All posts by weaver1888

Thinking about America! We can do better.

The Shopping Mall (Part 2)

Clothes

Sometime in the years 2016-2017, my granddaughter became a full-blown teenager. I got the first glimmer of this change when I went clothes shopping with her last August.  This year there was no doubt the transformation had occurred. Accordingly, and with some trepidation, I set out for the mall with both my granddaughters: 9 and 15.

The car conversation went something like this:

“Mom said we should shop for Hattie (9) at Old Navy. Since she doesn’t like jeans, they have a good selection of the leggings she likes. They also have shirts for her as well,” says Emma (15).

“Great. We can just shop there for you too,” I respond.

“Granddad, you have to be kidding, I hope?”

“YES.”

“Sometimes, Granddad, you can be cruel.”

The selections at Old Navy were very good as far as Hattie was concerned.  Of course, Emma took charge and began pulling things from the racks hoping that her sister would make fast decisions.  But Hattie has her own notions when it comes to fashion.  She has graduated from wearing a pink tutu with everything, but she knows what she likes. It took a while, but finally, we had some choices for the leggings and three tops or shirts or whatever.

Off to the dressing room, they went.  I noticed how careful Emma was with Hattie and how protective.  It was good to see the love these two girls have for each other.  The fitting lasted 20 minutes.  There were a lot of men and boys milling around waiting for mom, girlfriends or daughters to emerge.  One guy picked out two shirts from a sale rack for himself and another picked some Birkenstock knockoffs. Old Navy has some good merchandising techniques.  Total time including checkout, 51 minutes. And the receipt was only one GASP.

Hollister

Somehow, I knew Hollister would be different. This store positions itself as a cool SoCal beach shack as you can tell from the picture. You expect to see surfer dudes and gals talking about waves and boards.  What you see is a bunch of teens looking for something awesome to wear for the new school year. By the way, Hollister is a division of Abercrombie and Fitch and was established in Ohio in 2000.

One Mom was holding a pair of jean cut-offs.  Back in the day, you would simply take an old pair of jeans and cut the legs off. Today you pay $45 for the same thing.  I assumed the Mom was holding them for a daughter.  She held the cutoffs up to her waist.  I wanted to say something, but sanity prevailed since I didn’t want to be arrested for harassment.  Luckily, her daughter came to the rescue.

“You have got to be kidding Mom. Put those back! They are not for you!”

Emma was in action. First the jeans. Last year I was opposed to ripped jeans, but I have seen the light. I am not in control.  A pair of white ripped jeans and a pair of skinny jeans came out of the pile.  Then on to the shirts.  This took some time, so I found a nice chair.

There was a dad with a worried look on his face as his daughter had at least 6 pairs of jeans and as many shirts over her arm.  She headed for the dressing room.  He stood beside my chair and looked to be in pain.

“She can’t possibly wear all those clothes,” he said.

“She doesn’t know that!” I responded.

Since this was my second year of back to school shopping I was a veteran and I sounded like I knew something.  He sighed and looked resigned to facing a very large bill. That could easily be 5 gasps.

All of Emma’s stuff fit, but she told me to stay seated while she shopped for a few more things. The girl with all the clothes came out with a big smile and announced that all but one pair of jeans fit There was a big sigh of resignation from her dad. We are hopeless!

Well, we were next in line at the checkout.   The girl at the counter took all the stuff and began to sort it out.  She held up a purplish, lacy something or other and said, “I just love this color in a bra.” I froze, turned scarlet and made some sort of gurgling sound. Emma looked at me and turned scarlet.  The sales girl looked at me, “Granddaughter?” and smiled. I shook my head yes. The item disappeared into the bag. I was still recovering my breathing when the receipt came. I failed to look or gasp.

