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.

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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. 

Who Speaks for Integrity?

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When I wrote my series of blogs on the Seven Most Important Virtues, I neglected to add Integrity.  Limiting myself to seven, I felt that the seven I identified were more important than any other virtues.  This was simply a judgement call.  I have been challenged on it several times and indeed I challenge myself on the list.  There is hardly a day goes by that I wonder if I should not have numbered Integrity among the Seven.  Well, as they say, that is water under the dam.  What I would like to do in this blog is discuss Integrity.  What is Integrity?  Why is Integrity so important?  How do we get Integrity?  Finally, how do we sustain Integrity?

What is Integrity?

download (1)Integrity is everything to lose and nothing to gain, except your self-respect.  Integrity is standing up for what you believe is right even when everyone is against you.  Integrity is the ability to put compassion and kindness ahead of self-interest.  Integrity cannot co-exist with greed.  It cannot co-exist with lust.  It cannot co-exist with a thirst for power.  It cannot co-exist with a drive for money, fame, or fortune.  All of these elements are like Kryptonite to Integrity.  Kryptonite was the one thing that could rob Superman of his powers.  Lust, greed, money, fame, and power all have the ability to rob one of his/her integrity.

One example of a man without integrity was Goethe’s Faust.  Faust was considered the smartest man alive.  He was a genius and a consummate intellectual.  There was little that he did not know about or could not speak intelligently about.  Yet, Faust was unhappy.  Old age had creeped up on him.  His desire for youth and sex overcame his ability to think with the maturity befitting his status.  He sold his soul to Satan and in the bargain sold his integrity.  His lack of integrity lead to the death of another human being and to his own banishment to hell.

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There are many examples of men and women with integrity.  I think of the whistleblowers who sacrifice their careers and sometime their lives to report issues that might be dangerous to others.  I think of the journalists in countries like Mexico who risk their lives every day to report injustices.  I think of the prosecutors and law enforcement officers in countries where criminals have the ability to enact retribution and death when they are charged with a crime.  In all these examples, there is nothing for these courageous people to gain and everything to lose by their standing up for what they believe is right.  This is integrity.

Why is Integrity Important?

I believe that it is fair to say that never before in the history of America has there been so little integrity shown by our political leaders.  Right, Left, Democrat, Republican, Independent, it does not matter.  There are too many political leaders who are driven by greed and a desire for power.  You may argue with this analysis but when I see even a third of our elected officials calling for term limits, I will recant my assertion.  When I see a third of our elected officials with a plan to eliminate paid lobbyists, I will recant my assertion.

Political_Integrity_-_iStock.com-Bobboz_resizedPolitics is a sham in America today.  We have men and women who are elected for life and spend more time campaigning then they do in serving their constituents.  Public servants who start collecting money to run their next campaigns within days of winning their present office.  We have a system of government where money is the most important factor in who gets elected and who gets reelected.  Our politicians are more worried about losing votes than they are in the constitution or in protecting our democracy.  What Integrity is there in supporting a riot to overthrow a fair election that every court and every state in America found was fairly conducted?  The media seized on the outrageousness of the Big Lie to sell news.  The losing party seized on the credibility of millions of gullible supporters to buy the Big Lie and try to maintain their power.

imagesThe media in America has become another hallowed institution gutted by greed and a desire for more and more money.  Reporters, writers, and journalists in America today are more interested in selling advertising than they are in balanced objective reporting.  You can divide the news up by whether they lean Right or Left, Liberal or Conservative, Democrat or Republican.  Each side has a mirror image on the other side of the political spectrum.  CNN is opposed by Fox News.  The New York Times is opposed by The New York Post and the Washington Post is opposed by the Washington Times.  One side supports the Right and the other side supports the left.  This is not balanced reporting, and no truth comes out of the dynamic between the two sides.  What both sides have in common are reporters who will report the most useless, tasteless, uninformative stories if they perceive that these stories will sell advertising or if they can figure out a clickbait title that will attract readers and thereby expose them to paid commercials.

I see few solutions to the problems I have noted above except to start holding our leaders and media to standards of Integrity that do not seem to exist.  This brings us to the issue of where Integrity comes from.

How Do We Get Integrity?

I do not believe humans are born with Integrity.  I do not think that there is a gene or DNA for Integrity.  Humans learn Integrity like they learn to speak.  The morals, ethics and traditions of any society become part of the fabric of learning that a child goes through.  Integrity is a virtue.  It may be valued more in some families and cultures more than others.  There is an Index of Public Integrity that measures five factors that the developers link to Integrity and is used to assess a countries capacity to control corruption and ensure that public resources are spent honestly.   The six scales used in this index include:

  1. Judicial Independence
  2. Administrative Burden
  3. Trade Openness
  4. Budget-Transparencies
  5. E-Citizenship
  6. Freedom of the Press

Idownload (3)f you want more of a description of each scale you can follow the hyperlink above.  The USA ties for 10th place with Great Britain on this index.  I can see some correlation with Integrity, but I can see many differences.  I think honesty is one component of Integrity, but Integrity is more complex than being simply honest.  An honest person can still lack integrity if they are unwilling to stand up for what they believe.  Cowardice and Integrity are incompatible.

Professor Stephen L. Carter of Yale Law School points out in his book “Integrity,” one cannot have integrity without being honest, but one can be honest and yet lack integrity. … Integrity in its bare-bones essence means adherence to principles.

You cannot buy Integrity.  You cannot inherit Integrity.  Fortunately, Integrity does not have a price tag.  It is open to everyone.  Young people, old people, women, men, and people from different ethnic backgrounds all can find Integrity.  I use the work “Find” because you must seek Integrity.  It is a treasure, and you must look for it.  You can acquire Integrity, but you can also lose Integrity.  However, you cannot give it away and no one can steal it from you.  It is one of the most unique treasures in the world.  So, where do we find this treasure?  There are three rules for finding Integrity.

  1. It must be something you value personally
  2. You must value it more than your life, your career or anything else that you might ever possess.
  3. You must not expect applause or accolades. It is more likely you will be criticized and condemned. 

If you can accept these three rules, then finding Integrity is easy.  Simply establish a set of morals, virtues, and ethics that you believe in and start standing up for them.  When they are challenged, you must speak out.  Your actions and behaviors must reflect our values.  Do not preach one thing and do another.  Do what you say you will do.  When you feel like taking the easy way out, you must take the road that leads to consistency with your actions and values.  The simple formula to remember is that:

Integrity = Morals + Behavior + Consistency

How do We Sustain Integrity?

Integrity can be lost as well as found.  There are many examples of people who once were exemplars of shining Integrity but who succumbed to temptations for greed and power.  It takes a great deal of fortitude and courage to maintain a life of Integrity.  I think of people like Jesus Christ who was not tempted by the devil and went to his death for what he preached.  Pilate gave him opportunities to recant but Jesus refused.  Socrates went to his death also after refusing to recant his beliefs.  I would like to share the example of one more recent person of great Integrity.

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“María Santos Gorrostieta Salazar (1976 – 2012) was a Mexican physician and politician of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).  From 2008 to 2011, she served as mayor of Tiquicheo, a small town in the Mexican state of Michoacán.  In spite of three failed assassination attempts during her tenure as mayor, Gorrostieta Salazar continued to be outspoken in the fight against organized crime.  In a fourth attack, Gorrostieta Salazar was kidnapped and assassinated by suspected drug traffickers on 15 November 2012.” – Wikipedia

To this date, there has been no one charged and tried in connection with her murder.  How many people do you know who would stand up to a drug cartel after even one attempt on their lives?  Maria was a physician.  She could have lived a life of relative ease and prosperity simply by ignoring the crimes going on around her.  Instead she stood up for the law and standing up cost Maria her life.  Who is saying her name today?

