29 JulFor Justin and Christine


images beach

Love knows no time,

No space, no dimension.

It is a universe unto itself

Without borders or clocks or images,

Where the angels of our better selves

Make us welcome.

Love gives no choice, no warning;

It captures but does not hold.

Love will not yield to right or wrong,

Or fade with change or death.

Love is here, now and forever.

Let it be and it is so.


21 FebHas Your Mind Been Hijacked?

despair 1

Have you noticed that certain opinions become commonplace almost overnight? While interviewing different people, I’ve listened to one person citing a thing as bad and then, a stranger to the first person, in a completely different walk of life and educational level, spouts the exact same words on the subject.

The source of those opinions might be traced back to a deliberately engineered Public Relations campaign.

Simply put, Public Relations (PR) is a battle for your mind, fought in the public arena using armies of media ads, films, front groups, public speakers, cell phone texts and mail that gets you to buy something, be it laundry soap, beer, or a President.

The precursor to a good PR campaign is data collection, known as Data Mining, which regularly finds out almost everything about people like us who use cell phones, email, or post on public sites and buy groceries with a credit or debit card. Facebook, as one example, posts ads on your page that have been geared specifically to your interests.

Data mining is defined on Investopedia.com as, “A process used by companies to turn raw data into useful information. By using software to look for patterns in large batches of data, businesses can learn more about their customers and develop more effective marketing strategies…”

In other words, data miners take millions of consumer purchases of beer, chips or soft drinks, for instance, and analyze the data for patterns. Do people buy one bottle or two; a case of 12 colas or 6, three bags of chips or one, what day of the week do they buy the most, is it women or men, what age groups? If it turns out that the majority of women under 30 buy chips on Saturdays, the supermarket can start a campaign to attract young women to other products in the chips aisle on Saturdays.

The PR coup of our time was the brain child of P.R man, David Axelrod. His campaign got Barack Obama elected to the United States Presidency.

Axelrod needed a candidate that looked good, was a good talker, and was appealing to young voters. Enter Obama, a hip young community organizer from Chicago with a Harvard law degree. First, an Axelrod and company P.R. campaign won Obama a seat in the US Senate and then, barely eight months later, Obama entered the 2008 Presidential race.

At that time in 2008, David Axelrod had been plotting wins for politicians since 1985. He specialized in crusades to bend public opinion to the will of his clients. He’s famous for a technique called “Astroturfing,” – a stealth marketing campaign that falsely makes it look like something or someone is widely accepted through a spontaneous grass roots action – hence the name Astroturf, or fake grass.

Front groups are formed to protest or rally in favor of whatever the client wants. If there’s a fight to ban dogs from city parks and a P.R firm is in charge, there could be a group called something like, “Citizens Against Pets in Parks,” protesting loudly in front of TV cameras on the steps of City Hall.

Journalist, Sharyl Attiksson describes astroturfing in her recent speech at the University of Nevada:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bYAQ-ZZtEU Bravo Sharyl!

Axelrod created and staged venues, and paid rock bands to play free public concerts. In Germany, Raemonn and reggae singer Patrice, two of Europe’s top names at the time, performed before Obama spoke. Two hundred thousand people turned out. While it looked to some like an imitation of President John F. Kennedy’s famous Berlin speech; it got international press coverage. In the US, Bruce Springsteen tickets can run hundreds of dollars, but for Obama, his shows were free.

Here’s a formula for a PR campaign geared to change minds:

  1. Define the goal. (Sell a million widgets, get a politician elected.)
  2. Do thorough surveys of public opinion, broken down into demographically similar groups, to get the words that bring forth emotion on a subject, also known as, “Button Words.”

From ASGK, a David Axelrod company web site: “Commission solid, thorough research to gauge public opinion on specific issues and test potential messages with targeted audiences.”

  1. Concoct the message to push those buttons. (Example: In the 2008 recession where a large percentage of the working population were unemployed or underemployed, and thousands of jobs were being lost monthly, “Hope and Change,” Axelrod’s button words for the Obama Presidential campaign won the day.
  2. Select an acceptable candidate or spokesperson to deliver your message.
  3. Approach every possible press and media contact to support your campaign.

David Axelrod’s media connections go back decades from the 1970s when he was a political reporter for the Chicago Tribune. From ASKG, an Axelrod company’s website: “Our team knows how to draw the right media attention for clients through unique events and background briefing with influential journalists, creating opportunities for media coverage around our clients’ key issues and campaign messages.”

  1. Now comes the interesting part; manipulate the press and media to get the message out. A good campaign needs to encompass these things: Controversy, Big names, Money, and an Attack on someone or something. While not always necessary, Sex will send it viral.

From the ASKG website: “Our job is to activate the messages of our clients through immersive campaigns that shape public debate and influence policy.”

  1. Give the potential buyers something for nothing to make your guy or thing the good one. (Free rock concerts did the job in the Obama campaign.)


David Axelrod is now retired but his company carries on. Today, numerous PR firms engage in changing public opinion, yours and mine, to sell a product or elect a public official. ASGK boasts of clients including, Allstate, at&t, Cargill, Citi bank, Ticketmaster, General Dynamics, the US Olympics, and Zerox, to name a few.

The next time you read an article, or watch ads on TV, see if you can spot the agenda – what are they trying to get you to believe? Are certain button words repeated? Did you have your mind made up against something, only to wake up one morning to find yourself in favor of that very thing? What influenced you?

It doesn’t matter what your politics are; it does matter that you know when and how someone is trying to hijack your mind.







16 FebEscape From Iraq

 The term, Genocide has been defined as: the systematic extermination or attempted extermination of a national, racial, religious or ethnic group. Iraq has been the backdrop for genocide of one kind or another for a quarter century.

For 35 years, Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with threats and acts of inconceivable violence. Most of the 150 tribes in the country were subjugated by Hussein in an unstable alliance built upon fear of reprisal. He was noted for slaughtering any group he felt was against him.

This tribal alliance fell apart after the second Gulf War in 2003 when the defeat of Hussein removed the threats. Centuries old Arab tribal doctrine puts the tribe first and any government an extremely distant second. Until the advent of IS, the extremist Islamic State, the tribes had no reason to band together to support the Iraqi government.

Today, more and more tribal leaders are engaging in the fight against IS which has recruited fighters from other countries who are not members of any Iraqi tribe. Meanwhile, previously protected religious minorities like the Mandaeans, the Chaldean Catholics, and Assyrian Christians, all with a non-tribal history in the country dating back thousands of years, have been the victims of an ongoing genocide since 2003, first by extremist Muslims and now by IS members seeking to enforce their esoteric brand of Muslim rule on the entire Middle East.

Leonardo, Leo to his friends, is an Iraqi immigrant who is now a successful shop owner and a U.S. citizen. A tall, handsome man, with an easy smile and perfect white teeth, he happily engages with everyone who comes into his shop.

Leo outside his store.

Leo outside his store.

When he begins to talk about Iraq, a shadow flits across his green eyes and his smile fades as though ghosts of the past have joined the conversation. I wonder, if I’d been in his shoes, how living through the devastation of my country would affect me.

Leo maintains that everything in Iraq started to go wrong in 1990 with the international embargo against Saddam Hussein. At the time, he was a university student in Baghdad, full of hope and promise, working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. With his parents, four sisters and five brothers, Leo lived in a 6500 square foot house on 2 acres in Baghdad. His father was a prosperous goldsmith. Life was good.

Leo and family have been members of the Mandaean community, an ancient religion shrouded in secrecy that existed in Mesopotamia, part of which became Iraq, for thousands of years. Mandaeans are known for their gold and silversmiths and their loyalty to each other.

Leo says, “The only good thing Saddam Hussein ever did was to protect minority religions like ours.”

On August 2, 1990, less than two years after the devastating Iran/Iraq war, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Leo’s world began to fall apart. Shortly after the invasion, international sanctions were placed on Iraq, and the country’s currency, the dinar, collapsed. From 1.86 dinars previously equaling 1 U.S. dollar, by 1991, it took 1200 dinars to buy 1 U.S. dollar.

“At the time, the only countries who were not blockading Iraq were Turkey, Jordan and Iran. People were killing each other over food; electricity was on and off, and water was scarce. My father’s fortune in the bank became almost nothing. ”

Leonardo got his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics in 1991. That year, after the U.S. and allies routed Hussein’s army from Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm, Leo took a close look at the Iraqi economy and decided to leave the country.

“After the first Gulf War ended, all Iraq was revolting against Saddam. Only Baghdad, Mosul, Ramada and Tikrit were quiet,” he said. “Saddam killed thousands of rebelling Shiites and Kurds. I could see then that things would not get better, ever.”

21 years old, he fled to Jordan. The remainder of his family stayed in Iraq with the exception of one brother, a goldsmith like his father, who had immigrated to California in 1982. During six months in Jordan, Leo, with a gift of the gab that rivals the Irish, talked his way into a visa to Spain.

“In those days, no country would grant visas to Iraqi refugees. I made friends with one ambassador who helped me get asylum in Spain in 1992. I started selling stuff in the subway; that’s how I learned to be 100% independent. From a table, I got a kiosk, and was able to bring one brother to Spain by 1993.”

In 1995, Leonardo immigrated to the U.S. and got a job with his brother, the goldsmith. By 2000, he had enough money to open his own corner store selling liquor, food, and cigarettes where he is today. He works seven days a week, ten to fourteen hours a day, knows the names of all his regular customers, and loves his work.

In 2003, after the 2nd Iraq war, extremist Muslims began a campaign of genocide, slaughtering religious minorities in Iraq. The Mandaean community fell apart. Many fled, ending up in Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Europe and the U.S.

Regarding the ongoing genocide of Christians in Iraq, Leo says, “2003 began a nightmare for most minorities. The Sunnis and the Shias started killing everybody who was not one of them.”

