Thinking Out Loud

Playing us like a fiddle...

Excuse me, what bipartisanship?

The song of bipartisanship being fiddled to fool the American public by the Democrats and Republicans is music for the tone deaf. We all know that when it gets down to the nitty gritty of deal-making for legislation or any kind of action, neither side will harmonize. Fiddle strings will screech and snap.

Obama and the Democrats are still talking misty-eyed idealistic dreams that the United States will "out-innovate, out-educate and outbuild the rest of the world" in our "Sputnik moment." First we need to educate several generations of what Sputnik was and why it once motivated and inspired us to do better. That costs a lot of money we don't have and the Republicans stated concern is about America's trillions of dollars of debt.

The fiddle strings that screech and snap will be to the tune of high unemployment, low to no GDP and soaring inflation. That s-p-e-l-l-s no more government spending and debt, a subject the Republicans talk about but are just as guilty of doing as Democrats. They just like to spend it on different things.

The truth is "we ain't got no money."

The bottom line is Americans will have to dig themselves out of this hole, first by somehow turning the government spigot off, then by innovating and building our own America back again. The political, bureaucratic and business class has no interest in doing that, we really do have to do it ourselves. Oh and yes, we can...double dare ya.

Arizona Landscape

A tree buds and blooms for a new year...

see Turning a new leaf for a new year on 01/14/11

With a nod to rock and confusion.


Geography of the Mind

Overcoming the Misery Index...

The US Misery Index is arrived at by the formula of the unemployment rate added to the inflation rate. In December 2010 the Misery Index was derived by the Unemployment Rate (9.4) plus the Inflation Rate (1.5) to equal 10.9. The formula was first put out in 1970 and created by the economist Arthur Okun. The high of the Misery Index was 21.98 in June 1980 and the low was 2.97 in July 1953. I will venture to say we are on the road to exceeding the high index.

That is not what is important. The Misery Index is a statistical measurement that given the circumstances of high unemployment and inflation of how miserable we could be if we allow the conditions to affect us. It is a negative measurement. My belief is the Misery Index is based on our happiness as consumers and not on our psychological, spiritual and physical well being. The chances that we are likely to be struggling during these times and having difficulty is greater since we are going through a historical transitional period, forcing us to re-prioritize what is truly important. It is very likely those conditions could adversely influence us but our response is critical to our well-being. One key to keep in mind is that conditions are never permanent and always subject to change. If the index is going higher, we need to prepare ourselves mentally for the challenge.

There is no easy pop psychology answer on how we can prepare ourselves, how to respond under these conditions and what we do to rise above adversity. Oprah and Dr. Phil can't help us. Everyone is different and uses individual coping mechanisms and we must each come up with our own answers. The purpose here is not to give advice or resolve in one easy step how to remain strong in a weak economic world but to point out that strength is required.

Strength is required because I also believe we are heading for a clash of economic, social and political values and change that is not going to occur without a fight. If we are ever to reclaim the "American Way" of entrepreneurial individualism after almost one hundred years of creeping "progressive" socialism, sneaking up like a cat burglar, in collusion with the original collectivists, corrupt corporatism elitists, then we need psychological power as well as physical endurance for the fight.

Reference: The US Misery Index
Chart: The Economist online 01/24/11

Arizona Landscape

Welcome to the Boomtown...

High-rise construction never occupied


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

My State of the Union...

We have too much debt and printing more money is now beyond counter-productive; the government can't fund any more programs or do more bailouts.

While being cautiously optimistic, I am hoping that Obama's move more to the center, will make the next two years far better than his first two years as President. There is clearly trouble on the horizon in the form of a potentially hard hitting Double Dip to this long term economic crisis recession, which has the potential to make this another great depression. Perhaps he really has learned some things on the job. My desire is that he has also studied some history and drawn reasonable conclusions but I'm holding back judgment on that. Actions speak louder than words and we already know he is excellent at the latter.

My concern is that the economic State of the Union is tenuous and there is relatively recent history to be our guide, beginning with the post-WWI twenties and the Great Depression of the thirties, of the previous century. What we can learn from the 1920s is what led up to the Depression has striking similarities to what led up to this economic crisis. We can also learn that the actions Franklin Roosevelt took in the 1930s have been partially undertaken already and did not work, meanwhile more are being proposed. What America needs to know is that before the 1929 crash the government was less than two percent of the economy and Roosevelt drove it up over thirty three percent. Whereas Coolidge was the last President who believed the government was the "invisible hand" in the nations business and economy, his successor, Hoover started the idea of government as the "benevolent hand" and Roosevelt took it to the extreme of the "controlling hand."

His famous statement, repeatedly reinforced, was "The country needs, and unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: if it fails admit it frankly and try another. But above all try something."

In other words, do something even if it's not well thought out, untested and wrong. We can't afford that.

The problem was that he also coupled this with massive regulation and micro-management of every aspect of business, small to large. The private sector held onto cash and wouldn't invest to build new or keep open all types of industries and hire people because they neither knew what to expect next from FDR and the regulatory rules were so voluminous they were difficult to interpret. This included agriculture and farming. The result was production was low and unemployment remained high. The myth we were all taught that Roosevelt saved us from the Depression by creating public sector jobs, in reality was because his increased interference had failed and it was a method to enlarge the government as an employer. What ended the Depression was not the CCC or WPA or regulatory agencies but the entry of the US into WWII in 1941.

