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McCamy Taylor

McCamy Taylor's Journal
McCamy Taylor's Journal
February 26, 2012

Grown Ups Don't Shoot Laptops

For over a week I have resisted watching Tommy Jordan’s You Tube rant about his daughter. From the descriptions I read, I figured this guy got about 15 minutes more fame than he deserved. Today, however, an editorial writer in the local paper had this to say….

I understand exactly how Tommy Jordan feels, how desperate, how angry, how helpless. As a parent, I've questioned my role, my methods of discipline, my children's disobedience and defiance -- my very ability to guide them. I've been known to pinch, to yank, to holler, to tear through drawers and closets, and read diary entries.

Oh my! “Read diary entries”? Anyone who reads someone else’s diary entry without permission deserves every ounce of hurt they get. Because people---especially young women---use their diaries as therapy, to express the anger that society does not give them leave to express in real life. Oh, and by the way, ever wonder why girls get eating disorders and cut themselves and attempt suicide? It is because they are not allowed to express their negative emotions in this fucked up “Boys can’t cry and girls can’t get mad” society we live in. And when you deny anyone the right to express their emotions, you are telling that (usually young) person, “You are not good enough the way you are.” Which leads to self hatred, self abuse and years of psychotherapy as an adult.

Speaking of money, I hope that the Ms. Jordan sends her dad a bill for her shrink when she has to spend a couple of years figuring out why it was ok for her dad to curse her on YouTube, but it was not ok for her to curse her dad on Facebook. And before you say “That’s different, he’s he grownup” I want to add this:

When a parent acts one way and expects his child to act another, that parent is trying to be the child and trying to force his kid to be the adult.

Yeah, yeah. Bitch and moan about how much you have sacrificed for the kids, about how hard you work, about the six hours you wasted and the loss of $130. Tell us that you are deserving of unconditional love from your child, because of all the things you have done for her. Get it off your chest. But for Christ’s sake, do it in private or in the company of like-minded adults. Because here is a little secret. Your (still minor) child does not owe you a damn thing. When you decided to become a parent, you made a contract with that baby to love it, care for it, support it financially as well as emotionally. You did not sign on for a cruise on the “I love you daddy” Boat. We owe our kids unconditional love. If we do not get the kids we thought we deserved, we make do with the ones we have. And we love them for all the things they are---the pissed as hell as well as the sugar and spice, the tears and wails as well as the puppy dogs tails.

I decided I had to see for myself why a grown woman was proudly telling the world that she sneaks and reads her kid’s diary. So, I checked out Tommy Jordan’s rant. Here are the highlights:

First, bonus points for waving a cigarette around as he tells his daughter how she ought to act. Yes, in real life he probably cusses out his girl while smoking. But what kind of parent does it on YouTube? Answer: a parent who is proud of his faults. A parent who is telling the world (in its face) this is how I am, love it or leave me alone. Which raises the question, what kind of kid writes a Facebook entry about how mad she is at her family? Answer: a kid who is trying to tell the world this is how I am, love it or leave me alone. Hmm. A chip off the old block. You’d think the father would be proud that his daughter is following in his footsteps.

Double bonus points for doing exactly what the daughter is accused of doing---telling the public how angry he is at his family’s failure to communicate. When a girl child does it, she is unnatural. When the “grown up” dad does it, he is cool. A cult figure. Gotta admire a man who is not afraid to act like a whiny brat in public!

Triple bonus points for telling us that he grounded his daughter for three months---no computer, no Facebook, no cell phone---for telling the world how mad she was. As a writer, I hate---no, despise censorship in any form. As a mother and a doctor, alarms go off in my head whenever someone brags about how they placed their steel toed boot squarely on their child’s negative emotions, nipping those dangerous things right in the bud.

Quadruple bonus points for starting off his rant with the assurance that he must love his daughter and supply all her needs, because he spent six hours on her computer yesterday and 130 bucks. At this point, I can already see the problem. Dad here does not think he owes his daughter six hours or $130. He thinks he made a deposit in the Bank of “I love you daddy”, and he expects a return on his investment. So, when the daughter does not pay up, he figures he needs to Occupy YouTube, in order to let the public know that he has been ripped off---

Good lord, man! You’re supposed to be happy if your daughter is healthy, reasonably well balanced and not sniffing glue. Good parents do not keep a ledger. Good parents expect only one thing of their children---that they treat other people with the same degree of love and respect that their parents have shown to them.

Ok, on to the “tough love.” I won’t recap the whole thing, just the highlights.

“Are you out of your mind?”

“You won’t get off your lazy ass to look for a job.”

“I blew half my day upgrading your laptop.”

“I don’t know how to say how disappointed I am with you…”

This one deserves special comment. Obviously this dad is not a fool. He knows that his family has serious communication problems. That is why his daughter is telling her Facebook friends about her problems rather than sitting down with the family to work them out. And guess what. If there is a communication problem, it is not the kid’s fault. Because she is not the parent, no matter how much her parent may wish that his daughter could be the perfect mother-surrogate that he thinks he deserves. Yes, he does think he deserves it. The rant about how bad he had it as a kid and how he had to leave home and work and put himself through college is supposed to prove to the world that he deserves a chance to be a child finally. But, in order for him to be the kid, his child has to be the parent. What kind of unnatural daughter objects to being told to drop what she is doing and get Dad some coffee? June Cleaver had orgasms when Ward asked her to do the same. She felt fulfilled when she could bake cookies with a big smile plastered across her carefully made up face. I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that Tommy Jordan’s parents were not the Cleavers. And he still has not forgiven them for that sin.
OK, back to the video.