Chick

I was in need of sustenance–I was a little dizzy and in need of a real lift.  The chicken store was just down the hall.  I made a dash for it as the girls lugged their bags down the corridor after me.  A diet DP was just the thing along with a spicy chicken sandwich all the way with waffle fries with plenty of ketchup.  No need to gasp at this place. I will deal with the calories and fat later!

vans-logo-2

RETRO sneakers!  Are you kidding me?  History does, in fact, repeat itself.  Last year, it was high-top gumboots from LL BEAN and this year it is white sneakers with no strings and elastic on the side. This was a three gasp item–how much can a little canvas and some rubber be. Of course, it’s the label–I get it!

Next stop Claire’s–the junk store of all junk stores.  Hattie needed some new fake nails.  This time they were purple with blue stripes.  Her mother does not let her out of the house with them on.

I love my girls and am already looking forward to next year.  I hope Emma will still go with me.

WEAVING A NEW TAPESTRY

WEaving

Why don’t we in the USA talk about politics in the language of the heart? If we cannot be heartbroken, for example, that the wealthiest nation on earth is unable to summon the political will to end childhood hunger here and now—how can we create a politics worthy of the human spirit, one that has a chance to serve the common good? It is sad to think that the answer may be NO!

Hungry Child

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are viewed as proponents of war by some because a few of their alleged adherents engage in hateful and violent behavior that distorts and defies the values they claim to represent. All the major religions of the world at their core, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, are committed to compassion, hospitality, and love.  In this fact lies the hope that we might reclaim their power to help reweave our tattered civic tapestry. When we (citizens of the USA) forget that politics is about weaving a tapestry of compassion and justice on which everyone can depend, the first to suffer are the most vulnerable among us—our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, and our homeless. As they suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy. Reweave our tapestry.

POOR

As Americans, we should all be opposed to autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.  But this seems to be the direction for the USA.  Our leaders are disrespecting the rule of law.  Personal recognition and gain seem to be the focus and this political idolatry accompanies a false and unconstitutional notion of authority. Our elected officials are called to serve our citizens not engage in tyranny.  Let’s rid ourselves of leaders who put ideology ahead of governance.  At least throw out the crooks and thieves in Congress. And there are many!

LYNYRD

IMG_0356LYNYRD’S WORLD

I like Lynyrd Skynyrd so

I named my cat Lynyrd

He likes to climb

Upon my desk

The right foot comes up

Then a

 big push of the back

On to the sill, he goes

Touching the window with his nose

To see the outer world

Still filled with many woes

He stretched and yawned

Then prepared for the leap

On to the bed for sleep

The spot he found

On a pillow that’s round

Was for Lynyrd quite fine

His world’s better than mine.

 

 

TO UBER

TO UBER

Uber is a new verb in the lexicon of Americans.  If you are in a city and you want to get from point A to point B, bring up the Uber app on your smartphone, tap the button and the screen asks where you are going.  You answer, the name of the driver, his/her picture pops up, and a map appears to show you where the driver is and how long it will take him to get to your location.  Amazing huh!

My friend Christine and I went to Baltimore to eat at Bo Brooks Seafood and

Bo Brooks

 

visit the National Aquarium.  Christine had visited Bo Books 45 years ago at around age 25 and remembered the crabs as tasty, bordering on spectacular.  Even though Bo moved the location to the Canton section of the city, the crabs were still good and the mallets were quite useful.

The National Aquarium was outstanding. We spent four hours at this wonderful facility.  We saw many varieties of fish, turtles, frogs, and nettles.  The main tank was so large that it took four scuba divers to feed the fish. We also saw a dolphin show that was very good and we needed a rest.

Dolphin

We stayed at a terrific place called The Hotel Indigo, a smallish boutique in downtown Baltimore.  We left our car in the garage for our entire stay and we ubered around the city.

Our first driver was Muhammed.  He took us on an adventure through several neighborhoods in Baltimore following the instructions of his GPS to Bo Brooks. There was Middle Eastern music playing on the MP3 player and the car was spotless. No money changed hands as everything was handled seamlessly via credit card on the app.

