Robert's Random Ravings

Uncertain Times

We are living in a very uncertain time now. The fighting that is going on between the Democrats and Republicans, between the House and the Senate is so disheartening now. It seems that the people that we have elected have decided to do what they think we want them to do instead of what we actually want them to do. Re-election is the one and only goal of everything that happens in Washington. Meanwhile, the country is no longer being governed.

Big money interests have taken over in the nation’s capital. I, for one, am getting very sick of it. This greed and corruption does not know party boundaries. You can find many examples from both sides of the aisle.

An entire class of Representatives has the one and only goal of obstructing anything that President Obama proposes – even if it is a proposal that they once believed in. How does this environment change? I am beginning to think that it can’t until something drastic happens.

9/11 was a wakeup call for this nation and its leaders. Unfortunately we have been turned into a fearful nation – afraid of the next terrorist attack; afraid of the direction of the economy; afraid for the plunging values of our homes; afraid that we will not be able to find fulfilling gainful employment any more.

01/24/2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Do we belong in Libya?

Nobody wants another war. I think that is a fairly universal sentiment. Yet we now find our armed forces active in Iraq and Afghanistan. And last week the United States, as part of an international coalition, began air bombardments in Libya. The action is as a result of a United Nations Resolution 1973, which was approved by a vote of 10 – 0, with 5 abstentions (including Russia and China).

I think the sentiment is right here. The idea is to use whatever means necessary to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya in order to protect innocent civilians from the wrath of Muammar Qaddafi. The people of Libya seem to be tired of the Qaddafi regime. There is a desire for freedom, democracy and jobs. Like in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the people began protesting all around the country. Unlike in those other countries, Qaddafi decided to strike back at the people instead of stepping down from his 42 year reign of terror.

The problem I have with this action is that there does not seem to be a plan as to what comes next. We are determined not to commit ground troops. Yet Libya’s troops continue to attack rebels and civilians, even after the heavy coalition bombardments. We did something similar in Iraq. We expected a “video game war,” where we bombard from the air, wipe out any resistance and then overthrow Hussein. We did not think about what would come next. The result was a quick “victory” followed by years of sectarian violence. Will we ever learn?

03/30/2011 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

New Year – Clean Slate

New Year’s Day 2011 has arrived. New Year is always such an interesting time of the year. No matter what the previous year may have brought, many people start the new year with fresh hope and optimism. The slate gets wiped clean and it is almost as if the previous 12 months were just a dream.

2010 was a difficult year for many people. The economic woes have continued for large swaths of the American people. Jobs are harder and harder to find. I have nearly a dozen friends all over the country that are now unemployed. Some of them have been unemployed for 1 or even 2 years. Yet even for them, 2011 holds new promise and new potential.

2010 started on a particularly bad note for me as my relationship of 16 years all but dissolved. Fortunately, my partner and I have been able to make up and are heading towards our 17th year together.

In March of 2010, I took over the post of Democratic Chair for my voting Precinct (Travis County Precinct 208). That has been an interesting endeavor. I worked along with the rest of the party to get Bill White elected as governor of Texas, as well as on a number of races for the state House of Representatives. Unfortunately, it was a bad year for Democrats everywhere, with Texas being no exception. Rick Perry won a third full term as governor and all but 2 of the Democratic State Reps from Central Texas were defeated in the November election. The result is that the State House is almost 2 to 1 in favor of the Republican Party. Being a Democrat in Texas is an uphill battle. Thank G-d I live in Austin where there are more liberals than conservatives.

Of course, I traveled a lot this past year. Starting with Hawaii in January, and ending with Florida in December. In between, there were trips to San Francisco, Kansas City and New Orleans, among others. Didn’t get to Europe this year, but I am hoping to in 2011. Also hope to get to Montreal and Cabo San Lucas in 2011. We’ll see how that goes.

My dogs are doing well, though Rex (our 13 year old Westie) is definitely showing signs of getting old [aren’t we all??]. He is still doing great overall, though. I think his younger brother and sister help him in that regard.

In December, I turned 44. It is hard to believe that I am in my mid 40’s. I still want to think of myself as a young man. Oh well. Time – you cruel thing.

I have been fortunate to be fairly healthy this year with no major setbacks. That is always a good thing. My partner John has not been so lucky. He is in the process of recovering from bilateral pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in both lungs). Fortunately the medicines are doing their work and he seems to be improving every day.

So here we are in 2011 now. 2010 is in the history books. And as I said at the top of this post, it always amazes me how people get a new outlook on life at this time of year. I am hopeful that the new optimism will stay with me well into the new year. Here’s to a year of good health, good friends and good times.

01/05/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

How serious are we about national debt?