“You got it easy…” More self pity. We know you suffered, dude. You want to make someone pay, and your daughter is the easiest target. Man, you look like you are having some fun as you tell viewers to “Put a boot up their own kid’s ass”---right before you complain about her use of “curse words.”Note to everyone. If you cuss, your kids will cuss. Cussing is not a sin. It is natural language. If you want your child to develop the ability to express emotions with accurately---like saying “I feel that you have belittled me with that comment. I have value too” rather than snapping back with “Fuck you, ass hole”, you need to teach them those words.

The rest is history. “This right here is my 45.” And “These are exploding hollow point rounds. You have to pay me back for them…” And, most disturbing of all, (because I am a bit sexist, I admit it. Even when the dad insists upon playing the role of the child, I expect the mother to make an effort to be a parent) “Your mom said to put one in from her…”

Since no story is complete without the back story, here is my own back story. My dad was much too young to be a parent. He wanted my mother to be the perfect mother he never had. He did not want to share her with needy little kids. He came home drunk and waved a gun around and scared the kids(me) half to death and his wife, very sensibly, left him. Good for her. It was one of the best things she ever did for me (her child) and I am grateful as hell, even if he did continue to bitch and moan to his dying day about how much he loved and missed my mother. Another thing I am grateful for---when I was a kid crying in the backseat of the car and my father yelled back at me to shut up, my mother said “She has a right to cry. Leave her alone.” Now, that is good parenting.
February 21, 2012

Operation "Screw Up Google's Data Mining"

There is one reason Google (and other internet search engines) record our seach history. They use the information to create consumer profiles that can be sold for lots of hard cash to advertisers and others who want to target their online ads. Say you regularly visit a site with pop-ups. Why should P&G pay to have you listen to an ad for a tampon when you are a guy who will never use a tampon? Maybe that time could be better spent advertising Trojans.

Say you do a search for erectle dysfunction. That is the cue for Cialis and Viagra to start targetting you with direct to consumer ads. All they have to do is pay someone (like Google) to tell them which Americans are concerned about "erectile dysfunction."

Now, if you value your privacy, but you do not feel like logging on anonymously at the public library every time you need to do a web search, there is hope. I call it "Operation Fuck Up Google's Data Mining." It is very, very simple.

First, pick a book. A dictionary is best. It does not have to be an English dictionary. It could be some other type of book, as long as it is a book about something that you do not really give a damn about. So, for example, you could pick up one of your grandmother's gardening books. Pick a page at random and then find a random word. Search the random word. Do a few related searches. Bookmark one of the sites under your favorites. Every time you log on after that, be sure to open that "favorite" page. Say the word you chose was "hydrangeas." Soon, Google will become convinced that you are a gardener with a passion for hydrangeas. You will start getting targetted advertising from nurseries. You will laugh to know that Calloways is wating its money.

Do this often enough, and the "data" that Google "mines" will become so worthless, that no one will pay for it. Better yet, write software that will do random searches and create randon profiles for anyone. Suddenly, the mayor is deeply interested in suitcase bombs while the local crack dealer is a committed Tea Party member. Even the U.S. government will not be able to spy on you. Give said software away for free. Call it "Privacy Protection."

Ok everyone. You know what to do. Get out the phone book or the cookbook or the dictionay and get to work creating your fake profile. Drive the folks at Google insane trying to figure out what kind of person loves combustion engines and Hello Kitty and the Killing Fields of Cambodia and treatment for hoof and mouth disease.

February 12, 2012

Ever Wonder WHY The Banksters Mitt Romney Represents Want Your Mom To Die?

No, they do not have billions of dollars invested in Coffins R Us. At least, I don’t think they do. Not yet.

First, a pop quiz. When bundled mortgages turned to liquid shit in 2008, investors were desperate to find something to sell the suckers----uh hum, excuse me, their clients. What did they sell?

If you answered ”Their souls” you are wrong. They sold those years ago. In 2009, they decided to start selling investors death. As in the early death of your Mom and Dad.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.


Oh my! Betting on death! What a great idea? Death, unlike rising real estate value, is inevitable. What could possibly go wrong with a scheme like that? From the NYT link above:

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

What is your worst enemy if you are an investor who has sunk millions into death? Effective, affordable health care. What do the majority of over 65 year old Americans have in common? Medicare, currently the nation’s premiere (and only) single payer universal comprehensive health care plan. How do you, the bankster who has invested in death, deal with that pesky Medicare (without denying your own mother her dialysis?). You get the GOP House to abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers that rich Americans will use (along with some of their own money) to buy platinum plated health insurance, while poor, elderly Americans use the vouchers to buy cat food so they do not starve. And then, you approach the poor, no longer starving but still in dire need of health care seniors and tell them “Hey. Yeah, you. Tired of eating cat food? Want to dine on steak instead? Sell me your life insurance policy, and I will make your last few years on earth golden years.”

What a great idea! No wonder investors in other countries are hopping on the Death to Elderly Americans bandwagon!