After having a wonderful dinner of fresh crabs seasoned with Old Bay and crab cakes, we left the restaurant and hailed Uber. Our ride was seven minutes away and we watched his route as he wound his way to us.  He called to tell us he had arrived and I told him we were at the other end of the parking area.  He came to us. Our driver’s name was Waqid and he drove a new Toyota mini-van. He talked all the way to our location. Very friendly!

The next morning, we were off to the Aquarium.  Our driver was a local named Gary—native of Baltimore.  He was like a tour director. He was quick to tell us about the good restaurants and local sights. When we arrived at the inner harbor, he pointed out all the good places to eat and shop.  Gary was the best driver of the six we had.

We were tired, the traffic was bad, and our next driver took eight minutes to arrive.  His professional name was Richard, but he preferred to be called Asher. He asked where we were from and Christine told him, Roanoke. He laughed and told us that he grew up in Roanoke. He went to Patrick Henry High where Christine taught.  Serendipity at work!!

About 7pm, we decided to go out to eat. For some unknown reason, we decided on Mexican.  I found a 4-star Taqueria on Eastern Avenue.  Our Uber driver, Raymond, took us to the exact location.  It was in a very seedy neighborhood and the place was closed.  He wouldn’t let us get out of the car. Instead, he took us 7 blocks in the opposite direction to a very trendy area and the James Joyce Pub and Restaurant.  Lamb stew and Shepherd’s Pie were just the thing and delicious. HOORAY for Raymond!

Hafiz took us back to our place. He got a little confused at a split intersection and we had to redirect. But he got us there without any problem.

Both Chris and I loved our Uber experience.  It is the only way to get around a city like Baltimore. We had x rides in total and spent $60.  Because I parked my car, I avoided a $60 valet fee and paid no parking fee. Balance is wonderful.

REVOLUTION by Community and Love

Community is the missing link for our United States of America.  The first word of our name is UNITED. Is that smell the rising scent of our common humanity or is it just another political organization doing its thing? Before we scatter to the winds, why not consciously join hearts across this nation, abandoning the antiquated boundaries of our localities that have for too long defined our identities and political will.  Why not abandon hatred and divisiveness to replace them with love and compassion?  This sort of radical change would be a demonstration of strength.

 

The NRA (Hate Group # 1) is not necessary for Americans to keep their guns. Why should they have so much sway in the policies of our nation? Why is the Ku Klux Klan (Hate Group # 12) back in our conversations? Why do OUR representatives favor the wealthy over the poor?  Why do these same folks provoke racial tensions or divert our attention with moral and social issues to cover up their destruction of the middle-class economy?  Why do we even listen to the vitriol of a White Supremacist? (Hate Group #2).

 

When ordinary Americans can’t buy food, find health care and enjoy their lives, transgender restrooms won’t matter. I hate the fact that women have faced sexual harassment. I have two daughters and two granddaughters. I don’t want then harassed. But this issue is being used as a diversion to hide the truth about the tax bill and budget, which are designed for the wealthy and corporations.  The deficit is going to balloon!

 

My life has been built on a positive belief in the wonderful prospects for America. But the current prospects for the average American are bleak. Change is needed and fast.  I believe without a single doubt that a revolution in the economic construct of our nation is necessary to solve this disaster in the making.  Why should the top 1 % or even the top 10% of wealth holders have all the advantages? The only way this happens is if ordinary folks come together in communities to force the change. When the bubble bursts for the stock market and the economy tanks, it will be dismal for a very long time.  We have an example to learn from if we will.

 

In mid-2016, a poll conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics found something startling: only 19% of Americans ages 18 to 29 identified themselves as “capitalists.” In the richest and most market-oriented country in the world, only 42% of that group said they “supported capitalism.” The numbers were higher among older people; still, only 26% considered themselves capitalists. A little over half supported our capitalist system. This represents more than just millennials not minding the label “socialist” or disaffected middle-aged Americans tiring of an anemic recovery. It shows that most of our citizens are uncomfortable with the country’s economic foundation—a system that over two hundred years ago turned a fledgling society of farmers and prospectors into the most prosperous nation in human history.

