Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cause and Effect

It's utterly disingenuous to condemn the results without, at the same time, and above all, looking at the causes.

That's no different than giving a pain pill for a swollen foot rather than finding and removing the splinter.

Cause and effect.

Concerned about the effect?

Damnit, address the cause.

But let's not do that.

The effect is all about you!!!!

You and your behavior.

Your bad ways.

The cause, on the other hand.

Might just be about me.

My behavior.

My bad ways.

Oh oh, let's not go there.

Let me condemn the effects.

While ignoring the cause.

It's much easier that way for me.

I sleep better in my ignorance.

Don't you?

Unless my ignorance is cause.

And you suffer the effect.

Of what I have caused.

Oh, let's not go there.

I'd be a lot happier.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The NFL and Domestic Abuse

Glad to see the NFL, hesitantly, put the brakes on domestic abusers. But, let's tell some truth here this morning.

Football becomes the dream of thousands of kids abandoned on America's Mean Streets. Some become standouts in elementary school, and then hit the Friday Night Lights, and everyone goes crazy about the kid who can throw the ball, who can tackle and send the other kid to the bench, who can run like mad and score, again and again. We lionize them, treat them like royalty, ease them through school, including college, pamper them, get them cars, a little extra cash in the pocket, take care of parking tickets, get them outta scrapes, make 'em heroes ... and then make them stars with the NLF draft, pay them huge sums of money, dazzle them with a wealth they've never known.

And, meanwhile, all along the way, everyone has pretty much ignored their dysfunctional behavior, just as long as they can put out and make us all "winners."

But what with social media and the mood of the nation, it seems that public interest is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to their mistreatment of women, to their abusive behavior and anger.

Slugging a woman in the elevator, knocking her cold, and dragging her out into the hallway like a sack of potatoes is NOT acceptable behavior, for anyone, including an NFL star ... and by then, it's likely too late to do much about the personality, the character, that's already been shaped by America's Mean Streets and the thrill of stardom.

If there's anything in our story right now that reveals the broken heart of American Life, it just may be the NFL story ... the expendables, the temporary heroes of Sunday Afternoon and Monday Night Football. Kids, that's all they are, and then young men who still behave like kids, and we wonder why.

So, let's remind ourselves that the scores are far less important than the players; that the young men we treat as gladiators are real people in need of help, that the women they marry are often in danger, paying a terribly high price for their own desires to find the good life, if not on their own, at least on the arm of an NFL star.

Hats off to the uncertain steps of the NFL, and hats off to the colleges and high schools who are attending to the social and psychological needs of these young men, who pay attention to something more than stats and money.

Hats off to anyone who sees them, not just as football players to thrill us with the great play, but young men often alone, angry, broken and sad. In need of serious help, not just to be used and then discarded when they can no longer play.

We can make a difference with them, with all of America's children, by cleaning up the Mean Streets, retooling our schools, and reminding ourselves on Sunday Afternoon and whenever else we watch football - it's not just about us and our entertainment; it's also about all those young men who play the game, and it's about their families, too.

More about them than us.

Strange idea, I know.

But maybe it's the truth.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Social Security: How I Choose It!

January 27, 1970, ordained by the Grand River Presbytery (now, Lake Michigan), in the First Presbyterian Church of Holland, MI ... and from there, back to the West Virginia Mountain Project and two of its churches, Camp Creek and Ridgeview, where I had begun January 1.

My wife and I ... newly minted.

With a choice to make,

A choice granted to the newly minted,

Ministers of the Gospel, or something like that.

To continue in SS, if already in.

Or, if already in, resign.

If not, sign up.

A choice.

That could not be undone.

We choose Social Security.

I received my first SS Card when I was 14, working for my father, at the Milwaukee Cheese Company, where else, Milwaukee.

D (she was already in SS, too) and we thought:

"On our meager salary, how would we invest?"

"Given what we didn't know, about just about everything money-wise, how would we decide?"

Neither of our families were wealthy.

Nor invested.

Just hard working. Comfortable, but that's all.

So, we decided, on SS.

"It was the American thing to do," we thought. To play our part, stand with working Americans, and assure ourselves something for retirement. For us, it was the right thing, something good for the country, even patriotic. We felt good about it. We felt right.

