Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Jellico

Posted in Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on September 2, 2014

We have a brand new kitten. Her name is Jellico.
Where she came up with that name, I’m sure I’ll never know.

Dr. Vorsteg is her master, though he doesn’t tell her so.
It’s she told him, in fact, when we said, One cat, to go.

She jumped upon his shoulder, said, I want to go with youJellico1
Of all the cats in all the cages, she’s the one we knew
would make us laugh and love the life she will contribute to.

We asked her what her name is.
My husband says she whispered it, into his ear, her own true name.
I think the whisper came from T. S. Eliot.

I offered Tabby, Tumbles, Mittens,
Can we name you Chloe ? Bo?
No! she said, I’ll stop my ears! My name is Jellico!                                    Jellico2

Let’s sleep on that, we told our cat
and she curled up and purred.
When morning broke, she knew she’d won
We had to keep our word.

So, tiny kitten, here she is!

.           World,

.                     meet Jellico.

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Sidewalks in Winston-Salem

Posted in "North Carolina", Local Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 21, 2013

I’m going to start with a quote from Climate Central, which I found by way of a link from an article in Scientific American.

On March 18, 2013,  Climate Central reported  Significant news is coming out of the Arctic these past few weeks – and none of it bodes well for the future of the Earth. In fact, for climate scientists and environmentalists, worst case scenarios are now playing out in real time.

And I’d like to consider our local City Council’s sidewalk policy in light of these environmental urgencies.

More than a week  ago, I wrote a letter to all of our Council members.  I have received no response from any.  I understand that our Council has a limited budget for sidewalks, and rather than considering the city as a whole, that money is divided equally among the eight wards. So each ward gets one eighth of the sidewalk budget, regardless of where the city’s needs are more urgent.  This leads to “The Sidewalk to Nowhere”  — a sidewalk through a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs and little traffic, as reported by Journal writer Scott Sexton.

Now consider North Point Boulevard, where we see a long stretch of businesses, office buildings, and several restaurants (Trido of Japan,  North Point Grill, El Triunfo, Asian Bistro, to name a few).  The people who work in these office buildings cannot easily walk or bike to a restaurant for lunch.  No sidewalks or bike lanes.  So unless they bring their lunch, virtually all the people who work in these offices pull their cars out on to North Point Blvd. to drive a quarter mile or so.

Here is the letter I sent on March 13 to Council Members Dan Besse, Vivian Burke, Denise Adams, Derwin Montgomery, Molly Leight, Robert C. Clark, Wanda Merschel, and James Taylor, and to Myra Stafford, Sidewalk  Project Specialist:

I have for some time been distressed with the lack of sidewalks in parts
of the city that need them. There are busy thoroughfares that run
through neighborhoods — thoroughfares like Polo Road, where a sidewalk
runs from Reynolda Road, past WFU, and then stops.  Extending that
sidewalk to Cherry Street would benefit a community where people have to
get in their cars to drive to a store because the remaining section of
Polo Road is not safe without a sidewalk.

Another example is North Point Blvd.  There are businesses, offices,
and restaurants, but people who work on North Point Blvd. have to get
their cars out to go to a nearby restaurant.  There is a short
sidewalk which runs a few hundred feet and then stops.  Extending this
sidewalk would be very helpful, would increase foot traffic and
bicycles, and reduce automobile traffic.  Please reconsider the
“sidewalk to nowhere” and move that sidewalk funding to a site where
it is badly needed.

Are we making sensible decisions with our allocations of city resources?   How are the decisions  made?   Might it be possible to consider a different method of allocation — a method that takes into consideration  the needs of the entire city?  Can we reconsider how our city resources are allocated?  Perhaps one  criterion for sidewalks should be that they have a positive impact on traffic?

We all do that? Really?

Posted in "North Carolina", Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 17, 2013

.

Oh Jeez we’ve done it again.

See previous post here.

Last night it was Vincenzo’s.  The spinach ravioli there is wonderful, and the music is not too loud for conversation.  A very pleasant and comfortable place for dinner. We’ve just returned from about two weeks in Florida (eating in restaurants for two weeks, so naturally we came home and had to eat out again).  This time it was a neighborhood (sort of) Italian locally-owned restaurant.