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Like any skill or talent, you must practice it.  Practice is one means of sustaining Integrity.  Part of practice is an honest self-reflection.  Each day or week you need to ask yourself if you have been a person of Integrity.  What did you do that showed Integrity?  What did you do or say that allowed you to stand up for your values and ethics?  What did you do that was not consistent with your values?  How could you be more consistent with your values and behaviors?

There is a popular meme that says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice!  Practice! Practice!”  There can be no Integrity without practice, action, and reflection.  Stand up for your values and morals and you will be a Person of Integrity.  Every person who can say that they are a Person of Integrity is one more person that will help to change the world for the better.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”- Bob Marley

 

A Lament for an America that I Believed In

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I sit here looking out my window and wondering what happened to the America that I grew up believing in.  A nation that was founded on the values of truth, justice, and equality.  The land of the free and the home of the brave.  A country dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Today, I look out the window and see a country that bears no resemblance to the place where I thought I lived.

I look out and see rich politicians marching through the streets asking for more and more money to support their never-ending campaigns.  One election is no sooner over, then another one begins.  I give money to one candidate, and I immediately get phone calls, emails, and texts asking me to support fifty more candidates.  I am not worth ten percent of what most of these people want but they act as though I along with other Americans are bottom less pits of money.

abcnl_ahmaudarbery_1635976650478_hpMain_16x9_992I look out and see lawyers with Magna and Summa Cum Laude degrees from Yale, Harvard, Cornell, Brown, and other Ivy League Universities who can fashion legal arguments designed to circumvent and pervert any sane person’s idea of justice.  They have corrupted our Criminal Justice System into a Criminal Injustice System.  The winner in a court room is the one with the most money who can hire the best and brightest lawyers.  An argument by one defense attorney claims that a self-styled vigilante shooting three unarmed people is a tragic case of self-defense.  Another defense lawyer for three murdering racists suggests that the victim in the case was shot because he had come to Satilla Shores “in his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”

st,small,845x845-pad,1000x1000,f8f8f8.u13I look out and see corporate executives who will ignore the danger posed to the environment and climate because they can make more money today than by creating a sustainable system.  I see too many people willing to “shop till they drop.”  A materialistic mentality that supports the greed endemic in Corporate America.  A focus on short-term thinking that drains the earth of the resources it needs for sustainability in order to reap mega-profits today.  The “hell with the future” is the motto of Corporate America.

I look out my window and see a country wherein 74 million people supported a man almost totally devoid of ethics, morality, character, or conscience.  People who knew that this man was defective but instead voted for him either because they were racists, sexists, greedy or selfish.  A country where too many people discriminate against others who are different in race, religion, or gender identification.  People who will vote for someone because he takes vengeance against groups they regard as enemies.  People who will vote for a bully who is a coward and a draft dodger.  People motivated to support the candidate that will promise them lower taxes.  People who demand their rights but ignore their responsibilities.

I look out and see people that claim to be Christians but who call for their political opponents to be killed or assassinated.  People claiming that ethics and character do not matter as long as a leader will support their particular religious beliefs.  People who believe that Jesus came to preach vengeance and retribution rather than love and charity for all.

I look out a window where my views of America and the world are becoming more and more appalling.  Each day brings another senseless mass killing.  Tomorrow brings an even more bizarre crime into my consciousness.  I process some of these visions with friends mainly to check to see if I am going crazy or if my mind is becoming warped.

1623107527880_nn_mal_ca_road_rage_shooting_arrest_210607_1920x1080Is there any meaning to what I am seeing?  Am I just getting too old?  Is my brain incapable of understanding things anymore?  Journalists are murdered because they report the truth.  Innocent people are slaughtered while they watch a Christmas parade.  A pregnant woman is shot eleven times on her doorstep.  Fifty or more people rob a series of stores in what the news calls “mass grab fests.”  A six-year-old child is killed in a car seat by some maniac with road rage.  There is no bottom to the bizarre.  No one can imagine what the next day will bring.  All attempts to discover what is causing these problems or how they can be stopped seem futile.  They are meaningless crimes without rhyme or reason in a world that George Orwell would never have imagined possible.  Up is down, right is wrong, facts and truth do not exist, everything is fake.  There is no sanity.

Interlude:

A friend of mine once told me that you catch more flies with sugar than vinegar.  An old maxim to be sure.  He wanted to advise me that if I expected to get readers, I needed to write positive helpful pieces.  Ideas that would help make people’s lives better.  Ideas that were useful and people could do things about.  I have no disagreement with that bit of wisdom.

CG-Mtn-Trail-SMLThis morning while doing a 4-mile run in the Casa Grande Mountains, I thought a lot about his advice.  I realize that much of what I have said above could be considered a rant.  I would like to think it was somewhat of a catharsis.  Another friend told me yesterday that I sounded like a man in despair.  I resonated with the word despair.  I regard optimism as ideologically unsound given our present world.  Many people have advised me to stay hopeful.  There is a fine line between hopeful and optimism.  I am not sure I can manage the divide.  Despair on the other hand fits my mood just fine.  Despair is defined as: “The complete loss or absence of hope.”

What does my mood do to my readers?  Well, I can always say “Don’t read my stuff, if you don’t like it.”  I don’t get paid to write.  I don’t sell you anything.  I don’t even put commercials up on my site.  On another level, I write for myself and no one else.  I mentioned the word cathartic before.  Writing is one way, I feel alive.  I gain some hope from sharing my ideas with others if only one person writes back and says “Yes, I agree with you.”

Hope springs eternal, right?  But we need some foundation for hope.  Can hope be built on fantasies, unrealistic ideals, and wishful dreams?  How does reality impact our chances for hope?  Can hope exist when reality denies any possibility of hope?  I am not sure I know the answers to these questions.  I think I might have to go on a quest for hope.  In the meantime, I will go back to my window and tell you what else I see as I look out at the world.

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I look out and see a nation which was built on the assumption that checks and balances would protect a new democracy.  The legislature, courts, and executive branches would each provide a check and balance against the unbridled assumption of power by any one sector.  The basis for this assumption was the belief that each branch would have the best interests of the nation at heart and not partisan interests.  This of course was never 100 percent true but never has there been the divide and partisanship that exists in the USA today.

download (1)We have elected people that will support an insurrection against free and fair elections.  The most important element of Democracy.  People that prefer to ignore that on January 6th, we almost had a coup against democracy in America.  On November 17th, we had these same people vote to ignore the censuring of one of their comrades who parodied the killing of an opposition opponent.

The foundations and pillars of Democracy in America are rotten.  Jefferson believed that democracy could not survive without an educated informed citizenry.  Information would come from a free and impartial media while education would come from a system of free and impartial public schools.  The media today are nothing but paid shills for corporations who spend vast amounts of money on advertising designed to get people to stay in debt buying stuff that they don’t need.

81XUsTIXJxLI look out my window and see a public school system that is being dismantled by racists, bigots, elitists, and sexists who do not want the schools to actually teach anything that might be construed as controversial.  Two thousand five hundred years ago, Socrates was executed for trying to teach the children of the Athenian elite to think for themselves.  Schools and educators are still being attacked for trying to teach children to think.  How can our future generations create a better world when they are besieged with information that keeps them in a past that never existed and feeds them myths about the way the world works?

I look out and see people who are more worried about the shortage in Christmas trees and the price of gasoline for their vehicles than about getting a virus shot or the problems of global warming or environmental pollution.  Citizens who sacrifice at the altar of lower taxes while complaining about the rising inflation.  An inflation they blame on a President while they ignore their own cupidity and its relationship to the law of supply and demand.

The End?

Many so-called Christians say the end is near.  Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.  I don’t believe that anyone is coming to judge anyone else.  I don’t believe that our planet is near its end.  I don’t believe that there will be any kind of a global conflagration.  I do believe that the end of the American Experiment is very near.  We should have a clock for democracy like the doomsday clock.  The doomsday clock is supposed to tell us how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.  The present time of the doomsday clock is 100 seconds to midnight.  We need a “democracy clock” that would tell us how close we are to losing democracy in the USA.  I would say that we are at one minute to midnight.

