I Am Going So Fast and Getting Nowhere Faster

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How often have you heard the aphorism that “The journey is more important than the destination?”  A related wisdom was one that we used in my consulting firm when I was working for Process Management International.  I believe we stole it from some of Dr. W. E. Deming’s writings.  It was that “The process was more important than the outcome or results.”

Throughout my life I have tried to live by each of these.  It is not always easy to follow something that you know is true and that will make your life better and happier.  As the saying goes “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.”  Knowing is not necessarily doing.  So, let’s look at how we can make our vacations and trips more fun and more meaningful.

“The journey is more important than the destination.”  As simple as this sounds, do you know what it means?  If we really knew the meaning not just in our heads but in our hearts, it would be difficult to ignore.  However, that is what most of us start off doing.  We plan a vacation or trip, and we talk more about where we are going than how we are getting there.  My father used to measure the success of a vacation by how quickly he could get to our endpoint.  He had no time to stop and see any attractions along the way.  He tried to avoid even stopping at a motel.  Most of the time, he would drive all night and let us sleep in the car along the way.  He would brag about how fast he could get someplace.  I hated trips with my father.  They lacked any semblance of fun.

When I started canoeing, I was obsessed with paddling as fast and as far as I could on each of my trips.  A good canoe mentor named Joe Conrad cautioned me that I should stop and smell the roses more often.  Once I heeded his advice, my canoeing became more fun.  Even along a lazy winding rural river, there are so many sights to see along the way.

I am sure that you have often heard that “I need a vacation from my vacation.”  Whenever, I hear this, I think of my first trip to Europe.  We rented a car and tried to see every European country (Almost) in a week.  A friend of mine warned be about this “American” tendency but I did not heed his advice.  It was not until Karen and I returned, burnt out, unhappy, and unsmiling, that the wisdom of his words hit home.  I resolved to spend more time in only one country and never try to do the “grand tour” of the world again.  Since then, my vacations have been fun and each one of our trips has only gotten better.

huangshan-sunrise-1140-2Somedays when we are on vacation, we do not go anywhere.  We stay in a small apartment in some recently found village or town and cook meals, talk, and take walks around the area.  No great jaunts to see any “Seven Wonders of the World.”  Most of our trips are not cruises so we have few schedules.  We get up when we want to.  We go out when we want to.  We see what we want to, and we come back when we want to.  Often the sights that we see along the way are unscheduled and not in any travel guides.  We became friends with a Swiss couple at a soccer match we happened to stop and watch one night.  We traveled in China to a mountain where we spent the day climbing with a couple whom we met in China.  The next morning all of us watched the sun rise over the mountain tops.

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In a little taverna in Naxos, we would sit every evening on the beach and eat fried squid, drink a local liquor, and watch the sunset.  We did this every evening for two weeks and never got bored.  Our one side trip to Santorini was a waste of a day.  We followed the advice that “EVERYONE” gave us when they said, “You must see Santorini!’  We spent two hours in a smelly boat getting there and it was one big tourist trap.  As for the beauty of the bay, it was undeniable, but we had the same and many more beautiful sights on our little island.

What are the obstacles to “smelling the roses?”   I would list the three major obstacles as follows:

  • Missing events in favor of things
  • Bragging rights
  • Time traps

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Missing events:

There are always many sights to see on any trip.  Many of these sights are famous and well worth seeing.  Many of them can also be very touristy.  However, you would not want to go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or Louvre.  But there are also many events that are always happening in small and large towns.  Unfortunately, you cannot find most of these events on tourist guides because they are usually local events that may happen yearly or only occasionally.  I am thinking of the flea market at Portobello Road where Karen and I spend a day just wondering around looking at the things for sale.  I am also thinking of the Tokyo Fish Market when I got up at 5:30 AM to go see the hundreds of fish vendors and how they sell the widest assortment of fresh seafood that I have ever seen in my life.  I might forget the Louvre, but I will never forget the Tokyo Fish Market.

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Rule 1:  Take time to seek out events on a trip. 

Bragging rights:

So, who doesn’t want some bragging rights.  Yes, I saw the Tower of London and the crown jewels.  Yes, I saw the Sistine Chapel.  Yes, I saw the Acropolis.  But you know what, none of my friends or parthenon-facts-thumbnailrelatives cared.  There are things you are told that you must see.  Ask yourself why?  Then make a list of the things that YOU really want to see.  I went to a Baptist Revival Meeting once when I was in Birmingham, Alabama.  It was a three-hour old-fashioned tent revival meeting complete with an altar call.  Being a devout Atheist, I thought I would be lynched when the service was over.  Instead, many people came up to Karen and I and after some brief chit chat invited us to a large pot-luck dinner.  We declined but were touched at the hospitality and friendliness of the church goers.  I wondered if I was Black would I have received the same invitation?

Rule 2:  Do not let ego overrule your own idea of what would be fun and interesting.

Time traps:

  • I would love to join you, but I must be at such and such a place!
  • Sounds like fun, but I really do not have the time!

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I have heard so many excuses from retired people in respect to not having the time to do things that it simply boggles my mind.  People dream to be retired so that they can have the time to do what they would like to do but instead weigh themselves down with to-do lists and schedules that would cross a rabbi’s eyes.  Some people like Tevye thought it was a matter of having enough money.

“If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack to sit in the synagogue and pray

And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall

And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day

And that would be the sweetest thing of all.”  — Fiddler on the Roof

In truth friends, it is neither time nor money which we lack, it is usually the will.  If you are retired or on vacation or have a day off, you probably have a choice over what you must do.  However, if you are governed by a should list or a must list, you will be a slave to time and money.  We can only free ourselves from these constraints by a power of the will.  Making a choice in our lives over what is important.

I am not saying that we don’t have schedules and that time and money are not important.  But we all know people that seem to accomplish so much more than we do.  We scratch our heads at the abilities of these people.  But do we ever stop to think that they have no more time and often no more money than we do?

When I say that it is a matter of will, I am talking about thinking about our real priorities and acting on them for the long term.  That good friend that invited you over for dinner might not be around next year.  That invitation to go on a trip might not be possible in the future.  Karen and I once went on a fantastic seven-day cruise on a 182-foot-tall ship named the Sir Francis Drake.  Thirty crew and eighteen passengers with a draft that allowed us to sail in the shallowest bays all added up to a trip that we will never forget.  We put off many times going on another trip with this vessel.  Then one day we read that the Sir Francis Drake was moored in a Honduran harbor when a hurricane hit.  The next morning the ship was gone.  It had washed out to sea and sank.  The old saying “never put off till tomorrow what you can do today” instantly came to my mind.”

Rule 3:  Get your priorities straight.  Life is short

As always, I welcome your comments and would love to hear your trip or vacation advice.  What are your favorites trips?  What made them fun?  What would you do different?

My Thanksgiving Message to the World 11-24-2022

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Fear, Anger and Greed have become epidemic in society today.  The opposite of these traits are Peace, Love, and Charity.  I do not think the hope for civilization lies in politics or our political leaders.  But if we all will commit to spreading Peace, Love and Charity, I believe we can change the world.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

When you say your blessing today at mealtime or whenever, bless the world for what you have.  Be grateful to those who helped you achieve your life and its attainments.  We all reach higher levels by standing on the shoulders of others who help us along our chosen paths.  When you are done recognizing the people who have helped you, I would like to ask you to make a commitment.  The commitment is to promise to do all that you can to help spread Peace, Love and Charity to your friends, your relatives, your country, and the rest of the world.  Let each of us do what we can to erase the diseases of Fear, Anger and Greed.