And so it was ... for the rest of our working lives.

That's how I came to be in SS.

I have only gratitude about it ... it was right then, and it's still right.

Thank God for SS, and FDR who put it together, before we showed up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

America Has Chosen Selfishness

America has chosen selfishness.

That is, to begin and end with the self as the primordial measure of life.

It goes like this:

"I've got mine, too bad for you."
If you'd like to have what I have,
you'll have to work as hard as I
work. Nothing for free.
So, get out there and work.
Just like me."

With a slightly religious cast:

"I've got mine, too bad for you."
If you'd like to have what I have,
you'll have to worship the God
I worship. Nothing for free. So,
get right with my god.
Just like me."

For the secular conservative, it's no problem centering in on the self.

For the christian conservative, it's requires a little more work.

First of all, most of the Synoptic Gospels has to be set aside, with a very selective reading of John.

And, then, a selective isolation of verses has to be assembled, from Paul, the Psalms, Samuel and Kings and some from the minor prophets and, of course, everyone's favorite, Revelation.

All of this aided and abetted by clever politicians and skilled preachers who know how to follow the money ... and millions of Americans who would rather follow the money, in spite of the fact that they'll never find it, and under conservative governance, the chances of finding it will diminish all the more, even as the hope for finding it increases.

A very strange equation.

America has chosen selfishness.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Global Warming

The earth has experienced endless cycles of warming and cooling throughout its existence, and will continue to do so, often resulting in dramatic changes, with species dying off and the face of the earth dramatically changed.

So, what's new in this mix?

Our best scientists, and their number is legion, warn us clearly that the interface of our technology and climate change is real, that human activity contributes to the warming cycle, and the results could be cataclysmic for our children and grandchildren.

No one knows for sure, of course.

No more than anyone knows when the next big earthquake will hit Southern California or the where and when the next hurricane will strike the Louisiana coast.

But probability is high on all of this - if not sooner, then later.

The vested industrial interests, of course, want to turn a blind eye to this, so frightened they are of anything that challenges their status quo and their presents methods of making money. Sadly, corporate interests are slaves to a tyrant that brooks no competition and demands total obeisance.

Yes, global warming is likely part of an on-going cycle, but if our technology is accelerating it, worsening it, then we should know this.

Even if we don't have all the facts, it's foolish to suggest that thousands of scientists, working together and independently and coming to the same conclusion, are all wrong.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Charter Schools and Their Promises

Take a leisurely stroll through the history of American enterprises that have come and gone, that started out with high hopes only to crash and burn on bad management, under capitalization and changing times, one quickly realizes that private effort is as susceptible to all the faults and failings that plague the public sector. 

Private enterprise offers no solid guarantees on success. So, let's not have a silly love-affair with Charter Schools, as if they could do no wrong, as if "privatizing" public education is the cure-all for every problem. It's just not true, in spite of the jingoism of Wall Street Devotees and those who hate all things public. 

The same standards that others have applied to public education must be applied, now, forcefully, to Charter Schools. If they're failing, find out why. Try to fix it, of course. But let's not be afraid to cancel the charter - either going back to the public system, or granting the charter to another corporation. After all, isn't that the American Way? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Boehner's Ceaseless Lies

These are the kinds of lies always 
told by the wealthy to America.

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, members of the "ruling class" were wise enough to know just how terrible these lies are, and that's why they "betrayed their own class"- a class of liars and deceivers, driven by greed, and the enormous fear that some might gain at their expense.
I wish I could take John Boehner on an LA bus for a day - let him really see people, how hard they work, bone-tired and poorly paid too often, hoping and dreaming, being good citizens. To drive Vermont and other great streets to see the hustle and the bustle of mom and pop shops, street vendors and folks working hard to make a dime.
Yes, there are some who need help, and who will always need help. Is this so hard for us to understand? Is the need for kindness, mercy, compassion, so galling to us that we cannot muster the will to be generous? What's wrong with this man, and his handlers? What's wrong with the ruling class?
Shame on Speaker John Boehner for such lies ... shame on the ruling class for spouting this unpardonable sin, that of darkening our counsel, muddying the waters, and casting aspersions on millions of decent people.
We can do better. We have done better, and by God's grace, we may again do better. Throw these liars out of office, and put firm leashes back on the ruling class, lest they run us all, like lemmings, off the cliff to certain death.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Debt and the American Dream

Everyone knows that Americans believe in freedom of opportunity and the work ethic: Work hard enough, and you'll be successful.

