Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Political Ads, Robo-Calls, “No Call” Lists, Confidential Information, and Privacy?

Political ads are not a part of any fair or honest debate process.  One of the primary reasons they are not, is that so many of them seem to be lies, half truths, and innuendos.  There are no honest judges present to throw out invalid sources, and no rebuttal of questionable statements allowed unless the person wishing to give rebuttal can come up with the money to pay for it.

Then, it won’t be positioned in any timely manner that might offset the “perception management” strategies (propaganda), but placed according to the governance of the media it is purchased from.  The media is happy to sell the space for these ads, as it is very profitable for them to do so.  It comes down to which dominator-bully can collect the most donations (bribes?), and hire the cleverest political science writers to script their self-inflated lists of accomplishments, and fear-mongering, doesn’t it?

The rhetoric, all being parts of the speech to persuade, prey upon the phobic nature of the masses–most of whom are passive thinkers at best; scientifically illiterate, and not very familiar with their own history.  While what is happening is disgusting, I remain disappointed, but not surprised.  It’s all about money and power, and common decency and ethics have absolutely nothing to do with it.

And while the Supreme court has ruled that any person, groups of persons, or corporations can, in effect, buy the influence of public office without it being considered bribery, we are inundated with mail and phone calls, not just from the campaign offices of the lying politicians themselves, but from every crack-pot organization in the country, even when it is just a local election.  Again, I say it’s all about money and power, and common decency and ethics have absolutely nothing to do with it.

In business, there are laws intending to prevent false advertising and overt actions that would deceive the public. People still break these rules on occasion, but from time to time those who do get held accountable.  And this accountability is not considered by the public to be any infringement on “free speech”, but an intended safeguard against unethical greed and avarice taking unfair control over the lives of what would-be free and independent ordinary citizens.

Yet, we have no such rules in politics that prevent false advertising.  We have no rules in place that have any teeth that would prevent politicians from deceiving the public.  We have allowed politicians to be above the law, so to speak, in almost all measures that we would hold ourselves to in all of our other business affairs.

In the business world, people who dispense favors to venders and suppliers who have provided that officer with gifts or other consideration are often fired, and also viewed in their own business community as unethical, dishonorable, and therefore not trustworthy to handle the affairs or money of businesses, or that of the owners or stockholders of such businesses.  But in governance, it is an acceptable practice?

As a boy, I heard my grandfather say:

“A half-truth is no truth at all. And the intent of it is to lie.”

The average citizen is warned in courtrooms not to lie.  They are instructed to “…tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  And of course, you understand why we have such a rule as that, without having to have ever heard any opinion about it from my grandfather.  Unless the judges and juries can operate on some belief that witnesses are compelled to be truthful, there would be no reason to depend or act upon testimony.

If people lie, or misdirect focus to things that never happened, or reported to have happened differently that what is factual, arguments about equity and consideration would make no sense, and guilt could never be presumed beyond reasonable doubt.  In other words, the system would fail.

What you’d have left would be ruthless gangs struggling for power, and expect those gangs once they get such authority, to render each and every civil right of the individual now protected by the constitution null and void.  Yet we have come to accept this pattern to exist and be “the way things are” in the Congress, the Senate, and in the legislative bodies of all fifty states.

How is it then, that we have come to expect, almost without exception, those who ask that they be allowed to hold the sacred trust of public office to be liars, when we’d send a common citizen to jail for committing perjury?  Why is it that “freedom of speech” be construed to allow misinformation that equals slander, deception, and even the cover-up of criminal behavior when the intent of it is so harmful to the public, when it is not to be allowed in the private sector?  So how is it that perjury, or the equivalent of it, is allowed in politics?

Why should politics enjoy such an immunity, when your local service station is not allowed to lie about the number of gallons their meter says you’re pumping?  Folks, this all goes way beyond differences of opinion, or even differences of interpretation of statutes.  It is by all rational, moral, and any ethical sense, criminal behavior based on bandit decisions.

Further, how is it that we have laws on the books that allow private citizens to put their phone number on a “No Call” list that exempts these political liars, and all of their favor-purchasing friends who wish to call on the politician’s behalf?  Don’t they realize most intelligent people are offended by this practice?  Is that the presumption?  They should only have to worry about offending the smart people?  What does that say about their opinions of the the people they are supposed to represent?  Unfortunately, I suspect that indictment might stand up under rather superficial scrutiny.

