Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 13 - The Lines, Part 3

Nine in the third place means:
He hides weapons in the thicket;
He climbs the high hill in front of it.
For three years he does not rise up.

Here fellowship has changed about to mistrust. Each man distrusts the other, plans a secret ambush, and seeks to spy on his fellow form afar. We are dealing with an obstinate opponent whom we cannot come at by this method. Obstacles standing in the way of fellowship with others are shown here. One has mental reservations for one's own part and seeks to take his opponent by surprise. This very fact makes one mistrustful, suspecting the same wiles in his opponent and trying to ferret them out. The result is that one departs further and further from true fellowship. The longer this goes on, the more alienated one becomes.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Revisiting the Second Amendment

Trey Smith

A lot of times people dig in their heels in terms of a particular perspective and nothing will dissuade them. I have been guilty of this from time to time, but I am working to reassess all of the philosophic or political positions I hold dear. In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, CT, I have decided to revisit my position on gun ownership and regulation.

To do this, I went back to read and reread the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution.
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.
As much as I personally may loathe guns, this amendment is very straightforward. It says in no uncertain terms that American citizens have the right to own firearms and, more importantly, that this right may not be infringed upon. Consequently, I realize that any type of barrier in regards to American citizens and the ownership of guns is a nonstarter. There should be no background checks because such checks easily could be viewed as infringements. Citizens should be allowed to buy whatever firearms they can afford and as many as they can afford as often as they can afford them.

Have I gone completely off the rails? Have I switched sides in this debate?

No. I am simply reading the US Constitution and the 2nd Amendment via a strict interpretation.

While guns themselves should be freely available to any and all -- including felons and the mentally ill -- bullets should be made illegal!

Returning to that hallowed 2nd Amendment, it does NOT say "bear arms and ammunition"; it only refers to the firearms themselves. So, while Americans citizens possess the non-infringable right to own guns, there is no such right to possess or own ammunition. I mean, if the possession of ammunition was so important to the Founding Fathers, don't you think they would have stated so explicitly?

Of course, outlawing the possession of ammunition probably is not that realistic. So, we can erect a whole host of regulations and this should be quite okay since there is no mention of ammunition in the 2nd Amendment.

In order to purchase bullets of any kind, there should be extensive background checks with substantial waiting periods. Purchases of ammunition can only be made in person, certainly NOT over the internet. Like with obtaining a driver's license, no one would be licensed to purchase bullets without passing a Bullets Ed Course. All weapons used to fire the bullets would have to pass safety inspections every year and all weapons used to fire the bullets would have to be registered. No registration -- no bullets (or other types of ammunition).

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Cops Of The World

Performed by Phil Ochs

Come, get out of the way, boys
Quick, get out of the way
You'd better watch what you say, boys
Better watch what you say
We've rammed in your harbor and tied to your port
And our pistols are hungry and our tempers are short
So bring your daughters around to the port
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

We pick and choose as please, boys
Pick and choose as please
You'd best get down on your knees, boys
Best get down on your knees
We're hairy and horny and ready to shack
We don't care if you're yellow or black
Just take off your clothes and lie down on your back
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

Our boots are needing a shine, boys
Boots are needing a shine
But our coca-cola is fine, boys
Coca-cola is fine
We've got to protect all our citizens fair
So we'll send a battalion for everyone there
And maybe we'll leave in a couple of years
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

Dump the reds in a pile, boys
Dump the reds in a pile
You'd better wipe off that smile, boys
Better wipe off that smile
We'll spit through the streets of the cities we wreck
We'll find you a leader that you can't elect
Those treaties we signed were a pain in the neck
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

Clean the johns with a rag, boys
Clean the johns with a rag
If you like you can use your flag, boys
If you like you can use your flag
We've got too much money we're looking for toys
And guns will be guns and boys will be boys
But we'll gladly pay for all we destroy
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

Please stay off of the grass, boys
Please stay off of the grass
Here's a kick in the ass, boys
Here's a kick in the ass
We'll smash down your doors, we don't bother to knock
We've done it before, so why all the shock?
We're the biggest and toughest kids on the block
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world

When we butchered your son, boys
When we butchered your son
Have a stick of our gum, boys
Have a stick of our bubblegum
We own half the world, oh say can you see
The name for our profits is democracy
So, like it or not, you will have to be free
'cause we're the cops of the world, boys
We're the cops of the world
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Be Careful What You Think

Trey Smith

“I was going to be tied up by my feet and my throat slit and they would have fun watching the blood gush out of me because I was young,” the wife of 28-year-old NYPD “cannibal cop” Gilberto Valle testified at his trial.

After she installed keyboard-tracking software on his laptop, Kathleen Mangan-Valle went on, she found that her husband planned to stuff one of her friends in a suitcase and murder her. Two other women were “going to be raped in front of each other to heighten their fears,” while another would be roasted alive over an open fire.

Planned? Or fantasized?

There’s no evidence that Officer Valle, on trial for conspiracy to kidnap, torture, kill and eat women, ever acted on his voreaphilia, a cannibalism fetish. If convicted, however, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

George Orwell called it “thoughtcrime”: punishing people for their thoughts rather than their actions.
~ from Does Your Brain Have a Right to Privacy? by Ted Rall ~
While I'm sure that a lot of people hope that Mr. Valle is convicted and sentenced to the max, it will set a slippery precedent. When laws of this nature are drawn up, authorities tend to look for a case that will revile the vast majority. When the defendant is viewed as vile and disgusting, not too many people will take the time to consider the broad implications. All they care about is that another deviant will be locked up.

But is arresting and convicting people of their fantasies a good idea? At one time or another, most of us have fantasies that aren't ready for prime time. Is simply thinking bad thoughts a crime against humanity?