The top symbols of success being, of course, cars, houses, clothing and travel.

Those who have only their labor to sell are not likely to gain a whole of the big symbols of the American Dream, so, obtain them on credit.

You, too, can have a fine car, live in a lovely home, wear stylish clothing and travel to romantic destinations ... come and see us, and we'll be more than happy to put the cash into your hands, for a slice of the American Dream.

Here's where the system gets clever - if such things are not readily available to those who have only their labor to sell, then the owners make loans through their banks. The owners of capital, while withholding decent wages, are more than willing to loan you their money through their credit devices, and, of course, if there's a failure to pay off the debt in a timely manner, the owners have the law at their disposal.

So, dear reader, the owners of capital profit all the more, if not by lowering wages directly, then by interest charged on workers' debt.

Meanwhile, Americans "charge" ahead with the American Dream, believing, against everything reality reveals, that a little more hard work, maybe a few breaks, or even winning the lottery, the Dream is theirs ... if not now, then someday. If not in large part, then, at least, in small ways. In America, everyone is a millionaire waiting to happen.

Ah, yes, the power of a dream!

Or might it be a nightmare?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Can We Tell the Truth About Taxes?

Let's start telling the truth, can we?

1) A society built upon low taxes will never be healthy - it may be good for a very few at the top, but children and schools, bridges and highways and just about everyone and everything else increasingly has a hard time of it.

2) A society built upon taxes, even high taxes, will be healthy - infrastructure will be maintained, education sustained, medical care available to every citizen, and then some. If we have to fight a war, it won't drain the economy.

3) Taxes, even high taxes, are a job-creator - when government is funding and supporting the economy, everyone prospers - from the aerospace industry to the medical worker to the school teacher and to the small business owner.

4) Taxes, even high taxes, narrow the gap between rich and poor, not only for individuals and families but for states and municipalities. Everyone benefits everywhere!

Can we start telling the truth about taxes?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What Destabilizes a Government?

Kindness and openness has never once destabilized any government anywhere in the world ... governments are destabilized by their failure to redistribute wealth, when the society grows top-heavy with wealth in the hands of a few. 
And since when are property rights such a "Christian" thing? Seems to me the early church figured that one out in a mutuality of ownership and use. 
And charity? I love charity, too, but let's get clear on its drastic limits and its self-serving qualities - charity doesn't change the system producing the problem, and it makes the giver feel inordinately self-righteous. And the same for volunteering. 
All of this is good, but not good enough if we refuse to see the real causes of social dislocation (in this case, American trade policies have shredded local agriculture, driven people into hopeless urban areas, along with America's insatiable appetite for drugs). 
As for Jesus giving to people, there was never a question what the person "might do with it." Goodness, where does that come from? 

What I finally hear is a lot of justification for keeping things the same - helping ease some suffering and feeling good about it, but ignoring the big picture and turning away from the suffering we've caused.

The above comment was in response to the following:
I understand the mentality of charity for all--in fact, we are commanded to be charitable. However, it's one thing to voluntarily give to others. It's another to destabilize the nation by forcibly redistributing wealth to others. We were not commanded to form governments that redistribute wealth. We were commanded to pay our taxes (and follow laws), but we were not commanded to support governments that do not recognize property rights. We need human-constructed borders, and we need to retain the resources within our borders unless there is such a surplus that individuals decide, of their own free will, to give to others who have not. Why should we not do on a national level what makes total sense to both the Left and Right on a personal level? We see a homeless man on the street--we do not give him the keys to our house. We may give him some food, or sometimes even a dollar or two (but we hesitate to do that, because we're not sure what he's going to do with it). Those who genuinely care may give annually or monthly to a homeless shelter or other organization that provides help to get homeless individuals back on their feet. Those who care even more may volunteer their time at a place like that. They may give that homeless man a card with an address as to where he can go to get help. We certainly don't demand that our neighbor, who has a nice car and is doing well for himself, give us his money so we can give it to the homeless. And, assuming he will turn us down, we don't break into his house and steal his money so we can give it to the homeless. It may be a noble cause, but going about it that way is just wrong! Most people on the left and right do not want a person to break into his house, say he'll be gone as soon as he gets up on his feet, but in the mean time, demand to be fed, clothed, housed, and given full use of all the utilities (water, gas, electric, etc). That would be ridiculous! So why don't we do on a national level what makes sense on a personal level?

