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Six Weeks of Communists, Libertarians, Capitalists and Socialists

I’ll avoid the conclusions; they are for you to reach. I’ll just present the observations. Over a period of six weeks, I spent my time in roughly equal parts in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Cuba proudly proclaims itself a communist state. For fifty years, it has delighted in being the booger on the lapel of Uncle Sam’s fine and festive coat. Billboards all across the island remind Cubans of their communist and socialist heritage and strength.

The Dominican Republic appears to be as libertarian as any state in our hemisphere. Government regulation is minimal. The regulation that does exist doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced unless it serves to protect the individual rights of those in power. The common man in the D.R. has individual freedom whether he likes it or not.

Puerto Rico is a “possession” of the United States and shares our capitalistic ethos, system of government and economic structure (whether the people want it or not). It is exactly as it is in any other part of the United States except that the climate and geography are completely different, the history and heritage bear little similarity the rest of the U.S., its culture, music, dance, food, etc. are Latin, it is more racially homogenous and the people speak a different language. Other than that, it’s Ames, Iowa all over again.

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Sucker Words – Wealth Redistribution

In the grand tradition of famed propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, talking heads in pulpits across the nation corral the great American sheep with their invisible staffs of fear. Preachers like Limbaugh and his clones cart their millions to the banks with glee on their faces and profits in their hearts. They delight every time they see Americans react to their rhetoric like a school of lemming turning in unison to every little source of fear, real or imagined.

American propagandists constantly take otherwise innocent, benign words and phrases and paint them with dark, insidious overtones and watch as society’s shallow thinkers, such as members of the Tea Party, turn them into weapons and unwittingly do the bidding of the propagandists themselves. Is it any wonder Limbaugh, Hannity, Palin and others of their ilk are often seen with the smirk of a prankster? Consider these evil terms, “liberal”, “socialist”, “gay”, “atheist”, and “illegal immigrant”. The list is lengthy, but you get the point. All are words or terms that have been vilified by the talking heads. Reactionaries reflexively recoil in horror when they hear them.

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Quit Your Bitchin

President Obama ran for office promising hope and change. He arrived amidst falling debris of a collapsing economy, a world on the verge of disaster, and an America bitterly divided.  He walked into office as a massive government bailout of Wall Street orchestrated by his predecessors was underway.  On countless occasions, he said it would take time, there would be suffering, a need for patience and that the ride to recovery was going to be a bumpy one at best.

Surely, I’m not the only one that heard him say these things. In fact, if he hadn’t made these claims, they would have been self evident. It didn’t take terribly deep thinking to see the size of the hole we were in. It takes a hellava lot more time to rebuild a house of cards than it does to knock it down.  But a lot of Americans either weren’t listening or have frighteningly short memories. A small percentage, people like Glenn Beck, appear to be too thick skulled to comprehend the realities, but most Americans should have some understanding or the reality in which we find ourselves.

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Let Them Eat Cake

Republicans seem to be taking a page from the playbook of Marie Antoinette who when told the starving peasants had no bread to eat was reputed to have said, “Let them eat cake.”  Although I’m taking Marie’s statement and intention somewhat out of context, it seems to characterize the standard Republican Party line quite well.

Unemployment is heading for double-digits while the world’s economy still looks for the bottom of the pit in which it is sinking.  The Obama Administration has thrown itself in front of this runaway freight train and in a frantic effort to bring it to a stop is taking extreme measures.  Members of the Administration are nearly unanimous in their belief that under normal circumstances such extreme measures would not only be unnecessary, they would be ill conceived policies.

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Remember the Tax Plan?

The lynch mob still roams the streets looking for AIG executives.  AIG employees have been told to avoid wearing any apparel with the company logo on it, to travel in pairs at night, to avoid any conversations in public about AIG and of course not to talk with the press. Heaven forbid the public, a.k.a. the company’s owners, should know anything about the conduct of its employees.  If an employee suspects someone is following him or her, “911” is to be dialed immediately.  They’re even prohibited from “propping doors” lest the cookie monster or some other monster gains access.

I’m not sure what this means for one of the world’s most popular soccer teams, Manchester United.  As you can see in the picture of the team’s heart-throb star Cristiano Ronaldo, the AIG logo is plastered on pretty much everything the team has including the playing jersey.  They’re going to have a tough time complying with the company edict issued last week.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 15 or the top 20 bonus recipients have agreed to give the entire amount back to the company.  This amounts to about $30 million.  It’s interesting that these guys averaged about $2 million dollars each and this was for “performance” that brought the company to its knees and nearly into its grave.  Just think about how big the bonuses would have been if the company would have just broken even.

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An Innovative Approach to Economic Recovery

In 2003 I wrote a newspaper column on signs we find in neighborhoods all across this country. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, although lately I find myself wondering if we should take those signs literally. “Slow Children Playing”. The crux of the piece wondered if slow children grow into slow adults. Uh … yes.

I am concluding that we are not the sharpest knives in the global drawer. Are we really a country of Stupid People? Is it actually necessary to legislate and regulate everything we eat or watch on TV? Can we not figure out that we should walk around the hole in the sidewalk and not into it unless there are signs, caution tape, and orange cones? Are we such illiterate idiots that the escalators, elevators and moving sidewalks we use must talk to us? Is it the government’s responsibility to hold our hand every minute of every day so we don’t hurt ourselves or others? Apparently it is.

If you haven’t read any warning labels lately, find some time and do so. They are entertaining.

  • Do not drive with sunshield in place (car sunshield)
  • Caution: Risk of fire (fireplace log)
  • Product will be hot after heating (frozen dinner)
  • Do not iron clothes on body (iron)
  • Warning: May cause drowsiness (sleep aid)
  • Warning: Contains nuts (jar of peanut butter)
  • Removing wheel can influence the performance of the bicycle (bicycle)
  • Not for use as a flotation device (Life Savers candy)
  • Caution: Contents are HOT! (A cup of coffee. We all know from where that came.)
  • Not to be used for breast augmentation (a can of Fix-a-Flat)

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Poof! You’re a Poor Person

It seems like just yesterday.  Baby-boomers were marching in lockstep toward their twilight years with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.  A lifetime of working, saving, and investing in the economic miracle land called the United States had them positioned to finally enjoy a little leisure time with a modicum of comfort.  Oh, what a difference a matter of about sixteen months can make.

Who doesn’t love a magic show?  Don’t you just love it when a master magician through slight-of-hand, high tech or maybe even real magic makes something disappear right before your very eyes?  Cool!  Before they had that little problem with becoming finger-food for one of their tigers, Siegfried and Roy amazed everyone in Las Vegas by making a full sized elephant vanish while a thousand people were staring at it.  It was incredible.  I’ve seen their show many times and have yet to figure out how they do it.  And I know the elephant’s real.  I watched more than once while the critter has spattered its audience with elephant dung just before he disappears.  And elephant dung is something that’s tough to fake.  (Maybe that’s a clue as to how the elephant disappears.)

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