There is another issue here as well. While these sorts of laws may target cannibals, rapists and torturers in the beginning, who knows what the state will consider deviant next. Maybe fantasizing bad things about the President, Congress or a CEO of a major corporation will land a person in court.

Are you ready to go down that road?

Bit by Bit - Chapter 10, Part 10

Trey Smith

Long ago, in the time of Yung Ch'eng, Ta T'ing, Po Huang, Chung Yang, Li Lu, Li Hsu, Hsien Yuan, Ho Hsu, Tsun Lu, Chu Jung, Fu Hsi, and Shen Nung, the people knotted cords and used them." They relished their food, admired their clothing, enjoyed their customs, and were content with their houses. Though neighboring states were within sight of each other, and could hear the cries of each other's dogs and chickens, the people grew old and died without ever traveling beyond their own borders. At a time such as this, there was nothing but the most perfect order.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
Of course, a time like this never existed. People have wrestled with their egoic desires since Day One. What we have here is an ideal. Not something to strive FOR -- because the act of striving negates the result -- but something to keep close to one's heart.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Fighting for Total Dominion

Trey Smith

If it wasn't so harmful, it would be funny: a marketing battle between the two technology giants Microsoft and Google over who lacks integrity and is exploitative. It's been going on for a while and with every thrust and block the thing becomes more grotesque and more revealing.

First, by way of introduction, don't need an introduction.

If you're using Windows, your computer lives Microsoft. If you don't, you use a Microsoft product (like Word or some smaller program you don't notice on your desktop) or someone sends you stuff using one. You can't escape MicroSoft if you use a computer.

Google is to your Internet life what Microsoft is to your workspace. Even if you don't use its increasingly popular Gmail program, you have used Google Search at some point. So prominent is our use of this resource that, in English, "google it" is now an accepted phrase. No, there is no Google-less life in this country.

So a marketing duel between these two fills the air with the very loud clanging of the very large swords.

The latest thrust is Microsoft's campaign about "Scroogle": a term that meshes Google and Screwed, or maybe "Scrooge" (since it launched around last Christmas). It also pilfers the name of an alternative search engine (Scroogle Search) that went belly up last year. If it didn't steal someone else's idea, after all, it wouldn't be Microsoft.

In December, Microsoft began denouncing Google's charging for better rankings in its "shopping" searches and telling people they should use Bing (Microsoft's search engine) instead. That's right, when you do a "shopping" search on Google, it returns a list of search items from companies that pay Google. The more they pay, the higher they are in the returned search. If you click it you can read Google's admission about taking filthy lucre in return for returning a good search position.
~ from Microsoft and Google's Pathetic, Revealing and Frightening War by Alfredo Lopez ~
As Lopez points out in this article, what borders on funny is the fact that behemoth Microsoft is trying to paint behemoth Google as a self-interested ogre. It is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black! This is not to say that Google is not an ogre; it is more that Microsoft is just as onerous in their own right. It would be like Paris Hilton calling out Britney Spears for being a camera hog.

And let's face it, both Microsoft and Google have become ubiquitous. Though I use Linux Mint as the operating system on my desktop computer, this blog is hosted on Google and I often download Microsoft Word documents (that I open and save with LibreOffice). In other words, it is hard to escape either one's tentacles.

Since both control so much of what each of us does in computing, why the big fight? Lopez provides the revealing answer.
The problem is that they have run out of life to control and so they are now fighting over the aspects of your life they already dominate and that they have increasingly limited.
You see, they desire absolute dominion. It's not enough to make millions or billions of dollars. It's not enough to control specific areas of turf. Both want to control the whole enchilada. They want every computer user to be forced to go through them and them alone. The only thing standing in their way is each other and so that is why they have gone to war.

Let's hope that neither of them wins or, even better, that they destroy each other.

I Ching: Hexagram 13 - The Lines, Part 2

Six in the second place means:
Fellowship with men in the clan.

There is danger here of formation of a separate faction on the basis of personal and egotistic interests. Such factions, which are exclusive and, instead of welcoming all men, must condemn one group in order to unite the others, originate from low motives and therefore lead in the course of time to humiliation.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Speaking for the Forest

Scott Bradley

Zhouzi was walking in the forest when he came upon a shaman seemingly in a trance within a circle of stones. Thinking he remained unseen, Zhouzi turned to find another path, but the shaman called out to him saying, "Turn not away, Zhouzi, for I have long wished to meet you." Thereupon Zhouzi returned and presented himself before him.

"The villagers fear me for my power," said the shaman, "and they ignore you for your lack. But what think you, Master, are we not really just the same?"

"We are the same together with the villagers", replied Zhouzi. "Here in the forest one may meet a tiger and die or a squirrel and laugh, but tigers and squirrels, dying and laughing, do they not all have that in common of which the unity of the forest is but an echo?"

"It is just as you say," replied the shaman. "Yet I have chosen to be the tiger; have you then chosen the squirrel?"

"I have not chosen, and thus perhaps I am them all," answered Zhouzi. "And not having chosen, can I not thus honor them all? Tell me then, what has the 'tiger' to teach me here today?"

"That you are no squirrel, but a wily fox who wends his way through the woods as a lord unscathed, though it be alive with danger. Even the tiger knows it would be tiresome folly to give you chase. What then has the fox to teach the tiger this day?"

"That you are no tiger at all, but the forest itself; and though the villagers fear even that, your gift to them would be to dispel their fears that they might join you therein."

"Does the tiger or forest care for the fears of the village?" replied the shaman.

Even at that moment the thump of a woodcutter's axe met their ears, and the shaman exclaimed, "The forest rebukes me! Master, you need say no more! We harm what we fear, but honor what we love; I will speak for the forest lest the villagers lop off their own limbs!"

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 13 - The Lines, Part 1

Nine at the beginning means:
Fellowship with men at the gate.
No blame.