This past election cycle saw a lot of talk about the need to reduce the federal budget deficit and the overall national debt. Of course, what we heard was mostly talk. We did not get a lot of specifics from either Democrats or Republicans. The Republicans published their Pledge to America. After reading it, I am left far from impressed.

The items that are addressed are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $1 trillion dollar + budget deficit. Saving a few billion is not nearly enough. If our lawmakers are serious about reducing the debt and the deficit, real choices are going to have to be made.

The most obvious thing needed is to raise taxes. If we reduce the loopholes, enforce corporate taxation better and let the Bush tax cuts expire, it would make a significant dent in our annual deficit. Our current culture is vehemently anti-tax, however. So people want to continue spending more and bringing in less. I don’t think you need an MBA to know that this formula does not improve the deficit situation. That kind of thinking is what has left the State of California in such a fiscal mess.

Subsidies of various industries is another area that could be looked at. The amount of money spent to subsidize corn, sugar, energy exploration, and several other industries is obscene. We espouse a “free market” ideology, while at the same time we rig the market with artificial subsidies. Corn and sugar are probably the two biggest culprits. I realize that our farmers are very important and that they have to make a living. But it is not the job of the federal government to pay them. It always amazes me that the same people that yell about deregulation and free market also have their hands out collecting federal money. At the very least, the subsidies should be limited to families and not be used as handouts for large collectives (like Mansanto, etc.) I wonder just how much could be saved by the federal government if we re-evaluated the farm subsidies.

Another area that could use some reform is the “war on drugs.” It is a losing battle. The fight is not being won. Meanwhile, people are dying and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on enforcement that is impractical at best, as well as the incarceration of so called criminals who then get to live on the taxpayer’s dime. This “war” has clear racial overtones and is wasteful, harmful, and ultimately, completely unsuccessful. If we were to legalize marijuana in the US, it would be quite a boon to everyone. It would bring in tax dollars. It would reduce law enforcement budgets significantly. It would lessen the significant overcrowding of our jails and our justice system. I think it is a win-win. The people that want to smoke are going to do so, whether it is legal or not. I am completely unconvinced about any real harm in the recreational use of pot. [Clearly – that is my opinion and others will think differently – but let’s at least have a legitimate conversation]

With the current group in power trying to extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans (the same Americans that have bled the rest of us dry over the last few years in the economic disaster that hit most of the country) is bad policy. It is unjust – even immoral. We end up cutting programs to the people that are most in need so that the people that are least in need can have a higher stack of bills to roll around in.

I am not suggesting that we take a Robin Hood approach. Rich people deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But that should not be at the expense of the ones that cannot afford it. They should pay their fair share. Their income and capital gains should be taxed without loopholes, just like it is for the rest of us. Corporation that do business in the United States should pay taxes on the income generated in the United States. Moving your offices to Bermuda to avoid taxation is a true travesty and perversion of corporate responsibility.

There are so many real things that our Congress can do to benefit all of us. It’s time that they started worrying about that more than getting re-elected.

I have no problem with Americans saying “throw the bums out.” It is our right. We express ourselves through the voting booth. I may be unhappy with the result of this past election, but I believe in our system. I wish more people participated – that’s for sure. I wish the disinformation campaigns were not allowed. I wish that people that put out and pay for political advertisements did not have the ability to do so anonymously. I wish that the Supreme Court had not opened the flood gates of corporate spending on elections. But this is the system we have and as we make mistakes, it is incumbent upon us and our leaders to correct them.

I suggest to everyone that they make themselves a part of the process. Write to, call or visit your congressional delegation. They should be interested in hearing from you. If they are not, maybe it is time to back someone else.

Most importantly, let’s engage in a serious debate – not a shrill shouting match. No one wins when we do that.

11/12/2010 Posted by | General, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t we all just get along?

Tomorrow is the 2010 midterm elections (finally!!). I know that I will be glad to see it done with. The tone of the elections has been so negative – it seems to get more and more so each election cycle. Billions of dollars are being spent nationwide to elect Governors, Senators, State Representatives and scores of other government officials. But at the end of the day, what will really have been accomplished?

The Tea Party is a recent movement that seems to be riding on a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the federal government. People are supposedly tired of Washington and its inability to actually listen to the citizens and do what they need done. The Tea Party is not alone in this. I am not a tea-partier, but I am also very dissatisfied with the direction of the federal government and the state government here in Texas.

I voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. I was hopeful that it would be the start of a new day in Washington. Of course, the minute President Obama got elected, the Republicans started to march in lockstep in total and complete opposition to any and everything that Obama’s administration tried to do. Obama is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong. But what do you think might have been accomplished if the Democrats and Republicans had decided to work together to fix the things that are wrong in our country as opposed to making sure their own party retains power? There is something seriously wrong with a system that encourages little more than a 24/7/365 election cycle. Our Senators and Representatives are supposed to work for us – “we the people.” Not the other way around.

