Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our money-based economic system must change (update)

In a recent Fortune Magazine article, “What if there's no fix for high unemployment?” Martin Ford puts forth the well-founded proposition that unemployment may remain high into the unforeseeable future; it may never rebound to acceptable levels.

Technological advancements are increasingly replacing jobs in every sector of our economy. Following World War II, changes in the global economy and advancing technology gradually transitioned American workers from manufacturing to service related work. Today, advances in automation are replacing service sector jobs.

From robotic chefs and wait staff in restaurants to robotic automobile production, automated banking, and very sophisticated robotic surgical procedures, computerization has taken over many middle class jobs and will continue to replace others as we gain greater knowledge and improved technologies are created. Specialized artificial intelligence applications will also make highly skilled professional jobs scarce.

McDonald's even has a new system that they have been testing so that their customers can order and pay for food from self-service kiosks. So as this trend continues even lower paid jobs will eventually be eliminated.

You will find in the future that routine doctor office visits, such as to receive a physical, will be automated, including the utilization of copayment and appointment-making services from self-service kiosks, and the physical exam itself will be robotic-aided, or perhaps performed completely by robots.

Airline pilots will not fly aircraft nor will a ship captain pilot ships.

Computerized automation and robotics are customer-friendly, they are fast, less prone to errors, safe, will lower cost, lead to lower prices, and unfortunately eliminate jobs.

Automation will also tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. Those who are at the top of the corporate ladder will benefit from lower cost and greater profit, while those whose jobs are being replaced will end up with nothing, will be increasingly in dire straits, and as a result so will America.

America, as well as other nations, must find a way to manage high levels of unemployment, because with the plague of higher unemployment there will be fewer tax dollars, increased deficit spending, and declines in consumer spending. It will also mean people will increasingly rely on government for assistance.

There seemingly is a common cause for every problem in our world. The problem is either not solved or debilitated by the lack of money and need for profit. It’s not because of evil intent, not usually because of a lack of knowledge, or that folks don’t have an earnest desire to solve the problem, nor is it because of a lack of resources other than money.

The quest for money corrupts government, destroys our environment, controls life, inhibits liberty, and exploits people.

Corporations, in order to sustain profit and shareholder value, must keep resources and products scarce, utilizing planned obsolescence with every product to sustain demand. Consequently, our economic system is inherently wasteful and we are faced with the problem of unsustainable consumption.

Whether we like it or not there will be no choice, eventually we must transition to a social system that does not depend on the almighty dollar – a fundamental change in the way we think about money.

So, what it boils down to is that America needs to lead the world in putting in place a system that provides liberty and security for all citizens equally. That system is a resource-based system, which does not require any means of exchange for goods and services.


Sources:

Martin Ford, What if there's no fix for high unemployment?, CNNMoney.com

Bill Christensen, Robot Chefs Run a Restaurant, LiveScience.com

Janet Adamy, McDonald's Seeks Way to Keep Sizzling, The Wall Street Journal

Healthcare Kiosk, PhoenixKiosk.com

Marshall Brain, Robotic Nation, MarshallBrain.com

Unsustainable Concept of Money, FutureBlog.net

Jacque Fresco, Resource Based Economy, TheVenusProject.com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Adventure in the Territory of Hope

Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “Iceberg Economies and Shadow Selves: Further Adventures in the Territories of Hope,” does give us reason for hope of a better world because there are forces at work that will someday bring to together all that is necessary to achieve peace and equality in the world.

That force is a conglomeration of philanthropies, nongovernmental organizations, other groups, coalitions as well as individuals who provide “soup kitchens, food pantries, and giveaways, takes in the unemployed, evicted, and foreclosed upon, defends the indigent, tutors the poorly schooled, comforts the neglected, provides loans, gifts, donations, and a thousand other forms of practical solidarity, as well as emotional support.” The force is of greater magnitude than the force metaphorically expressed as the “invisible hand,” which implies, falsely, that unencumbered free market forces create the greater good for rich and poor alike, a top down force, manipulated and controlled by the moneyed elite, that in essence says their actions alone create a greater good that trickles down to the benefit of all. One force is unconcerned with profit, is not coercive, is compassionate and unselfish; and the other is concerned only with profit, is coercive, aggressive and selfish.

The world is not changed by those who are complacent and who accept things as they are; the world is changed over time by those who have a vision of things as they need to be, who are at times radical, who do not view their visions as utopian and have a perspective that all things are possible. Rebecca Solnit is one of those visionaries, who in 2010, Utne Reader magazine named as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."

As Rebecca Solnit proclaims, “Do not underestimate the power of this force. The world could be much better if more of us were more active on behalf of what we believe in and love.” And, that is the message that I would like to convey as we leave this decade and enter into the next: let’s all become actors in this “shadow system of kindness, the other invisible hand.”

The following are the opening paragraphs to her essay:

“After the Macondo well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, it was easy enough (on your choice of screen) to see a flaming oil platform, the very sea itself set afire with huge plumes of black smoke rising, and the dark smear of what would become five million barrels of oil beginning to soak birds and beaches. Infinitely harder to see and less dramatic was the vast counterforce soon at work: the mobilizing of tens of thousands of volunteers, including passionate locals from fishermen in the Louisiana Oystermen’s Association to an outraged tattoo-artist-turned-organizer, from visiting scientists, activist groups, and Catholic Charities reaching out to Vietnamese fishing families to the journalist and oil-policy expert Antonia Juhasz, and Rosina Philippe of the Atakapa-Ishak tribe in Grand Bayou. And don’t forget the ceaseless toil of the Sierra Club’s local environmental justice organizer, the Gulf Coast Restoration Network, the New Orleans-born poet-turned-investigator Abe Louise Young, and so many more than I can list here.

“I think of one ornithologist I met in Grand Bayou who had been dispatched to the Gulf by an organization, but had decided to stay on even if his funding ran out. This mild-mannered man with a giant pair of binoculars seemed to have some form of pneumonia, possibly induced by oil-fume inhalation, but that didn’t stop him. He was among the thousands whose purpose in the Gulf had nothing to do with profit, unless you’re talking about profiting the planet.

“The force he represented mattered there, as it does everywhere -- a force that has become ever more visible to me as I live and journey among those who dedicate themselves to their ideals and act on their solidarities. Only now, though, am I really beginning to understand the full scope of its power.

“Long ago, Adam Smith wrote about the “invisible hand” of the free market, a phrase which always brings to my mind horror movies and Gothic novels in which detached and phantasmagorical limbs go about their work crawling and clawing away. The idea was that the economy would somehow self-regulate and so didn’t need to be interfered with further -- or so still go the justifications for capitalism, even though it took an enormous armature of government interventions to create the current mix of wealth and poverty in our world. Your tax dollars pay for wars that make the world safe for giant oil corporations, and those corporations hand over huge sums of money to their favorite politicians (and they have so many favorites!) to regulate the political system to continue to protect, reward, and enrich themselves. But you know that story well.

“As 2010 ends, what really interests me aren’t the corrosions and failures of this system, but the way another system, another invisible hand, is always at work in what you could think of as the great, ongoing, Manichean arm-wrestling match that keeps our planet spinning. The invisible claw of the market may fail to comprehend how powerful the other hand -- the one that gives rather than takes -- is, but neither does that open hand know itself or its own power. It should. We all should.”

Read the full article here: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175335/

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Perpetual and Prosperous War: The lure of profit is an obstacle to world peace.

The Afghan War is America’s longest war with no end in sight. Despite Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing troops in 2011, the projection is now out to 2014 and beyond. This is not surprising when one considers this war is part of the greater Global War on Terror, a continuous war that George W. Bush declared is “going to take a while.”

That “take a while” has transpired into a multigenerational permanent state of war. Albeit more sophisticated now than then, nevertheless, world history informs us that terrorism is nothing uniquely new and yet we have built a military and security goliath to combat it. It is “The New American Militarism,” an America politically, economically, and culturally addicted to war

As with drug addiction, “Wars without end” have become a windfall for the military and war’s dealers, the profiteers, financiers, industries, and contractors that find war and security extremely lucrative enterprises. A war without end maintains troops at combat-readiness, hardened and experienced, a level of readiness that training alone cannot duplicate. War enhances Congress’ willingness to authorize defense and security appropriations. It makes all those non-military industries that profit from war viable and prosperous. And, we have a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a “ hidden world, growing beyond control,” whose supporting industries also maintain their viability and prosperity from America’s fear of the next terrorist attack. And, all offer secure employment for a significant number of Americans.