Do we want to repeat the same mistakes?

Today President Obama, according to his State of the Union Preview Video and press statements, is going to propose ways to job creation through open markets. What I hope he also proposes is scaling back the huge regulatory expansion that has occurred in his first two years. His administration has created more red tape and interference than any President since Carter and this is what killed productivity and job growth in the private sector during the last depression. If you need an example, look towards the FCC and the Health Care Reform legislation. On another front, the Republicans are wasting precious time trying to repeal HCR, when what they should be doing is coming up with viable alternatives to modify and improve that legislation, to make it less onerous. They also need to recognize that military and defense spending is Republican welfare they are hooked on, just as much as the welfare they castigate Democrats for. It's all government growth and spending.

The bottom line is this: the last Quantitative Easing (QE2) that Obama went along with Bernanke doing is not working. It is creating inflation and worse, putting us in danger of hyper-inflation, we cannot spend our way out of this problem. It's fair to say we have avoided deflation, which would have been devastating. We cannot print anymore money, bail out any businesses or segments of the private sector, state or local governments, nor go on any public works and job programs. We do not have the money and we owe too much already.

Obama and Democrats need to back off government intervention that is counterproductive; Republicans need to be productive and propose realistic alternative solutions.

If Obama proposes any more projects for infrastructure, job creation, etc. it will never get through Congress. If he chooses to go further centrist for the larger good of the country, by backing off spending programs and regulation, allowing the fear to go out of the private sector, we will see more investment and albeit slowly, real job creation.

For their part the Republicans need to stop focusing on all the wrong things and start proposing some original ideas of their own as alternatives if they don't like what they see. Currently they are whining and sniping, adding fuel to fire, which is just as counterproductive as government interference. Democrats need to recognize that in many ways they have failed to solve our economic problems and their anger should be directed back to themselves. They must stop pandering to their constituent unions, since that has done more harm than good.

This country has taken a huge fall and so have economies all around the globe. Everyone has too much debt, not enough income due to high unemployment, along with a currency crisis from printing too much money and bailouts. These problems will not be resolved quickly, there is pain involved, hard work and sacrifice is required and all Americans need to reconcile themselves to that.

Arizona Landscape



You Can Quote Me On That

In an economic downturn...

Part Two
Follow up to blog on 01/22/11

During the seventies and most of the eighties I held a job that I often found mindless, stifling and sometimes hated but I needed it and there were no jobs in the area that were worth taking that paid any better. More than anyone I understand the struggle of holding an underpaid and not-very-challenging job with managers that didn't qualify for the word "leader," since they were barely able to supervise, much less manage and lead. Their best and only weapon was negative reinforcement and as a low level night supervisor I had to put up with a lot and constantly figure out how to appeal to their best interests to get them to do the right thing for the evening and night shift workers and customers. It was a constant struggle battling old mindsets of "we've always done it this way" from a previous era when things had changed. They were from a pick-up-the-handset-phone clerical environment loaded with paper records and we were in one of the first computerized, centralized technical support centers that required a different set of rules. Most of which had to be made up as we went along because everything was new and piloting without instrumentation.

It was another period of disruptive change that I welcomed but most of the people that were directing me did not. Since my alternatives weren't great I stuck with it and the key to more than surviving it, thriving in it, was viewing it as a chance to learn how to change others perceptions and behaviors. I reinvented myself as change agent before it became a recognized term, keeping my individuality intact, taking a chance at being a pioneer. There were other opportunities I saw in it also. It was an irregular income due to hours being varied and often cut back but had very good benefits, including full tuition to any school of my choice, which allowed me time to do other things a regular eight to five, 40 hour a week job wouldn't have permitted. I used the time outside of work to further my education, do a lot of creative things I was interested in and learn innovative financing of my life. 

There also was always the threat of layoffs. When I wrote in my previous blog entry that it perplexed me why people who have jobs now complain so much and expect a pay raise, I knew exactly what I was saying. I get what having a job in an economic downturn that isn't exactly desirable is like. My perspective now comes from staring at statistics of millions of Americans being unemployed for up to three years, eating their life savings away, uncertain of the future and really not prepared for the New Economy. Therefore when I hear former co-workers complain about having to do more work, with higher health premiums and no raises but unlikely to be laid off, I understand their frustration but their anger is misplaced and somewhat disingenuous, riddled with "they owe me" entitlement.

I learned a very long time ago "don't love the company because it won't love you back." However, being angry about the situation only turns on you though, since the company doesn't care, they only want you to produce. What the individual does have is the power to figure out how to personally deal and cope with the conundrum in a way that doesn't eat them up inside, since that always ends up displaying itself on negative presentation of themselves to the outside world, making matters worse. It is the law of bad returns.

Fortunately I have a job now that I like, although it's real economic benefit is relatively inexpensive, good health care benefits, since the pay is low and the hours vary from 20 hours a week up to 40-60, depending on the time of year and the schedule of non-traditional hours changes weekly. It's a juggling act of money but I use the time off to my best advantage. I learned from my lessons of decades ago to save money when I work a lot of hours, since I have little free time to spend it anyway, saving it for the lean months when I do have more spare time. Everyone I work with now took this job for the same reasons, they had lost their previous job and we're all glad to have some income and benefits.