So when we made our unhappy discovery, I went to Richard, the impeccably dressed owner, and said,  I hope you remember us.  He smiled and said yes, of course.   And that we’ve been coming here for 20 years … He nodded, yes …  And we live close by …  He didn’t know that I’m sure but he smiled and nodded …  and my husband left his wallet at home, and I never carry a purse, or almost never …

He laughed, said no problem, we all do that.  Richard is always gracious.

We offered to come back before they close at midnight, and he said that would be fine, or we could just call in a credit card when we get home.   That’s what we did.

We were too embarrassed to ask for our senior discount, so we just said add a 20% tip for the waitress.

Someone, I forget who, said  Old age ain’t for sissies.  If I were younger, I would remember who said that.

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Up the Greenway Without a Bike

Posted in "North Carolina", Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on August 8, 2012

The older I get, the more I depend upon the kindness of strangers.

We started the day with our decision to go out to Salem Lake. The gravel and crushed-stone trail around Salem Lake is seven miles, a bit longer than my bicycle likes to go when I’m the one pedaling, but I do enjoy the last two miles almost as much as the first five. I can make most of the hills without getting off to push – not all, but most.

So that was the plan – to leave about 9:30 and bike seven miles before high noon. As per our usual M.O. we actually got my bike into the truck about 10:45. We headed up University Parkway, took a left on Eighth Street, and drove on out to Salem Lake, listening to classical WVTF 89.1 Roanoke along the way.

When we got to the lake, the truck bed was empty.

Bob! My bike is gone!

Hard to believe, but undeniable. Nothing in that truck bed but a bungee cord hanging loosely over a few brown poplar leaves.

We retraced our treads, back through the city, knowing it was useless but hoping to find my bike lying on the side of an inner city street untrammeled. I groaned that if the bike had not been run over and was not hurt too bad, then someone picked it up and rode off on it a half hour ago.

What a pessimist.

It turns out the bike stayed with us through a dozen stoplights, and fell off the truck on MLK Blvd.  Heading back, all eyes peeled along the highway, we spotted a bicycle propped up against a chain-link fence at the intersection of MLK and Linden. Bob stopped the truck at the stop light, and while he waited for a left-turn signal, I jumped out and ran across the street.

It’s mine!  It is!  It’s my bike!

I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo of my bicycle leaning against that fence, but it would have made a good shot.  Here is where we found it.  A google map photo.  Right there.  See that chain link fence? Propped up right there! I got on it and rode it – or tried to ride it – to where Bob had pulled the truck over.

Click the photo to enlarge.

The chain was off, but I wasn’t sure whether it was damaged or just off.

We took the bike to Ken’s Bike Shop on Reynolda Road, and Ken had it fixed up in ten minutes.

No charge.

As I rode my bike slowly across Ken’s  parking lot on Reynolda Road, toward our unlocked Toyota pick-up, I saw through the open windows that I had left my camera on the seat.

At my age, I guess I can look forward to more reliance on the kindness of strangers.

hre

The Last Straw – or The Last Macaroon

Posted in "North Carolina", NC, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 27, 2012

A few weeks ago, my husband went for his morning walk, and came back home with a real live  Flannery O’Conner character.

Bob has a route that he takes, total round trip almost 3 miles. About a mile or so from our house is an apartment complex, but he doesn’t walk past it.  No particular reason, just that he stays on the main sidewalks.

So I’m out in the front yard pulling weeds. Bare hands. You might think that part about my bare hands is an insignificant distraction, but just wait –-

OK, I see my husband walking down the street, heading back home, and wonder about the red-headed boy walking beside him. He gets to the yard, says, Helen, this is Dillon.  Dillon lives in the apartments over on Del Monte.

Turns out Dillon had an opportunity to make $30 by mowing a neighbor’s yard – not a neighbor we know, one several blocks away. Bob said Dillon needed to borrow our lawnmower in order to mow a yard …

Next thing I know,  this stranger –well, Bob has known him 10 minutes– this stranger  is walking up the street pushing our lawnmower. A couple of hours later he brings it back, says thank you, and walks off into the sunset.

