When Do You Have Enough?

Apparently one can never have too much money.

According to Forbes most recent list of billionaires, which came out in March of 2019, the richest person in the entire world is my Pacific Northwest neighbor, Jeff Bezos. Yeah, that guy. The CEO of Amazon.

At the time, his net worth was $131 billion dollars. Granted, he’s in the midst of a divorce, and I’m sure that won’t be pretty, but even so, with that kind of money he could retire today and live quite comfortably for at least 100 lifetimes.

And yet, that guy just threw 1.5 million dollars at the elections for Seattle City Council, in the hopes of flipping the progressive majority. Why? Because the city and its council thinks that maybe Amazon should pony up its fair share of taxes for once.

Well, Bezos’ scheme backfired. Only 2 of the 7 candidates he supported actually won, and one of those was an incumbent. The people have spoken.

But a million dollars for Bezos is like a penny to you or me. He isn’t going to give up or go away. Because, apparently, one can never have too much money.

I find this supremely pathetic. That man could most likely solve the homeless crisis in Seattle with the interest he earns on his personal savings account in one month. But has he done that? No. He’s too busy trying to avoid taxes that he can well afford. He drives past people in tents every single solitary day, and he’d much rather focus on the amount of taxes he can avoid. Let them eat cake.

How much money does it take before you can feel free of petty BS and actually turn your attention to paying it forward? What does it take for someone to feel compassion for the very people who have generated all that money for you? Apparently, it’s more than $131 billion dollars.

There’s something wrong with a system that supports such greed and corruption. Henny Penny, the sky is falling. And rest assured it’s not going to land on Bezos.

Jeff Bezos

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Congressional Hearings Then and Now

How radically one’s priorities shift over time.

Even as I write this, I’m listening to the impeachment hearings. I’ve borne witness to live testimony at every opportunity. I’m finding it riveting.

I’m really impressed with some of the dedicated public servants I’ve had the opportunity to hear. There really are bureaucrats out there who are well-meaning and full of integrity. That makes me feel as though our country may be able to recover from all this divisiveness and corruption. Someday.

Unfortunately, these testimonies have also shined a light on some of the cockroaches in our government. Those who are choosing not to testify are not participating in the process of revealing truth and clarifying the situation. Justice is not the end goal for these people. Their integrity will forever be in question, as far as I’m concerned. Clearly, they have something to hide.

Other cockroaches include those who are trying to stir up drama by using inflammatory phrases in the hopes that they’ll make good sound bites. Comparing this situation to a “drug deal” or an “inquisition” is not helpful, nor is it even remotely accurate. Implying that the closed-door depositions are somehow out of order is absurd. In all types of hearings, depositions are behind closed doors. The only time one sees a deposition is in the movies. Also, attempting to out the whistleblower is an effort to find a scapegoat to deflect attention from the subject of the impeachment.

But worst of all, without a doubt, are the tweets and the bullies who are attempting to intimidate witnesses. It makes this country look like a banana republic. It makes us look like thugs. And it makes me ashamed.

But even as I listen to these hearings, I remember the 8 year old me during the Watergate scandal. Little me threw more than one tantrum because the hearings pre-empted all her children’s programming. And it seemed to go on for an eternity. She was sooooooooo bored! She was furious at her mother for not being able to tell “someone” to restore decent television to the land.

What a difference maturity and life experience make. How radically one’s priorities shift over time. And thank goodness for Netflix.

Watergate-Hearings.jpg

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Stop Wishing for Peace on Earth

Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to make a wish, my stock response has been to ask for peace on earth. With world peace, I thought, everything else would have a much better chance of falling into place. If we could direct our energies elsewhere, surely we’d focus on the greater good, right?

Well, it was a nice idea. Unfortunately, wishing has yet to make it so. And the older I get, the more cynical I become. I no longer think most of us prioritize the greater good. Most of us just want good for me and mine.

So I decided to reverse-engineer my thought process. Why don’t we already have peace on earth? What causes war?