We all are aware by now, the “No Call” list is a joke.  The FCC is underfunded and understaffed, and state law enforcement agencies don’t have enough time or money as it is to even pursue all the violent crimes reported to them.  So, nobody is going to stop the people who’ve been calling you multiple times a week for the past several years to tell you “this is your last chance to change to lower the interest rate on your credit card account” even though the caller has no idea what your interest rate is, or who your account is with.  Further, the statement that it’s your “last chance” is a lie.  They will not stop the callers who intend to defraud you by implying you’ve won some free service (that may only cost you a few thousand bucks to accept).

So, don’t expect phone companies, all of whom make huge profits just because the sky is blue on occasion, or government offices, where if any real work takes place at all, is done by a staff of clerks who are often not paid very well, and live in the fear of offending somebody who “donates” to some powerful authority figure.  The system is corrupt, and broken possibly beyond reasonable repair.

Here are a few more thought you might care to note:

If you’ve voted in recent elections, I’d imagine you get junk mail often from the offices of people you have voted for.  Oh, you also get mail from their opposition, but haven’t you recognized that the majority of it seems to indicate the way you voted in a “secret ballot” process somehow does not seem to have remained much of a secret?  Imagine that!

There are few secrets.  Medicare and Medicaid fraud is a huge problem, not because citizens are collecting benefits they don’t deserve, but because patient lists are illegally and unscrupulously sold to all kinds of “clinics” that submit fraudulent claims for services and products that have never been provided.

You can do your own research about the scandal of fraudulent medicare billings submitted by Columbia/HCA and implications about co-founder Rick Scott, if you wish.  He was not found guilty of anything; got to keep his money, and is, at the time of this writing, now the governor of Florida.  Additionally, he has a good chance of being re-elected, because the members of his own party are willing to believe all the charges against him are the willful intent of his opposition to discredit him.

People will vote for the Devil himself if the Devil gets their party’s nomination.  Such memetics result in belief disorders, which is the predominant cause of the continuing problem.  And it would be delusional to believe that those who represent not the people, but those who line their pockets, should be expected to care about who gets to call your house at all hours for whatever reason, even though they call you on your private number that you pay dearly to have.

You buy a piece of real estate? All of a sudden, you’re inundated with offers from people who want to lend you money, and sell you more real estate. Make a donation to a charity?  You’re inundated “opportunities”, by junk mail and by telephone, to donate even more money to other charities, some legitimate, and some not so much.

And since it is evidently quite a successful method of fleecing well meaning citizens of good intent, and since the public is so gullible and easily swayed to act on information and misinformation just the same, the process will continue unabated until we have a population educated enough to think for themselves, and take action to do something about it.

I have absolutely no confidence in expecting such as that to happen. One of the reasons I don’t, is because we have politicians in office who have benefitted from the transfer of confidential and personally private data about you, and your neighbors.  I’m not talking about invasions of your privacy by The National Security Agency, but by clerks that just might be employed by your personal physician or your local hospital.  In the past, several of them have been “clever” enough to receive large sums of money in exchange for lists including names, addresses, social security numbers, insurance policy numbers, and specifics about your personal medical history.

Once again, it’s all about money and power.  Common decency and ethics have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Is Not Conservation Essentially the Quintessential Conservative Position?

When it comes down to the politically polarized issues about our environment, a good many people seem to be arguing about things outside their understanding.  It isn’t a new practice; it’s been going on for thousands of years–millions perhaps if you go back to the early beginnings of the hominids.  About 95% of our population is scientifically illiterate (according to Dr. Carl Sagan), and consequently fearful about what they don’t understand.

It is because of what they don’t know (and do not want to know), that they will presume to get their conclusions from other people.  The overwhelming majority are phobics, and as a large subset, get their opinions, not from research, or study, but from accepting the ideas presented to them by their bullies (dominators).  And as long as certain dominators are blinded by the prospects of a hugely profitable immediacy, the inability to postpone gratification, one of the basic character flaws found in individuals and societies as a whole, they will passionately pursue those profits, and support a campaign program of perception management to keep their phobic followers seeing everything as simple, and in some way similar to a pep-rally at a high school football game.  To them, it is just easier to see it as a game.  And during games, they will yell: “Hooray for our side!”

Some are not convinced, in the face of data they literally do not understand, that if we must err, it would be wiser to err on the side of caution.  Strangely enough, they have been convinced (which should give any reasonably bright person a clue to what is happening) that protecting the earth, air, and water in some natural way that can sustain life is some kind of communist plot. At the same time, the delusion has now spread so far as to insist conservation itself, which is the ultimate conservative position, is somehow a bad idea.