The mathematician in Leonardo still questions the fate of his country; “I think the U.S. made a big mistake. They never looked at the consequences of removing Saddam Hussein after thirty-five years in power. They got Maliki who destroyed the economy of Iraq for eight years. People are still living day to day with rampant disease and shortage of medical supplies, no water, no electricity and garbage everywhere. Even with the oil money, the currency is still crashed. Why has that equation not been solved?” (As of Friday, Jan 30, 1 U.S. dollar equaled 1188.74 dinars.)

The last member of Leonard’s family was not able to leave Iraq until 2007.

Leo and his wife are members of the Mandaean religious community, a close-knit group that numbered between 60,000 and 70,000 in Iraq and Iran before 2003. Mandaeans trace their ancestry in the Arab world to eight centuries before the advent of Islam or Christianity.

Today, he plays down his involvement in the Mandaean religion, and is reluctant to comment on how many people outside of his family he’s helped, saying, “Mostly, I try to do the right thing; I follow the Ten Commandments.”

Like many in the U.S. who’ve escaped from the wreckage of war in their native land, Leo’s not looking for applause or recognition, he’s just grateful for the chance to, “Do the right thing.”

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27 JanImmigrants Catching the American Dream

The American Declaration of Independence is a beacon of hope to millions across the globe who want a better life:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those words are the preface to the American Dream – elusive, like a butterfly on the path to some, the top of the mountain they’re climbing to others.

Thirty four years ago, Irma and Elio Ruiz, strangers as yet to meet, came to America from Mexico. They were both chasing the American Dream. For Irma, who lived close to the border, it was a lessor challenge than for Elio because she had the knowledge and the contacts to obtain a U.S. work visa.

With their heads full of visions of better lives, Elio, his uncles and two cousins drove north for three days non-stop from the Mexican state of Michoacán. They snuck across the border at San Ysidro, California, and then continued on to Los Angeles.

Irma moved in with her sister and got a job in housekeeping at a Los Angeles hotel. Elio found a place to live and began working as a bellman in the same hotel.

Elio on his Andalusian mare after a Sunday ride.

“There’s a very strong work ethic in our families, everybody works,” Irma tells me. “Elio was born on a ranch. He was a ‘Vaquero,’ a cowboy. I think he was born a Vaquero, he loves horses,” she laughs. Elio now rides and trains Andalusian horses on Sundays.

Living with the constant fear of deportation, they worked in the shadows, paid their bills, and sent a part of their paychecks home to their families in Mexico. In 1983, they met and fell in love.  In 1986, Elio and Irma were married. That same year, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act, also known as President Reagan’s Amnesty Bill, was signed into law. The young couple applied to become legal residents.

Irma explained that it was not easy to be accepted, “You had to prove you came here to work and were a good person.”

She tells me that they had to fill out an application with reference letters from their workplace and relatives, submit to fingerprinting and a thorough background check, speak some English and know a little U.S. history. Once they passed those requirements, Elio and Irma were given work permits.

“Three years later, we got a letter requesting more work history, proof of residence and more references. Then we got our green cards. We were allowed to apply for citizenship five years after that,” Irma explained. “You had to prove you have value to the country.”

In 1994, Elio and Irma, now with a young family, moved from the Los Angeles to San Diego. Irma was worried about the developing gang situation at the time, “Kids were taking guns and knives to school. When that big earthquake hit; that was enough. I told Elio that we had to get our kids out of there.”

Neither of them stopped working for more time than it took to move their family and re-settle.

As her sister’s side of the family was in the trucking business, Elio became a driver and Irma worked in the office. By 1996, Elio had found his true calling, that of a finish carpenter. Irma was asked back into the hotel business by her former Los Angeles employer who owned another hotel in San Diego.  Today, Irma is the executive housekeeper at that same hotel. She’s responsible for the housekeeping in 470 rooms and manages a staff of 70. She has worked for the same company for 30 years.

Feisty and proud, Irma says, “The word, ‘benefits,’ is not in our dictionary. In order to survive, we worked. We have never asked for unemployment pay or free medical. The only time I got disability pay was when I was having one of my three kids.”

Elio has now been a finish carpenter for 25 years. They paid for their children’s college education. “Sometimes we struggled, but when you’re trying to do something good, God is on your side,” Irma smiles.

Their son has a degree in civil engineering. One daughter is a licensed veterinary technician who is pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine; their other daughter is an executive secretary.  All five in the family are U.S. citizens; all five are working full time.

From 1881 to 1920, more than 23 million immigrants who came to the U.S.A. needed only a friend or relative to vouch for them and proof of their identity. In 1921, Congress passed the first quota law and they’ve been arguing about immigration in Washington, D.C. ever since.

The polls today show that a huge percentage of Americans do not want another event like the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, a one-time amnesty, which gave almost 3 million illegal aliens legal status in the U.S. Times are different. There’s a sputtering U.S. economy. Good jobs are scarce – college grads can’t find jobs in their field while major U.S. corporations hire degreed workers from overseas for minimum wage; median household incomes are down, and there’s a general fear that terrorists will cross our borders disguised as immigrants.

Because a plan to secure the borders was not part of the 1986 amnesty bill, some argue that it didn’t work. If the Ruiz family is any indication, the benefits far outweighed the risks at that time.

Regarding another amnesty program, Irma tells me, “It’s difficult. Good people might not apply for fear of not qualifying and the bad eggs just won’t apply. Everything changed in 1998; we lost 37 employees in my department in one day because they had no papers. Every worker had to prove his or her status. Illegals can’t get hired now in companies who have 50 or more employees, we are asked to E-verify everybody.”

They’re still in love; still work hard, have three successful children and own their home. Irma is a Notary and says she wants to plan weddings when she retires in 10 years. Elio sings on Saturday nights with a band in a local restaurant.

“He sings in the shower and sings to his horses too,” Irma giggles. Elio and Irma Ruiz chased and caught The American Dream. Sometimes everyday heroes simply make their dreams come true, thereby quietly inspiring us all.

Previously published in The Epoch Times.

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27 JanMeditation in a California beach town

On a good surf day in O.B.

On a good surf day in O.B. (photo by Jon Sullivan)


My first experience in Ocean Beach, California, a suburb of the City of San Diego, felt like I’d been thrust through a time warp into the 1970s. The day’s Surf Report by a surfer nick-named, ‘Bird,’ proclaimed a, “Flat Attack,” being that waves on the sapphire blue Pacific Ocean were less than two feet high, unlike the photo above. Most of the store fronts and houses haven’t changed in decades, because, as I later learned, the residents fight City Hall tooth and nail to keep them that way. I half expected the Beach Boys to show up and start singing, “Good Vibrations.”

It was a crisp, sunny winter’s day and place was deluged with noisy locals and flocks of tourists who all seemed to be smiling for no other reason than it felt good. Driving down Newport Avenue, on my way to meet Jenna at the Dharma Center was tricky because the parking spaces in front of the stores and restaurants, made long ago for smaller vehicles, supported only half the Ford 250 I was trying to get past, leaving the other half sticking out into the street. Oddly enough, nobody seemed to care much about the traffic glitches caused by SUVs or trucks pulling into or out of tiny parking spaces.

Parking in downtown Ocean Beach, affectionately called O.B. by the locals, was all but impossible that weekend, most likely due to the efforts of local merchants who insist that all parking on the streets and in public lots be kept free of charge. I finally talked my way into the parking lot of Nati’s, a charming little Mexican restaurant a block over from the Dharma Center, by promising to eat there after I finished.

Making my way on foot through a loud throng of kids and parents, dogs and diners to the Dharma Center, I saw two San Diego Police Department cruisers trolling the oceanfront, leaving just a hint of angst in their wake. I also noticed the SDPD trailer plunked on the beach. A new breed of upwardly mobile homeless young people with bank accounts and credit cards, euphemistically called, ‘urban campers,’ by residents, invade O.B. from time to time. Apparently, ten to fifteen percent of the urban campers are not so upscale and have been known to accost tourists, sometimes violently, for hand-outs. Hence, a noticeable police presence.

Tourists spend over 8 billion dollars a year in the San Diego area and tourism supports more than 160,000 jobs. According to Mike Akey, an O.B. real estate broker for 40 years, and a Vice President of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association, his group has installed cameras and hired several security guards who wander the streets anonymously, to keep trouble away from businesses and their patrons.

The Dharma Center is located on the third floor of a balconied building at 5059 Newport Avenue. Street noise faded to a muted roar as I walked into the courtyard in the center of the building and up the stairs to the third floor. Jenna was sitting at the front reception desk as I walked in. She closed the door and there was silence.

Jenna Sundell is not beautiful in the Hollywood sense, but there’s a warm tranquility about her. She’s like a lovely bird, poised on the end of a tree branch, feathers gently ruffled by the breeze. The glow coming through her clear brown eyes reminds you of sunlight through a window. Her smile is infectious and you find yourself wanting to know her secrets.

In weekly classes at the Dharma Center, Jenna says she teaches Practical American Buddhism, a form of Buddhism without ceremony or dogma, offering instruction in meditation for people who live and work in the world. She says that although the word, Dharma, has many different interpretations, she likes the one from the Sanskrit, “It’s the teachings of truth, the pathway, that inner connection to all that is.”

At twenty-one Jenna was a student at San Francisco State University when she met the irresistible but controversial, self-proclaimed Enlightened Master, Dr. Frederick Lenz – Rama to his students. A year or so later, she left university and moved to New York to study full time under Lenz.

When she got to New York, Lenz helped her find a place to live and encouraged her to go back to school to study computer programming. It was the early 1990s. She says, “Rama was very much about independence.” Within a year Jenna had a certificate in computer programming, began to earn a decent living and in short order, was able to pay off all her debts.

Frederick Lenz had a doctorate in English Literature¸ said he studied numerous books on spiritual enlightenment and then studied under Sri Chinmoy, an internationally renowned Indian Spiritual Master who taught meditation in the West from 1964. Lenz took Chinmoy’s teachings and translated them into what he sometimes called Tantric Buddhism.