Monday, July 14, 2014

How Big Money Won It All: Student Loans

From a piece I'm working on: How Big Money Won It All -

This, on student loans:

As for students, tell them from little on that college is needed for a good and productive life, and then make it impossibly expensive, yet provide a way: loans. Huge loans that can’t be appealed or terminated or negotiated, but only repaid, with failure to pay not an option. Saddled with huge debt, students can no longer consider non-lucrative jobs, but only those that will pay them enough to pay off the debt, the kind of jobs that fulfill the needs of Big Money, the kind of jobs that prevent creative thinking and eliminate the possibility of “the educated” (actually, the technically trained) to challenge the system. The technically trained, by definition of the term, are well-trained, and likely to plod on; it’s the educated, by definition of the term, who are likely to challenge the status quo, ask embarrassing questions, think through the morality of corporate philosophy and economic principles. The last thing a dominant social entity needs is thinkers. Whether it be the Church, or State or now with the Owners of Capital and Labor, thinkers pose a threat; what a singularity needs is servants, the well-trained, who, with the promise of rewards (rarely realized) will stay the course favorable to Big Money - like the proverbial mule walking toward a carrot dangling from a stick tied to its head, just beyond its reach.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SCOTUS - A World of Confusion

SCOTUS, by its all-too "normal" 5-4 split, has opened a door to a world of confusion ... by siding with one form of religious expression, the Five Justices have violated, I believe, the establishment clause of the Constitution, First Amendment - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

When companies provide health care to their employees, this is a coast of being in business - after all, as a Union (defended by Lincoln), we're all in this together.

While some have suggested that workers, if they don't like it, should quit and find another job.

How about this: If the Boss doesn't like it, sell out and quit! Take the money and run. Go on a mission somewhere and make the world a better place.

Truly put your Christian Faith into action for good - and when it comes to priorities, save the lives of children already in our world, rather than going bonkers over the viability of a zygote on the so-called morning after.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hobby Lobby - "If You Don't Like Working There, Get Another Job"

A Facebook friend recently wrote:

If you dont like your bosses beliefs and what they provide, a person is more than welcome to work anywhere else they want instead of being provided with things. It is not the governments job to run a business especially a small business and now the Supreme Court has ruled just exactly that. Especially a tightly held corporation. You may choose any employer you wish or even be unemployed and let the govt choose what you do and do not get for choices.

My reply follows:

First of all, millions of workers around the nation are just glad to have a job, and cannot bounce around as someone with your skill-level and ability can do. I know of so many workers here in LA who swallow daily doses of humiliation and poor working conditions - they cannot afford to quit and find another job; their skills are limited compared to your skills. They live from paycheck to paycheck and have few if any family resources. Mark, because of all kinds of factors, you have the ability to quit a job and would likely find another quickly; but such is not the case for millions.

Second, it's not about jobs, or finding another one, but protecting the American Worker from PREDATION - whether it be sexual or religious, and this is nothing less than religious predation. We now have the 51st State, Hobby Lobby - doing as it pleases with its citizens - this isn't democracy, this is cruelty.

Nor is this about Christianity in general, but Christianity in particular - a very narrow kind of fundamentalist Christianity that differs in name only from Sharia Law in conservative Muslim nations. Hobby Lobby hates birth control, and would deny health care rights to every woman in America. Is this the kind of land in which I'd like to live? Where women are treated as baby factories, and if they wish birth control, are accused of being irresponsible or a push-over for pleasure? No thank you Mark. And I don't think you would either.

We have rights in this nation that transcend state boundaries, and rights that transcend the property line of our employer's place of business. SCOTUS has now declared a 51st State, essentially, and given it exemptions that a lot of Southern States would love to have - all for religious reasons, of course.