It's also far better than the job I had right before the crash, that I disliked almost every minute of, at a renown company that now has the distinction of being disreputable and is laying off again by the thousands. I took my current job because it was the best possible solution to the dilemma of few employment opportunities. Count me as underemployed and making the best of it. I recognize I'm fortunate to have two other small incomes, not enough to live on, this is a supplement but provides for me, besides benefits, other intangible things. It gives me the opportunity to learn something new, get back into a field I once was in, further my education some more and time to figure out where to go next. That might be my own business, some other method to get additional income on the side and most importantly, allowing me to continue stretching my creative side and expressing myself.

In many ways I recognize that I am fortunate but I also believe you create your own destiny and luck by taking what you've learned in the past and keeping your eyes wide open for new probabilities. Good fortune very often isn't mere luck but in the outlook you take on life and how you proceed with each challenge as they arise.

Arizona Landscape



You Can Quote Me On That

In an economic downturn...

My working life started in the late sixties and employment in my younger life spanned the seventies all the way through to the economic recession of 1982-83. By that time I was almost thirty and had gotten used to the idea that I couldn't control the macro economy and long prior made the decision that I could control my own micro economic destiny. It wasn't always easy or uplifting, since my working world wasn't what I envisioned, somehow I managed though and learned from it.

Ringing in my ears from the beginning was my father and my aunt's refrain "In an economic downturn, get a job, any job and keep that job, until the economy clearly gets better." It was a result of their coming of age during the 1930s Depression. It was reinforced by mother's chorus "Don't complain and be thankful you have a job when so many people are out of work." It was complemented by the common saying of the time "This is a recession if you have a job, a depression if you don't."

I'm mystified in this current economic era why so many people who do have a job, complain about every little thing and especially about not getting a pay raise. I am bewildered that someone who has maintained a job, didn't get laid off or a salary reduction, has missed that there are a lot of people who would take their job in minute at a lower wage. It is also enigmatic to me why so many people feel they are entitled to a job or pay better than they are skilled for and won't take a job that is available. No one is overqualified in this economy, we all live in post-Katrina New Orleans now. Are they so clueless about the difficulty of millions of unemployed and underemployed people, that would like a job, any job and keep it, at any pay?

If you're employed and dissatisfied, please quit and discover what so many unemployed and underemployed people have. It will change your outlook on life, I guarantee it.


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

Seventies Redux...

Best case scenario: We don't become like the UK in the seventies.
Worst case scenario: Hyperinflation due to full blown currency crisis.
Optimum scenario: We make the best of whatever happens.

This is not a happy blog but a hefty dose of reality with a heaping helping of positive hope at the ending. The challenges our economy faces in order for the mild recovery that occurred in 2010 to continue are myriad and not one of them must falter in order for the others to remain intact. They're economic indicator dominoes. They require a vastly improved employment outlook, GDP far greater than the two percent we're at currently, a stable currency, resolution of the mortgage foreclosure crisis, rapid debt deleveraging with simultaneous consumer spending, an increase in manufacturing and companies holding cash investing in equipment and new services. The reader gets the general idea. This means at best we're likely in for a stagnating economy, often referred to as stagflation, due to the certainty that unemployment will remain high, debt ratios will not be reduced and productivity won't increase enough, along with the wrong kind of inflation. We are already beginning to experience this type of inflation, in the products we most need, not the macroeconomic type of inflation the Chairman of the Federal Reserve is lamely trying to coax. He is playing a high risk game of quantitative easing, chancing hyperinflation in a quest to avoid the dicey pitfall of deflation.

The price and problems of commodities are telegraphing to us what we are incrementally seeing in our daily lives and will loom larger as 2011 progresses. Oil, steel, lumber, corn and wheat, utilities (electric and gas), copper, rare earth and other commodities are gaining in price along with looming currency problems, ours and other countries. This translates to everyday consumers as higher prices for food, gas, durable goods such as household items, clothing and personal products. It is no accident that the major wireless carriers are reducing perks and raising prices, not necessarily due to their costs going up much right now, it's because they know we've become dependent on them. Heed the economic signal these corporations are sending that outmatches the one broadcasting over their airwaves.

In other words expect inflation for things we consider absolute necessity goods and have a real need to use. Products such as gas to get to work if we have a job and food for nourishment and clothes to keep us warm and dry or cool and comfortable.

Our worst danger is devaluation of the US dollar which puts us at risk of not being the preferred reserve (anchor) currency of the world. China is making a serious bid for the Yuan to become the reserve currency within the decade. Then all bets are off. Until the late sixties the UK's pound sterling was the number one reserve currency until the US dollar became the preferred currency. Britain suffered greatly during the 1970s and we would do well to mind what happened there at that time. They have never fully recovered, since after Thatcher's valiant and mostly successful effort to return the UK to a more normal economy, Tony Blair and the Labour party then destroyed advances for short term political gains. The reader should be hearing a familiar ringing in the ears here.

Simultaneously, with the probable exclusion of items of precious metals and gems such as jewelry (an exception for several reasons), coins and bullion, most items that are not really necessary such as designer label clothes, brand name fine furniture, high end appliances and electronics, prices will drop. Since consumers will have to spend money on the absolute necessities, the lower cost of these goods will be irrelevant, since they'll be out of reach for most people.