74 Million Americans voted for a man who does not believe in democracy.  A man who does not believe in our military, our schools, our courts, our media, or our system of elections.  It would be foolish to think that these 74 million voters believe in any of these systems either.  Thus we have nearly 31% of our electorate who either do not understand democracy or would prefer an oligopoly.  We have 34.2 percent who did not bother to vote.  The remainder or 34.8% voted either Democratic or other party.

51FOE8gFffL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Will the USA survive?  All great empires have eventually declined.  It took 300 years for the Roman Empire to fall after it began its decline.  We are witnessing the decline of the American Empire.  How long will it take to fall is well beyond my ability to foresee.  If history is any indication, it will take many years and the decline will be gradual but punctuated by episodes of tragedy and elation.  The tragedies will far outnumber the elations.  Study any system in decline and you can see the gradual disintegration that accompanies all declines.  It is already clear that our Public Education, Political Systems and Legal Systems are in decline.  Trying to stop the declines is futile.  You cannot stop the decline of an old bridge or an old building.  You must rebuild from the ground up.  Sadly, I see neither the drive nor the desire to do the work that needs to be done to help restore democracy in America.

Organizations Trying to Make a Difference

https://www.demos.org/

Behind the Curtain:  The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy

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https://standtogether.org/

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https://www.raze.org/  RAZE’s mission is to educate, advocate and coordinate in rural communities so they may gain access to civic education, engagement opportunities and voter registration

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CoffeePartyON!
Jeanene Louden
http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/

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You Are Never So Alone as When You Stand Out

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Give me the Fortitude to challenge injustice,

The Courage to stand up for those who are weaker than I am,

The Boldness to do what is right when no one else seems to care,

The Determination in the face of criticism and mockery,

The Firmness to stand my ground when I am abandoned and alone,

The Tenacity to ignore insults and attacks on my character,

The Grit to fight the battle until I can fight no more.

The Ability to believe in myself when no one else does.

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The human race is a history of high spots and low spots.  A history of happiness, joy, love, and compassion.  It is also a history of injustice, murder, racism, and cruelty.  When we look back at the past, we see villains and heroes.  The villains are those who exploited and oppressed others.  The heroes are those men and women who stood up for the downtrodden.  The courageous few who stood up when the majority stood down.  Those who had the gumption to endure ostracism and worse because they would not abandon morality and righteousness.

Many years ago, Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) wrote the following prophetic words:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Being faced with injustice poses a difficult choice for many of us.  If it were simply a choice behind a high road and a low road, it would be easy.  But life is seldom black and white.  The choice is often much more difficult.  It can be a choice between being alone or standing with the anonymity of the crowd.  No one wants to stand out.  There is a saying in Japan that the “nail that sticks up, gets hammered down.”  It is the same with every other culture.  The world is moved by the adage to “not make waves.”

Chinese Activist Blocks Column of Tanks

A few years ago, I fought a battle with the town to fire the library director or else to put him back to work.  He had been accused of pedophilia and suspended from his job with pay.  Wisconsin is an employment-at-will state and I could see no reason that a poor small-town library needed to pay a salary to someone who was now suspended from his job.  I went to the library board and eventually to the town council to challenge this decision.  Either fire him I said or put him back to work until he has been tried by a court of his peers.  Both boards told me the same thing.  A lawyer that the city hired advised against such a move due to the potential of a lawsuit.  Lawyers all over this country use the possibility of a lawsuit as a scare tactic to do nothing.

At first, I had support from others in my battle with these boards.  Eventually, one by one they all dropped out.  “We have to live in this town, and we don’t want to make waves.”  I continued what had become a lonely battle.  Doubts and recriminations daily filled my mind and heart.  I was disappointed by the lack of support I was receiving.  I felt deserted by friends who I thought shared my ideas of right and wrong.  I was told by the city council that I should not attend any more of their meetings.  I was persona non-gratis.

I toyed with the idea of giving up.  I wanted at least one other person who could help me justify my crusade.  “Why should I care about the library if no one else does?”  Instead of giving up, I amplified my efforts.  I threatened to send a flyer out to every citizen in Frederic during Frederic Family Days.   My flyer was carefully worded to show the cowardice of the City Council and the costs to the Frederic taxpayer due to this cowardice.  Within three days of the council receiving a copy of my flyer, they fired the former library director.  Because of their spinelessness, they had kept him on the payroll for nearly nine months while he fled to Mississippi.  A few months later he was convicted of pedophilia and sentenced to jail.

I did not like the role I played in this battle.  I would have preferred that someone else had taken up the gauntlet.  However, no one wanted it.  I am no hero.  I question myself every day.  I am always wondering if this decision or that decision is the right one.  I lack the self-confidence to assert that I am right and that you are wrong.  How can I be certain that I am right?  What if I am not?

a76ce78ebb5a097bfdd284a75347259bI look around me today and I do not understand the world.  I do not understand the decisions that our leaders make.  It seems we have a moral disease.  The symptoms of this disease are short-term thinking and greed.  Arizona is suffering from an unprecedented drought and heat wave.  The water levels in both the Central Arizona Project and aquifers are dangerously low.  Yet when asked to cut back water usage by 3.8 percent, the golf course owners in Phoenix created an association to oppose such a “drastic” cut.  Their counter proposal was for a 1.6 percent cut in water usage.  The Governor of Arizona was the keynote speaker for the associations kick off meeting.  Am I crazy?  Do you believe this?  Are golf courses more important than drinking water and water for farm crops?

If you dare to stand against the greed that has taken root in our society, you are an anti-capitalistic liberal communist left-wing radical.  What passes for dialogue in politics today are theatrical stunts, public attacks, name calling and vows to never compromise.  Our legislative bodies have been corrupted by men and women who are only motivated by avarice and power.  We are beyond truth and reason.  Words like reconciliation, harmony and accord no longer have any meaning.  Nothing gets done as each side digs its heels in and votes strictly according to party-line.  Instead of asking what is good for the USA, politicians only ask, “What is good for my party?”

Ali-Stripped

The man or woman who stands out is a person of courage.  It takes guts to stand up and speak out.  It is much easier to do nothing.  Sgt. Shultz used to say, “I hear nothing, I see nothing.”  It may be comforting to go through life hearing and seeing nothing but at what cost to the world?

Do you think the world needs to be changed?  It all starts with us.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

Stand up, speak out, put yourself on the line.  If not you, then who? 

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Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose:  “Give Me Blood, and I Promise You Freedom”

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Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was born in India on 23 January 1897.  He died in a Japanese Hospital on the 23rd of January 1945 in Taiwan.  Taiwan was then occupied by the Japanese Army during WW II.  He died a painful death from burns suffered during an airplane crash.  Bose believed in a free India and spent his life fighting against what he regarded as the British occupation of India.

For many in India, Bose was a hero for his staunch support Indian independence.  However, for many others he became somewhat of an embarrassment.  Bose took literally the old saying that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  In the later stages of WW II, he allied himself with the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.  Since they were fighting the British, Subhash believed that he could use their forces to help free India from British rule.  In addition to his willingness to ally himself with the Fascist forces, Subhas had another characteristic which cost him much support for his cause of India Nationalism.  Whereas Mahatma Gandhi believed in a philosophy of “Passive Non-Violence” to overthrow British rule, Bose believed that it could only happen if Indians were willing to resort to force and direct battles with the British.   Bose was no believer in non-violence.