Furthermore, “The active duty U.S. military alone enjoys a 666:1 advantage over the estimated number of al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, and Somalia,” and yet no success. Like the war on drugs, it certainly seems to be a “War of Futility.”

Now, concerning success, one has to ask, “Why would these players want to end war?” For it seems to me that expecting the DHS, Defense Department, a military contractor, Arms dealer of which the United States leads the pack, private military contractor, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, or Halliburton to work towards ending this war is like asking pharmaceutical companies to produce cures for diseases whose very existence depends on not finding cures.

Understand, our economic system is based on consumerism, and it depends on wear and tear, destruction and discardables, and there is not a better instrument for wear and tear or obliterating and wasting things that need to be replaced than war. War is about profiteering. To those who game the war system, profit is success.

Moreover, Eisenhower described the cost of war as “a theft” from those on the home front. Spending on research and development for war deprives America from advancements in beneficial technologies. War robs too many of our men and women from whatever future contributions they could have made in the lives of their families, their communities, and to America. War takes money that could fund education, improve America’s infrastructure, and fund a mountain of other social and environmental needs.

Essentially, Americans, the Pentagon, politicians, and capitalist do not have the will to end this absurdity. “And nowhere, not even in Iraq, is it clear that Washington is committed to packing up its tents, abandoning its billion-dollar monuments, and coming home.”


Sources:

II Principe, “Perpetual War in Afghanistan,” pinione.blogspot.com

Dwight D. Eisenhower; “Chance for Peace Speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16,1953”; Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission@ eisenhowermemorial.org/speeches

Paul Craig Roberts, a book review of Andrew Bacevich’s “The New American Militarism,” AntiWar.com

Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, “A hidden world, growing beyond control,” Washington Post

Murray N. Rothbard, “The War System and Its Intellectual Myths,” LewRockwell.com

Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt, “Shooting Gnats with a Machine Gun,” TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt, “War to the Horizon,” TomDispatch.com

Horatio Green, “A perilous and egregious journey of wars without end

Sunday, December 12, 2010

America’s Addiction to War

Tom Engelhardt in his Tom Dispatch blog post, “The Stimulus Package in Kabul,” asked the question: “You must have had a moment when you thought to yourself: It really isn’t going to end, is it?”

Well, Tom, I have had many moments, and it all boils down to No, it is not going to end.

Engelhardt says, “Connect two points and you have a straight line. Connect three points and you have a pattern ….” Beyond colossal embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq -- a $511 million expansion of the U.S. embassy in Kabul and a new U.S. embassy being constructed in Baghdad with an end cost of at least $740 million -- there is an expanding colossal security empire, a colossal military with more than enough firepower to get the job done and yet cannot, colossal industries who are profiteering off of war, and an America that is addicted to war. The connecting points are all there that lead only to one question: Why would they ever want to give all of that up?

So, in reality, the real predicament is that they – government, defense, security, and supporting industries – don’t want our current wars or the Global War on Terror to end, for “War to the Horizon,” is America’s new way of war.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Long-term Global Warming Solution

There should be no doubt that our environment, our quality of life, is in trouble.

The other evening, I viewed NBC’s presentation of the documentary film “Harmony.” The film was produced in partnership with Charles, Prince of Whales, who has given “three decades of work to combat climate change and find innovative solutions to the global environmental crisis.”

“Harmony” makes one ponder why there is any global warming controversy. How could there be any doubt of a looming environmental crisis or of civilization’s contribution to world pollution, particularly when there is no reputable scientific institution that is in contradiction.

I remember when I was a kid, it seems Massachusetts had longer and harsher winters. I remember ice skating and ice fishing in late November. I remember December to February building a bonfire on the ice around which we would have evening skating parties, or played ice hockey by the light of the fire. Some, from time to time, would even drive their buggies on the ice. In some instances, I remember ice on the ponds into early April. Today, even in January, the ice is often not thick enough to ice skate.

When I was a kid, snake, salamander, and turtle populations were abundant. Today I rarely see a garter snake in my backyard, a black water snake around the ponds or bogs, or a box turtle that once were so abundant. At one time, Lady Slippers were abundant, and Mom and I picked Mayflowers.

Here in the Northeast there are hot and humid summer days where air pollution is evident. I don’t remember that pollution as a child. Our yard, woods, ponds, roadsides, and sidewalks were uncluttered, not like today where it is cluttered with human discards.

These observations together with reports of diminishing Polar Bear populations, glacier melting, rising sea levels, as well as the evidence of unacceptable levels of pollution around the world, should lead to no doubt of the existence of our growing global environmental crisis.

It seems to me that one should a posteriori know that pollution cannot be beneficial to life, and any argument contrary to that fact is superfluous.

It also is clear that there needs to be a paradigm shift that requires new ways of thinking to achieve, especially concerning money and profit, if we are going to solve the pressing problem of world pollution or those other things that plague civilization. In our money-based economic system problems are only solved when they become economically viable, that is profitable for business. The global warming dissenters and objectors to environmental regulation are the capitalist who will only put people and the environment first when they can profit from the endeavor. It is clear that quest for profit is the obstacle we cannot overcome.

So, the solution, over time, is to abandon a money-based system of economy, and to employ a resource-based system of economy. In a resource-based system, “people would be free to pursue whatever constructive endeavors they chose without economic pressures, restraints, and taxation that are inherent in the monetary system. The challenges we will face will be overcoming scarcity, restructuring damaged environments, creating innovative technologies, increasing agricultural yield, improving communications, building communications between nations, sharing technologies, and living a meaningful life.”

In a resource-based economy, “The measure of success would be the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power. When education and resources are available to all without a price tag, there will be no limit to human potential.” And, there will be no limit to our potential to improve our environment and overcome global warming. “Harmony” did not address that obvious and seemingly unconquerable problem: money.

Sources:

Video: Alternative Programming and Universal Media Studios, Harmony, nbc.com

Jacque Fresco, The Venus Project: Beyond Politics, Poverty, and War, thevenusproject.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Obama’s Dissenters

Fanatical Obama dissenters, the folks on the right, Limbaugh, Beck, and their like, take any opportunity, whether they bother to check the facts or not, to disparage President Obama. Because I support this President, Obama’s dissenters are constantly jabbing me with the latest dirt they believe they have on him. The latest is the cost of Obama’s trip to Asia.

Most of the time, these claims are over-the-top, rejecting their fabricated claims I move on to reading thought-out and factual commentary. The other day, I read Tom Friedman’s article in the New York Times, “Too Good to Check.” His opening paragraph: “On Nov. 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favor. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumor that President Obama’s trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important ‘story.’ It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, ‘A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.’ But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that’s good journalism.”

As Friedman reported, on CNN’s 360 with Anderson Cooper, Republican Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was asked the question, “You talk about cutting costs -- but what programs are you willing to cut?” In exploiting the question, she said, "Well I think we know that just within a day or so the President of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking two thousand people, renting over 870 rooms. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel.”

Evidently, this report can be traced back to an anonymous Indian government official, quoted in a Press Trust of India article in which these numbers appeared. The article’s author is not known. You would expect a congressperson would be able to and with fidelity state factual and accurate information. Unfortunately, the story quickly saturated internet news, blogs, and conservative talk shows.

Bombastic Limbaugh, who is constantly lambasting the President on his radio show, said, “We had a caller with a good question regarding Obama's trip to India: ‘Is he coming back or fleeing to exile?’ I have a different theory. I don't know what are the policy reasons that Obama's going to India. I have no idea. But the idea that you're going to take 3,000 people and you're booking over 500 rooms in a hotel and you're taking 40 airplanes, what that tells me is that you have a guy and a family who thinks this nation owes 'em. And while they're in a position to, they are going to live off of this country as much as they can. They are gonna get theirs. That's what this tells me. No president has ever anywhere close to 40 airplanes, 3,000 people, 500 rooms in one hotel. And that's just one hotel, for a ten-day trip, $200 million a day. It's never been done before. This is somebody that says, ‘It's my turn. My turn, our turn to get what has been denied us all these years,’ that's what I think.”

These statements are undoubtedly pejorative references to a “welfare queen,” coined by Ronald Reagan, describing a woman from Chicago's South Side who milked the government's welfare program to live a lavish lifestyle, and an affirmative action presidency. Labels describing the poor and the redress of discrimination through measures to ensure equal opportunity, but just as important, they are perceived racial stereotypes.