This is insanity Mark, the Nullification idea at work, the dream child of the South, the balkanization of the American Corporation - "closely held" companies doing as they please, thumbing their nose at the Constitution and mistreating their workers by denying them their basic freedoms from religious coercion and the right to choose health care.

Sadly, SCOTUS has revived a 16th Century practice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuius_regio,_eius_religio - "whose realm, his religion."

On so many counts, Mark, it's wrong - terribly wrong! My heart breaks for the folks who work there, and I grieve for the likes of the owners, too, who are locked into a prison house of irrational beliefs and monied power, thinking they're closer to god than the rest of us, and thinking the rest of us quite wrong. What a hard world to live in for them - but with their millions, they fly away to peace and plenty whenever they want, and thank Jesus for all of it. They remind me of the Rich Fool who loved his barns more than the people who filled them with grain. He thought he was godly, but he was only a fool.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Consumer Society?

Consumer Society.

That pretty well covers it for America and those places of the world where our influence has triumphed ... from the status we desire to the economic engines of the world, consumptions is the fuel that drives all of it.

Yet, I wonder.

Are there other words to describe us?

Or does "consumer" thoroughly trump everything else?

I think it does.

For example, "generous" society. Well, yes, for some, I'm sure, but if consumption is the trump card, so to speak, in the game of life, then I'm going to be concerned about hanging on to what I've got even as I might be threatened by other "consumers" who are taking more of the pie than I want for them, or, heaven forbid, taking a piece of the pie "they don't deserve."

I think a lot of folks feel this toward the poor, when, in fact, it might be more accurate to have these feelings toward the uber-rich who seem to be taking the whole hog right now.

What about "kindly" society?

It's hard to be kind when feeling threatened, and a consumer mentality is always a heartbeat away from fear.

Without wasting any more of your time, I suspect "consumer" pretty well trumps all other words; in fact, it consumes them, chews them up, and spits them out like a farmer spits depleted chewing tobacco.

I think we have to do some serious thinking ... especially people of faith who generally agree that greed and materialism are destructive of both a person's character and that of a society.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Our Congress: Servant of the Wealthy

I decry much of what goes on these days, including some of the worst kowtowing of our government to the wealthy interests of our nation, giving them more than they deserve, mostly on the backs of working women and men, the unemployed and the poor, including our returning vets.

We elect "representatives" to "represent" our interests, but, in fact, our "representatives" are often in the pockets of the wealthy, parlaying their own positions into opportunities of wealth, giving the wealthy in turn a greater share of the American Pie.

While I sometimes think this is a new phenomenon, reading Drew Pearson's Diaries: 1949-1959, reveals a similar pattern in his time, and history makes it clear: the wealthy have always had access to the powers of government that the rest of us simply don't have.

March 9, 1958, Pearson writes:

       "Senator Anderson of New Mexico called me last week regarding the insurance tax loophole bill which he says will give the insurance companies a $124,000,000 tax rebate. I wrote a story on it. What this administration [Eisenhower] and most of the Congress don't appreciate is that the tax loopholes are bigger and bigger for the higher brackets and the corporations, whereas the small taxpayer get his taxes deducted from his salary. This is the situation which helped to encourage Communism in France and Italy."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Despair Over the GOP???

If one despairs of the current GOP, it's helpful to remember McCarthy and his wild rantings, a Commie under every Washington bed and behind every journalist tree.

Yes, there have been exceptions to the rule, but the GOP has been the Party of Crazy for a long time - always hateful of the administration (except when there's a Republican in office), fiercely pro-business and always willing to sell the store to the highest bidder, hateful of unions and America's workers, hateful of women and civil rights and all social security programs, suspicious of higher education and liberal educators, isolationist at times, and other times, wildly militaristic.

With the influx of Southern Democrats after FDR and the emergence of Civil Rights, along came the KKK and its world and life view - guns, hatred of gays ("weakness in a man"), racism of every form, mistreatment of women and children, hate the Union and love Nullification, and these are the guys and gals that voted for "right to work" laws throughout the south because "unions were an invention of the North."

So, let's not be surprised at the GOP ... it is only what it's been.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dancing with the Devil

The US has always gone full tilt after left-wing agitators, pinkos, strikers, unions, reds and Communists, but generally leaves the right-wing nut-jobs alone. Why? The left poses a threat to American and world monied interests. The right, up until now, has been largely and ingrown and isolated social movement, more bluster than threat. Sadly, right-wing politicians have sought the votes of this alienated sector, by playing up to their bizarre interests for power (not wages, or social security or health benefits) and lionizing the ultimate symbol of their power: The Gun!