A cursory glance at the returns achieved by funds across a variety of sectors in the UK reveals that investors are being hit no matter where they hide.
Those looking to branch out can of course opt to invest in overseas equities, but for investors who are fearful of placing yet more of their assets into stockmarkets, life settlement funds could provide the diversification they desire.
The latest results from EEA Fund Management’s Life Settlements Fund, designed to deliver an annual return of 8%, reveal it has met its goals, posting 8.7% in the twelve months to the end of January and 20.97% over two years.
The strategy is of course controversial. The fund achieves returns by buying life policies in the US from individuals with a maximum life expectancy of 8 years, before cashing them in when policy holders die

The key letters in the excerpt above are UK as where the investors live and US as in where the old folks will die. Which makes sound business sense. British banksters can lobby Congress to abolish Medicare without touching their own cherished National Health Service.

What could possibly go wrong with making bets that some old person you do not know or give a rat’s ass about will die prematurely? The British know.

Indeed, the historical background of the insurable interest laws goes back to what were known as the "death pools" of Victorian England. Then, bettors would speculate on when a particular person would die, and later started taking life insurance out on their lives without them knowing about it or giving their permission. When later the "accidental" death rates of such persons started to rise, the English Parliament basically forbid SOLI by requiring that the purchaser of a life insurance policy have a recognizable interest in the person being insured. By waiting the two years before buying the policy, the investors in life settlements skirt these rules but the underlying concerns are still there.



We all know where Wall Street is giving its money. To the Republican Party. And we all know what the Republican Party wants to do, because last April all the Republican House members (except four) tried to do it----abolish Medicare.

So, you tell me. Do you want decisions about your mother’s health to be made by a bunch of guys in London who really, truly need to make the payments on their Mercedes? If so, vote Romney and vote Republican.
February 12, 2012

Why Do the Catholic Bishops Hate Rick Santorum?

Someone has to ask this question, so I will. But first, a pop quiz:

What is the number one defining characteristic of Americans?

No, it isn’t their appetite for greasy, fast food. No, it is not their love of NASCAR. If you said “Being proud of being dumb,” you are close. The answer is: Americans do not want anyone telling them what to do. Especially not members of the clergy of some religion to which they do not belong.

So, what do the nations Catholic Bishops decide to do just as their man (the Catholic) pulls ahead of the Lutheran turned Southern Baptist turned Catholic (Newt), the Mormon (Mittens) and the Libertarian? They start acting like the Vatican is now in control of the White House. You know, what we were warned would happen when JFK was elected, but it didn’t, because he was a Democrat first and a Catholic second.

They won’t make that mistake again. Rick Santorum is a Catholic First and a Republican second. To quote the Catholic press, Rick is a "complete Catholic candidate."


With their man riding high in the Republican polls, the Catholic Bishops have made up their mind that they do not intend to wait for January, 2013. They plan to push through their religious agenda now, whether American voters like it or not. And they are going to rub our faces in it, too, just to prove that they can. And by the time they are done, every Protestant, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, Buddhist, Shamanist and Other American is going to know exactly what a Rick Santorum Presidency will be like----

It’s going to mean a knocked up daughter, a son on the line for child support for the rest of his adult life, a mom dead from a pregnancy her body could not handle and a lifetime of rubbers, because no insurance plan in the country will pay for a vasectomy.

Way to go, Catholic Bishops! Keep up the good work! Who needs freedom of religion when we can have a German bachelor living in Rome making all our important family decisions for us!

February 10, 2012

Catholic Church versus Health Insurance Industry….and States Rights

To hear some Republicans talk, Obama is about to force all the nation’s private insurers to offer coverage for contraceptive services, radically altering health care in this country. This is not true. As of 2004,

Nearly nine in 10 group insurance plans purchased by employers for their employees now cover a full range of prescription contraceptives.


Contraception is a no brainer for an insurance plan. Pregnancy---and especially the cost of a complicated pregnancy which could soar into the millions if a premature baby requires NICU care---is expensive. Birth control is cheap.

From an employer’s point of view, a woman using contraception is much less likely to take sick time, request maternity leave or decide to quit work and stay at home.

Here is something that some folks may find even more surprising:

Currently, the majority of private health plans cover abortion care as part of a broader health care package.


Why do a majority of private plans cover abortion? Do they hate life? No, they realize that an elective termination is cheaper than pregnancy, particularly an unplanned, potentially complicated pregnancy.

The Catholic Church wants the federal government to allow employers to “opt out” of contraception coverage. This is not simply the Catholic Church versus the Feds. This is the Vatican versus Your State’s Rights. Because a majority of states now require that employers sponsored health insurance include birth control coverage.

At least 26 states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs also provide coverage for any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.


What happens to California’s birth control mandate if the Catholic Church succeeds in getting the federal government (say under a Rick Santorum administration) to make contraception coverage “optional”? Which way would the (Catholic dominated) Supreme Court lean if asked to consider this states rights versus federal rights issue? Hint: the SCOTUS threw states rights out the window in Bush v. Gore. And then what happens if the Church launches a boycott of employers who voluntarily offer contraception coverage? Not all at once. One at a time, picking off easy targets in order to pressure struggling businesses across the country to shed birth control coverage for its employees?

It is always depressing when we have to go back and defend one of the milestones in the road for equality. We should be plowing forward, not losing ground.

February 10, 2012

If your Catholic Employer can deny you contraception insurance...

...then your Jehovah's Witness employer can demand that your health insurance exclude blood transfusions.

The employer who belongs to the Church of Scientology can strip your insurance of mental health coverage.

Your Jewish employer can deny porcine (pig) heart valve replacements.

Your Muslim employer can say "no" to treatment for alcohol abuse on the grounds that alcoholism is a sin and not a health problem.

And your Christian Scientists employer can use this as an excuse to deny you any health care coverage at all.