I think America is worse off because of folks like Limbaugh, Beck, and Bachmann, who spiel false information before they check their facts and spew their hate. Limbaugh seems uninformed; the purpose of Obama’s Asian trip was made very clear. Moreover, I think there is an underlying de facto racism towards a black man who had the audacity to run and win the Presidency of the United States of America. At least here, within Limbaugh’s statements, it is obvious.

The message, as Friedman expressed it, is that “when the next crazy lie races around the world,” one’s first instinct should “be to doubt it, not repeat it.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Veterans Day: authentically honoring all those who serve

Every year on November 11, America celebrates Veterans Day. The day was originally Armistice Day in commemoration of the 1918 Armistice signed between World War I allies and Germany, an agreement to end hostilities on the Western Front. It is the official date marking the end of that war, even though hostilities continued elsewhere. It technically ended in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles.

In many countries, Armistice Day is a national holiday, a holiday to commemorate those killed in war. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a bill that officially changed America’s Armistice Day to Veterans Day to commemorate all who have served.

A day to celebrate the service of all veterans makes sense. America already has Memorial Day on which we honor those warriors whose lives were taken as a result of America’s call to war. Americans should honor those who have served, for we are responsible for putting them in any situation that is a result of their service.

However, America’s Veterans Day perspective, as with Memorial Day, seems to be focused on the glory and heroics of war as opposed to simply honoring those who have served, or, honoring those who have lost their lives in our wars. Americans seem to believe that “without a military we would not have a country,” which implies a military at war, and without our wars we would not have a country. The fact is that when America engages in war it devastates families, impedes our freedom, and it puts a demand for spending on war, rather than on America’s demanding domestic and social needs. The fact is that our wars are a hindrance to America’s true potential.

From the founding of our nation, America has continued to wage war. And we are now in the longest war in our country’s history. World history is replete with quotations articulating the cruelty of war, of its catastrophic effects, and a yearning for peace. Highly regarded scientist, authors, military and political leaders, including Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, General Robert E. Lee, General Omar Bradley, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers, third president of the United States, who believed that a large military establishment would both increase the nation's debt and threaten American liberty, have made these declarations, and yet we have not attained peace.

Americans and politicians are caught up in the ubiquitous catchphrase, “support our troops.” To most Americans “support our troops” means support for the war effort, rah-rah-rah and a high-five of encouragement to keep on killing and dying, making sure they have the appropriate killing tools and self-protection so that they are not killed, sending them cookies/toiletries, or slapping a “support our troops” bumper sticker on the car. It rarely means putting the pressure on our government to bring them home and out of harm’s way, or taking steps to prevent them from going to war in the first place.

As we have discovered in the cases of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, the Defense Department does not always honor its veterans; it uses them, and I submit that many Americans do as well.

So, it’s important to understand that there are two separate issues to be considered when celebrating Armistice Day. The first is to honor all of those who have served America on our behalf. The second is to sever any perceived relationship between this appreciation and wars that dishonor their service. It is imperative that we honor those who serve but not worship the warrior.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy succinctly summed it up: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Thursday, November 11, 2010

America has "compelling interest" to marginalize violence

As a result of outrage over graphic violence depicted in video games sold to children, California made it illegal to sell these games to children. California Civil Code “prohibits the sale of violent video games to minors under 18 where a reasonable person would find that the violent content appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors, is patently offensive to prevailing community standards as to what is suitable for minors, and causes the game as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

Game manufacturers raised the issue of First Amendment protections prohibiting this censorship. On November 2, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case brought forward by game manufacturers in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association regarding the law. A decision is expected early next year.

The questions presented to the court: “Does the First Amendment bar a state from restricting the sale of violent video games to minors?; If the First Amendment applies to violent video games that are sold to minors, and the standard of review is strict scrutiny … is the state required to demonstrate a direct causal link between violent video games and physical and psychological harm to minors before the state can prohibit the sale of the games to minors?” Oral arguments in the case included the question of how video games are different from books, music, and movies.

If it should be upheld that graphically violent video games are constitutionally protected speech, the California law banning them would have to be judged by the legal standard of "strict scrutiny," a standard that California must demonstrate its "compelling interest," making it necessary to treat violent video games differently than other forms of entertainment.

In America, it’s mind-boggling, very troubling, and hard to understand, that we have any disagreement with the fact that there are harmful effects from playing violent video games. I don’t pretend to be a constitutional scholar or to have any scholarship in psychopathology, but it seems to me that there needs to be an application of common sense as opposed to some academic research or judicial determination concerning the affects of violent video games on children, or society in general. To say that California, any other state, and America doesn’t have a “compelling interest” in marginalizing violence, whether that violence is shown graphically in a video game for children or adults, or whether it’s in books, music, movies, or in any other gratuitous way for the purpose of entertainment as opposed to being necessary to actual context needed for understanding an event, is nonsensical. It’s like asking any one of us, whether or not we have a “compelling interest” in whether our children or grandchildren watch or participate in violent acts: what sane adult or parent would say they don’t care?

It’s clear that the nail was hit the on its head when Chief Justice John Roberts read from the official description in court records, “We do not have a tradition in this country of telling children they should watch people actively hitting schoolgirls over the head with a shovel so they’ll beg for mercy, being merciless and decapitating them, shooting them in the leg so they fall down…. Pour gasoline on them, set them on fire and urinate on them.”

Justice Roberts was correct when he concluded: “We protect children from that. We don’t actively expose them to that.”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where Does America Go From Here?

In his 1931 book “Epic of America,” American historian James Truslow Adams wrote, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

The “American Dream” has not turned out as Adams envisioned. The Dream became materialistically a “dream of motor cars and high wages.” The Dream has benefited no one except those with the wherewithal to afford its pursuit. The “American Dream” became a promise of wealth creation by politicians and advertisers that sold Americans a bill of goods designed for their own political or profiteering purposes. Television game shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and games as Monopoly help perpetuate that dream. It is a promise that every American through hard work, or determination, can achieve wealth; that every American can have a new car and own a home; that everyone can make it big in the land of riches. For everyone except those at the top, the “American Dream” turned out to be just that, an illusion, which for all practical purposes most Americans will never achieve.

America’s dream took the wrong path. The result: a credit-driven profligate America that is now debt-ridden, an economic collapse that has yielded erosion in the standard of living, and an income disparity that has undermined the promised dream. It even looks like America may have created a permanent class of the unemployed.

Fareed Zakaria’s November 1, 2010 cover story for Time Magazine, “How to Restore the American Dream,” writes, “There are solutions, but they are hard and involve painful changes — in companies, government programs and personal lifestyles.” Zakaria has offered proposals, which he says “are inherently difficult because they ask the left and right to come together, cut some spending, pare down entitlements, open up immigration for knowledge workers, rationalize the tax code — and then make large investments in education and training, research and technology, innovation and infrastructure.”

Zakaria has not offered any new proposal. Indeed, in our Zeitgeist, it is what needs to be done macroeconomically, but the real solution is long-term and more profound than that. It turns out that Greenspan’s phrase "irrational exuberance” is as applicable as it was when he addressed the “dot-com bubble,” because it is what got us into this mess, an overreach by Wall Street and Main Street over its lust for money. The solution requires a paradigm shift in thinking and changes in lifestyle, requiring every American to assiduously refocus and recreate themselves in order for America to move forward; to understand that things cannot change on the drop of a dime; to understand that what attributed to our current fiscal tribulations were self-serving interest and irrational behavior.

Beyond the Zeitgeist, the “American Dream” must be an epic world journey leading universally from a money-based to a resource-based economy, to world peace, and to advancing up the Kardashev scale to a type 3 civilization, where mankind has gained the knowledge to control all those things that economically, physically, and environmentally plague us, and we have, as Dr. Michio Kaku expressed, “colonized the galaxy itself, extracting energy from hundreds of billions of stars.” No matter how esoteric and utopian this may sound, it’s simple; humankind will not survive if we don’t change our ways.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Liberal Democrat -- Some Things Just Don’t Change!

Horatio H Daub was a man of stature in the early to mid 20th century community of Pembroke, Massachusetts. Better known in the community as “Dick” Daub, he was Pembroke’s first Fire Chief. Born in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, three years after the end of the Civil War in 1868, Dick died in 1956. Dick was my great grandfather. He could be very confrontational, certainly feisty, strong-willed, direct, and spoke his mind in the most uncomplicated of ways. For some reason, one day he decided to explain to me the difference between Democrats and Republicans. In his wisdom, or so I believed at the time, he said, “Republicans are for the rich, and Democrats are for the poor.” Well, as it has turned out, his wisdom was a conventional catchphrase that presumably had been around for a while -- perhaps from the Democratic Party’s origin in 1828 when the Democratic - Republican Party split during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. It was my first introduction to any political thought. But, more importantly, that clich√© has turned out to be an enduring, simple truth.