Under Lenz, students learned a method of silencing or stopping thought through meditation. Their goal is to reach Samadhi, the highest form of meditation where one is said to experience oneness with the universe. Other forms of Buddhism call this state Nirvana.

Lenz died in 1998, reportedly of suicide from jumping off the dock at the back of his property on Long Island. Jenna says the autopsy report showed no water in the lungs or drugs in the body and so she believes he went into the final meditation called Maha Samadhi in which an enlightened Master chooses to leave his body forever.

So, how did she know her teacher was enlightened; what are the effects of being in the presence of an enlightened Master?

“When you study with an enlightened teacher, they emit a very powerful energy field. It kind of protects you from the bad side of life. It’s a constant source of energy being given to you,” she explained.

She claims that when Rama died, all his intimate students had become very lax in practicing their meditation because they had been living off his energy. Jenna decided to teach meditation, moved back to California to Ocean Beach and rented a room for her classes. She laughs when she describes her first four week course as having only one pupil.

Nonetheless, she was inspired by the success of that person. “It was so amazing to watch. When he came, he was unhappy and stressed. I taught him mediation and we talked about his life. At the end of four weeks, he was happy, his business was better; his whole life was better.”

How does one meditate? Jenna says that there are different Buddhist schools of thought and therefore different guidelines on meditation. She teaches simplicity. Get comfortable sitting, close your eyes and concentrate on one thing; it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock, your breath, or music. Stop thinking. If a thought creeps in, gently pull back to your focus. She says if you keep at it, your energy will increase and you will be happier, emotionally stronger.

In 1998, shortly after Lenz died, Jenna was diagnosed with a severe illness. She says that without meditating twice a day, she’d be dead. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, and intermittent invasions by the homeless in O.B., the Dharma Center has been an oasis of peace and quiet for 16 years.

“We’ve never had any problems with anyone in O.B. There’s one schizophrenic homeless man who comes here. He says the Dharma Center is the only place where his voices stop,” she tells me. “He smells. We ask him to wash up in the bathroom before he goes into the meditation room.”

I haven’t taken any classes at the Dharma Center but I did listen to one tape with music to meditate by. I tried it and actually did feel better, more alert. Perhaps, as many reported, Lenz was a charlatan who hypnotized his students, but the caveat in it all is said to have come from Buddha himself just before he died:

“Rely on the teaching, not on the person; rely on the meaning, not on the words;

Rely on the definitive meaning, not on the provisional; rely on your own wisdom mind, not on your ordinary mind.”

Previously published in The Epoch Times


04 DecThe Magical Charlotte Meade


Upon closing the big metal gate leading into the oak studded domain of Charlotte Meade, founder of Meade Canine Rescue Foundation, there was an immediate hue and cry from the four-legged population on her twelve acre property. One geriatric Labrador-mix charged the car in a syncopated waddle. Clearly, age had mellowed what must have been a terrifying snarl into a muffled squeal, but the animal’s shining coat and healthy enthusiasm were impressive.

Up a sloping driveway past the first brightly colored residence with various kennels in the yard, fifty yards beyond a modern garage, stands Charlotte’s newly built home. As I approached the fence and the property’s second gate, I had to laugh when a virtual herd of Chihuahuas ran up yapping in a concerto of greetings. There must have been three dozen  little critters whirling around my feet.

Charlotte appeared and magically, all the dogs became quiet. We went inside the house where only a select few dogs were permitted.  When the dogs left outside the glass door began complaining, Charlotte asked them in an everyday tone of voice to be quiet and astonishingly, they were.

An extremely attractive blonde with bright blue eyes, Charlotte Meade is 50ish but looks thirty five, is charming, intuitive, well-spoken and obviously, hard working. She lives alone explaining, “I’ve never met anyone I cared enough about to spend my life with.” (Note to single guys: you must love dogs!)Charlotte and Yoda

The walls in the large great room are painted aquamarine blue and seem to disappear amongst bright paintings, comfortable chairs, a piano and a few little doggy beds. Charlotte says she plays her piano and the dogs go to sleep under it. Amazingly, the house has absolutely no dog odors. She showed me a lovely enclosed porch with doors opening onto a side yard and informed me that most of the dogs slept there but all sixty nine of them were free to roam the property.

In between phone calls from contributors and friends in Connecticut, always holding one dog or another, Charlotte told me the story of her life. After gaining twin Masters Degrees in Archeology and Economics, from the University of London in England, she kicked around France for a while before returning to the U.S. to work as Assistant Director for Art at the elite Ann Kendall Richards Gallery in Washington, D.C.

“I never once thought about having a dog in those days because I travelled so much. We dealt in 19th and 20th Century art, buying and selling the works of painters like Picasso and Chagall. I lived in a big social whirl for seven years doing that job,” she said.

From the gallery in Washington, Charlotte moved to New York City and opened a vintage clothing store. After that, tired of city life, she bought a bed and breakfast in the Catskills.

“I started to accumulate animals and by that time – when the cats were drinking the milk on the tables in the dining room – I decided I liked animals better than people and sold the property. I went to Connecticut and bought Marc Chagall’s’ old barn of a studio that he used in the 1940’s.”

Then, a couple of days before a July 4th weekend, Charlotte went looking for another dog to keep her one-eyed Beagle company. She happened to be in Jersey City, went to the dog pound there but couldn’t decide amongst four dogs, and told the workers that she’d be back the next day. When she went back, all four dogs had been euthanized.

“My God! How could they kill perfectly fine animals? That’s why I got involved with dog rescue,” she exclaimed.

It’s become political for Charlotte Meade. She explains that the overall cost to the State for euthanizing dogs and cats is far more than neutering and spaying would cost. Noting that many people simply cannot afford to have their animals spayed or neutered, Charlotte points to one large animal shelter in Southern California that takes in between 60,000 and 70,000 animals a year.

“They kill 60% of them,” she sadly says. “We need to reduce the dog and cat population with a State sponsored spay and neutering program,” she says. “It should be free.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Charlotte Meade taking her spay and neuter campaign into the political arena.

There are two Meade Canine Rescue Foundation locations, one in Connecticut and one in Creston, North San luis Obispo county, CA. For more information, please visit: www.meadecaninerescue.org.

Published in The Paso Robles Daily News http://pasoroblesdailynews.com







03 OctThe Horse Whisperer at Windfall Farms


Serenity ruled as I entered the dominion of Carlos Cabello. The afternoon sun bounced off the gleaming coats of magnificent horses grazing in paddocks while choirs of enthusiastic birds celebrated the day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Windfall Farms is 724 acres of barns and pastures designed like a Hollywood version of a Kentucky Thoroughbred horse farm. As I drove past the practice track and parked outside the humongous training barn, I almost expected a film director to rush up, scream, “Cut!” and then chew me out for ruining his shot.

Carlos Cabello came striding toward me with a gleaming white smile in a tanned face, wearing an old riding helmet, well-worn boots, jeans and a long sleeved blue T-shirt. He has the wiry build of a man who knows hard work. A firm but kind handshake, the way he smiles right into your eyes, and you instinctively trust the man.

Walking through a horse barn with Carlos Cabello is good for the soul. That day, a soft breeze flowed through the open doors carrying the scent of fresh hay throughout the huge space. We went down a walkway in the center of the stalls. Considering the fact that dozens of horses tramp through the barn daily, the place was amazingly clean.

It was obvious that he loved horses as he introduced me to the four-legged resident of each stall like they were his best friends. Every one of them was a muscular, shining, example of the Thoroughbred. I saw no fear, only curiosity. They came forward to meet me, putting their velvet noses against the wire mesh over the windows, trying to nuzzle my hand. I could see that they were used to being treated well by humans.

Shown in the photo is Carlos with a veteran of the race track, “Running Isabella,” a 6 year old, seventeen-hand, powerful horse who has definitely earned her keep at the race track.


Carlos Cabello has been training race horses in his own special, non-violent way for thirty years. I watched him take Running Isabella out of her stall. He said nothing at all, had the halter on in a few seconds, and was walking beside the big horse toward the door before I flicked the lens cap off my camera. It looked as if he and Isabella were communicating telepathically – maybe they were. Maybe I’d met my first real horse whisperer.

He says of the horses, “They’re like five year old children; if you know how to coax them, you can bring out the best in them. The beauty of Thoroughbreds is that they’ll put it all on the line for you. They have a lot of heart and they’re very brave.”

Although the 750 acre Windfall Farms is owned by agricultural giant Limoneira, the training center of eighty acres, which includes a six furlong race track, is operated by the Las Laureles Equine Therapy Center who employs Cabello. Las Laureles does their serious rehab work on injured horses in their Templeton facility while Carlos runs the training center in Creston.

He says, “We’re like a Prep school here. We get horses 60%-75% ready to race and then they’re off to the track at Delmar, Santa Anita or Golden Gate to complete their training.”

As we sit and chat about the 60 or so horses on the property, all in various stages of training, retirement or rehabilitation, I am reminded of the famous Winston Churchill quote, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” In this case, I think the opposite applies – by the looks of the horses around us, I’d say that Carlos Cabello has proven that he’s better than good for the inside of a horse.

Feel free to write with comments or questions to: writersusannah@gmail.com.

published in The Paso Robles Daily News http://pasoroblesdailynews.com


06 AugYou Just Can’t Not Love Charlie


When I drove into Charlie Poalillo’s California vineyard in West Templeton, the glaring summer sun bounced hot waves off the dry ground turning acres of vines to an iridescent green. Absorbing the absolute peace of the place, I drove slowly up the hill past a barn to the house which was hidden amidst a battalion of oaks that successfully blocked the sun’s bombardment.

As I pulled in under the portico, he came out to meet me. Charlie didn’t look much different than he did more than decade ago when I knew him as a Realtor and passionate wine maker who managed to inject humor and warmth into the occasionally mind-bending practice of real estate.

At 86, Charles Poalillo is no doddering old man. He radiates that Italian machismo that stays with those rarest of men as they age. We joked about how he’s gained a little around the middle and how I’ve gone blonde to hide the gray and then we got down to what he loves talking about–vines and wine.