The interesting thing about this era is that many of the things, bottled water for instance, that people now consider necessities will quickly be reduced to unnecessary goods in the blink of an eye, in a characteristically true American way. For example bottled water will go out of fashion because it will become more expensive but people will state the reason they no longer consume it is for environmental reasons, citing plastic bottles, carbon burning transportation, energy used to extract it from it's source, etc. The real reason will be that the outlay for more important things, basics like fuel, food and tap water, will take priority in a squeezed budget.

On the flip side, expect deflation in things we may have once considered necessary, have become inexpensive but not as necessary as we thought, in context of what we really need. We'll discover that the label on clothing or if the veggie's soil was organic is irrelevant. 

An example is fuel costs will be high and hybrid cars will be expensive but you will be able to buy a gas guzzler on the cheap.

We may find ourselves, along with $8 a gallon gasoline, in a situation where electric power is rotated among substations or brownouts and wireless connections will be disabled during certain periods of time. In denial this could happen? Again, look to Britain in the seventies, where similar things occurred. Some people won't go to work due to wages versus cost of getting there. No US Mail, UPS or FedEx deliveries, because the earnings won't be enough to pay the costs of delivering the goods. A new found dislike for unions will be discovered amongst people who were previously neutral or pro on the topic of unionism. Police and fire unions will strike to demand they get pay raises to equal their cost of living. Think not? Think again.

We should learn from the past, relying on ourselves and each other.

Our best hope is we will be smart enough to avoid these confrontations and difficulties and learn to conserve and use wisely what we have and improvise what we don't. More importantly learn the value of cooperation and socializing with good people who will exchange one good turn for another. The art of bargaining is not as disdained in many cultures as much as it is in the United States but that could change. That is my hope but so far I'm not banking on it. After experiencing 25 years of unprecedented prosperity, we have become entrenched with a sense of entitlement, several generations have unrealistic expectations that it should always be that way. History does not bear that out.

The worthwhile benefit that I sincerely hope is this coming decade will serve as a catalyst for a significant number of people to reinvent themselves with the ingenuity this country was once attributed with. To be sure a lot of Americans will remain stuck in a rut of their own making, their choice, not collateral damage. For others that are suffering in ways not of their making, we should lend a helping hand. I'm hoping that in the long term though many will learn the creative skill of more than making do and improving what they have into something greater. Hopefully, much like a generation or two that was shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, we will learn through hard times to make life better, gaining values that stick with us for a lifetime and pass them on.

True, this thought is quite optimistic coupled with positive thinking. It is held together by hope and belief in the higher nature of many Americans, who in the long view of our history, get going when life gets down to the nitty gritty.

Arizona Landscape

In the dead of night...

"The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."


Only In America

On Civil Rights...

"Show Your Rights!"

As an Arizonan, for reasons anyone can look up in a Wikipedia article on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I have an aversion to discussing the merits of whether or not there should be a Federal national holiday bearing his name. Nor will I make any comment related to the recent tragedy in Tucson, plenty of others will do that. The point to me has always been, if anyone deserved a day of commemoration for acts that brought about a huge permanent shift in civil rights, it is Dr. King. He is a human symbol of a historical development well worth observing. What I believe many people still don't comprehend is that not only did he fight discrimination and win desegregation and equal rights for black people in the United States, he permanently affirmed in American and international culture the idea that civil rights are for all people. He enduringly affixed the concept that civil rights are an "inalienable right" for everyone, through his leadership, by using the nonviolent and legal system methods he chose to achieve his goals.

Much can be written about how activists have taken his work into social and political science, turning what he accomplished on its head, misusing it for their grinding agendas. In the United States I am referring primarily to the use of the legislative or administrative process of government to reach the objective of affirmative action, rather than the US Constitution to demand equality through the legal system. The former involves the political and bureaucratic classes constructing artificial contrivances that always seem to end up removing barriers for some and creating them for others, that can also be re-legislated in a more harmful direction. The latter assures permanent resolution through definitive court decisions which are difficult to reverse and applies equitably to everyman.

Far better in my mind to argue your case through the US Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, to attain your rights.

US Bill of Rights

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. [5]
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  • Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Arizona Landscape

Sunrise, Sunset...


Thinking Out Loud

Real Life is like fiction...

So why not write about it?

It is time, actually overdue, to recharge my creative batteries, set a new aspiration to challenge myself with. I do not remember a time that I was not writing something, even as a small child I scribbled in childish scrawl little stories and made notes my father proudly called his "five year olds diary." I was a very early voracious reader and to the chagrin of my siblings and later my classmates I had a vocabulary and ability to spell grades above the one I was currently in. My aunt would show me off to adult friends when I was a kindergartener and say to me "Spell Czechoslovakia!" to be followed by "Spell encyclopedia! hypothetical! observatory!" and her favorite: "Mississippi," which she had taught me as M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-in-your-I" to my mother's annoyance.

Naturally as a youngster I wrote fantastical stories where my mind wandered into far-fetched situations I imagined myself as the hero. Pure Fiction. My notes were observations of things I saw, thought about, lists of things I wanted to do, devised out of boredom when I was riding in the car with my parents or waiting for something or someone. All Non-fiction. As I grew older, around eight or nine, I started becoming more interested in history and started reading some good quality history books. Although I still read fiction, it was mostly historical and political things I was interested in reading.

