Archive for the ‘economic reality’ Category

OMG!!!! We May Have a Socialist for President!!!

February 25, 2020

Saigon, Viet Mam. socialism….

Back in eighth grade, in the last century, we learned about socialism and communism. We pretty much were taught that it was the same thing. We were not taught anything about economics, but that these were forms of government. It wasn’t until I was radicalized (the Conspiracy Seven trial taking place in Chicago did a lot to convince me to educate myself) did I learn that ‘democracy’,  ‘dictatorship’, and ‘monarchy’ are forms of government. Those other terms are types of economic philosophies.

After reading Marx and Engels, I thought I was a Marxist, but as I matured, I realized that they were writing about the times and what they had experienced. We also learned that Marx never appeared to have worked a real job, and was supported by Engels, his father-in-law. That’s not really cogent, but it helps to have a context and realize that never has there been an ‘all or nothing’ economic system in any government.

What I did learn was that basic economics is basic economics. To have a business, you need materials, labor, overhead costs, promotion/’marketing, and profit. How much is allocated to each is a personal choice (unless you are a cooperative)…but without profits—a surplus, you can’t reinvest, and chances are, you can’t sustain yourself. It doesn’t matter what the economic system is. Add taxes to the mix—that’s where we get into controversy.

I have a degree in urban planning. That doesn’t make me smart, but it does mean I’ve explored what a public ‘good’ is, and why we need them to have economic vitality in our communities.

In the early 1900s in the USA, urban areas were becoming crowded, and due to population density coupled with no knowledge of disease vectors, people were getting sick with cholera, flu, all sorts of icky things. Lots of it had to do with no access to unpolluted drinking water, but sewage was a big issue as well. If you’ve ever visited a less-developed country (compared to the west—especially India), you still see people urinating and defecating all over. People with influence started addressing public health to elected officials.

Of course, the response was (as it is in Trump’s America) “Why should I care?” These politicians seemed to think that diseases would not affect them and their families. Well, they do. Nobody is immune to air and water-born diseases. That’s why you should care.

Do you think public education is expensive? Libraries are a waste? Public hospitals? How about roads, public water supplies, communications infrastructure? When public ‘goods’ as these things are called, are distributed equitably, you have less crime and less disease. The problem is, our politicians have always been racists, and public goods have never been distributed equitably.

Ther are some people, like followers of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, who think the invisible hand of capitalism always keeps things going smoothly—but it doesn’t. if you study environmental science, you learn about the ‘law of the commons’: the ‘commons’ used to be public area where people could graze livestock. What happened is that some wealthy people grazed more livestock than others on a finite parcel of land, pushing out poorer owners of livestock, and in the end, due to lack of stewardship, the ‘commons’ became barren and could support no livestock at all. That’s what happens when you don’t have laws reining in the  bulliesmore powerful.

The USA had gone through many economic depressions when capitalism got out of whack: goods became too expensive because the owners of the means of production valued exorbitant profits over the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats. A particular cause was land speculation, but also gambling—I mean investing in a future of profit based on nothing real. if you look at the history of stock markets, the concept is there so people who have faith in a company or industry—without really knowing how those who manage the industries behave can share in profits. That’s for real. That doesn’t change.

When FDR became president, we were in a profound depression. There would be no way out without using the Keynesian idea of the government investing in the economy. Obama did this as well. But FDR floated the idea of Social Security for old people and paying taxes to fund it.

Lyndon Johnson signed the Medicare law  https://www.medicareresources.org/basic-medicare-information/brief-history-of-medicare/ when Rep. John Conyers (rep from Michigan)actually introduced the idea of single-payer. Johnson & Congress knew the health insurance industry would NEVER ALLOW that & we got Medicare for seniors. The Health Insurance industry continues to lobby our congresspeople about how awful single-payer would be—-as though they manage things any better!

It appears Senators Jackson and Miller started the ball rolling for the EPA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Environmental_Protection_Agency#History, signed into law by Richard Nixon. Lots of people younger than 60 do not remember how bad out air and water had been. Certainly, Trump doesn’t, but he was most likely living ina high rise or fed bottled water. No matter. Public health improved and our economy continued to thrive. That is, until speculators started an inflation bubble again.

In any case, these were all considered radical socialist ideas. And look: now we consider these ideas, investing in the public good, as rational, not radical at all. We have a homeless problem in our country. No matter what the cause—mental illness, drug abuse, poor planning…homeless people affect us all. We’d all be safer and healthier if we didn’t have people sleeping, urinating, and defecating on our streets.

So here we are, and it’s 2020, and  we have a bona fide socialist—Bernie Sanders—a Jew, no less, campaigning on public goods. We all know what he wants, and for many of us who have been affected by Trump’s far-right agenda, Bernie’s ideas sound better…except to the people who fled socialist countries, or who have been miseducated.

First of all, Bernie will have to deal with Congress, and if Mitch McConnell is still in the Senate, he won’t be able to do anything unless we also elect a Democratic congress. That’s a fact. Even so, everyone will ask, where will we get the money to implement our dreams?

I suggest we all start looking at our foreign aid budget which is put together by lobbyists. No joke. We give bazillions to both Egypt and Israel—which they repackage to win friends and influence other countries. Why should Israelis have single-payer health care & not Americans? You’d weep if you knew how much we’ve spent on the war in Afghanistan—and they still can’t manage a corruption-free democracy. I can go on and on:  https://www.newyorker.com/books/ask-the-author/ask-the-author-live-dexter-filkins-on-afghanistan.

Israel, England, and Sweden are socialist economies, and capitalism is thriving.  The socialist or mixed economies where socialism is not thriving tend to be one-party  states.  Google it.  So don’t tell yourself your choices are between sliding down a razor blade banister or being boiled in oil. Calm down….because if you choose to not vote,  we are giving  Trump four more years to ignore the countries needs, lie,  be corrupt000as he has proven to be…and destroy the natural environment, That last thing—y9ou know, the climate change thinging—we will never recover from.