A few days later, I’m home alone and Dillon rings the doorbell. He really needs money, he’ll do anything, we must surely have some work for him. He suggested he could clean the gutters, and I asked how much he would charge. He said $25. I thought of my husband having to do that, thought that really, it probably is  a big job, and Dillon said the gutters look like they need cleaning…  so I said ok.  It took him 15 minutes! I gave him the $25, because a deal is a deal, but realized I should have asked him first how long it will take.

I make a mental note that I hope we don’t see this kid again, but I know there’s not much chance. So far we’ve lent him our lawnmower and paid him for a chore at the rate of $100/hour. He’ll be back.

A few days later, Bob and I are sitting on the front porch eating our black bean veggieburgers and sliced avocados, and Dillon walks up the steps, sits in a third rocking chair without being invited, and tells us he needs $45. Needs bus fare to visit his grandmother in Virginia. It’s about 3 pm, and that’s not an insignificant detail either.

We don’t need any work done. Jeff has helped me with heavy yard work for years, and Doug mows the grass. But seeing that he’s not likely to leave happily, I ask him how much he charges per hour. He says, Whatever you want to pay. I said, Last time you were here I paid you $25 for fifteen minutes. He says, Oh, yeah, sorry about that. And he says he’ll work for $20 an hour. Except that really, I don’t see anything that I want him to do. And if he needs $45, that’s more than than two hours worth of work that he’s asking for and we don’t need anything done.

Well, we’re not heartless, so next thing I know, I’m handing him a bow saw and showing him some wayward limbs. He (sort of) finishes that in ten minutes, and then asks if I’d bring him a glass of water. I go in to get the water, and then show him where I’ve been weeding, pulling weeds, tossing them into a bucket, and carrying them out to the compost pile. He can help me with that, although I’d rather be finishing my black bean veggieburger and then working on my own plans that I had for the day.

Dillon says he really would rather not do weeding, if that’s ok, because he has no gloves and he’s afraid of spiders, and besides he’s needing to get to the bus station by 4:30. And by the way, would I mind going in to my computer and ordering his ticket for him? This is getting to be a bit unsettling, but next thing I know I’m out telling him that I went to the website and didn’t see any place to reserve a ticket without a credit card, and besides, he is supposed to work for two hours and he came here at 3 pm and he expects to be on a bus at 4:30? And he still has to walk home? He says maybe we could take him home, but he still has to pack, but that won’t take long. He has no way to get home, and he won’t get there in time to pack if he has to walk. I asked him how he plans to get to the bus station, and he said, Do you think you could drive me?

I’m totally out of my league here. It seems I’ve agreed to pay him $45 to work for two hours between 3:00 and 4:00 pm (but not weed because he’s afraid of spiders) and then take him to the bus station, after I reserve a ticket for him. I’m thinking of the things I meant to do today, but nothing on my list is getting done because I’m fetching water and calling the bus station and finding make-work for him to pretend he’s doing. So I go in and tell Bob that really, I don’t want him to do anything else, I just want him to go. I want my day back. Just give him $45 and tell him to go on to Virginia and visit his grandmother. Bob agrees, and we scrounge around the house putting together $45 and I take it out to him and tell him he’d better go or he will miss his bus. I tell him yes, just go on, and at 4:15 Bob will come get him and take him to the bus station. He points out that Bob doesn’t know where he lives (or even who he is), so Bob will have to take him home to find out where he lives. Well, he’s got me there – this is too much for me.

So now Bob has agreed to take him home, wait for him to pack, and drive him to the bus station. As Bob was getting ready to leave, he started putting macaroons into a plastic zip bag. I had made the macaroons the night before.  Bob said we don’t need all these macaroons, and this boy won’t have time to eat …

Spring Cleaning

Posted in "North Carolina", NC, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 19, 2012

Spring is starting early this year, and I’m late with my spring chores. With the tutoring and advice of our friend Susan, I’m cleaning out our three bluebird houses.   This starts with getting over my reluctance to remove the abandoned nest — I kept putting it off for fear that the little wren families might return and find their homes demolished.  Susan assured me that once they have gone, they will not return.