BapuYou may have by now noticed that many great leaders seem to have had a sort of doppelganger or one who directly opposes their strategies and methods.  Martin Luther King had Malcolm X.  Sun Yat-sen had Zhang Binglin.  Nelson Mandela had Steve Biko.  Mahatma Gandhi had Subhash Bose.  Each of these men had similar end goals but the conflicts with their compatriots came about because of the differences in their methods for reaching their goals.  History remembers the winner of the conflicts and the loser is often only a footnote in the history of the winner’s biography.

Few people in America will recognize the name of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.  However, I think that he is a man that should be known to the world and remembered.  He had dedication and devotion to a cause bigger than himself.  He was a man of conviction, integrity, and commitment.  Many people struggle for things in their lives which will benefit themselves.  Bose’s struggle was for a freedom for his people and his nation.

I believe that freedom comes about because of a dynamic tension or yin-yang relationship between violence and peace or to put it another way between the sword and the olive branch.  If you regard the great revolutions of history, you will seldom find any that are successful solely on the basis of peaceful protests.  Frederic Douglas said that, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”

Here are a few other quotes regarding the relationship between violence and revolution:

“Revolution does have to be violent precisely because the Pharaoh won’t let you go. If the Pharaoh would let you go, the revolution won’t have to be violent.”  — Michael Hardt

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”  — John F. Kennedy

“We decry violence all the time in this country but look at our history. We were born in a violent revolution, and we’ve been in wars ever since. We’re not a pacific people.”  — James Lee Burke

History shows that seldom does the oppressor voluntarily allow the oppressed to be free.  Greed, power, and lack of compassion are typical traits of all oppressors.  Gandhi was a great man who overcame many trials and difficulties to pursue his path for Indian freedom.  Although Bose chose a different path, his trials and difficulties were as great if not greater than those suffered by Gandhi.  Bose was not afraid to speak out and to risk his life for what he believed.  He makes this point truly clear in the following speech.

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Give me blood and I promise you freedom:

Subhash’s famous speech was delivered in Burma (Now Myanmar) to the Indian National Army on July 4, 1944.

“Friends! Twelve months ago a new programme of ‘total mobilization’ or ‘maximum sacrifice’ was placed before Indians in East Asia.  Today I shall give you an account of our achievements during the past year and shall place before you our demands for the coming year.  But, before I do so, I want you to realize once again what a golden opportunity we have for winning freedom. The British are engaged in a worldwide struggle and in the course of this struggle they have suffered defeat after defeat on so many fronts.”

The British were fighting on two fronts.  In the West, they were battling the Nazis.  In the East, they were battling the Japanese.  At the beginning of the war, things went badly for the British on both fronts.  Bose had assumed that preoccupied as the British were with battling the Japanese and Germans, they would be easy pickings for an Indian army attacking India.  He was dead wrong.

“I am so very hopeful and optimistic about the outcome of our struggle because I do not rely merely on the efforts of three million Indians in East Asia. There is a gigantic movement going on inside India and millions of our countrymen are prepared for maximum suffering and sacrifice in order to achieve liberty.”

The battle for Indian independence has been estimated to have killed millions of Indian civilians and soldiers.  In “War of Civilizations: India AD 1857,” by A. Misra, a writer and historian based in Mumbai, he argues that the war was an untold holocaust that caused the deaths of almost 10 million people over just a span of 10 years beginning in 1857.  The total number of deaths due to the British treatment of Indian revolutionaries will perhaps never be known.  The British were brutal in their treatment of people they regarded as “disloyal” to the British Empire.

“Unfortunately, ever since the great fight of 1857, our countrymen are disarmed, whereas the enemy is armed to the teeth. Without arms and without a modern army, it is impossible for a disarmed people to win freedom in this modern age. Through the grace of Providence and through the help of generous Nippon, it has become possible for Indians in East Asia to get arms to build up a modern army.”

Many Indian regiments were disarmed after the ending of the 1857 uprising.  Indian artillery, except for a few mountain batteries, was abolished.  Unlike in the American Civil War where soldiers went home with their rifles, the British took arms away from the militants.

“We require more men and women of all categories for administration and reconstruction in liberated areas. We must be prepared for a situation in which the enemy will ruthlessly apply the scorched earth policy, before withdrawing from a particular area and will also force the civilian population to evacuate as was attempted in Burma.”

Vereshchagin-Blowing_from_Guns_in_British_IndiaMemories of the atrocities committed by the British in the 1857 uprising were still prevalent among the Indian population.  There were atrocities on both sides, but even after the war was concluded, the British engaged in a number of substantial revenge and retribution attacks against the Indians suspected or known to have supported the uprising.

“The most important of all is the problem of sending reinforcements in men and in supplies to the fighting fronts. If we do not do so, we cannot hope to maintain our success at the fronts. Nor can we hope to penetrate deeper into India.”

Boots on the ground are always critical to winning any wars.  100,000 Indian National Army (INA) soldiers fought on the Japanese side against their fellow Indians who fought on the British side.  The INA was dwarfed by the estimated 2 million Indian volunteers who fought for the British.

“Friends, one year ago, when I made certain demands of you, I told you that if you give me ‘total mobilization’, I would give you a ‘second front’. I have redeemed that pledge. The first phase of our campaign is over. Our victorious troops, fighting side by side with Nipponese troops, have pushed back the enemy and are now fighting bravely on the sacred soil of our dear motherland.”

As I mentioned earlier, Bose allied himself with the Japanese to fight for Indian independence.  Most Indians remained loyal to the British.  The battle for India lasted 80 days, from April 4 to June 22, 1944.  The Japanese were roundly defeated and forced to leave India.  It was one of the worst defeats suffered by the Japanese up to that time.

“Gird up your loins for the task that now lies ahead. I had asked you for men, money and materials. I have got them in generous measure. Now I demand more of you. Men, money and materials cannot by themselves bring victory or freedom. We must have the motive-power that will inspire us to brave deeds and heroic exploits.”

Bose now exhorted his Indian followers to give more than just their bodies and resources.  He wanted them to believe in the cause of independence as much as he did.

“It will be a fatal mistake for you to wish to live and see India free simply because victory is now within reach. No one here should have the desire to live to enjoy freedom. A long fight is still in front of us.”

0c6f7302f021918ba104c6faf94798e8Perhaps Bose saw the writing on the wall.  He is warning his supporters that they may “not see the promised land.”  The promised land being independence for India.  Nevertheless, they should remain committed to the effort.

“We should have but one desire today – the desire to die so that India may live – the desire to face a martyr’s death, so that the path to freedom may be paved with the martyr’s blood.  Friends! My comrades in the War of Liberation! Today I demand of you one thing, above all. I demand of you blood. It is blood alone that can avenge the blood that the enemy has spilt. It is blood alone that can pay the price of freedom.”

Freedom must be purchased at the cost of blood.  It is often said that “freedom is never free.”  Bose is asking his supporters to be willing to die for the cause.

“Give me blood and I promise you freedom!”

Subhash’s final line in his speech reminds me of Patrick Henry’s famous line “Give me liberty or give me death.”  The price of freedom can be steep.  Millions of men and women have given their lives to fight for the independence of their countries.

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On June 15, 1947, the British House of Commons passed the Indian Independence Act which divided India into two dominions, India, and Pakistan.  The fight for Indian independence began ninety years earlier and its success can be attributed to the relentlessness that leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had for freedom.

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The excerpts from Bose’s famous speech were taken from the “Indian Express.” You can view the entire speech on this site. 

What Needs to Be Done Starting in 2021 – IMHO

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Getting Trump and his Senate sycophants out of office is only the first step in making America the country it needs to be.  The following is an agenda that I think would help to exceed the dreams of our founders and would meet the needs of citizens who want to live in a country characterized by true equality, true freedom, and true justice.  These items should be our “Second” priority after getting Trump out of office.

