Saturday, October 20, 2018

Millennial Economic Confusion

Green on the outside, red on the inside
Photo: Wikipedia
A social media post captured my attention. A millennial was boasting about a recent home purchase. Nothing out of the ordinary, home ownership is a good thing and people take pride in owning their own place, private property is the bedrock of capitalism and freedom. This millennial was buying in one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets.

While boasting about a “privileged” status of people who could afford to buy homes because they had inherited wealth, the millennial opined that the system is rigged. This spurious “white privilege” system somehow suppresses black people who earn incomes considerably lower than whites.

Race-baiting while flaunting expensive material possessions, millennials like to quote large income disparities between blacks and whites, forgetting that income disparities exist among whites as well and not because of any deliberate exploitation or skin color but because each individual, lucky or unlucky, made personal choices that resulted in economic success or failure.

Let’s inject some economic sense into millennials’ warped reality. Income and wealth are two different economic concepts. A person could, of course, donate part or all of yearly income and part or all of wealth to black needy families to assuage his/her “white guilt.” Nobody stopped him/her from giving away to or sharing his/her home with a needy black family for the sake of his/her perceived social injustices and “white privilege.” Cars and home donations are quite welcome and part of philanthropy.

But government should not mandate how we split acquired wealth nor should government have the right to confiscate it. I’ve experienced government confiscation of wealth, private property, and even the nationalization of the means of production. It did not end well at all. It resulted in the murder of millions of innocents and decades of totalitarian exploitation of the proletariat masses by the Communist Party leaders and apparatchiks.

This millennial was discounting millions of white and black people who have worked hard to purchase their homes without direct financial help from family. Many had accumulated wealth which they plan on leaving to their heirs.

Charity begins at home and can extend to families who made poor personal choices in life or decided to enter our country illegally, seeking welfare, Social Security, and the government protection they could never get in their countries. As hard as we may try to, we simply can’t afford to make life better for billions of needy in the world.

The argument is expressed that we could feed, house, and educate millions of poor people for what we spend on wars. The problem with this argument is that the definition of poor is quite different for various groups and populations. Another problem is that ordinary people cannot control when wars are started, the few elites in power do, and they approve expenditures for such wasteful efforts.

Life is never fair and nobody should have guarantees of an easy egalitarian existence. Success, a good income, and wealth are not rights, it is an opportunity to succeed or fail.  Just because the education system has given awards to every child for walking across a stage without tripping and participation trophies, the harsh reality of life is quite different from communist academic and progressive lobbyist rhetoric.

Bad luck and bad choices are contributors to failures, while good luck and good choices to success. Hard work and choosing wisely are also important. Saving money and studying hard are essential variables of success. Blowing everything you earn on parties and a good time every weekend are formulas for failure. Lack of personal responsibility, something no longer taught in this country, contributes greatly to the “social injustices” radical communists rail about.

Millennials in this country have become radicalized communists while in college where they joined other like-minded individuals who live high on the crony capitalist horse.  IT professionals, academics, lobbyists for non-profits, or staffing offices of influential politicians have the temerity to lecture the rest of us about fairness, equality, and social justice.

Forcing social justice and equality by law or through lobbying aggressiveness is not going to make people equal or successful because humans are born with dissimilar IQs, diverse motivation levels, higher or lower moral capacity, and different talents and abilities.

Affirmative action, quotas, and other forms of government-approved and academia-sanctioned racial discrimination do not make everyone “equal” or “diverse,” it just suppresses everyone to a lesser common denominator by lowering selection standards and by hiring those less qualified. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide on the lawsuit brought on by Asians against Harvard for discriminatory admission scoring.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Rule of Party of One

Photo credit: Wikipedia web
It is upsetting to find out that a principal asked a high school student to remove his baseball jersey at a game where everyone was encouraged to wear patriotic t-shirts.  His white jersey sported the American flag, the name Trump, and number 45. The student had to remove the shirt deemed as making questionable political statements and incite violence. It is hard to understand how our president’s name and number would incite violence. One may not agree with his policies but he is our president, governing over the best economy in decades.

But our country now is negatively transformed and divided by one party, the Democrats, who are busy inciting mob violence among their followers and even paying them to create violent mob situations in the public arena, wearing dark clothing and masks like the cowards that they are, harassing innocent Americans in restaurants, shooting Congressmen on a softball field, banging on the doors of the Supreme Court, blocking traffic in Portland while one policeman is watching, interrupting Senate hearings with chants of hatred, shoving elderly people and hurting peaceful protesters, carrying bats and injuring anyone who dares to wear a hat or t-shirt supporting our president or attending his rallies.

