Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

On the "Liberal" Media

I heard a commentator on the radio denounce all mainstream corporate-owned media outlets as "liberal," and when challenged on it he said it was because liberal people read/watch/listen to them.

I started thinking (I know, that's a "liberal" thing to do): The New York Times publishes Bush's lies about Iraq beating the drums for war all over the front page. Then when those claims are refuted by the facts they bury those in the inside pages. They get word that Bush has committed an impeachable offense spying on American citizens without warrants in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, and they sit on it for over a year after the 2004 election is over. Does that sound "liberal" to you?

And Bob Somerby over at The Daily Howler ( is always talking about how the mainstream so-called "liberal" media attacked Al Gore throughout 1999 to 2000 (and still it continues) while giving Bush a free ride. Example: At the first debate, Al Gore had all the facts and argued rings around the ignorant Bush. But because Bush didn't completely collapse the mainstream media assessment was that Bush won the debate. Even though he lost the arguments they announced him the winner because he didn't completely dissolve.

Yeah. "liberal" media.

Liberal media my pet goat.

Friday, September 22, 2006

On Congress's Capitulation

Well, the Republican mavericks didn't stray too far from the herd. They let Bush continue his torturing of the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution in order to continue torturing (mostly innocent) captives.

They say it's a compromise. If you believe that the White House gave up more than a token in its position, I have some mountain-top property in Kansas I'd like to sell you. Meanwhile, the Democrats sat back and let the Republicans frame the terms of the debate--AGAIN!

Tom Tomorrow (This Modern World) said it best in his blog:

"Digby’s not the only one ready to call this one a defeat for Democrats but it shouldn’t be too hard for them to regain control on this issue (provided that a couple of them grow a spine). A decent rebuttal would go something like this :

“Senators McCain and Graham may have sold out on this issue, but the Democratic party still believes that torture is torture, no matter what the President may choose to call it. We in the Democratic party aren’t willing to sacrifice our humanity in order to protect our way of life, because to do so would destroy the moral foundation upon which this great nation was founded. The inhuman treatment of suspects by this administration is deplorable and if Senator McCain is no longer opposed to torture, then we’ll have to continue this fight without him.”

Don’t let the conventional wisdom coalesce around the notion that rubber stamping the President’s bill is a compromise. The GOP “rebels” are cowards for buckling under the pressure of their President and their party. The only compromise was the one made when those Senators sold their souls."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On Health Insurance

My 1991 Mazda 626 is in pretty good shape. It has only 204,000 miles on it (note to self: Schedule an oil change for it and the truck), so it's in its prime.

The only thing is, it needs some work. In July the air conditioner compressor burned out, and there's a $500 dent in the front fender. I need a new radio antenna, too.

Now, do I trade cars, or do I keep this one a while longer. Two friends have Miatas for sale, and I need another convertible.

This brings me to today's topic. I can't afford to trade cars right now because I have too many unpaid medical bills. I still owe the dentist $800, I owe the hospital several hundred from an ER visit in January when I had a spell of vertigo, we are paying lab co-payments from the past year, and now my wife had to go to the ER Monday with gall bladder pain. We went back for an ultrasound this morning, and the gall bladder is normal, thank goodness.

But I also need extensive dental work, despite the daily calcium I take. I went to the dentist I have been seeing, and they wanted $2700 up front before he would start work. So I went to another dentist. She will work out a more reasonable payment schedule, but she also found a cyst on my gum which will require surgery, and I don't know if I have insurance to cover that.

So, I can't do what I want or need, because every spare dollar I get has to go to medical bills.

Of course, it could be worse. I could be like my brother-in-law in Charlotte. He had to fight off Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma with no medical insurance. He and my sister will both leave medical bills as part of their estates.

The United States ranks no. 29 in the world (or thereabouts) when it comes to quality of health care, yet we spend more money than any other country. Waiting time for services averages about the same for elective surgery as other countries have, and about the same for all other surgeries.

We are rationing health care the way we ration gasoline in this country. Those who can afford it pay for it, and those who can't pay for it don't get it. At least here in the middle class. The rich can afford it, and the poor use the ER as their primary source of health care. Poor people wait until there is an emergency, rather than get things fixed when it is easier and cheaper. But when you can't afford it, you don't get it. Therefore the rest of us pay for those who can't pay at the ER in the form of higher fees, higher deductibles, higher premiums, and higher CEO salaries for insurance companies.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield has been spending vast sums of money on tropical island outings and sponsorship of golf tournaments instead of reducing premiums or better health care for their customers.

And they have us over a barrel. We either buy their insurance, or we live out our lives fighting off medical bill collectors.

It's time for a change, and the majority of Americans are in favor of such a change.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On Torture

One quick question: Has anyone thought to talk to Japanese WWII survivors who participated in torturing prisoners or to North Vietnamese who tortured American prisoners to ask them whether the torture ever actually produced any good, useful information?

Just a thought.