 

Why the change in attitude? It’s the realization that capitalism is not a fair system as practiced in the USA.  It creates suffering.  It continues to create pockets of poverty and does not include those pockets in any recovery. Resources are directed elsewhere. The early days of American capitalism—the nineteenth century after the Civil War, the “Gilded Age,” the era of the “robber barons”—were always beset by a cycle of boom and bust. The great runs of expansion and opportunity that arose, were always coupled with a cataclysmic depression right around the corner. Boom and bust, boom and bust—this was the necessary pattern of the American economy in its primitive state.

 

 

But now the U. S. economy is dominated by our government sector, which is managed by people who have no clue how our economy works. Just look at the current tax reform legislation in Congress.  And an assessment of how the Great Recession of 2007-2008 was handled shows how close we came to disaster.

The U.S. Financial Inquiry Commission produced its findings in January 2011. It concluded that “the crisis was avoidable” and was caused by: widespread failures in financial regulation, including the Federal Reserve’s failure to stem the tide of toxic mortgages; dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance including too many financial firms acting recklessly and taking on too much risk; an explosive mix of excessive borrowing and risk by households and Wall Street that put the financial system on a collision course with crisis; key policy makers ill prepared for the crisis, lacking a full understanding of the financial system they oversaw; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels.

Amazingly, not a single executive of any bank or brokerage firm went to jail.  The CEO of Merrill Lynch gave himself a large bonus, even though he had to sell his bankrupt business to Bank of America.  The CEO of B of A finally was forced to resign based on his purchase of both Countrywide and Merrill Lynch.  Many executives faced clawbacks of bonuses and pension contributions.

But the stock market—–OH MY!

On December 10, 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) reached 13,727.03.  On March 6, 2009, the DJIA fell to a low of 6626.94, a 51.7% drop from the high.  Since that low, the DJIA has steadily risen to a high of 23,557.23, or 3.5X.

What happened to drive prices so dramatically higher? The simple answer is that there were more buyers than sellers. But there were other factors.   TARP was passed by Congress in 2008 and created a group of programs to stabilize the country’s financial system, restore economic growth and prevent foreclosures in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis through purchasing troubled companies’ assets and equity. Congress approved the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The economic stimulus package ended the Great Recession by spurring consumer spending. Its goal was to save between 900,000 to 2.3 million jobs. Most important, it instilled the confidence needed to boost growth.   It also aimed to restore trust in the finance industry by limiting bonuses for senior executives in companies that received TARP funds. These two actions saved the financial system and spurred employment.

During this period, the Fed drove interest rates to very low levels and they have remained low.  Bonds did not offer an attractive alternative to stocks. The economy has grown at an average rate of 2.1% which is not sufficient to create inflation and a robust demand for goods. But corporate earnings have been strong as companies have cut costs and improved productivity on a large scale.   Corporations have also used cheap borrowed money to buy their own stock, which decreases the shares outstanding and raises earning per share, leading to higher stock prices. This has a major impact on the stock market.

And NOW?

Without question, the rise in stock prices has been gigantic and it is not all that easy to explain with traditional measures.

The proposed tax cut for corporations should help some in 2018 and may lead to the repatriation of funds held offshore.  The difficulty is that many companies have shifted strategies regarding growth opportunities. They no longer desire to grow organically but are much more likely to buy market share and look for new opportunities through acquisition.  Productivity improvements which are reflected in stock prices and shareholder value are derived from employment reductions for the most part.  Do not expect a huge bump in economic growth.

The elimination of deductions and the bracket changes are going to be a wash for the middle class.  People with incomes between $500,000 and $1 million are likely to be the big beneficiaries.