Furthermore, it is presumed bad by those who externalize good and bad to things outside themselves, especially if they do not understand them.  What makes it easy for dominators to benefit from such idiocy is the very nature of the phobics.  It is common for them to fear what is framed as “the opposition”, and fear it vehemently more so if it is not understood, or if at all, not very clearly.

And what irrational fear seems so profoundly expressed so loudly and so often?  What more so than the in-your-face insistence of an idea from someone seen to be of an opposing political or religious ideology?  In fact, since that very angst drives humans to become passionate about war, it appears that fears associated with threats they recognize (though not always rationally) to the fabric of their beliefs, will overwhelm even the fear of the loss of life and limb.  You’ve seen it in lots of places.  I’ve seen it on fields of battle.  You can find lots of evidence to support what I just said, if you’ll just look for it.

In the meantime, while incidences of melanoma continue to rise, while a glacier in Nova Scotia continues to melt risking thermal dynamic alterations to The Gulf Stream, while crude oil still leaks into the lower part of that Gulf Stream, while humans and their children have flammable liquids come into their homes through their kitchen faucets, since what was once thought to be an unlimited source of food in our oceans seen now to be endangered and very finite, while we continue to breathe air so unlike the air from just a mere century ago, people turn their backs to the problem, primarily because…they don’t even understand it?  And all of these things are happening whether anyone is willing to admit it, or not.

Oh, these issues are likely to bring sickness, pain, and death to some of the children and grandchildren of our people, but it is much easier to just not think about it than to risk the odd chance of becoming aware of the possibility that some things may have already gone too far.  And to turn our backs and not stand up to face these adversities is not a very responsible, or even a brave thing to do.  When others are seen to be not facing, and even hiding from things that could threaten them, it is often observed as the essence of cowardice, isn’t it?  Maybe we here in the home of the brave, should think about that a little bit.

I thought of some apparent confusions about irrational fearfulness and bravery the other day while looking at a photograph of a man carrying an AR-15 with him to the grocery store.  Imagine so many other people going to buy their daily bread without so much as a pocket knife on them.  Is it that they do not understand all the imminent dangers omni-present all around them?  Or instead, are they just enjoying the freedom that is found only in a peaceful mind?  And perhaps to some, is that not a peacefulness passing far beyond what others might have developed as skills, or ever made habits to even begin to understand?  Well, of course it is.

Human life exists on this planet, as does lots of other kinds of life, due to delicate balances within nature itself.   Some want to believe all this life, all this nature, is the good work and good gifts to us from an unerringly good Deity, yet they would trash it?  Hardly makes sense when you think about it.  But to think about it and want to understand requires an effort.  Those who are lazy with ideas and only want to stand on those built by someone else, some authority they’ve acquiesced their rights to self-reliant thought processing, will not think about it without becoming irrational, thus angry and even hateful.  Peacefulness, a by-product of understanding, is not the business of those willing to be enslaved by their own misunderstandings.

So the fearful will be sedated by the empty promises of their dominators, and remain faithfully in hope of being lead to safety.  And absolutely nothing outside those empty promises will be of any long-term benefit to the phobics, or to their children.

“Stop worrying about these rumors you’re hearing about Agent Orange.  It’s just a defoliant, and cannot cause any harm to people or other animals.”
 ~ Lt. Commander (name withheld), Civil Engineer Corps, USN, 1969, just outside DaNang, Vietnam.  I remember it well.

House Committee Says No Benghazi Coverup. Fox Immediately…Says Nothing.

“The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.” ~ Mark Twain, from a letter, 1867

*****

The House Intelligence Committee now says there was no Benghazi cover-up.  Fox News Network, which has aired hundreds of comments while the committee did it’s work, did not immediately respond at all.  Not a word.  Why do you think that a subject that was constantly on their agenda seems to have vanished so quickly?

The Australian Rupert Murdoch made a lot of money with a fake film about space aliens–even making part of it appear to be taken from old 16mm film stock to appear to have come from archives.  It’s an effects trick.  Evidently, his point was that you can sell anything to gullible people.  And, he did.  Lots of folks today still think it was a true story.