 

 

 

First do no Harm—Except to Their Pocketbooks

February 6, 2020

A few years ago I got Bursitis in my hips. I didn’t know it was Bursitis. I thought it was sciatica. My doctor, a general practitioner, told me he could give me cortisone shots for the pain, but cortisone also dissolved your bones.

I decided to try a chiropractor. She was very good, but after four treatments, when I didn’t improve, she sent me for an MRI. That’s how we discovered it was actually Bursitis.

Bursitis is not arthritis. Bursitis is when the fluid between your joints becomes inflamed, or dissolves and your bones rub together. She could not help me.

Back to my physician. He suggested physical therapy might help. By this time, I was on Medicare, and I also had a Medicare Advantage plan. I should have called my insurer, Aetna, to find out if there was a co-pay. Now, I know, but what I did was—silly me—I called a Physical Therapy BUSINESS and asked them what my co-pay would be. I was told there was nothing out of pocket. I would owe NOTHING.

So, of course, I booked a series of treatments for 8 weeks. Aside from the range of motion exercises, they ask you if you want a type of massage (for good circulation) and ‘stem’, which is a heat treatment.

After eight weeks, I felt I was not much improved, so I declined to book more sessions. A few weeks later, Aetna sent me a statement…that my share was $800!!!! & then I got the bill from the physical therapy business.  It doesn’t matter who they are—-they ar all the same.

I called Physical Therapy Business and asked to speak to the practice manager. Finally, she returned my call and told me that she didn’t know who told me that I would owe nothing—-but they don’t send bills to collections.

It so happens, my sister, who had back problems, was also sent for physical therapy, and when she asked the cost, was told to not worry about it—& then she got a bill for $600.

We live in a capitalist system. You wouldn’t agree to by ANYTHING without knowing the cost. So, why is health care so much different? Why is it considered gauche, crude, or cheap to ask a doctor what a drug or treatment will cost? And why is it so many don’t have an answer?

I changed doctors, and my new physician, also a general practitioner, is more holistic. She prescribed me a bunch of vitamins and amino acids. I guess as you get older, it might be more difficult for your system to draw what you need from nutrition. In two weeks, the pain was gone. But, then she wanted me to go for an ultrasound because she wanted to try hormone therapy to help me lose weight and build muscle…but she wanted to make sure I didn’t have cancer.

By this time, I knew to ask what the cost was. I called the hospital and asked what my out of pocket would be (since I had Medicare and Aetna…), and was told, “It depends on how your doctor codes the procedure.”

What?”

The customer service person at Aetna told me that if it was coded as an x-ray, it would be a$15 co-pay, but if it was coded as a diagnostic, it would be $75 out of pocket? Same procedure. So, I had to call my doctor back & tell her staff I needed the codes, and why would it be coded as an x-ray if it’s an ultrasound?

I got a new code, but when I called Aetna back this time, I was told that I would have no co-pay because Medicare allows me to get an ultrasound every three years. & I noted the time and date of the phone call, because, you know,” phone calls are recorded for quality assurance.” Just in case there is any more confusion.

I found this article in the paper a few weeks ago:  https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-01-07/u-s-health-system-costs-four-times-more-than-canadas-single-payer-system

The gist is—if you read the article, that our system has too many paper pushers and people involved in the insurance companies. You know—denying you the right to some sort of care, or deciding how much you should pay, and bargaining with doctors. You know if you have insurance, they charge one thing. If you don’t have insurance, they may charge less. If your doctor bargains to get paid, it’s another fee.

It’s a racket. It’s unfair. It’s legal because it’s not illegal. One reason it’s legal is because  people regard physicians like gods—especially our politicians…and the guys who run insurance companies to make sure they are profitable. I bet every member of Congress owns some sort of insurance stock.

So here’s what we have to do until they really get it that this doesn’t work. You start asking doctors—their staff people—everyone—WHAT IS THE COST? —FOR A VISIT? FOR A PROCEDURE?—-FOR A DRUG? WHAT ARE THE CODES? Ask why it is 1 price for the insurance company and one price for you?

You have to keep a little diaryl  You write down the time you called and the person you talked to.  You have to document everything. You have to be your own advocate.  This is especially important if you have a chronic disease.

Two more examples.  My mammogram was over a year old, so holistic doctor wanted me to get a new mammogram. EVEN THOUGH IT IS FREE, the hospital asked for proof of insurance, and i.d.  I know they are covering their asses—but think:   who would schedule a mammogram just for kicks?  And if the insurance checks out, why would you need an i.d.?

I have a friend whose father is 96 and he had a colostomy several years ago. So, he needs collection bags. They are not cheap, and generally not sold in pharmacies. They are about $4 a bag.  My friend has been ordering them for her father from the same company for years..since he had the procedure.    You need a ‘prescription’ from a doctor. No joke.  She ordered bags a few weeks ago, and when they didn’t arrive in  2 days, she called the company.  The clerk told her there was a hold-up, but she didn’t know why.  So, of course, my friend asked to speak to a supervisor. My friend was on hold for about 20 minutes—and then the supervisor came back online & told her that she needed a doctor’s note.  It seems that somehow, the prescription got REMOVED from the computer database. it’s not really clear.  You do know that many physicians charge a fee to write that note.  Of course, now she is livid, because they never called her to tell her what the hold up was. This is not aspirin.  Her father can’t use a baggie.   But, if she changes suppliers, she DOES have to get another doctor’s note! She next called their corporate office, and learned that there is a PATIENT ADVOCATE!  She was never told of this.  You all know that ‘Phone calls are recorded for quality assurance,” right?  & My friend asked her to listen to the  phone calls.  Turns out the problem was/us she wanted to order a few more bags  every month—and to increase the supply, she needed a new prescription!  Can you imagine?  &  Do you think that  ‘government managed care’ could be any worse?