May you all enjoy Peace, Love and Charity today and the rest of your lives. 

John and Karen Persico 

Do We Live in Evil Times?

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A few years ago, I started writing and talking about evil and sin.  Some of my friends questioned my use of these typically religious terms.  They wondered whether the secular complaints against modern society that I was making were amenable to such terms as sin and evil.  I would have agreed with them many years ago but more recently I began to think somewhat differently.  No, I did not get “born again” or discover Christ or God.  I have never found either of them and I stopped looking many years ago.  What I did discover is that there is something sublime about the concepts of sin and evil that can be very useful in discussing modern problems in the world.  Today, I would like to focus on evil and how it relates to the problems facing us today. 

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What is Evil?

Evil is taking advantage of other people when the outcome will be win-lose.  Meaning that you win, and they lose.  Evil is disregarding the needs of other people and putting your needs first.  Evil is deliberately hurting other people either physically, mentally, emotionally, or socially.  Evil is killing your children to get even with your ex-wife or spouse.  Evil is harassing or sexually intimidating women and gays.  Evil is putting people of other ethnic backgrounds or color down and abusing their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Evil is a willful and volitional violation of the rights of any other group, religion, or country for the pursuit of your own well-being. 

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”  — ― Mahatma Gandhi

The Four Types of Evil:

I have thought about the differences we see in the world in terms of evil.  Primarily with a leaning towards understanding the causes of evil.  I suspect that evil might exist apart from causes, but I have not found any examples yet.  Evil is either caused by passion or intellect.  Smart people and stupid people can be equally evil.  A college degree, a Ph.D. or a Nobel Prize does not suffice to distinguish who might be evil and who might not be evil.  The four types of evil that I have found are as follows:

  1. Principled Evil
  2. Passionate Evil
  3. Greedy Evil
  4. Ambitious Evil

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.” —  Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Principled Evil:

Principled evil stems from taking your own beliefs and ideology and expecting the world to be molded to them.  It sounds good to be a person of principle but as Aristotle noted evil can come from extremes.  When I believe my principles are so righteous and significant that they should replace your principles I am headed to a stairway of evil. Evil starts at the first step and may be barely noticeable but as it progresses it becomes more and more tyrannical and vicious.

The Nazis were a prime example of a philosophy or ideology that started with some semblance of rationality.  However, it gradually devolved into a belief that relegated any non-Nazis to a state of inferiority.  Under their belief system, the Nazis came to accept that anyone who did not subscribe to their principles could be murdered and eliminated from the face of the earth. Their adherence to a set of rigid principles allowed the Nazis to take over the government of a country which had sympathy for their beliefs.  The result of their principled beliefs was one of the greatest evils that the world had ever seen.

Today, we still have many groups in America who think the Nazis had the right idea.  Their belief in principles of blood, soil and country lead them to tyrannize those who do not look like them or think like them.  We call these groups by various names: Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, White Supremacists and simply racists.  In recent times, we have seen a resurgence in terms of an acceptance of the principles that these groups stand for.  Many people believe that this resurgence is because the White Majority in America is threatened by an increased influx of minorities.  Regardless of the reason for their popularity, these groups are a danger to democracy and any rule of reason and justice.

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Passionate Evil:

Sean Jean marketed his products with the byline that “Life without Passion is Unforgiveable.”  I have a bottle of his perfume which was of course called “Unforgiveable.”  A great marketing idea and a rather catchy phrase which I still think has merit.  We all want and need passion in our lives.  Passion adds color to our days and nights.  It makes us excited about life and steers us to spend time with those things that we value.  Passion is one of life’s beautiful things.  Unfortunately, passion can be dangerous.

The South was passionate about their way of life and a system of economics which depended on slave labor.  They were so passionate that they were willing to die for their ideology.  The war for a lifestyle which the Civil War embodied never really ended.  Over a hundred and fifty years later and the beliefs that underlie the civil war seem to be almost as strong as they were back then.  The racism that many in the South held onto after the war was more based on passion than logic.  The KKK was a prime example of this passion.  A group of white people driven by passionate adherence to protect an idealized lifestyle and their right to dominance.  Blacks, Jews, and Northerners were considered inferior or to lack the sophistication that the Plantation Mentality bestowed on the South.  Any time one group for whatever reason thinks they are superior, it is a formula for terrorism and violence.  The passion of the South has played out over the years in a plethora of laws, court cases and behaviors that have had the effect of murdering and tyrannizing primarily Black people in America.

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Greedy Evil:

Whenever I think of greed, I think of the story about Silas Marner by George Eliot.  Silas sat at his table each evening counting his gold pieces.  He was lonely and he had no life except for his gold coins.  Then there is the story of King Midas whose greed for gold turned everything he loved into solid unfeeling gold.  I think the greatest sickness in America today is loneliness.  Loneliness drives much of the unhappiness and anger that is so evident in American politics.  The rise of “Identity” politics is based on a desire to belong.  The way to belong is to acquire things, stuff, money, positions.  The concept that “he who has the most toys wins” is proof of the belief that the way to win and to be accepted is to have more money or things than anyone else. 

“Where do the evils like corruption arise from? It comes from the never-ending greed. The fight for corruption-free ethical society will have to be fought against this greed and replace it with ‘what can I give’ spirit.” — A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

I often wonder if we now live in the greediest period of history.  Driven by an incessant stream of advertising that we need more and more and more; we seem less and less happy.  Commercials 24/7 exhort us to buy, buy, buy.  To spend, spend, spend.  We can only be happy if we have more than our neighbors.  Our kids need more.  We need more. 

Of course, greed has always been with us. Greed is mentioned over twenty-four times in the Bible. 

Book of Job (600-400 BCE) — 20:15 “He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.”

In Buddhism, the 3 poisons of greed, hatred, and delusion are thought to be the root cause of all unnecessary human suffering. 

In the Quran it says: [9:34] “O you who believe, many religious leaders and preachers take the people’s money illicitly and repel from the path of God. Those who hoard the gold and silver, and do not spend them in the cause of God, promise them a painful retribution.” 

In Hindu theology, the six enemies of the mind are: desire, anger, greed, arrogance, delusion, and jealousy.

I talked about greed quite a bit in my previous two blogs on morality.  I suggested I would propose an answer to the prevailing winds of greed that blow us from one purchase to another. I think we need leadership to do this.  However, our present leaders lack the desire and skills to take us out of this wilderness of greed that we are in.  Some people may find their way out, but I fear that these individuals are a minority.     

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Ambitious Evil:

Ambition is another one of those ideas which we are taught when we are young is a positive attribute.  We are told that to be ambitious is desirable.  Who would admire someone who lacked all ambition?  Nevertheless, ambition can be dangerous.

Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar delivers a eulogy for Caesar and says:

“So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.”

Ambition has been the ruin of many a man, Shakespeare’s MacBeth was another man undone by ambition.  The men who ruled Enron destroyed a company because of ambition.  There is a fine line between greed and ambition, and it might seem as though they could not be separated.  I see greed as more a penchant for money and things and ambition more a penchant for status and power.  You can have a great deal of money and still lack status.  Perhaps that is behind the term nouveau rich as contrasted with established wealth.  The Bush family was established wealth.  Elon Musk is nouveau riche.