How does the news industry–newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, make money?  They sell advertising to sponsors.  What do sponsors want?  From a business point of view, they want circulation or coverage to be large enough to be effective in selling their commercial messages; they want the target market to be made up largely of people who can and will buy, and particularly they want viewers and listeners who are eager and happy to believe messages brought to them by that media.  For example, a company that sells sporting goods is much more likely to place their ads in “Field & Stream” than in “People” magazine.  Another thing the sponsors also often want is to be able to “like” the kind of format, layout, or programming of the medium that carries their name with it.

Consider this:  If you wish to attract an audience eager to see pictures of motorcycle gear, place your ad with media that covers motorcycle stories.  If you know an audience that is traditionally superstitious and fearful, scare them, and point out to them hope: tell them where to run for safety.  If you know them to be dogmatic, sell them dogma.  If you know them to be gullible, oh please, please please hurry and get your message in front of them.

Rupert Murdoch had a plan to make lots of money.  He would get it from other people who had lots of money by selling them stories they liked, and making it appeal to the subset of those easily swayed to want to believe those kinds of stories.  So the people with money saw it as a win/win in advertising: get a format they liked, and get an audience eager to believe things they see and hear through that format’s presentation.  Bingo.

Rupert founded The Fox News Network in 1996.  He promised advertisers and sponsors their messages would go out to people that can buy, and that those people will be eager to believe ANY messages they see and hear on that medium.  That was eighteen years ago at this writing.  Since then, they have never broken a single news story.  No, not even one.  Try to find one if you wish.  It will be a futile effort.

Here’s a kicker.  Most of their audience is so loyal that not only do they watch them exclusively for “information”, but when a story gets busted as false or misleading (a normal everyday occurrence?), they STILL BELIEVE IT just like those gullible people that still believe Rupert’s space alien video was real.  Benghazi?  A terrible and sad situation.  Has Fox been honest about what they have chosen to broadcast on the subject?  No, they have not.  But what about their audience?  Even though the House Intelligence Committee now says there has been no coverup, what do you think Fox’s loyal audience will continue to believe?   Imagine that!

*****

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”
 ~ Mark Twain, ‘Pudd’nhead Wilson’

Are the Tories trying to reverse the American Revolution?

“Most revolutionaries are potential Tories, because they imagine that everything can be put right by altering the shape of society; once that change is effected, as it sometimes is, they see no need for any other.” ~ George Orwell

“I greatly fear some of America’s greatest and most dangerous enemies are such as think themselves her best friends.” ~ Nathan Hale

“Whatever the motivations of those who seek to use the federal government against the rest of us, they too have launched an unbridled and unprincipled political war against their fellow citizens.  From the perspective of history, in other words:  They are the new King George.” ~ Rob Natelson

*****

In the mid-nineties, Carl Sagan estimated that about 95% of our population is scientifically illiterate. And as such, based decisions on superstitions and fears that the bullies who control them might become unhappy. Right now, a lot of people in congress and the senate-both democrats and republicans, feel pressured to do the bidding of powerful people who put up the money for their re-election campaigns and “Leadership” PACs.

The results of these practices have given the reigns of government to the very people (The Tories) our founding fathers staged a revolution against. The intent of the revolution was to not allow The Tories to continue undermining personal freedoms, and over-taxing working people to sustain the luxurious lifestyles of the entitled and often idle affluent class who were protected by both royal decree and by the theocracy of the Anglican church.

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” ~ George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.” ~ Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791)

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.” ~ James Madison, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1785)

“While we are under the tyranny of Priests […] it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.” ~Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man

“Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)

Today, legislators (many of them have David Koch* as a benefactor) often yield to the pressures of religious extremists who wish to force everyone to be under the control of the agenda of their own personal dogma–founded not in reason, but in superstition.  They also seem eager to reward corporations who would economically benefit from the measures of that kind of social control.  Additionally, some that avoid their fair share of taxes resulting in a disastrous burden on the poor and working class, get government contracts as a reward for their briberies.

This is the epitome of corruption which overrides the idea of one man-one vote. It begs the question of who these legislators truly represent. And now we have a Supreme Court, supposedly our council of the sage and wise, that upholds the rights of corporations above those of individual human beings.

“Unless you become more watchful in your states and check the spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that… the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations.” ~ Andrew Jackson

“All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law,” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” ~Dwight Eisenhower

*Why might you think some people feel the following represents some of David Koch’s agenda going back even as far as 1980?