In 2018, the economy is likely to grow by 2% and inflation is likely to remain subdued.  There do not appear to be any pricing pressures: employment has been strong, but wage gains have been modest; capacity is available in manufacturing; commodity prices have shown only modest gains.  Look for a relatively flat yield curve with long rates coming down ¼-1/2 point to 2½% or so on the long treasury.   The stock bubble is going to burst in advance of a recession in 2019 which is likely as productivity gains and stock repurchases run their course and the yield curve stays flat. Look out below!

What Next?

Our country has experienced a self-righteous upsurge in political loyalty and ideology that blots out conscience and absolves every criminal action in the name of wealth and class, race, patriotism, and party.  The citizens of America must demand a government based on trust, loyalty and the greater good.  This will require a major change in our government.

A community-based nation would have to acknowledge certain basic rights.

The right to life is the most fundamental right, of which all other rights are corollaries.  No one may force you to do anything, no one may injure you in any way, and above all, no one may take your life.

The right to liberty is a part of the right to life., specifically referring to your freedom of action. You may do what you want, when you want, provided you don’t trample on the rights of anyone else.

Property rights are an extension to the right to life, to own and use the product of your labor. If the tools of your survival are subject to random confiscation, then your life is subject to random destruction.

The right to the pursuit of happiness is freedom of action. The right to the pursuit of happiness means a man is free to do anything he pleases if it doesn’t conflict with the rights of others.

The right to free speech is a recognition that speech if devoid of physical threats is not an initiation of force and does not warrant any retaliatory force. Freedom of speech is required for liberty because without the freedom of speech, you cannot persuade others of what is right and what is wrong. Without the freedom to persuade others, only force can make people act in a certain way. Freedom of Speech is an important check on government because it allows transgressions to be identified and fixed rather than hidden and perpetuated.

The right to defend yourself is a corollary to the right to life. You must be able to protect what is yours when it is threatened.

Taxation is a form of force which is immoral, destructive, and unacceptable whether perpetrated by an individual or government. Specifically, taxation negates the concept of property rights by claiming that the government has first right to the income or money of its citizens.  The view that every man’s work is the property of the state, and he can keep only what the state feels appropriate, is contrary to the view that man has a right to exist for his own sake. Taxation is inconsistent with DEMOCRACY.  Only when individuals deal with each other as having equal rights and no one is sacrificed to anyone and nothing is extorted to “common” or “individual good” — only then can people truly see each other as a benefit and an asset rather than another competitor for the same stuff. A community based on love and equality will thrive.

A moral government with a narrowly defined role of preventing the initiation of force is a great good to all citizens.  The vision would be that our Federal Government would have only the responsibility for providing a military force for the protection of the citizens.

State governments would have responsibility for maintaining basic laws concerning safety and equality of its citizens.  They would manage the police force, manage airports and roadways, and ensure property rights are observed.  Airports and roadways would be financed by user fees.

Less government intrusion and spending.

Let’s call a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION to repeal Amendment 16; to repeal Amendment 12; to amend Amendment 22 to include term limits for Congressmen and Senators; to amend Amendment 27 to make the cost of living formula for raises for Congress to the same used for Social Security. Revise Amendment 12 such that federal powers do not supersede state powers.

If you want more information on how history is repeating itself, email me at tekimthims@aol.com and I will send you a longer a longer commentary.

T. Michael Smith, COQ

(Chief of Quirkiness)

 

LIGHTNING ROCKS

Lightning is my granddaughter Emma’s dog, but he truly loves me.  Every time I go to Sarah and Keith’s house, I sit on the leather sofa because it is central, comfortable and I can protect myself as Lightning sprints through the door and takes a giant leap into my lap.  He proceeds to give me sloppy, wet kisses all over my face. And his tail is wagging so fast that it is a blur. He barks incessantly with his shrill tenor voice.  Sometimes he greets me with a little urine drip if he hasn’t been outside lately.  I don’t mind because I love this dog.

Lightning is a dachshund with a very large personality.  He is the larger dog in the picture above. The little fellow looking on is Mr. Jingles, Lightning’s running mate.  He is not as exuberant as Lightning and often seeks a safe haven in Sarah’s lap.  He’s not very fond of men in general.