“Nouveau riche is a term used, usually in a derogatory way, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance.”  — Wiki

One hears the term “unbridled” ambition to refer to extremes of ambition.  These extremes are usually dangerous not only to the ambitious but also to those who depend on the ambitious.  American politicians who continue to pursue election after election may not suffer from an abundance of greed, but they are certainly rife with ambition.  I continually hear calls for term limits today along with age limits.  The average age in the US Senate is 64.3 years.  Twenty-six senators are over the age of 70. — “How Old is the 117th Congress?”

I think it is safe to say that many if not most of the older US Senators are out of touch with the US Population.  If their wealth was not enough to make this statement true, I think the age and lack of interface with the daily life that most people face would cement my assertion as a fact. 

I will make the following statement: “We will not be able to save American democracy with the people and demographics that we now have in Congress.” 

Unless we make some major changes in institutions that have existed nearly two hundred years without change, we are going to see the decline of the American dream.  The dream will have succumbed to ambition and greed if not passions and principles. 

What Has Happened to Morality in the USA?

moralityYears ago, religions enforced what I would call a pseudo moral code through the power of the state to enact laws desired by the most powerful religions.  This of course reflected the power that religions had in society back when you could go to hell for missing mass on Sunday.  Gambling was verboten.  There was legalized horse race betting in only a few states, and a few states had some other sports such as greyhound racing or Jai Alai which you could bet on.  Legally, you could only place bets at the venue.  Of course, organized crime found it very lucrative to offer “off track” betting.  Every street corner where I grew up had a bookie some place or other.  And of course, the numbers game was a very popular way for fools to lose their money.  Sports betting was done privately, and casino gambling did not start in Las Vegas until 1931.  It had been legal earlier but was outlawed in 1910 and not legalized until 1931.  The only lottery I ever heard of when I was growing up had to do with the Irish Sweepstakes.  There must have been some way to buy these tickets, but I never investigated it.

Today, you can buy pull tabs and lottery tickets in almost every gas station.  Casinos are just around the corner in twenty states and sports betting became legal on April 15, 2021, in the USA.  Organized religion believed that gambling would be addictive, and husband and wives would neglect their parental responsibilities as they gambled away their hard-earned wages.  People who regularly buy lottery tickets are the norm today even though economists refer to the lottery as a tax on the poor and the stupid.

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Marijuana was once considered a drug from Satan and every state in the Union banned its sale.  The movie “Reefer Madness” came out in 1936 and portrayed wild eyed youth going crazy after smoking a joint.  Smoking weed was a sure path to hell and damnation.  As of May 27, 2022, 19 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have now enacted measures to regulate cannabis for adult non-medical use with several other states limiting its use to medical purposes.  You can now smoke that joint where it once would have put you in jail.

drink-whiskey-hail-satan-satanic-baphomet-gift-manuel-pichlerWhiskey can now be purchased almost 24/7 in many states.  You can buy it in grocery stores, gas stations, bars, and convenience stores.  Perhaps no substance has been more abhorred by religions than whiskey.  Benjamin Franklin said that “Beer is proof that God loved man and wanted him to be happy.”  However, this was not the attitude of most religious organizations.  Temperance movements motivated by so called moral considerations did their best to ban alcohol in the US.  It is illegal in thirteen countries in the world.  Several of the world’s major religions ban the use of alcohol.  There are seventy-five scripture (Bible) warnings against the drinking of alcohol.  Is it any wonder that so many religions have prohibited the drinking of alcohol.

  • Hosea 4:11 – Intoxicating wine takes away intelligence.
  • Micah 2:11 – Israelites are eager to follow false teachers who prophesy plenty of intoxicating drinks.
  • Habakkuk 2:16 – Drinking leads to shame.

I have been trying to show some of the influences that religion and state have had in terms of legislating and enforcing moral codes and policy.  I could say more about prostitution and pornography but the nuances I hold regarding these subjects would entail a blog of their own.  Suffice it to say that restrictions in these areas have declined considerably in the last fifty years.

The_Fire__Brimstone_PreachingNow there may be some of you reading my blog and expecting a fire and brimstone sermon regarding the sins of humanity and the temptations of the devil.  Nothing could be further from my mind.  I am not advocating going back to the religious sanctions or beliefs that fueled so much of our political system.  In the first place, they were misguided and in the second place they penalized those who could practice moral virtues along with those most reluctant.  I could never understand why I could not buy liquor on Sunday or after 10 PM on weekdays or in a grocery store.  I have never received a DUI or even a warning for driving drunk.

The biggest problem with efforts to legislate morality is that they assume that the legal sanctions will result in a more moral society.  The evidence of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia in America should put a stake through the heart of that false belief.  The government has never been a vendor of morality.  People confuse legality with morality.

1787-Money-Mania-fullThe government has always been in the marketing business.  They would market “SIN” if they could find a way to sell it or allow it to be sold.  In some respects, they are already doing that with the legalization of gambling and their promotion of bigger and bigger lotteries.  The poor buy more and more tickets when the odds go ever higher against anyone winning.  Powerball’s odds are 1 in 292 million, and the combined populations in the states where tickets are sold equal nearly 320 million.  What would anyone do with 2 billion dollars?  (As I write this, the lottery of 2.0 billion has been won by a single person in California)

This is the stuff of more is better which I talked about in my last blog.  How large of a jackpot would be enough to support you for the rest of your life?  Assuming the average age of a lottery ticket holder, it would take nearly $5 million, according to Robert Pagliarini, president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors.  With a net take home of 1 billion dollars, one billion dollars could easily support 200 people for the rest of their lives.

There is nothing moral about ever bigger lottery purses.  Not to mention the fact that the odds are better that the lottery winner will go bankrupt rather than that they will see a happy old age with lots of money.  “Life after winning the lottery may not stay glamorous forever. Whether they win $500 million or $1 million, about 70 percent of lotto winners lose or spend all that money in five years or less.”Easy Come, Easy Go.

What does this have to do with morality? 

First, we must define morality.  It is not about making money, winning the lottery, drinking booze, smoking weed or visiting a casino.  The Prosperity Gospel is a distortion of the idea of moral behavior.  Morality is the process of asking yourself what impact an action, a course of action, a decision, a purchase, or a behavior will have on other people.  It does not mean that you cannot drink and gamble.  It does not mean that you cannot have wild sex at a swinger’s party.  It does mean that you need to be able to ask yourself if your gambling and drinking is having a negative impact on others.  It does mean that you need to ask yourself if your sexual habits are having a negative impact on other people.  By others. I mean more than your family, more than your friends, more than your neighbors.  I mean other states.  I mean other countries.  I mean the entire world.  This does not mean that you have no rights.  You have the right to swing your arm but your right proverbially stops at the nose of another person.

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As I said in my last blog, we must look outside of ourselves to find morality.  This is not easy to do.  Some of us, (fewer every year) go to a church on Sunday where we may get a sermon that asks us to look at our behaviors and what we can do for other people.  (“According to a 2021 survey, 31 percent of Americans never attend church or synagogue, compared to 22 percent of Americans who attend every week.”— Church Attendance of Americans)  Those of us who attend church hear maybe a twenty or thirty minute sermon each week on morality.

Compared to this 30-minute sermon once per week for maybe fifty percent of Americans:

The average American watches four hours of TV each day (that’s down from about six hours in the 1960s through 1990s by the way). There are about twenty minutes of “non-program material” per hour, which includes ads, promos, news updates, etc. For our purposes, let’s consider all of this commercial matter.  So in four hours, we see eighty minutes of commercials.” — Fred Pagano, Radio, television and Internet advertising producer and director.