It’s a racket.

 

Preface to Polyandress

January 23, 2020

From the Museum of Erotic Art in Barcelona Spain

What do purebred dogs have to do with erotic romance?  Nothing.  It’s just that  one of my characters thinks he wants to breed dogs.

Draft for cover of Polyandress

Lots of people I know think dog breeders are evil.  Funny thing:  the BACKYARD BREEDERS are totally off the hook for responsibility. People who breed their pets for ‘fun & profit’, who sell to anyone with cash,  and don’t screen buyers to determine if they are ready for the dog they want..are filling our shelters.  The ‘do-gooders’ promoting ‘no-kill’ don’t count them as breeders. They are actually demonizing responsible breeders instead and are letting the bad ones totally off the hook.

They retort that no breeder is responsible. These people who influence ‘conventional wisdom‘ know nothing about animal husbandry, genetics. or animal behavior. Also, they don’t know the facts. They have a cartoonish, anthropomorphic view of animals. They hew a party line.

The facts are that over 90% of dogs in shelters were bred by backyard ‘I’m-not-a-breeder’ breeders, who deny they are breeders because they don’t have five breedable bitches, or they don’t have a kennel building, or they aren’t living off their dogs. In urban areas, most are Pit Bulls, or Pit-x, but some areas have a lot of Chihuahuas, Beagles, or shepherd type farm dogs, We’re not seeing rare breeds in shelters unless a dog has been lost. Let me take that back. Now we are seeing more Cane Corso in my metro area. I guess the foundation breeders didn’t make it clear to buyers that they should not be breeding if they weren’t going to be responsible for what they breed.

No matter. When you own the mommy animal at the time she gives birth, you are THE BREEDER.

They’ve also spread this idea that dogs are just bred for their beauty (conformation) and can’t do what they were bred d to do. That is laughably untrue.

We are ‘the fancy‘. That’s what purebred dog lovers—fanciers—call ourselves.  I’ve worked for hobby breeders for over 50 years. Most I work for are extremely concerned about genetic defects and strive to breed genetically sound dogs that can do what they were originally bred to do, and more. We call obedience, rally, agility, racing, lure coursing, hunting, dock diving, nose work, barn hunt, etc.: performance.

More important, these breeders love their dogs. They network to find homes for older dogs, often support their breed-specific rescue if a dog ends up in a shelter & the breeder can’t be found, and they will take back dogs they’ve sold if the buyer can’t keep the dog. They do not want to lose track of the dogs they’ve bred. This is why you don’t see rare breeds such as Glen of Imaal Terries, Borzoi, Clumber Spaniels,  in shelters. The breeders take them back. They also make clear to buyers why pet dogs should not be bred.

The do-gooders blame the hobby breeders, demonizing them for the situation the backyard breeders have caused.  We are losing breeds. I wonder if Bedlington Terriers or Affenpinschers have viable gene pools.

The reason I am a purebred dog fancier is predictability. A breed is considered a breed by the bona fide registry organization when the fanciers have a breed standard describing the physical dog, and dogs that breed true for three generations. With a degree of statistical certainty (with a standard deviation, I’m sure), you can tell what size, coat type, and temperament a purebred dog will have.

This is not so with mixed breeds/designer dogs. It would be amusing if it wasn’t infuriating how many grooming clients groomers have who bought ‘designer’ Poodle crosses and are disappointed with the size and coat type of the dog. If you would not buy a purebred Poodle, why would you pay more for a Poodle mix? I think the doodle breeders’ marketing must be very good. That and people don’t spend enough time researching a purchase.

Rarely do hobby breeders reach out to the public. They have too much conventional wisdom to dispel in a short amount of time. Veterinarians, who should know better, are not helping, either.

Now, due to ‘the economy’, where land rents might eat up over 50% of a household’s income, coupled with credit card debt and outstanding student loans, few people can even afford to own a dog, let alone breed them.

Ethical breeders are dying of old age. Younger people don’t have the time, money, or interest in breeding quality dogs. A veterinary dental for a dog hovers around $400 in my neck of the woods. The last thing people who have a lot of debt need is a high maintenance breed of dog, but pet buyers are naive and emotional.

When people try to guilt me about being a purebred dog fancier, I remind them that all dogs come from breeders, and I don’t want ignorant, dimwitted backyard breeders choosing the type of dog I should own. Humans ‘invented’ over 400 breeds for various reasons. it’s fine if you want to take any random dog, but we will not make a dent in irresponsible behavior; i.e. backyard breeders, if we ignore that they are the elephant in the room.

OK. So..what does that have to do with erotica? Nothing. But if I made one of the characters a dog fancier, and she explained why integrity is important, and she enjoys having mind-blowing sex…would you read that?

I rest my case.

What We’re Missing About Drug Addiction

January 11, 2020

My brother is a drug addict. He is —or was—-a licensed pharmacist and veterinarian. He had the degrees and got licenses. He  learned, how people become addicted. He told us that chemicals bond with the pleasure-seeking parts of the brain, and once that happens, there is no going back.

He was not prescribed opioids by a physician to treat chronic, physical pain. He was seeking pleasure. He knew how addiction occurred, but he had access to drugs, so he took them.

It’s true that many people take drugs to deal with psychic pain, but whatever the reason people take addictive drugs, once you are addicted unless you have a very strong personal will to totally change your life…that’s it.

I’ve had friends who became addicted to heroin in Viet Nam tell me it was easier to go through withdrawal from heroin than it has been to kick tobacco. You have to wonder…why would tobacco be legal and not other addictive drugs?

Clearly, the reason is political lobbying and marketing. We waste so much money on law enforcement, and people get shot in the crossfire. If drugs were legal, like tobacco and alcohol, we could tax sales and to an extent regulate it, but our overly puritanical ‘all or nothing’ Christian culture won’t allow it.