Democrats are masters at demonizing the opposition, accusing them of hate crimes, and calling them Nazis, bigots, xenophobes, islamophobes, racists, and many other descriptors of sheer hatred and intolerance. They are following in the footsteps of Soviet communists and Nikita Khrushchev’s “conquest without war” to fundamentally transform life around the globe.

Nothing could stand in the communists’ way. When Ukrainians refused to collectivize their agriculture, to give up their land and private property for the “greater good,” peasants were attacked with demeaning and dehumanizing words craftily chosen, “kulaks” and “enemies of the people.”

In the insane world of Bolshevism and communism, it was patriotic to kill the opposition. Stalin even “decreed the liquidation of the kulaks as a class.” During a very dark period of history, 1929-1933, the number of deaths rose to 10 million, with another 10 million placed in slave-labor camps in Siberia, Central Asia, and the Far North. (Conquest without War, Pocket Books Inc., 1961)

When Stalin tried to go further, asking permission to execute members of opposition groups within the Communist Party, the Politburo and the Central Committee refused. But it was only a temporary reprieve as the blood bath escalated.

After Sergei M. Kirov, a Politburo member, was killed by a young Party member, the annihilation of “class enemies” exploded. It is important to note that young party members were always the “useful idiots,” short on real knowledge, and long on ginned up ideological hatred and class animosity rhetoric.

Historians agree that Kirov’s murder was the signal to escalate the repression. Show trials wiped out all the Bolsheviks who led the Revolution, all the surviving members of Lenin’s Politburo. Communists ate their own useful idiots. They had dared to raise their voices against the carefully crafted cult of personality of Comrade Stalin and thus against the “teachings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.”

Made-up, unfounded, and unproven accusations sent millions of useful idiot Russian communists and non-communists in front of the firing squad. It was a horrible way to get rid of the opposition.

It is for this reason that the recent Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings in the American Senate were hard to watch and daunting as the “show trial,” complete with screaming paid communist Democrats in the gallery, was based on allegations from 36 years ago, and not corroborated by any credible evidence or believable witnesses.

It was eerily reminiscent of a Soviet-style “show trial.” Instead of the person being executed after the Soviet “show trial” where the outcome was already predetermined, in the American “show trial” called hearings, the accused’s entire life and professional life were assassinated in a legal system in which the accused is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.  

Even though the Senate is not an actual court, the guilty “accused,” who had to prove his innocence, was already sentenced in the blaring court of public opinion.  The precedent has been set. If you ever find yourself in a real court and in a similar situation, who is going to come to your defense when you are already deemed guilty in the court of public opinion?

If you don’t have freedom of speech and assembly, and are afraid for your life in a public place, are you really free, or are you living under the rule of the party of one and their paid violent mobs?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Our Beloved Bogart Crossed the Rainbow Bridge

Bogart in 2014
After a fitful night of sleep and crying, I woke up this morning imagining that I heard Bogart’s meow from his room. The house seems oppressively quiet and empty without him. The large candle I lit yesterday is still flickering on the mantle.

I opened the windows – the sun is up and the sounds of the forest are alive with the happy chirping of birds. The resident squirrels are busily collecting acorns from the large oak tree in front of the deck. They are not alarmed, the cat is away forever. It’s been a long time since Bogart had been able to chase squirrels, snapping turtles, or raccoons. Always fearless, he encountered a few foxes and a coyote in the woods, but came away unscathed.

Bogart’s stoop is still on the deck and so is his favorite stainless steel water bowl. He enjoyed making huge splashes before he dug his paws in and licked them of water. Only then did he actually start drinking with gusto.

On a very snowy day a few years ago, Bogart was trying to dig out his water pan from underneath the frozen whiteness. It is not really a bowl; it’s an expensive cooking pan with a handle which my mom designated as a deck water bowl. Bogart seemed to like it; when I tried to replace it with a real bowl, he refused to drink out of it and the pan came back out.

We are not entirely sure how much he was able to see or hear in his last months of life. But he liked sitting on his hind legs like a majestic statue, enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. In the last few weeks, he had difficulty assuming his favorite position as his motor skills had devolved due to arthritic pain and toxins in his body.

He no longer panicked when a draft of wind shut the deck door – he probably could no longer hear well. He always hated being closed into a room without the possibility of escape. He destroyed a carpet or two by scratching and digging his way through to the floor around the door, in a vain attempt to escape.