One of our three bluebird houses

With my bent towards anthropomorphizing I objected – what a waste! Why build a new home every year when last year’s is still sitting pretty on a good foundation?   Susan would have none of that, and we moved on to the lessons about a mild soapy solution in a spray bottle.

So far, we’ve had only wrens in our bluebird houses.  I like wrens just fine and don’t want to run them off, but I’m hoping for bluebirds this year.

We have nesting red-tailed hawks in our woods, and I love to watch the crows and hawks in their daily power struggles.  Summer evenings, we hear the lovely flute-like songs of the wood thrush, and the tweeting and singing of the towhees.  Each summer the thrush reminds me of Robert Browning’s 

Home Thoughts, From Abroad

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

The fluting song of the wood thrush is, indeed, the musical sound that I look forward to every summer.  The towhee comes in a close second.

Towhee in the redbud tree in the front yard

We have lots of songbirds at our feeders.  So far this spring, it’s mostly chickadees and titmice.  I like to sit on the porch in the rocking chair with my camera and a book.  I scatter safflower seeds along the porch rail.  The birds have become so used to me over the years that they will come quite close.   When the birds come to the rail, I shoot ’em.   They used to be frightened off by the camera, fleeing when I lift it, but they don’t mind the camera any more.  And I never use a flash when shooting birds.  They are accustomed to seeing my husband and me  most evenings, each of us in our own favorite rocker, like Dagwood and Blondie, each with our books and drinks of choice.  The birds  don’t usually come after dark, but here’s a cardinal taking the safflower seeds that I’ve sprinkled along the rails, caught just lifting his wings.

Male cardinal taking safflower seeds from the rail

Being a woman who knows what’s important, Susan hasn’t spent a lot of time grappling with computers.  But she would like to create a blog for her upcoming road trip to the north, as she follows the  spring, and the bird migrations.  She’ll be writing her blog on her ipad.

Since Susan gives me lessons on how to live (though she doesn’t do it on purpose, and unless she reads this she won’t know that she does) I will give her simple lessons on how to make machines obey commands — remembering the important lesson that if your computer isn’t doing what you want it to do, it’s probably doing what you told it to do instead.  The lessons will be simple, because I don’t know very much, but the people who know more than I do are always incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, and it’s good to occasionally be able to give back.

This has been practice.    I have  trouble in wordpress getting pictures to line up as I want them to.  Getting the text to wrap.  Sometimes I’ll put a photo where I want it,  but then as I type, the type pushes the photo down the page.  Anchor, that’s what I want.   I must learn to anchor the photos.  And padding, to get more space around the photos.

I do occasionally figure all this out.  For example,  the blog I wrote last May when we had a pigeon on our roof. I did get several photos to stay put, but, like the photos that drift, the lessons I learn seldom stay put.  So I have to learn over again.  I once thought the Copy a Post tab would allow me to use the same format and just change the words.  She could simply take my Pigeon post, copy it, and change the words and pictures to her own.  Sounds good in theory, but in practice, when I click Copy a Post, it simply opens  a new edit screen.  We’ll work it out, and reading Susan’s blog will be a treat.

I hope this year we will get bluebirds.

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A UU Forum on Occupy

Posted in "North Carolina", corporatocracy, Economy, Government, NC, Politics, Unitarian, UU, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 7, 2012

At our Sunday morning forum yesterday (2/5/12), our guest speaker was Ethan Smith, representing the local Occupy Winston-Salem group. Most UUs (Unitarian Universalists) are familiar with Occupy and some have been participants.  I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter and occasional participant.

Here's a screenshot of me (on right) at a protest against Wells Fargo, when the top Wells Fargo management was speaking our the convention center. Since we don’t have a TV, my son Chris sent me this screenshot. I was surprised he recognized me, since it was such a fleeting report, and he didn’t know I was participating (probably didn’t even know about the event).

 

Occupy’s mission includes public education and civic participation to reveal the 1%’s crimes centering in war and money, end the crimes through arrests of the criminals, and enact policies for 100% of Earth’s inhabitants.