Repeal all laws that restrict campaign contributions (in other words, allow legal bribery to continue unrestrained?), the privatization of all public roads and highways (or, allow the entitled landed gentry to set up unrestricted toll booths everywhere?), shutting down the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (because they interfere with unbridled profits by making corporations accountable to public safety and health?); the Department of Transportation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Federal Aviation Commission, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all publicly funded schools and colleges, all aid to poor, the US Postal Service, and stop all state and federal programs intended for protecting the environment (open all public lands to unrestricted use by the lumber, coal and petroleum industries?). End all regulations of the pharmaceutical, banking, petroleum, manufacturing, and insurance industries, repeal the Occupational Safety and Health Act, all usury laws in all states (no legal restrictions on what interest,exorbitant or otherwise, can be charged?), and the repeal of any laws that might allow employees to sue their employer for discrimination, especially opposed to allowing women equal pay when doing the same work as men, even though it has been federal law since 1963.

Were not a lot of these points a part to the platform when he ran for vice president back in 1980?  Have you seen any change in his agenda since then?

These measures might prove quite profitable to 1% of the people, but not necessarily so good for the other 99%.  A lot of folks can see through the ironies and inconsistencies in modern day political rants, which are common not only in campaigns, but all over social media as well.  Yet as it is with many other social pressures, many people are quite fearful of offending their peer group by disagreeing with them.

Even so, the practices of what some of their peers seem to espouse are in great conflict with the principles so many people insist they hold so dear.  Some of you must suspect the hatred for the poor and disadvantaged that seems to spew constantly from many outspoken “leaders” of the religious right might appear to be in contention with the intent of what those so called leaders insist make up their foundational teachings.

“Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians – you are not like him.” ~ Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

Protecting a Republic, or an Empire? And, Who’s Empire?

Here’s an interesting essay:

http://watchingthewatchers.org/news/2764/congress-endorse-obamas-war-plans

And here are some other thoughts on it:

Other than insisting war and killing are bad things, the most interesting point in the article is about attitudes of empire versus attitudes of a republic or any democracy.  And in that, according to the author (and I do not disagree), the behavior of the current president is the same as the one before him.  But does it go back further?

In spite of a constitution, the argument appears to rage on about who has the power to do what.  With this president and all seven of his predecessors all the way back to Nixon, the argument against an “imperial presidency” has often been raised.  But who pulls the strings?  In 1971, we went off a gold standard and immediately onto an oil standard, and in spite of the deep dislike many feel about Richard Nixon, he didn’t do all that by himself.  By 1973, the concentration of power over the new standard had moved from government comptrollers of currencies to corporate offices in The World Trade Center, New York, NY.

But one thing is certain; from that moment on, the oil reserves of the entire planet went from being mineral rights of various property owners, to being controlled by some hand not easily recognized by the common man.  And the hand didn’t rest on desktops in government offices, but in board rooms.  Over the next three decades, international investment banking changed radically from anything it had ever been before.  If an international financial system managing a global petroleum (soon to be chemical?) based economy has a perception of its domain, that domain would be an empirical one.

Such as that reduces nationalism to what?  A way to control the emotional way of deciding who gets to be the soldiers?   And how proud their god is of them, according to which one they’ve been taught to believe in, and how much he appreciates people willing to die for their respective flags–each group convinced that the Deity is on their side, when it is apparently on the side of “Andrew Undershaft and his partner Lazarus (see “Major Barbara” by George Bernard Shaw)”. *

But if we do intervene in Syria, will it bring about a world-wide commitment to end the manufacture and use of all biological and chemical weapons?  What about all weapons of mass destruction?  What about nuclear weapons?  Did we learn nothing from what happened to the thousands of human beings, the very young and the very old alike, that lived around Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

“The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base.” ~ Harry Truman, 1945

Well, that wasn’t exactly true, was it?  But that bomb, and the one dropped three just days later on Nagasaki, not exactly what you’d call “conventional” weapons, did kill more than a quarter million human beings.

Consider this:
You and I are horrified by the way humans exterminate each other, by chemical or other means, to accomplish their political goals.  When we look into the faces of our own children and grandchildren, we don’t even want to think about them dead with skin burned beyond recognition, or to think that they drew their last breath painfully into badly blistered lungs.  But wouldn’t we be just as horrified to think of them killed with machine guns, bombs, grenades or run over by tanks?

The use of chemicals to intentionally kill civilian men, women and children is wrong, and there should be a means to not allow it done.  But is the killing not wrong no matter what kind of tools are used to do it?  The use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international agreement, and it should be.  What a terrible thing to do, and such a monstrous disrespect of human life.  But that, regardless of  method, is the cruel reality of war no matter how patriotic and honorable we try to make it sound.