As an overactive child, both in mind and physical activities, my parents had a lot to deal with in keeping me occupied. My father had the idea I start writing a history of where we lived, to keep me engaged during certain times, when my parents, sister, aunt and uncle and cousin, needed a break from me. He figured it accomplished two things, kept me quietly preoccupied and out of others hair, as well as develop my writing abilities. Due to my reading interests, the result in the long term was that by the time I was 13, my interest was focused solely on writing non-fiction.

It was a pattern set for life. Through undergraduate and post-graduate degrees and beyond I have taken classes in Journalism, Non-Fiction Writing, Technical Writing, Historical Writing, Policies and Procedures Writing and Legal Writing. I have also written and published, in their medium, in each of these categories. I'm not being modest when I state that a lot of it wasn't very good, since much of it wasn't. My first website in the late nineties was topically political, modeled after Andrew Sullivan's pioneering website blog, where I first got the idea to start blogging. It was far better in my imagination than I'm sure it was in actuality. The same could be said for my writing for a website in the early part of this past decade.

The upshot of it all is in spite of a lot of bad writing, I've learned to write non-fiction, particularly policies and procedures, history and political articles, essays and blogs fairly well. There is truth in the axiom "writers write every day" because it does hone your skills. In times when I wasn't writing anything in particular, I wrote long letters and later email to friends who mutually returned the favor with long well written replies.

In 2005 I became enamored with video and the following year YouTube. Since then I've played around with video blogging and learned some editing and have developed a moderate skill at it. I started this blog in 2007 and for over two years played around with it but have placed back in draft mode most of the work from that time period. In 2009 I decided to get more serious with it and by the end of the year pledged to myself I would work in 2010 at it every day and develop my own style with it, which I intend on continuing.

All that just written to say this: to grow more in my writing I have decided to tackle fiction and am going back to the very junior college, now a Community College, that I began my college career at decades ago. I'm taking a freshman level class, although not a beginning one, in structuring and writing fiction. I decided to take the classroom route for a variety of reasons, primarily discipline and mostly to be around other aspiring fiction writers. This particular school is known for "robbing" the universities of good professors because of the school atmosphere and pay. Therefore the instructor is not only your standard PhD but also a published author of recognizable books and an interesting character in his own right. It also opens the door for me to be less intimidated going to writer's workshops. My mission is to stimulate and stretch my imagination to keep the creative juices that sustain me flowing.

This blog will remain what it is, a work in progress of non-fiction blogging of my personal observations of real life and social commentary about it. My ultimate intention is to learn the new world of self distributing ePublishing and if I end up writing any worthwhile fiction, I will produce it in the form of e-books, as well as non-fiction work as electronic articles. To me being creative and especially writing is something I can't imagine not doing and will continue the rest of my life, just as some people do woodworking, quilting, photography, rebuilding cars, vlogging, gardening, playing music or whatever captures their verve.

Arizona Landscape

Streaming towards sunset...


Economic, Social and Geopolitical

Out of Arizona...

A berserk act with state, national and global implications.

The violent shooting eruption that occurred on Saturday, January 8, 2011, when US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded, six people died and over a dozen others injured by one gunman, has reverberated around Arizona, the United States and both Hemispheres. To state that most Arizonans initial reaction was shock and fear, would be an understatement. Everyone has their own mechanisms for dealing with such news but it is fair to say that many Arizonans will go through various stages of a grieving process. We have only just begun to absorb the impact of what happened that day.

Why Arizona?

It is fair to say that many of us decades long (three or more) residents and second and third generation Arizonans are asking "What has happened to our state?" The question is in the larger context and not solely related to the brutal shooting fracas in Tucson. Arizona has been considered a conservative state since the Sixties in the era of Goldwater, when conservative here meant a more libertarian "live and let live" attitude. In the Eighties we tilted more to the right as social conservatives began to become a stronger force in state and local politics as the evangelical fundamentalist movement grew nationally as well as here. It was then a lack of tolerance began creeping into our culture. It was clear by 2000 that intolerance had become a more prominent feature of our social landscape and that "live and let live" had finally died after lingering attempts at survival. Many of us began to feel uncomfortable with the prevailing social attitudes among the voting population and felt they had swept in like unwanted tumbleweeds during a wicked dust storm.

The irony is that most of us ourselves are of a conservative bent, fiscally conservative and social libertarians but not social conservatives, raised by parents in the tradition of Barry Goldwater and Sandra Day O'Connors Arizona. An Arizona that was wide open spaces with plenty of room for other people's opinions. We had become outsiders in our own state.

This is attributed by many of us to the decision of the "movers and shakers" to build an economy on unlimited growth, engineered primarily by real estate developers and mortgage companies, on the foundation of construction. The price of which we are paying for now in two ways. The first is the obvious housing bust we have experienced that lags only slightly behind California and Nevada and is among the top in the nation. It was unsustainable from the beginning. The second is a less obvious byproduct and almost never openly discussed and that is immigration from within the US...not illegal immigration from Mexico. Illegal immigration in large part is a result of the legal migration of people from other states in the US who wanted the cheap labor of the illegal migrants from south of the border.