A hand-out gave a little bit of the history and philosophy of Occupy, and talked about local issues:

“Occupy Winston-Salem stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the globe as a non-violent, leaderless movement of Americans united to fight the corporate abuse of our democracy, and to take the reins of power away from profit-driven interests and assert our rightful place in the political process.” The handout goes on to mention “the shackles of corporate greed.”

Ethan recounted some of the recent activities of the local group, talked about the commitment to non-violence, and  about the reliance on rotating facilitators at meetings.   Although there have been extreme police reactions to protesters in some cities, the local Winston-Salem police have done their profession proud.  Our local police, our protesters, and our city officials have worked in co-operation.  Some Winston-Salem churches have given strong support.

A UU member (one who is not involved in Occupy, and I don’t know whether or not he sympathizes) objected to the word greed, saying our narrative is wrong. I (though I didn’t speak out) think some of the language often used to describe the Occupy movement reveals a lack of understanding.  I often hear that the Occupiers are pushing for  “redistribution of wealth” (or of income). There are many people who will mis-interpret that, sometimes deliberately.  I think  “redistribution of opportunity” or “expansion of opportunities” is a more accurate description of what we in Occupy want.  Or how about distributive justice.

Ethan talked about our government’s encroachment on liberties, such as the Patriot Act, NDAA, laws and ordinances limiting free speech, arrests of journalists, mass arrests of protesters, such as, in NYC, 700 protesters arrested at once, with journalists being swept up along with protesters.

Freedom of the press in the US has fallen to 47th in the world

Other UUs wondered why Americans are complacent. The data has been out there for years – the data on the wealthy getting richer while the middle class fades into history amidst government policies that favor the powerful.  Why are people so complacent? Is it because we are constantly told we must keep up with sports, fashion, acquisitions and amusements, and so we don’t pay attention to our democracy?  Another UU  suggested the nature of coverage in the news media invites confusion and shallow understanding – everyone tries to look as though they are  “fair and balanced” – and gave as an example the Komen controversy in which news reports did not link this with  faith-based initiatives and the connection of a Komen leader with the congressional investigation of an organization that didn’t need investigating.

I believe there is much than can be done to make America work for all of us.  How about  a tiny tax on stock trades, especially on high frequency ‘flash’ trading.  How about huge fines for corporate criminals, the CEOs of the “corporate people”, aka banks,  responsible for evictions based on robo-signing?

Economic mobility in America has stalled. “Parental income is a better predictor of a child’s future in America than in much of Europe, implying that social mobility is less powerful.” (From The Economist) And as Jason DeParle writes in the New York Times, social mobility is a lot lower in America than in most other developed countries.   The   “work hard and save” formula doesn’t work any more.   Now the best advice for Americans is to choose your parents wisely.

Regardless of where Occupy goes from here, the movement has forced our nation to discuss the increasing inequality that has been hurting middle-income workers for thirty years.

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Advice From The 1%

Posted in corporatocracy, Economy, Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 17, 2011

Listening to Marketplace the last few weeks I’ve heard two commentaries that were so good I had to look them up and read them. Both are about the Occupy protests.

Here’s commentator Elspeth Gilmore.

Elspeth Gilmore: I am the 1 percent. I recently marched on Wall Street with the 99 percent. I stand with the 99 percent, but I marched for myself, too. For decades, the U.S. economy has been organized to boost the wealth of the 1 percent.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 40 percent of all wealth gains between 1983 and 2009 went to the 1 percent. Eighty-two percent went to the top 5 percent. All the rules of the economy have been tilted in my favor. Yet it is not in my interest to allow the disparities of wealth to keep growing. We should not have to hoard wealth in this society in order to keep our families healthy or to get an education. Health and a good education should be rights.
My job at Resource Generation is to organize wealthy people under 35 who want to change this. There are more than 1,500 of us who know that our lives would be better if we personally had less and we could all rely on a collective safety net. We need to re-imagine what is possible.
I want to live in a world where we together provide the basic needs of all people: adequate infrastructure and roads, well-funded school systems, clean water systems, innovative transportation and health care for all.
We need a more just economy — and one of the ways to get there is for people like me to pay higher taxes. Lets change the policies that keep the wealth in the hands of a few. Let’s increase millionaire taxes and end loopholes for corporations. Please tax the income from my investments at least as much as my earned income, it’s common sense.
So let me say this as plainly as I can. Tax me, tax the 1 percent. If the 1 percent had less money, we — a 100 percent of us — would be better off.