For many years, The Democratic Party has been linked with liberalism, even though the ideology of today’s Democratic Party may be a far cry from its classical liberalism origins.

What Is Classical Liberalism?” John C. Goodman, a libertarian economist, writes, “Prior to the 20th century, classical liberalism was the dominant political philosophy in the United States. It was the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and it permeates the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers and many other documents produced by the people who created the American system of government. Many of the emancipationists who opposed slavery were essentially classical liberals, as were the suffragettes, who fought for equal rights for women.”

Historians note that liberalism originated in the 16th century, emerging later from the influences of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the political revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. It was in response to the great inequalities of wealth and other social problems created by the Industrial Revolution that liberals, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advocated limited government, limited state intervention in the market, and the creation of free public education, health insurance and other state-funded social services.

And then, as a result of the 1929 Great Depression and consequently FDR’s New Deal, the Democratic Party took a historic turn in support of a strong federal government with powers to regulate business and industry. Since then the Democratic Party have been progressive reformers. They historically have been the party of labor, supportive of federally financed social services and benefits for the poor, the unemployed, the aged, and the protection of civil rights. What has emerged is modern American liberalism, a form of social liberalism, which supports a mixed economy, where faith in the possibilities of improving social conditions are related to the idea of progress, and where compassion toward the poor, equal rights, and tolerance have endured.

That brings us to today, where we are again talking about reform and recovery, no differently in many ways from the era of FDR’s New Deal. And, again, the same criticisms, then as now, abound concerning the President’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act” of 2009, as well as President Obama’s to date performance, and even referencing his agenda as “Obama’s New Deal”: constitutionality, too beholden to big business, "corporate welfare", betrayer and liar, communist, conspiracy, dictator, social fascism, subversive to the checks and balances of the democratic process, not doing enough, too much deficit spending, criticism of the Federal Reserve and a desire to return to the old economic order in believing that the market would correct itself without the meddling of direct government interference. Does it sound familiar?

Likewise, then as now, writers are still at predictions of doom-and-gloom: “The liberal class is finished. Neither it nor its representatives will provide the leadership or resistance to halt our slide toward despotism,” and “The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power,” writes Chris Hedges in “The World Liberal Opportunists Made” and in his new book “Death of the Liberal Class.”

On the contrary, they are not “finished,” and are not betrayers and liars, communist, subversives, or fascist. They do embrace socialism, but no more than their Republican counterparts do. The only difference is, where are their socialistic inclinations directed: are they focused on the rich, or the middle-class and poor?

So when considering the veracity of my great grandfather’s clich√©, history is replete with numerous examples, FDR to the present, of Democrats legislatively supporting the indigent or disenfranchised. The fact still remains, regardless of how beholden Democrats are (Republicans are too) to big business, “Republicans are for the rich, and Democrats are for the poor.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A perilous and egregious journey of wars without end

We began our nation’s proclaimed journey of freedom in Concord, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775; it was also when America began its journey of wars without end. The American Revolution was a war fought to gain our independence from Great Britain, but it also projected our country into a mindset that war is the only tool that will protect our salvation and secure our freedom. Belligerence and war increasingly have been central to our Foreign Relations policy, creating an international and national identity that associates America with militarism and war.

Even our national anthem is not about exalting America’s beauty and its people; instead it pays tribute to war. “The Star Spangled Banner,” is actually an old British drinking song, “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The song was set with lyrics from “Defender of Fort McHenry," a poem written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy during the War of 1812. Wouldn’t “America The Beautiful,” an American original, be more appropriate to the perspective of a beneficent America than a British barroom drinking song celebrating a victorious war?

Right from our nation’s outset, as proclaimed by Chris Hedges, “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.” Our journey of freedom has created “A World Made by War.” Today, as expressed by Tom Engelhardt, in “American Warscapes,” America is “in a state of eternal war as well as living in a permanent war state, that, to face a ragtag enemy of a few thousand stateless terrorists, the national security establishment in Washington would pump itself up to levels not faintly reached when facing the Soviet Union, a major power with thousands of nuclear weapons and an enormous military, that “homeland” -- a distinctly un-American word -- would land in our vocabulary never to leave, and that a second Defense Department dubbed the Department of Homeland Security would be set up not to be dismantled in my lifetime, that torture (excuse me, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’) would become as American as apple pie and that some of those “techniques” would actually be demonstrated to leading Bush administration officials inside the White House, that we would pour money into the Pentagon at ever escalating levels even after the economy crashed in 2008, that we would be fighting two potentially trillion-dollar-plus wars without end in two distant lands, that we would spend untold billions constructing hundreds of military bases in those same lands, that the CIA would be conducting the first drone air war in history over a country we were officially not at war with, that most of us would live in a remarkable state of detachment from all of this, …”

This journey, so far, has inculcated Americans with the preposterous illusion that we can have wars to end wars, wars for peace, and good wars, because somehow its God will, in which we attribute all evil to others, and to worship a God who saves us by killing others and that suffering is a road to all salvation. The journey has given us a country where peace means war, freedom means subjection, and congressional representation only means a new and modern form of tyranny.

It’s a journey that has brought us to a place where we react on emotion instead of on proactive rational thought. Instead of reacting to all previous indications of our peril proactively, September 11, 2001 stirred the drums of war and so America reacted. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not motivate the Greatest Generation because of the atrocities of Hitler; it took Pearl Harbor to call the Greatest Generation to take action against Japan and even then it took Germany’s declaration of war against America to bring us into the fray.

“You can make a difference by opening your mind to the ‘War Without End’ that rages daily around you, hidden in plain sight, disguised by media manipulation …,” – and disguised by government.

You can make a difference by promoting peace with an understanding that peace is a process and that war is not a path but a blockade to it. Our journey has not ended and over time we can change our journey’s direction.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Disparity between Rich and Poor Is What Divides Us

I hear it said that there is no significance difference between America’s two major political parties. But I say there is one very significant and overriding difference: You see, in my teens, my great-grandfather counseled that the difference between Republicans and Democrats boiled down to one party that is supportive of the well-to-do and the other party supportive of those who are not so well-to-do. And, in my life, that same view has been formed via the contrast between Republicans and Democrats in their deeds and actions, formal speech and writing, colloquially, and in the social legislation proposed/supported by each party.

Historically, Democrats, albeit there have been Republicans who also have jumped on-board, are the ones responsible for major social legislation: minimum wage, Social Security and unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid, Civil Rights, and Healthcare Reform. Moreover, Democrats support regulation, which protects in particular those who are not so well-to-do or do not have the where-with-all to protect themselves – regulatory law so that they are not snookered into some “weasel deal.”

Whereas the Republicans do not support minimum wage increases and some even propose its abolishment, they support privatization of Social Security and seemingly do not support unemployment insurance, they will repeal healthcare reform legislation if they gain the majority in November, and they support abolishment or severe entitlement restrictions. Republicans support minimal regulation, and those who are more ideologically libertarian support no regulation.

Then there is the creation of the Wall Street centric Federal Reserve, which has highly contributed to our current economic state of affairs, codified by Congress in 1913, and of which the impetus for its creation came from an extraordinarily secret meeting at the Jekyll Island Club in November of 1910. The attendees at that meeting were Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department A.P. Andrews, and five of the country's leading financiers. No one there gave a hoot about labor or minority inequities, and not a one was a progressive reformer. Their only concern was monetary policy and the establishment of a central banking system in order to achieve greater control over the creation of wealth.

It’s that creation of wealth mindset, Republican Party support for minimal regulation and free market economics, versus Democratic Party support for those who are not so well-to-do in the form of entitlements, that has created today’s political polarization. It has also lead to unacceptable inequality between the low, middle, and upper class.

It’s also a mindset that brought us an “extraordinary state of affairs … facilitated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s scandalous Citizens United decision [Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in elections], which swept away decades of restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections. The Republicans’ success in blocking [campaign finance] legislation that would at least have required the big spenders to disclose the sources of their money means voters have to operate in the dark.” So writes E.J. Dionne, Jr. in his article, “The Shadow Class War of 2010.”