The beginning of union among people should take place before the door. All are equally close to one another. No divergent aims have yet arisen, and one makes not mistakes. The basic principles of any kind of union must be equally accessible to all concerned. Secret agreements bring misfortune.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

In a Tough Job Market

Trey Smith

So I'm reading an article on Reuters about the high unemployment rate for military veterans. The reporter discussed some obvious variables like suffering from "the traumas of war" and how this can negatively impact job prospects. But one variable that I believe is a strong factor was only given a slight mention near the end.
The economists also noted that higher demand for personnel during wartime might cause recruiters to reduce enlistment standards. Indeed, their analysis found that recent veterans tended to be younger and less educated than the general working-age population.
You see, when good jobs are hard to come by and educational costs are going through the roof, serving in the military becomes an attractive option for many. I'm not suggesting this is the ONLY reason that members of the working poor sign up with the military, but it plays a BIG role.

As I have mentioned before, I think that the main reason that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have gotten serious about addressing the unemployment crisis in this nation is tied to our ever-increasing war machine. As our leaders continue to intensify the perpetual "War on Terror," we need soldiers to fight it and the best grunts are faceless and nameless members of the working class.

It has been this way all throughout history. The elites make war and the peasants are the ones who do the lion's share of the fighting...and dying.

Consequently, if jobs were plentiful in the US, a lot of the working poor would never grace the inside of military recruitment office. Why take the chance of getting your head blown off if you can find a relatively good paying job in your local area?

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Rockin' In The Free World

Performed by Neil Young

There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign
On the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin'
We'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan,
But I am to them
So I try to forget it,
Any way I can.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
And she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
And what she's done to it
There's one more kid
That will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
Never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
And toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
For the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
Says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
Got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.
~ from Lyrics Mode ~

More Math Lessons

Trey Smith

All the sturm and drang in Washington over the March 1 deadline for a budget deal is an act. Two acts really.

The Republicans are pretending that if we don’t have budget cuts this year, the whole US economy will collapse because of the nation’s enormous indebtedness.

The Democrats are pretending that if no deal is reached, and automatic across-the-board cuts of 8% for the Pentagon and 5% for other programs will not only put the nation’s defense at risk and cause widespread suffering, but that it will derail the nation’s fragile economic “recovery.”

Both claims are, to put it gently, bullshit.

To put it in perspective, remember we’re talking about $86 billion dollars in spending for this current year.

That’s in a federal budget of $3.5 trillion, and a national economy of $16 trillion. A little math is in order. One trillion dollars is $1000 billion dollars. So $86 billion dollars represents just 2.46% of the federal budget. And it represents just 0.5% of GDP.

To put that in context another way, in December Congress, with little discussion or fanfare, allowed federal funding for emergency unemployment benefits to expire. That sucked $30 billion out of the economy this year, taking it all from people who are jobless and desperate. At the same time, it ended the temporary 2% cut in the FICA payroll tax for Social Security. That sucked another $115 billon out of all workers’ pockets. So a total of $145 billion was removed from the economy without any concern at all being expressed about the impact that hit would have on the economy, and we’re talking about an amount that’s nearly twice as much as the cut from so-called sequestration.

We could also talk about the over $400 billion in stimulus spending that the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress pumped into the economy in 2009. It clearly was an amount far too small to kickstart the economy out of the depression it had by then fallen into. Now if $400 billion was too small to accomplish much in 2009, how bad is taking out $85 billion in 2013?

Answer: it’s not such a big deal.
~ from Much Ado about Nothing in Budget Debate by Dave Lindorff ~
You know, I often hear our elected officials grouse about the fact that, compared to a slew of other western industrial nations, our students tend to test poorly in science and mathematics. They say that, without better math skills, it makes it hard for America to compete in the global economy.

To that I say: They should be darn glad that, by and large, Americans are not so proficient in things like basic arithmetic. If our skills in mathematics were on par with, say, the people in Japan, then those same leaders would have a much harder time pulling the wool over people's eyes! When our leaders spewed forth with numbers that don't add up, people would call them on it.

As it is, if a politician includes more than two or three numbers or figures in a sentence, the average American's eyes glaze over and then they yawn. I'm not so good with math, they say, so let the people in Washington worry about it. 

The problem is that the people in Washington truly aren't very good at math either!

Bit by Bit - Chapter 10, Part 9

Trey Smith

When men hold on to their eyesight, the world will no longer be dazzled. When men hold on to their hearing, the world will no longer be wearied. When men hold on to their wisdom, the world will no longer be confused. When men hold on to their Virtue, the world will no longer go awry. Men like Tseng, Shih, Yang, Mo, Musician K'uang, Artisan Ch'ui, or Li Chu all displayed their Virtue on the outside and thereby blinded and misled the world. As methods go, this one is worthless!

Have you alone never heard of that age of Perfect Virtue?

~ Burton Watson translation ~
When desires are tempered, it is that much easier to cast aside temptations and distractions. But in order to accomplish this, a change must be made inside of ourselves.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Final

Trey Smith

Yesterday we looked at the 5 chief bullet points from the article, The Postal Service Outrage, by Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. In this post, I'll share his summary of this portion of the article. (Note: The entire article is much longer.)
The Postal Service is a public service for We, the People, not a business. The Service is hamstrung by people who pretend it is supposed to compete and then won’t let it. They won’t help with taxpayer dollars and say it has to compete in the marketplace (again: the Department of Defense is not required to break even.) Then they give it rules that no private company could survive. Then when it gets into trouble, say that government doesn’t work, start laying people off, selling off the public assets, and saying it has to be “privatized” (so all the gains will go to a few already-wealthy people instead of to the public).

