Friday, December 31, 2004

This photo shows the Banda Aceh shore before and after last week's earthquake and tsunami:

Banda Aceh shore before and after flood

In many ways - loss of life, number of countries involved, physical damage to the environment - this will likely be the worst natural disaster of this or the last century. But you've heard and seen all that before now.

This short message is your reminder that you have till midnight tonight to get in one more tax deduction for 2004. If you're thinking about helping out in this situation, but haven't yet, do it today!

The American Red Cross Emergency Response Fund got my donation, but there are many other organizations across the country and the globe that are helping as well. Google has a list of relief organizations accepting online donations, as well as links to the latest news about the unfolding disaster.

After September 11 the world reached out to the American people. Much of that goodwill was lost due the actions of our "leaders." Now is the time to show the world, once again, that the American people are far more generous and caring than our government demonstates. Click one of the links above and help begin the healing.

And a very happy, healthy new year to all of you.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Is it wrong to share emails other people send me? I'm going to have to say it isn't. I'll stand by the principle that if it was sent to me, it's my property. Okay, that's settled. Now...

You may recall back about a month I wrote about a woman sending me links for my blog, she had meant to send to somebody else. Well, she's back.

Here's her latest email to me:

On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 22:00:45 -0500, R******* wrote:
> I am having a pretty nice time here, I have gone from Isla Mujeres down to Tulum, about 2 hours south, though the weather's been crap today and yesterday. There's a yoga retreat down here (too expensive to stay at) but I went to class there today and sat on the beach and made some sandcastles with a really annoying kid from Westchester....
> Tomorrow it is onto Palenque and Guatemala!
> Ole!!!
> Really want to see you when I get back! I miss seeing you...
> Love and hugs!
> R*****

And, my response to her:

Dear R*****,

I really enjoyed hearing from you again, and reading about your journey. So much so that I hate to have to tell you that I have no idea who you are.

When you first wrote to me with a couple of links you suggested for my blog, I thought you knew who I was, and I gladly passed the links along online. But I couldn't understand what you meant by "friend of the donk." I figured, one of my readers is well-meaning, but a bit deranged. No matter; the links were amusing and I used them.

Then about the third one it finally hit me: you've got the wrong blogging Ken Goldstein. I checked with our good friend, Google, and came up with this -

Who you want: k*****@*****.com;

Me: k*****@*****.com;

Close. The mistake is really quite understandable. I even wrote about it in my blog. For some reason, however, I couldn't bring myself to tell you. I found it interesting, bizarre, and kind of fun to get these emails intended for the other Ken Goldstein.

I was wrong. I am sorry. Did I ever tell you that R***** is one of my favorite names? Of course I didn't. I'm truly sorry.


- Ken

P.S. I hope you'll still write to me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"The American democratic experiment will succeed until the people realize they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. Then it will collapse." - Alexis de Tocqueville, 1848

The quote above has often been used by the right as an indictment of the welfare state. These are the folks who believe that the collapse of the American experiment was set in motion in the mid-1930's by FDR's New Deal.

I (as you could guess) disagree. Rather than bring about the collapse of democracy, I think the period ushered in by FDR was perhaps our greatest period. In my many years of studying politics and public policy in college, as a graduate student, and as an adult involved with such professionally, I never saw the creation or expansion of AFDC/TANF, Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicare, (etc.), as the people voting themselves money from the public treasury. To put it bluntly; those who were on the receiving end of such "benefits" have rarely even gotten close to holding enough power to pull off such a coup.

But that doesn't mean that de Tocqueville didn't make a point that's worth heeding. I do see the start of what he warned about, over 150 years ago, in the plans of the current administration. Whether or not making the Bush tax cuts permanent is voting themselves money from the public treasury is debatable, but one would have to be completely and willfully blind to not see that the plan to privatize Social Security is nothing but the gang in charge robbing the treasury for its own greedy ends.
Make no mistake; they have no intention of "saving Social Security." What these cynical bastards want to do is simply pump up the worth of their own stock portfolios with your retirement money. It's basic supply and demand; more money pumped into the market (the Social Security reserve) raises demand. Supply remains the same, and so increased demand leads to increased share prices. The wealthy get wealthier on your dime.

So what's so wrong with that? Doesn't it make us wealthier too? Only if you already own a large amount of stock, and only if you're of an age where you are getting ready to retire soon. It will not increase Social Security payments. They are set by Congress in law, not automatically adjusted based on the worth of the "portfolio."

And then there's the other end of supply and demand. And that's where the majority of us, who are at least a decade or two (or more) away from retirement get screwed. This is because of that huge group known as the Baby Boomers, and the fact that there are so many more of them than there are of the generation behind them.

As the number of retired people increases, both as an absolute number, and in proportion to the working population, the market will first slow, then decline, then collapse. Supply and demand. The supply of shares to sell will go up (as retirees cash in their portfolios to pay their bills), and the demand will go down (a smaller contingent of workers in the next generation), causing stock prices to fall.

It's the same problem Social Security is facing already; the baby boomers bankrupt the system no matter what the system is - but especially and most dramatically if it's one tied directly to the ups and downs of the stock market.

