Sunday, January 01, 2006

I received my gas bill the other day. For just 19 days, it was just over $300. Thanks to a variety of conditions, our gas company has raised its winter rates considerably over last year.

Now my wife and I are not spendthrifts. There is insulation in the attics, plastic on key windows, heavy curtains over nearly every window and we keep the thermostat set at 62 degrees when we are here during the day at 58 degrees at night and when we are at work.

We tend to stay in our den, naturally the warmest room in the house and heat it with a small electric space heater when we need it.

When we are in the den we turn down the thermostat even more. We are doing what we cannot to waste fuel and money.

Energy, not terrorism, is the most important issue facing this nation and it’s the one that no one really wants to address. The future economic development of this nation depends on affordable, renewable, clean forms of energy.

Coming up with the different technologies is right in line with the great American traditions of invention and investment. This is the New Frontier.

Republicans don’t want to touch it and neither do Democrats. It’s too hot for any conservative or liberal because it goes to the root problem in this country: the overwhelming influence of large corporations.

When it comes to the two major political parties, there are fewer and fewer differences these days. Oh yes, we still have the window dressing of the “cultural wars.”

If there was ever a greater waste of concern then I haven’t heard about it. The right wing propagandists such as Limbaugh and O’Reilly only want to use such issues as gay marriage and whether or not to say “Merry Christmas” because they are easy topics. They don’t dare touch the tough ones.

And while some liberal pundits do address issues other than the typical talking points, too many of them waste too much time on engaging the conservatives. The conflict makes for great show business.

And please don’t start me on the “war on terror.” Capturing and punishing those responsible for 9/11 should be the priority. I don’t ever think that was the priority.

Both Democrats and Republicans should hang their head in shame.

All of the billions that have been poured into the Department of Homeland Security have had minimal results. The response to Hurricane Katrina showed that. Through our negligence we have show the world we are not much better than a third world nation in addressing a national emergency.

And since these many of these national commentators are employed by large corporations or rely on advertising from them, they’re not apt to use as much time as they do yakking about abortion, for instance, than uncovering truly significant problems.

Our electric company is raising its rates for businesses as much as 50 percent. Small family-owned businesses will be directly affected. How much of this increase they can absorb is of paramount concern. Will it result in higher prices or lay-offs?

These are the tough issues that few in elected office want to touch.

I talk to politicians on the local level every week in western Massachusetts. I also cover statewide issues. And I’ve met very few people with real ideals, real ideas and real courage.

But to quote the late Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Our willingness to sop up all of the mental slop offered us by the mainstream press as “news” and as “issues,” has prevented us from really looking at what’s important.

It’s time to wake up.


SRBissette said...

True enough, Mike. What many don't seem to grasp on even the most fundamental level is how completely the corporate culture has coopted politics and every primary facet of our existences -- and thus, control the dialogue.

Much as I rail against the current Administration, it wouldn't have been much different under Kerry (though the assumption is made when one addresses the abuses of the Bush Administration, one has therefore 'taken the other side,' as if there were a viable 'other side' to vote for). The only Presidential candidates who dared to tackle the larger, more critical issues -- Kucinich, Nader -- were instantly marginalized and isolated, hence rendered silent.

With the pharmaceutical corporations already flying your Gov around, the courtship for the next election is clearly in the money pockets -- and nothing will fundamentally change. I fear it will take another true collapse of the societal structure (on a scale much, much larger and more horrendous than Katrina) to prompt the kind of change necessary, if that's even possible at this juncture in our history.

Mike Dobbs said...

What so many people fail to grasp these days is that we can not have the ideal American society without jobs. And business people will abandon a city, a state, a region or this country if moving means a decrease in expenses and an increase in profits.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a capitalist. An owner of a business has the right to do business where he or she pleases. I'm not advocating legislation that would make people do this or that or force a redistribution of wealth.

However there are always reactions to actions and one can't continually weaken the job market without damaging the consumer base for products and services. I believe that is what is happening. Short-term profit goals are being met at the expense of long term standard of living.

The problem is that too few elected officials from either party want to start tackling this subject. They need to begin at the energy side.

Cheap energy is what built this country. For instance, New England grew because of water power.

In order for this country to remain competitive it must again be a leader in developing technologies that will entice manufacturing to stay here and to grow.

Cheap energy is one of the biggest factors in stablizing this nation's economy and therefore its society.