The smile in his eyes dampened when he spoke of the love of his life, Joyce, who passed away in 2013. They were married for 58 years and began making wine together for the pure joy of it in 1968. At the time, Charlie had his photography business in Los Angeles and Joyce was his assistant. In 1973, after photographing 24 Academy Awards Ceremonies and countless shots of the famous and the almost famous, the Poalillos bought a vineyard property on Jensen Road and moved the family North. They sold that property in 1976 and established what has become one of the oldest dry-farmed vineyards in the county on Willow Creek Road.

“We bought our first vines as one-year-old rooted cuttings from Geno’s Nursery in Madera for 50c each. Of course today, they’d cost much more because they have to be protected from the root louse that decimated the French wine industry not so long ago. I don’t have to worry about that because the roots of my vines go down twenty-five feet now, and it’s so moist under there that I don’t water. I’ve been dry farming here since 1995 after the roots were twelve feet down.”

On the subject of what makes great wine, he said, “Flavor is a combination of air, light and soil; but really, it’s all weather. You can have five different flavors in five different years from the same vines.” Young wine makers could learn a lot from Charles Poalillo.

Initially, Charlie and Joyce, with a little help from their kids, planted four acres in four different grapes with only one in Zinfandel. They tended their vines and made wine for themselves and their friends in the barn while becoming successful Realtors to help pay the bills. In 1990, they hired an expert to graft Zinfandel scions (buds from existing vines) onto the vines on the other three acres. By 1992, the Poalillo winery was a budding commercial enterprise that won a gold medal at the Orange County Fair. It kept on getting better and better over the next decade.

A hint of sadness crossed Charlie’s face when he said he didn’t make wine anymore but pride shone through when we tasted a lovely amateur wine made by his son, Andrew. (Charlie and Joyce retired from the wine business in 2010 when they sold the Poalillo winery to daughter Susan and her husband Dave Garretson.)

At the end of the day, we walked through the vineyard together. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but when Charlie gently touched the vines, like the faces of his children, I thought I saw them reach out to him.

(c) Susannah Morgan Surgeoner 2014. As seen in the Paso Robles Daily News.

Please feel free to write with comments to: writersusannah@gmail.com




20 NovTake This House and Shove it!

Chapter 2

“Dear God, please bring the real estate market back. I promise not to piss away all my money this time,” says a sign in a real estate office.

Pahrump, Nevada wasn’t even on my radar when I moved to Las Vegas from California; I just ended up there. My trusty side-kick, Monty and I were rambling along highway 160 one afternoon, looking for a good place to get out and run, when we came to Pahrump. Monty’s the yellow Labrador who keeps me sane.

In the following weeks, I researched properties and then decided to make an offer to purchase a charming little fixer on an acre in Pahrump, thinking it would be a great rental property. My Vegas clients began to take an interest and I became their Pahrump real estate agent. It got to the point that I was spending more time showing houses there then I was in Las Vegas. So, I did something I swore I would never do again; I moved into a fixer. It was christened, “The Pahrump Dump.”

In early 2004, during the sixty days I’d had my little acquisition in escrow, its value went up $10,000. The real estate boom was on. We were all working flat out, coining money.

The next year, I re-financed my, “Pahrump Dump” to build a garage and replace the downstairs flooring. Nonetheless, because my daughter was so sick, I spent most of the money on trips to doctors and hotels for me during her lengthy hospital stays.

Fast forward to the fall of 2008, at my real estate office.

Harry’s deep blue eyes, no doubt they sparkled on better days, were filled with fear. Conspicuous gray roots showed through Ruth’s well cut honey-blond hair–probably a couple hundred dollars’ worth of meticulous care in a Vegas salon–and her beautiful green silk shirt looked like it needed some dry-cleaner love. I can’t give you their real names because I keep all my real estate files confidential.

In 2004, they’d retired, moved from Troy, Michigan and then bought a cute little house in Pahrump. That day, sitting across my desk, Ruth had wrung her lace handkerchief into a wet lump. I handed her a box of tissues to dab at her tears.

Red blotches of shame and anger competed for space on Harry’s face. “We thought we had such a deal when we bought the house. Back East, prices were more than double what we paid here,” he said. Now, since the company cut our retirement checks by 60%, we can’t make our mortgage payments anymore.”

“After thirty years working for the same people, they just stole our money,” Ruth blurted.

Ruth and Harry had met twenty-five years earlier when they were both young, salaried  workers for Delphi Corporation, a car parts manufacturer that was a spin off from General Motors. When the Federal government took over the collapsing General Motors, Delphi went bankrupt. Twenty thousand non-union employees like Ruth and Harry had their pensions cut and in some cases, eliminated entirely.

They thought their only recourse was to sell their home. Unfortunately, Ruth and Harry’s home was valued at approximately thirty thousand dollars less than their mortgage and seventy-five thousand less than its 2004 value, at the time they met with me. I explained the option of a short sale where we would need their lender’s approval to sell for less than the amount owed. Their other recourse was to try for a loan modification from the lender.

I knew an attorney in Las Vegas who had a decent success rate in getting mortgage payments lowered for his clients. I referred Ruth and Harry to him, thinking that I might have to pay the same guy to help out with my own loan modification. It had been almost two months since I’d sent the paperwork to my lender.

A month later, I’d met with a dozen more folks in the same boat, and Ruth called to tell me that their prospects for lower mortgage payments looked very good. Around the same time, I got a letter from my lender ASC, (America’s Servicing Company) asking me for more information before they could modify my mortgage. It turned out they needed everything because they’d lost the first batch of paperwork I sent.

The snotty little creep on the other end of the phone had me feeling like Willy in Death of a Salesman; I was either down and out or delusional to be asking for a lower loan payment. I suddenly understood Harry’s fear. I was only a few months away from foreclosure if things didn’t improve.

Then the shit really hit the fan. Bank of America, curse their slimy little souls, almost tripled the interest rate on my two credit cards with no explanation. There was no reasoning with them; they wanted more money, could not tell me why, and that was that.

It had become increasingly difficult for buyers to get home loans because the banks changed their lending guidelines almost weekly. My closings were dropping like flies in a cloud of bug spray.

I finally got mad. What the hell was going on?

(Copyright © Susannah Morgan Surgeoner 2012-2013.)


15 NovTake This House and Shove It!

Take This House and Shove It!

I don’t live here anymore.

“Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.”  Songwriter Leonard Cohen had me pegged with that line decades ago.

I took a nose dive off that proverbial wire when my beautiful daughter Samantha died.

Like an army of two, we had battled her strange disease for seventeen years, from doctor to doctor, from alternative medicine to big pharma’s experimental drug trials, never giving up hope. I took her to India to see a doctor who is a renowned healer, to Los Angeles where a gaggle of specialists diagnosed and re-diagnosed her condition, and to San Francisco for a special herb tea.

We spent weeks at a time every year in the hospital where pain medication and steroids were administered intravenously. Sometimes she failed to wean herself off the pain meds after she was discharged. Mistaken by a local doctor as an addict—I still don’t think the guy could diagnose a broken leg—Sam went along with the program, threw her narcotics away, and then suffered through agony each day without them.

In the end, she chose to live drug free in India, beside the ocean, surrounded by beautiful flowers and the gentle people who had become her friends. Years of Western medicine had weakened her heart and it just stopped beating. She died peacefully in her sleep.

Sucked into a black hole of grief, I could not do my job as a real estate agent; I couldn’t even make it to the grocery store without wearing sunglasses to hide my red swollen eyes and a lugging box of tissues for the tears. At times unable to sleep, I would leave my house in the hour of the wolf, 3:00 in the morning, and walk with my two dogs down the dark country road, crying my eyes out.  

Thankfully, I had managed to save enough money that I could afford to do the irreducible minimum. A year later, I finally surfaced from my personal Armageddon to find the real estate market going down for the third time into lower lows all across the country. I wasn’t worried at first because I’d seen previous crashes in my career and real estate always came back; right?

Back in 2004 and 2005, my fellow agents and I would joke that the price of a house on our Multiple Listing System could change in seconds. In the morning, it was priced at $200,000 but it could be $205,000 by dinner time. None of us were prepared for the world to cave in as it did in 2008. Real estate values reversed with a vengeance.

Loan modifications became the way to go as values dropped below mortgage amounts. A parade of clients passed my desk, some angry at their lenders, some actually weeping over the deteriorating equity in their homes, all of them losing the game of real estate to the card-sharks calling themselves bankers.

Fake loan modification experts, who billed $3000 and more to handle the homeowner’s bank-required paperwork, multiplied like horny rabbits. The bankers wanted reams of paperwork, in most cases triple what they needed to grant the loan in the first place.

Stories proliferated about banks losing documents, or claiming to have received them and then not responding for months and then only to inform the homeowner that they were foreclosing. Lenders granted loan payment reductions and then reneged after the borrower had made their pre-modification qualifying payments for three months. Those payments were usually higher than the initial mortgage payment.

By 2009 in Nevada, if a homeowner had received a notice of default, the first step in a non-judicial foreclosure, on or after July 1st of that year, they could participate in the Nevada Supreme Court’s new Foreclosure Mediation Program. The Court designed the program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by negotiating a loan modification with their lender in front of a Court appointed mediator. I got out my pom-poms and wrote effusively about the program. At first, it seemed that many foreclosures were being averted.

I attended one mediation with a client, before the Court changed the rules so that Realtors could not speak for homeowners, and managed to negotiate a reduction in the principle amount of the mortgage plus a reduced interest rate. A spokesperson for the lender, Citi Mortgage, agreed by telephone, which was on speaker so that all parties could hear, to all the terms, promising to mail the homeowner a new payment amount within 30 days. It was a huge win.

I decided to apply for my own loan modification. Even though I’d been a Realtor for decades, like the busy contractor who leaves his own house to the very last for repairs, I hadn’t really thought about my own property for years. My credit was good because I’d managed to keep paying my bills and the mortgage religiously each month.