There are also other horrible violations against humanity that result in often painful and undignified deaths at the end of rather miserable and shortened lives.  But there seems to be no major moral outcry against them.  Vast corporations make billions of dollars in profits due to the economic benefit of human bondage, and the “civilized” world celebrates those profits rather than being repulsed by them.

We don’t bomb sugar cane plantations that use the equivalent of slaves that are not likely to ever reach what we call “middle age”.  We don’t bomb the places where cacao beans are harvested by children with chains on their ankles so you and I can have cheap chocolate to go with our cheap sugar.  And we don’t bomb sweat shops that operate with forced child labor, because we get to buy our knickers from their slave lords at prices we can afford.

We are confused by the righteous indignation that, in spite of all so called “moral” ideologies, keeps the populace committed to always spending more on hurting each other than helping each other.  City, county, and state as well as the federal government have been insisting money is so short that we’re radically slowing down programs to feed hungry children, and cutting back on not just the pay, but on numbers of firefighters and teachers, and as a nation, continue knowingly to not repair our own failing infrastructure.  Yet we can afford to commit to another war?

And not any war taken on in an act of self defense, but a civil war halfway around the world.  While it is horrible, neither side has attacked us, or are they threatening to do so.  We have the moral resolve to do this?  We think we can go in there quickly and surgically remove the evil, and maybe with the spare time left over, stop by a nice coffee shop on the way home to congratulate ourselves?

We didn’t have that resolve in Somalia.  That war has raged for more than two decades now.  A boy past the age of nine is likely to be kidnapped and forced to become a soldier.  But since so many of them are orphans anyway, the whole world doesn’t seem to care.  Oh we went in briefly with a United Nations “peacekeeping” force, but quit because of the outcries that it just wasn’t our war.  The truth was, we were either going to have to make it our war, or quit trying to resolve so much bitter hatred that would come at a price we did not want to pay.  And we did not intervene militarily in Sudan when peacemakers from India were killed, but be did say we did not approve of the killings.  How rather brave of us to do that.

So now we face another war where the outcome of who wins or who loses will have a questionable effect on who remains (or becomes?) our friends, if any of them would.  Who really wins?  The companies who sell war stuff to the Pentagon?  The companies who sell logistics services to our military?  Some international oil companies pressured by oil producing neighbors in the region that our resources rather than theirs be used to “police” this un-policeable mess?

While many of us would pray for peace and stability in the Middle East, is that really what we want?  When we go to the store to get our provisions, what we really pray for is a system that makes those provisions affordable to us even if most of the people on earth can’t have ’em–or even starve to death for the lack of them.  What are we really are praying for?  Whether we want to admit it or not, is it for some peace and stability on the New York Stock Exchange so our retirement funds will be okay?  We don’t want to think about inhumane treatment of people here in our own country, and even less so when they are far away.  What we’d rather think about, even to the point of preoccupation, is who will win various talent shows on the television, activities on the playing fields of our favorite sports, and that there is a spin-off of Honey Boo Boo that sells “Christian” clothing for the glorification of God.

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* UNDERSHAFT [with a touch of brutality] “The government of your country! I am the government of your country: I, and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus? No, my friend: you will do what pays US. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn’t. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman. Government of your country! Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys. I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.”

~ from the Play “Major Barbara” by George Bernard Shaw, that premiered in 1905 more than a decade before the outbreak of World War One.

Now on the brink of World War Three, I cannot help but be suspect of the kinds of things General Smedley Butler, twice given the Medal of Honor, warned us about after the end of World War One, and what General Dwight Eisenhower, Commanding General of Allied Forces in Europe during World War Two warned us about in a speech towards the end of his last term as president.  And the common warning was to be cautious of the power of corporations that profit from war.

Pray for the brotherhood of mankind; non-violence and peace if you will.  Others have done so, but not always allowed to leave this life peacefully:

Jesus of Nazareth

Mohandas  (Mahatma) Gandhi

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy

John Lennon

…and so many others.

In 1970, I came home from Vietnam alive.  58,253 other American military did not, and also more than ten times that many Vietnamese were killed.  Later after the war turned out to be a failure, about two million or more Vietnamese people died directly because of that war that we barely mention anymore in schools that are to instruct our children.  And so my enduring question remains:

To who’s advantage is it that we do this?

Who Gets To “Influence” Those Who Hold Office?