We need to see both state and federal initiatives which would address energy conservation and development of existing alternative systems as well as new ones. Tax incentives, grants, RFPs, competitions...I don't care how we get to it.

SRBissette said...

True enough, but the core issue lies in the illusion we've been sold of 'free markets' and 'freedom.'

Both President Bushes have been quoted saying, "The American style of life is not for sale" -- though both (and all other Presidents around them) have blithely sold us all down the river to the corporate interests that dominate this country (and the world). The immense power concentrated into the hands of a precious few (the very thing President Roosevelt explicitly cautioned us against as a country) is stacked against every citizen, and no individual has the rights of the corporations -- though they have our rights, as if they were citizens (acquired in a series of curious legal maneuvers since the War Between the States, when the railroad interests revised and redefined much of our current corporate laws in ways strikingly contrary to the Constitution and the philosophies our country's founders). Since 1971, the CEOs have worked steadily to seize the reins of government and our lives, and the Reagan Administration dramatically accelerated that process in ways most US citizens (including all those who lionized Reagan when he died) are not only ignorant of, but suffer daily from.

In the present United States, citizens and workers are outlawed from organizing boycotts, etc. to balance this enormous concentration of power, while the CEOs have no restraints on their own abilities to meet, organize and mobilize their resources against us with the full backing of a compliant and paid-off US government. We are no longer in a democracy -- and the sooner we wake up to that fact and respond accordingly, the sooner we might -- might -- be able to regain some footing.

If, of course, enough US citizens can afford to make it through another winter. That's tough this winter, but it will even more difficult next, when the full burden of revised policies and laws regarding health care and access to pharmaceuticals hits the elderly and those in need (like yourself) with the full weight of consequences.

We have to wrest our government out of the control of standing energy corporate power, pharmaceutical corporations, etc.

They are sucking us all dry.

Marky Mark said...

YAY, MIKE! THANK YOU for the BOLD intros!

As for all this other malarkey... Mike, your own grandparents had to eat beans all winter and drag dead horses out in the woods to lure possums. And you, Steve - your dad had to stack butter on the counter, he couldn't even afford a proper cooler!

How can you be so pessimistic and doomy gloomy? The "poor" in this country watch cable TV and get fat from too much fast food. Us middle-class schlubs blow endless dollars on comics and DVDs (you can't deny THAT!), and still manage to put away enough for cat food to eat in our old age.

Of course it is infuriating that the rich get richer. When I think of that no-talent bum Peter Jackson making fortunes off of his crappy movies I want to puke. But so what? There will always be rich and poor. You two oughta lighten up and smell the roses.


Mike Dobbs said...

Granted I don't eat beans all winter like my dad had to do...NO HE SURE AS HELL DIDN'T EAT NO POSSUM...let me set the record straight or I'll get slapped in the afterlife... and we are doing better than many people, but I do have real concerns about the future.

And expressing those concerns does not mean I'm not patroitic, despite what people such as Limbaugh might say.

Also despite our relative affluence...I am worried how I can stay out of hock of keep up with energy costs... the middle class is a shrinking demographic in this country.

I'm not blaming Bush for all the sins of the nation. I was careful to state in my original post that what I think is a huge problem is the product of both parties, and I'd add here, too many presidents.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for and this country is where I would always chose to live. But when average people have to figure out how to heat their damn house and may not have the option of just working more to do that, then we do have a big problem that few people want to address.

SRBissette said...

My response to Mike's posting was based more on what I see around me, with many of my neighbors, and almost all the folks I worked with one time or another. I'm doing OK, thanks, Marge and I have worked hard to prep for our future, and yes, I budget disposable income for books & DVDs -- less, BTW, than most average schlubs spend for cigarettes and beer (I neither drink nor smoke) in a given year -- but that doesn't blind me to what's going on around me in my home town, my home state, and my home country for a second. "Yay USA!" doesn't cut it when our leaders are so haplessly selling off my kids' futures.

The fact is, almost every elderly person I know -- family & neighbors -- are getting by but completely terrified by the escalating cost of both their heat and their pharmaceuticals. They can see the dark at the end of the tunnel when they WON'T be able to get by. Two neighbors I know have moved in together for the winter to split costs (one closed down her house for the winter, and they've even calculated sharing property tax costs in 2006); Yankee ingenuity at work.