When I see candidates on both sides slinging mud at each other instead of telling me what their plans/ideas are, I am disgusted. When I see gross misrepresentation and outright lies used in campaign commercials, it literally sickens me to my stomach. Unfortunately, both parties are guilty of this.

At any rate, after this election is over and the counts are in, it is likely that, at the very least, the House of Representatives will become a Republican majority. It is possible, though not nearly as likely, that the Senate, too, will pass into Republican control. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 2 years. Will the Republicans continue to be the party of No? Will they continue to oppose any proposals that come from the President or the Democrats (even when they include ideas they themselves used to champion), without actually making proposals of their own? Will there be any fresh ideas on either side of the political spectrum?

Unfortunately, I think we will see more of the same. With the Republicans in power, we will probably see the Democrats start using a lot of the same obstructionist tactics that the Republicans have used over the last 2 years. Instead of taking the hint from a sea change that the people of America want to see a balance in government and all sides working for the betterment of the country, we will probably see more entrenchment and bickering. This simply cannot continue.

I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. We are Americans first and that should be our concern, not a political party. We have pushed too much to the extremes in both major parties and it is leaving the moderates (both liberal and conservative) in the dust. Let’s hold our elected officials accountable for representing our interests – not the interests of their allies/supporters/friends. Public office should not be a get rich quick scheme. It is service to the public. I think it is high time we demanded that level of service from our elected officials.

11/01/2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If you can’t trust your honey, who can you trust ??? (via Go Figure…)

This was just too cute not to share.

Enjoy.

I love to cook. My mother was pretty good in the kitchen, and as a kid I watched her and learned. I've done all of the cooking in my house for decades now, and in all due modesty, I'm not bad at it. I've got good knife skills, I know the difference between broil and braise, and I can usually pull off the most difficult aspect of cooking…having dishes that are to be served together ready at the same time. Nobody wants those Brussels Sprouts for … Read More

via Go Figure…

09/04/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Political Firestorms

We live in a “scandal of the day” culture now.  A lot of people complain about the relentless 24/7/365 news culture.  Just about everything gets taken out of context.  Much of the news is more like propaganda than news.  Spin is the name of the game.  Both major parties are to blame.  I like President Obama, but the unending “spin” from the White House is tiring.  Put the facts out there and let us make up our own minds.

I don’t care which side of the political spectrum you are on.  There are right-wing nut jobs as well as left-wing nut jobs.  Unfortunately, it seems that many of them are coming out of the woodwork now. People who hate the government spout off anything they want, convincing uninformed people of their conspiracies, and couching it in terms of “saving” the country.  (Anyone recall the “death panel” discussions?) What are we being saved from? Communism? Socialism? Government Interference in our lives? No one wants the government to interfere until they need it to interfere.

In addition, everything gets politicized.  The BP Oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a disaster for ALL of us.  It is not a Democratic or Republican problem. It is an American, even global, problem.

I wish our “leaders” would spend a little more time trying to solve the nation’s problems and a lot less time trying to get re-elected.  No one has the guts anymore to stand up for what is needed, despite the political cost.  And with corporate lobbyists running amok on Capitol Hill and in our State Capitols, corporations are getting all the attention.  Why is it unfair for BP to have to pay for the damage it has done to the Gulf?  Anyone who thinks otherwise is out of their mind. (Joe Barton, I am talking to YOU!)  It is making them take responsibility for an almost comedic (if it weren’t so tragic)  series of mistakes, cost-cutting measures and downright incompetence.  We should not be apologizing to BP. BP should be worried more about cleaning up its mess than its image.

I am getting more and more disillusioned with our government.  I don’t feel like it gives a damn about me, so I understand the many other people that feel the same way.  But the way to fix that is not to throw out the whole thing.  We need to work on not allowing the almighty dollar to be the determinant in our daily lives.  There is nothing wrong with being successful and having money.  But where’s the compassion?  We can give tax breaks to oil companies and corn farmers and sugar farmers, but those that are truly in need get pushed farther and farther down.  This government should be for the people, not the corporations.  Despite what the Supreme Court says, a corporation is NOT a person and never will be.

Most of all, we should allow people to disagree with us.  A discussion does not need to turn into an argument.  We should be talking about the issues – both with people that agree with us and those that disagree with us.  If you never hear all points of view, how can you really think you are making an educated choice on anything?

07/27/2010 Posted by | General, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel’s right to survive

I will say up front that I am Jewish.  That being said, I do not automatically agree with everything Israel does.  While I understood the reasoning, the war against Hamas in Gaza in 2008 was, in my opinion, run poorly and probably not the best option for Israel.  The incursion into Lebanon against Hezbollah was even more poorly conducted.