Now, some people just buy drugs in the cash economy, but more and more we are finding people who started on the road to addiction by physicians and hospital personnel.  The physicians don’t do any counseling about not taking too much too often, and what you will have to do if you find you are becoming dependent. The whole medical industry is totally off the hook…because they are doctors? Like Gods? They have so much integrity?

So now, because families of addicts want the rest of us to DO SOMETHING..there is a push for ‘treatment centers’ and ‘drug counselors’. The fact of the matter is, the success rate hovers around 30%. Google it, I dare you. No amount of talk therapy is going to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Your success is based on you wanting to be clean. if you have family supporting you no matter what, you have no incentive to be clean or stay drug-free. Drug addicts will tell you this. Alcoholics will tell you this.

Some people can not live without adult supervision. They can’t be trusted with money, and they can’t be trusted to not endanger themselves, and it doesn’t matter what anyone wants. If you’ve been through this with a friend or family member who has been ‘in treatment’ or ‘detox’ more than once, you know this is true.

The solution would be to have these people committed to a care environment where they can be kept busy doing physical labor, something that gets them so tired that at the end fo the day, all they can do is fall into bed.

Instead, many states license ‘sober houses’ where addicts who have been through detox and chill and not be homeless until they are ready to start using again. Colton Vooron recently wrote a very interesting article about this for the New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/10/21/my-years-in-the-florida-shuffle-of-drug-addiction

Can RPCV Influence Foreign Policy?

January 1, 2020

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

In 1992, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer  (PCV) serving as a Town Planner in Blantyre, Malawi.  This was a very tumultuous time in Malawi history…the end of an era.  PCVs are not supposed to be in ‘politically sensitive’ positions, but there I was, tasked with encouraging residents of ‘traditional housing areas’ (unplanned, squatter communities) to organize to develop recycling programs,  working on development control issues,  enforcing planning guidelines,  and making sure regular city services were provided.   I also was tasked with taking over records and rent collections for public housing in my geopolitical area—‘Local Authority,” from Malawi Housing Corporation.   I was told to do all this by the ODA—Overseas Development Assistance. This was the British equivalent to  USAID funding  Malawi government operations.

Lots was going on.  The ‘European Community’ was putting pressure on Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda to allow for a free press and to schedule multi-party elections.  Corruption, of course, was endemic.  Just about everything I did was being sabotaged by a government employee who feared I would uncover a major corruption plan that worked very well for himself and a few friends.    Business people who had ties to the Malawi Congress Party constantly complained that I was meddling. 

I tried to get others to take responsibility for some of my more unpopular, but clearly legal, decisions, but I was the only one who really was not in danger of being ‘disappeared’.

‘.

What I really wanted to do was make a difference.  I had two plans that would have really helped low-income residents of the city townships set their communities on the road to sustainability:   One plan was to give them rate (real estate tax) rebates for planting fruit trees and buying energy-efficient ceramic lined cookstoves.  The other was for them getting titles—  recording their plot ownership—with nobody being allowed to own more than one plot in a Traditional Housing Area (to prevent people from becoming absentee landlords).

Unfortunately, there was no political will.   With the squeeze on for political reforms, foreign aid was frozen.  The Malawi Kwatcha was devalued by over 30% (although government high-level managers were immediately compensated with raises), causing a general strike.

 I was finally threatened by a Host Country National, who complained directly to Peace Corps, because I had demonstrated that I had the capacity to take down illegal developments.

30 years have passed.  I visited Malawi three years ago.  Not much has changed, and what has changed has increased social stratification. Yes, more people have access to credit, but deforestation and overfishing are really taking a toll.  Social indicators have barely improved, but even very poor rural people have access to cell phones..

I believe that once most PCVs have a base in the place where they are serving, they realize that good intentions are not enough.  In some cases,  teachers are really making a difference.  In other places, volunteers are being used as  ‘place fillers’ or technical support, and underlying issues are not being addressed.

I started thinking about this again, just recently, when Ambassador Daniel Foote, our man in Zambia, said what needed to be said:  This is an excerpt from a report on National Public Radio:   ”…..  it started last month with this court ruling where they sentenced two men to 15 years in prison for having sex with each other. The ambassador said he was “horrified” by Zambia’s jailing of same-sex couple Japhet Chataba and Steven Sambaand.  The Zambian government basically told him to mind his own business. And Ambassador Daniel Foote then unloaded. He released a diplomatic statement, that I have seen, you know, few as pointed as this one was.

And he said that the U.S. had saved more than 1 million lives in Zambia with just its HIV programs, and then he went on to accuse the government of being hypocritical, of outright stealing millions of dollars intended to go to important welfare programs. He said that while the corrupt officials doing that don’t even get a slap on the wrist, two men having sex get 15 years in jail. And then he said that everyone should just stop pretending that the U.S. and Zambia have cordial relations.”

 

Long story short,  “…..Zambian President Edgar Lungu was seething mad, and he essentially declared the ambassador persona non grata, and the U.S. had to pull him out of the country.” Oh, btw (from Wikipedia) In 1992, Foote became a Peace Corps volunteer in Sopachuy, Bolivia.

We do-gooders, American citizens,  naively believe our foreign policy upholds human rights and fights corruption. We also believe we are donating money so people can get on the road to both economic and environmental sustainability.  This would be laughable were it not so tragic.  How can Peace Corps Volunteers serve in countries with so little regard for basic human rights?  Certainly, our gay brothers and sisters are not safe.

We all come to consciousness about what is ‘right’, ‘fair’ and ‘tolerable’ in our own time.  Many of us do not remember legal racial discrimination, or that inter racial relationships were illegal in many parts of the USA.  Many of us have never heard the expression that “Rights are never given. They are always taken.”

Going back a bit further, in the USA many women (and people of color) could not get access to contraception without the permission of a husband, or credit without a man co-signing (I have personal experience with this).

