Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Just Who is the Government Bailing Out?

On October 3, 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Stabilization Act of 2008 ( ) (aka, the bailout) and several other acts which gave the U.S. Department of Treasury the authority to establish and manage a Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) though the newly created Office of Financial Stability. The value of this bailout package is $700,000,000,000.

The Emergency Stabilization Act contains weak limitations on executive compensation. In Section 111, companies whose bad debt is acquired within an auction process and for which the government gets an equity portion, and only for such companies, executive compensation is to exclude provisions that might encourage the executive to take unnecessary risks and prohibits golden parachutes. Nevertheless, this still does not stop them from making multimillion dollar in salaries, bonuses, and limited stock options.

On December 21, 2008, an Associated Press (AP) ( article stated, “Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses and other benefits, last year (2007) … Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships, and personal money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.”

On the following day, December 22nd, another AP article ( said that they contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money. AP asked them four questions. “How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what's the plan for the rest? None of the banks provided specific answers... Some banks said they simply didn't know where the money was going." In response, “none of the banks provided specific answers and some banks said they simply didn’t know where the money was going.”

To apply for the big bailout bucks, these financial institutions had to fill out all but a short-form application – only two pages. Keep in mind; it takes a lot more paper work for the common average citizen and small business owner to apply for a small business loan, credit card, a home loan, student loan, or even an automobile purchase. Banks and lending institutions want to know where every penny is going. With the U.S. Treasury, not so! It’s merely a free-for-all -- and a credit check and background isn’t even required! Just answer some simple questions on the two pages, sign it, and the billions are yours -- obviously, without any accountability or oversight. Have you ever seen the internet commercials advertising “free government money?” Here it is at your fingertips!” So, the next time you decide to go into business for yourself, apply to be a bank or a financial institution in need.

Meanwhile, on the same day, CNN interviewed an average citizen fighting to avoid foreclosure. According to him, banks have refused to negotiate terms of resettlement of his mortgage by a bank that had been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The program was designed to assist those facing foreclosure. CNN news reported that there were no incentives for banks to lend money after receiving bailout money from the government and then were either doing very little lending, or not lending at all.

Yet, people continue to lose their jobs, their homes, and their livelihoods, while corporate executives feast on a taxpayer bailout. Exactly who is the government bailing out? Has the government betrayed the people and sold out to executives of Corporate America?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fighting for Equal Rights -- God's Plan

The nation has come a long way by electing its first African-American president. As a member of a minority race, I am elated. But the road to equal rights for everyone is still a monumental challenge. On the same day that Barak Obama was elected 44th President of the United States of America, California passed a proposition to amend the state’s constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Proponents of Proposition 8 claim that the California State Supreme Court ruled against the will of the people through a landmark decision granting gay and lesbian couples to marry in California with equal rights and privileges as couples married in traditional weddings. Proponents claim that same-sex marriages would destroy the “institution of marriage,” but never once provided any proof nor demonstrated how same-sex marriages are harmful to this institution.

Realistically, marriages occur quite frequently through civil weddings at city hall, in the courts before a magistrate or a judge. The granting authority for issuing marriage licenses lies within the local government (i.e. the county clerk) – not the church – whether it be a civil or a religious ceremony. So where do moral values have a right to trump the authority of government? What is more important? Moral values based on collective individual beliefs, or civil/equal rights belonging to a group or to many people?

Yes, our founding fathers established this nation based on Christian values. But, they had the moral sense to recognize the existence of other religions, creeds, and beliefs, and established freedoms of religion and worship. Furthermore, they adapted the practice and policy of separation of church and state. Christianity, therefore, is not the “official” religion of this country. Nor, for that matter, is there an “official” religion of any kind in this nation. Look around – even in your Yellow Pages – and see how many different kinds of churches exist in your neighborhood. However, this nation is founded on the principle that “all men are created equal.” I think in today's world, we should to say that "all humans are created equal."

People say that “civil unions” are the same as being married. Not so! Civil unions are not equally recognized – by insurance companies and medical institutions, for example. Same-sex couples do not receive the same benefits as traditional couples. In ancient times, marriages were an arrangement of man and woman between two families. Rarely was religion involved in the process. It was, a mutual agreement. In fact, polygamy was a common practice -- one man, many wives. This also held true in some parts of old America. Ironically, it was descendants of these same people who supported Proposition 8 with millions of dollars. These people didn't even live in the state of California! Yet, they elected to impose their values on the people of this state.

Moral values are purely an individual belief. Your “moral values” may not necessarily agree with mine or with others who may have different moral beliefs based on different religious backgrounds. Therefore, people should not impose their moral values on others – especially when it impedes on their civil and/or equal rights. Morality cannot and should not be governed nor dictated by one group of people against another.