Well, when ya' dance with the devil, expect trouble.

Emboldened by several decades of right-wing NRA and t-bag nonsense, these crazy boys and girls are beginning to take themselves seriously, and the only serious they know is bullets and bombs.

How very sad that the monied interests of this nation paid out millions to attack the left and its desires for good jobs and wages and social security, while letting the cancer of right-wing hatred grow unchecked, seeing its then "harmless" rhetoric and back-woods behavior as a useful tool to bash the left and keep America fractured.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Plow Horses and the Second Amendment

Sooner or later
Americans will realize
That the Second
Amendment makes as
Much sense as
Owning Plow Horses.

Which reveals why
The SCOTUS has
Rendered such silly
Rulings of late.

How does one
Rule on the
Need and place
of Plow Horses?

Everyone! Go out
and get yourself
a Plow Horse.

Walk it around
with you at
Starbucks and Wendy's.
Let people see
your Horse's Ass.

Wear cool t-shirts:
"I shovel shit."
"Plow-Horse Love"
"Stay Calm - Ride
A Plow Horse"

Hay, hay, hay.
It's my right.
To have a
Lovely Plow Horse.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Student Debt

Another marvelous invention by our corporate-driven world ... if kids are stupid enough to want a college education, let's charge 'em for it, and if they can't pay it, let's loan them the money, telling them all along the way that a "college education will get you a great life." And, by the way, "don't major in the humanities, like art, music, history, philosopy - they won't pay off your debt. Major in math and science or business, and you'll land a great job in our labs and corporate offices and be happy for the rest of your life. Don't think too hard about it, don't raise questions about our corporate culture, make money your god and you'll be just fine. Oh, lest we forget, if you don't pay your debt to us, it'll only get worse for you. So, be good, be tame, be compliant, and be ever-anxious. Ain't America wonderful?"

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lynne Cheney and "Miracles"

Lynne Cheney on #TheView ... of her husband's heart transplant, "It's a miracle."

No, it's not a miracle. Maybe that he's still living, but not the transplant itself. They had the money to buy the procedure.

Yet, he and his wife are part and parcel of a political machine that would deny health care to millions of Americans, for whom a simple doctor's visit would be a "miracle."

And, she's touting her new book on James Madison. Notice how the reactionaries are all writing American history books these days?

Those who write the history books control "history," and those who control history control the future.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

State-Sanctioned Killing

Roman execution methods achieved their ultimate expression in crucifixion - a long, slow, painful, death, in public, to intimidate the population (never really worked all that well, as Rome constantly dealt with rebellion). Rome loved to kill people, and killed them by the thousands - and why? Because they could.

And just because they could, they did.

There is something terribly wrong with state-sponsored executions. And what happened in Oklahoma is a terrible example of state-sanctioned killing.

America doesn't need capital punishment. It corrupts our spirit, and what about those who are called upon to kill? What about them and their families. Can we dress it up and make it more acceptable because the state is doing it? Does legal sanction make killing anything more than just plain killing? Finally, what is the difference between a criminal who kills and the state that kills?

Does it bring back to life the one who was murdered by the criminal now executed? Does it heal the victim's family? Does it make anything better?

I suppose some might satisfy themselves with the murderer's death. Perhaps I would, too.

But this much I know, it's all blood-lust! And terribly cold-hearted.

I don't know what I do, or want, or feel, if someone killed one of my family members. I have to be honest - I don't know.

I would hope that I could find the grace practiced by the Amish and others who eschew such vengeance. The nations of Europe have found ways to cut crime and punish the murderer without a death penalty.

I think we can do the same here in America. America the Beautiful we sing. I want to keep my nation beautiful, and be done with the stain of state-sanctioned killing.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Corporations, Greed and Henhouses ...

Corporations are not persons, but they have personality - and, let's face it, it's all pretty much about profits.

While some in the corporations may have other things on their mind, and even though corporations can fund laudable causes, the heart and soul of a corporation is the acquisition of power and money.