Now, many of us might laugh at how stupid and unfair, even counterproductive such laws were.  They were developed by (white) men who wanted to legally restrict those not like themselves.

Is there not a PVC who has not said, “If only the policymakers acted with integrity”?

Being from Chicago, where we had a political machine for over 60 years, I’m in no position to say whether a country is more or less corrupt than where I live.  Because I’ve traveled, I’ve experienced being with people who live in communities that have benefited by the mindset that when wealth is shared and opportunities are equalized, everyone benefits.

How can we tell where the policies of equalization work?  We can look at the improvement of social indicators since the end of WWII, with the correlation of the introduction of Peace Corps Volunteers into countries.  Why is it literacy rates, improvements in infant and maternal mortality, flourishing communications infrastructure,  and access to credit in places like Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Costa Rica have improved life outcomes in those countries, as well as economic growth, but Nigeria, Mauritania, Malawi, India, and Bangladesh still have such a high percentage of people living in poverty, with no in improvement in social indicators?  Obviously, it is not just a lack of political will, but being rewarded with foreign aid no matter how corrupt they are.  We used to justify this because they weren’t ‘communist’ countries, but what does that really mean?

I’ve joked that the Danes should be in charge of all foreign aid, because, according to Transparency International, Denmark is the least corrupt country on the planet. hpps://www.transparency.org/cpi2018

Is it really too much to ask for transparency, a free press, and respect for RULE OF LAW?  Shouldn’t foreign assistance of any kind ( that is not humanitarian or crisis aid) be linked to accountability and ‘best practice’?

What good does it do us as volunteers when we ignore human rights abuses?  We look disingenuous.

Obviously, the Trump Administration, with his bloviating over the corruption in  Ukraine, isn’t really concerned about corruption in other countries, or even are own when  ‘swamp dwellers’ as most of us would have identified them have been put in charge of government agencies and purses.  Isn’t it time that we, who have served,  address our responsibilities as global citizens?

I am sure most of us who are not involved in the sausage-making wonder on what basis it is that funding is offered to any foreign country. The late George Crile, in his book, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” described in well-researched detail who got what and why over  30 years ago.  Not much has changed:  From the Rapid City, South Dakota, Journal, we got  an interesting piece of information that  Crile addressed: https://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/sd-republican-leader-receives-k-monthly-for-pro-saudi-arabia/article_b1352b18-3685-5515-b103-05f3536fcbbe.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR0EnV8VdpFBTcT1uR3KjUDZxVu2_AVPMi5n_npBX9wKcvU5NOMXLYE8zQ8

Now, granted, Dan Lederman is not an elected official. He is merely a lobbyist for a foreign country and also happens to be the head of the GOP  in…South Dakota.  One has to wonder how he got connected to the Saudis, but never you mind.  This is how our foreign aid budget is allocated.   Can you say Quid Pro Quo?

Thankfully, now that we have the internet, it is easier for all of us to get this information in a timely fashion.  But  I also know that because so many  PCVs returned disillusioned, and feel that we can’t overcome this, they’ve become less politically active.

I think the ideas of accountability and sustainability, as well as respect for human rights should now be part of the discussion. We are invited by host countries to serve. We’ve demonstrated our value.  Shouldn’t Peace Corps state that this is what we want in return?

Book review: Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody

October 31, 2019

 

 

If you saw the movies ‘Juno’ , ‘Tully’, or ‘More’, you know this woman can tell a story. She can really set a scene, and it’s easy to see how her description of a somewhat sleazy undertaking became a launching pad for her.

Candy Girl is about her foray into the world of ‘exotic dancing’: stripping. She claims she was bored with her job at a marketing agency. Although she was well-liked and promoted, she felt unfulfilled, so she decided to try stripping at local clubs in Minneapolis.

Her boyfriend is all for it, and very supportive. She walks into a club, says she is interested in dancing, and is hired. Just like that. She meets women from all walks of life, and learns how the system works, which she explains in detail. If you’ve seen the Jennifer Lopez movie, ‘Hustlers’, you get a sanitized version of the life. Most women do not do that well. However, they are making more money than they would as elderly companions, cooks, or child care workers.

She explains this, and how she saved enough money for a car and a down payment on a house. This is not erotica. It is a description of work for a better income than she could make from what her college education prepared her for.

I’d like to think of myself as a writer, but this Cody Diablo really paints a picture. This should be a classic. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if this is a possibility for you, read this book. Even if you say, “I could never do this, you will find a brave writer here vividly describing what she and others did.

Daler Singh: Human Trafficking

October 5, 2019

Jimmy Paxon asked me to be on his show, We had been friends since he was a young comedian, so now we’d known each other over 10 years.;  We had stayed in touch, and when I told him I was moving to the USA, he asked if I’d come on the show.  We had been on several times as a group, but now I was solo.  We decided we’d play a duet. Him on trumpet, me on piano, and do the Brian May song, ‘Let me Into Your Heart Again.’  With him on trumpet, it didn’t pay to sing it, and his house orchestra could fill in.

Of course, there was light banter, first, and he asked me how I met Amara.  I answered, “She’s the granddaughter of the man who bought my father.”  That’s how the conversation started.

Jimmy responded, laughing, “You mean brought, don’t you?”

I looked at Jimmy, seriously, and responded, “No, bought. Mr. Glazer bought my father off the port in Dar es Salaam.    Then he brought my father to Arusha.     You know I am from Tanzania, don’t you?”

Jimmy  sort of stared at me, speechless.  My father went on, “ Africa.  My father was a slave. In fact, both he and my mother were trafficked.  They were orphans in India, and they got rounded up and sold as slaves to East Africa.  My father was a houseboy and learned Glazer’s business, and then he bought my mother about 10 years after he came to Africa. Same deal. He went to Dar with Glazer, saw my mother standing there, on the dock. She was a teenager, and he  bought her.”