....since health insurance is something that we all pay for ourselves (i.e. it is deducted from our wages), if your Catholic Employer can tell that you can not spend your money to buy health insurance that covers birth control, he can also demand that you not spend any portion of your salary for condoms.

Your Jewish employer can insist that the wages he pays not go towards the purchase of bacon.

Ditto for your Muslim employer, and you can't buy any beer, either!

Your Christian Scientist employer can put a tag on you with an alarm that goes off if you get within 100 feet of a CVS Pharmacy.

And since it would be a violation of religious conscience to give money to someone who is going to tithe it to the wrong Church, Synagogue or Mosque, your employer can demand that you adopt his religion. If you refuse, he can fire you immediately, and he will not have to pay unemployment, since that would be giving money to a cause that is not in keeping with his faith.

If you can see what is wrong with the last ten scenarios, then you should be able to see what is wrong with the first.

February 8, 2012

Simple solution to health insurance/contraception controversy.

The federal government via Health and Human Services can offer low to no cost contraception coverage for men (who want vasectomies) and women (who want anything from birth control pills to a tubal ligation) whose employers refuse to offer such services on religious grounds. There could be a token charge for this "special birth control insurance" which will be waived for anyone making less than a certain amount of money.

That way the Catholic Church can not complain that it is being forced to pay for birth control for its employees. And the employees will not lose their freedom of choice.

Employers who do not have a legitimate religious objection will be unable to participate. Since private insurance companies almost always want to cover birth control and abortion (it saves them money, since high risk pregnancy can cost them millions), you will not see many non-religious employers trying to abuse this system, because there will be no cost savings in it for them. A few may attempt to bow to consumer pressure and deny their employees coverage for contraceptive services in order to appeal to certain interest groups. If they do, the federal government will rule that the company dos not have a valid religious objection and the firm will be forced to pay for the federal contraception coverage for its employee or write a private policy that restores contraceptive coverage.

The federal government already has a system in place---or at least it did--to evaluate those who wanted to avoid the draft based upon a religious objection. And the IRS is able to judge which groups meet the definition of being Churches and therefore have tax exempt status. It should be quite simple to have a federal agency determine whether an employer has a valid religious objection. Any attempt by the Catholic Church to complain about the federal government offering its employees federal contraceptive insurance services that it does not want them to have would then be greeted by public derision as violating the separation of Church and State. If the Catholic Church seeks to fire or intimidate employees who sign up for the federal contraceptive coverage, it could then be sued/prosecuted under the Americans with Disabilities Act, with fertility being considered a "disability" that effects only some employees. This makes the Catholic Church "the bad guys".

Yes, I know that many Democrats consider this a line in the sand that Obama must cross in order to "prove himself" committed to a woman's right to choose. However, in a political battle of words between a Church and a politician, the politician will lose. Therefore, the prudent path for Obama is to ignore the Church altogether and take care of the citizens (in this case, the Church employees).

February 5, 2012

How Much More of this “Corporations are People, Too” Bullshit Do We Have To Endure?

This is a long post because it includes a rant and then a solution. If you just want the rant, read the first part.

Part I. American Airlines, Super Person

Color me angry. Color me I’d-Pull-Out-My-Hair-But-I-Can’t-Afford-a-Wig angry.

American Airlines wants the U.S. taxpayers to take over its pension obligations. AA claims that its bankruptcy filing allows it to walk away from $9 billion in pension payments that will then have to be paid by you and me, the U.S. taxpayer, since the federally controlled Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is already $23 billion in debt. American is not asking for help because it can’t pay those pensions.


American is the latest major domestic airline to seek court protection to reduce its costs. Over the last decade, almost all the nation’s top airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection to renegotiate their labor contracts, freeze pensions and slash debt they could no longer afford.

Airlines are generally in better shape today than they were in 2002 to 2006, when many of the nation’s top carriers filed for bankruptcy. Unlike other carriers, American filed for court protection with about $4 billion in cash, and it intended to finance its own way through the process. But that level of cash may also provide some degree of leverage to the unions, which can argue that the airline can afford to pay for the pension plan.

$4 billion in cash is far from broke. So, why should AA be allowed to dump its debt on the U.S. taxpayers? Anyone? If you said “To save the jobs of AA’s workers,” go to the back of the class. American also intends to slash jobs.

The airline, which filed for bankruptcy in November, said it wanted to get rid of 13,000 workers, or 16 percent of its work force. It plans to terminate its pension plans. It wants to cut back health benefits for current employees and retirees. Over all, it said, it seeks to cut employee costs by 20 percent.


American estimated that its proposal would reduce overall costs by $2 billion a year, $1.25 billion of which would come from employees.


It gets worse. American will not simply trim its workforce. It plans to outsource skilled, higher paying jobs to other countries.

American plans to close its Alliance Fort Worth maintenance base and outsource the work performed on wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 767 and 777.


In other words, the U.S. taxpayer is being asked to bail out American Airlines in order to save the life of the company, not the livelihoods of its workers. We are being told that American Airlines, the corporation/person has needs, too. It deserves to live. It can not be cast out into the streets with all the homeless, unemployed, uninsured Americans to die. AA deserves gold plated health insurance from the federal government. Think of it as Super-Social Security and Medicare-Elite.

The Fort Worth Star Telegram, newspaper for the DFW area and propaganda machine for AA wants us to feel the corporate/person’s pain. Mitchell Shnurman, Star-Telegram columnist attempts to tug at our heartstrings with rhetoric like:

"’It's time for this company to start winning again," CEO Tom Horton said last week.’


