Monday, February 24, 2014

Times Always Uncertain

When haven't times been uncertain?

For the last hundred years, times have always been topsy-turvy … but good government, working with the unions and private enterprise have always taken the bull by the horns and made strong moves.

These days, I think, there is a profound greed at work in our nation, and rather than calling it greed, it's called caution. I don't buy it for a moment.

We have a good President with vision, but a Congress stymied by state's-right obstructionists and a business ethos driven by Wall Street mania. It's time for all of these to work together FOR AMERICA!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Giants Destroying Democracy

I think there's a huge difference between first tier providers of products, like brooms and mattresses - from factory via distributor to store to customer. 

Behind first tier manufactures (usually small industries and small businesses) stand second and third tier conglomerates - huge holding companies that manufacture nothing, but buy, close down and reshape and sell; the giant banks and trading houses, the giant chemical companies that supply plastics, the agribusiness giants like Monsanto and their control of seeds and commodities … 

The little guy has little influence on Capital Hill; it's the giants who have the influence, the giants who are mostly for us just names, not products - boards of directors who share seats with one another on varying boards, grant giant salaries and perks for the few, and their joint efforts to fill government regulatory agencies and influence Congress and the Courts. 

For me, it's not a pretty picture, but a dangerous one threatening the very core of our democratic processes. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Distressed Reading … Ike, Iran and Guatemala … 1953 and 1954

I've always know this, but never in detail, and it makes me sick.

What we did in Iran in 1953, to support the craven interests of the declining British Empire and it's stranglehold on Iranian oil is so disturbing to me - our CIA, with Ike signing off on it, as he grew increasingly more frightened of the Communist Boogeyman, fomented a "revolt" paid for by American Taxpayers against a democratically elected leader (who had nationalized British petroleum interests - Communist-inspired for sure) and installed the Shah, with a new deal for oil in hand … and everyone was happy, except the Iranians.

Even as this was going on, efforts were underway in Guatemala to remove the democratically elected leader who had instituted land reform (this became proof positive of "Communist" influence); United Fruit Company, with its bananas and tentacles throughout the American Government, cried for help, and got it. "Rebels" were trained, and by golly miss molly, the president of Guatemala resigned and in his place, a dictator. And everyone was happy, except the Guatemalans.

For years, the Iranian deal was carefully hidden from the American People, until the final piece of Ike's diary were declassified May 10, 2010, admitting "covert" involvement. Steven Ambrose, Ike's biographer, had first seen this entry as early as 1984, but subsequent books omitted it.

What's tragic for me is that an otherwise savvy President, who understood colonialism in Indochina and thus refused to save the French, failed to understand British colonialism in Iran and American business "colonialism" in Guatemala. All along the way, folks who wanted to influence Ike glossed over the facts and used the threat of "Communism." Such language didn't work for Ike in Indochina, but it did for Iran and Guatemala.

And what a price we've paid.

As a side note, the Dulles Brothers were legal counsel for United Fruit in Boston; Eisenhower's personal secretary was wife of United Fruit's public relations department; Ike's national security advisor was the banker for United Fruit; CIA soldier of fortune on the ground in Guatemala, E. Howard Hunt, would later spend 33 months in federal prison for his role in the Watergate break-in.

When I finished this chapter in Eisenhower: In War and Peace, I felt dirty - my mind had been dragged through a pig sty. While I have great regard for Eisenhower, he surrendered his ability to think and weigh the realties by succumbing to the American hysteria of the time - a Communist behind every tree and under every bed.

He would have done well to heed the advice of his long-time friend, William Prescott Allen, publisher of The Laredo Times, who visited Guatemala in June of 1954: "Yes," he cabled Ike, "Guatemala has a very small minority of Communists, but not as many as San Francisco."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Those Always-Crazy Republicans

Those always-crazy Republicans …

"The Republicans in Congress had no intentions of giving up their opposition to the federal government just because their party had captured the White House. Eisenhower's principal adversaries throughout his tenure as president were not the Democrats but the calcified wing of the Republican party, which continued to live in the shadow of Calvin Coolidge and to see Communists under every bedstead." p.581 - Eisenhower: In War and Peace.

Folks like Cruz and Ryan are not the exception - they represent a constant wing of the GOP that now seems to have won the day. The GOP has always been a haven for these mavericks of mayhem, but whereas in the past, there were Republicans of wiser bearing, the far-right has now occupied virtually the whole of the GOP.

The media, of course, love them - they're the Steve-Martins of politics, making fools of themselves while purporting to have the facts and insider knowledge. When, in reality, they're but privileged children, given to bullying, lacking sound judgment and pretending to be wise.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Politics - Then and Now

"The more things change, the more they remain the same."

American politics have always been tough, with plenty of meanness and bald-faced lies thrown in for good measure. We ought not to be surprised at anything these days. It's our tradition!

While some decry the harshness of today's political divide, and I'm among them, it doesn't help to pretend that it's been any other way. Perhaps it's a bit more intense these days because of the immediacy and huge presence of news. But it remains to us to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the high-minded from the scurrilous, fact from fiction, truth from lie, as best we can, though "fact" seems to be about as elusive as "truth."

The electorate is fickle, of course, and given to unpredictability. 

For what has been the strongest nation on the face of the earth for some time now, it's surprising how much fear resides in the American psyche, and what a role that plays in our politics.

And for a nation soaked in religion, it's surprising how much ill-will there is, and bashing of the vulnerable. 

Whether it be McCarthy or Cruz, first-term senators, trying to make a name for themselves, embarrass everyone but themselves, and then fade away quickly. Yet, before it's over, imparting to politics a poisonous residue that's hard to remove.

None of us have the option of withdrawal, though it's terribly tempting to retreat into our own little house and world. 

We're all in this together - that's the way it is. And we can only do our best to be responsible in our freedom, mindful of passions that do more harm than good, embracing what history offers in terms of the best (I'm quite confident to say that history gives to us plenty of people who chose the high road and not the low). No one, then or now, is perfectly clear and none are pure. But there are some who seem have a light in their lives, a purpose that's good and even godly now and then. To them, we must repair … seeking their counsel and then making our choices.

With a little luck, maybe divine favor, we might add to the light and make it brighter with our own little flame of hope!