. And Reps. Grijalva, Mike Honda and Barbara Lee would be speaking this time. Doesn't get much better than that.

At the Acts Full Gospel Church on 66th Avenue in East Oakland where the event was being held, the parking lot was jammed but I found a space. Inside, perhaps 700 people were already in attendance. I was late. And the warm-up speaker was already asking everyone to stand up if they had been laid off, were jobless, had college loans they couldn't pay, couldn't even get into college, who had no health insurance, who's home was threatened with foreclosure or had already been foreclosed upon, who had lost their benefits, who felt that their Social Security was threatened, was currently on unemployment, etc. Almost everyone there stood up.

Then the speaker asked everyone to stand up who thought that the current Republican-dominated Congress was doing anything to help all us Americans -- not just helping rich people. Two people stood up.

Then Barbara Lee spoke about how she was fighting as hard as she could to get Americans more jobs. Yay Barbara Lee!

Then Nancy Pelosi spoke too -- and said all the right things about how progressive she was and how hard she too was working in Congress for us. We all applauded. And then she made one little slip. Should I forgive her for that? Can't yet decide.

Pelosi said, "They claim that corporations are people? Well, workers are people too!" Too?

Guess what, Nancy. "Corporations are NOT people." Never have been and never will be. Repeat after me.
"Only PEOPLE are people."

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Want something good to read? Buy my book! "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Your-Own-Flak-Jacket/dp/0978615719/ref=cm_pdp_rev_itm_title_1. It's like if Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and/or Janet Evanovich went to war.

I also wrote a book about going on Hajj (also included as a chapter in "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket," but this book is cheaper -- but it's worth buying them both!) My book on the Hajj is so outstanding that I bet even Christian fundamentalists will love it! Please buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Mecca-Hajj-Lessons-Islamic-School/dp/0978615700/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238806637&sr=1-2

****

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World peace in one generation!"
You can now buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for parents and teachers. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-uqSuzOjM4vU/TafAFKcYz0I/AAAAAAAAFJc/Duv2LYJyUTs/s1600/IMG_0045.JPGhttp://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dlHRO-CPqf0/Tae6tLspmQI/AAAAAAAAFI0/iUKwYDK1f3A/s1600/IMG_0041.JPG

"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds." You can also buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for those of us who are still idealists in these troubled times. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

****


I just got my Notary Public commission!

Need a Notary Public? Have seal, will travel. E-mail me at jpstillwater@yahoo.com and I'll stamp your document, make it official and only charge $10. Of course if you live outside of Berkeley, I may have to charge travel expenses -- but am well worth it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011






















































China: Locust to the world?


For almost every problem, the current solution that America's leaders employ tends to involve bombs and spies and force. Are resources or bank accounts running low? Then go bomb some country in Africa or the Middle East. Unhappy citizens at home? Then beef up Homeland Security.

On the other hand, China's method of dealing with problems seems to be a bit different. While Americans appear to be constantly in Terminator mode, China tends to be more of a trader. Got a problem with a country or a person? Then sell 'em stuff.

Unfortunately, America's tool box is too limited -- "When all you have is a hammer, all the world starts to look like a nail."

But if you are merchant, peddler and trader to the world, you also have a big problem too -- the stuff that you trade.

If you were to paddle up the Amazon River to the most isolated village that you could find and then look inside any one of its completely-outside-the-matrix grass huts, I almost guarantee that you will see at least one household item that had been made in China. Heck, I've even seen stuff in one of the farthest outposts in Antarctic stamped, "Made in China".
Even the Chinese use stuff made in China.

China appears to be a creator. America appears to be a destroyer.

But, ironically, both countries have ended up in the same place -- destruction.

For every bomb dropped on Libya or Iraq or Gaza or wherever, something is destroyed. That much is obvious. But for every plastic doll or small appliance or disposable pen that China produces, something is also destroyed -- material resources. That plastic doohickey that you recently picked up at the dollar store? It's made out of something. It came from somewhere. And it's gotta go somewhere too -- if nowhere else than the landfill.

So China churns out stuff for the world and sends it all over the globe. Fine. That's hecka lot better than spending over 50% of its income on spy planes, machine guns, tanks, drones and bombs. However, like Einstein or Newton or somebody once said, "You can't make something out of nothing."