I ran up comparable properties on my listing system and found that my home, which had been appraised at over $250,000 in 2006, was then valued at less than my mortgage amount of $148,000. Shocked, I contacted who I thought was my lender, America’s Servicing Company (ASC.) It hadn’t occurred to me that they didn’t really own my loan.

I dutifully supplied all the documentation that a chirpy gal at ASC requested and tried to get on with my life.  What a fiasco that turned into. Chapter 2 next week…


Copyright Susannah Morgan Surgeoner 2012, 2013.


12 DecWar and Peace

In this holiday season, I feel like a BB in a Mason jar—those glass jars my Gran used for canning peaches—with my thoughts and emotions ping-ponging off obviously skewed news stories with such regularity that I hardly know what to think. From Benghazi, where Americans died after being abandoned by their government, to the rampant murder of our soldiers in Afghanistan by so-called friendly Afghans, the bizarre low-key response from the Whitehouse and Congress baffles me completely.

At times like this, I find that a good re-read of one of the classics usually puts my mind in order. Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author best known for his two novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, was also a philosopher and vocal proponent of non-violent resistance.

Today, when various factions try, yet again, to ban Christmas I wonder about the real agenda behind this affront to our values. On the other hand, I question the desire of some self-proclaimed Christians to erase the boundary between Church and State.

Almost 150 years ago, Tolstoy was bent on the separation of Orthodox Christianity, which was merged with the state in Russia at the time, from what he believed was the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as per the Sermon on the Mount. In his, The Kingdom of God is Within You, (1894) Tolstoy states, “Nowhere, nor in anything except in the assertion of the Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what churchmen understand by the Church.”

He also questions government on war; “How can you kill people when it’s written in God’s commandment: ‘Thou shalt not murder.’?”

It seems to me that most of officialdom in Washington, D.C. is composed of little more than wobbly armchair warriors. The President, who’s never been in the military but has his own enemy “kill list,’ sets out ridiculous Rules of Engagement for our troops that are more suited for football than a bloody war; the perfectly blow-dried Joint Chiefs of Staff inexplicably announce a time table for war, and Members of Congress vie for their 15 seconds on CNN or FOX to spurt mealy-mouthed insults against the other side.

In an article of December 4, 2012, Robert Burns of the Associated Press (AP) explodes heretofore secret details of our dead and wounded soldiers in Afghanistan. Working through the Freedom of Information Act to get secret U.S. Army reports, Burns was able to piece together an attack in October 2011 where U.S. Army Captains, Joshua Lawrence and Drew Russell were killed. “They were not killed by the Taliban as the U.S. led military coalition indicated the day after the Oct. 11, 2011 assault.” He says that Lawrence and Russell, “…were killed in what U.S. investigators later called, ‘a calculated and coordinated’ attack by Afghan soldiers trusted to work alongside their U.S. partners.”

Burns states that U.S. officials in Kabul and Washington routinely withheld details of attacks on American soldiers until pressed for the truth by AP, “At least 63 coalition troops, mostly Americans have been killed, by the AP’s count, and more than 85 wounded by insider attacks this year. That’s an average of nearly one attack a week. In 2011, 21 insider attacks killed 35.”

Tolstoy’s words from War and Peace, should be observed by Washington policy makers, “War is not a polite recreation, but the vilest thing in life and we ought to understand that and not play at war. We ought to accept this terrible necessity sternly and seriously. It all lies in that: get rid of falsehood and let war be war and not a game. As it is now, war is the favorite pastime of the idle and frivolous.”

Moving on to more recent literature, Dereliction of Duty, by H.R. McMaster is a remarkable description of the disastrous policies of President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, and General Maxwell Taylor and their deception of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the American public that sucked the U.S. into the Viet Nam war.

Not much has changed in 40 years. Dereliction of Duty II is an 84 page unclassified report published in January 2012, by Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17 year Army veteran, after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. He says, “Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable.”

Here we are; the war in Iraq has ended leaving the blood of American soldiers caked in the sand and very little else. Iran, with her soldiers shouting “Death to America,” is now Iraq’s new best friend. The war in Afghanistan is a mess of lies and deception with Americans being murdered weekly by insurgents who never became friendlies, despite what their leaders supposedly decreed.

What has the U.S.A. gained? Where did all the war money go? Who benefits from continuing the war? Where are all the well informed, non-violent protesters?

The President has vowed to end the war while personally ordering weekly executions by drone from a secret “kill list,” and Congress babbles on about everything except the dead and wounded in these, their largely undisputed wars.

Sorry Tolstoy, peace on earth may take a while yet…


03 DecLetters to my Vagabond Sister

Dear Sis,

I received your postcard from Astana, Kazakhstan yesterday. What a marvelous photo of the Ishim River! I Googled Astana to find out more about where you are. The city reminds me of you—bold and sturdy, dressed in the charming whimsy of another era.

Trust you to end up in exotica while I trudge along roads more travelled. The fur people, Rachel and I have just arrived in Salt Lake City to help Agatha with her new house. Remember how Monty Dog had his nervous breakdown when we were in India and he was at the boarding kennel? I simply could not go through that again. Ziggy profited from the experience because I couldn’t board one without the other. (I know you’re laughing at me.)

Understandably, nobody would take Josephine Cat for the duration and so we had to bring her along. As you know, that little black helion bites and scratches everyone but me. Rachel named her, ‘The demon spawn,’ after the cat scratched her face, just missing the eye.

The Vet gave us some Valium to help calm her down enough to get her into the cat carrier. I shoved the recommended dosage down her throat and went out to pack up the truck. When I got back, Josephine was laying on the bed, eyes glazed and mouth open, deadly still.

“I think I killed the cat,” I said to Rachel, who looked at me and began to giggle.

Rachel poked the cat in the ribs. Nothing. She poked again, and after a moment, the very tip of the cat’s tail twitched in response. Josephine remained pretty much comatose during the first 400 miles until we stopped at a Best Western for the night.

She came out of the drugging with a screech and proceeded to howl relentlessly from then on. The only time she shut up was when she was pissing on the carpet or the comforters on the two beds. The cost of damages doubled the room charge…sigh. For the remainder of the drive, she yelled and I swore at her. The two dogs, having been perfect gentlemen at the hotel, slept in the back, oblivious to the racket in front.

Rachel, after a good long laugh at the expense of the cat, was her usual serene self throughout it all. 

Today, Ziggy and Monty are snoozing in the sun in Agatha’s big back yard, and Josephine is hissing at shadows in the basement, hopefully for the duration of our visit.

As I sit here writing to you, I almost forgot how Josephine came into my life; it must be seven or eight years ago now. When I first moved into my house in the desert, a little brown mouse, who I named Fred, would come and sit in the middle of the floor at night and look at me while I watched television. I got to like Fred’s little ‘meet and greets,’ until he decided to bring his friends along. Six cocky little rodents was five too many.

M was visiting at the time. So, we charged down to the local SPCA and rescued Josephine from certain death. I should have known something was terribly wrong when the cat took a swipe at the person who’d been feeding her on the way out the door. However, the arrival of Josephine did curb Fred and friends’ nightly appearances. She either chased the mice away or killed them. I didn’t pay much attention to their fate at the time; I was more concerned about getting some strange disease bred from mouse droppings.

Even though there hasn’t been a mouse sighting in years, we’re still putting up with the cat’s rotten disposition. Visitors are warned to avoid her like the flu. As it goes with so many things in life, Josephine’s value is now debatable; she’s become an unmanageable solution to a forgotten problem.

Thinking about the cat brings up a case in point—you know how I love a good plot. I had a brief chat on Twitter the other day with Amber Lyon, the three-time Emmy winning journalist who left CNN over repercussions from the National Defense Authorization Act, (NDAA) which President Obama quietly signed it into law last December 31st.

Amber says the NDAA, “…gives the U.S. Military the power to detain anyone without trial indefinitely, further criminalizing dissent and investigative journalism in the United States.” And, “The NDAA turns the U.S. government into a dictatorship, the U.S. military into ‘secret police.’”

Several legal pundits including the ACLU, are arguing against it, and journalists are rightfully upset. Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges says that what the NDAA is really doing is setting up a legal mechanism where dissent becomes criminal. Add the fact that the Obama Administration has used the archaic Espionage Act, which hasn’t been used since WW I, six times since 2009 to charge whistleblowers as spies, and we writers have a problem. 

This law makes it possible for writers to be indefinitely detained and then charged with treason and spying if we don’t give up our confidential sources.

The NDAA strips Americans of their Constitutional right to free speech—all to catch a few bad guys. Like my rotten cat and the mice, it seems that the solutions for terrorism may have become worse than the problem.

Please don’t go taking pictures of any terrorists?

Lots of love,


(Note: Names in the above are fictitious.)





22 Oct$Dollars or War?

Until 1971, the US dollar was backed by gold. When our international trading partners began to worry about the solvency of the USA and demanded more and more of our gold in exchange for the dollar, President Nixon took us off the gold standard. The dollar became a fiat currency which is essentially an article of faith, backed by confidence in the U.S. government that floats in value against a basket of world currencies. 

When the value of the dollar began to shrink and inflation was on the rise in 1974, President Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to cut a deal with Saudi Arabia to sell their oil only in dollars, and to put their profits into U.S. Treasury bonds. In return, the US military would protect Saudi Arabia from foreign threats. By 1975, all the countries in the OPEC oil cartel in the Middle East had jumped on the protection wagon and the “petro dollar,” was born.

No country in the world could buy oil from OPEC in anything but US dollars. For more than three decades, the US has been able to print money to buy oil while every other country has to exchange currencies, trade goods and services with the U.S., or borrow from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank to get their oil dollars.

The dollar became the world’s “reserve currency,” and was stockpiled by central banks in almost every country. Pretty much every international trade was done in U.S. dollars, with the currency being controlled by the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. Look on the top of any U.S. bill and see where it says Federal Reserve Note.