So Republicans have hamstrung the Postal Service, forcing it into “crisis” and are now “solving” the crisis by working towards dismantling and privatizing it. Here is how it works:
  1. Require the Postal Service to “break even.” (Again: the Department of Defense is not required to break even.)
  2. Require them to serve all areas of the country. (Which is a service to democracy and should continue.)
  3. Keep them from raising or lowering rates as needed.
  4. Keep them from using their competitive advantages to compete with private businesses.
  5. Require them to pre-fund 75 years of health benefits.
  6. When the Postal Service has the inevitable resulting financial “crisis” complain about government and unions and demand their buildings be sold, employees laid off and the service be dismantled and given to private companies.
If you don’t see the pattern yet, try this:
  1. Cut taxes,
  2. Double military spending,
  3. Obstruct all efforts to fix things,
  4. Wait a few years, then scream loudly about a “deficit crisis” and say we have to severely cut back on government — the things we do to make our lives better.
This is not the way an informed democracy is supposed to operate.
As I stated before, as an ardent Democrat, Johnson lays the total blame at the feet of Republicans. He  neglects to mention that few Democrats have stood up to fight FOR the USPS. Realistically, this hatchet job is the brainchild of both political parties.

This blueprint is being utilized all over the country.  It is used not only by the federal government but in states, counties, cities and special districts.  You cut back the funding for basic services and create a slew of unreasonable mandates and, when those services start to falter, you say that government is the problem and you outsource the service to one or more private companies.

In more cases than not, the private firms cost us taxpayers more money (not less as promised) and the services we receive are degraded or, sometimes, non-existent.

I Ching: Hexagram 13 - The Image

Heaven together with fire:
Thus the superior man organizes the clans
And makes distinctions between things.

Heaven has the same direction of movement as fire, yet it is different from fire. Just as the luminaries in the sky serve for the systematic division and arrangement of time, so human society and all things that really belong together must be organically arranged. Fellowship should not be a mere mingling of individuals or of things—that would be chaos, not fellowship. If fellowship is to lead to order, there must be organization within diversity.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Who's To Blame?

Scott Bradley

Two disciples came before Zhouzi asking him to resolve a verbal dispute between them. After each had made his case for himself and against the other, Zhouzi asked them both, "Who is responsible for your own inner peace?" Both answered, "I am, Master." "Then who is to blame for your present disquiet?" continued Zhouzi. Again, both answered, "I am, Master." "Then why are you here asking me to arbitrate between you? Since you seem bent on assigning blame, would you not do better to find it in yourselves without reference to the other? The world is full of vexation for those who wish to find it, yet the roots of all vexation are found in the hearts of those who do. All vexation is a story made up; and the disputatious mind finds pleasure in playing its role. Go unravel your own stories if you wish to know peace; nothing external need disturb you." With this Zhouzi dismissed them both.

Tzulao, who had been in attendance, then asked, "Master, do you think they are able?"

"Few indeed are able," replied Zhouzi. "And I know no method for making them so. It would be easier to enter the forest so as to tame the wild beasts."

"And yet the glory of the beasts is that they remain untamed," opined Tzulao.

"Just so," replied Zhouzi. "So much is resolved when we honor humans as mind-endowed beasts. Following along with things as they unfold, we need not vex ourselves with where they eventually lead."

"Though we may sow the seeds of a happier way among those in whom they might grow," added Tzulao.

"For this alone we speak,” concluded Zhouzi. “Yet it is as the proverb says, 'You can show an ox the water, but you cannot make it drink'. Indeed, it could be a perilous thing to attempt it."

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place V

Trey Smith

Today we're taking a look at the article, The Postal Service Outrage, by Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. In previous posts, we looked at Bullet Points 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Bullet Point #5: But along with requiring the Postal Service to break even, Congress has restricted the Service’s ability to raise rates, enter new lines of business or take other steps to help it raise revenue. In fact, while detractors complain that the Postal Service is antiquated, inefficient and burdened by bureaucracy, the rules blocking the Postal Service from entering new lines of business do so because the Postal Service would have advantages over private companies. For example, Republicans in Congress forced the Postal Service to remove public-use copiers from Post Offices and even blocked the Postal Service from setting up a secure online system that allowed Americans to make monthly bill payments.
I hope you are recognizing a pattern here. The USPS has had an unreasonable mandate foisted upon it and yet Congress has gone out of its way to erect barriers to thwart the efforts of the USPS to satisfy that same mandate. It would be like a parent telling their child they must clean up their bedroom in order to be served dinner and then tying up child. How do you clean your room when your feet are bound and your hands are tied behind your back?

It is rather obvious that privatization advocates are trying hard to ensure that the USPS ultimately fails. When that happens, they will be more than happy to swoop in to "save the day!!"

I Ching: Hexagram 13 - The Judgment

It furthers one to cross the great water.
The perseverance of the superior man furthers.

True fellowship among men must be based upon a concern that is universal. It is not the private interests of the individual that create lasting fellowship among men, but rather the goals of humanity. That is why it is said that fellowship with men in the open succeeds. If unity of this kind prevails, even difficult and dangerous tasks, such as crossing the great water, can be accomplished. But in order to bring about this sort of fellowship, a persevering and enlightened leader is needed—a man with clear, convincing, and inspiring aims and the strength to carry them out. (The inner trigram means clarity; the outer, strength.)
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place IV

Trey Smith

Today we're taking a look at the article, The Postal Service Outrage, by Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. In previous posts, we looked at Bullet Points 1, 2 and 3.
Bullet Point #4: While required to break even, the Postal Service has to deliver mail to areas that are unprofitable for private companies to operate in. A letter sent from a small town in Alaska is picked up and transported across the country to a farm in Maine for 46 cents. While the Internet and recession have eaten into some of the Postal Services letter business, magazines, books, newsletters, prescriptions, advertising, DVD services like Netflix and many other services still depend on the Postal Service for delivery. And many people for one reason or another still send letters. In a democracy, these people are supposed to count, too.
In days of yore, the federal government required interstate commercial transportation carriers to serve small and rural communities. Well, those transportation companies didn't like that one bit. They wanted to cherry pick the routes they offered because routes in highly populated and/or popular areas tend to be far more profitable than those in less populated and/or less desirable areas.