That’s easy. Greed. Desire for cheap oil so we can maintain our destructive lifestyles. Desire for land that never belonged to us in the first place. Desire for riches that someone else has accumulated. The view that women are chattel and men make good field hands. Desire to make a profit from the military industrial complex. As long as this greed exists, war will exist.

I’d even go so far as to say that Greed is what causes the six other deadly sins. Think about it.

Pride is feeling good about what you have, or the ways you are superior. Greed is what caused you to strive for those things.

Lust stems from the greedy need to have the best mate all to yourself.

Envy is greed unfulfilled.

Gluttony is greed that is so fulfilled that you can’t seem to stop yourself from feasting upon it.

Wrath is the feeling you get when your greed is unsatisfied.

Sloth sets in when you either become so exhausted by your greed, or you are reveling in the fact that you’ve gotten what you’ve greedily taken from others.

In this age of corruption, especially in the halls of power, greed should be viewed as our greatest enemy. So from now on, when I make a wish, it will be for the death of greed. Surely then we could know peace.

peace

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A Solution to Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering, or the deliberate manipulation of the shape of voter districts to ensure a particular political outcome, is one of the most common forms of corruption in the United States. This crime is perpetrated against the American people by both Republicans and Democrats. We all know it. It has to stop.

Here’s why it hasn’t. In every state in the union, either the Democrats or the Republicans are in power. And the party in power just loves Gerrymandering, because it’s a way for them to remain in power. The citizens of this country need to take that power back.

The people in the great state of North Carolina have been given a wake-up call. Their gerrymandered districts were deemed unconstitutional by a lower court. Unfortunately, it just got overturned by the supreme court. (Bias, anyone?) They need to make changes.

But they are hardly the only state with insanely shaped voting districts. Check out this district in Florida. It even stretches a tentacle right down the center of the St. Johns River, without touching dry land for miles, in order to exclude some people and include others. It helped an extremely corrupt Corrine Brown remain in the US House of Representatives from 1993 to 2017. She is now a convicted felon. Finally.

Florida_US_Congressional_District_5_(since_2013).tif

Here’s what has to happen: We need to create a law that requires all districts to be in the shape of squares or rectangles. They should be required to have only four 90 degree angles, with one exception: Allowances should be made for the uneven borders between states.

This would still allow for some manipulation. I suspect we’d see radical differences in square sizes, and some strangely long and skinny rectangles. But even so, the power to predict outcomes will be much more limited.

The thing is, until all the people, on both sides of the political spectrum, get together and agree on this one issue, there will be no justice for any of us. We need an organization to take this on as a pet project, and inform the people that they are being manipulated. It’s time to take back control so that our politicians represent the will of the people.

Let’s hear it for 90 degree angles!

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Andy Johnson, or Unethical Politicians are Nothing New

Not a day goes by when there isn’t some outrageous story about a corrupt politician. I’m relieved that most of us are still shocked by this, but I can feel the cynicism growing all around me like kudzu on an abandoned Southern house. I rue the day when we all become so used to it that it doesn’t even raise any eyebrows. That’s what they’re working toward. That’s what they’re hoping for. That’s why we can never allow ourselves to look away.

I have personal experience with this outrageous lack of ethics. For me the poster child for a slimy politician is this man: Andy Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida.

andy-johnson

Most of you won’t have heard of him. He’s rapidly sinking into obscurity. In the 80’s, though, he was a member of the Florida legislature. (If you want to see his smug face back in those days, go here.) It tells you much about his effectiveness as a politician that he was eventually defeated by Corrine Brown, an even bigger embarrassment to the Democratic Party.

I had the misfortune of crossing paths with this distasteful man long after his political career had taken its nosedive. For many years he was the host of a progressive talk show in Jacksonville Florida, and my boyfriend at the time worked for him, often without pay. (Had I known that at the time, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do business with the man, but I could only work with the information I was given.)