“American has been fighting to just survive the past decade.”


“the gap between surviving and thriving turns out to be another billion dollars-plus”


“Horton desperately wants the carrier to be a leader again.”


Another pop quiz. What is the heart and soul of a company?

If you said “The men and women who make up its workforce”, join the other dunces at the back of the class. Yes, I know it is getting crowded back there. But you are not being a “team” player. Workers are just an unnecessary cost of doing business. The “company” is the stock price, the CEO salaries, the corporate jets. The “company” is a feudal fife, endowed by the Supreme Court with personhood. No, make that super personhood. It is enough if the nation’s disabled and elderly dine on cat food and skimp on their generic medications. America’s corporations must feed on caviar and get daily Botox injections---at the tax payer’s expense.

The Star Telegram has raised its hand. It wants to respond. Sure. Let’s hear it.

In a huge feature on the editorial page called “American’s plan offers ‘renewal and growth’” we (as in “we” the AA employees who can make or break the airline’s bankruptcy plans) are told:

Tom Horton has a remedy for the pain American Airlines employees are suffering.


Horton's antidote for all this pain is hope. As CEO, he wants the approximately 61,000 American employees who can keep their jobs to focus not on the present suffering but on what he says their airline can become.


It's a plan for "renewal and growth," Horton says. "It's not about shrinkage."


Horton offers hope.


Well put, American Airlines. You are not laying off 13,000 workers and demanding a $9 billion bailout. You are surgically removing a cancerous tumor made up of 13,000 overpaid, dead beat workers who are sucking out your life force, and you are asking for $9 billion in chemotherapy to keep that pesky old tumor from coming back. Every American (Airlines) is entitled to health care. Every American (corporation) is entitled to hope.

Now, can I ask a question. Hope for what? Hope for $9 billion more in federal debt? Hope for overseas employees who will get new aircraft maintenance contracts. Hope for American’s CEOs, who will be rewarded with huge bonuses in a couple of years---while 13,000 laid off workers are still pounding the pavement, trying to find jobs? Hope for the retirees who will see their pensions cut if the feds take over?

OK, I’ve had my rant. Now, the promised solution. No, it isn’t something as easy as “line them up against the wall” or “outsource all the jobs to southeast Asia”. In order to figure out a way to fix American business, we first need to diagnose the disorder. What is the problem with U.S. business? Not a lack of money. The wealthiest Americans are rolling in money. Not a lack of skilled workers. Americans are hard workers. Taxes? Don’t make me laugh. Taxes on the rich and corporations are modest in this country. Obama? Get serious here.

Part II. American Business is Not Just Sick. It Is Suicidal

When we see a person or a group of people who are fixed upon committing suicide, we step in. For the individual that means medical care to help with depression and social services to ease hunger and despair. It also means denying that person the means to kill himself. So, for instance, an acutely suicidal person gets locked up for a few days, until he no longer wants to commit suicide.

The groups of individuals known in America as “corporations” are also suicidal. They are not in their right mind. They are like a depressed person who drinks too much, smokes too much, has unprotected sex and who will eventually put a gun in his mouth and shoot a bullet through the back of his head, without ever realizing that all the pain he has endured has been self inflicted. American corporations are paranoid. They blame the workers. They blame the federal government. They blame acts of God. They study the entrails of animals (also known as the Wall Street Journal) for signs that will tell them what the future holds, without suspecting that they are living the future that they themselves have created. Lacking self awareness, they are unable to see the world around them.

If you have not read Zen and Creative Management by Albert Low, please do. If you are not already familiar with Zen, please read one of Alan Watts’ books on the subject, first, in order to acquaint yourself with the terms that Low uses in his book.

Low challenges the reader to

discover criteria by which to judge the acceptability of an organization. The popular notion is that if a company makes a profit, i.e. a return on the shareholders investment, the organization is acceptable. But this is the very point at issue; the very notion of profit itself is being challenged, as well as its acceptability as a criterion.
Albert Low, Zen and Creative Management

This remark will strike some as blasphemous. In the U.S., we were trained by our puritan forebears to believe that profit is the mark of God’s blessing upon a person or an endeavor. On the other hand, a poor person (or a business that fails) is deserving of our scorn, since loss of profit is a sign of God’s disfavor. If you want to know why we believe something so silly, read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Or, if you are pressed for time, I have a couple of old journals in which I summarize parts of the book.



Think that puritan ideals are dead? I witnessed them a few years ago, when Enron failed, and Americans suddenly realized that corporations were capable of “going bad”. Halliburton was attacked for some of its own crimes. A Republican Congressman got on CNN and angrily defended the company by telling the host (in effect) “But Halliburton is still solvent!” In other words, any company turning a profit is “good”, no matter what laws or man or God are broken to make that profit.

Back to Albert Low. Turn to page 44 of the book. See the diagram that places “employee”, “shareholder” and “market” at the three points of an equilateral triangle? This triangle is the super-person known as a company. Note that “employee” is just as important as “shareholder” and “market”. Traditionally, Americans have viewed the world as a dualism. In matters of business, the interests of the shareholders are opposed to those of the worker. This leads to the Ebenezer Scrooge model of good business, in which more poor houses mean more desperate employees mean lower wages and longer hours means more profit for me yippee! Except who the fuck will buy my product now that no one (besides me) has any money? (My apologies to the purveyors of the patent medicine/quack remedy known as “supply side.”)