The transportation carriers howled and howled. They swarmed Washington, DC with their lobbyists and the rest is history. If you live in the boondocks today and you don't have a vehicle, you often are shit out of luck! You can't catch a bus nor a train to anywhere. Even if your town has an airport, you no longer have any airlines that land there.

Greyhound used to come through South Bend and Aberdeen. No more. The closest Greyhound route these days is in Centralia...65 miles away!

Imagine if the USPS had operated this way from the very beginning. The course of American history would have been altered significantly.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Guantanamera

Performed by The Sandpipers

Guantanamera, Guajira Guantanamera
Guantanamera, Guajira Guantanamera

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Y antes de morir me quiero
echar mis versos del alma.

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.

Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido.
Mi verso es de un verde claro
Y de un carmín encendido.
Mi verso es un ciervo herido
Que busca en el monte amparo.

The words mean "I am a truthful man from the land of the palm trees.
And before dying, I want to share these poems of my soul.
My poems are soft green. My poems are also flaming crimson.
My poems are like a wounded fawn seeking refuge in the forest.

The last verse says:'Con los pobres de la tierra'. With the poor people of this earth I want to share my fate. The streams of the mountains please me more than the sea."

Por los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
Por los pobres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar
Y el arroyo de la sierra
Me complace más que el mar

Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera,
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera.
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place III

Trey Smith

Today we're taking a look at the article, The Postal Service Outrage, by Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. In previous posts, we looked at Bullet Points 1 and 2.
Bullet Point #3: Unlike other government agencies (like the military) since 1970 the Postal Service is required to break even. Once more: the Department of Defense is not required to break even.
If you think about it, we basically could end all of our wars -- including the drone war -- if we required the Department of Defense to break even every year. Our military aggression is funded almost solely through borrowing. So, if we only could borrow an amount that we could repay by the end of the year, we couldn't attack much of anyone!

What about the FBI and Homeland Security. How much could they accomplish if they too were mandated to break even each year?

It certainly makes one wonder WHY the USPS -- and no one else -- is stuck with this unreasonable mandate. If we didn't know any better, you would almost think that Congress purposely was trying to ruin the USPS. But, why, oh why, would they want to do that?

Read on.

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place II

Trey Smith

Today we're taking a look at the article, The Postal Service Outrage, by Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. In a previous post, we looked at Bullet Point #1.
Bullet Point #2: Republicans have been pushing schemes to privatize the Postal Service since at least 1996. In 2006 Republicans in the Congress pushed through a requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund 75 years of retiree costs. The Postal Service has to pay now for employees who are not even born yet. No other government agency – and certainly no company – has to do this.
Have you ever heard of anything so insane? You want to talk about a strategy to undermine an enterprise, this has got to be it. By itself, it hamstrings the US Postal Service (USPS).

Take away this one mandate and the so-called crisis virtually disappears. This one mandate is the chief reason the USPS operates at a deficit. Without this crazy mandate, the USPS would be in the black.

Imagine if Congress had issued this same mandate to the branches of our armed forces. You think war is expensive now? It would be off the charts!

Come to think of it, wouldn't it be nice if the military-industrial complex had to meet this mandate even halfway? As it is, our soldiers are underpaid while in service and basically ignored afterwards. Since any war theater can mess with the minds of our service personnel, not to mention the physical injuries they may incur, having a strong retirement system would help our soldiers as they deal with unemployment, mental issues and medical costs.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 10, Part 8

Trey Smith

Discard and confuse the six tones, smash and unstring the pipes and lutes, stop up the ears of the blind musician K'uang, and for the first time the people of the world will be able to hold on to their hearing. Wipe out patterns and designs, scatter the five colors, glue up the eyes of Li Chu, and for the first time the people of the world will be able to hold on to their eyesight. Destroy and cut to pieces the curve and plumb line, throw away the compass and square, shackle the fingers of Artisan Ch'ui, and for the first time the people of the world will possess real skill. Thus it is said, "Great skill is like clumsiness." Put a stop to the ways of Tseng and Shih, gag the mouths of Yang and Mo, wipe out and reject benevolence and righteousness, and for the first time the Virtue of the world will reach the state of Mysterious Leveling."
~ Burton Watson translation ~
In their own way, me thinks the author of this verse simply is trying to say that life is filled with temptations and distractions. The reason WHY most of us struggle to lead virtuous lives is that there are so many things that dazzle the senses. We allow these sensuous things -- objects, ideas and people -- to worm their way into our egos and, once that happens, we pay far more attention to our desires than anything else.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Forced Between a Rock and a Hard Place I

Trey Smith

Today we're going to look at an article, The Postal Service Outrage, from Dave Johnson of The Campaign for America's Future. I found Johnson's piece after listening to a podcast of an interview he gave (stream it by clicking here and slide the slider to 22:45). By looking at this one issue, we can begin to see how the privatization gambit works in all its orchestrated beauty.

As Johnson clearly shows, the "crisis" facing the US Postal Service (USPS) is not unlike many of the crises we see facing Congress and the President today: It is manufactured. Were it not for the meddling of Congress, the US Postal Service would be turning a profit! While the partisan Johnson lays the blame squarely on the Republicans, it takes two to tango. The Democrats are just as culpable.