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

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Following the Preamble, The Constitution went on to state what was the law of the land, even to the inclusion of how it might be changed.  Rather quickly, they went about to make some amendments, particularly concerned about protecting the rights of individual citizens.  While it is a profoundly marvelous document, it is the work of human beings, so perhaps perfection should not be presumed to be an automatic quality.  For in spite of its lofty principles, it didn’t address matters of contributions to political campaigns–considered by many to be influence buying.  The act of buying influence implies it is for sale.  And influence peddling is by definition, an illegal practice.

But they did recognize that if religious groups were allowed to attain government authority and power to assert their way of worship become law, there would be no freedom of religion, or freedom of thought or expression of thought, therefore no freedom.  So, those concerns were addressed specifically in the very first amendment they ever made.

Just as there is good reason to have a separation of church and state, there should also be a separation of state, and those who can afford to buy its influence.  Some suggest we not allow corporations to donate money towards political campaigns.  Those who hold to that opinion tend to believe such contributions constitute bribery.  But why just corporations?  What about partnerships or individuals?  If it is in fact bribery, why should we allow anybody to do it?  To bring about change will require serious campaign finance reform.

So should we build some kind of legal wall between the pocketbooks of office seekers and the pocketbooks of office buyers?  Maybe we should.  But we’ll never accomplish that wall as long as it is legal for anybody to “donate (bribe)” money to legislators.  Right now, we allow the very people who accept the money, those who have willingly and knowingly sold their influence, to determine the extent and the legality of this practice.   Just thinking it to be immoral or even unconscionable changes nothing.  Right now, it is the way things are.

If you really want to change it, here’s what might have to be done:

1.)  Make public funding available for political debates, and other forums where candidates the people would wish to nominate can state their position.  Such as that is doable, and much cheaper than the way it is done now;

2.)  Make it a felonious criminal offense to provide private funds or gifts of value to any officeholder or candidate for such, because doing so constitutes the intent to purchase their influence.  Also, any individual, business or corporation that conducts business in a certain way at the request of an officeholder that shall be construed to be a benefit to “friends” of the officeholder, shall have their actions be officially seen as the equivalent of offering a bribe, *

3.)  Punishment should be stern for both those who offer money as well as those who accept it.  A prison sentence for all guilty parties should not be for any duration less than the term of the office in question, and that any and all monies offered shall not be returned to the giver, but instead, turned over to the treasury of the governance under which the particular office was to serve (this could be beneficial to school boards in poorer rural counties),

4.)  Any person convicted of offering or receiving what should be considered a bribe, shall be barred for life from seeking or holding any sacred trust of public office, and as convicted felons, be relieved permanently of their right to vote regardless of any time served in prison for their offense,

5.)  Any candidate, members of the candidate’s staff, or media organization that willingly and knowingly presents to the public any false or intentionally misleading statement intending to wrongfully affect the outcome of the election, shall face criminal perjury charges, and if convicted of such, be fully liable for damages that could be incurred by incumbents, other candidates seeking office, or the public at large,

6.  Adopt and enforce a flat fair tax, without exceptions or exemptions or loopholes for any persons or groups of people for any reason whatsoever.  This takes the demographic tax break games completely and forever off the table.  Make it a constitutional amendment allowing for no alteration that would be interpreted to be a respecter of persons or groups of persons by or for any discriminatory reason or measure.

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*  It should still be legal for corporations, professional and trade associations, labor unions, and any other group of concerned citizens to partition and lobby in order to get the attention of an elected official. They should be free to state their reason for requesting an audience, but not allowed to contribute to anybody or anything that would be either a direct or indirect benefit to the officeholder or candidate for office.

How can we get politicians to ever agree to this?  What if they knew nobody would vote for them if they didn’t?  Now, you go figure out a way to convince the pubic at large that they even have that kind of power.  If you’d like, you can form committees to amend what I’ve proposed.  But considering the likelihood of compromise, it’s possible that in a fairly reasonable amount of time, we could come up with an alternate plan that will be not one whit better than the dysfunctional system we already have.  And that might be the almost guaranteed outcome if we turn everything over to the wolves who currently “guard” the smokehouse.

Oh, by the way, since what I’ve proposed would be a radical move away from the status quo, and suggests what I believe would be a progressive change for the better, whether you, me, or anybody else likes it or not, it is a liberal proposition.  But the “liberals” won’t like it, and neither will the “conservatives”.  I don’t care.  Most of them aren’t even very clear about what those terms mean, anyway.