I wouldn't want any different, and even if I did, it wouldn't ever be different. I want corporations to excel in their drive for power and money - to make the best play they can for their stockholders, and to challenge every restraint.

But here's the point: who plays the other side of the table? Who offers the restraint, the challenge?

Without firm controls, without restraint imposed by outside sources, corporations are like drug addicts, and they eventually kill others for their own gain, even as they self-destruct.

It doesn't pay to be naive about corporations - anymore than it would be wise to trust the fox in the
henhouse ... but the fox has a life to live - no sense in destroying the fox - and that's why we need sturdy fences and vigilance, and certainly to never ever make the decision to trust the fox with the hens. Go ahead, toss the fox some food - why not? The fox has his own beauty and place in the scheme of things - in field and forest - but when it comes to the chickens, which feed millions of hungry people, let's keep the fox in its place.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Free Market Will Correct Itself???

Expecting the "Free Market" to correct itself and stop the rapid flow of cash out of the economy into the pockets of the few is like ...

Expecting a raging forest fire burning out a village to change
course and put itself out before destroying more homes.

Well, a forest fire IS likely to burn itself out, after devouring thousands of acres and who-knows how many homes.

Yes, the forest fire will stop, when it has no more fuel ...

The Free Market will "correct" itself when it crashes, after enormous damage to the nation, to the economy and to millions of people who've been "burned out" by the conflagration fueled by the greed of Wall Street Jockeys, the vanity of the hyper-rich and the wannabe desires of millions more who believe themselves to be "just a heartbeat away from being a millionaire."

The economy, like forest fires, needs regulation ... too much, and the economy slows down, of course ... too little, and the economy runs wild and consumes everything in its path.

Those who believe the Free Market will correct itself are idealists, dreamers and romantics, assuming that the Market and the forces of greed driving it will somehow suddenly develop a conscience, a heart, something loftier than its own aggrandizement.

History stands against these utopian dreams.

Theologically speaking, those who believe in a Free Market Utopia need a good dose of Calvinist reality - sin drives remorselessly toward absolute dominion, and without regulation, restraint, management, will devour everything around it, including itself.

FDR understood this ... and the best and wisest economists also know this to be true.

Like a Fire Jumper, FDR got ahead of the flames, cleared a firebreak, and brought it to a halt, after the crash and burn of a Free Market feeding frenzy.

Good economies have plenty of regulatory devices to keep the economy, like Goldilocks' porridge, not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Breaking News: Hobby Lobby Takes Firm Stand Against War, Poverty and Monsanto

The latest news coming out of Hobby Lobby ...

In order to be faithful to it's pro-live stance on contraception, the owners of HL have declared themselves opposed to

War ... 

How many pregnant women have been killed in war? they ask.
How many injured women delivered a child without adequate medical attention?
How many fetuses were harmed and deformed by concussive explosions and the ruined nerves of the mother?

So, we the owners of HL, because we're all for the fetus, we now take a stand against war ... all war ... anywhere and any time.

And poverty, too ...

Poverty means a poor diet, and that means the fetus is threatened, and so is the mother. Without adequate nutrition, fetuses are mistreated horribly, often ending in still birth or "natural" abortions. We can't have the fetus starving. We must feed it, and that means feeding the mother. Good food, safe food, must be provided to the mothers of the world.

And furthermore, speaking of nutrition, we're opposed to the wholesale use of pesticides and herbicides, as well as genetic manipulation. All of this has created a serious decline in food nutrition, another cause that threatens the fetuses of the world.

Yes, we stand against contraception ...

And we now stand against War and Poverty ...  and will henceforth devote ourselves to peace and to all programs that promote healthy economies around the world.

And with our growing interest in food value, we're putting ourselves on record as opposing Monsanto - fetuses need good food, and we're determined to stand by organic farmers and the effort to keep America's food, water and air clean. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On Bonhoeffer's Date of Execution, April 9, 1945

From his "Ethics" ... something I have relied upon since the early 70s ...