In November, 2000, Saddam Hussein decided that Iraq would no longer sell its oil in dollars but would take only euros. In 2003 the U.S. invaded Iraq. With the fall of Hussein, Iraqi oil reverted to trading only in dollars.

The second challenge to the U.S. petro dollar came from Libya in 2009 when Muamar Gaddafi was elected chairman of the African Union. Gaddafi’s avowed purpose was to create the United States of Africa with a new currency, the dinar, backed by gold. After the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, before the rebels had even finished the battle, a central bank was created by the fledgling democracy.

Meanwhile, in 2008, Iran opened its own oil trading bourse on the Persian Gulf island of Kish. At first, they dealt mainly in petrochemical products, and vowed to take any currency except the U.S. dollar in exchange for their products, as a prelude to flat out oil trading. Iran is the third largest oil producer in the world. The U.S. government then enlisted the aid of its international trading partners and piled up sanctions against Iran, which now means that trading oil with Iran can block a country from any dealings with the U.S. economy, whatsoever.

The sanctions have had the effect of markedly decreasing Iranian oil sales; have put the local currency into a tailspin, and impoverished Iranian citizens. Of course, we cannot ignore the mad ravings of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad against Israel; that he has put his army at the disposal of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to help quash the revolution there, or that Iran has managed a friendly, new-best-friend occupation of Iraq, now US troops are gone.

To avoid the sanctions against Iran and to buy oil, several countries including China and India, are trading by barter. Iran is happy to take their gold, washing machines, bok choy and rice, toys, or clothes for oil.

The question is: how much longer are our trading partners going to put up with the dollar as their reserve currency backed only by confidence in an insolvent U.S. government? For decades, Washington politicians have mortgaged the American soul to the Federal Reserve Bank by borrowing more and more to support their senseless spending.

Since the financial collapse of 2008, banks have received trillions in bail-outs while the average American citizen struggles to make ends meet. Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney are talking about the possible, if not potential, wipe-out of the U.S. petro-dollar.

Japan and China are already trading between themselves in their own currencies. Russia is trading with Asian countries in rubles, and I suspect that France has figured out a way to trade Iranian oil for baguettes or God only knows what.

As the world turns away from U.S. currency, more and more ends up back here, inflation follows, and the price of everything for Americans goes up. Look at the gas prices, not to mention the increase in food prices over the past few years.

In my, perhaps slightly corked view, until the USA becomes a net exporter of oil, by drilling up and selling the billions of barrels we have under our own feet, we will be at the mercy of Muslim jihadists bent on subjecting the world to 16th century Sharia Law. On the other side of the coin, we’ll be at the mercy of politicians spinning away the truth in exchange for their 30 pieces of silver from banksters who stand to profit from war.


07 OctSpiking Turds

There’s an old newspaper term, “Spike it,” that refers to a reporter’s story which is not printed in a newspaper, but instead is smashed onto a long sharp nail mounted on a wooden block on the desk of the newsroom editor. Editors, being human, can spike a story for many different reasons. Recently, believable accounts of violence in the Muslim world appear to have been spiked in favor of political slop from the Whitehouse.

In July of this year, an obscure film, The Innocence of Muslims, was premiered to an audience of less than a dozen in a rented theatre at the seamier end of Hollywood Boulevard. In late August, the video trailer for the movie was translated into Arabic by a radical Egyptian exile who then contacted journalists in Egypt and the Middle East. On September 8, Egyptian satellite TV host, Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, ran the translated version of the video.

In the next few days, views of the U-Tube video sky rocketed into the thousands. The Libyan government warned the U.S. State Department that there would be trouble on the anniversary of 9/11.

According to Time Magazine, small groups had been demonstrating for months outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt trying to obtain the release of the blind sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in the U.S. for planning a series of bombings and assassinations in the 1990s. 

In a sophomoric attempt to thwart violence, and before any meaningful protest had erupted, the Cairo embassy staff issued a statement, “We condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”

On September 11, 2012, mobs of Muslims breached the walls of the Cairo Embassy, burned the U.S. flag and hoisted a black al Qaeda flag in its place. That evening, the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was assaulted by a group of heavily armed men with RPGs, laser-guided mortars and machine guns. Ambassador Stevens was sodomized and murdered. Three Americans were killed trying to defend the consulate.

Within 24 hours, intelligence sources, the Whitehouse, and various news sources including CNN knew that the Benghazi event was a terrorist attack. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, then lied to the world saying that spontaneous protests over the film caused the attacks in both Libya and Cairo. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton spouted the same story line as did President Obama and Whitehouse press secretary, Jay Carney.

For nine days, the Obama administration claimed that there was no information to suggest a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the filmmaker was arrested. The mainstream media supported the lies worldwide.

Information surfaced that the State department had not only turned down requests for more security personnel in Libya, but had recalled at least 16 military security people. All this after a warning from the Libyan government, and several intelligence reports from the CIA, pointing to an increase in violence from al Qaeda in the area.

Screaming Muslim clerics, using the film as an excuse, instigated protests in 33 cities on 5 continents where people were injured and killed.

 On September 19, Mathew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified before Congress that the Libyan incident was a terrorist attack.

Magically, on September 20, the Whitehouse press secretary changed his tune and said, “It is, I think, self-evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.” He still blamed the film as the reason for the protests and denied that anything was pre-planned by the attackers.

“Hey, Ahmed, let’s take our RPGs to the protest tonight.”

In the past few days, my twitter friend, Matt VanDyke, @Matt_VanDyke, who was imprisoned in Libya by Gaddafi, has informed us that the attack was most likely planned quickly with a few cell phone calls. Apparently, al Qaeda members have stockpiles of sophisticated weapons ready to use at a moment’s notice.

As late as September 25, more than two weeks after the murder of Ambassador Stevens, President Obama stated that the investigation into what happened in Benghazi was still ongoing. The FBI team sent to investigate had been prevented by the Libyan government from going to Benghazi as of that date.

President Obama has ordered that all potentially inflammatory words against Islam in FBI and other government documents be removed; he has bowed to an Arab king, made speeches that attempt to appease Muslims, (as recently as his speech to the UN), and generally ignored the fact that extremist Muslims want World War III.

There has been a concerted effort by supposedly intelligent news sources to spike stories that contradict the PR lines coming out of the Whitehouse. This is no mere failure to report the facts; on the contrary, it is an all-out campaign to support lies emanating from an elected politician.

Absurdly, the Obama administration has deleted the word, “terrorism,” from their dictionaries and tried to get the public at large to do the same. We didn’t have a terrorist attack at Fort Hood when the murderer shouted his Muslim war cry; we had, “a work place incident.”

Even though news sources knew there had been a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11 in Libya, and even though the twaddle spewing forth from the Whitehouse was analogous to wet turds, the media went along with it for nine days. Instead of spiking the truth, the mainstream media should have been spiking the lies.

There’s no doubt that news editors, who allow themselves to be held captive by the politics of their employers, have no stomach for the messy business of spiking turds.


12 SepTo the Moon Alice, to the Moon!

I recently watched an old TV sit-com, The Honey Mooners, where bus driver, Ralph Kramden, and his friend Ed Norton, a sewer worker, persistently try and fail to get rich. Alice, Ralph’s wife, insults his money-making schemes with cutting remarks. Ralph replies by raising his fist and shouting, “To the moon, Alice, to the moon.” Her deadpan face and his puffed up anger is hilarious.

In reality, when things don’t go your way often enough, when a bad situation is out of your control, when you’re worn out from taking deep breaths and pasting a smile on your face; it’s human nature to get angry. I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of gal, but things are beyond crazy out here.

The housing market is still underwater and gasping for breath nationwide. 1 in 4 homeowners owe more than the current value of their homes. All the home equity that was a huge factor in the retirement plans of millions of Americans is long gone. Poof! Now retirees are looking for jobs that don’t exist.

A loan rep told me last week that sales in the Las Vegas area, which includes pretty much all of Southern Nevada, are down 50% due to low inventory of homes for sale. Southern California has similar problems. (My job as a Realtor supports my writing habit.)

Part of the problem is that the FHA, (Federal Housing Authority) has not been releasing their inventory of foreclosed homes onto the market, but has been selling them in bulk to investors.

They’re happy over at the FHA, which is bailed out almost monthly with taxpayer money, because they got 95% of the current appraised value in their sales, numbers which would amount to 30% to 50% of their original loan amounts. (For example, home values in Southern Nevada have crashed almost 70% from 2006.)

My world tipped from glass-half-full to, “Where the hell’s the wine?” when I received an email from someone who actually read the Obamacare Bill. I welcome anyone who can dispute the following, taken from the Bill:

Page 22: the government will audit the books of all employers who self-insure.

Page 27: a government commission will be formed to decide on individual health care.

Page 29, lines 4-16: health care will be rationed to $5000 per year for individuals and $10,000 per year for families.

Page 50, Section 152: health care will be provided to all non U.S. citizens, legal or illegal.

 Page 58: the government will have real time access to your finances and a national Health Care I.D. card will be issued.

Page 72, lines 8-14: a Health Care Exchange will be formed to bring all private plans under government control.

Page 102, lines 12-18: all people eligible for Medicaid will automatically be enrolled. (There is no choice.)

Page 195: Employees of the Health Care Administration will have access to all Americans’ personal and financial records.

Page 253, lines 10-18: the government will set the value of doctors’ time and professional judgments.

Page 239, lines 14-24: physician’s services will be reduced for Medicaid.

Page 280, Section 1151: the government will penalize hospitals for preventable re-admissions. (“Nurse; wasn’t this guy in an accident last month? We can’t admit him again. Don’t worry about the chest wound…” my warped humor.)

Pages 354: the government will restrict enrollment of special needs individuals.

Here’s the real kick in the gut; the health of seniors under Obamacare pretty much boils down to the government ordering them how and when to die. There’s no room for miracles here:

Pages 425 lines 4-12: the government mandates advanced care planning where seniors must be interviewed once a year and decisions made as to what care they can and cannot receive.