Dionne writes, “The good news is that the class war is bringing a certain clarity to politics. It is also another piece of evidence for the radicalism of the current brand of conservatism. This, in turn, is forcing Democrats to defend a proposition they have been committed to since the days of Franklin Roosevelt but are often too timid to proclaim: that government has a legitimate and necessary role in making economic rules to protect individuals from abuse.

“The country doesn’t need this class war, and it is irrational in any case. Practically no one, least of all Obama, is questioning the basics of the market system or proposing anything more than somewhat tighter economic regulations—after the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression—and rather modest tax increases on the wealthy.”

It seems to me that on November 2nd voters must decide whether or not “government has a legitimate and necessary role in making economic rules to protect individuals from abuse,” and they need to vote accordingly.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Failure to Pass Climate Change Legislation

Tom Friedman in his column “An X-Ray of Dysfunction,” summarizes a piece by Ryan Lizza, “As the World Burns: How the Senate and the White House missed their best chance to deal with climate change.” Extracting from Lizza’s New Yorker magazine entry, Friedman reduces the reasons for failure in congress to pass climate change legislation to “Mindless tribal partisanship”; “Politicians who put their interests before the country’s”; “Special interests buying policy”; and “A TV network [Fox News] acting as the political enforcer of the Republican Party.” Friedman says, “Lizza’s piece is an X-ray of the dysfunctions eating away at our future: politicians who only know how to read polls, never change them; media outlets serving political parties; special interests buying senators; mindless partisanship; an epidemic of low expectations for our government. And us — we elected them all, and we tolerate them.”

For the time being, apparently climate change legislation has been snuffed out by partisanship, special interest and politics.

No matter which political party is in the majority after the November 2010 elections, nothing is going to change partisanship, selfish political maneuvering, lobbyist buying into the legislative process, or the political biases of Fox News. If the house and senate become a republican majority sprinkled with independent conservatives and blue dog democrats, I would not expect any meaningful climate change legislation anytime soon.

As long as we allow money to influence decision making in the congressional legislative processes, we will always have a political system that favors the interest of big business and politicians acting in their personal best interest and not America’s.

I agree with Tom Friedman: “we have to do better,” and better is the abandonment of the concept of a money-based economy.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Childhood War Games Are an Affront to the Cause of World Peace

There was a time when I played with toy guns, my bother and other kids in the neighborhood played with a toy gun of one sort or another, too. The guns didn’t look real and in every way were toys. We played war games. We tried to outwit each other while hiding behind trees, boulders, berms and pretending to shoot at each other … Bang, Bang, Bang -- or imitating the most realistic gunshot sound we could make -- you’re dead! We fantasized neither blood, gore nor carnage, it was simply play. I suppose every kid for eons has played games with some sort of toy weaponry fashioned out wood or other material.

Today, that childhood play of yesteryear has been replaced with vivid video displays of blood, gore, and carnage. These new forms of war games that have emerged are no longer detached from realism; computer technology has developed video game graphics to the point where they are lifelike and extraordinarily realistic. Also there are live play war games played in the woods and fields, as I once did, but instead of mock weapons, the play incorporates Laser Tag, Paintball, or Airsoft realistic weaponry.

Airsoft war game participants use soft-pellet replica firearms, which are similar in operation to BB guns, that shoot small plastic pellets in military simulations. These games are actually used in military training to teach soldiers to kill. Participants arm themselves with different types of Airsoft weaponry, costuming themselves in either real or replica military gear, uniforms, and protective eyewear. The games model combat situations involving military tactics to achieve objectives.

It was in a local newspaper in which I learned of a mom and dad, both members of the Army National Guard, who initiated an Airsoft club in my hometown. It’s for “kids ages 10 and up who will use strategy and teamwork to play a modern version of capture the flag using Airsoft guns. ‘ It’s basically a group of kids that go out into the woods and have Airsoft war,’” said their 12-year old son.

To promote material that is used by the military to train a soldier to kill should not be made available for children to play, especially if we desire at some time in the future a tranquil and peaceful world. Along with other depictions of violence in movies, television, and computer video games, Airsoft, Laser Tag, and Paintball war games are an affront to efforts by so many who work toward ending violence and advancing world peace. These presentations and games only perpetuate violent behavior.

As Lt. Col Dave Grossman at Killology.com has pointed out, people who play violent war games are conditioned to acts of violence. They become increasingly capable of violence because conditioning reduces their natural barriers to it.

To the belief that violence is a result of nature and not nurture, it is both. Violence was at one time, and unfortunately apparent to a certain extent today, necessary to human survival and evolution. So there is a hereditary component, but there is also a greater environmental component that enhances human propensity toward violent acts.

As a child, who is continually conditioned through repeatedly killing lifelike images in video war games and real bodies in outdoor Laser Tag, Paintball, or Airsoft war games, grows into adulthood, he or she increasingly acquire as acceptable an ability to kill in real life. After all it is the same method the military uses effectively to teach soldiers how to kill.

From childhood play with toy guns to realistic play with actual non-lethal weapons is not the direction America or the world should be heading. Instead we should be taking every opportunity to eliminate war and marginalize violence. An adult who embraces violent viewing or a parent who condones this sort of play is acting immorally and their behavior is completely unacceptable.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Another suicide due to bullying

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The report of another suicide due to bullying is very disheartening. An eighteen-year-old freshman at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, killed himself after the secretly taped video broadcast by two other Rutgers students of his sexual encounter with a man.

There have been others: Asher Brown, a thirteen-year-old boy in Texas shot himself in the head after years of bullying and torment for being gay; thirteen-year-old Seth Walsh who was taunted for being gay, hung himself from a backyard tree; and fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas committed suicide after being tormented by bullies, who reportedly questioned his sexual orientation by the way he talked and dressed.

These four suicides occurring in less than a month. They are only a few most recent examples. In these cases, the cause of the torment was homosexuality, however, the bullying problem is not always about sexual orientation, it’s about intolerance of those who look or act differently from the norm or in some other way are different, and in some cases, the bullying is simply because of jealousy, but always due to ignorance.

It’s important to remember that it is not necessary to be physically harmed in order to suffer lasting harm. So, beyond suicide, in the extreme and with varying intensity there may be lifelong effects on those who have been bullied.

As children, victims experience anger, anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep disorders, and form a belief of how they are perceived by others. Repetitive bullying restricts a child’s ability to view themselves as desirable, capable, and effective individuals. They develop revenge fantasies and uncontrollable feelings of rage. They experience greater incidence of illness and lower school grades. Eventually the child withdraws, feels helpless, and will distrust other students, making it difficult to make friends.

As adults, survivors of childhood oppression may continue to experience some of those same effects, as well as develop conditions such as oppositional defiance disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, or hypervigilance. Mark Dombeck, Ph.D, says they “can have debilitating effects on education, careers, marriages, parenting, and day-to-day life. Drugs and Alcohol may be sought out as a form of self-medication, or excessive substance abuse may take place as a desire to fit in with other people.” He states further that some long-term effects may result in reduced occupational opportunities, lingering feelings of anger and bitterness, a desire for revenge, difficulty trusting people, interpersonal difficulties, avoidance of new social situations that leads to a tendency to be a loner, perception of self as easy to victimize, overly sensitive, self-esteem problems, and increased incidence of continued bullying and victimization.”

Whether it is cyber-bullying or your basic run-of-the-mill bullying, it has been an out of control problem. Despite some noble efforts, the efforts have not been very meaningful. The problem must be seriously addressed, and everyone can address it if at every opportunity they take action against it. Americans have an obsession, as exemplified in our entertainment and in the news (now more entertainment than news), with a certain level of unethical and immoral behaviors: our approval of violence, voyeurism, crudity, and with our apparent approval of a certain level of bullying – accepting it because "kids will be kids.” Why do we support such behavior? The problem lies in the fact that we do. Instead of some measured tolerance, we should have zero tolerance for any of these uncivil acts.

For there to be a world of peace these behaviors must be overcome.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Angry With America’s Political Dysfunction (revised 10/03/2010)

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Well, I for one will be happy when November 2nd is behind us. Like Joan Dowlin’s expressions of anger in her Huffington Post column, “Tea Partiers Aren't The Only Angry Ones,” I too am angry.

I am angry with overstated, oversimplified, treading on the edge of distortion political discourse that accomplishes nothing; one that only accuses the other side with mismanagement or some misdeed. It’s disingenuously manipulative partisan politics where the priority is to be elected rather than to be a straight shooter who fairly and honestly presents the issues and how they may be cost-effectively and resourcefully resolved. Instead, candidates end up defending themselves, talking about their past and not America’s future.