 Jimmy didn’t know how to respond.  I  guess th8is was a lot to  digest. He sort of hesitated, then he asked, “What year was this?”

 I knew the story.  “It was some time  at the of World War Two, around 1945, Baba thought.  He didn’t know how old he was. He  was going through puberty, he told me.  He  barely understood English. He spoke Hindi, and Glazer started teaching him English, but he also learned what he thinks is Yiddish, and he learned KiSwahili out in the street.”

“Do you know Yiddish?”  Jimmy asked me.

I laughed and said, “No…in fact, I think besides mishegas, the only other Yiddish I know is ‘shtup.’”

The audience laughed at this, because those words vaguely translate into ‘bullshit’ and ‘fuck’.

So Jimmy Paxon was trying to formulate a question, and didn’t know where to go with it, and my I said, “You see,  lots of Europeans didn’t  want black Africans to be houseboys because  they weren’t really used to doing physical labor, certainly not used to doing cooking or laundry,  the main tasks. The women did that.   But the women were kept on a ‘short leash’, to use an expression.  The men wanted wages, but they didn’t want to be disrespected or  subjected to the  racism and insanity of the Europeans, so they’d go back to their homes when they’d had enough.   They’d run away, as the Europeans characterized it.  Sometimes, they’d steal household goods, too.  So, whomever could afford it wanted  an Indian worker, because they couldn’t run off. Where were they going to go? Back across the ocean? To what?  Most were orphans.  After they bought out their contracts, and the Europeans gave them the opportunity to do so, most started some sort of business.  Many were Moslems, and they got absorbed into that community, but my parents both knew they were mixed caste and religion, so they  identified  as Sikh.  So my father was with the Glazers about 10 years, and he knew that Glazer’s son didn’t want to stay in Africa.  He was being educated in England. Anyone with means sent their children back to Europe  or America for education.  So…my father asked to learn the business.  Then he wanted to marry, and because of his social status knew it might be difficult.  He considered marrying an African girl, but he needed bride price in cattle, so it was easier to go buy a girl.  My Ama was as young as he had been, so the Glazers convinced him to actually wait until she was more mature, because if she got pregnant too young she might die or become barren, and he’d lose his investment. So, he did wait, and taught her the household tasks, and Mrs. Glazer also taught her a lot.  When the grandparents  felt it was time to retire, their eldest son didn’t want to live in Africa. He found there was a community of South African Jews in Chicago, where he went to college, and he also met Amara’s mother. They’d return every other summer for a few weeks, to Arusha,  and a his daughters got older, he brought them.  Amara knew me before I had a beard.”

“Interesting,” Paxon responded.  You have older brothers, though.  How is it…”

I laughed, and replied, “How is it neither of my brothers  got Amara? I am not sure. I think either they were afraid of her, or knew my parents would raise holy hell, but I didn’t think of that. When I started going through puberty and the family came to visit, I decided I wanted her, and took advantage of an opportunity.”

The audience started laughing, and Paxon sort of laughed in embarrassment.

I went on,  “I really loved her, but she told me my parents would not allow it. I had to finish my studies.  She went back to America.  She discouraged me because she knew my parents would be  unhappy. So, I met Sita, decided she’d be a good wife, and it lasted 10 years. But both of us were unhappy, so I decided to divorce and find Amara.  I can’t tell you how happy we are.  She completes me, She really does.”

The audience applauded.  Jimmy, though, was still curious about slavery.

“So, in Africa, is there still slavery?”  he asked.

I  looked at him, sighed, and  then said, “You know, you Americans.  You think at the end of your civil war, that was the end of slavery.  Yes, of course. Probably not many are brought from other continents, but there  is slavery.  Some people are born into it.  In fact, humans are still trafficked  all over. From Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Bangladesh.  Mostly women. They are lied to, told they’d get good wages. Then ,  their passports taken away. Some are brought by diplomats or other elites.  I’m sure there are slaves in the USA. I mean, why would you have to import a house keeper? Right?  But really, you guys, you allow your  politicians to give aid to countries that  ignore human rights. Your congress people vote on aid packages, and not only don’t ask for an accounting, but don’t tie aid to  government transparency and respect for rule of law!  You give aid to Tanzania, my country of birth.  Granted, we’ve always had high literacy, but for what? An economy that can’t absorb us, so we have to leave—-become essentially, economic refugees, which is why I live in Switzerland half the year.  Look at the social indicators for all the countries you give aid to.  Infant and maternal mortality  remain high, communications infrastructure is lacking. Were it  not for the  Malaysians, most people in Africa wouldn’t have telephones.  Women don’t have access to education or family planning services. You all think you are giving humanitarian aid.  Granted, you do, when there is some sort of natural disaster, but mostly you m give military aid, and the corrupt leaders  use it to terrorize their own people.  “

I  was on a roll.  I went on, after taking a breath, “I work here. I pay taxes here. In your country. Many of us foreign nationals do, and you’ve elected leaders who demonize us foreigners, yet they are ripping you off. My  gosh, they tell you that you can’t have single payer health services,  your ‘Medicare’, for all, but they  take that money & give weapons to dictators.  Wake up.  You don’t have  to futz around for an envelope and a stamp. Email them and tell them you know they do this!  Quit paying attention to  lobbyists and public relations people  who  tell you what to put into  foreign aid appropriations budgets, and. take care of Americans first.  And quit saying  foreigners are not contributing to your tax base!  Start supporting  groups that  address human trafficking!”

I got rousing applause, and then  I said to Jimmy, “Are you sorry you asked? Really, if people want to help the less fortunate in our poor countries, you can  be better environmental stewards, recycle and plant trees and address your carbon footprints.  Quit  supporting  organizations  that withhold family planning services. Don’t support missionaries. We Africans  already know what Christianity is! Support Peace Corps. Were it not for them, I would be a servant in Africa, not an engineer.  In fact, come visit us.  See how we actually live.  For most Africans, the big issue is fresh water. “  I was so worked up.  I hadn’t realized that he didn’t know. There was a lot of applause and of course they went to a commercial, which gave us a little time to recover.