Low adds another dimension to his non-dualistic corporate model by superimposing another triangle labeled “idea”, “demand” and “form.” Together, the two figures create six pointed star, with points labeled “demand”, “shareholder”, “form”, “employee”, “idea”, “market” as you go around the face of the clock from 1 to 11.

“The field is centered by an idea and this centering is producing the product. A useful analogy is that of a crystal growing out of a gel. The seed of the crystal is the idea, the gel is the organization; but the seed and the gel are made of the same ingredients.”
Albert Low

A company which understands itself recognizes that the employee is just as essential as the profits or the product or the market. A company that has been ensnared by mara---the demon that tempts us to desire so that we will then grow fearful of losing what we desire---will focus on one part of the whole---usually the profit---and declare that all else is superfluous. No, worse than superfluous. Anything besides the profit is dangerous, because it might take away our profit. And so, the bosses antagonize employees, cutting wages, breaking promises, driving away all of them that can get a job elsewhere and ending up with those who are consumed by their own form of mara---“I hate this company, but I can’t afford to quit.”

Because I am a physician, I like medical analogies. Here is another one. Under the traditional, dualistic American business model, the shareholders and CEO are the “head”. The other employees are the arms and legs. One day the head looked down and said to itself “Too much blood, oxygen and food get wasted providing nutrition to those arms and legs. What if there isn’t enough for me? I could die! Oh my! Let’s get rid of those limbs quick!” So, the head cuts off its arms and legs---and too late, realizes that it has no way to get food or water, and so it starves to death.

“People therefore seek to find a short cut to self-realization through money. However, when money is diverted from its social role to serving individuals it becomes as destructive as formerly it was liberating, because it increases the autonomy of the elements at the cost of the mutual relatedness of those elements within the system.”
Albert Low

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, compare this business model:

To this:

Which do you think is a model for lasting business success?

What does this all mean for American Airlines? If the company outsources vital aircraft maintenance work to other countries where the FAA can not set standards or supervise, it may jeopardize safety. This will have an adverse affect on the market, the employees and the profit, as people begin to 1) avoid the airline and 2) stop giving it tax breaks and other perks because it is no longer the employer of so many happy taxpayers. In order to see this complicated math, the execs at AA have to get beyond the extremely short sighted equation that says "Profit+ (Less expense)=more profit (for me!)" The public has to move beyond the old puritan notion that "proft" equals "godliness." And we have to let go of the notion that corporations are the same as people (in this country, citizens) with their right to life, liberty, happiness, and unlimited political speech.

Corporations do not have souls and God does not grant or deny them admission to Heaven, no matter how devout their CEOs claim to be, because Corporations are not human beings. (!!!!)They are not "alive". They are a "structure or process" to quote Low and as such, they do not live, they function. And I don't care how big their corporate headquarters or how shiny their corporate jets or how rich their CEOs, a company that does not function correctly is broken and needs to be fixed.

Note that American is just one of many companies now declaring that its right to "live" trumps the rights of the rest of us to live. Safety is being tossed out the window. Corporate super-people now demand the right to pollute the skies and water, poison their customers, sell dangerous medications and medical therapies all in the name of "survival" and "profit." The Koch Brothers lobby against mass transit, because decreased demand for petrochemical fuels will "endanger" their oil price speculation racket, the source of the wealth which is supposed to make them the most beloved of God---

While God or Buddha or the Great Mother or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Our Collective Conscience may love the Koch Brothers individually, He, She, Other or It does not love Koch Industries or American Airlines. The deity will shed no tears if a flawed business model goes under, but It will notice and care if another person dies or goes homeless and hungry because of corporate greed.

Addendum: One more thought about American Airlines, have its CEOs considered the possibility that it has been able to delay the pension slashing/job cutting/safety trimming activities of its competitors for so long and that it approaches bankruptcy flush with cash precisely because it has (up until now) taken such good care of its employees?

February 4, 2012

The Koch Brothers are Acting Just Like Enron---Before the Bankruptcy

Remember why we got stuck with Dumbya for eight years? Enron, W.’s biggest contributor and supporter was on the verge of bankruptcy. In order to save their house of cards, they needed to persuade the federal government to look the other way while they price gouged California. As in “California,” the response of former Vice-Chairman of Enron Energy Services and later Bush Secretary of War Thomas White when asked how his company planned to pull its butt out of the fire. Al Gore was 100% unlikely to aid Enron in this endeavor. So, the Gang of the Five at the Supreme Court, under the guidance of Scalia, a man with financial ties to the oil industry selected W. to be president. Karl Rove then selected Enron’s choice, Nora Brownwell to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Her mission? Ask no question as Enron’s energy traders manipulated the market to drive electricity prices through the roof in the summer of 2001.

Four years after California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard – on audiotapes obtained by CBS News – gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis.

"He just f---s California," says one Enron employee. "He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."

"Will you rephrase that?" asks a second employee.

"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day," replies the first.


The plan might have worked—except for two things beyond W.’s control. First, a federal judge accused Enron of price gouging. And then, the Taliban (despite wining and dining and threats of a “carpet of bombs” from the Bush administration) refused to allow Enron to build a gas pipeline across Afghanistan.