Angry with those who seem not to realize that we all want less government spending and minimal taxation, but what cuts are going to be made and just what is an appropriate level of taxation; we all want smaller government, but the question is: how small?; we all want to stop the backroom deals, but such perceived shenanigans are fundamental to politics; we all want job creation, improved education, and enforced immigration laws. We all seem to want the same things but at whose expense. This was exemplified in the most recent Massachusetts gubernatorial debate when Deval Patrick said, “I see government as about helping people not kicking people to the curb when times are tough. I don't see the budget as a math problem. I see the faces behind those line items,” In response, Charlie Baker said, “There are plenty of faces behind a lot of the businesses that are dealing with the tax increases that have gone through over the course of the last four years under your watch.”

Angry with those who fall for political histrionics, who peddle misinformation and deception, with those who wallow in exploiting crudity, and the print and electronic media who present issues hyperbolically and entertainingly rather than with any genuine intention to shed light on very demanding and complex issues.

Angry with the tea party’s claim of diversity. When tea party supporters have been polled, it has been shown that they have conservative views; they are predominantly white and certainly not poor.

Angry with one of the tea party’s favorite mantras, “I Want My Country Back,” which is exploited in opposition to illegal immigration and anti-government angst. It is addressed at Salon.com by David Sirota, who writes, “Cloaked in the proud patois of patriotism and protest, the refrain has become a dog whistle to a Caucasian population that feels threatened by impending demographic and public policy changes. Tea Party activists have resorted to declaring that there can only be one kind of country — theirs.” “Theirs” is a narcissistically uncompassionate corporate welfare state, one that rejects a social agenda that addresses the fundamental needs of all people. As Deval Patrick said, “We are still part of America,” adding he was interested in “lifting the whole of America.” The tea party’s anger and frustration should be directed at corporations and Wall Street, and at government for embracing corporate hegemony. The forces of corporate power are undermining our system of government and are the undercurrent that is creating our political dissatisfaction and polarization, that’s where our problems essentially lie.

Joan Dowlin writes, “One thing we can all agree on is that we are all angry and we all have good cause to be upset. But how about we put our anger to good use and channel the energy into bringing about real change that benefits us all? We can if we put aside our differences and work together for the greater good.”
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blockade Corporate Hegemony

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The common people do not govern American institutions. They are controlled by corporate money. They “abet and perpetuate mounting inequality,” and, “ignore suffering or sacrifice human lives for profit.” “They use entertainment, celebrity gossip and emotionally laden public-relations lies to seduce us into believing in a Disneyworld fantasy of democracy.” So says Chris Hedges in his latest column for TruthDigg.com, “Do Not Pity the Democrat.”

Hedges states, and I agree, that the real threat to an authentic representative democracy is corporate power of the fourth estate and mass media and the executive and legislative branches of government, who we have believed were there to protect democracy. The money of American corporate power corrupts government and molds American thought and consequently the decisions they make. As a consequence, Americans have embraced ignorance and crudity as exemplified by the popularity of right-wing talk radio, and in particular, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck, who present issues hyperbolically and entertainingly rather than an intention to authentically throw light on an issue.

His column states “Resistance means a radical break with the formal structures of American society.” It’s here where our perspectives differ. The real power lies with the collective acts of the American people. The only way to viably confront and overcome corporate power is in denying them that which gives them power, which is targeting specific sales of the products and services they peddle, which will, in the end, severely restrict their stranglehold on government and individuals. Exercising political extremism is not the way. I agree with Ralph Nader, who Hedges refers to in his column that “The corporate state, whose interests are being championed by tea party leaders [(“Most of the participants in the tea party rallies are not poor”)] such as Palin and Dick Armey, is working hard to make sure the anger of the movement is directed toward government rather than corporations and Wall Street. And if these corporate apologists succeed, a more overt form of corporate fascism will emerge without a socialist counterweight. The more we expand community credit unions, community health clinics and food cooperatives and build alternative energy systems, the more empowered we will become.”

The emphasis of Hedges’ column is not to pity “Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. They will get what they deserve. They sold the citizens out for cash and power. They lied. They manipulated and deceived the public, from the bailouts to the abandonment of universal health care, to serve corporate interests.”

I suppose this is to an extent true, but more to the pressures of bipartisanship. However, the other side of the aisle always seems to sell-out for cash and power. It seems to me that Democrats more often than not will attempt to “foster the common good and the tangible needs of housing, health care, jobs, education and food.” He states, “If we again prove compliant we will discredit the socialism we should be offering as an alternative to a perverted Christian and corporate fascism.” You see, as Nader, according to Hedges, said, “’Poor people do not organize. They never have. It has always been people who have fairly good jobs.’”

Hedges, quoting Ralph Nader, said, “The corporate state is the ultimate maturation of American-type fascism. They leave wide areas of personal freedom so that people can confuse personal freedom with civic freedom—the freedom to go where you want, eat where you want, associate with who you want, buy what you want, work where you want, sleep when you want, play when you want [and only if you have the personal and financial wherewithal to do any of this]. If people have given up on any civic or political role for themselves there is a sufficient amount of elbow room to get through the day. They do not have the freedom to participate in the decisions about war, foreign policy, domestic health and safety issues, taxes or transportation. That is its genius. But one of its Achilles’ heels is that the price of the corporate state is a deteriorating political economy. They can’t stop their greed from getting the next morsel. The question is, at what point are enough people going to have a breaking point in terms of their own economic plight? At what point will they say enough is enough?”

At what point will America put up a blockade against corporate power.
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Education should not be for sale

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For a long time, I have championed the concept of a worldwide resource-based system to replace the world’s money-based economic system.

One such concept is The Venus Project, created by Jacques Fresco in 1975. It’s an organization that proposes a plan of action that works towards a peaceful and sustainable global civilization. It outlines an alternative to strive toward where human rights are a way of life. It’s a moneyless system in which all goods and services are available without debt or servitude. All material and human resources become the common heritage of all inhabitants, not just a select few. The premise upon which this system is based is that the Earth is an abundant and plentiful resource, and that our practice of monetarily rationing resources is counterproductive to our survival.

Some will say that what is being proposed is communism or socialism; but it’s not, since both are money-based systems employed for the control and rationing of resources. The project’s plan is one that brings us out of the horrifying aspects of poverty and war. It’s one that eliminates politics, which, despite the rhetoric, at the end of the day is controlled by money, and where wealthy nations control limited resources.

So, whenever a money-based issue comes up, which never involves the simple exchange of money but always the profit that can be derived from such an exchange, I ask myself the question: Could this be resolved under a resource-based system of economics? So far, the answer has been an unequivocal yes on every issue.

Currently, the issue du jour is education. Over the last few days, I have read reviews based on the documentary film, “Waiting for ‘Superman,’” by Davis Guggenheim, but particularly “Steal This Movie, Too,” by Tom Friedman, and the education based articles’ “Why We’re Failing Our Schools,” by Joe Klein, and “The Case Against Summer Vacation,” by David Von Drehle. In each case, money is the central obstacle.

The prevailing question: Are we putting kids and their education first? We are not. We are putting money and profit first -- essentially putting our future and progress up for sale.

The issues:

We are underpaying our teachers, compensating them instead by giving them union perquisites, and not holding our teachers accountable. The proposed system would eliminate a need for unionization. Under a resource-based system, there would still be a need for accountability. However, if we still have a need for teachers to teach (advances in computerized technologies may replace teachers), a teacher would be teaching because of their passion for teaching and not for pay.

We have a need to extend the school year, and to offer summer and after school education programs. The restrictions here are all money-based. All levels of education would be available all year.

The problem of latchkey kids would be significantly reduced. Arranging times to be home with children could be easily managed.

It would end the drive for charter schools in which individual entrepreneurs are chartered by states to create their own schools, and the drive to end public education through some sort of other privatization scheme would be off the table.

Such programs as Obama’s “Race to the Top” and Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” programs would also be off the table, since there would be freedom for children and every adult to pursue an education. All education, including college and beyond would not be limited by money, and children would be motivated to learn.

This plan is “Futuristic,” it is a plan for the future, it cannot happen overnight, but not impossible or utopian. To accomplish this goal, our world must move progressively over time to eliminate the need for money, and, actively and passionately, work to achieve greater knowledge. In the mean time, there is a need to take profit out of education. It should not be for sale.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Carlos’s belated realization that a “Good Soldier” kills (revised and updated, September 18)

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On September 1, 2010, President Obama declared an end to combat operations in Iraq.