This means that the average American hears about 560 minutes of paid advertisements each week or the equivalent of 19 sermons.  These ads exhort you to think of yourself.  You are special but you need more to be more special.  If you don’t buy more, you neighbors will look down on you.  Your friends will surpass you in status.  Your family will stop loving you.  You can be a better smarter person, but you must buy the new Persico Bacon Maker.  You need a new car or maybe even a bigger house.  You should go out to eat more or get a new insurance policy.

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Advertisements are NEVER what you can do for other people or society.  They are ALWAYS inherently selfish.  Is it any wonder that Americans shop till they drop or keep on buying more stuff that is bigger and bigger than they will ever need?   Americans have been and are continually bombarded by Madison Avenue messages that are a form of de facto brainwashing.  Too many Americans today are selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, and exhibit an entitlement mentality.  Economic policy extols benefits that will accrue to society with more buying and more spending.  It is somewhat ironic that the rampant inflation today and the wild economic swings have not been helped one iota by a greedy narcissistic economic policy that ignores any effort to provide a balance Moral Policy.  In addition, Americans are no happier today than they were seventy years ago.

“The vast majority of Americans report being “very” (42%) or “fairly happy” (44%), but the combined 86% is down from 91% the last time Gallup asked about this, in December 2008. It is also the lowest overall percentage happy Gallup has recorded in periodic readings over 71 years and is only the fifth time happiness has dipped below the 90% mark in 23 readings since 1948.”Happiness Not Quite as Widespread as Usual in the U.S

How do we get a balance between Moral Policy and Economic Policy?

My apologies.  This blog was longer than I thought it would be.  I will address the above question in my next blog.  In the meantime, I would love to hear any comments, questions or ideas that you might have concerning the issues I have raised in this and my previous blog.

Moral Policy versus Economic Policy: Its Role in the Decline of America

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Something is seriously wrong in the United States today.  Why is the first question that comes to mind, and it has received many answers.  Some experts will tell us that it is because Americans are angry.  Some will say it is because of income inequality.  Other reasons have been given as: persistent racism, policy divides between urban and rural areas, massive immigration, too many guns, climate change, a move towards authoritarianism, continuous military misadventures, narcissism, and of course greed.

None of these would be wrong, but none of them are really the underlying cause which some see as the decline of the American dream.  The end of the idea of America as the shining city on the hill or the last great hope of the world.  The light of America today is blinking on and off.  Fewer people see hope in America.  More people see the USA as a scourge on the world.  A country only interested in pushing its agenda on other countries whether through economic war or military war.

The decline of America lies in a very simple problem.  A failure to balance Moral Policy with Economic Policy.  A problem that may be simple to describe but extremely difficult to solve.  This failure began as soon as this country had its first pilgrims.  America was born out of a dream of prosperity and equality.  The equality did not have its roots in DNA but in the idea that all people (white and male at the time) through hard work and education could become prosperous and equal.  Equality would not depend on being lords, or barons or some other type of royalty as had been the norm in Europe.  This prosperity is still enthralled in some religions where it is promoted as “The Prosperity Gospel.”  An idiotic idea that the more you are favored by God, the more he/she will bless you with wealth and success.

Unfortunately, there is one rule in the Universe which cannot be undone or avoided.  It is the rule of balance.  What goes up must come down.  For every pushing force there is a pulling force.  Antagonist muscles must be developed equally with protagonist muscles.  The Chinese might call what I am describing here as the principle of Yin and Yang.  The Greeks called it the Golden Mean.

“The golden mean or golden middle way is the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. It appeared in Greek thought at least as early as the Delphic maxim “nothing in excess”, was discussed in Plato’s Philebus.”  — Wikipedia

Since the beginning of America, we have ignored this rule of balance.  It is the main reason that we are in a crisis today.  Ironically, it is the separation of Church and State, perhaps the greatest innovation in America which has led to its decline.  Let me explain further by starting with an analogy.  We will say that there is a continuum in terms of policy needed for an efficient and effective country.  An efficient country is one where most citizens are well fed, well clothed and well housed.  An ongoing effort is made to insure that more and more citizens meet these criteria.  An effective country is one where most citizens are safe, happy and content with there lives.  Effort is also made to see that more and more people meet these criteria.

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Economic Policy drives efficiency.  It is the main determinant of how wealthy and prosperous a nation is.  Economic policy puts the food on the table, pays for the overhead and allows people to buy things.  Americans today buy and buy and buy.  They shop till they drop.  On weekends they stage flea markets, garage sales, and church sales to try to get rid of the STUFF that they have accumulated.  Economic Policy gone unabated by Moral Policy has stuffed people until they are fat and bloated with too much stuff.  More is the anthem in America.  “He who has the most toys wins.”

Our politicians are troubadours for the American dream of “More.”  There is no secret to their being elected.  It is a very simple formula.  1.  Promise voters more stuff by way of the trickle-down theory.  2.  Promise to lower taxes to give people more money to buy more stuff.  3.  Raise more money than your competitor so that you can sell your promises to more potential voters.  4.  Find a way to scare voters into thinking that your competitor will not be able to deliver on the same promises.

Economic Policy in America has become a Frankenstein.  Without a balance of Moral policy, it is a monster which is destroying this country.  It has been destroying this country for many years now.  However, people are so blinded by the promises for greater prosperity that they have ignored the essential balance provided by Moral Policy.

Moral Policy looks outward.  While Economic Policy looks inward and asks what can my country do for me, Moral Policy asks what can I do for my country.  Moral Policy asks what can I do for other people.  I noted above that a great inspiration for our founders was to separate church and state.  While this was a truly great political idea, morally it was a disaster.

Prior to the emergence of America, most people received a balance between Economic Policy and Moral Policy through a balance between their obligations to their state or nation and their obligations to their church or religion.  They would go to jail if they ignored their state obligations and go to hell if they ignored their religious obligations.  Their church laid out its obligations in its Moral Policy.  For some, this was thought of as religious doctrine.  Perhaps the best example of a Moral Policy is the Eight Beatitudes described in Christianity and formulated by Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
  3. Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
  4. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
  5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
  8. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. —-  Matthew 5:3–12

There is no question, that Jesus was describing a moral responsibility to others.  Jesus talked about greed often and the “cure” to greed lay in giving as much as taking.  Jesus constantly talked about taking care of others who were less fortunate.

174018-domoralsmatterThus, the uncoupling of Church and State in the constitution of the United States set the stage for a catastrophic imbalance between Moral Policy and Economic Policy.  Over the years, the lack of influence in organized religions at the political level was abetted by the horrendous influence and power of Economic Policy.  If Moral Policy was once the heart of a religion, it was supplanted by an Economic Policy which has become the main religion in America.  This policy states that more is better and that you can never be too rich or have too much stuff.

Ultimately as with all imbalances, they eventually lead to a disaster.  America has gone over the tipping point.  The decline of the American Dream, the schism between conservatives and liberals, the rural versus urban divides, the dissatisfaction with the current political system and the rise of fascism in the USA are all symptoms of this imbalance.

51junioCbqL._AC_SY780_What we once believed was a great political innovation to separate Church and State has led to this imbalance.  There was no place in the state for religion and no place in religion for politics.  America’s dominant dream for peace, justice and equality was replaced with a dream for more money, more power and more fame.  The push by the State for this dream dwarfed any efforts by religion to provide a moral balance and the State had no legitimacy for morality.  People are cast adrift amidst a chaotic and vicious ocean of competition for more and more stuff.  No moral anchors exist that are powerful enough to counterbalance the tide of greed that this has brought to our shores.  Guns have replaced morality as citizens arm themselves to prevent imagined attacks at taking away their STUFF.