In the late summer of 2001, seeing the writing on the wall, Jeff Skilling left Enron, precipitating questions about his company’s solvency. A couple of months later, the Democratic Senate refused to go along with the bailout of Enron which the Republican House and the White House had engineered. The bailout was disguised as an “economic stimulus” package that would give the supposedly solvent company an immediate retroactive rebate of taxes it had never paid. Hmm. Wonder what the Senate Democrats thought was so fishy about that? The bailout was scrapped by the Senate, Enron went under, Ken Lay died under suspicious circumstances, no Enron employee was offered a deal for testifying against superiors (such as Thomas “Enron” White), Iraq was invaded just before the FERC was scheduled to give its report which would show that Enron did indeed price gouge California while the FERC twiddled its thumbs----

You know the rest. Thousands of Americans and millions of Iraqis died to keep all those dark, dirty Enron secrets buried. California Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and Arnold was installed as governor of that state to stop the civil suit that threatened to expose the skeletons in Enron’s and the Bush administration’s closet. Shareholders lost billions and hard working Americans lost their pensions as the world’s “biggest” company went under.

So, what does this have to do with the Koch Brothers? Ask yourself, how do you know that the Koch Brothers are rich as sin. Because they tell you so? The Kochs control the nation’s second largest privately held company. That allows them to release no information about their finances. They could be lying about how much money they have---the way that Enron lied--- and no one would ever know.

One of the “signs” that Enron was not solvent was the company's willingness to do anything, even break the law, to keep up a stream of cash in order to maintain a charade of solvency. Financially flush companies will hesitate to break the law, for fear of being caught and losing what they have. Houses of cards like Enron have nothing to lose, so they break the law at every opportunity. Have the Koch Brothers demonstrated a willingness to break the law? You bet.

Koch Industries allegedly made improper payments to win business in 6 countries over 8 years (through 2008) — a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company described them as ”activities constitute[ing] violations of criminal law.”
Koch Industries sold millions of dollars of oil refining equipment to Iran — even after President George W. Bush described the nation as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil.’ The company maintains these sales were legal at the time, and says it has since cut ties with the rogue nation.
Koch Industries allegedly stole 1.95 million barrels of crude oil pumped from federal lands by falsifying purchasing records, a Senate investigation found. Former workers testified to the “Koch Method,” described as trying “to cheat the producer out of crude oil,” my mis-measuring the oil.
The company allegedly ignored federal regulations for pipeline safety — resulting in the deaths of at least two people in a pipeline explosion in Lively, Texas in 1996.


Does being on the verge of bankruptcy cause companies to cut back on their campaign contributions? Hell no! Enron made half of its total $5.8 million (pre- Citizens United, so every dollar really counted) contributions in the year prior to its bankruptcy, when its executives knew full well how bad the company was doing. Buying a president was supposed to be their ticket to financial solvency. They were going to price gouge California without interference from the feds (until a federal judge stepped in). They were going to make a sweet deal with Afghanistan (until federal diplomats failed to impress the Taliban.) If you had asked Ken Lay what the future held in store for his company in January, 2001, with Bush just sworn in, he would have said “Great things!” If asked whether or not his investment of $2.9 million had paid off, he would have said “You bet!”


Today, the Koch Brothers have pledged a combined $60 million (post Citizen United so the dollars mean a lot less) to get Obama out of the White House and a paid political lackey in power. Why? Ideology? Give me a break. “Ideology” to a capitalist is “what makes me money.” The Kochs expect to make money under a Republican presidency. How?

Good question. In 2000, if we had bothered to look at the ways that Enron supposedly made money, they might have scratched our heads and said “I don’t get it. What do they actually do?”

If you examined the Koch Brothers business today, you would probably ask yourself the same thing. Study their business model, and you will discover that Koch “wealth”, like that of Blanche Dubois, depends upon the “kindness of strangers”, in this case, “strangers” being the government they pretend to despise. The Kochs make money from Georgia-Pacific---with the help of corporate welfare from the government which gives them trees from government owned land and builds the roads that allow them to get at the trees.

As Yasha Levine has reported, Koch exploits a number of government programs for profit. For instance, Georgia Pacific, a timber company subsidiary of Koch Industries, uses taxpayer money provided by the U.S. Forestry Service to provide their loggers with taxpayer-funded roads and access to virgin growth forests. “Logging companies such as Georgia-Pacific strip lands bare, destroy vast acreages and pay only a small fee to the federal government in proportion to what they take from the public,” according to the Institute for Public Accuracy. Levine also notes that Koch’s cattle ranching company, Matador Cattle Company, uses a New Deal program to profit off federal land for free.


The Kochs made a bundle when W. hired them to fill up the nation’s strategic oil reserve---a resource he then refused to use, even when high oil prices were destroying the economy.

Koch Industries won massive government contracts using their close relationship with the Bush administration. The Bush administration, in a deal even conservatives alleged was a quid pro quo because of Koch’s campaign donations, handed Koch Industries a lucrative contract to supply the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve with 8 million barrels of crude oil. The SPR deal, done initially in 2002, was renewed in 2004 by Bush administration officials. During the occupation of Iraq, Koch won significant contracts to buy Iraqi crude oil.


Bushs’ refusal to use the strategic oil reserve facilitated the Koch Brothers other big Enron style profit making venture, its oil price speculation racket. Think Progress has a piece about the Koch Brothers lead the way in creating the “industry” of oil speculation, Here is a highlight.

2008: Rampant oil speculation spikes prices to unprecedented levels. As academics from the Peterson Institute, the James Baker Institute at Rice University, and others conclude, non-commercial speculators begin to dominate the market, forcing up prices. Although the evidence was abundant that speculators caused the massive price spikes during the summer of 2008, regulators were toothless to act. A bipartisan majority in the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to award powers to the CFTC to oversee rampant oil speculation, but Republican in the Senate — acting with help from Koch lobbyists — killed the bill, called the Energy Markets Emergency Act.