Still, squeezed from those two essential ends -- that's one hell of a rock and hard place to be placed between at the same time, and BOTH parties have Bush etc. (and the Dems) in their pockets. Mike's editorial was well-timed, appropo, and highly relevent.

Add to this the fiscal irresponsibility of the Republicans in power -- miring us in the most expensive, least essential (if at all) war in US history, while mercilessly cutting back on every social support system in reach to finance their war AND tax cuts to the rich -- and the bogus rosey economic numbers ("median wage" figures oft quoted since 2004 are meaningless, given the unprecedented-since-1929 gap between top wages and the true 'average' wage US citizens earn) are based in part on these fucking federal tax cuts that actually impact locally on the spiraling property taxes picking up the difference. As it is, the richest corporate barons enjoy gigs (and retirement packages) that not only pump millions into their accounts annually, they also cover their taxes, purchase of Christmas gifts for others, travel, etc. -- it's obscene. We're in a new Gilded Age, and that culminated in the stock market crash of '29: the current economic model of the US system is simply NOT mathematically sustainable.

We're on a merry ride to hell with a pack of rich bastards, complicit chickenhawk idiots and malicious maladroits driving.

The USA's about in the toilet, Mark. I love my country and have stayed here while friends move to other countries to live (and some weigh their options in that regard), but I have suggested me kids consider other places in the world to live, 'cuz it's gonna get BAD here. Economists in 2003 started talking seriously about Dickensian times ahead in the US, and we're seeing the signs in New England for sure.

As a nation, we've never had such miserable world & foreign relations, and Bush and his cronies have placed our national economic future in jeopardy. If the Chinese call in the loans, we're fucked like we haven't seen since 1929. The dust bowl is in waking memory of some of my relatives, and given the news of the past year -- hurricanes, unprecedented rashes of ravaging wildfires (burning out entire towns in Texas and Oklahoma right now), floods -- we could be there within the decade again. Day to day, I'm a happy guy, but these factors are part and parcel of our reality, and I don't see our elected leaders doing anything but ignoring the science, stuffing their own pockets (the Jack Abramoff scandel and Enron trials are really going to expose the extent of that!), and ignoring the hard realities, while claiming "our" security is close to their hearts and we "need" them.

The draining of all health care save what individuals can afford while insurance and pharmaceutical firms annually inflate costs for receding services is already resulting in the re-emergence of diseases and parasites once considered exterminated (note the resurfacing of bedbugs in the Northeast, including NYC, this past year; they were considered an extinct human parasite in the US as of the 1960s).

This laissee faire approach will inevitably result in public outbreaks of diseases as homeless populations without any means of health care become the catalysts for outbreaks, which the employed-but-uninsured (even the insured, via the kind of health care employers like my old video store supply, cannot afford preventive care any longer) will suffer, thus spreading such outbreaks into epidemics. These will effect us ALL -- including the rich, in time -- and its all thanks to the dedicated philosophical political determination to unravel the social support structures of the New Deal, which was a logical and responsible reaction to the most dire period in the USA's 20th Century.

To what end? To whose service? We can see clearly the result: the consolidation, in proportionally extreme scales unseen for almost a century, of the majority of US wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer, inevitably draining a once-vital middle class and impoverishing even families (and couples and individuals sans children) who are working two or more jobs at what we laughingly call "minimum wage" in this country.

C'mon, Mark, the minimum wage is a JOKE, especially given the inflation of CEO 'wages' during the same period.

Mike, I've been following a news story about a proposal in Massachusetts government to REQUIRE by law individuals have health insurance -- ENFORCABLE law -- which I know my two young adult children couldn't afford on their wages (one of home is working two jobs, and has for at least two years, and still can't get ahead). So now, we see the states considering legal measures that will further impoverish (including taking the insurance payments OUT OF PAYCHECKS if individuals don't comply) and create new black markets of employment and services.

I don't like it being this way, but I'd be a fool to ignore the reality. I've always kept an antennae out; not out of paranoia, but as a means of trying to keep my own head above water, in part by seeing trouble before it arrives on a local level.

Now, I'm gonna go watch some of my DVDs. I've been teaching all day, and I'm outta here. I earned 'em, and I'm going to enjoy 'em while I can.

Marky Mark said...

World's tiniest violin.

SRBissette said...

Nyuck nyuck.