Is there an answer to the problems facing America?  I will discuss this question in my next blog. 

 

The Hell with the Pigs

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“Give me my eggs over easy with a slice of bacon on the side.”  “I don’t give a damn how the pigs are raised as long as the bacon is well done.”

A recent lawsuit by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation seeks to overturn a lower court ruling that specifies more humane conditions for the cages in which pigs are kept.  “If you’re looking for an example of an unconstitutional law, this is it,” said Michael Formica, chief legal strategist for the pork producers.

Michael-Formica

I scratch my head in disbelief at Formica’s statement, not to mention his callous opportunistic disregard for how these poor animals destined to be slaughtered for his slice of bacon are kept.  Just another fat white middle-aged lawyer ready to take up his legal cudgel to defend our right to bacon, sausage, and pork chops.  But more importantly to defend the rights of industry to make profits regardless of who or what is hurt in the effort.

Formica claims that the US Constitution defends this right.  Another legal escapism from what I am sure the founders of this country had no intention to protect.  Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, and Franklin would have been appalled at the notion of CAFOS (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations).  Industry designed operations built for the sole purpose of keeping prices low and making huge profits.

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In Polk County Wisconsin, we have been waging a four-year battle to try to regulate these CAFOS and keep them from destroying the environment.  It has been an uphill battle as the never-ending lawsuits from pork producers are like unlimited cannon balls coming at well intentioned but unprotected and outgunned citizen groups.  The law that Formica wants to challenge was passed in California on a 2018 ballot initiative written by voters to bar sales in California of pork, veal, and eggs from animals whose confinement failed to meet minimum space requirements.

If you are a vegan or vegetarian, which I am not, you are no doubt more concerned about the welfare of these poor caged animals then you are about the price of bacon or even the environmental impacts of these animal concentration camps.

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I asked Porky the Pig what he thought of these operations.  Porky is representing the Voters of California against Formica’s and the Pig Industries challenge to the California Law which (Also unbelievably) has worked its way up to the US Supreme Court.  “Pork industry takes fight over California law to U.S. Supreme Court” – By Leah Douglas, October 10,2022

The Supreme Court stands ever ready to defend big business against even the most bizarre and frivolous lawsuits ever conceived.  An institution that was once a bulwark against infringements to civil liberties has become a pimp for any business with enough money to hire a scumbag lawyer.  A legal whiz who with no humanity or morality will develop esoteric arguments to protect his/her clients rights to make a profit regardless of what economists call “externalities.”  The definition of an externality is “A side effect or consequence of an industrial or commercial activity that affects other parties without this being reflected in the cost of the goods or services involved.”  Global Warming and Climate Change are an egregious example of externalities that are now costing the world billions of lives and dollars.  An externality to pigs and cows is simply abuse and murder.

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Porky the Pig told me that he has lost many family members, friends, and other relatives to these CAFO operations.  The basis for his defense against Formica’s lawsuit rests not on econometric issues such as supply and demand but on the sheer inhumanity of the way pigs are kept prior to being slaughtered.  Porky was somewhat indifferent to the eventual slaughter of pigs for food.  “John,” he said to me, “We all have to go sometime.  However, like humans it is not when we go but how that really bothers us.  To spend our entire life in a cage that is so confining, we cannot even turn around, that is no way to live.  Your famous Patrick Henry echoed a sentiment that is our rallying cry.  ‘Give us liberty or give us death.’”

I left Porky feeling very guilty.  I don’t know if I want to give up bacon and eggs.  I do know that I would be willing to pay more for my bacon and sausage to know that Porky and his family had been treated humanly before being slaughtered.  Once upon a time, we knew that a nation could not have both guns and butter.  You had to make a choice.  Like not being able to have your cake and eat it.  We seem to have forgotten that lesson.  Or we are unwilling to make a choice?  We want cheap food, but we also want to spend trillions of dollars on our defense industry.  We want low priced bacon and eggs but high-priced missiles and bombs.  When will the people in this country wake up?  As Patrick Henry also said,

“What is it that you wish?  What would you have?  Is bacon so dear, or sausage so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of brutality and cruelty?  Forbid it, Almighty God!

PS:

Received the following message from a friend of mine in Wisconsin on November 4, 2022. It concerns a new development in the ongoing war against a CAFO in Northwestern Wisconsin. She has been very active in the effort to block allowing CAFO’S without more government regulation. This letter illustrates the ongoing battles I referred to in my blog with big business allied against us average folks.

Dear John,

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) served the Town of Laketown with a lawsuit this week. Their billionaire members want the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Ordinance several local towns have passed, rescinded.

WMC’s complaint mirrors their April 19, 2022 Notice of Claim. However, they ditched the nudist colony as a proxy plaintiff. They are still using the Byl and Spoestra farms as proxies. The lead plaintiff is Mike Byl, convicted for illegal dumping in 2018. WMC argues that local governments may only use Wisconsin Statute 93.90, the ridiculously weak law they wrote, to regulate giant livestock factories.

For more information, please see the attached documents:

1.      Case Summary – 10.12.22

2.      Summons and Complaint – 10.12.22

3.      Notice of Claim – 4.19.22

4.      Mike Byl Conviction – 7.23.18

The law firms of Bassford Remele and Fredrikson Byron, are representing Laketown.

A copy of the ordinance is available on Laketown’s website: Town of Laketown | Polk County, WI

Of course, this is just the latest of many attacks that the WMC is making around the state to intimidate local officials. In Kewaunee County, WMC helped fuel a decade of litigation for the giant Kinnard 8,000-cow dairy. In that case, these behemoths say they don’t need to do any well monitoring even though they are spreading raw feces and urine over 16,000 acres. That is 25 sections of land or almost 3/4 of a township! 

Wisconsin’s Big Ag is now using a convicted polluter from Laketown to argue that local governments can’t protect their citizens’ health or property values. We are proud that Laketown’s leaders and citizens are willing and able to derail them.

Sincerely –  

Republicans: Why They Were Once a Great Party but are Now the Party of Hate, Bigotry and Greed

The Republican Party has degenerated into a club of opportunists who do little justice to the values that made America great.  I characterize the various factions within the Republican Party as:

  1. Less Educated Voters
  2. Bigoted Voters
  3. Greedy Voters
  4. Fearful Voters
  5. Religious fundamentalist Voters

These groups are relatively new to Republicanism and many of them were perhaps initially attracted to the messages of the old Republicans Party, most actually have little understanding of the traditional Republican values.   You may well ask:  “What keeps them attracted them to the Republican Party today?”  I will attempt to answer this question with this blog.  It will entail describing each the above five groups in more detail and their attraction to what passes as the Republican Party today.

Over the past years, there were forces both pushing and pulling many new voters towards the Republican Party.  Some of these forces started as far back as 1910.  The pulling forces included the enticing messages that they would hear from Traditional Republicans.  “You too can be rich.”  “Trickle-down economics.”  “Say no to Big Government.”  “No new taxes.”  “Pro-Life.”  “Keep America safe.”  “We protect your rights.”  These messages are very compelling and appeal to voters for a variety of reasons.  First, some of these messages actually did build on the core Republican values that I described in an earlier blog.  Second, they were taken to attractive extremes by the new marketing techniques that infused politics in the latter half of the twentieth century.  The “Golden Mean” was sacrificed on the altar of marketing and political expediency to reflect messages that were “too good to be true and suspiciously ambiguous.”  These messages had both a push and pull element to their high sounding promises.  We will look at a few key messages before examining each of the five groups I noted above.