If you notice in the picture, Lightning has what appears to be a rock in his mouth. It is a rock.  Every time Hattie goes to the trampoline, Lightning tags along.  The very first thing he does on arrival is to look for a mouth size rock.  He digs vigorously around the edges of the rock and uses his paws to dig it out of its resting place.  He then makes sure it is the correct size.  His rock is never just any rock–it has to be just right.

When satisfied, he throws the rock into the air and pounces on it.  He hits the rock with his nose, it rolls a few feet and he pounces on it again.  He then hits the rock with his right paw, then his left and dribbles the rock for 6 feet or so like a soccer player.  As Sarah and I sat watching Hattie do gymnastics on the trampoline, Lightning continued with his rock antics in the same order (mouth, nose, paws) for forty minutes.  AMAZING.  I have had lots of dogs, but never one that plays with rocks.  By the way, he brings his favorites into the house and keeps them in the playroom.

Dogs are wonderful participants in this life.

PERDUE HOLLOW REVISITED!

I have this cousin named Mary.  She came into my life when I was four or five and she remained there for eleven years or so.  Then my favorite Aunt Edith married Walt and Mary disappeared into Walt’s family.  She was no longer a part of my life and I missed her.  She was the sibling I never had and she got a brother and sister in the new arrangement. When there were opportunities to see her at my grandmother’s house, I stayed away because I didn’t want the pain of missing her all over again. I was seventeen and didn’t know what I was losing.

The year 2017 has brought a massive change and Mary has come back into my life with a bang. She is on a mission of reuniting those of us that have been lost and I am grateful to her.  She has been to my place in Roanoke, I have been to visit her and her husband Steve in Louisville, and recently we had lunch with our cousin John and his wife Kay at the Valley Country Restaurant in Green Valley, West Virginia.  After lunch, we drove to Brush Fork, West Virginia to our grandparents’ homestead in Perdue Hollow.  Our cousin Don owns the place today and he has done a terrific job refurbishing the house.

IMG_0499

As a youngster,  my bedroom was in the left back corner on the second floor of the house.  Mary slept in the front room across the hall from Weaver and Dora, our grandparents.  For the longest time, this house was about a mile off the Perdue Hollow Road.  It was also the home of our great-grandparents Will and Mary Perdue.  We were all part of the long line of Perdue’s that inhabited this large Valley or “Holler” as we preferred.  Then they built the airport road right through the middle of the farm.  It’s still a two-lane road–the airport is not very busy. I never liked that road.

Donnie, Mike(me) and Johnny new every inch of the mountains and plateaus around the place. Plus we knew a lot about the Whitt Hollow which was on the other side of our mountains.  This “Holler” was mysterious and a little scary, but we were brave lads looking for adventure.  Soon enough we had Mary tagging after us to the Whitt Hollow.  The memories of this wondrous place are much grander than the actual events in the fifties. But, I cherish every moment I was there.

Mary, John and I were waiting for Don in the drive where the old gate used to stand,  looking up the valley.  It all looked closer together–the big hill with the road to the plateau was somehow closer than it seemed in 1950 or even 1957.  I haven’t seen the place for 39 years and haven’t seen my cousin Don or his new wife, Connie, in that time.  I was upset by the way Don had manipulated my Grandmother to let him have the property.  She was a difficult person to deal with most of the time (actually she had a mean streak), so he probably deserved it for his efforts to help her.  I am not upset anymore.

Don finally arrived.  Connie was in the house and he took me in to meet her.  She was not feeling well but was very lovely and nice.  The house was beautiful on the inside and Don showed me a picture of Will, Mary and their ten children, including Dora Belle.  My grandmom hated the name Belle.  I knew all the children in that picture–my aunts, and uncles.

The fourValley Country of us stood in the yard and talked about old times.  It hit me like a punch in the stomach.  I love Mary.  I love Don. I love John.  I love Steve, Connie, and Kay.  Standing in that place we were one and always will be.