Months ago he also stopped being afraid of the vacuum cleaner and followed Dolores around when she dusted. He had come a long way from the shy and skittish rescue cat who hid under our daughter’s bed for the first three years after he was adopted, coming out only at night to play, eat Cheetos, and drink from the commode.

Despite IV fluids twice a week for almost two years, his kidneys were on the cusp of failing in June and we increased his dose which kept him alive until October. In his struggle to stay alive, Bogart taught us important lessons about a life well-lived, unconditional love, and death. Despite the weekly fluid infusions, the built-up toxins in his body were affecting his motor skills and his brain. Kidney failure cost him the loss of almost 40 percent of his body weight.

Christmas 2016
I think he was hanging on to life to please us because he loved us so much and we adored him. I carried him to the vet even when Dave was sick and going through chemo and when I was trying to recuperate from knee surgery this year. He had become so skinny, it was hard to find a patch of fresh skin that had not been injected with IV fluids and he started to cry. I knew it was time for him to go. Throughout his illness, he remained the same sweet and loving fur baby. He had lived a long and pampered life for almost twenty years and I have been a caring and loving mother to him.

My friend Susan Soden gave me a priceless gift, a beautiful portrait of Bogart painted by Sonora. He is so life-like, from a time when he weighed 15 pounds or more. He had shrunk to a mere 8 lbs. Sonora did such a fantastic job that his beautiful blue eyes seem to follow me from every angle of the painting.

Our beloved Snowshoe Siamese, who was never fond of snow, taught us in his almost two decades of life with us to be better, more loving, more caring, and more patient human beings. A precious loan from God, Bogie has enriched our lives in every way.

Finding his paw tracks in the carpet behind my chair where he last slept the day he died, his often favorite and quiet spot, brought me to tears. He liked to be near me when I wrote. If he did not fit between the keyboard and my body, he was not shy about putting his paws on the keys, purring softly.

Ten years ago the vet was surprised when Bogart jumped from the examining table and got stuck behind a large cabinet and the corner wall. He had to call the maintenance guy to actually move the entire cabinet before they could extricate a much heavier Bogart out of a tight squeeze.

On the short ride to the vet, Bogart sat in my lap and was agitated, trying to look out the window to the right. He did not understand what was happening, but he knew something was not right and was making guttural and frightened sounds.

Even though we know euthanizing him was the right and humane thing to do, putting him out of pain and suffering, the grief is overwhelming, and I cannot stop crying. He was my fur baby and part of my heart crossed the Rainbow Bridge with him while part of his is in my heart.

After the first shot the vet administered, Bogart threw up, I cleaned him up, and, while the anesthesia took over, his eyes remained open and he was breathing. I showered him with more kisses and the doctor gave him the second fatal shot. His heart stopped at 6 p.m. on October 3, 2018, while I was cradling his bony and furry body.

Memory Eternal to our sweet Bogart! He was beautiful even in death.

On his stoop the day before he died

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ray's Road Trip in 1942 America

The roads were “grand” for Ray’s traveling trailer. Driving on January 19, 1942 through Ohio, he was fascinated by the abundance of farms and rolling hills, red painted barns, individual hog pens, and husked corn left on the ground uncovered, easy pickings for any critters or humans passing by. His love of animals was only equaled by his love of nature – his oil landscapes were legendary in the family.

When Ray left the Ohio state line, Kentucky revealed numerous drying tobacco barns and tobacco stalks, and large numbers of stock farms with miles and miles of stone fences. Farther into the state, homes were run down and unpainted. He encountered saw mills from where cut timber was shipped on carts pulled by mules. Ever curious, Ray came upon a large stock sale and stopped to check it out.

The soil was red clay interspersed with pine trees. He noticed that filling stations were very far apart. Homes were poorly constructed and never painted. He was shocked to see toilets separate for “colored people.” Going through Look Out Mountain and Rock City, he drove 7 miles to the top on a slow and gradual incline. The shifting foundation had split the large rocks and fashioned rock crevasses 100 ft. or more deep. Large herds of cattle and hogs were wandering all over the highways, no fences anywhere in sight. Large pine forests flanked the highways.

Crossing into Georgia, he noticed that the soil was hued red, blue, and yellow. Miles and miles of peach trees filled the landscape. The southern Georgia countryside was packed for miles and miles with pecan trees. Mules seemed to be the beast of burden just like in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Georgia homes were built on rock piles or posts with no basements. For the “poorer class,” houses had no windows, only “wooden door flaps.” One dead cow had been hit by a car and the carcass was still in the road.