  • Vote Republican and you too can live like the rich!

Pushing Forces:

The Pushing Forces included the following changes taking place in US society:

  • Demographic changes
  • Ethnographic changes
  • Economic changes
  • Religious changes

Each of these forces contributed in many ways to the movement of a large contingent of voters away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party.

Demographic Changes include the aging of the USA population.  It is a well-known fact that as people get older they get more conservative.  The values of conservatism, safety, law enforcement, traditional roles for marriage, relationships and the role of women in society are all powerful forces that have propelled voters to the core value of Conservatism that is well established in the Republican Party.  Liberals (who fell in favor) were seen as wanting to change too many of the “normal” institutions in the USA.  Traditional Religious voters as well as older voters are generally inclined to support the status quo.  The problem  for many was:  “how do we hold onto a status quo that is changing right before our eyes?”

“The population is also expected to become much older.  By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be aged 65 and over, compared with 13 percent in 2010 and 9.8 percent in 1970.”   —  Census.gov

Ethnographic Changes in the USA population include the influx of many groups into the country who hold values that are seen as “foreign” to traditional USA values.  It is one thing for new groups who are Christian to enter the country, but over the past fifty years or so, we have had a much more diverse array of ethnic groups from countries where Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism are the dominant religions.  Many of these religions are poorly understood in the US and the practitioners are sometimes seen as promoting anti-US values.  One example is the fear that many people in this country have for Sharia Law and the belief that Muslims want to overthrow the US Justice System and replace it with Sharia Law.

Partly responsible for a growing intolerance in the USA has been the fact that projections show that “White” people will become a minority in the USA in thirty years.  This gradual erosion of the White majority means that White people must accept a more diverse society in which White morals and values will be one among several other sets of morality and not always the dominant one.  This is hard for many people to take as Whites have always been in the power seat in this country.

“The nation’s demographics are on a clear trajectory: White people are dying faster than they are being born, which means they are on target to become a minority in the United States in 30 years.”  —  Whites projected to become a US minority

Economic Changes in the US economy started to noticeably impact the standard of living for many voters following WW II.  At first it was imperceptible.  There had always been changes in the economy with ups and downs, recessions and the Great Depression following WW I.  However, after WW II, we had a respite from anything that could be called “Global Economics.”  With the demise of Germany and Japan and the economic hardships facing Great Britain, France and several other European countries, we had the economic ball field to ourselves.  The USA economic boom was reflected in a period of rising incomes and relative prosperity.

1280px-US_productivity_and_real_wagesThe attached chart shows that while USA productivity has continued to increase since 1945, real earnings have been either static or on the decline since the mid nineteen seventies.  Whereas, we once had the playing field to ourselves, by the early 70’s the competition from other countries, particularly Japan, was beginning to erode the economic advantage we once had.  By the late 80’s, wages in the USA were being impacted by the growth of industry in countries where wage rates were much lower.  Foreign competition and increased levels of quality goods from other countries helped to erode the market dominance of traditional USA companies.

These economic changes have fallen particularly hard on voters in the USA who worked in what might be called “transitional” industries.  Agriculture transitioned to manufacturing during the mid-twentieth century.  Manufacturing transitioned to service beginning in the seventies.  Finally, service jobs have become increasingly high tech requiring computer skills and often advanced education and training.  People in the “Blue Collar” industries cannot be trained fast enough to fill the jobs needed in the new industries.

The recession in 2008 saw a loss of nearly 9,000, 000 jobs in the USA.  Economists like to refer to these job losses as “creative destruction” or as an “economic correction.”  The problem is that if you are the worker who does not have the skills to transition to a new job and you have a family to support, terms such as “Correction” do not help you to feed your family.

displaced-workers-3Recent statistics show that most of the jobs lost in the “Great Recession” have been regained. However, many of these new jobs are in lower paying industries or have gone to new workers with new skills in the labor force.  The number of underemployed or unemployed people in the USA remains high and a source of major discontent.  Our US system of reeducating workers is poor and in need of major overall.

The Republican Party and its messages have attracted many of these economically struggling voters to their party.  The Republican values of hard work, individual responsibility and economic self-sufficiency resonate well with a group bitter over their economic hardships and who view too many others as getting a free ride.

Religious Changes may just be the single most powerful force pushing many voters and citizens into the Republican Party.  Since 1900, the country has become increasingly secular and to some extent even non-religious.  The following comment is from “Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore:”

“According to the Hartford Institute of Religion Research, more than 40 percent of Americans “say” they go to church weekly.  As it turns out, however, less than 20 percent are actually in church.  In other words, more than 80 percent of Americans are finding more fulfilling things to do on weekends.”

Many of the more conservative religions and branches of religions that may have splintered off from their mainstream congregations have migrated towards the Republican Party.  Again, the conservative family oriented values of the Republican Party have attracted many religious fundamentalists who oppose gay marriage, women clergy, abortion and creating a pluralistic culture where non-Christian religions are free to worship and practice their faiths.  These religious fundamentalists see the secular changes coming to our country as evil and anti-scripture.  They have organized many groups in efforts to resist these changes.  This is from the mission statement of one of these groups:

“The Christian Coalition is committed to representing the pro-family agenda and educating Americans on the critical issues facing our society. Whether it is the fight to end Partial Birth Abortion or efforts to improve education or lower the family’s tax burden, the Christian Coalition stands ready and able to work for you.”

Pulling Forces:

The Pulling Forces are the messages that voters hear from the Republican Party and which reflect its traditional core values.  However, as they play out in the media, these messages are largely nuances and alterations of the traditional core Republican values.  The messages have now gone through a process of “Madison avenue marketing” to make them more alluring and seductive to their intended audience.  It should come as no surprise that various voters are attracted to various messages.  Some of course may be attracted to all of the Republican messages.

Let us now look at each of the individual voting groups that I labeled above to see how the Pulling Forces (Traditional Republican Values) and the resulting messages have attracted each group.

  1.  Less Educated Voters:

stupid republicanThis group is largely but not exclusively White Male and under educated.  They are generally blue collar workers and many of them had their jobs displaced by the rise of Global Economics with offshoring and outsourcing of their work.  New technologies and robotics have also taken many of the jobs that these group once did.  They have been attracted by several Republican messages.  From gun control to the value of free enterprise, these low educated voters have bought into the idea that a Liberal Government is out to take their rights away and make it harder for them to earn a living.  Many of them can rightfully blame the government (both Republicans and Democrats) for using their jobs to stoke the fires of Globalization.

This group is attracted to the rhetoric common among Republicans for restraints on immigration and decreased government regulations.  They believe that if the USA government was not so big they would be much better off.  They blame liberals for the laws promoting a Global economy and do not understand that education can help them.  They often are willing to vote against any kind of education bill.  Many of them were marginal students who were ill served by the education establishment in the past.  They are no supporters of teachers, universities or increased funding for education.  The Republican messages have amplified this anti-education theme to the point that Republicans are now deemed anti-science and anti-education and anti-immigration.  It is also very easy for this group to buy into the myth that immigrants have stolen their jobs.  They are lured by the type of messages that Trump sent out castigating immigrants and particularly Muslims and Mexicans.