  • Universal day care for all working parents
  • Develop a National Agency Against Racism and Sexism
  • Low cost Internet for all citizens
  • Term Limits for all National political offices – 2 six-year terms maximum. No holding any public office for ten years after
  • Expand Affordable Care Act to insure healthcare for all citizens
  • Major Education Changes – develop a 21st century education system (see my blog on this subject)
  • Infrastructure Plan (Biden Plan a Start)
  • Start Closing Military Bases overseas
  • Major Campaign Funding Reform
    • Repeal Citizens United
    • Abolish Lobbying
  • Limit Executive Privilege and Executive Orders
  • Limit for Supreme Court Tenure to 15 years
  • Restore fair representation by eliminating gerrymandering
  • Abolish the electoral college
  • Reform corporate law to restore the balance of power between workers and management.
  • Adopt a plan for immigration based on care and compassion for all human beings
  • Reform the criminal justice and legal system
  • Ensure that LGBTQ citizens have the same rights as all other citizens in the USA
  • Reform tax law so that it is equitable and fair
  • Work international to establish a global mandate for a stable climate that will include efforts on climate restoration, climate mitigation and environmental sustainability

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Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Frederic Douglass: “If There is No Struggle, there is No Progress”

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Actually, the name of this speech is the “West India Emancipation Speech.” However, the line from Douglass’s speech that “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” is one of the most memorable lines in the history of speech.  I first read about the life of Frederic Douglass sometime around the end of the sixties.  As you may know, this was a time of social unrest and many assaults on the systems that governed the USA.  I had become involved with a number of leftist groups and was reading Marx, Marcuse, Anarchist, Socialist and other writings belonging to what might be called a genre of “radical” literature.  I became interested in anyone who championed change in our government, and this of course led me to a number of black authors.

I first read about the life of Douglass (1818–1895) in his autobiography (“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”, 1845).  When I finally decided to go to college at the age of 25, I was required to take a speech class.  The year was 1971 and I was 25 years old.  The school offered me the opportunity to test out of the class.  I was required to do a speech in front of a professor who then would decide if I could bypass the class.  I decided to do an excerpt from Douglass’s “West India Emancipation Speech.”  I was enamored of this speech years ago and today it is still one of the most memorable speeches that I have ever heard.  Evidently, I did a good enough job on the speech since I was given credit for the class and I did not have to take it.

Context:

Frederic Douglas gave this speech on August 3, 1857 at Canandaigua, New York.  It was an address concerning the history of the West Indian slaves in their own struggle for freedom.  After years of slave revolts and civil disorder, England had abolished slavery in the British West Indies in 1834.  Douglass used the anniversary of this event as leverage for speaking out against slavery in the United States.  It epitomized his views concerning the role of struggle in the battle against slavery.  The slaves in the West Indies achieved their freedom only after many years of struggles and reprisals against the British slave owners.

81IYcBLyoILTwenty-three years later, when Douglass gave his speech, the turmoil in the United States over the issue of slavery was growing.  It had always been a major source of dissension in the United States, but things were coming to a boiling point.  The Dred Scott decision had recently been rendered by the US Supreme Court.  This decision held that black people were not citizens and that slaves could not sue for freedom.  In March of 1857, James Buchanan was sworn in as the 15th President of the USA.  Buchanan was no friend of the abolitionists and he joined the Southern leaders in attempting to admit Kansas as a slave state.  He strongly supported the Dred Scott decision and today he would be considered an ardent racist.  The contrast between Lincoln who was elected four years later and Buchanan in terms of their policies towards slavery was the final straw that led to the Civil War.

Frederic Douglass was born a slave but escaped from Maryland to the north in 1838.  Douglass was 20 years old at the time.  He had taught himself to read and write.  He had natural skills for oratory and writing and it did not take him long to establish himself in the Abolitionist Movement as a leader and speaker against slavery.  Frederic was a man of deep compassion and empathy for others.  Douglas not only supported the rights of all minorities including Native Americans and Chinese immigrants to freedom and equality, but he also championed the rights of women to vote and to have full participation in government and civic affairs.

West India Emancipation Speech:

“The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just. For a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others, or put himself to any inconvenience to gain it for others.”

Reading this speech again after many years reminds me of how much I still adore the words and thoughts that Douglass has voiced.  I would not want a man as a friend who will not stand up for himself or others.  I loathe sycophants such as those who surround Trump.  I hate (yes hate) people who will abuse, denigrate, or attack other people.  I have fought physically and verbally to defend people who were helpless or were being bullied.  I would do so now and tomorrow.  The meek may inherit the earth but they will need the angry antagonistic people like me to acquire their inheritance.  I am glad that I do not profess to be a Christian because I do not believe in turning the other cheek.  Not once, not ever.  If there is a hell, I will go proudly to it knowing that I have fought to defend the rights of others.

“Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.”

No nation or people in history were ever given their freedom by others.  Those who want freedom must take it for themselves.  Douglass was well aware of the struggles of other nations to achieve their independence.  He noted the struggles of the Turks and the Hungarians and the Irish to achieve their independence.

“I know, my friends, that in some quarters the efforts of colored people meet with very little encouragement. We may fight, but we must fight like the Sepoys of India, under white officers. This class of Abolitionists don’t like colored celebrations, they don’t like colored conventions, they don’t like colored antislavery fairs for the support of colored newspapers.”

The sentiments that Douglass voiced here are hard for many white people to understand or accept.  When Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) the 4th Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee wanted black people as the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the sixties many white people were indignant.  How could they want to kick us out?  “We have marched, we have rallied, we have sat side by side with black people to help overcome racism and now they are turning on us?”

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When Ture supported the concept of “Black Power” many former white supporters were threatened.  In a “Black Power” speech in 1966 Ture said: “It is a call for black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” Black Power reflected the anger and pent-up disappointment with a system of white power that was forever promising blacks’ freedom and equality but never delivering on the promise.  Many white liberals thought that black folks were now going to far.

White leaders in the Civil Rights Movement did not and could not understand the needs of black people to lead their own struggle and fight for freedom and liberty.  Black people knew and understood that freedom achieved by others or given by others was no real freedom.  The fight against racism meant that blacks must lead the fight and white supporters must follow.  Frederic Douglass understood this concept one hundred year before the term Black Power was first used.

“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

His words have never been truer.  Greece fought the Persians.  Rome fought the Carthaginians.  England fought the Spanish.  The US fought the British.  The Chinese fought the Europeans.  Throughout history, countries have only achieved their independence by a struggle that as Douglass noted:  “This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.” 

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Today we see protests against racism that are led under the banner of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Some of these protests and rallies remain peaceful while at times others have become violent.  Many decry the violence, looting and physical attacks on the police that sometimes break out during these rallies.  I don’t defend the violence as necessary not do I defend the attacks on police as warranted unless they are in self-defense.  However, I do understand the difference between cause and effect.  When you are in a shell game, they tell you to “Keep your eye on the ball.”  This is almost impossible to do.  It is also impossible during the middle of the racism and prejudice that surrounds us to remember who the enemies and oppressors really are.

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The police that are supposedly there to “Serve and Protect” seem more likely to be there to “Preserve and Protect” the status quo and the interests of big business.  Too often, the mere presence of police in SWOT uniforms and riot gear at rallies serves to antagonize and provoke more violence.  The very nature of SWOT uniforms and riot gear is both threatening and violent in and of itself.  To stand there peacefully holding a sign while surrounded by people with batons, mace, tasers, automatic rifles and handguns takes a fortitude that not many people have.  If you want to criticize a Black Lives Matter rally, you should first come out from your gated community and join a rally.  See how you feel when law enforcement is present and looking over your shoulder with a rifle.