Page 425, lines 17-19: living wills and power of attorney will be mandatory.

Page 426 lines 1-3: the government will provide an approved list for “end of life,” resources.

Page 427 lines 15-24: physician orders for “end of life,” are mandatory.

Page 429¸ lines 1-9: advanced care planning consultation will be used frequently as the patient’s health deteriorates.

Page 429, lines 13-25: the government will specify which doctors can write an “end of life,” order.

Page  430, lines 11-15: the government will decide what level of treatment seniors will receive at the end of their life.

Thanks mainly to the plotting and scheming of Nancy Pelosi, (“You have to pass the bill to read what’s in it.”) Obamacare is mandatory and it does have a $2 trillion price tag. So far, Medicare has been raped and pillaged for over $500 billion in Obamacare costs, a sordid joke, because the government owes $16 trillion and needs to borrow more just to keep afloat.  

In short, our government can now kill off our seniors, borrow the money to do it, all while making sure that every illegal alien gets health care. “To the moon, Nancy, to the moon!”


05 SepThe Emperor has No Spine

In this political season, newly released books and films are taking an extraordinary look behind the scenes at President Obama’s decision making process. In his book, “Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him,” Richard Miniter writes that the President cancelled the ‘kill’ mission on Osama Bin Laden three times on the advice of Valerie Jarrett.

Jarrett has the wordy job description of: senior advisor to the president and chief liaison to the business community, state and local governments and the political left. The President openly admits that he runs every decision by Valerie Jarrett, who has been a close family friend and confidante since Barrack Obama first entered politics. It’s been reported that both the President and Michelle Obama seek advice from Jarrett several times a day.

Miniter, a two time New York Times bestselling author, cites an anonymous source in the Joint Special Operations Command who says Obama cancelled the bin Laden mission in January 2011, February, and then again in March, on advice from Jarrett, before finally giving the go-ahead.

After knocking heads with Jarrett, two Chiefs of Staff, Emanuel and Daley, left the Whitehouse. One unnamed advisor says in a recent New York Times article, “He’s got a real mess in the West Wing…Valerie is effectively the Chief of Staff, and he knows but he doesn’t know. She’s almost like Nancy Reagan was with President Reagan but more powerful.”

One of Valerie Jarrett’s personal pet projects was Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. It turns out that the property that was supposed to house Olympic buildings was a squalid slum, which Jarrett controlled and wanted to tear down. She advised the President to fly to Copenhagen to make a personal appeal to the Olympic Committee. The whole thing was a dismal failure costing taxpayers millions in jet fuel and entourage bills. Chicago never made it past the first round of voting by the committee. Lots of egg on the walls of the Oval Office!

Said to be, “the other side of Barrack Obama’s brain,” in 2008 by CBS news, the New York Times now calls Valerie Jarrett, “The Other Power in the West Wing.”

The bankrupt, ‘green project,’ Solyndra, costing taxpayers more than $500 million, was another Jarrett hobby horse.

The book, “No Easy Day: The First Hand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden” written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, a Navy SEAL Team Six member who was on the mission, contradicts the story leaked from the Whitehouse. Owen has said that he wrote the book, in part, because he objected to the security leaks.

While Pentagon officials are publically huffing and puffing over Owen’s book, and benching active duty SEAL Team Six members, they conveniently forget that the Whitehouse has given two filmmakers classified information on the raid. The filmmakers, director Kathryn Bigelow and screen writer, Mark Boal were given access to the Operator and Commander of SEAL Team six, Whitehouse top officials, CIA and Pentagon officials.

Transcripts obtained by the group, Judicial Watch, which were released under the Freedom of Information Act; show that Michael Vickers, the Pentagon intelligence chief disclosed the identity of one of the SEAL members to the filmmakers. Writer, Boal and director, Bigelow met with National Security Council official, Denis McDonough and counter terrorism advisor, John Brennan.  The filmmakers were invited to the Whitehouse’s supposed secret ceremony validating the SEALs after the Bin Laden raid. They were also granted access to, “the vault,” where CIA planning for the raid took place.

The film was first scheduled to air before the elections to help make Obama appear, “gusty,” by calling for the Bin Laden raid. The release has reportedly been put off until December to avoid seeming political.

Authors, of the book, “Counterstrike, the Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda,” Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, said all their top secret information was leaked directly from the Whitehouse.

Another film, “2016: Obama’s America,” by Dinesh D’Souza, is a conservative documentary, exploring Obama’s anti-colonial and socialist roots, his sad childhood where he was abandoned by both parents, and what the country will look like if Barrack Obama is elected for a second term. While Liberal pundits pan the film, made for $2.5 million, it has grossed over $9 million to date and gone from opening in a handful of theatres to over a thousand showing it now.

The policies of the President of the United States have apparently been vetted, approved and possibly even written by Valerie Jarrett; a woman born in Iran, who cut her teeth on politics working for the Mayor of Chicago, and who has a history of making money from the misery of tenants living in her slums. Jarrett’s idea of redistributing wealth clearly means distributing it into her own pockets, while the poor are parked on a distant horizon, waiting for help.

It appears that the President’s spine stays vertical only by virtue of his puppet master, Valerie Jarrett, holding his strings tight.

The media pundits who pushed so hard to get Barrack Obama elected should be feeling the blow-back from all their pissing into the wind. I’m not holding my breath as long as Chris Mathews is still having chills run down his legs. Then again, four-year-old wet pants would be a bit chilly…


16 AugThe Last Twenty Yards

Some people have a life philosophy of; “If it’s meant to be; it will be. Watching the Olympics reminded me of one of my Gran’s favorite maxims, “God helps those who help themselves.”

I grew up as a member of a swim team. From Junior High through college, I trained five days a week, and travelled to swim meets monthly. Those experiences, racing in a pool, or sometimes in a lake, formulated my life view.

It always seems to be the last twenty yards of a race that yield victory or defeat; when your arms and legs are screaming in pain, when you think you can’t push any harder, when you have nothing left. Winners manage to reach inside themselves and pull out that extra something from their very souls; normal folks get through it, and losers slow down.

In one important swim meet, I choked on water just after the turn. At first, I just put my head down and swam. Then I tried to cough out the water but I couldn’t breathe. It was a life changing moment for me. I just didn’t have it in me to finish that race. Years later, I wondered what I could have done differently.

People said, “It wasn’t meant to be,” and I wanted to choke them. Who the hell decides what is and is not meant to be in my life? That very statement, while meant to console me, flew in the face of my concept of free will. I was responsible and nobody else. I still remember the exact nanosecond when I breathed in instead of keeping my mouth shut. (I seem to have a talent for opening my mouth when a closed one would be more advantageous.)

A litany of examples in literature, the arts, the news and in the lives of others, have led me to the conclusion that believing in a cause point for my life that is outside of myself is an excuse for non-action. I cannot expect someone else to run my race.

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, states “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

It reads, “the Pursuit of Happiness,” an action, and not a state of being. Sitting on my duff wishing for, visualizing, or praying for happiness is merely a good start. I have to actually do something to make it real. 

As Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s newly chosen running mate, said this week, “We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.” Meanwhile, our president wants, “A new vision of America in which prosperity is shared.”

If I work my butt off to be successful, am I supposed to share it with someone who sits on their butt waiting for the happiness of success to fall on their heads? On the flip side, if I want to be a couch potato and not work, can I get a government hand-out to go shopping? Hey, Wall Street investment banksters have been getting obscenely large government subsidies for years.

While politicians blather on about class warfare, trying to get us to believe that successful people paying more taxes will solve our economic problems, the real war on the economy has been a guarded secret. Only recently we discovered that the Federal Reserve Bank has spent $16 trillion bailing out U.S. and foreign banks.

Wall Street banksters concocted mortgage-backed securities which contained sub-standard home loans and sold them throughout the international investment community. When foreign institutions found out that their so-called AAA investments were a crock, they came after the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank and Wall Street to get their money back.

Bank debt was bought by governments, thereby making it sovereign debt which is now drowning Europe. The U.S. Treasury has bought hundreds of billions in toxic mortgage-backed securities created by the banksters.

To get life back into their diseased balance sheets, by collecting insurance money on delinquent home loans; the banksters foreclosed any which way but loose on American homeowners. They manufactured false documents willy-nilly to achieve their ends. Found guilty, they were fined $25 billion collectively by the U.S. Attorney General. $25 billion collected to offset more than $16 trillion?

Money from smart investors, those guys and gals who are successful, is now flowing out of Europe by tens of billions a month. Like water sloshing against a levy in a hurricane, investment money is looking for an outlet. For now, it’s the U.S.A.

Some say there’s $200 trillion still at risk from the banksters mortgage fraud. How big is the cover-up, really? How much longer can the U.S. government exist in a form of undeclared bankruptcy?  How much more money can the U.S. Treasury rob from American taxpayers to keep this Ponzi scheme afloat?

Currently, all the swimmers in this race away from economic Armageddon are treading water. The last twenty yards to financial stability will have to be swum by the U.S. President, after the election. Will he have the soul to finish a winner?


02 AugHearts and Minds

Now that US troops have been withdrawn from Iraq, the war drums are beating again over Iran. One excuse for war is a threat, made by a blithering idiot in the Iranian military, to shut down the Straits of Hormuz. That action would stop the flow of oil to much of the world.

Of course, an obvious solution to dealing with countries who don’t like us, together with the rising price of gas, the failing US economy, and job losses—“Drill, baby drill!”—is ignored by the armchair warriors in Washington D.C.  Who knows, maybe some of them are drooling over the prospects of insider stock tips on arms and weapons manufacturers. While we would end up in jail for insider trading, (using confidential information to profit on the stock market) members of Congress are apparently not held to the same laws.

The romanticism of war, espoused mainly by those who have not fought in one, is nauseating in light of the costs. As one former soldier, Stan Goff, says of the Vietnam conflict, “In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington D.C. …” None of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan were actually declared, “War,” by Congress, but they did vote to send in US troops.