Be sure to read the whole article. I will wait.

Finished the Think Progress piece on the Kochs’ oil speculation racket? Now, ask yourself two things. One, do you think they have continued to make the same kind of money under the Obama administration, which actually dared to release oil from the strategic reserve, bring down oil prices unexpectedly? Yes, I know that the Kochs have attempted to portray themselves as big “winners”, boasting that they have stored up all that cheap government crude in supertankers and that they are just waiting to unload it when oil prices have been driven artificially high again (presumably as a result of another war of choice for oil, this time with Iran)---

Argus Media reports that Koch Industries has already shown interest in leasing super tankers for storage of crude in the Gulf of Mexico. The Economist points out that the small rebound in oil prices have already provided an incentive for oil traders to store, rather than refine, the oil: “If a trader was able to purchase West Texas Intermediate—the oil held in America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR)—at the spot price on June 24th, they would already be sitting on a tidy profit.”


But how long can the Kochs sit on those tankers? Shell predicts that oil prices are going to go lower this year.

Oil prices could fall to $70 a barrel during 2012, from current levels above $110, as high volatility in the economy and energy markets becomes "a fact of life", Royal Dutch Shell executives said.


What do the Kochs have to fall back upon if their oil speculation racket goes belly up? Dixie-Cups? The herd of cattle they graze on federal government land? Maybe they could move back to Russia and drill some of that country’s oil. Recall that their scion could not make it big in the U.S., so he went to Communist Russia under Stalin, and the state paid him to drill for oil.

The Kochs’ business model is quite simple. The government shall provide---as long as the Kochs control the government. That was Ken Lay’s philosophy back in 2000, too.

Oh, and remember that gas pipeline across Afghanistan which was supposed to bring Enron back from the financial grave? Ther Kochs have their hopes pinned on another pipeline, one that almost certainly will not get built if Obama continues to be president.

Koch officials have denied having any financial stake in the pipeline, but Waxman has argued that Koch connections to the project merit further investigation. A Koch Industries subsidiary had filed official documents with the Canadian National Energy Board claiming "a direct and substantial interest" in the Keystone XL pipeline.


There you have it. Two shady companies that spend extraordinary amounts of money "buying" politicians, two companies that are serial lawbreakers, two companies whose finances are shrouded in secrecy, two companies that make money the "new fashioned way"---by manipulating markets. Two companies dependent upon the government for their profits----

Pardon me if I question the wisdom of financial analysts who swear that the Kochs are solvent. I remember another time, back in the late summer of 2001, when Wall Street said that Enron was doing just fine, but I could not help but wonder why Jeff Skilling was walking away from such a "prosperous" company.
February 3, 2012

Right to Life Hates Women

I have suspected it for years. When Right to Life’s rank and file are interviewed, they do two things. First, they tell us how sweet and innocent the fetus is. Then, they tell us how selfish, lazy and just plain evil the woman seeking the abortion is and how she must be forced to carry the fruits of her sin in order to teach her a lesson. They do not always use those words, but this is the message they send. Women who have sex are sinful. Pregnancy is God’s Way of punishing that sin. If you love God, you must make sure the women are punished—

I can think of a number of reasons why some folks would like to see mothers-to-be punished. Those who felt abandoned or unloved as children have a grudge against the female sex---even if they happen to be women themselves. Since they can not go back in time and force their own mothers to love them---or rather, make them feel loved, for I suspect that most of the women really did love their children, the kids simply did not realize it----since they can not go back in time to change the past, they do the next best thing. They seek to control other women now, by denying them reproductive freedom. They also deny them an equal wage for equal labor, even though lower wages for women are a major cause of childhood poverty in this country. They deride those who are attempting to raise their children in single parent families with public assistance, calling them “welfare queens.” When women are the victims of the hate crime known as “rape”, they insist that the woman “lead him on”---because they know in their hearts that Eve is still chomping on that apple and still leading Adam into sin. And if a woman becomes pregnant as a result of an act of rape, she had damn well better give birth to that baby that was part of “God’s plan”---making God an accessory to rape.

A few days ago, we saw proof that Right to Life hates women. All women, not just mothers-to-be. Because Planned Parenthood offers low cost birth control and elective abortions, the Susan G. Komen charity decided that over one hundred thousand poor women should be denied breast cancer screening. Yes, I know that decision makes no sense. But if you hate women, then you see nothing wrong with punishing the entire sex for the “crimes” of a few. If you are a member of Right to Life, the deaths of a few poor women from breast cancer are an "acceptable loss" in the war to control women.

I am waiting for the day when a group like Right to Life gives Planed Parenthood a huge donation, with the money earmarked for contraception only. Prevent those unwanted pregnancies and the U.S. will have the low, low, low abortion rate of Denmark, where contraception is readily available to women of all ages and everyone is encouraged to use it. I think I will be waiting a long time. Because Right to Life’s real goal is not ending abortion. Its members want to punish women. And so they quibble about which birth control method is slightly “like” an abortion. They fume if poor women have access to birth control (and nine months later, they fume when poor women ask for help raising the child they were forced to carry). They call women on the left “whores” and “witches”---

A little part of me feels very sorry for them. Their childhoods must have been hell. But we all suffer in some way. We become compassionate adults when we stop seeing the world through the eyes of a needy child and realize that everyone suffers and everyone is needy.

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