Should the rallies result in physical harm to others or to property?  The answer is obvious, and it is no.  But when I hear the outcries against such violence, I think back on Douglass’s words that:

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

I repeat these words from above since I think they bear reflection.  Douglass knew that many abolitionists thought that slave revolts were “prejudicial to their cause.”  The same is often heard today when rallies turn violent.  But I want to ask, who is making this claim?  It is easy to stand on the sidelines and applaud but not so easy to stand up to violence being inflected physically on those who are protesting peacefully as has happened during Trumps recent Bible photo op outside the White House.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

downloadToday we are witnessing a descent into tyranny and demagoguery the likes of which have never before been seen in America.  We have a President who lies whenever he speaks.  We have a Republican party that abhors social justice and will do everything they can to suppress the rights of Americans to vote.  We have a base of supporters for Trump that are racist, fascist, and anti-democratic.  Lured by whatever sirens they listen to; they support the right of Trump to do whatever he wants to do.  They call him their Messiah and voice unconditional support for his attacks on the press, minorities, immigrants, women, blacks, Latinos, disabled, foreign countries and even the disabled.  A President who is willing to sacrifice thousands of lives to support his quest for a second term.

On a recent trip, I passed a sign in front of a house that read “Apathy is not an option.”  I am sure I know what the person meant who posted this sign.  Douglass would know what it meant and would fully understand that anyone professing a desire to stand on the sidelines would soon find themselves ruled by a tyrant.  There is no option today except to fight.  To paraphrase Patrick Henry, the chains of Americans are being forged in the White House.  They are being forged in the Senate.  They are being forged in the Supreme Court.  They are being forged wherever the Republican Party has attained a majority.  Quietly submit and you will attain the full measure of tyranny and injustice that your acquiescence has earned.

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It’s the Economy Stupid! The Five Myths of Capitalism – Part 1 of 5

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There are many theories about what drives progress and change in the world.  Some say Ideology changes the world.  Some say Technology is the main driver of change.  Karl Marx, one of the most famous or infamous men in history, (depending on your beliefs) argued that Economics is the main driver of change in the world.  Much of Marx’s theory is summed up by the term Historical Materialism which can be defined as:

“A theory of history which states that a society’s economic organization fundamentally determines its social institutions and the way that people live and benefit from the means of production in that society.”

marxism-capitalism-1-638Most of what people learn about Marx is far removed from his actual ideas.  Given that Capitalism has been diametrically opposed to the very name of Karl Marx, it is not surprising that he is routinely disparaged.  Even at the University level, it is rare to find anyone studying Marx very deeply.   Many educators and instructors describe Marx’s economic theories as “Totally Discredited.”  Few people in America have any good words for Karl Marx.  Any politician in the USA who might suggest that Marx ever said one good thing or had one good idea would court instant political death.  Marx is the devil in our Capitalistic system.

the economyMarx did of course hate capitalism.  He saw Capitalism as a system that exploited workers and allowed the greedy to benefit at the expense of those less fortunate or less aggressive.

“Capitalism: Teach a man to fish, but the fish he catches aren’t his. They belong to the person paying him to fish, and if he’s lucky, he might get paid enough to buy a few fish for himself.”  — Karl Marx

10665231_470379489743928_2447670465163187643_nThe antipathy directed towards Marx and his critique of Capitalism has discouraged any real in-depth understanding of the limits and myths of Capitalism by most Americans.  Capitalism resides in America on the same level as Mom, God, and Apple Pie.  Woe to anyone who would dare to attack Capitalism.  In the United States, Capitalism is as hallowed an institution as Christianity.  In fact, most Christians think that Capitalism and religion go hand in hand, which to a large extent they sadly do.  Unfortunately, not all Capitalism is the same.  In America, we have a home-grown version that is more appropriately called Corporate Capitalism.  What is the difference you might ask?  Well it gets even more complicated since economists define four types of Capitalism.  These are:  oligarchic capitalism, state-guided capitalism, big-firm capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism.  The type of Capitalism that I am going to talk about is known as Big Firm Capitalism or Corporate Capitalism.  It has been defined as:

“Corporate capitalism is characterized by the dominance of hierarchical and bureaucratic corporations… A large proportion of the economy of the United States and its labor market falls within corporate control.  In the developed world, corporations dominate the marketplace, comprising 50% or more of all businesses.  Those businesses which are not corporations contain the same bureaucratic structure of corporations, but there is usually a sole owner or group of owners who are liable to bankruptcy and criminal charges relating to their business. Corporations have limited liability and remain less regulated and accountable than sole proprietorships.” — Wikipedia

Before we proceed further, you need to understand one thing.  I am not against corporations per se.  We gain many benefits from corporations.  Corporations are a large part of the foundation of our economy which from strictly a monetary perspective has been phenomenally successful.  The USA has perhaps the most successful economy in history.  I have no problems with the monetary contributions of corporations.

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The problems arise however, in that there are Myths of Corporate Capitalism which serve to hide the negative impacts that corporations have on our country and the rest of the world.  Today, corporations are global entities and their excesses are felt not just in this country but all over the globe.  I believe that unless these excesses are reined in by intelligent oversight and a rewriting of corporate law, they will destroy this country.  Each of these excesses is a Deadly Disease that by itself could do the destruction.  Together these five excesses are leading America away from the vision of our founding fathers.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were based on the belief in a democratic system of government that was of the people, by the people and for the people.  We are increasingly standing by while our country becomes a government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

The Five Myths of Corporate Capitalism that are destroying America:

  1. Corporations are people

supreme court decisionOver the past 40 years, the Supreme Court has radically expanded constitutional rights for corporations.  The original charters for corporations written in the late 19th century, allowed corporations powers never before seen in companies.  The abuse of these powers soon led to a considerable amount of legislation designed to reign in some of the most egregious of these abuses.  Laws such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed in 1890 to stop monopoly practices and the Clayton Antitrust Act passed in 1914 to stop unethical business practices were somewhat successful at ameliorating corporate abuses.  Unfortunately, corporations were still left with considerable power to thwart the goals of democracy and good government.

From the early 20th Century onwards, corporations continued to use their power to bribe, cajole, and persuade policy makers to give them privileges that once again extended their power. They have since more than made up for the power that they lost in the early part of the 20th century.

“Today, the biggest companies have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them, allowing them to be everywhere, all the time.  For every dollar spent on lobbying by labor unions and public-interest groups together, large corporations and their associations now spend $34.  Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 consistently represent business.”  — “How Corporate Lobbyists Conquered American Democracy” — The Atlantic, Lee Drutman, April 20, 2015.  

corporate powerCorporate interests easily dominate the interests of the common person.  The common person has nowhere near the financial clout of corporations.  In 2010, the Supreme Court passed the Citizens United Decision which gave corporations unlimited power to finance and support political candidates running for office as well as to lobby on behalf of any laws that they wanted.  This decision basically upheld the idea that corporations had a right to free speech much like any citizen of the USA and that campaign spending was simply a manifestation of free speech.  Corporations are now being treated as living breathing people despite the fact that corporations can live forever, and corporations are not organic entities.  They are not born, and they do not die like any other creature on the face of the earth.

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Corporations already had almost unlimited power to influence and coerce politicians to do their will.  The Citizens United Decision took all the brakes out of the system.  You have often heard the parody of the Golden Rule “He who has the gold makes the rules.”  This trope is now a fact of life in America.  Many people no longer bother voting because they believe that voting is a waste of time.  Everyone knows that politicians need an exorbitant amount of money to support their campaign and that once elected they immediately start building their money up for their reelection.   They get the lion’s share of this money from big business interests and associations that support big business interests such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).

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According to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that cover activity from January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019, congressional candidates collected $389 million and disbursed $172.2 million, political parties received $353.7 million and spent $279.9 million, and political action committees (PACs) raised $958.2 million and spent $818.7 million in the six-month period.  If you total these figures up for money raised in just the first six months of 2019, it equals $1.701 billion dollars.  If there were 100 people in the US Senate and 435 people in the US House of Representatives, this equals approximately $3,179,400 dollars for every one of those politicians in office.  Of course, some will get more, and some will get less, but the majority of this money will be spent helping to support the reelection of each and every one of these honorable men and women.