According to the Brookings Institute, approximately $1trillion dollars of US taxpayer money was spent over the course of the Iraq conflict; 4,486 soldiers were killed, more than 32,000 were wounded, 75 helicopters were downed, 150 journalists were killed, more than 100,000 Iraq citizens were killed, and over 2 million Iraqis are refugees in Syria and Jordan. It cost $390,000 per year to keep one soldier at war in Iraq, and the US paid over $20 billion for air conditioning there. I couldn’t find any information on money paid to the US from Iraq oil revenue. Meanwhile, 46 million Americans are getting food stamps because they can’t afford food.  

Iraqi politicians are now battling each other in efforts to control the country. I have to wonder just whose hearts and whose minds we won over there, or here, for that matter.

I recently read, “On Killing: the Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” the revised edition, by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman. The gist of the book is that human beings do not want to kill and therefore, soldiers and police officers have to be conditioned to do so. Grossman maintains this to be universally true for all people with the exception of sociopaths. He writes, “When people become angry or frightened, they stop thinking with their forebrain (the mind of a human being) and start thinking with their midbrain (which is indistinguishable from the mind of an animal.) They are literally scared out of their wits. The only thing that has any hope of influencing the midbrain is also the thing that influences a dog: classical and operant conditioning.” In other words, stimulus-response psychology that was originally developed by Pavlov decades ago is being used to train soldiers and police officers.

Grossman says that the prevalence of violent entertainment today influences some people’s midbrain to such an extent that they are conditioned toward violence, and will act upon any stimulus that is relevant to them such as; drugs, alcohol, physical abuse, or a perceived threat. Just remember, before you yell at a police officer over a speeding ticket, that guy or gal has most likely had stimulus-response conditioning in their training, and it will click in. They don’t know if your midbrain is in control or not. You will be treated as a threat, subdued with professional skill, and taken away for the courts to handle. Yes, Virginia, it is a brave new world.

I am not an advocate of the kind of gun control that many Liberals would like to see, but Grossman’s book puts my pistol packing associates in a whole new light. I work with several gals who carry loaded guns around in their purses. While I doubt that any of them have been in a serious situation where self-defense was a matter of life and death, the idea that fear could trigger a midbrain response is scary. On the other hand, if the world falls apart next week; I won’t have to lend them a rifle…


20 JulSociopaths in the Money

We’ve all had a sociopath in our lives. They’re the charming ones who constantly try to impress everyone with their superior knowledge; the ones who manipulate everything to their own ends, the pathological liars who feel no remorse or guilt over hurting people. They’re the ones who have a grandiose opinion of themselves, who feign true emotions, and who are relentless in their campaigns to destroy the well-being of their designated enemies. They have a deep seated rage at their core that pops up in psychotic outbursts which are intended to tyrannize their victims. They are the 1% of us who have neither conscience nor empathy.

In May of this year, Dominick Corolla, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm, former GE bankers, were found guilty by a jury in New York of conspiracy to commit fraud. The national media avoided the trial, leaving coverage up to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine in the July 5th issue.

The gist of it is that the GE men, in concert with most of the major Wall Street banks, fiddled with interest rates on bonds to rip off municipalities across the country for almost a decade. When a city or county needs to raise money, to build things like hospitals or schools, they go to Wall Street bankers who create investment bonds which are then sold to investors. The money from the bonds is invested and interest is paid to the city or county until they need it to pay construction workers. Millions, if not billions of dollars slated for various projects, lie dormant in interest bearing accounts across the country. The GE men, along with major banks, conspired to pay less than current interest rates on the bonds. They took turns awarding contracts first to one bank and then to another with full disclosure of the bids to all the banks involved.

The rip-offs look inconsequential when taken one at a time, but when viewed over a decade and thousands of projects, the numbers are huge. Say the going interest rate was 5.5% per year, the bond contract would be given out a 5.3% and the bank involved would siphon off the difference. They gave campaign contributions to numerous politicians as bribes to get the contracts for both the issuance of the bonds and the subsequent investment of the money realized from the sale of the bonds. The defense argued in court that the interest rates given were simply based on fluctuating free market rates and that nobody was harmed–very much.

As Taibbi says, “…this is what Wall Street learned from the Mafia: how to reach into the penny jars of dying hospitals and schools, and transform their desperation and civic panic into fat year-end bonuses…No harm, to them, means no visible harm i.e., that what taxpayers don’t know won’t hurt them. This is logical thinking to the sociopath—like saying, it’s not infidelity if your wife never finds out.”

The newest scandal involves Libor rates, (London Interbank Offered Rate,) the interest rate that banks pay when they borrow money. Over $800 Trillion in financial instruments world-wide are pegged to the LIBOR rate. It has now come to light that Barclays bank in London, England has been fiddling with that rate, keeping it artificially low for the benefit of their fellow bankers. Consumers depend on the LIBOR rate as the base for their mortgage, car and business loan interest rates. Those with fixed incomes get their interest payments based on the LIBOR rate.

On Tuesday, July 17th, 2012, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, admitted that both he and Timothy Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary, have known since 2008 that the LIBOR rates were being falsified. Yet, they did absolutely nothing.

In Mental Health circles, the terms, ‘sociopath,’ and ‘psychopath,’ are frequently interchanged.

In an article in the U.K. Independent newspaper, Brian Basham talks about a meeting he had with a top international banker. “…a senior UK investment banker and I are discussing the most successful banking types and what makes them tick…He then makes an astonishing confession: ‘At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.’ Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.”

Recently, HSBC bank was caught helping Mexican Drug Cartels and terrorists launder their money in the U.S.

Leading banksters show no remorse for the international financial crisis that they caused with their various rip-offs including; the sale of phony mortgage backed securities, false LIBOR rates, outright theft of money from taxpayers, and money laundering. Instead, they appear in Congressional Hearings, oozing superiority and charm, denying their crimes with outright lies, smiling, while our elected officials kiss their butts.

And the results? Think: unlawful foreclosures, scamming of insurance companies to pay off full loan amounts on unlawfully foreclosed properties, millions of lost jobs due to credit squeezes on businesses, housing values crashed, psychotic rules that prevent many Buyers from getting home loans–all while Wall Street banksters get millions in bonuses. I’d love to read the FBI profiles on sociopathic banksters who should be in jail.


11 JulMortal Sins

Obamacare emerged from the U.S. Supreme Court wounded but still breathing. Now that Justice Roberts has called the penalty for not buying health insurance, a tax, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is ramping up their hiring process for thousands of new agents to police us all.

Governor Paul LePage of Maine is calling the new army of IRS agents, reportedly 16,500 strong, the “New Gestapo.” If you do not buy health insurance you must report it on your tax return, and consequently, the IRS can enforce a tax penalty. Whether we can afford it or not, healthy, taxpaying Americans will be footing the bill for approximately 50% of the population who neither pay for health care, nor pay taxes.

The tax for those not buying health insurance in 2014 is said to be $95.00 for a single person and $285 for a family. By 2016, a single person will pay $695 and a family will be taxed $2085. If you don’t pay, the IRS will penalize you, and start adding monthly interest to your tax bill. Wall Street Journal senior economics writer, Stephen Moore, says that these taxes will impact families making $120,000 a year and maybe less.

That’s a far cry from President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year. Where I come from, it’s called flat out lying. First, the President said the Obamacare mandate was not a tax; then his attorneys went to the Supreme Court and argued it was a tax. After promising not to raise taxes on the middle class, he hid the fact that his health care legislation taxes the hell out of them.

The Catholics call lies that harm others, mortal sins. Aristotle said that a person who lied could not be believed in anything they said. St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant and St Thomas Aquinas all condemned lying in any form. One could be tortured, murdered, jailed and still have no excuse to lie.

Seems like we’ve gone a long way backward in standards of morality when the President of the United States can spout lies with abandom. Still, certain Members of Congress and some media talking-heads support him. I guess they haven’t read the 2700 page Obamacare bill yet.

 I rather like Freidrich Nietzsche’s opinion in his work, “Human, All Too Human,” when he concludes that some people refrain from lying simply because they don’t have the wherewithal to maintain their lies, that we tell the truth out of our own weakness. Of course, the President doesn’t have that problem because he has dozens of staffers to keep him on course.

One summer, when I was six and my brother was four, we went down the road to visit our friend, Elizabeth, whose family owned the local dairy. There were rolls of quarters on the dining room table that her father had been stacking up to take to the bank. When our friend left the room to get us sodas, my brother quickly stuck one role in his pocket. For days afterward, we bought too much ice cream, and too many candies.

When our parents noticed the weird change in our eating habits as well as the amount of time we were spending away from home, they questioned us. We lied through our teeth. My father was concerned that some child molester had been giving us money. Mom was angry that we weren’t eating her dinners.

After a few days of parental interrogation, both my brother and I plummeted into the depths of depression. Not only did we complicate our lies, but we plum forgot what we’d said the day before, and so, we confessed. After a good spanking administered by Dad, we were sent to the dairy to make amends.

Ashamed, we became slaves to the dairy owner for a week. We cleaned the horse poop in the stable, ran errands, pruned rose bushes, washed dishes, and mopped floors, all while listening to Elizabeth’s gleefully delivered insults. My father thought lying was a felony, and the farmer was determined to teach us the consequences of theft. 

Looking back, our six and four year old selves must have been lousy workers. Nonetheless, both my parents and the dairy owner were interested enough in our moral welfare to teach us a lesson. It worked!

Politicians lie badly, just like kids. I’d like to give them all a good spanking and then consign them to week’s work in the Whitehouse gardens, in full view of their opponents and the press. Never mind Virginia, you don’t have to remind me that the child-abuse police would probably jail me.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A child is a curly, dimpled lunatic.” Nowadays that seems to apply equally to bankers, politicians and bureaucrats who lie, cheat, and steal with no thoughts of the consequences. Just saying…