2.  Bigoted Voters:

ignoranceThis group is not only uninformed but they are also misinformed.  They have already made up their minds on the basis of limited and misleading information.  They are biased, prejudiced and xenophobic.  The Republicans have had a bag of dirty tricks which probably grew out of Nixon’s escapades in the 70’s and have continued through such political shenanigans as the Swift Boat attacks against John Kerry, the manipulations in Florida with the voting ballots and the Karl Rove fiasco in Ohio.  This group is ready prey for the type of propaganda tricks that the Republican Party now use to lie, distort the truth and defame their opponents.

The Republicans seem to have thrown away any concept of ethics or morality when it comes to political elections.  A squadron of Republican Talk show hosts from Mike Savage to Ann Coulter keep spewing out lies, misinformation, innuendos and calumnies against opponents whom they have no qualms about personally attacking.  I would guess that many if not most of the “urban myths” that often dot the Internet have their genesis in some Republican think tank.

Some other recent examples include the “Birther” movement in which President Obama was alleged to have been born in another country and the messages sent out decrying his support of Islamic terrorists because Obama himself is alleged to be a Muslim.  Those Ignorant Voters who subscribe to these lies and innuendos come to believe so strongly in them that there is no changing their minds.

3. Greedy Voters:

greedy republicansThe USA has become increasingly materialistic.  Evidence of this can be seen in new traditions like Black Friday, Designer Lifestyles, Reality Shows and the narcissistic values that seem to be replacing traditional moral and ethical values in the USA.  A large contingent of students today are not concerned about how their chosen careers will help their country.  They are more concerned with how much money they can make when they graduate.  Greed has been on the increase in this country for many years now.  Republicans (always the party of the rich) were well positioned to capitalize on a bloc of voters who do not want to share their wealth.  Oaths for no new taxes.  Oaths to roll back taxes.  Oaths to block reforms in Welfare and oaths to block the creation of a more equitable health care system for citizens have become ubiquitous in the Republican Party.

“We were fed this lie that hard work and dedication will payoff.  That’s not true.  There are millions of Americans who bust their asses working tons of overtime or two or more jobs just to get by – just to survive.”  — Trickle-Down Economics, Greed and the Republican Party are Destroying American Values

4.  Fearful Voters:

gated community with watch signA large number of US citizens today are afraid.  They are afraid of crime.  They are afraid of immigrants.  They are afraid of minorities and they are basically afraid of change.  The Republican messages have helped to drive this fear even further into the psyche of people in this country.  Everywhere you go today there are gated communities, security systems, concealed carry permits and people afraid to leave the perceived safety of their feudal like communities.

Part of this fear has come from the aging of the population.  As people get older, they get more concerned for safety and security.  Part of the fear has come from constantly reading about “crime in the streets.”  The news over reports and over emphasizes instances of crime and violence on a 24/7 daily basis.  Finally, a large part of this fear comes from constantly hearing messages about the imminent attack of terrorists and others who are supposedly jealous of our lifestyle and want to destroy our country.

“In a Pew Research Center poll conducted in September, 75 percent of registered voters surveyed said that “terrorism” was “very important” for their vote in the congressional elections. Also last month, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 57 percent of Americans surveyed thought Obama has been too soft on ISIL.”  — Republican ISIL fearmongering amplifies extremists’ message, experts say.

5.  Religious Fundamentalist Voters:

911 Never Forget the Dangers of Religous ExtremismpsdThese religious extremists are attracted to the family and religious values messages constantly being sent by the Republican Party.  Anti-gay, pro-family, pro-god in the schools, anti-abortion, anti-women’s liberation messages are a theme of most Republican politicians today.  The dramatic changes facing religion in the USA since 1900 has seen a decline in the traditional role of church and pulpit in family life.  The increased number of working women, gay couples, divorces and abortions have fueled a desire on many conservatives to return to what they saw as the “good old days.”  This actually means the good old days for white middle or white upper class heterosexual males.  Not so good for women, minorities, disabled and poor people.

This group of voters believes less in a strict separation between church and state than that which was proscribed by our Founding Fathers.  They would put GOD back in the schools and in some cases declare the USA a “Christian Nation.”  There are many of these voters who have little or no tolerance for anyone outside their own religions.  These so called Christians are characterized by a strong proclivity to support capital punishment, war as a first resort for political persuasion and the Ten Commandments as a foundation for a morality for all citizens.  They seldom think of peace or diplomacy as a means of resolving disputes between nations.  They do not see the hypocrisy between their contradictory messages of pro-life and pro-capital punishment.   Furthermore, they are generally extremely literal and particularly narrow in their selection of Bible verses to support.

See the following short video for further evidence of what I mean.

Martin Sheen Burns a Hypo-Christian

Whither Goes the Republican Party?

trump-building-a-wallWhere should the Republican Party go?  A party that has endorsed the immoral in its political campaigning.  A party that fosters fear and war mongering.  A party that is against immigrants.  A party that is intolerant towards minorities.  A party that minimizes the role of women in society.  A party that discriminates against gay people.  A party that will not treat disabled people as respectable members of society.  A party that does not believe in the value of science or education.   A party supports racism and white supremacists.  A party that has no compassion for the poor and underprivileged or those who may not have the ability to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”

Time for Questions: 

Where should the Republican Party Go?  You tell me please.

Life is just beginning.

“But my revulsion at the Republicans doesn’t begin and end with Iraq and Benghazi. It’s spread to many other issues over the years. Frankly, the GOP increasingly looks like a party in the grip of some form of hyper-partisan madness that takes self-destructive delight in alienating everyone who isn’t a far-right ideologue. What else can explain the up-is-down, black-is-white, counterintuitive perversity of the stances Republicans increasingly take in response to national news and trends?”  — I’m not a Democrat. I’m an anti-Republican.

Consider:

 

 

Why Are We Really Supporting Ukraine?

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As the proxy war between the the USA and Russia continues in the Ukraine, I am still left wondering “What is the real motive for this war.”  It is all too easy to believe the propaganda put out by the US State Department such as the interview that follows with the US Ambassador to the Ukraine.  According to this narrative, it is all about freedom, peace, justice, and equality for the world.

Perhaps, I am simply a cynic at heart or perhaps it is due to my 76 years of experience with similar protestations when it came to wars and military efforts elsewhere such as in Vietnam, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Syria, and Afghanistan.  Efforts that beg many questions. 

Are we really fighting for peace, freedom, and democracy in the world?  Should we be fighting for these values?  Are we consistent in our values or are we simply USA Hypocrites?  Is America the Good Guy and Russia the Bad Guy?  Am I being “Unpatriotic?” 

Read the following interview and let me know what you think.

VOA Interview: US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink – June 18, 2022

Bridget_A._Brink,_U.S._AmbassadorBrink: I might put it a little different way. I think those of us who are such strong supporters within the U.S. government, within the American population, for Ukraine, support Ukraine because we see, or we think we see, and understand the future that Ukrainians want. And that is a future where Ukraine is free, independent, prosperous, sovereign and gets to decide its own future. To us, as Americans, it really appeals to also who we are. So, what I would hope, what I plan to do and what we are doing is supporting Ukraine in this immediate task of prevailing in its effort to defend itself that is crucially important. I think everybody would agree. And I think the government here and the people here would agree that another important task is and will be and will remain the reform effort, which will secure Ukraine for a future for Ukrainian children and their children.

UKRAINE-THE-UNITED-STATES-ARE-NOW-FIGHTING-A-PROXY-WAR-WITH-RUSSIA-1

VOA: And this war is not only about Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for a bigger goal, for democracy. Is Ukraine fighting for European values as well? If Ukraine fell, what could be the consequences?

