Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Socialism

Barack Obama is a socialist. This health care plan is socialist. The Democrats want to force their socialist plans down our throats. OK, America, get ready for socialism. I've been hearing that a lot, these days. We're going to hear it a lot more. Even so, repetition, even at great volume, does not make a lie the truth. Barack Obama is no socialist. I should know.

I am a socialist.

I hope you didn't just stop reading.

What? You're looking at me like that's a bad thing. Well, you're partly right. The word has been used to cover a lot of different views, some of them not so good. The Nazis claimed to be a National Socialist Party. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro: the list goes on. Lots of people have claimed to be socialists. This doesn't make it true, though.

What Hitler, Lenin, and Mao stood for was not socialism, but forms of state-run capitalism with an extreme nationalist component. Not a socialism I endorse. Not, in my opinion, socialism at all.

No, the word socialist covers a rather wide spectrum of ideas. You wouldn't get that idea from the media, though. You would think that all socialists agree; or that we are a bunch of secret societies, plotting to take over America through our co-conspirators, the Democrats.

We're not.

In fact, many of us don't like the Democratic Party very much at all. Our views aren't secret either. Go ahead, have a look: feel the love for the Obama administration. Wherever Barack Obama may stand politically, he's no socialist. Just ask a socialist.

My own views fall somewhere between the DSA, who seem to think electing Democrats worthwhile, and the SPUSA, who seem a bit attached to old-fashioned Marxist revolution. For myself, I don't think a classless society possible or desirable. I don't believe in abolition of personal property. I don't believe the state should run everything. I'm certainly not an atheist. I often find myself in agreement with Bernie Sanders. He's about the only member of Congress who even comes close to representing me.

On the other hand, when I see individuals with a net worth exceeding the GDP of medium-size countries, it seems that perhaps there might be some injustices that need to be addressed. Doubtless, there will always be rich and poor; yet it seems that the disparity could, and should, be less. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is what I believe.

I find right-wing references to Big Brother amusing. I'm sure you know why. George Orwell was a socialist: a real one. Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle back when E. Coli was considered a spice? A socialist: be sure to thank him whenever you see that USDA stamp. Most people don't know what happened to Helen Keller after the events of The Miracle Worker. Did you ever wonder? She went on to be quite active for women's rights and, you guessed it, socialism. Funny how this never came up in history class. I suppose it might give impressionable young people strange ideas.

Here's one of my favorites. Ready? Albert Einstein: socialist. Read his essay, Why Socialism, from the May 1949 Monthly Review here. I think there is a lot to consider. You needn't agree with it. I'm not sure I agree with his every point, here or elsewhere. Still, I find it interesting. The man whose name has become almost synonymous with genius was a socialist. Yet very few people know this. I wonder why?

Don't you?

Very Truly Yours,



Friday, March 26, 2010

Thieves And Whores

US House Approves Historic Overhaul of Health Care System


Instead of eliminating the root of the problem - the profit-driven, private health insurance industry - this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench these firms. The bill would require millions of Americans to buy private insurers' defective products, and turn over to them vast amounts of public money.


What this bill does is not only permit the commercial insurance industry to remain in place, but it actually expands and cements their position as the linchpin of health care reform...Not only does it keep them in place, it pours about $500 billion of public money into these companies over 10 years...and it mandates that people buy these companies' products for whatever they charge.

former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal Of Medicine


Health care stocks are up. What more do you need to know about this bill? For all their hand-wringing, the insurance companies are still in charge and they are about to get millions of new "customers" to purchase their products. Along with billions of dollars from the government.

Our President and Congress have set back the course of real health care reform immeasurably. They have given away the store to the very industry that was to be reformed. Health care stocks are up. What more do you need to know?

Excuse me for not celebrating.

Democrats, when you get through congratulating yourselves, may you be damned to hell. Yes, even you Mr. Kucinich. You should have known, and probably did know, better. There is a clear difference between health insurance and health care. People want health care. People need health care. Nobody except an insurance company needs health insurance.

The only difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that the Democrat says he will still respect you in the morning.

Very Truly Yours,



Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Pratie Song

The Pratie Song
An Irish-American Ballad

O, My name is Willie Brennan and my story I will tell
I was born in County Kerry and in Ireland I did dwell
But I had to leave my country in the year of '48
And go sailing for America to fill my bloody plate.

O, I'm sailing away for Americay
And I'll have a drink to try and lift my mood
For I'll miss my native peat
But I've nothing left to eat
And I'm going to sail away to find some food.

It was in the year of '48 I took my knife and fork
And boarded on a coffin ship headed for New York
For my people were all starving in every vale and field
And I had to sail two thousand miles to get a feckin' meal.

O, I'm sailing away for Americay
And you know I've searched the green land o'er and o'er
But I couldn't fill my platie
With a single boiled potatie
'Cos in Ireland there's no praties anymore.

A million empty bellies we laid beneath the sod
And we raised our empty glasses and commended them to God
And a million empty bellies from the towns of County Cork
Went sailing for the delis in the city of New York.

O, we're sailing away for Americay
Yes, we're going to find the praties once again.
For there was beef and corn and grain
But to Charles Trevelyan's shame
Not a crust or crumb for honest Irishmen.

So listen all my children and I'll tell you once again
Why the cities of America are filled with Irishmen
From the Cardinal's high cathedral
To the worker in the street
We all came to America
To get something to eat!

O, we're sailing away for Americay
And you know we'll miss old Ireland now and then
But we'll sit and eat our praties
In the dear United Staties
'Til the praties come to Ireland once again.


Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig
agus go mbeannaí Dia duit

Cricket & Porcupine

Monday, March 15, 2010

Go Figure


I hear Bill Gates lost $18 billion in the recent crisis. Warren Buffett is down $25 billion. Over 300 of the world's billionaires slipped off the list entirely and are now merely multi-millionaires.

I'm all choked up about it.

Oh, the poor, poor billionaires. Shall we take up a collection? Bill Gates is down to his last $40 billion. Boo hoo. Maybe a little tax cut will cheer him up.

To hell with them all.

First, all their so-called losses are only on paper. That hill of paper once "worth" $60 billion is now "worth" only 40. Too bad. That's supposed to happen sometimes in the market that these folks say they love so much.

Second, these numbers get tossed around so much, a billion here, a trillion there, we forget they have real meaning. Here's a little perspective:

Let's say, on the day you were born, you inherited $1 billion. That's $1,000,000,000. Looks pretty good to see all those zeros, huh? To continue, let's further assume that you will never acquire another penny in your life. Not too likely, I know. After that first billion, I hear the rest is gravy. $1 billion at one percent interest for one year will net you around $10 million easy. But let's keep things simple.

We'll let you live to be 100, a generous estimate, but people do actually live to be 100. Besides, this will keep those numbers nice and round. In 100 years, we'll allow for 25 leap years. So you will live exactly 36,525 days. Not bad.

OK, before we do some real figuring, you could say this: if you spent $1 million every year of your life, you'd have $900 million left to bequeath to your descendants, if any. Pretty good.

But let's say you really want to spend it all, every penny. How would that break down? Well, if you wanted to spend $1 billion in exactly 36,525 days, you would need to spend $27,378.51 each day of your life. Every. Single. Day. That's a lot of polo ponies.

Now imagine 20 times that. Now 40.

Let's leave aside, for the moment, that most of the super-rich get that way and stay that way through what amounts to legalized theft. A paltry million can buy a lot of good government these days. Let's leave aside the corporate and personal shell-games open to these folks: those Swiss bank accounts and the like. Let's forget all those bailouts that helped protect their "investments." Let's even forget that a quarter of the world's population, 1.4 billion people (there's that number again), live below the international poverty line of $1.25/day.

Actually, let's remember that last point.

Remind me again why these folks shouldn't pay some serious taxes. What if we taxed these people right down to their last couple billion. What would happen? Why, poor, poor Bill Gates would have to live like Paul McCartney. How tragic. Boo hoo.

So the next time you see that pesky $1 billion, remember: $27,000 every day for 100 years. That's how much $1 billion is.

Go figure.

Very Truly Yours,



Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love In Spring

She usually stayed with her grandmother across the street from me. I never asked why. Children don't question these things. Sometimes her mother would come and take her away. Then, one day, she would be back. That's all.

Her name was Michelle, but I called her Mickey. She was springtime sunlight and the scent of apple blossoms. Smiles and laughter and sweet cut grass. Lemonade and clear blue skies. I loved her and she loved me. She was my best friend in the world back then.

We didn't dream we would grow up and get married. We didn't dream we would grow up at all. We were happy to play under the apple blossoms. We would spin ourselves dizzy and fall in the grass. We'd run past the rosebush alive with bees, around the old house and under the lilacs, to fall down in the yard once more.

Holding hands and watching the clouds, we were not at all in love. We were love. I loved her and she loved me. Ours was a love uncomplicated by expectation. We were happy just to be together. That's all.

We walked home from school hand in hand. It was our custom. It was uncomplicated by expectation. It was just what it seemed. Of course, we knew about boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives, but we didn't dream of that for ourselves. We just loved each other. We were happy to be together. She was my best friend in the world.

One day we found ourselves surrounded by a curious group of big kids. Snickering, they began to question us. We answered them, all blue eyes and innocence.

Ooooh, is she your girlfriend?


Is he your boyfriend?


Do you love each other?


Well then, why don't you kiss?

We hadn't given that any thought before. We looked at each other. We thought that would be all right.


Mickey stepped up onto the curb to be a little taller. And we kissed under the apple blossoms. Not too quick, not too long: just a kiss between friends and love in spring. We were not embarrassed. We were not in love. We were love. It was the most natural thing in the world.

We looked at the big kids to see if they were satisfied. They stood there confused, as if they had not found what they were looking for; as if they did not understand what had happened. They broke up and walked off in twos and threes. We looked at each other, all blue eyes and innocence, wondering if all big kids were such fools. I took her hand and we walked home.

We didn't talk about it. Why would we? It was the most natural thing in the world: a kiss under the apple blossoms and love in spring.

Respectfully Yours,


Tuesday, March 9, 2010


There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell prey to robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and then went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road; but he saw him and continued on. Likewise there was a Levite who came the same way; he saw him and went on. But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on him and was moved to pity at the sight. He approached him and dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him. The next day he took out two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper with the request: "Look after him, and if there is any further expense, I will repay you on my way back."

"Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?" The answer came, "The one who treated him with compassion." Jesus said to him, "Then go and do the same."

Luke 10: 30-37


The story is familiar enough. You needn't be especially devout to recognize it. The expression has passed into common usage: a good Samaritan: someone who helps others in need. To us, all Samaritans are good. We like to identify with the Samaritan or, at least, think of him as one of "us."

If we do, we have missed an important point of the parable.

To Jesus's audience, all Samaritans were, by definition, bad. Samaritans were not us, but them. Think for a minute. Whom do you despise? A race, a class, an individual? Your answer matters only in that it must be someone you can't stand. Make your choice.

That person is the Samaritan.

Choose two people you truly admire. People who represent, for you, the best among us.

They are the priest and the Levite.

Choose someone you love. Let that person be the man who fell in among the robbers.

Now read the parable again.

Respectfully Yours,