Yes, technically I am a "Baby Boomer," born in 1961 at the tail end of the boom. But you really have to be born before, say, 1957 to fully take advantage of the Bush plan. They'll be breaking the system just a year or two before I'm ready to retire. My big brothers are beating me up again.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Best of the season to you, and all that stuff. 'Tis the big day for much of America, and I suppose it will be a big day for our family. Although we're not Christians, this week is when my nephews are out from Connecticut to visit their Dad (my brother), so my parents and other brother are each up for the weekend. We'll have a "Christmas Dinner" and celebrate a late Hannakah, and it will be very nice.

It's the time of year for looking back and reviewing what we've done and what's been done to us, and I want nothing to do with it. The year has certainly had some high points, but it's had some rough patches as well, and each year-end review I open to in the magazines, or click past on the TV, just gets me depressed about 2004 all over again.

What's going on outside, beyond my control, is bad enough: the continuing quagmire of the war, the election, Bush's smug F-You attitude towards those who didn't vote for him, etc. In my own small life things are getting mixed reviews as well.

On Thursday the honeymoon period at my new job officially ended after just shy of two months as I had to fire somebody. Not what I wanted to do on the eve of Christmas Eve, but there really was no choice. He was on probation for previous screw-ups, had been written up several times, and knew he was on the thinnest of ice when he chose to screw up bigger than ever.

I enjoy my job, it's challenging work that I believe provides a community service and leaves the world a little better than if we didnt' exist. But it is extremely stressful and (so far) prevents me from persuing some personal fulfilment time (writing, music, etc.). Hopefully, after the New Year, that will get better.

The other thing that has me worried this morning is my father. They arrived in town yesterday afternoon, and checked into their hotel shortly after. We all met them there and hung out in the room for at least an hour before leaving for dinner. Towards the end of dinner he said to my mother, "We should call the hotel and let them know we're still coming for a late check-in."

Is forgetting that you already checked into the hotel an understandable lapse after a long day driving from LA to San Jose and relaxing with a Scotch over dinner? Or is this one of those signs of advancing age we're suppposed to be watching for? He'll be 76 in a couple of weeks, which is no longer young, but he truly doesn't usually seem that old either.

All of this, I suppose, is a way of saying that this has been a year of recognizing and accepting the limits of mortality. It's not the most hopeful note I could leave you on a holiday morning, but it's the best I can do at this moment. Here's looking forward to 2005...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Have you ever hoped to lose a fight? I think that's where I might be right now with regards to medical marijuana.

I voted for the California proposition that legalized medical marijuana, and continue to support the concept. But right now the US Supreme Court is reviewing that law, and I'm not sure I want them to support it.

You see, it all depends on how the argument is framed. Will they be asking the Court to rule on medical issues, or on Constitutional issues?

If the case were won based solely on the rights of individuals to access the medicine they need to survive, that would be great.

What I fear is that we're getting into a State's Rights issue, in which case I'll have to reluctantly side with the Federal Government. It may be that in this one case, I agree with the State's position, but throughout our nation's history that argument has usually been used to support things I would disagree with.

State's Rights was the argument for prolonging slavery and fighting Civil Rights. State's Rights has traditionally been the argument of those who refuse to join the rest of the nation (and the world) in growing up.

If State's Rights is the argument that wins for medical marijuana, watch out. The next day that precedent will be used to ban all abortions in at least 12 states. That decision will also be a blow in the struggle to recognize the Civil Rights of gays and lesbians to sign a marriage contract. A Supreme Court win based on State's Rights will give more power to conservatives than the recent election did.

And speaking of that recent election...

Click on over to for "FOCUS: The Recount Accounts" - Check up on the continuing battles in Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington State, and San Diego... The mainstream media refuses to cover it, but there's still a lot of people who think the election was stolen, and mounting evidence that they may have a point.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Warning: Frank Sexual Content Ahead

A story which has come up from time to time, and was in the news again over the last week or so, is pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control based on religious objections.

Personally, I think that's ridiculous, but as long as there are other stores where people can choose to purchase their birth control, my first instinct is to respect their right to not be involved.

So, I try to ignore the story and not get too upset over it (there are many more important things to be upset about). And then one of these morons says something so outrageous that it just requires further comment.

It's not enough that they feel that sex should only be for procreation - their loss, not mine. No, then this fool has to go on TV and add that "birth control is a form of murder."

"A form of murder"???!!?! Oh, come on! If you say that life begins at conception, we can discuss that. But if preventing conception is murder, then when does this clown think that life actually begins? Does life begin with an erection? Does it begin with, "Hi, do you come here often?"

Is pulling out before ejaculation murder to this guy? What about abstaining? If you really want to have intercourse, but one partner says "no", is that murder too?

Taking this jerk's theory to it's logical extreme, then just about every girl I dated in High School is a murderer.

What is this sicko's view of women in general? If a woman doesn't have a child every nine months from puberty to menopause, is she a mass murderer? Is that all he thinks women can do?

Once again proving the old line that "not having sex is sickest perversion of them all."

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