Otherwise, reason and common sense dictate that if you use torture as an information-gathering mechanism you are wasting your effort. As I have stated here before, if you torture someone till he is ready to confess to the Crucifixion, how reliable is that information?

Obviously it wasn't reliable enough to keep us from stepping into the mess in Iraq.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On Reading

I love to read--magazines, newspapers, books. I do a lot of reading of blogs. The problem is, I've bought too many books. My bookshelves won't hold any more. They're piling up in the bedroom we've converted into an office, in the living room, and in the other spare bedroom.

Yet I want to support those who are writing new books espousing my pet causes.

I guess I'm going to have to get off my duff and take some of those I've read to the used book store and trade them in. I'll come away with fewer books than I carry in, but the problem is, I don't want to part with enough of them. Yes, I know I'll probably never crack one open again, but I feel some sort of security holding onto them. I look at the titles piled up gathering dust, and I can congratulate myself on my erudite research.

Meanwhile, I get e-mails advertising new books that state ideas I want to read, and by the time they reach the library, the Bush Administration will probably be over. I have books stashed away from the Nixon Administration I never got around to reading then, but lately, I've been reading all the books I've bought, plus those I get every month from

That service, by the way, is one of the best sources I've come across to keep up with my favorite authors (e.g., Robert B. Parker, Lawrence Block, Kay Hooper--a fellow native of Forest City and East Rutherford High graduate--Kathy Reichs, also from North Carolina, and my latest discovery, Mark de Castrique, another North Carolinian) without having to buy the books. After I read them I send them back and get more.

Now, if only I had time to read all the magazines I want to read....

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On Partisanship

I started this blog hoping to find some common ground with people across the aisle. After all, God is not a Republican nor a Democrat. In one of my first posts I mentioned the diversity among Jesus' disciples. And if he can diversify, why can't we, all of whom claim to be seeking the truth?

I named this blog redblueletter, hoping to have dialogue with those on both sides.

But in the past two years this country has become more polarized than I have seen it since the Vietnam era of the early 1970s. The emphasis is not so much on being right as it is on winning at any cost.

The problem I have with Professional Wrestling is that the "good guys" violate the rules as blatantly as the "bad guys" do. We miss teaching our children that cheating to win makes the win worthless. Yet that doesn't seem to register in the political world. The last three elections have been filled with rampant cheating by the party that screams loudest about "values."

I am so disgusted by the hypocrisy around me that I want to scream.

God save America.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Local Issues--Water

The state of our water is of extreme importance worldwide.

Okay, that sounded like the beginning of an academic term paper or an exam essay. Sorry.

The issue around here is the Catawba River. It serves as the main water source for communities and cities from Marion, past Charlotte, and into South Carolina. Now, Concord and Kannapolis want to draw from the Catawba for their expanding needs. The mayor of Concord was a high school friend and classmate, so I don't want to disparage him or his community.

BUT, I want them to keep their paws off our watershed. We have lost a lot of industrial jobs here in Caldwell County, and we need for new industry to come in. That new industry just might need some of that water. If Concord and Kannapolis get it, it won't be here for use by that new industry.

Besides, they are close enough to the Yadkin-Pee Dee basin to draw water from there. As one letter writer in the paper pointed out, there is a lower percentage of potential water used from that source, and more water available.

The meeting at Valdese lasted five hours last night with most of the crowd opposed. There'll be another soon in the Charlotte area. I intend to get my comments to the N. C. Division of Water Resources before the deadline.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

On Common Sense

I just saw a great post on today's DailyKos concerning the aftermath of the Katrina disaster.

You know who has the most experience in the world in dealing with below-sea-level land and protecting same? The Netherlands, of course.

So in today's DailyKos, they tell about the chief Dutch engineer who has great ideas about how to rebuild, manage, and control the land situation in New Orleans.

I quote:

Hans Vrijling, a renowned authority on flood control who designed part of the Dutch system, says it should be possible to protect New Orleans---even low-lying sections---from storm surges more than 10 times Katrina's. The price tag: less than $10 billion.

Our solution: throw nearly $6 billion at rebuilding levees that we know are far from fail-safe, and then throw another $20 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a plan. Once again, "Old Europe" looks at us and shakes its head:

Vrijling, for one, can't understand what the Corps is going to study for so long. The technology already exists and has been tested over decades in the Netherlands. He says Dutch and American engineers, working together, would need only "a couple of months" to draw up a detailed plan.

Tom again: I have always been critical of the C of E ever since I was old enough to see their mistakes. They're about to make another big one.

On Common Sense

I just saw a great post on today's DailyKos concerning the aftermath of the Katrina disaster.

You know who has the most experience in the world in dealing with below-sea-level land and protecting same? The Netherlands, of course.

So in today's DailyKos, they tell about the chief Dutch engineer who has great ideas about how to rebuild, manage, and control the land situation in New Orleans. He says they can work out a plan in about three weeks.

Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend a billion dollars and a year of study working out something that we all know won't be as good a plan as the Dutch could give us from their experience.

I have always been critical of the C of E ever since I was old enough to see their mistakes. They're about to make another big one.