Even so, Bush’s war can hardly be declared "Mission Accomplished.” Iraq has not delivered the outcome envisioned by the Bush administration, or by those who supported the war.

And, as expressed by Political Animal’s Steve Benen, “There's still, obviously, a precarious environment on the ground. Iraqi politicians are still struggling badly to form a government; deadly violence is not uncommon; and no one is quite sure what will unfold in the absence of U.S. combat brigades. With tens of thousands of troops, and many more private contractors, still in Iraq, anyone who thinks this is ‘over’ is mistaken.”

On September 11, 2001, 2,977 lives were lost. After the collapse of the World Trade Center, workers were exposed to toxic dust and fumes. People who breathed harmful air on their way to work were affected. There is an indeterminate number for those injured and who will have lifelong physical and mental health disabilities.

Unquestionably, 9/11 was a horrific attack. However, Operation Iraqi Freedom produced 4,736 combatant casualties, an estimated 97,814 – 106,752 civilians were killed, and an indeterminate number of lifelong combatant and non-combatant traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, other mental ailments, and physical wounds. Long-term societal effects on the lives of combatants and non-combatants, and their families, also are indeterminate. How about the children of Iraq who have only examples of violence in their lives, long-term, how is this war’s grief going to affect them? As adults, what will their disposition be? Will it be alienation? What will be the total cost of our retribution?

A case in point of how war affects families is the heartbreaking story of Carlos Arredondo of Jamaica Plain as told in “They Kill Alex,” by Chris Hedges. Carlos lost a son, Alex, a 20-year-old Marine who was in the first units to invade Iraq was killed in action on his second tour of duty in An Najaf, Iraq on August 25, 2004.

When Carlos was advised of his son's death, he called out “Mama! They are telling me Alex got killed! Alex got killed! They kill Alex! His mother crumbled in grief. Carlos went to the large picture of his son in the living room and held it.” Out of anguish and grief, he set afire the Marine Corp van of those who brought him such devastating news. Carlos burned 26% of his body in the process. It’s the ultimate anguish of a father who lost his son in war.

Chris Hedges writes in his column, “Alex usually asked his father not to ‘forget’ him, but now, increasingly in the final days of his life, another word was taking the place of forget. It was forgive. He felt his father should not forgive him for what he was doing in Iraq. Don’t forgive me, Dad.” The sentence bewildered him, until, as Carlos says, “I thought, when he died, my God, he has killed somebody.”

Carlos’s belated realization is one that Americans ignore as well. Too many Americans fail to have the fundamental comprehension that war is all about death and destruction. They “prefer to keep war sanitized and wrapped in the patriotic slogans of glory, honor and heroism.” However, as depicted in the documentary film, “The Good Soldier,” the brutal reality is that a soldier is taught to kill. It’s their job.

Carlos says, “This is what happens every week to some family in America. This is what war does. And this is the grief and pain the government does not want people to see.” "Operation New Dawn," the Iraq mission’s new phase, will not change that fact.

On September 15th, two American Soldiers were killed in Iraq and two more American families are now facing Carlos’s realization.
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Some Things Never Seem To Change

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The 1934 Chicago Tribune political cartoon, “Planned Economy or Planned Destruction?” has resurfaced again (apparently an annual event). It again brings to mind the adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The similarities between then and now certainly are uncanny and thought provoking.

Duncan K. Foley, Department of Economics, New School for Social Research, says, “Many of the debates and controversies over the causes and cures of financial economic crisis of 2007-8 that continues to plague the world economy in 2010 echo ideas put forth in the 1930s by John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich von Hayek, and Joseph Schumpeter.”

Although those ideas and controversies may be expressed differently today, essentially the debate is the same, and the fear mongering tactics that were prevalent in the 1930s have not changed either. As exemplified in the cartoon, the same national debt arguments have not changed -- “Plan of action for the U.S. Spend! Spend! Spend under the guise of recovery – bust the government – blame the capitalists for the failure – Junk the constitution and decree a dictatorship” -- except today, “dictatorship” is replaced by the label Hitler, and instead of Stalin, the label now is Marxist and communist.

As an aside, it is also interesting to note that the national debt, except during the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, have never been paid off. Moreover, even today, the political talk is about reducing the national debt; not eliminating it.

Although not depicted in the cartoon, the same old argument of burdening future generations with today’s debt continues to be the same political tactic today as it was then.

It appears we have not evolved. Rather we are going around in circles/cycles, returning to the same failures over and over again. Nothing has changed! It’s the consequence of looking backward and not forward, of not “thinking outside of the box.”

It certainly makes one wonder just how noteworthy today’s arguments are. What can an American “hang their hat on?”

It is clear that new changes in thinking are desperately needed. Not that I expect that we would get change anytime soon. The wealthy, who essentially deny economic freedom from the majority through the monetary power and control they wield, will not let any kind of systemic change happen that will interfere with those perks or their exorbitant lifestyle. Nevertheless, replacing the world’s money-based system with a resource-based system – creating moneyless societies -- it seems to me would be the answer to almost all of today’s economic and societal problems. No doubt, a moneyless system would bring with it a different set of challenges, but certainly not the chaos and calamity we have experienced within our current system and it would solve the problems of class supremacy, aristocracy, and many other things the current system has failed to correct. And we could finally shed forever those things that seemingly never change and move forward with things that we can change.

For the world can change, over time, but there will need to be significant paradigm shifts in thinking. It means more than a shift away from a money-orientated and a profit-oriented society, but shifts in thinking and actions taken that will inevitably invert the typical organization structure from top-down to bottom-up, and to heterarchical organizational paradigms.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some things should not be for sale (update of "Violence Has Replaced the Ideal of Peace")

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On Saturday, August 28, Ultimate Fighting Championship 118 (UFC), a mixed martial arts (MMA) contest, came to Boston’s TD Garden.

In December 2009, Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation that promulgated strict rules governing MMA contests, which heretofore were banned. The new law created a five-member State Athletic Commission charged with the regulation of all professional and amateur boxing, mixed martial arts, and unarmed combat events, which paved the way for UFC 118 to be held in Boston this year. It also eliminated Boston Mayor Menino’s concerns of insufficient regulation.

MMA’s ultimate fighting contests involve two fighters enclosed in a cage who engage in full contact combat. MMA encompasses a wide variety of fighting from a mixture of martial arts: combinations of boxing, kickboxing, judo, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, Cage Combat, and Toughman. MMA competitions are repugnant, grotesque, and an obscene orgy of violence. A sport described by Arizona Senator John McCain as "human cockfighting."

America’s obsession with violence has sanctioned ultimate fighting. Although stricter regulations are an improvement, nevertheless, for entertainment Massachusetts has reverted to the Roman gladiatorial combat era of the second century BC. America has regressed rather than progressed. Instead of moving forward to restrain and marginalize violence, Massachusetts and America has taken a step backward by legalizing it. Boxing should be illegal, and instead we have upgraded the violence of boxing by legalizing ultimate fighting contests.

UFC’s are profit makers for its organizers, area businesses, and tax revenue for the city and state. Beginning with pay-per-view broadcasts, it is now prevalent in sports venues and in some sport bars across forty-two states. As Mayor Menino representative Dot Joyce said, “The mayor is cautiously optimistic the UFC’s money-making juggernaut will be a boon to the local economy.”

This sport encourages and validates violent behavior. It sets up a path for sociopathic behavior, for actions not bound by guilt, regret, compassion, love, or even fear. Combat fighter competitors resort to violence to injure, weaken, and intimidate opponents. Other professional and amateur athletes similarly use the same method of intimidation: Basketball, Football, Ice Hockey, Rugby, Soccer, Boxing, and Wrestling.

Behavior exchange principles, factors contributing to the presence of violence in sports, inform us that these violent behaviors are learned and imbued, inculcated via fan, media, and cultural attitudes. And by modeling, wherein it can be expected that if your role model practices violence you will likely emulate violence.

But, more importantly, how can we ever expect to achieve world peace if we continue to embrace violence? For all forms of sport and entertainment are, in part, a reflection of culture and its institutions. The Dalai Lama proclaims compassion as the “pillar of world peace.” His Holiness says, “Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs.” That “The pursuit of the objects of our desire and attachment involves the use of aggression and competitiveness as supposedly efficacious instruments.” Moreover, that “these mental processes easily translate into actions, breeding belligerence …. He calls for the need to eliminate “these 'poisons' - delusion, greed, and aggression.” Further proclaiming, “For it is these poisons that are behind almost every trouble in the world.”