So while America is busy carpet-bombing the world, China is busy vacuuming up the world's carpet. And both countries eventually end up at the same place -- destruction.

America may be the world's Darth Vader. But China is the world's swarm of locusts.

"So what's your point here, Jane? That America is like that gloved hand in the Beatles movie, 'The Yellow Submarine'? And that China is like that guy in 'The Yellow Submarine' with the big horn for a mouth that vacuums everything up?"

My point here is that if the human race is to survive through to the end of the 21st century, both America and China need to come up with a new paradigm for dealing with their economies -- and stop being Blue Meanies!

PS: Prof. Michael Nagler, founder of U.C. Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Studies program, has come up with a third alternative to these deadly bomb-or-vacuum economic policies, wherein we stop concentrating on what we don't have and don't need -- and concentrate on what we do have and realistically need instead.

According to Nagler, Mahatma Gandhi "saw that our present economic system is being driven by a dangerous motive: the multiplication of wants. Because these wants are artificial -- being that they created by advertising -- and can never be satisfied, it creates what economist David Korten has called a “phantom economy” of fantastic financial manipulations that of course can never endure.


"The real purpose of an economic system is to guarantee to every person in its circle the fundamentals of physical existence (food, clothing, shelter) and the tools of meaningful work so that they can get on with the business of living together and working out our common destiny. This was Gandhi’s vision, among others’. We can no longer afford to ignore him in this sector any more than we can ignore his spectacular contributions to peace and security.


"We will never know real prosperity -- where we acknowledge that we are much more than producer/consumers and can only be fulfilled when we discover a higher purpose -- until we shift to another basis entirely, the fulfillment of needs." http://my.firedoglake.com/wagingnonviolence/2011/08/11/economic-crisis-or-nonviolent-opportunity-gandhis-answer-to-financial-collapse/


PPS: In our current world based on bomb-or-vacuum economics, there is yet another high price to pay, as author Gilad Atzmon has recently pointed out. As prices rise and resources dwindle, more and more people get left out of the economic bomb-or-vacuum consumerism cycle and then bad things start to happen -- like, for instance, the recent riots in London.

According to Atzmon, "...as we move up the ladder of our consumer existence, more and more people are falling behind. As the more fortunate among us proceed upward, more and more youngsters are realizing that they will never even be able to join the game.

"On the one hand we are subject to a ‘dictatorship of commoditisation’; we are trained to identify with a set of gadgets and brands, and yet, on the other hand, an increasing number of the people around us are left out -- they can barely afford to possess these objects of desire -- and find themselves removed from the ‘identity game’. They become faceless, their existence denied, left to wander, ghost-like, wrapped in [running] suits in a society driven by ruthless hard capitalism and sheer greed." http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/gilad-atzmon-london-riots-and-the-big-picture.html

PPPS: Does anybody but me find it ironic that communist China is now the most important capitalist nation in the world, while capitalist America has lost its way and wandered off into the nightmare world of corporatism, a form of ideology that is potentially more harmful to us than even China's former "Cultural Revolution" was to them.

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Want something good to read? Buy my book! "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East," available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Your-Own-Flak-Jacket/dp/0978615719/ref=cm_pdp_rev_itm_title_1. It's like if Jack Kerouac, Mark Twain and/or Janet Evanovich went to war.

I also wrote a book about going on Hajj (also included as a chapter in "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket," but this book is cheaper -- but it's worth buying them both!) My book on the Hajj is so outstanding that I bet even Christian fundamentalists will love it! Please buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Mecca-Hajj-Lessons-Islamic-School/dp/0978615700/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238806637&sr=1-2

****

"Imagine a world where EVERY child is wanted, nurtured, protected and loved: World peace in one generation!"
You can now buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for parents and teachers. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-uqSuzOjM4vU/TafAFKcYz0I/AAAAAAAAFJc/Duv2LYJyUTs/s1600/IMG_0045.JPGhttp://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dlHRO-CPqf0/Tae6tLspmQI/AAAAAAAAFI0/iUKwYDK1f3A/s1600/IMG_0041.JPG