I’ve written time and time again about how this man stole $3,500.00 from me and refuses to pay it back. That’s why he has his very own category on my blog. Suffice it to say, I took him to court and won. I also have a lien on his house, for all the good it will do me. (If you’re interested, it’s Duval County, Florida, case number 16-2010-SC-000516.) The interest that has accrued would make this lien worth buying from me, if you are so inclined. That’s probably the only way I’ll ever see that money again, because I’m not cut out to be a debt collector.

I’ll never stop telling the truth about what Andy Johnson has done. I have the truth on my side, at least. He’ll never have that. You wear the chains you forge in life, Andy.

I guess my point is that the political corruption we are seeing today is nothing new. The difference is, those of us who have been wronged have a lot more forums in which to speak out about these offenses. The cockroaches no longer have the luxury of the dark. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. I hope someday these roaches will be squashed by justice.

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On Being Politically Violated

The mansion had been locked up for so long that most of us had never glimpsed the interior. There was no need, we thought. It looked beautiful from the outside. Grand. Stately. Well-landscaped. We were proud that it was the blueprint for mansions around the world. We were proud that it was ours.

And then cracks began to appear, in the windows, walls and roof. The foundation started to crumble. We began to wonder if its residents were actually doing anything to maintain this landmark edifice. This problem seemed to be one of long-standing, but we hadn’t been paying attention.

Then, about a year ago, an ungodly stench started to emanate from the bowels of the building. A coppery smell, like blood. The odor of stinking, raw sewage. Something was not right. We all knew this, but seemed at a loss to do anything about it.

The newest residents of the mansion didn’t seem to care. They actually seemed to delight in the decay, or at least were indifferent to it. They made all sorts of bizarre excuses. They pointed a finger at everyone except themselves. There were even feeble attempts at fireworks displays to distract us from the real problem.

There was talk of putting up a great big wall around the mansion, to keep out the undesirables. Perhaps, too, that would keep us from peeking in the windows and seeing the criminal neglect that we have allowed, and in some cases even encouraged, and the illegal acts that are causing this decay and this acrid pong of corruption and defilement. All this, in our house. OUR HOUSE.

There has been quite a bit of talk about this, actually. So much talk. And yet, no action.

Now, here we sit, feeling helpless and frustrated and sick, watching as this beautiful symbol slowly sinks back into the earth, and leaves behind an empty space, and a bittersweet memory of what we once had.

white house

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Honne and Tatemae

Recently a dear friend introduced me to the Japanese concepts of honne and tatemae. I had never heard these words before. Without her, I would  probably just have assumed they were the names for a Japanese pop culture couple or something. (They do say that opposites attract.)

After reading several articles on the subject and watching this interesting little video, I think I have a grasp of it now. Honne is basically your true feelings and/or thoughts in any situation. (I will have no trouble remembering that word, because it kind of looks like “honest”.) I’m quite good at honne most of the time. If you ask my opinion on something, I’m always happy to give it to you, often to the point where it gets me into trouble. (Because, sorry, those shorts actually do make you look fat.)

Tatemae is what I struggle with. It’s kind of the public face you show the world in order to avoid conflict, spare feelings, and/or further your goal. It can be as innocuous as saying, “I’ll call you!” after a particularly bad date, or as insidious as, “Corruption? No corruption in this organization!”

Tatemae definitely has its uses. Unfortunately, it will often get you further in the work environment. “Yes, boss, you are doing a pathetic great job!” (This is probably why I’m a bridgetender instead of a CEO. I just can’t do it.)

And if you are trapped on an island with 127 million other people, avoiding conflict is all the more crucial. Not that tatemae is exclusive to Japan. In fact, I seem to be over my head in a sea of it here in Seattle, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever adjust to it.

But perhaps I’m better at it than I think. As I blogged the other day, friends tell me that the things I write here are not like the person that they know. That has a lot to do with editing, and my desire not to be perceived as a nut job. So, hey, there’s hope for me yet, if one considers tatemae to be a hopeful thing.