In this post, we will look at the first bullet point as to how this "crisis" was created and then, throughout the day, look at the other bullet points. We will finish up this series of posts tomorrow.
Bullet Point #1: The Postal Service is the second largest employer in the United States after Walmart. But unlike Walmart, which gets away with paying so little that employees qualify for government assistance, the Postal Service is unionized, pays reasonable wages and benefits and receives no government subsidies.
You see, unions DO make a big difference. Unionized workers tend to earn better pay and receive better benefits. Of course, this is why conservatives demonize unions. Were it not for these D-A-M-N unions, postal workers would have little most of the rest of the workforce!

But the key part of Bullet Point #1 is the last 4 words. Though enshrined in the US Constitution, the USPS isn't funded by taxpayer dollars. It must sink or swim on its own. Most major corporations -- like Walmart -- receive all sorts of presents courtesy of all of us. Sometimes "we" bail them out when, by their own devices, they would go belly up. "We" provide them with low or no interest loans. "We" shield them from all sorts of taxes and "we" often fund THEIR infrastructure improvements. Even worse, if they pay their workers so little that their employees can't make ends meet, "we" end up subsidizing THEIR payroll.

Compared to the USPS, most major corporations have it easy. They have government-funded life rafts waiting at their beck and call. It is a lot easier to realize tremendous profits when you know that taxpayers have your back.

I Ching: Hexagram 13 (T'ung Jên)


The image of the upper trigram Ch’ien is heaven, and that of the lower, Li, is flame. It is the nature of fire to flame up to heaven. This gives the idea of fellowship. It is the second line that, by virtue of its central character, unites the five strong lines around it. This hexagram forms a complement to Shih, THE ARMY. In the latter, danger is within and obedience without — the character of a warlike army, which, in order to hold together, needs one strong man among the many who are weak. Here, clarity is within and strength without — the character of a peaceful union of men, which, in order to hold together, needs one yielding nature among many firm persons.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Righteous Non-Anger

Scott Bradley

Upon returning from Wei where tyranny had laid the land to waste, Jiao approached his teacher and said, "Master, I have heard you say that the sage does not allow anger to enter his heart, yet it fills me now as I think of the tyranny in Wei. What can I do?"

Zhouzi replied, "Sages have taught that there is an anger that is non-anger, just as there is action that is non-action. What difference do you think there is between them?"

"Master, I do not know."

"If you were to accidentally step on my toe and I became angry, would this be anger or non-anger?"

"Master, it would be anger, because it was unintended, yet you would have taken it personally."

"It is as you say, Jiao. But in what way would it be different if you were to purposely step on my toe and I became angry? Would this be anger or non-anger?"

"Master, it would still be anger because you failed to accept things as they happen. And because you still would have taken it as a slight on your person."

"Here you have discovered the difference between anger and non-anger; the one is rooted in self, the other in that harm has been done. But can harm be done to a sage? How can she who has nothing to lose be harmed? Or is it rather that the one who harms is harming himself? And if it is this latter, then the sage can be angrily non-angry that the world is self-harming."

"So, if my anger is rooted in the personal, it is an anger that has entered my heart," Jiao replied. "But though no harm has been done to me by the tyranny in Wei, yet still this anger I have seems to arise from a personal offence. My anger is anger, but I do not know why."

"The roots of our anger are deep beyond all finding. Thus, though I have no 'secret teaching', there remain things best not taught. Who but the sage can be righteously non-angry? But the sage has no need of the teaching. Thus do I teach the way of no anger."

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 12 - The Lines, Part 6

Nine at the top means:
The standstill comes to an end.
First standstill, then good fortune.

The standstill does not last forever. However, it does not cease of its own accord; the right man is needed to end it. This is the difference between a state of peace and a state of stagnation. Continuous effort is necessary to maintain peace: left to itself it would change into stagnation and disintegration. The time of disintegration, however, does not change back automatically to a condition of peace and prosperity; effort must be put forth in order to end it. This shows the creative attitude that man must take if the world is to be put in order.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

Guess Who's Footing the Bill

Trey Smith

You know that things are getting bad when even the mainstream media starts reporting the obvious. In what I think is a surprising editorial from Bloomberg View, the editors reveal something the too-big-to-fail banks have long hoped we don't notice.
On television, in interviews and in meetings with investors, executives of the biggest U.S. banks -- notably JPMorgan Chase and Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon -- make the case that size is a competitive advantage. It helps them lower costs and vie for customers on an international scale. Limiting it, they warn, would impair profitability and weaken the country’s position in global finance.

So what if we told you that, by our calculations, the largest U.S. banks aren’t really profitable at all? What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers?
Hmm. This is what many of us have assumed for quite some time. Take away all the government handouts and low or no interest loans and what we have are financial institutions that can barely keep their heads above water! This fact makes the government's lack of prosecution of those who drove the world economy into the ground even more galling than it already is.

By allowing these behemoth financial institutions to grow larger and larger and then not prosecuting them for their gross misdeeds, the federal government is handing them a license to be as reckless as ever. They will continue to invest in risky schemes because they KNOW that, when these deals blow up in their faces, we taxpayers will ride to the rescue to insure they maintain their massive profit margin.

Don't expect this to change anytime soon. Obama has surrounded himself with the kinds of people who love to subsidize Wall Street. Who can blame them? After they "serve" in government for a while, they will return to the very corporations that are receiving the bailouts. Consequently, they certainly don't want to bite the hands that feed them.

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Dump The Bosses Off Your Back

Performed by Utah Phillips

Are you poor, forlorn and hungry?
Are there lots of things you lack ?
Is your life made up of misery?
Then dump the bosses off your back
Are your clothes all patched and tattered ?
Are you living in a shack ?
Would you have your troubles scattered ?
Then dump the bosses off your back

Are you almost split asunder?
Loaded like a long-eared jack ?
Boob - why don't you buck like thunder,
And dump the bosses off your back ?
All the agonies you suffer
You can end with one good whack
Stiffen up, you orn'ry duffer
And dump the bosses off your back
~ from Lyrics Keeper ~

Nothing To Do

Scott Bradley

Zhouzi took his seat before the hall and spoke to those assembled saying, "What is not already complete among us? We squabble. We strive. We accomplish. We fail. We rejoice. We sorrow. Yet have we ever been anything other than complete in it all? Liu, will you not answer for us all?"