Stopping in the Okefenokee Swamp, Ray walked out into the swamp for about a mile through the quiet and wild surroundings; the silence was only broken by the occasional hammering of a wood pecker and other bird calls. Moss covered trees abundantly and water lilies bloomed gracefully from the swamp; a large percentage of the tall pines were dead, jutting out of the murky black water.

At the Florida line, the landscape changed to acres and acres of slash pines on both sides of the road. Pines were slashed to gather resin from which turpentine was made. The slashes were made by removing the bark on an area of 12 by 36 inches through which a metal rod was driven at a 45 degree angle ending into a funnel shaped catch for the resin draining from the tree.

Arriving in Jacksonville, Ray remarked that the population was mostly “colored people.” The back of the trailer where they parked for the night was a veritable jungle of palm trees and thick pines covered with Spanish moss. Further down the road he encountered palms, citrus trees, flowers, and a Chinese garden with waterfalls and bridges. On both sides of the highway there were cacti growing everywhere.

In St. Augustine, Ray and his family had a drink from the famous well attended by a man dressed in Spanish clothes. “The grave yard of a vanished race of Indians had uncovered graves, showing the skeletons as these burials were made on top of the ground. At one spot, by looking toward the ocean, I could see through a row of palm trees a distance of 3 miles to the open sea; this is believed to be the spot at which Juan Ponce de Leon had landed in 1513 as it was the spot he first sighted upon sailing into the harbor.” A stone monument in his honor is erected to commemorate the location.

Ray and his wife took a sight-seeing tour through St. Augustine on a horse drawn “surrey” at a charge of $1.50 per hour. The drivers were “colored men wearing a long tail coat and a large plug hat.”

The next stop was a fascinating fort with its heavy ramparts. Ft. Marion, the Guardian of the Spanish City of St. Augustine, was built from “coquina, shells taken from the beach on Anastasia Island and mixed with lime,” cementing walls ten to twelve ft. thick. Ft. Marion was surrounded by a moat of water 40 ft. wide.

The interior court, which crammed 2,500 people inside during a 27-day siege, had a dungeon for prisoners, a Catholic church, and a powder magazine. It was so damp that the powder magazine had a hard time keeping its powder dry. The town was burned to the ground several times by the Spanish, the English, and the French, but the fort never fell. The old wall that surrounded the city is still partially standing. The oldest school and oldest house were also located here. The oldest house had been owned and occupied at one time by Napoleon’s nephew. The beautiful Spanish garden in the back had a wishing well.

The old school house boasted eight “pupils” and upstairs quarters for the teacher. A small dungeon served as punishment for students who did not behave properly. Tuition for this school was $12 per year.

After the alligator and ostrich farms, Ray visited Marineland, with its fish, coral, other marine fauna and porpoises, and the portholes through which the movie industry had shot most of their underwater films of that time.

Across from Marineland was a burial mound for various Indian tribes from counties across Florida. Buried in layers, the bottom uncovered were remains of the “Timucua Indians, the forerunners by a good many years of the Seminole. The skeletons were found in shell mounds, mainly oysters. Vines had grown through all openings of the skulls. The people were buried in a hunched or huddled position.”

Ray passed by the famous speedway in Daytona Beach, on his way to comb the fine white sandy beaches for shells. Parking the trailer in Port Orange for a week, three miles south of Daytona Beach on the Halifax River, Ray, his wife, and three-year old blue-eyed Joan enjoyed the Florida sun and the quartz-white beach.

The Paul’s River Land Trailer camp allowed them to park 150 ft. away from the crystal clear waters. The trailer park was enjoyable and only cost $3 per week. Pelicans, white herons, seagulls, and ducks landed in the area quite often. A few boys fishing by speared a small sting ray, about a foot long. The drinking water was none too pleasant, it was full of Sulphur and smelled like rotten eggs. “We had to let water set out overnight in order to get the smell and awful taste out of it.”

Driving through West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, on to Miami, Ray stopped in Jupiter at Shuey’s Trailer Camp for 75 cents per night, parking about 100 ft. from the government lighthouse. They bought milk for 27 cents with a 5 cent deposit for the glass bottle.

“On the drive to Miami, we went along the ocean and saw the fishing fleets out with their motors, sailing in circles; the waves were so high that in between the crest of the waves, the large fishing boats would be out of sight.”