This weekend, there was a humanitarian aid flotilla heading to Gaza that was intercepted by the Israeli Navy.  I don’t think anyone knows the whole story yet, but it appears that Israel warned the flotilla of 6 ships that it was going to stop them, and board and inspect them before they would be allowed to continue.  5 of the 6 ships allowed this.  On the sixth ship, however, the people on the ship apparently attacked the Israeli Navy as they boarded the ship.  We will certainly be buried under the spin and hyperbole of all sides in this incident.  However, I have been reading articles online and the comments that accompany them and have seen a frightening amount of extreme anti-Semitism being expressed.  It is downright scary to think that there are so many people in America and Europe that still hold such views.

I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist as well as its right to protect itself.  The US asserts similar rights all the time.  We attacked Iraq unprovoked because the people in power decided that it was necessary for the protection of America.  (I disagreed with this conclusion and with the war and would like to see us completely out of Iraq sooner rather than later).  No one would dare question the US’s resolve to protect itself or the actions it takes to do so.  And if they do, the powers that be in this country probably would not care.  We stop ships and board them all the time when we suspect gun or drug running.  And if our Coast Guard or Navy were attacked during such endeavors, rest assured that we would respond with force.

The same should go for Israel. Hamas has used Gaza as a staging ground for ongoing terrorist attacks on Israel (lobbing rockets into southern Israel).  They have kidnapped Israeli soldiers.  Their hands are as full of blood as anyone else and Israel is in a fight for its survival.  Make no mistake.  Hamas IS a terrorist organization and its goal is the complete destruction of Israel.  Meanwhile, almost everyone around the world condemns Israel for defending itself.  We weren’t complaining when the Israelis knocked out Saddam’s nuclear program.

It’s high time that the United States and President Obama step up and show that it is a real friend to Israel.  And not just in photo ops.  Israel’s needs our help and we need Israel’s help.  It is the only democracy in the Middle East (the jury is still out on Iraq).  If we are really as interested in spreading Democracy in that region, why do we hammer Israel time and time again for every little thing?

06/03/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gays in the Military… (via Go Figure…)

I liked this post so much, I wanted to share it with my readers as well.

I'm disturbed about the continuing discussion regarding gays in the military. It's not like this is a new controversy. Even the late Barry Goldwater, "Mr. Conservative", famously said "You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight." And that was many years ago. So here we are, in 2010, still trailing (again) much of the industrialized world in allowing EVERYONE who wants to serve the nation (and i … Read More

via Go Figure…

06/01/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Daily Struggle

I often wonder, when I look at the people around me, what is really going on in their heads.  That is not meant to be a snarky comment.  See, I struggle with self-esteem issues and a monumental lack of any social grace.  I am also very reserved and even shy, though most people would probably be amazed to hear that.  I cover it up well, I guess.  But what people can never hear is the never-ending internal dialogue I have running through my head.  “You should have done this,” or “Why did you do that?” and such.

It’s a difficult battle.  You always are second guessing yourself.  Of course, sometimes other people are second guessing you as well, contributing to the feeling.

We think we know each other, but I would say that no one truly knows another human being.  We have filters, shields, defense mechanisms, etc. that we place between ourselves and others.  Some have trust issues too.  Some of us are paranoid (I am).

Perhaps, though, part of the problem is that we don’t really understand ourselves.  Our whole life is spent trying to figure out who we are.  We have so many outside influences giving us input on the subject.  Our parents try to teach us and shape us.  We have teachers at school and rabbis, priests or ministers at our various houses of worship.  All this and more shapes us and how we look at the world and at ourselves.

I had a good childhood.  I was not beaten, abused or anything like that.  But that does not mean that I don’t have “scars” from my childhood.  When I was very young, my parents became very religious.  I grew up in a strict environment that to some extent resulted in my being removed from some normal socialization.  For a long time, I was only allowed to “fraternize” with like-minded people, and there just weren’t that many around.  So I ended up being more introverted.

I have struggled ever since with difficulties in getting along with other people and with tact and grace in social settings.  I am not trying to blame my parents, so please do not misunderstand.  But we are products of our environment.

Sometimes that filter that belongs between what we think and what comes out of our mouths doesn’t work so well for me.  I also have a lot of trouble when it comes to not showing through body language or other cues what I am actually thinking.  It’s not that I want to lie – that is not what I am saying.  But I wish that I had more control over my body language at times.  I have worked on this and tried very hard, but it is a difficult, ongoing issue for me.  As a result, I tend to put people off and drive people away.  It is not what I mean to do, but it is what happens.  I don’t know if anyone else can relate to that.

I just hope that if anyone reads this that is dealing with similar issues, it might give them a little encouragement to know that they are not the only ones.

05/13/2010 Posted by | General | , , | 4 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.