"Master," spoke Liu, "fish ever abide in water where they school or take their own independent way; they fight for territory, prey on each other, live and die, yet never do they leave the medium which gives them life. Thus it is written, 'humans abide in Dao as fish abide in water'; how could they not be ever complete?"

"Well said, Liu," replied Zhouzi. "We take heaven and earth as one body; there is no space between them. We affirm all things upon the earth as one body; there is no better or worse among them. We take each and every thing as a unique expression of All; All abides in every singular thing. Thus it is also said, 'Heaven and earth encompass all that is, but do not strive to make it so.' And thus it is concluded, 'He who knows how to be great and all-encompassing seeks nothing, loses nothing, abandons nothing.' What say you Liu of those who fail of 'greatness' and are not 'all-encompassing'?"

"Master," answered Liu, "if there was never anything to 'seek', 'lose', or 'abandon', then 'greatness' is awareness unachieved and 'all-encompassing' is already naturally so; only we strive and squabble, achieve and fail, because we remain unaware of the nature of things."

"Thus our achieving is a non-achieving, and our striving is a non-striving” added Zhouzi. “We seek only to realize what is already so, and never as if it were ever other than so. To fail is to succeed when it understands this; and to fail of even this is to fail of joy, and nothing more."

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 10, Part 7

Trey Smith

Cut off sageliness, cast away wisdom, and then the great thieves will cease. Break the jades, crush the pearls, and petty thieves will no longer rise up. Burn the tallies, shatter the seals, and the people will be simple and guileless. Hack up the bushels, snap the balances in two, and the people will no longer wrangle. Destroy and wipe out the laws that the sage has made for the world, and at last you will find you can reason with the people.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
The problem with rules is that they are made to be broken. As soon as a line is drawn in the sand, people will start trying to figure out ways to cross it without being caught or held accountable.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

In This Case, The Oddsmakers Were Right

Trey Smith

According to oddsmakers, Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” does not have the best chance of winning the 2013 Academy Award for best picture. That top spot right now goes to Ben Affleck’s “Argo” — but it shouldn’t. If history is any gauge, “Lincoln” has to be the front-runner thanks to its status as this year’s only Oscar-nominated White Savior film.

If you’ve been to the movies in the last half-century, you know the White Savior genre well. It’s the catalog of films that features white people single-handedly rescuing people of color from their plight. These story lines insinuate that people of color have no ability to rescue themselves. This both makes white audiences feel good about themselves by portraying them as benevolent messiahs (rather than hegemonic conquerors), and also depicts people of color as helpless weaklings — all while wrapping such tripe in the cinematic argot of liberation.
~ from Oscar Loves a White Savior by David Sirota ~
Okay, so Sirota's prediction turned out to be wrong and the oddsmakers got it right. I'm not concerned about that. It has more to do with Sirota's overall point that America seems to love saviors who are white, rich and/or male. Saviors that are non-white, poor and/or female just don't play as well.

At times, Della likes to watch movies on the Lifetime Network. Personally, I can't stand most of them. They typically feature a heroine who, despite being wrong-headed and often hysterical, saves the day with the help of a strong white male. I'm sure you know the type of TV movie I'm referring to. Our heroine decides to confront or chase down some wicked guy. She does so half-cocked and, at some point, falls down and twists her ankle. It looks like it will be the end of her...until her white knight in shining armor arrives in the nick of time.

We see much the same dynamic when it comes to poor people. Yes, they may get the ball rolling, but they almost always hit a major roadblock somewhere along the way and all seems lost...until a person (usually a white male) of means steps in to save the day. The poor schmucks then prostrate themselves at the feet of their rich savior.

And, of course, we can't leave out the Jesus that most fundamentalists worship. While he may not be rich, he is lily white and as powerful as they come. He would be the ultimate example of white power except for one tiny little fact: He actually wasn't a white guy! He was the sort of Palestinian that today's fundamentalists tend to loathe.

I Ching: Hexagram 12 - The Lines, Part 5

Nine in the fifth place means:
Standstill is giving way.
Good fortune for the great man.
"What if it should fail, what if it should fail?"
In this way he ties it to a cluster of mulberry shoots.

The time undergoes a change. The right man, able to restore order, has arrived. Hence "good fortune." But such periods of transition are the very times in which we must fear and tremble. Success is assured only through greatest caution, which asks always, "What if it should fail?" When a mulberry bush is cut down, a number of unusually strong shoots sprout from the roots. Hence the image of tying something to a cluster of mulberry shoots is used to symbolize the way of making success certain. Confucius says about this line:

Danger arises when a man feels secure in his position. Destruction threatens when a man seeks to preserve his worldly estate. Confusion develops when a man has put everything in order. Therefore the superior man does not forget danger in his security, not ruin when he is well established, nor confusion when his affairs are in order. In this way he gains personal safety and is able to protect the empire.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

How To Be Heavenly

Scott Bradley

When Wen brought Zhouzi his morning tea he found him reading. "Tell me Wen, have you ever seen an insect that failed to be an insect?" asked Zhouzi.

"Master, I have not. Nor do I believe there has ever been such a thing," replied Wen.

"Or a tree that failed to be a tree? Or a rock that was not a rock?"

"No, Master, everything is precisely and perfectly what it is. In this, nothing can be improved upon."

"And what of the human Wen, have you ever seen a human that failed to be a human? Or a human that was not 'precisely and perfectly what it is'?"