We had an influx of Americans who did not come here to invest in the State of Arizona's way of life and to contribute and become involved in it socially, culturally, economically or politically but rather to escape to a "lifestyle" of fun and sun beyond their financial means. A perpetual California of the Mind. We had inexpensive housing with a low cost of living and the basis for that is another unspoken reason, we also have low wages. That also meant we attracted people who commonly, certainly not all of them but a large segment, didn't have higher education and with lower skill and economic denominators. People involved mainly in construction or the byproducts of the industry, joined by plenty of retirees on fixed incomes, with almost no spread of other types of employment and income. In general these were people not very interested in investing time and money into developing a high-level economy, strong cultural institutions, solid educational systems and long term sustenance. This negatively impacted our strong points and drove out our solid manufacturing, computing, defense and aerospace industries.

This phenomenon became clear to a lot of us after the 1993 recession when population, housing and other construction began growing nonsensically gangbusters; in a state with limited water and energy resources. Those of us who pointed this out were rewarded with being called elitist spoil sports who just didn't understand The American Way...never mind it was an ephemeral desert mirage of the real American Way.

Can you hear us now?

The bottom line result is we have a population largely ignorant of their own local area much less the history, culture and politics of the state. When and if they do get involved, it is at the level with the least knowledge, resulting in local and state officials elected without the electorate really knowing what they really stand or rather, don't stand for. The trend got worse in the 2004 election and progressed from there and we now have a State Legislature who operates at the basest of political animal instincts. Propositions, Referendums and Initiatives were passed by voters with short sighted concern for the damage to the long term interests of the state's economy.

We don't stand apart, only at the forefront.

My belief though is we are but a microcosm of the country, that things tend to come to the forefront here earlier than most states, due to our population being more forthright. At the very least we are honest, for better or worse, about our antipathy and mindset. Dung flinging didn't originate here but was developed as a fine art, by both of the two major political sides, outside of this state. We simply have a population that absorbs and mirrors it, our best hope is that we learn from last Saturday's events but I'm not counting on it.

What happened here could have happened anywhere in the country. Already the Limbaughs, Olbermanns, Becks, Maddows, et al have sharpened their arrows and tightened their bows and are projecting more venom into the atmosphere. This in spite of it being long past the time we lower the rhetoric, vitriol and character assassination from both sides of the spectrum to focus on legitimate differences in opinion in a more civilized manner. Although the gunman might be mentally unsound, it has to be considered that the toxic political atmosphere that has escalated these past 15 years or so, infiltrated his thinking and influenced him into action.

It occurs to me that as all of America absorbs what happened, it's possible that many of us who have become tired of the extreme bombastic rants from the television, radio and internet, will speak out against it while still supporting free speech. A key element people should remember is that the people blasting us with these negative invectives, are making huge amounts of money from it, go home at night to a comfortable home and do not suffer the consequences of what they have said. This includes not just the Mainstream Media but the Political Class whose arrogant, petty bickering and backbiting is effrontery to civility, the US Constitution and the people of America. We do ourselves a disservice if we listen, tolerate or repeat it and we should be asking not only "What has happened to our country?" but also "What can I do to stop the caustic atmosphere and help improve the climate of our discussions and debate in this country? While still preserving people's right to speak their minds, no matter how much we disagree?"

Arizona Landscape

In the desert with no name...


Geography of the Mind

Navigating a toxic culture...

We live in a time with so much information bombarding the wired and wireless world, the old and new media, online and offline life, that if we are not discriminating and filter a lot of it out we become overloaded. So much of it is like zany Morning Zoo radio that our minds drive time in the wrong direction, on roads that either lead us endlessly to nowhere or to dead ends. It is up to us to distinguish what we are exposed to, distilling the stream of data flowing in, to avoid pollution of our intellect.

This can be difficult to do but critical since more than we cognizantly recognize, our everyday lives are affected by what we see and hear, consciously or not. It has the ability to affect our judgment and perceptions more than we realize. There is a menu of junk for the brain readily available that damages our mind just as much as fast food does our body. Much like surface-radiation inversion creates a bad air quality cloud over an urban area, too much mix of poisonous information creates a low quality cloud over our critical thinking.

Some of this can be hard to turn off but an effort to do so is not as hard as it seems. There's a barrage of messages, sales pitches, broadcasts, banners, announcements, links, friend requests and spam to fend off. The first place to start is television and radio, few original ideas come out of them and they're mouthpieces for their sponsors, noise is not news. My choice is not to watch it at all. The web is both wonderfully full of information but a lot of it is disorganized and useless. Because most of our media and communications have moved onto the internet, it is not as easy as turning off the television or radio, since it also contains a lot of useful and valuable information. This requires choosing careful discrimination on what sites to go to and how much time we spend on them to avoid saturation.

Another source of information blast is not so easy to quiet and that is people. We may be exposed to cynical contrary people we can't avoid in our work, family and in public. We can choose our friends and who we associate with by choice. Avoid negative people and don't listen to constant whining and failures. Anyone who is involved in too much excess or extreme at anything, constantly complaining, never resolves their own problems, stay away from them. The chances they're going to change are highly unlikely. With inescapable people at work and family members this requires developing a mechanism to tune the discord out, a difficult but not insurmountable task. There are ways to mute their dissonance both by your approach and response to them but it requires some trial and error effort.