Ray and his family spent three weeks in the Tall Pines Trailer Camp. Three miles south of Miami was the Rare Bird Farm with coral flamingos and other unusual birds. Of the 350 species, five species of blue, green, and white peacocks were fascinating. Twenty-two miles south of Miami was the Monkey Jungle, where “humans were caged in chicken wire walkways and the monkeys ran wild into the tangle of jungle-like trees.” For 35 cents admission price, they saw up close and personal chimpanzees, black spider monkeys, marmosets, mangabeys, capuchin monkeys, and other primates.

Live sand dollars
Photo: Ileana Johnson
In South Miami, after visiting the Floridian Coconut Factory, Ray and his family went swimming twice at Matheson Hammock, a beach protected from sharks but not from the man-of-war - “a large jelly-like transparent globe of a wonderful bright shade of blue.”

Next was window shopping in beautiful Coral Gables where jewelry stores sold their wares for upwards of $3,800, a rich sum for those times. Coral Gables was confusing to Ray as the streets were all names and no numbers, especially when the names were all in Spanish.

For $25 a day and fishing gear provided, Ray broke down and rented a boat to go deep sea fishing and caught his very first sail fish which his wife cooked for supper.

Passing by a Seminole village, Ray marveled at the colored patched clothes. An Indian dressed in full Chieftain’s regalia, posed for pictures with visitors for 15 cents each. Parking in the trailer camps in the area was more expensive, $3.25 per week.

Ray crossed the Everglades, driving on Tamiami Trail, the southernmost 275 miles of U.S. Hwy. 41. The Everglades, thousands of square miles, was a vast tract-less wilderness which could only be negotiated by waterways and the Seminoles were the only persons who could do that at the time. The vast tangle of saw grass was sometimes ten ft. high. One could drive for miles through the big cypress swampland.

“Occasionally through the Everglades, there are small villages of Seminoles. They hunt, fish, and only kill what they need for clothes and food. The main Seminole reservation was deep in the Everglades and could only be reached by their waterway canals. Using large and small boats hewn out of large trees, Seminoles numbered 3,000 at one time, dwindled to 200 and are now increased to about 650. They are the only Indians that are still supposed to be at war with the United States.”

During the rainy season, even the dry spots become swamp land. Of the 16 species of palms in Florida, 13 are found in the Everglades. Forests of bay, live oaks, papayas, and rubber trees grow wild.  In between there are large ferns, gorgeous wild flowers, orchids, air plants, and mosses.

Large burnt out areas could be seen from the road and, as far as the eyes could see there was nothing but swamp and forest, no sign of human life. Houses were miles and miles apart but close to the road. The abundant wild life could be seen from the road – turtles on rocks and logs sunning themselves, turkey vultures, American eagles, wood ibis, blue herons, white herons, egrets, almost extinct sandhill cranes, cougars, alligators, native bears, deer, flamingoes, everglades kite, cape sable, manatees, alligators, snakes, and sea side sparrows. Over 50,000 bird species inhabited the area.

Morning feed
Photo: Ileana Johnson
Next stop was beautiful Sanibel Island with its famous sea shell beach. It did not have any camp to park a trailer so Ray drove into Ft. Meyers Beach and stayed there for two days at Don Carlos Trailer and Cottage Court for 75 cents, 300 ft. from the Caloosahatchee River. The wind was blowing fiercely all night, rocking the trailer quite dangerously for comfort.

Next morning they drove across the bridge to the Estero Island where the shells were plentiful on the beach – conchs, whelks (a sea snail), sand dollars (a sea urchin), starfishes (marine invertebrates), sea urchins, and scallops. They had to boil the shells as many were still inhabited by marine mollusks. I cannot imagine anyone today on a road trip disturbing nature in this way. But even collecting an empty shell of a dead marine creature is removing an opportunity for another sea invertebrate to find a home inside.

Last stop of Ray’s road trip was Sarasota with the largest trailer city in the country. The parking fee was $2.25 per week and the camp had everything to keep one occupied and entertained – free movies, dances with attendance of upwards of 300 people, a five-piece orchestra, first aid room, men’s card room, ladies’ card room, its own newspaper, post office, community hall, grocery store, six horse shoe courts, swings, slides, 14 shuffle boards, bingo, a sand box for kids, and a different program every day. The trailer park had 600 trailers laid out in streets, with beautiful landscaped areas. The only charge levied was a government amusement tax of 5 cents.

Sarasota of today, with its Siesta Key, has been voted several times the most beautiful beach in the country. Currently suffering from the worst case of Red Tide in its history, the beach has been less than inviting to tourists for the last three months. Dead fish, brown waters, brown sand, and respiratory distress have dominated reality daily. Mother Nature will take its course and will eventually return the sugar white sands and crystal clear waters to Siesta Key.