There are already enough societal inequalities existing in this nation that we still must contend with. Such as inequitable job opportunities; pay for both men and women; social class differences; educational differences and opportunities, etc. We still have a long way to go on this road to equality.

The placement of Proposition 8 was immoral and unconstitutional. It discriminates against a certain group of people and violates their civil rights as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Civil Rights Act. Besides, the proposition was passed by a slim majority – separated by only a few percentage points. Therefore, the proponents cannot claim that the measure passed overwhelmingly and is the “will of the people.”

Kami Jin (Paper People) is in essence a defense of equal rights. Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” I believe this to be inclusive of gays and lesbians. God and Jesus have taught us to forgive. Rather than tear and break each other down, we should build each other up – edify one another.

If moral values were established in the Bible, then we have to remember that the Bible was heavily edited by men in King Constantine’s court. Who knows what important things were changed and left out? And, since then, “moral values” have been constantly changed and modified to meet “man’s own needs,” in many cases, to meet the needs of certain civilizations, countries, and even states. This is why you will find same-sex marriages perfectly acceptable in one state, and totally unacceptable in another state. Gays are accepted in some countries with open arms, killed in other countries.

If it came down to deciding between “moral values” and “equal rights,” then I would have to favor on the side of equality. Moral values are mine and/or yours. We may agree on them, we may not agree on them. Equal rights belong to humanity. We must work for the equality of all mankind around the world, regardless of race, gender, color, age, social status, and sexual orientation. We all have a measure of God in us – this includes gays and lesbians. Love them like your sisters and brothers. This is God's Plan

Thursday, November 13, 2008

General Motors -- An Opportunity for Change?

General Motors has been in the news recently clamining that the company will not have enough capital to last them through the end of the year.  President-elect Obama wants to consider a bailout of this major auto manufacturer.  While it may be devastating to see this company go belly-up -- and I dearly love my Chevrolet Cavalier and have my eyes set on a Saturn SUV Hybrid -- maybe there is an underlying message here.

Buddha talked about impermanence -- everything in life is non permanent.  General Motors cannot escape this law and fact of life.  Perhaps we need to let go of things of the past in order to clear and pave way for better things to come in the future.  Will GM become a thing of the past like that of the Edsel only to remain in the memories of auto buffs?  Will a line of new generation automobile manufacturers emerge that will deliver us from the dependence of foreign oil?

Or, this will be good opportunity to get General Motors to commit to delivering and manufacturing more environmentaly-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles, and delivering them to market at an accelerated pace, if America were to bail them out.  But, only on the condition that they commit and pledge themselves to this effort so that we can truly become dependent on foreign oil and, that they will make every measure to save their workforce from being outsourced (i.e. return jobs back to America).

In the book, cars in the 23rd Century are designed to get 500 miles on two (2) tablespoons of gas using vials.  Why wait for the 23rd Century?  I challenge automobile manufacturers to either match or beat this 23rd Century gas consumption standard now in the 21st Century.

Congratulations to President-elect Obama

America has truly crossed a milestone in its history and I am glad I was alive to see it.  My congratulations to President-elect Obama as he and his transition team prepare to lead this country into change for the better during the next four years.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Thought Behind Kami Jin (Paper People)

When I started my story over 30 years ago, I started with a notion of creating a screenplay about an ordinary individual in the 23rd Century who gets caught up in a mass hysteria when war breaks out between a fictitious island of Napajan and the Republic of North America. The protagonist, a Napajanese-American, is forced into a relocation camp an lives a life similar to what the Japanese-Americans went through during World War II. At least that was the original premise of the story. However, as I procrastinated with the screenplay, personal influences and events in my life began to have a profound influence on the story and the screenplay shifted to a science fiction novel. Around, 1999 I personally was laid off as a consultant and couldn't find work for over 4 years. My retirement evaporated, my savings accounts wiped out, and mounting anxieties led to a downward spiral of my health forcing me into long-term disability. But as I managed to get on Social Security disability, I've seen others lose their homes and possessions. It reminded me of people treated inhumanely by society -- tossed out into the streets and forced to defend for themselves without any real form of assistance. It was like being used once in your lifetime, then tossed out. Very much similar to how we use paper plates -- we use them once and throw them away. Either you've become too old for the workplace, your skills are no longer needed, or you've been outsourced by cheaper labor by someone else in another country. "Kami" is a Japanese word for "paper." "Jin" is a Japanese word for person or people. It's as if common Americans have become like "paper people" or "paper plates" -- used once and tossed away. As one of the photos the slide show on my website clearly illustrates, "layoffs destroy lives."

This blog welcomes your comments and your experiences.