The more distilling down of the babble of information streaming at us from multiple channels we do, we discover that day to day life becomes more harmonious and less disquieting. Cleaning out the clutter of the clatter and chattering blows the bad air out and improves our field of vision. The knowledge we intake is of better quality and allows us to breathe clearer air and think with more clarity and calms the mind and soul.

Arizona Landscape

Tapatio Cliffs...

View of pollution cloud overhanging desert floor of The Valley

photo by Gregory A Z Nelson


You Can Quote Me On That

They believe their own public relations...

"There's a mark born every minute and one to trim 'em [rip off] and one to knock 'em [warn away]." Mark Twain

You can't question their belief in themselves and their ability to convince their public and each other, that they are the greatest and there should be no doubt in the stock market, that the purveyors of Wall Street regard themselves with. Their opportunistic manipulative optimism when there are significant problems on Main Street and across the real America is a testament to their removal from reality and is simultaneously surreal and magnificent.

When have you ever known the common broker to tell you to sell? Before the 1962 wild crash? 1973? 1987? 1989 mini crash? 2000? 2001? 2007? 2009? 2010 flash crash? It is in their interest to keep the stock market aloft no matter what, regardless of underlying fundamentals, economic conditions outside of the market and common sense. In a perverse way, you have to admire their capacity to convince themselves and whoever is buying stocks right now, yet one more time, that stocks always go up and never go down. As it stands now they are all looking up, huffing and puffing and blowing, to keep a bubble afloat.

Anyone interested in buying some municipal bonds?

Arizona Landscape

Urban Canyon Walls...



It's not what you do but how you do it...

It's peculiar to me how many people place classification judgments on individuals and their abilities, intelligence, vocabulary, education, opinions and perceptions by the particular work title they have, rather than their actual aptitude. Some medical doctors can be quite boorish and clumsy at figuring out a patient's problem while a good mechanic can finesse a difficult car problem far better than that doctor. Some lawyers can shine a beam of light on a topic like no one else, while a mortgage broker might befuddle you on the same simplest topic in twenty minutes.  A smart manager leads their people to making their own decisions for everyone to succeed while a dictatorial floor supervisor intimidates the group into fearing for their jobs, making everyone unhappy and less productive. The lady at the front desk knows more about the locality than the professional tour guide and imparts it better. A know-it-all service rep can terrorize your service problem in an hour, while a good technical support trouble shooter can sectionalize, isolate and resolve a problem in minutes.

In my thinking our judgments about other people should have less to do with which college they went to or if they didn't go to at all, if they're a professional or a tradesman, an executive or an hourly wage earner and more about the quality of their competency and ability to communicate well. Whether a company vice president or laundry manager, the assessment should be on competency in how much knowledge and skill they have in their basic duties, how well they have priorities figured out, their ability to reason and deal with complications and how they interact with other people, both their peers and customers, in resolving them. Quality interaction is now a required component of any working environment and it's appropriate to make an appraisal of someone's skill at it on any level . Communicating well is of absolute importance since it involves listening to what someone is telling you, interpreting it correctly and what they really mean and being able to communicate back by reducing a complex issue to a simple explanation.

Arizona Landscape

Analog to Digital...


Geography of the Mind

If your time to you is worth savin'...

Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone

We are in an epoch where I believe people will be distinguished not as much by status and financial worth, income from employment or other means (or little to none), looks or personal bearing, community or style of life, rural or urban, although those things will always matter to some degree. Rather it will be if they are coping with the times or they are not, regardless of what populace they are from. The world is rapidly changing and living in it, at it's basest, is either acceptance or denial.

The darkest angst of most people is being alone, with no social significance, income or money and living in a weekly motel splitting pills and dumpster diving. How you cope with that reptilian fear determines how well you will fare in difficult times. There is a grain of truth in what you believe will happen to you, actually will. If you encounter your lizard brain fears, you will likely overcome them. Among us are many people, who have never experienced life during a significant economic downturn that affects most of society. They probably are in most need of examining their innermost dread, if they're smart and they dare to, to avoid being surprised in the worst way. As a matter of fact it is worthwhile for everyone to explore, far better to be surprised in the best way, whether or not you believe the world is turning a different direction.

Everything that I needed to learn about life I learned during the turbulent times of the late sixties through the early eighties during my teens and twenties. For me the years spanning between 1968 and 1982 were packed with racial strife, assassinations, political scandal, war, riots, anti-draft movement, hostage-taking and terrorism, energy crisis, labor difficulties and unrest. All of those things seemed distant to me at the time though, although it was ever-present in the news and the topic of conversation among everyone. What directly affected me was the economy and how I was going to not only survive but thrive in it. I had to face what I was afraid of.

Every once in awhile you feel a tap on your shoulder and turn around only to face yourself.

There were technical recessions in the years 1969-1970, 1973-1975, 1978, 1980 and 1980-1982 but to me it was one long economic haul of "stagflation" and constantly figuring out ways to keep my head above water and staying afloat. I started working and paying taxes and social security in 1968 when I was 14 years old. In 1972 I went to work for the Bell System which from 1974 onward, operated in constant surplus and layoff mode. I eyeballed my fear that life would be a long treadmill of deprivation and resolved that I would not let it be like that. The amazing thing is that it forged me into living in ways that not only made ends meet but more often than not, improved what I had, while also still being happy and not feeling deprived.