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Here is a little experiment to show you what this campaign funding could buy.  Consider that the Federal Minimum Wage in the United States as of 2020 is $10 dollars per hour.  A person on minimum wage working full time earns approximately $21,000 dollars a year.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1. 8 million Americans work full-time at or below the minimum wage.  If you double the average election campaign fund to equal a full year of collecting money you will get approximately $6.2 million dollars.  Now divide this campaign fund by the average yearly minimum wage of $21 thousand dollars and you get 295.  In other words, one year of campaign funding (an average) would fund a person now working on minimum wage for 295 years.   If you earn the national average of $86,000 dollars a year, it could support you for 72 years.

To say that something is wrong here is an understatement.  We have a sort of self-perpetuating money machine here.  Every year corporations get greedier and seek more profits.  According to Corporate Law that is their primary reason for existence.  Numerous pundits and corporate sympathizers extol the virtue of greed.

Workers Should Be Very Thankful That Corporations Are So Greedy” by Jeffrey Dorfman

greed is goodOne of the most popular movies in the eighties was Wall Street.  In the movie, Michael Douglas gave a “Greed is Good” speech which was actually applauded by audiences all over the United States.  Some corporations have been sued by stockholders for not being greedy enough.

Every year budding politicians need more and more money to get elected.  Corporations are money banks for anyone desiring to run for office.  Corporations provide the funds that politicians need to wage a successful election campaign.  Once elected, elected officials are then beholden to the major corporations and lobbyists whose help they will need to raise the money to get reelected.

Corporations are more than happy to support candidates who will pass bills that help them to make more profits.  Other bills they like are designed to ensure that they can pay less taxes, have fewer environmental regulations, fewer safety and health regulations, pay lower wages, decrease employee pensions and benefits, defeat unions and avoid onerous consumer liability claims.  Any politician who is willing to support the former goals can find numerous corporate lobbyists willing to donate money to help them get elected.  The Citizens United Decision guarantees that corporations can give as much money as they want without breaking any laws.  After all, it is free speech.

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“Warren Buffett worth nearly $80 billion dollars points to the Forbes 400, which lists the wealthiest Americans.  ‘Between the first computation in 1982 and today, the wealth of the 400 increased 29-fold — from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion — while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill.  During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down.  It surged upward’.”  — Entrepreneurs, January 24th, 2018

In Part 2, I am going to cover the second myth of Corporate Capitalism.  The Myth that laissez faire will somehow result in corporations being self-regulating entities for the common good.

“According to a survey from the Pew Research Center last year, 60 percent of American adults think that three decades from now, the U.S. will be less powerful than it is today. Almost two-thirds say it will be even more divided politically. Fifty-nine percent think the environment will be degraded. Nearly three-quarters say that the gap between the haves and have-nots will be wider. A plurality expects the average family’s standard of living to have declined. Most of us, presumably, have recently become acutely aware of the danger of global plagues.”  — The Atlantic, Kate Julian, April 17, 2020

I think you will enjoy my five part series. I write for the understanding of the average person and not necessarily the economist or the Ph.D. However, if you want a more rigorous and thoroughly detailed analysis of the problems with the Capitalist system. See the following study by the Roosevelt Institute.

https://rooseveltinstitute.org/publications/new-rules-for-the-21st-century-corporate-power-public-power-future-american-economy/#:~:text=In%20New%20Rules%20for%20the,thinking%20about%20the%20role%20of

Thinking about Immigration – Part 1: We Need a Fair Immigration Policy – Not an Anti-Immigration Policy!

Immigration-logoThe topic of immigration today is one of the most important subjects for all Americans.  Studies in productivity show that increases in productivity are due to two major factors:  Education and Immigration.  Once upon a time we had a system for both of these objectives which helped make our country great.  Today, both of these systems are broke and need reform.  If we are to compete in a global economy, we must have a 21st Century immigration policy that meets the needs of employers and those immigrants that want to or need to come to the USA.  I had already decided to write about this subject when I found myself between the proverbial rock and a hard place.   Immigration has become a key weapon in the mouths of people like Trump and many other politicians.  A climate of fear which has pervaded this country since 911 has been spread to link the problems of terrorism with the problems of immigration. The Anti-Immigration people want you to think that immigration and terrorism are synonymous.  They want you to believe that only by keeping all immigrants out of the USA can we keep our country safe.  The key question I want to answer in my three part blog is as follows:  Do too many immigrants erode our standard of living and contribute to rising crime and increased taxes or do too few immigrants create a lack of needed employees for new jobs and a a lack of vitality for the economy?  

immigrants taking the pledgeI have heard so many arguments one way or the other about the subject that I decided to educate myself about the issues and try to find some “truth” for myself.  My self-education began with a trip to the library where I requested about a dozen books on immigration.  They all came in from different libraries about a week later.  I had finished about nine of them when the urge to summarize my ideas and weigh in with my opinions just gripped me.  This subject is fairly complex as it must cover social, political, economic and legal issues.  I would like to do some justice to the subject, so my blog on this issue soon became three blogs.  Too much for one too read in one setting so I will publish this in 3 Parts.  Please feel free to weigh in on the comments section with your opinions, thoughts and feelings. 

Many people have said that this issue should be decided on the basis of facts and not prejudices and antipathies however that would be like asking for the snow to fall when it was warm outside or for hell to be a nice place to visit.  It is not going to happen.  So realistically, I would like to look at this issue from both a logical factual perspective and also from an illogical or emotional perspective.  Often our gut feelings may be trying to tell us some important truths.  It does not hurt to listen to our feelings as long as we moderate our feelings with our brains.  

Immigration-reform-rally-APMost of the books I selected looked at immigration from a wide range of perspectives.  There were pros and cons of immigration policy, some that were totally against immigration and others that were for a liberal immigration policy.  Several books dealt with the history of US immigration and others dealt with more of the legislative issues around immigration.  Books such as: Immigration Policy: Point/Counterpoint by Allport and Ferguson, Illegal Immigration by Miller, Mexican Immigration by Stuart Anderson and Immigration: Opposing Viewpoints, edited by Leone were among a few of the titles I selected to provide me with a wide range of viewpoints.  I started out with the intention to reject any bias I had one way or the other on the issue.  One of my caveats though was to try to separate fact from emotion.   I think perhaps one danger to seeing any “truths” is when facts try to hide as emotions or emotions try to hide as facts.  Much so called data that I read would not stand up to any statistical validity in terms of evidence or proof.  Much of the emotions out there also try to hide behind facts and present themselves as logical arguments when they are based on bias and prejudice.  My object in my reading and research was to sort through the rhetoric, and vitriol to see what we as American citizens really need to do about immigration.  What is in our best interests both short-term and long-term?  What obligations (if any) do we owe to other peoples of the world?  Do we need to worry about the quote inside the Statue of Liberty?

The New Collossus:  

stature of libertyNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 —Emma Lazarus, 1883

 Perhaps we need to erase this quote inside the statue and substitute it with the following:

 The Scum of the Earth:

Stay home; you wretched curs,

We are sick and tired of being the dumping grounds for the world.

We have enough poor and tired masses.

We have enough yearning to be rich and well off.

old picture of immigrationStay home; we have enough problems of our own,

We already have too many here who can’t speak English.

Even many Americans can’t speak good English.

Where will we find enough ESL teachers?

Stay home; find work or jobs in your own land,

Give us a break, taxes are high enough here already.

We have our own culture, you would not fit in.

We don’t need more criminals and illiterates.

 Stay home; don’t come unless you are needed,

We will post for those aliens that fit our job requirements.

We only want those who are educated and creative.

The rest of you need not apply. 

Stay home!

The two sides as represented in both poems would seem to be galaxies apart.  Is there really any middle ground?  Are there any solutions to the issue of immigration?  Some of the key questions which I have found and which need to be answered are:

 ·        Do we already have too many immigrants here?