Of course, listener/reader responses always include the one about how she can give as much as she wants – nothing to stop her from paying extra. I’m never sure whether people who say that actually expect to be taken seriously.

Josh Brown, Reformed Broker, has toned his language down just a bit from a previous column, but still gets his point across. Better actually, I think.  And his clear summary of our grievances  is worth review.

Josh Brown: In 2008, the American people were told that if they didn’t bail out the banks, their way of life would never be the same. In no uncertain terms, our leaders told us anything short of saving these insolvent banks would result in a depression to the American public. We had to do it! At our darkest hour we gave these banks every single thing they asked for. We allowed investment banks to borrow money at zero percent interest rate, directly from the Fed. We gave them taxpayer cash right onto their balance sheets. We allowed them to suspend account rules and pretend that the toxic sludge they were carrying was worth 100 cents on the dollar. Anything to stave off insolvency. We left thousands of executives in place at these firms. Nobody went to jail, not a single perp walk. I can’t even think of a single example of someone being fired. People resigned with full benefits and pensions, as though it were a job well done. The American taxpayer kicked in over a trillion dollars to help make all of this happen. But the banks didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The banks didn’t seize this opportunity, this second chance to re-enter society as a constructive agent of commerce. Instead, they went back to business as usual. With $20 billion in bonuses paid during 2009. Another $20 billion in bonuses paid in 2010. And they did this with the profits they earned from zero percent interest rates that actually acted as a tax on the rest of the economy. Instead of coming back and working with this economy to get back on its feet, they hired lobbyists by the dozen to fight tooth and nail against any efforts whatsoever to bring common sense regulation to the financial industry. Instead of coming back and working with the people, they hired an army of robosigners to process millions of foreclosures. In many cases, without even having the proper paperwork to evict the homeowners. Instead, the banks announced layoffs in the tens of thousands, so that executives at the top of the pile could maintain their outrageous levels of compensation. We bailed out Wall Street to avoid Depression, but three years later, millions of Americans are in a living hell. This is why they’re enraged, this why they’re assembling, this is why they hate you. Why for the first time in 50 years, the people are coming out in the streets and they’re saying, “Enough.”

Is this Direct Democracy in action? Are any tangible results unfolding?  Will the  ‘Super Committee’ consider and be affected by the Occupy movement?  Are the Occupiers losing public support, as several polls suggest?

It will be interesting these next few weeks as winter, and holidays, and First Amendment lawsuits play out, and the petition asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to resign in the wake of his eviction of the protesters.  As Thom Hartman puts it, Bloomberg had the wrong target. Instead of evicting the protesters in Zuccotti Park, he should have sent his police  in riot gear to evict Goldman Sachs.

Our  UU (Unitarian Universalist) Fellowship has issued a statement in support of the Occupiers.

Locally, Occupy Winston-Salem has  approval from the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to camp in a parking lot downtown.   The full City Council will have to approve the permit at next Monday’s meeting.  I think they will.

It’s Move Your Money Week! And so I did.

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 11, 2011

This is Move Your Money Week. And so I did.

 I’ve been happy with Wachovia for more than 30 years. But Wachovia is no more, and Wells Fargo, nee Wachovia, is now charging fees that Wachovia never charged while, according to Reuters, Wells Fargo paid Chief Executive John Stumpf compensation worth $21.3 million for 2009. A year ago, Wachovia/Wells Fargo began charging me a $25 fee for my unsecured line of credit. I’ve had that unsecured $15k for thirty years, never paid for it, and never used it except occasionally due to carelessness – it’s my overdraft protection.

Maybe Mr. Stumpt is worth $21million a year, every year. It doesn’t really look like much when compared to the $43.7 billion in taxpayer bailout funds that went to Wells Fargo. And the $25 annual fee for an unsecured line of credit that I almost never use isn’t going to make a difference in my vacation plans.