Corruption? No corruption here…

Tatemae

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Union Dues

For the first time in my life I’m a member of an effective union, and holy crap, what a difference it’s making in my life! I’ve actually got a living wage and can look forward to raises. I have decent health insurance for the first time in well over a decade. I have retirement. Retirement! I can’t even imagine. And believe me, that’s just the tip of the benefit iceberg.

I actually know several people who have bought into the whole Republican propaganda machine and therefore resent unions. That always kind of amuses me, because they would be the first people to squawk if they had to work more than 40 hours a week, 8 hours a day, or if child labor came back, or if they were in sweat shops. They have unions to thank for their excellent working conditions, and yet they disapprove of them.

I’m assuming these people think that employers are going to treat their employees decently as a matter of principle. Unfortunately, this has never been demonstrated to me. I’ve been working since I was 10 years old, and I’ve held 23 different jobs. What this has taught me is that greed will always prevail. Power always corrupts.

Yes, unions can take advantage of their power as well. Some of their benefits are a bit over the top. Yesterday I worked 12 straight hours, and because of that I was entitled to have my dinner reimbursed. I felt a little guilty as I turned in my receipt for coconut crusted prawns, top sirloin with mashed potatoes and broccoli, and salted caramel vanilla crunch cake. But you know what? I guarantee you that there isn’t a member of a board of directors anywhere in this country who hasn’t eaten even better, and I know I work harder than they do.

So unless you can wave your magic wand and come up with some way of making everyone behave fairly, I’ll continue to pay my dues and eat my prawns, thank you very much.

union

Why I Vote

I used to work with a woman who had never voted, had no intentions of ever doing so, and was quite proud of that fact. She hated this country and everything it stands for, and did not want to participate in it in any way. She dreamed of moving to the Australian outback, where she felt her family would be left alone. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that voting is compulsory in Australia.)

But I have to say that whenever an election would roll around, I couldn’t stand to be in that woman’s presence. It took everything in me not to try to slap some sense into her. The very palm of my hand would ache to do so.

Yes, politics in this country (probably in all countries) is corrupt, and our elected representatives seem to have no desire to represent us. Yes, it’s annoying to have to choose the lesser of two evils rather than the best person for a job. Yes, it’s hard to sift through all the lies to figure out what is the best choice.

As much as I love Russell Brand and his activism, he has become the poster child for a movement that encourages people not to vote as a form of protest because of all of the above. Brand is an extremely intelligent guy, but on this one subject he’s being idiotic. Yes, it’s a broken system, but by not participating in it, you’re not going to make it go away, and you’re not going to fix it. You’re simply giving your power to others.

Here are a few reasons why I vote:

If you do not vote, as far as I’m concerned, you forfeit the right to complain, because you have made no effort to even try to be part of the solution. And believe me, I am as willing to complain as the next person.

If you don’t vote, the majority opinion is not properly reflected, and that causes policies to be enacted that most of us really don’t desire.

The act of voting is the act of reaffirming your democratic freedom, a right which Americans have been fighting and dying for since the Revolutionary War.

People still can’t vote in Brunei or the United Arab Emirates, and women can’t vote in Saudi Arabia. Elections in North Korea are only for show. China is not a democracy, and they are currently trying to roll back the rights of the Taiwanese. As long as there is even one person in this world who wants to vote and can’t, how can I choose to not take advantage of this privilege?

One of the last things my sister did before she died was take her son to vote in his first presidential election. She knew it was an important lesson to teach him. It was important enough to focus on even though she was dying, so your manicure can wait.

But most of all, I am a woman. Women did not get the vote in the US until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. It took 70 years of struggle to make that happen. Women died for it, went to jail for it, and had tubes rammed down their throats and were force fed when they went on hunger strikes for it. After all of that, what right do I have NOT to vote?

So if you’re not voting, you might want to tell me that from a safe distance. I take this very seriously.

Russell-Brand

See, to me that’s a reason to use your celebrity to get MORE people involved. Sigh.

[Image credit: openyoureyesnews.com]