·         What do we do about illegal immigrants?  How do we keep them out?

·         How many immigrants should we allow in?

·         Who should we allow in?

·         What do we do with the ones (both legal and illegal) already here?

·         Will too much immigration ruin our culture and values?

·         Will the wrong type of immigrants be bad for our country?

·         How long will it take for them to be assimilated?

·         How much immigration can our education institutions handle?

·         How can we afford health care and social services for those in need?

·         How do we keep out criminals and terrorists while letting respectable immigrants in?

·         Should we give amnesty to those already here?

·         What are the best ways to control our borders?

·         What is a fair immigration policy?

·         What role do drugs have in encouraging illegal immigration?

Are there solutions to these questions?  On the positive side, I believe that there are.  I believe history can show us a path through the web of confusion that seems to surround these questions.  The great philosopher Santayana noted:  “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  The past has many lessons on the issue of immigration that we need to pay attention to.  On the negative side, we will not be able to solve these questions as long as we are basing our decisions on emotions masquerading as facts.  We need to sort out prejudice, discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia from the questions and decisions surrounding the issue of immigration.

immigration-reformOver the next three blogs, I would like to share with you some of the answers I have found to the above questions.  However, do not rely on my perspective alone.  Do not trust the Buddha on the road.  Go to your local library and find some of the same books I have found.  Read the opinions and viewpoints for and against immigration.  Democracy only works with an informed citizenry. As long as only our politicians have the “facts”,  the rest of us will remain gullible and stupid on this issue. As such, we have no way to guard the guardians.  We all must be vigilant when it comes to decisions affecting our lives and the very foundation of our nation.  None of us would be here if it were not for immigration.  I presume this even applies to Native Americans to some degree.

Let’s all take our responsibility to keep this nation strong and democratic. Take some time today to inform yourself about some of the issues I noted above.  Go online and read some of the history or policies of immigration in this country in the past.

Time for Questions:

How much do you care about this issue?  Do you care enough to spend perhaps an hour each week for the next four weeks becoming more informed about this issue?  If not, are you willing to trust your political representative to make the decision for you?  Are you willing to let these questions be decided by others?  Are you an immigrant?  How did your family or ancestors get to this country?

Life is just beginning. 

Four Things You Should Know About Facebook and the World

I have lost track of how many years I have been using Facebook.  However, I have not lost track of all the times that people say to me “I never use Facebook (FB) because it is etc., etc.”  They then proceed to give me a litany of reasons why they: 1. Have never used Facebook or 2. Why they think Facebook is useless.  I have found the following four beliefs to predominate among the reasons why Facebook has been deemed as either useless or even dangerous.

  1. Facebook is a waste of time. It has too much stupid stuff and trivia.

I would be richer than Mark Zuckerberg if I had a dollar for every time I have heard “What do I care about what people had for breakfast today.”  Great, you don’t want to know where I went, what I did, who I saw and what I eat?  Use your little finger to scroll down or push delete or go to another site.  I have lots of friends who do care and who want to know what I am doing.  I have had many comments on my FB site such as “It was so much fun to follow you on your trip.”  “I love your postings.”  “Thanks for sharing.”

If you think my postings are trivial, meaningless, inane, or asinine, great.  I respect your opinion.  So “Defriend” me.  Go elsewhere for your trivia.  Find your daily dose of bullshit someplace else.  But don’t criticize something you have never tried or condemn others because you find their lives not worth knowing about.

  1. Facebook can’t be trusted. They will sell valuable information about me.

Facebook is a business first and foremost.  How do you think Zuckerberg got so rich?  FB is full of advertising and advertisers want to know everything about you, so they can sell you stuff you don’t think you really need.  They will convince you that you really need it.  This has been going on since Moses convinced Pharaoh to let his people go.

Do I trust FB not to sell my innermost secrets?  Do I trust Zuckerberg not to share information about me with advertisers, political marketers, vendors, pollsters and other information seekers?  No more than I would trust hanging from the Empire State Building with my wife’s sewing thread.  You must either be deaf, dumb or blind if you think you can trust anyone selling you something or giving you something for free not to have some hidden catch or some gimmick to get more money from you.  Did you ever notice that FB is free or has that escaped your attention?  What is free?  Do you really believe it is free?

As far as information privacy goes, observe the following that I tell all my students and you will probably not have much to worry about.  It goes like this: “If you want to protect your privacy, then do not text, tweet, photo, Instagram, email, voicemail or say anything in public that you would not put up on a billboard in downtown New York.”  Period.  That is the only way that you will protect your privacy today and I doubt even this admonition is full proof.

  1. Facebook is full of lies and “false” facts.

So, you want to make decisions based on evidence, data and facts?  Facebook is no doubt full of bullshit, opinions, innuendo, conspiracies, lies and unsubstantiated claims beyond counting.  The lies on FB are more numerous than the stars in the sky or the molecules in the universe.  However, I will tell you a secret. There is no evidence, data or facts that are 100 percent true.  Everything we know about the world is only based on theories buttressed by repetition or replication.  The more our predictions happen, they more confident we are they are accurate.  However, science in like the weather.  You don’t count on the weather forecaster being 100 percent accurate unless you are a fool.

Throughout history, we have seen theories and facts overthrown by newer theories, newer facts and newer evidence that help better match reality with theory.  The world was once flat, then it was round, now it is more elliptical.  Our knowledge of everything keeps evolving and changing.  Some people see it as a search for the TRUTH.  However, the TRUTH does not exist or if it does, it is only like the wind.  It will blow one way today and another way tomorrow.  Facts, data and evidence have a probability of being accurate.  They will never be 100 percent true.  My father used to say, “believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.”  I have found this to be moderately good advice.  It works very well on FB and on the Internet in general.

  1. Facebook should be a social media and not political.

“John, you are too political.”  “I don’t want to hear your rants and raves.”  “Why can’t you keep your politics out of your Facebook site.”  “Facebook is for family and friends and should not be political.”

The splash page on my FB site now shows a picture of Elie Wiesel and a quote by him that reads “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”  He also said, “We must take sides.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  Before this, my splash page had a picture of Martin Luther King and a quote by him that read, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

I believe that living in a society and hence to be social means to be political.  If you live in a society, politics is the coin of the realm that defines the rules and procedures that govern the interactions between human beings.  No one can be apolitical in a society.  To believe so is to lie to yourself.  I put my politics out there.  I don’t care if you like them or if you don’t.  I want others to know that there is someone in the universe who probably feels like they do.

Before Trump was elected, I put up a Hillary sign in my front yard.  My neighbor who was also a Hillary supporter came over to warn me.  She said “John, I would not put that sign up in this town if I were you.  It could be dangerous.”  I decided to talk this over with my wife Karen.  I did not feel that I had the right to jeopardize her safety as well mine.  She said that she supported keeping the sign up.  My decision was sealed by her willingness to risk whatever might happen by putting a sign up in a mostly pro-Trump rural town in Arizona.  A week or so later, one of my good friends who lived nearby saw my sign.  She asked me to if I could get her one.  I did get her a sign and I think we might have had the only two Hillary signs up in our town.

I use FB as a means to share with others who in these rather trying times might have fears of speaking out or who might feel that they are alone.  I want my friends to know that I am political and that I share with some of them the same beliefs, values and ideas that they have.  I firmly believe that we cannot change our present problems or deal with issues by silence.  However, if you don’t like my politics or ideas then you can do as so many others have and simply defriend me.  Frankly, they say we are defined by the company we keep.  I would rather keep company with those who share similar convictions about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Time for Questions:

Do you use Facebook?  Why or why not

Life is just beginning.

“You should protest about the views of people you disagree with over major moral issues, and argue them down, but you should not try to silence them, however repugnant you find them. That is the bitter pill free speech requires us to swallow.” — Julian Baggini

 

 

 

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