"Life is a competition. The winners are the ones who do the most good deeds." You can also buy T-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, truckers' caps, baby gear and/or teddy bears with this logo printed on them. They make great gifts, especially for those of us who are still idealists in these troubled times. To purchase, just click here: http://www.cafepress.com/StillTWaters

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
































































Well-trained but inane: When our Iraq vets melt back into society


Right now I am down here in San Jose, California -- yet another hot American tourist Mecca. But seriously, folks, there really are lots of interesting things to see in San Jose -- including The Cinebar, an authentic hole-in-the-wall neighborhood drinking establishment located at 69 East San Fernando Street.

First opened in 1929 and named in honor of the now-defunct New Almaden cinnabar mine http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/santaclara/alm.htm, the place started out as your typical working-class urban dive bar -- comparable to something out of a Hammett novel or Bogart flick. Then back in the early 1960s it became a haven for radical progressives -- professors from the local university, grape-strike organizers, new wave artists, prototype hippies, former Beatniks, victims of Joe McCarthy purges, and latent Joan Baez wannabes. Odd ducks for 1963.

In other words, The Cinebar is a venerable landmark (with cheap well drinks).

So I stopped by to see if the Cinebar was still there -- and it was. Although these days it is a bit redecorated with movie-themed wall murals, big-screen TVs playing early Sean Penn movies and a pool table -- but it's still there.

And while I was checking the place out, I got to talking with a Vietnam vet at the bar who had learned all kinds of technical skills while in the Navy back then. And my conversation with him also got me to thinking about America's veterans today.

When I was over in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, the main thing that I learned was, "Love the troops, hate the mission". All the soldiers I met there were brave, well-trained and outstanding people, a cut above. They all worked as a team and they did their work well. Impressive men and women. Best employees in the world. I'd hire any Iraq veteran in a minute if I were a boss.

Sure, the U.S. military killed people. They still do. Lots of people. Millions of people would be alive today if the American military hadn't done their jobs so well. "Hate the mission." But still. Whatever the evil reasons or sick motivations are that drive American war-profiteers, they have also (probably accidentally) managed to create one of the best work forces in the world -- and they still keep grinding these well-trained and highly-skilled employees out at great rate.

And then what happens? All these well-trained and hard-working men and women come back home to America and melt back into society here -- like butter melting into mashed potatoes. And then, like butter on mashed potatoes, their amazing job skills just get eaten up, digested and then flushed down the toilet.

I'm not saying that we should put trained killing machines into more positions of authority here in America. But I am saying that U.S. veterans have a lot to offer, that there are millions of them back home here now, and that America's so-called "jobless recovery" should have started with benefiting them -- not corporatists and banksters. And I'm also saying that our major priority right now, now that our economy is pretty much screwed, should be to take advantage of all these highly-trained workers and, duh, PUT THEM TO WORK.

PS: Speaking of missions, I also toured Mission Santa Clara yesterday. It's completely impressive, what Fr. Junipero Serra accomplished back in 1776. And if he can walk all over California while building lasting, meaningful and beautiful stuff way back then, then so can we now. Screw gasoline-combusted engines. Everyone remembers Fr. Serra. No one remembers that you just bought a new Ford.

PPS: My son Joe is currently producing a new film entitled "Seeking Solace," directed by Holly Chadwick http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/whidbey/wnt/community/122531219.html. "Seeking Solace" tells the story of a returning Iraq veteran who lives on Whidbey Island out on Puget Sound and who is suffering from PTSD. She then meets a Vietnam veteran with the same experiences and problems as her. And then they help each other work things out.

"Since service men and women are fighting on our behalf, the mental health of our soldiers should be everyone’s responsibility,” Chadwick said. “As a civilian, doing this movie is how I support our troops.” And I supported the movie by loaning Joe my flak jacket for some of the flash-back scenes. And folks in Washington DC can also support our troops by giving them jobs -- instead of just orchestrating massive giveaways to banksters, oligarchs and bag-men.

PPPS: The dictionary definition of the word "inane" is "lacking significance". Isn't it time that we stopped making our returning troops "inane" and started making them more significant than the ungrateful minions on Wall Street who just take our money and run?