In America, it seems more and more that selling the poison of aggression for the sake of monetary gain has replaced the ideal of peace as an enduring entity.

Sport and entertainment markets need to establish moral limits. Some things plainly should not be for sale.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

August issue of Townhall Magazine’s Keep the Free Market Alive

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The article, “Keep the Free Market Alive,” highlights excerpts from Governor Ronald Reagan’s Hillsdale College speech of November 10, 1977, describing it as a “blistering assault against economic socialism,” attacking “government planned economies as anathema to freedom.” Facetiously the author writes, “Ronald Reagan foreshadowed President Obama's assault against free enterprise.”

Reagan declared that “an economic system that has provided more for more people anything we’ve ever known to solve the problems of unemployment and inflation” has failed because of government intervention. “It's time we recognized that the system, no matter what our problems are, has never failed us once.”

Yet, the system has failed us more than once. Some of those failures of recent memory are the savings and loan crisis of the 80’s; the dotcom bubble burst; the housing bubble burst, and the financial crisis of 2007 that followed. Additionally, Ronald Reagan had 2,036 bank failures during his term in office. However, Reagan is correct; government deregulation was government interference that for a great part has brought the economic problems we are dealing with today.

Reagan stated that those working in the private sector support themselves and their dependents, additionally supporting millions of other Americans who totally depend tax dollars we pay for their year-round living. Saying, “I say this to emphasize that the people working and earning in the private sector are the only resource that government has.”

Reagan should have described it differentially: The only resource that working people in the private sector have is private enterprise; and for those who do not have the where-with-all to earn a livable wage, or those who are infirmed, the only resource they have is government.

And, he said, “But, you know, if you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom, all freedom.”

Reagan, as with conservatives and republicans, failed to understand that those at the mid to bottom classes in our society don’t have any freedoms to lose, because most had none to begin with.

As I see it, the “Great Communicator” and idol of conservatives and republicans, who speak of him with extreme reverence, was not that somewhat folksy, warm, and cuddly “smiling old codger in a cowboy hat” that he was perceived to be. The right reveres Reagan much in the same way as many Americans at onetime admired John Wayne, who, of course, all by himself won the war in the pacific. However, I don’t mean to imply that Ronald Reagan was, as the Free Republic put it, “a mean-spirited simpleton who somehow managed to bungle his way into becoming the most powerful person on earth,” either. He was a wise, politically astute man, an actor who could deliver a nationalistic and patriotic narrative that was ostensibly from the heart, who could not recognize his mistaken judgments.

And, some of Ronald Reagan’s judgments were repulsive. Here are some examples:

Regarding nuclear weapons: “It’s silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.”

Regarding the Fair Housing Act: “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has a right to do so.” (a libertarian view more than conservative)

Regarding poverty: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Regarding the expansion of Redwood National Park: “A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?”

Regarding homelessness: "You can't help those who simply will not be helped. One problem that we've had, even in the best of times, is people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

Regarding the environment: "The American Petroleum Institute filed suit against the EPA [and] charged that the agency was suppressing a scientific study for fear it might be misinterpreted ... The suppressed study reveals that 80 percent of air pollution comes not from chimneys and auto exhaust pipes, but from plants and trees."

One of the hallmarks of Reaganomics, an economic policy calling for widespread tax cuts, decreased social spending, increased military spending, and the deregulation of domestic markets, was labeled “trickle-down economics.” But, in the end, it never did “trickle-down,” economic growth has provided benefits to the wealthiest, but inequality for the rest.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tom Friedman’s “Really Unusually Uncertain”

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Tom Friedman in his article, “Really Unusually Uncertain,” writes we have “to deal with three huge structural problems that built up over several decades and have reached a point of criticality at the same time,” and “That ‘Structural problems need structural solutions.’ There are no quick fixes.”

“The first big structural problem is America’s. America will probably need some added stimulus to kick start employment, but any stimulus right now must be in growth-enabling investments that will yield more than their costs, or they just increase debt. That means investments in skill building and infrastructure plus tax incentives for starting new businesses and export promotion. To get a stimulus through Congress it must be paired with spending cuts and/or tax increases timed for when the economy improves.

“Second, America’s solvency inflection point is coinciding with a technological one.

“Thanks to Internet diffusion, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and the shift from laptops and desktops to hand-held iPads and iPhones, technology is destroying older, less skilled jobs that paid a decent wage at a faster pace than ever while spinning off more new skilled jobs that pay a decent wage but require more education.”

This is something I addressed in a post “There will be no choice; our money-based economic system must change” in which I linked a Fortune Magazine article, “What if there’s no fix for high unemployment?” The article puts forth the well-founded proposition that unemployment may remain high into the unforeseeable future. He forecast it might never rebound to acceptable levels. Unemployment is a structural problem

“Third, a decade ago Germany was the ‘sick man of Europe.’ Labor gave up wage hikes and allowed businesses to improve competitiveness and worker flexibility, while the government subsidized firms to keep skilled workers on the job in the downturn. Germany is now on the rise, but also not free of structural challenges. Its growth depends on exports to China and it is the biggest financier of Greece. Still, ‘Germany is no longer the country with the oldest students and youngest retirees.‘”

Today’s circumstances are not a product of the Obama Administration nor essentially the Bush’s Administration, although the latter did make things worse, leaving the Obama Administration with a bad situation made even worse. Once we understand that a large portion of our economic quagmire is not governmental, political or a result of mandated free market controls but structural, we can address solutions to the problem.

Read Tom Friedman’s article here
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

State-Sanctioned Marriage Is An Outmoded Concept (updated 8/22/2010)

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In 2008, voters passed the California Marriage Protection Act, an act recognizing marriage as only between a man and a woman. This month a federal appeals court blocked an earlier federal court’s ruling that would have made California's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The outcome could bring the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Moreover, if the Court upholds the ban there is a risk the Roberts’ Court could make marriage equality laws in states like Massachusetts invalid. Whichever way a court may decide, the issue will continue to be a vastly divisive, unnecessary controversy.

Across America, like California, the assault on marriage inequality has been a debate over its constitutionality and opposition based on a belief that marriage is exclusive to one man with one woman. However, neither should be considered as central to the issue, for what is central to the issue is state-sanctioned marriage itself.

There is no history of when the first marriage occurred; but most likely occurred once man read the story of God taking Adam’s rib to create Eve. In the beginning women simply had children, progressing to marriage by simple affirmation (a family affair), and later by religious authority, evolving to the state granting marriage licenses with affirmation by a religious or civil authority.

In ancient times, tribes needed an environment conducive to safeguarding and perpetuating their lineage, and rules on granting property rights (women were considered property). It had to do with ethnic identity, preserving social hierarchy, property rights, and inheritance. Love was nothing more than an abstract notion.

“The Sixties” became the impetus for significant social and cultural change, but the perspective up to that time had been that women were created to be subservient, not equal or a counterpart to men. Therefore, thanks to Adam and Eve, marriage was a social contract imbued by religious values dictating that men reign supreme, and that a wife should look to her man for guidance in all things.

Today, there are gender-based partnerships and cohabitations other than marriage that need to be granted rights and protections. Even though the heterosexual act of procreation is important to our evolution, that relationship should not interfere with other relationships such as a man and woman cohabitating, partnerships of a man befriending a man or a woman befriending a woman, or the cohabitation of homosexuals. They should be afforded the same rights and protections as heterosexual marriages.

Since the social revolution of “The Sixties,” this has been the outcome of a world that has significantly changed. A change that has created paradigm shifts in thinking. A world in which safeguarding means more than protecting possessions and bloodlines; it is now a world where love and compassion define relationships. We have acquired greater knowledge of which has come a diversification of ideas and an open-mindedness that has rejected old taboos. Moreover, a financially dependant, fast-paced world where each spouse now need careers, where spousal separation for long periods may be necessary because of conflicting work hours, business travel and relocation, has stressed families and generated high divorce rates. As a result, men and women are living together and creating families outside of wedlock. For financial, and other reasons, more and more men and women are partnering or cohabitating and sharing their lives.

Consequently, state-sanctioned marriage has lost its suitableness and usefulness.

It seems to me, if at death one can legally will their special person or pet animal in life any monetary or physical accommodation they may wish, why then, in life can’t we find a way legally, comprehensively, and universally to accommodate all categories of partnerships or cohabitation to the same legal status as marriage.
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