Brink: Well, Ukraine won’t fail, and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. And as I mentioned, this is obviously very important to Ukraine, and it’s also really important to European security. It’s really important to America, because, as President Biden has said, it’s both morally outrageous what has happened, this unprovoked, unjustified attack on a sovereign nation. But it also is in America’s vital interest to have peace and security in Europe. So, this is something that has repercussions that go well beyond Ukraine. And for this reason, we all understand very much what’s at stake. And that’s why we’re here to help Ukraine prevail.

For the full interview click on the link below:

https://www.voanews.com/a/voa-interview-us-ambassador-to-ukraine-brink/6623182.html

I appreciate any comments that you have time to post.  Thank you for considering these questions. 

Doubling Down on Double Dealing Douche Bags

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What or who is a doubling down, double dealing douche bag?  Ever since Trump took center stage two egregious behaviors have become the norm in Republican politics.  The first is lying.  The second is doubling down on stupidity, arrogance and greed.  Trump set the bar on these behaviors and his loyal followers keep lowering the bar.  Many good hearted but naïve citizens of America are amazed with each new low and the media is constantly asking “How low can they go?”  There appears to be no low.  Lows with Republicans are like a black hole.  You can put an infinite number of lows into a black hole and never reach the bottom or fill it up.

I will save my comments on lying Republicans for another blog and today focus on doubling down behavior.  The latest example of this is Douche Bag Governor DeSantis and his ill-conceived and mean-spirited stunt of sending immigrants east to Martha’s Vineyard.  His followers think this is just grand behavior and applaud him when he responds to criticism with “doubling down behavior.”

DeSantis provides an excellent example of doubling down behavior:

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said he intends to use “every penny” of the $12 million his state budgeted to relocate migrants and set the expectation for buses and “likely more” flights full of migrants paid for by the state.” — CNN

No compassion.  No remorse.  No backing away from a cruel stunt that hurts the lives of others.  Did you know that the immigrants he sent to Martha’s Vineyard with lies and misinformation were not from Florida but were from his fellow Douche Bag governor’s state of Texas?

So, what does it mean when we say that someone is “doubling down.”

“The phrase “double down” means to put forth an additional effort or risk in a situation or argument, even if you know the outcome will be a mistake or will be negative.” — Wikipedia

Doubling down can involve putting more effort into an approach that has not yet worked or even an approach that seems to be working but needs more commitment.  Thus, there can be a positive connotation to the phrase “doubling down.”

when-i-say-stupid-things-i-double-down-lie-and-make-it-worseUnfortunately, too often when it comes to Trump and his supporters, the behaviors that they are doubling down on have negative consequences.  This is because the efforts that they are doubling down on are either wrong or dangerous.  A few examples:

  • Trump doubling down opposing masking during the Corona Virus
  • Trump doubling down on assertions about a rigged election
  • Trump doubling down about his executive privileges
  • Trump doubling down on his appeal to White Power and privilege

When Trump and his followers double down it is because they know that they are mistaken or lying or corrupt.  The efforts of Trump and his sycophants have increasingly created a negative connation for the term “to double down.”  Why would any “good” person that we elect to help lead our country double down to support evil intentions?   Well, first it is because they are not good.  They do not give one red cent about morality or ethics.  They are pursuing what is known in ethics as a Utilitarian approach.  If the behavior is useful to their ends, then they will pursue it.  Obviously, doubling down is very useful to Trumpists.

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How is Doubling Down Useful?

In answer to the above question, you must be ready to accept the peculiarities of certain people.  For instance, there are people who believe:

  • The Trickle-Down Theory
  • Tax breaks for the rich will help the poor
  • Trump won the 2020 election
  • There is no climate change
  • The world is flat
  • 9/11 was a CIA effort
  • The moon is made from green cheese
  • Elvis is alive and living upstairs in Graceland

Doubling down behavior somehow (do not ask how, it just does) convinces some of the people noted above that the douche bag engaging in pursuing lies and criminal behavior must really know what he or she is doing.  Lincoln said that you can “fool all of the people some of the time but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”  Doubling down behavior is designed to lull us into thinking that we are wrong and that the person doubling down is right. Why we ask ourselves would anyone keep pressing an issue if they are wrong?  Why would people that we think must be smarter or more knowledgeable than we are stalk mistaken goals and objectives?  The answer which too many of us fail to understand or believe is that some of the people we elect are more focused on their own self-interests and do not care one iota about their constituencies.  Unless of course, they want your money or vote.

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We live in an age where the acquisition of things, the acquisition of power, the acquisition of riches and the acquisition of fame far override the value of the ideas that our Founding Fathers believed in.  If you add in the values that Jesus preached, you would not be able to recognize or understand what Republicans stand for.  They say they believe one thing, but then they pursue a completely different agenda.  The Republican Party today is the party of hypocrisy, lies and greed.  Lincoln would hang his head in shame at the behavior of his old party.  Jesus would probably throw most so-called Christians today out of his church just as he did with the money lenders.  As the song should go, “The Times they have a changed.”

“Pride can make one a stronger person in the one sense, or so it is often believed, when based solely on the surface, but in the other, and much more frequently, a stronger devil. When pride is undeniably found out of an evil, it saves face by doubling down.”  ― Criss Jami

destruction

Documents a chronology of the potential end of our democracy.

Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2022

“I found this a difficult book to read because it shows how successful the republican party has been in destroying facts, reality, and our democratic foundation in order to move us towards an authoritarian minority rule nation. It was interesting to add up the number of related events through the decades since the onset of Newt Gingrich in 1994, that have been driven by lies, conspiracy theories, slander, and violence, or at least threatening it. Trump is truly a symptom of an underlying national decay that panders to the absolute lowest base instincts of human nature. Frankly, the book is harrowing and fatalistic in leading the reader to assume that the fix is in and our democracy in at least the near future is doomed. While we tried to “go high,” it seemed only to embolden the worst among us that going “low” was the path to their success.” — Richard Nelson

Can you forgive yourself and start another day?

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“Tomorrow’s another day” is the famous comment from Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”  This was perhaps one of the most powerful and dramatic endings to any story ever told.  Most of us were touched by these words and few who have heard them will ever forget them.  Have you ever wondered why these words were so powerful?  Why do they touch us all somewhere deep in our soul?  I believe it is because they blend an element of self-forgiveness with recognition that each new day is the possibility of a new beginning.  Self-forgiveness is evident, because Scarlett is not going to spend a great deal of time in self-recriminations.  She is simply going to start over again.

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The new day “tomorrow” represents for Scarlet is a new start to life.  It is her resurrection and her birth. Each day we can choose our life, our goals and our behavior.  The simple but powerful phase “tomorrow’s another day” allows us to be reborn.  It allows us to become free of the past and to start a new beginning. Each day of our lives offers us this possibility, if like Scarlet we are willing to grasp it.  We can have a new life or we can have an old life.  We can continue on the old path that we have chosen or we can find a new path.  Each new day can be a risk but life is a risk.  Without risk there is no change and no chance to live more fully.  We wake up each morning to a new set of choices.  Each choice offers opportunities and each opportunity has its own set of risks.

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How many of us do not realize the inherent possibility that tomorrow brings for us?  Do you see each tomorrow as a new beginning or as more of the same?  What will it take to help you realize the hidden possibilities in each new tomorrow?  Do you start each day with a sense of joy at the opportunities it presents?  Why not?

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