But our country’s rising income inequality troubles me. Increasingly wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and not because they have worked harder, but because they have influenced the laws that rig the rules. We like to think of America as the land of opportunity, and that once was true. But for the last three decades, economic mobility has become harder in the US than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany or Spain.

Much is amiss in the rigged and under-regulated economy that has seen corporate taxes as a share of the nation’s tax revenues plunge from 28 percent in 1956 to only 11.8 percent in 1996 and to below 10 percent in the early 2000s.

The share of all property taxes paid by corporations dropped from 45 percent in 1957 to 16 percent in 1995 (more recent figures are hard to find, as most states have changed their accounting rules to not break out corporate from personal tax payments, in response to lobbying pressures from corporations).

After decades of campaign contributions from lenders, legislators have re-written the banking rules to favor the banks over the people. Much of this corporate-friendly legislation was even written by the Corporations, instead of by the legislators whose job it is.  (See  http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed  — ALEC Exposed.) So today I moved my checking, savings, money market and credit card to the State Employees Credit Union. And as soon as I’m sure all my charges have cleared, I’ll cut my Bank of American credit card and mail it – or maybe take it – to the bank that notoriously took bail-out funds, gave CEOs huge salaries, and paid no taxes.

It isn’t that hard to Move Your Money, and it will help the economy of your own community.

“Our Marketplace is Rigged by Polluters”

Posted in "North Carolina", Ecology, Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 10, 2011

We went to see Robert F. Kennedy Jr. last week.

The Yadkin Riverkeeper sponsored Mr. Kennedy’s visit to WFU, and he was the best, most enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and entertaining speaker I’ve heard in a long time.

I had pen but not paper, so I took notes in the tiny white spaces around a tri-fold Honda ad.

Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist, called for a major government investment in a smart grid to deliver wind-turbine and solar energy to homes nationwide and free the U.S. economy from its dependence on Middle East oil. The United States is rich with clean energy resources, from geothermal heat in the Midwest to wind farms in Montana, Texas and North Dakota to solar energy in the Southwest, he said.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Wait Chapel, WFU

Kennedy advocated a transition from a carbon-based economy to one powered by solar and wind, saying clean energy is key to our economic and national security. He spoke of the wind farms in the Great Plains and Midwest states, and solar power fields in the sunny Southwest, such as the Nevada desert, saying they could provide all the electricity needed for every building and vehicle in the U.S., and said there is enough wind in just North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas to meet all of the country’s electricity needs. In a true free market, solar would out-compete coal, oil, and nuclear, but our marketplace is rigged by polluters. When coal claims to produce electricity at 11 cents per kilowatt hour, it’s not counting the $345 billion/year tax subsidies and it’s not counting the tremendous environmental pollution that taxpayers pay to clean up. It’s always been illegal to pollute, he said, citing the 1888 Rivers and Harbors Act. In the 17th c people were executed for polluting the commons.

Kennedy was erudite, but his message was sobering.  We can’t count on our representatives in Raleigh, or in Washington.  Currently, he said, “we have a marketplace with rules written by polluters.” He cited several specific examples, including political interference in 2007 by J. Stephen Griles, then deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior and a former lobbyist for the National Mining Association, who managed to change the definition of the word “fill” instead of preventing the coal companies from contaminating rivers with their mountain-top removal fill.

Kennedy talked about electric cars, which he said cost about 6 cents mile and are becoming more affordable, and he spoke with some optimism of Vantage Point Switch bulbs.  These were not new ideas (I already have some of the expensive Philips LED bulbs in lamps), but his enthusiasm made it all seem new, and he added fine details that were new to me.  He talked about Liquid Robotics – robots that move across the ocean at about 1 1/2 knots, powered by underwater wings. Looking something like window blinds, the wings tilt up when the craft is lifted by a wave, rising through the water and pulling it forward. On a down wave, the wings sink and tilt downward, pulling the craft forward.

Leaving the auditorium, I had the fleeting thought that it would be good for Kennedy to follow the footsteps of his uncles into public office, into the White House, but on second thought, he is probably doing more good where he is,  defending the environment against industrial polluters.

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