The responsible man acts in the freedom of his own self, without the support of men, circumstances or principles, but with a due consideration for the given human and general conditions and for the relevant questions of principle. The proof of his freedom is the fact that nothing can answer for him, nothing can exonerate him, except his own deed and his own self. It is he himself who must observe, judge, weigh up, decide and act. It is man himself who must examine the motives, the prospects, the value and the purpose of his action. But neither the purity of the motivation, nor the opportune circumstances, nor the value, nor the significant purpose of an intended undertaking can become the governing law of his action, a law to which he can withdraw, to which he can appeal as an authority, and by which he can be exculpated and acquitted. For in that case he would indeed no longer be truly free. The action of the responsible man is performed in the obligation which alone gives freedom and which gives entire freedom, the obligation to God and to our neighbour as they confront us in Jesus Christ. At the same time it is performed wholly within the domain of relativity, wholly in the twilight which the historical situation spreads over good and evil; it is performed in the midst of the innumerable perspectives in which every given phenomenon appears. …. … responsible action is a free venture; it is not justified by any law; it is performed without any claim to a valid self-justification, and therefore also without any claim to an ultimate valid knowledge of good and evil. Good, as what is responsible, is performed in ignorance of good and in the surrender to God of the deed which has become necessary and which is nevertheless, or for that very reason, free; for it is God who sees the heart, who weighs up the deed, and who directs the course of history.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Hoover, FDR, the Great Depression and American Business Leaders

As the nation plunged deeper into the Great Depression, Roosevelt, governor of New York State, went into action, believing that government has a social responsibility to provide when the chips are down.

During all of this time, a Roosevelt-for-President movement was gaining momentum.

What surprises me is how many of highest business leaders of the land were lining up behind Roosevelt. He was anti-tarrif, "damp" on the question of Prohibition (leave it to the States) and pro-active for moving the economy.

I can only think that the best heads of business understood that a healthy nation needed a strong government working on behalf of all the people.

Roosevelt created in New York State what was ultimately to become FEMA (1933), raised income taxes (graduated) and put people to work, and if work couldn't be found, helped them out to weather the storm.

What's good for all the people is good for American Business - Roosevelt understood this, and so did the nation's top financiers.

Sadly, Hooverism seems to have won the day for what is now the GOP, driven by the Koch Bros and other private-interest groups, who have little concern for America, and can only focus on their own private coffers.

As with Hoover's policies in 1931-32, a private-coffer driven economy can only spiral downward … to some ears, it sounds good - "sink or swim; you're on your own," and for those swimming, they're mighty damn proud of their achievement, even as millions drown in the murky waters of poverty. I guess they should've learned how to swim.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

FDR, Polio and Kindness

Reading about #FDR's polio, summer of 1921 …

Because of his family's enormous wealth, every specialist, therapist and all the needed equipment was provided. Throughout it all, FDR maintained a vigorous determination to make it; many a visitor found themselves leaving encouraged and cheerful. His ability to make others feel right and good was uncanny. All of life up to this point was filled with extraordinary people who believed in him, encouraged him and provided opportunity. FDR grew up in a network of people who understood the absolute value of family, community and helping one another.

As I read about all the help that was given to him, he was learning how reliant he was upon the goodness and kindness of others - a value instilled in him from the day of his birth.

And this is exactly what he gave to the nation throughout his presidency - knowing that we're all in this together, that we can only help one another, and those with the ability to help need to help those who are unable to find a way through.

No one condemned FDR for his illness, no one blamed him for his condition - they only helped.

Such is the heart of FDR's greatness … he condemned not the poor of the land, he blamed no one for their weakness, but devoted himself to endless political experiments to help everyone find a better life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Nation of Sheep

The message of individual salvation (Come forward to be saved) has done enormous damage to American culture - we have lost what little solidarity we ever had, and these days, in parts of the nation where this individual salvation message has taken deep root, it's everyone for themselves. Whether it be jobs, clean water or health-care, you're on your own, just like you're on your own with Jesus. The Koch Brothers have played upon this mentality with great skill to their own advantage. A nation without solidarity is a nation of sheep easily fleeced.

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!

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'd Invent My Own Religion ...

If I owned a company, I'd invent my own religion: against taxes, against wages, against 40-hour work week and vacations, against all benefits, against birth control, so the women get pregnant, and then against abortion, so they have to have their babies, and against maternity leave, so I can fire them when they have their babies. Yup, and no one could touch me, because it's my religion. Woo hoo … oh how I love religion.