Suppose You Slept Under a Bridge Last Night…

Just this past year, I’ve seen an almost uncountable number of tweets, blogposts, and other status updates on various social media urging people to give to animal shelters, and to adopt cats and dogs that would be otherwise doomed.  The general public expectation is that many will respond to this outcry.  Also, we are advised not to feed stray animals unless we intend to continue it and take responsibility for them.  Yet when it comes to human beings in dire circumstance, it is not thinkable that when the service ends around noon that all those with the wherewithal to do so will go find someone in need to join them at their table. But here is a thought:

Last year the Gross National Income of the United States of America approached 16 trillion dollars.  One half of one percent (a negligible tax perhaps?) would be about 80 billion dollars.  That would be about $100,000.00 a year per homeless person to address needs for psychiatric clinics, shelters, education and job training.  Maybe some amount less than that would go a long way towards helping those who can be helped.  Then the people need to be honest with themselves about what they intend to do with those who cannot be, or refuse to be helped.  Right now, we either let them die on the streets, or put them in prisons where they are fed and maintained at public expense anyway.  Others are rounded up occasionally, washed off, given a meal and a shirt, advised to take their medication (which they do not know how to do, and couldn’t afford if they did) regularly, and put back out on the street.

Let’s suppose you slept under an overpass last night.  You have vague thoughts of family somewhere, but you don’t know where that somewhere is.  You haven’t had a bath in three or four months other than getting caught in the rain.  You haven’t seen a doctor or dentist in over 10 years–you don’t remember for sure how long.  Last year you stayed at a temporary shelter for a while, but it was overcrowded, and you were afraid of some of the others staying there.  The last day you were there, they had some soup, but not enough to go around, so you left hoping to go somewhere and find something to eat.

You’re pretty sure the police are looking for you on account of that vending machine you broke into out of desperation three weeks ago.  You remember frantically grabbing what you could carry including almost twelve dollars worth of change, and you got by on it for a couple of days or so.  In your mind, you believe when they do catch you, they will torture you and possibly kill you.  You are often out of touch with reality other than with your own hunger, pain, sickness, and general discomfort.

Your shoes don’t fit, don’t match each other, and the soles are worn through exposing your skin.  It’s winter and you have some rags to wrap up in that you got out of a dumpster.  You eat out of dumpsters, too when you can find anything.  You haven’t eaten in a day or so, and the last meal you had at a table is only a vague memory.  You don’t dare build a fire to keep warm for fear someone will hurt you if you get caught doing that.  Sometimes you do it anyway.  The person beside you warming up to the fire who refused to help you you build it does not exist, but you wouldn’t be convinced of it.

On a clear day, you might interview for a job if you’re allowed to remain inside any business long enough to do that, but in your current condition, no one will seriously consider hiring you at all.  When you’re not frantically trying to find something to eat or drink, you sleep a lot, or try to.  And when you do, your dreams are full of monsters just as your waking hours are.  You are often delusional, but you are not at all aware that some of the things you think you see, hear, and even touch are not really there.

It rained yesterday, so you got to drink some water without mud in it out of a hubcap.  So, you huddle under a bridge.  You regularly feel sick, and afraid.  You’re pretty certain other people hate you, and that they don’t care if you die.  Two blocks down the road, you can hear people singing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”.  You tried to join them a couple of months ago, but you were asked to leave.  You’ve been told often that you stink.  So, if someone gave you a twenty dollar bill, would you get drunk?  Might you take some substance that would make you feel numb for just a little while?  Maybe you would, and not really care that much if it was illegal, or even if it kills you.  If you were a puppy, somebody might take you home with them. But You’re not a puppy.  As things are, your chances of that happening are not very good.  Could that story be similar to one experienced by a quarter of a million people every year right here in the land of the free and the home of the brave?

But this is just here in America.  In so many other places here on earth, the situation might be much worse.  Maybe you’re absolutely certain this could never be you.  And maybe you really don’t care about whether it is happening to others.  It is your prerogative to feel that way.  But if you are so disposed to consciously not care, please don’t waste your time trying to tell me about your personal relationship with a loving God, because I will not believe you’re telling me the truth.  You can talk to me about your rights and what you feel you’re entitled to, and you can even tell me you believe the homeless are entitled to nothing.  Come Christmas time, put your annual dollar in the bucket for The Salvation Army, and sing your songs of goodwill, but don’t expect me to applaud.