That time period forced me into a life of thinking creatively, learning self-reliance, independence, motivation, problem solving, never giving up and always going forward. I learned how to take what I had and make it into something better, enjoy life without an excess of material consumer goods and often more than enough. I managed to be comfortable in my living situation and obtain what I needed and wanted in innovative alternate ways. It was very often difficult and I sometimes thought life would always be that way. In hindsight those years prepared me for how to deal with all kinds of difficult situations, not just economic, as I encountered them. It also made me more original and I created my best early art, photography, writing and music.

Your old road is rapidly agin' 
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand

It is my belief that people will either learn to live ingeniously and do the best with what they have, figure out ways to obtain what they don't have if they really need or want it, or they won't. There are many people living more innovatively now, many who aren't but will and many who never will. Those who don't will remain stuck in a time warp the rest of their lives and there is little the rest of us can do about it. There is still enough "America" in the United States to rise above difficult times for most people. The knowledge is out there to figure out means, although it may require significant changes in attitude and approach to life, to rise above hardship and difficulties. Very often what some people consider a catastrophic lifestyle change isn't that at all, their expectations are out of alignment.

If some do not want to confront their basest reptilian fears, no one else can force them. Our only obligation is to make what is known available to them, it is their obligation to mobilize themselves and actuate their reality.


Arizona Landscape

Gutenberg descendants...


Thinking Out Loud


A new decade in a new economic, social and geopolitical world.

The year 2010 turned a page into a new chapter of my life in momentous ways that I did not expect but could not have hoped for a better outcome. Life is much better now. I clearly remember New Year's Eve and Day 2010 because it was a long and difficult weekend with a pending decision weighing heavily on my mind. On Monday, January 4th, I went into work for a few hours and then confirmed my instincts by resigning from my job. It was the right choice but difficult in these economic times and seemingly unwise from a personal financial standpoint. I had to do it to be free to move on in a new year, the last in a Biblically epic long decade in my life, that began in 2000 when my life was radically altered also by a work decision, one I did not choose. Like hundreds of thousands of others I was "separated" from the company I worked for almost 30 years.

The Economic Crisis started early for me, in hindsight I am very glad, it gave me a long running head start on what was to follow in this country and is not over yet.

This past year has been extremes of highs and lows, ups and downs and everything in between. At times I was in complete control of my situation and in others I was not. In the dead heat of summer I was struck by a virus that kept me bed-ridden for two weeks and during that same month I serendipitously found a job that suits me perfectly. It was a classic time that epitomized the characteristics of the entire year, simultaneously flowing triumph and disaster.

In the end it has been a richly rewarding and fulfilling year furnishing me with optimism, positive thinking and confidence. Regardless of what 2011 and the next decade brings I have at last returned to the summer roots of my inner self and in harmony with my true nature, after a decade of a mostly estranged winter. I say that with an assurance, that I did not have but was yearning for, this time last year. I knew then where I had been for a decade and did not want to continue but rather move on to another journey and I can say that I have.

One of the best decisions I made at the end of 2009 was to set a goal to begin posting to this website blog daily and start creating and uploading videos on YouTube again. It was part of documenting my life that served as a release valve, a steadying constant, as well as a confidence builder and confirming my ability to be original and self-reliant. Through expressing myself it reminded me I am a unique individual in my own right.

Another good determination made this past spring was to get off most of the social web, especially Twitter and Facebook. I never cared for Facebook and was reluctantly coaxed into it and Twitter became a time-killer, full of unwashed masses bubbling out a constant stream of babbling junk. That is not a judgment on other people who choose to be on those sites, those sites just weren't right for me at the time or even now. That choice, by it's very nature, also meant limiting my interaction online but I've found the remaining interaction to be of better quality.

The time I had spent online and with other things I chose to stop doing was spent reading good books in a self-designed "Great Books" list. What a wonderful determination that has turned out to be. My mind has not only been enriched but it has had an unexpected but welcome calming of my soul.

"He not busy being born is busy dying"

How very fortuitous it has turned out to be that on that day, Friday the 13th in October 2000, I was surplussed and laid off from the company I had worked for since high school, through my college degrees and experienced my thirties and forties. My involuntary "separation" (their term) actually was not accompanied with anxiety but rather rejoicing at being freed from the institutional madness of the only place I had really ever worked. That does not mean there was not angst of learning as I traversed down the road in the decade ahead. It prepared me in too many ways to enumerate to cope with the new world of 21st century economic, social and geopolitical circumstances.

Although this year and this decade has ended with a finality specific to me, it does not mean an end to always learning and facing new challenges moving forward. Now I look ahead to them with a renewed freedom I once had and have revived. It is certain that the Great Disruption that became obvious to the world in mid-2007 will continue and perpetuate the economic distress that challenges us all and disturbs other social institutions. We live in an exciting time as our universe is reborn anew once again, following in the footprints of world history. That does not bother me since I know that as an individual I have the determination, will and ability to overthrow adversity. Also I have a perception of others difficulties and an ability to understand what some may need help in learning to cope for themselves.

If there is anything I am able to impart to others, it is that we all have something within us that allows us to rise above and overcome. My hope is that in my own small way I can do that.

"He not being busy born is busy dying" quote from "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" [Dylan]