"Master, it is as you kindly imply, every human being is precisely a human being and perfectly the individual human being that it is. To realize this true of oneself is the joy of the sage."

"So, I have heard," chuckled Zhouzi. "But listen to this that is written here in the Book of Zhuangzi: 'Only an insect can be an insect, and only by being an insect can it be the Heavenly.' What think you Wen, is an insect heavenly by virtue of being that which it cannot otherwise be?"

"Master, all things are heavenly! The ant is Dao! The ant is all that is! Why do you put me to the test?"

"I do no such thing, but rather tap your wisdom, Wen. But let us not forget that the ant is Dao only by virtue of its being an ant and thus there is Dao because there is ant. So tell me, is a human being heavenly by virtue of being that which it cannot otherwise be?"

"It is just so, Master."

“Then all human beings are equal in being heavenly. There is not one who deviates from the heavenly, for all that one is and does is the heavenly. Is this also so?”

“It is also so, Master, though the discriminating mind is pained to say it.”

“The untempered discriminating mind is a divisive and fearful mind. An equalizing mind is a tranquil and peaceful mind. What gratuitous harm has such a mind ever done? But what of the sage and the common person, can we not discriminate between them?”

“Master, we can and we cannot. The sage is he who has realized that he is the same with the common person, and not only that, but also with everything that is or is not.”

“Wenzi, call me no longer ‘Master’, but Friend!”

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Ching: Hexagram 12 - The Lines, Part 4

Nine in the fourth place means:
He who acts at the command of the highest
Remains without blame.
Those of like mind partake of the blessing.

The time of standstill is nearing the point of change into its opposite. Whoever wishes to restore order must feel himself called to the task and have the necessary authority. A man who sets himself up a capable of creating order according to his own judgment could make mistakes and end in failure. But the man who is truly called to the task is favored by the conditions of the time, and all those of like mind will share in his blessing.
Translator of this version of the I Ching is Richard Wilhelm. If you missed any posts in this series, please utilize the I Ching label below.

It Is Good To Be a Member of the Good Ol' Boys Club

Trey Smith

The bankrupt city of San Bernardino has hired a new city manager who, according to court filings, has twice declared personal bankruptcy and was recently ousted from the board of a small community's water company after being sued by shareholders.

The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to hire Allen J. Parker, 71, as its city manager on an annual salary of almost $222,000. He replaces an interim city manager who resigned last month because, according to friends, she was exasperated by the city's internal divisions.
~ from Bankrupt San Bernardino Picks Twice Bankrupt Manager by Tim Reid ~
Ordinary folks who are forced to file for bankruptcy find it difficult to get their lives back on track. It can be hard to reestablish credit and, if you've lost your home, it can be tough finding a landlord who will rent to you.

But bankruptcy is no problem at all IF you are a member of the Good Ol' Boys Club. Neither is being found guilty of bribery, public misuse of funds, or large campaign finance violations. You can be caught in a tawdry affair or be fired for fiscal mismanagement. Short of committing murder -- and sometimes you can get away with that too! -- you don't have to worry about whether or not you will land on your feet.

There almost always is someone willing to give you a second, third, fourth, fifth or tenth chance. While us common folks only get three strikes and we're out, you get more lives than a black cat!

Afternoon Matinee: Protest - Beds Are Burning

Performed by Midnight Oil

Out where the river broke
The bloodwood and the desert oak
Holden wrecks and boiling diesels
Steam in forty five degrees

The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
Let's give it back

How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
Now, to pay our share

Four wheels scare the cockatoos
From Kintore East to Yuendemu
The western desert lives and breathes
In forty-five degrees

The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent
Ah, to pay our share

The time has come (Ow!)
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
Let's give it back

How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?

The time has come
To say fair's fair
To pay the rent, now
To pay our share

The time has come
A fact's a fact
It belongs to them
We're gonna give it back

How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
~ from Lyric Wiki ~

Might "Brother Sam" Be Rolling in His Grave?

Trey Smith

Several times per year we hear of an announcement from a major retail chain that they will undergo a "readjustment" or a "restructuring" because of sagging profits. What these sterilized terms mean is that the company will be shuttering stores across the nation. While the "restructuring" bug has hit a myriad of these retail chains, there is one corporation that it has not claimed: the ubiquitous Walmart. While their competitors weed out their under performing stores, Walmart seems to keep growing bigger and bigger. As of today, they have over 8,500 stores in 15 countries!

But, according to Joshua Holland, everything isn't completely rosy in the land of Walmart.
In a consumer-driven economy, you can only squeeze ordinary working people so far before they're no longer able to buy the goods and services required to keep the ship afloat.

Walmart may be learning that simple truth the hard way. On Friday, Bloomberg reported a series of emails between company executives freaking out over the super-store's dismal start to the new year. “Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S.,” wrote Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. Replenishment. “Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?” Another exec, Jerry Murray, Walmart’s vice president of finance and logistics, described the latest sales figures as, “the worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”
While this may be nothing more than a momentary blip that will be laughed about by Walmart execs later this year, it stands to reason that sooner or later Walmart will be forced to contract. Nothing grows forever. At some point, everything gets too big for its own britches and starts to implode upon itself.

When I think of Walmart, I tend to think of the oft-quoted statement by author Edward Abbey: Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell

In my mind's eye, Walmart is a cancer for local communities, workers, the environment and the world, in general. It has become far too wealthy and powerful through ruthless cutthroat tactics. It buys politicians by the bucket load and it has become very adept at skirting or demanding exceptions to a wide variety of regulations and laws. One of its worst sins is that it plays off one community against another and leaves the taxpayers of the "winner" subsidizing the corporate headquarters with millions of dollars in giveaways.

Before I leave this earth, one of my hopes is that Walmart will announce a great "restructuring." Will it happen in my lifetime? One can always dream!