Jimmy said to me, “That was great!  Are you ready?”

I nodded, but looked to Amara. She was in the front row, and she was smiling. I always wanted her there.  I walked over to her and started to kneel, but she stood up and hugged me.  I whispered to her, “What did I do?”

She whispered back, “You were great. You said what needed to be said, It’s true. Americans have no idea.”

I took her hand and said, “Sit next to me on the bench while we do this. You give me strength.”

I was shocked went it went viral on the internet. Well, when I got back from New York, and went to my office,  both my email folder and  voice mail at school were full.  I called Amara and asked her if she had time to help me sort through all the messages, because I wanted every one  addressed.  I had my office secretary change my outgoing  voice mail message until I got  everything cleared up. Amara and I  formulated a response to all who emailed

book review: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by Chris Kenry

June 29, 2019

I found this book in a neighborhood book bin.  The main  character, raised  upper middle class,  was the ‘boy toy’of an older gay man who was killed in a freak accident. Suddenly Jack is destitute. His college major was art history.  He never had a plan.  Meanwhile, due to self-indulgence, he got himself into massive credit card debt.  He had no idea what to do, but  because of a gay friend, he, by chance, met  Ray. He also had to apply for public aid, but since he  was not a good waiter,and could brely manage ‘custoner serive’,  he  signed up for an entrepreneurship program .  One thing led to another, and he  found he and Ray were into what we’d euphemistically call the ‘escort’ business.

I  found this book (published in 2001:  https://books.google.com/books/about/Can_t_Buy_Me_Love.html?id=Q0ATjNjLMdMC&hl=en),  very funny and well written.  I’d suggest it to anyone with an open mind who  might be interested in starting a business.  They guys do get caught…but they couldn’t ber nailed on tax evasion!

Mayor Lightfoot: Here’s Your Chance!

June 3, 2019

I am sure most people in the rest of the country, let alone Chicagoans, wonder “What the f**k happened?” A true long shot whom hardly anyone knew, got elected mayor.

Let me give this a bit of context. Our mayor, Rahm, who sold himself as a ‘progressive’ (after all, he was Obama’s Chief of Staff…). made things worse, if that was at all possible. Our biggest problem was and is paying for running the city. Shootings? Please. Yes, there are a few pockets of neighborhoods that are totally out of control, but there is no mystery about why this is: absentee landlords who don’t do credit checks on landlords, lots of poorly educated adults who can’t make a living wage bearing children they can barely parent, no jobs for the unskilled… a true lack of both literacy and numeracy…and police designating that, since they will never eliminate crime, ‘containing’ it to certain neighborhoods.  Yes…that’s right:  the police know who the problems are…they  just don’t  make arrests because they do a poor job of collecting evidence & they  know  too many judges give probabtion (meanwhile, we have  non-violent people taking up space for drug violations…,.go figure…)

We had about 14—yes—14 candidates running for mayor, and virtually all had either (Democratic) machine ties, or were outliers: Not funded well, unlikable supporters (Amara Enyia— Kanye West and Dorothy Brown. Dorothy has been under indictment…Amara, you blew it…). Where had Gery Chico been all these years? Bill Daley? Totally clueless. He felt there would be enough white people votes, and that everyone would forget his father and brother. I had voted for Susana Mendoza for comptroller, but she really offered nothing new. I was leaning towards former school teacher Toni Preckwinkle. I was almost ready to forgive her support for corrupt assessor Joe Berrios, and then it came out she put Alderman Ed Burke’s totally useless son on her payroll at $100,000 for doing virtually notnhing but harass and annoy people (while cutting other county jobs).

So, essentially, due to so many candidates running (Unless you went online and looked at their platforms, you wouldn’t know what their actual platforms were), and a very low voter turnout, Lori won by default.

We all know what the problems are, and many of us know the solutions, In fact, Ken Dunn, of Resource Center, who started out as a Peace Corps Volunteer, then developed a reputation as a community-based recycler, has helped to create more income generating projects for marginally employable people than just about anybody in Chicago. Yet, because he’s not an elite and doesn’t contribute to political causes, he’s virtually ignored.

But I digress. Rahm declined to run. He would have won based on inertia, But he bowed out, leaving us with a bigger mess in terms of debt & the proverbially underfunded pension funds than he came in with. He had the intelligernce and the means to fix this. He just chose to enrich elites. Several great examples of this are:

  1. His predessor, Richard M. Daley, bought a shuttered hospital for….? Oh, right… the city was acquiring land for the Olympics before we got the bid to host (we didn’t—-dodged a bullet there! Ask any city that has hosted since the 1970s if they made or lost money on hosting!). So with taxpayer money, Daley bought Michel Reese Hospital for way more than it would have sold for. It sits there, akin to a shuttered nuclear power plant. Then, Rahm decides that the city needs a $9 million training center for the police—-way across town. Why? Why couldn’t this site be reconfigured? Nobody gives a clear answer. I partly blame the press in Chicago for pandering. In fact, Georg Lucas wanted a site for a Star Wars museum. This site would have been perfect! Very easily accessible by public transportation. No, Lucas and his wife, who don’t live in Chicago, wanted a site on the lakefront. It was the lakefront or nothing. So, it turned out to be nothing. They took their toys and went home because the lakefront belongs to all of us. Rahm tried to get his way for them, but a fluke, democracy prevailed.
  2. By having an appointed rather than elected school board, Rahm got us Barbara Byrd Bennet, a military veteran who had been a school administrator with no apparent record for improving educational outcomes anywhere. Worse, she committed massive fraud. She cost the citizens a huge amount of money (she was convicted) and closed down many schools instead of improving them. We had implemented Local School Councils over 20years ago, which never got enough support from CPS, but no matter. Rahm should be held as accountable as BBB, and we need an elected school board.
  3. The pension fund shortfall. What sense does it make to have about half a billion dollars (according to journalist Ben Joravsky and a few others who have analyzed the budget) sitting there in a Tax Increment Financing Account, and then issue bond funds to pay for what this TIF $$$ should be paying for?
  4. In fact—- did nobody in city government at all DO THE MATH of giving $900,000,000 to Lincoln Yards developers? Forget about the traffic, and that any jobs to be created for our proverbially ‘low income/unskilled’ citizens would be temporary in nature. How much does this actually add to the cost of each housing & business unit…and how do we get paid back? The reason for TAX INCREMENT FINANCING is to support a project that—but for the lack of money—-would not be built. This complex only benefits elites. If the developers could not get financing from the private sector, it should not have been approved. That’s how capitalism works. For our aldermen to approve this project shows that they are grossly overpaid…. and arrogant, and innumerate. I don’t know if we will be able to overcome this because we also have…
  5. The pension funds being underfunded…hello! Wasn’t Tony Rezko, the politically connected fundraiser for both political parties, for some reason on the committees that approved pension plans for public employees? No matter. Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union members and teacher had a great idea: tax trades at the Chicago Board of Trades. I know from working for elites that they’d never miss the money. they may ultimately move out of the city but until then… what’s the alternative? To continue adding to the hotel tax?

 

Mayor Lightfoot— embarass the incumbents who got re-elected—for being arrogant, innumerate, and failing their constituents. They waste money and reward their friends. They pander.You really have nothing to lose!

What’s it Worth?

April 27, 2019

I’ve been amusing myself writing erotica. If you had told me even six months ago I would be doing this, I would have laughed at you and said, “Hardly likely.” Sometimes I embarrass myself and I have to stop before I begin typing. It’s not that my imagination is that vivid. It’s that my memory is.

I think a lot of us who write in the genre have something to say aside from the fact that we know what good sex is. I know I put up with some crappy behavior from the men who provided me with good sex. But nobody wants to read about the reality of that.

Then just about everybody got a cell phone, and…

In the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic ( https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/573949), writer Kate Julian explored why younger people are having fewer sexual encounters and relationships than in the past. At least that’s how it is in the developed world. In the less developed world, men are still exploiting women, and women are still acquiescing. In the post-industrial countries, not just due to AIDS, but also due to how much time people are now glued to their phones and devices, people are having less physical contact.

In the late 1980’s, I read an essay written by an architect about how interaction between people was becoming more fleeting and trivialized. His solution was making housing in communities more structured in a way that your neighbors could see you if you were at home, and visit you if you were in your public rooms—like a living room. They’d see you through your windows. No privacy unless you went to some length to achieve it—like going into private rooms. His solution was architectural, not really social. In fact, the essay was written in the decades before social media was even a thought.

Fleeting social encounters? In China now, there are internet stars that do nothing other than live stream their lives doing mundane things…and they have fans. I was sort of bemused that people would watch shows like the Osbornes or Keeping up with the Kardashians. Didn’t anyone learn anything when TV cameras followed the Loud family ( Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_American_Family ) around in the 1970s? Is your life that boring that you think watching other people do nothing that it’s better than…actually living your own life? I am also amazed that people think it’s cool to have Alexas or Siri in their homes spying on them. Well… according to the Atlantic, they aren’t having sex. I’m not sure I understand.

What got me thinking was an incident I recalled a good friend telling me about over four decades ago. Her roommate had started seeing this guy she had met (where ever…it was in a public place. She was not introduced by mutual friends). The roommate complained to my friend that she was seeing so much of this guy that she wasn’t able to get her laundry done.

My friend asked her roommate, “Doesn’t he have a laundry room in his building?” and the roommate responded, “I’m sure he must, but I don’t know him well enough to ask if I can use his washing machine.”

My friend responded to the roommate, “If he knows you well enough to have sex, then you should know him well enough to use his washing machine.”

When she relayed this story to me, I laughed and said, “Tell her to ask if she can drive his car. If he doesn’t know her well enough to let her drive his car, she doesn’t know him well enough to have sex with him.” Frankly, if she doesn’t know how to ask to use his washing maching, how is she going to be brave enough to ask for the sex she wants? It’s not like none of us hooked up with guys we barely knew into the early 1980s. Didn’t we girls all hope a romance would emerge? What per centage resulted in any kind of relationship? We all saw the movie “About Last Night.” Anyone hook up with Rob Lowe and have mind blowing sex? All that sex that wasn’t mind blowing…was it worth it?.

It’s just a fact that women still have a different expectation of sexual encounters and the vulnerability we risk. It’s way different from what most men expect or want.

This is what’s really good about the erotic romance genre: girls have great sex, and it is described, so you don’t have to guess if you’ve never had it. We tell you what the guys want, and what we want. But I digress….

I’ve written about this in my book, “Polyandress” (not published yet—but hopefully by the end of 2019). My main male character tells the polyandress (a woman with multiple sexual, economic, and/or emotional partners ) that he wanted a relationship with the woman he has sex with. Someone he could interact with regularly. He wanted that because of what he had had with the polyandress. He actually wanted what most women want. He didn’t want what his male friends wanted, to have what we’d call casual sex. He wanted a woman to take time with him, and he wanted to take time with a woman.

So, in addressing teenagers who aren’t happy with their sexual relationships because they aren’t getting the type, duration. or frequency of the sex they want, and they are not interested in the other aspects of the interactions they are having with their sex partners, I’d have to ask: if the sex isn’t worth it, why are you still thinking this is a relationship? If you can’t talk about it, or come to an understanding that you are both happy with, why bother?

As an aside, this wonderful song that Bobby Caldwell sings: What you won’t Do For Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8GhXtfthgk