Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Words Do Count

"We have needed to define ourselves by reclaiming the words that define us. They have used language as weapons. When we open ourselves to what they say and how they say it, our narrow prejudices evaporate and we are nourished and armed." - Selma James

There are enough reasons for using appropriate and politically correct language in speech and writing:

First, from a voluminous lexicon one can select an appropriate word, phrase, or metaphor to symbolize ones views and intentions in addressing any issue.

Second, by using a higher standard vocabulary one eliminates any unintentional meaning or misinterpretation.

Third, by using appropriate and meaningful expressions one provides the best example of communicating ideas and concepts.

Fourth, using slang, rather than colloquially acceptable vocabulary, is a lazy man’s shortcut to circumventing the need for a more meaningful explanation.

Of course, the visual media and talk radio depend on incendiary words and overheated talk as a tool to increase their readership/listenership because it attracts a certain personality type who feeds into this kind of discourse. As David Frum explains in his article, Waterloo: “Yes [overheated talk] mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination.”

This leads me to an article by Doug Giles, “Palin Says ‘Reload’ and the Liberals Have a Cow.” In his article for Townhall.com he attempts to justify Sarah Palin’s Tea Party proclamation, “Reload.” Mr. Giles states, “All of you of PC gods of gobbledygook have got to chill out on strangling our vocabulary to death with your egregious leaps to conclusions, or we are not going to be able to communicate any longer except through eye movements, hand signals and guttural grunts ….”

Perhaps Sarah Palin would be more effective communicating through eye movements and hand signals. Sarah Palin has associated herself with Fox News, Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, and Limbaugh because her Facebook message -- “Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!”-- is the same egregious style they incorporate in their overheated and incendiary demagoguery to rile up their listening base.

Some say her remark was only metaphorical without a scintilla of understanding that there are Americans who will not know what metaphorical even means -- they do not understand the difference between figuratively and literally. Some only understand things in the literal sense. Some just do not have the capacity for critical analysis.

As a speaker, Sarah Palin should consider the diversity of interpretations, as well as the education of her audience, and consider how her words may be perceived. A wise man or woman, an Alaskan or Arizonian, perhaps most people may interpret her symbolization appropriately, while someone in the military, a militant, a hunter, or someone from the street might interpret it differently with egregious results.

To make it shoddier, in emphasizing the “reload” point, on her Facebook page she also posted a map highlighting Democratic districts that conservatives should target with the firearm crosshair symbol.

The essence of communication is the creation of understanding. A speaker sometimes may be communicating some very sophisticated and complex ideas or concepts to general audiences. It therefore behooves the speaker to be considerate of the symbols they employ.

We need America’s leadership, their spokespersons, or interlocutors, to serve people rather than prey on them; however that is exactly what Sarah Palin and her ilk do when they by design rather than in fidelity to their audience do not take the time to communicate properly.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Republican Debacle

I think columnists Robert Scheer, a liberal, and David Frum, a conservative, in two very excellent articles, have both equally hit the nail on the head.

An excerpt form Robert Scheer’s truthdig article, The Moderate Republican: An Endangered Species: “As it is, however, the lock-step march of the Republicans in radical resistance to even the most modest proposals to heal a deeply ailing nation leaves the Democrats as the only party that matters. The Republicans are a party of incoherent rage, and while they might temporarily succeed as demagogues, they are now acknowledged strangers to fact and logic—not to mention compassion.”

An excerpt from David Frum’s article, Waterloo: “I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.”

The republican stance on healthcare legislation is so much in lockstep, as Robert Scheer puts it, it makes one wonder whether or not their stance is taken on principle or simply because they believe that it is a politically favorable position to take. It would seem to me that there would be some republican, somewhere, at least one, who might be in favor in some way with this legislation, but there are none.

And, the republican fiery rhetoric, as that of Representative Paul Broun’s comparison of Obama’s agenda to "Dead Man Walking Around With No Soul," which many Americans may take literally, Representative Randy Neugebauer’s shout out “baby killer,” and generally the congressional republicans’ demagoguery and invectiveness did not contribute to a meaningful debate, and did not honestly serve the American people.

The rancor of conservatives, tea partiers, and protesters, as David Frum says, the “hysterical accusations and pseudo-information” of the talk shows, also did not contribute to a meaningful and comprehensive understanding of the issues. Fox News, particularly Beck, Hannity, and O’Reilly, but also talk radio’s Limbaugh and others also incite unacceptable behavior and violence. Their lexicon: Fascist, Nazi, Hitler, totalitarian, dictator, communist, and socialist, of which none by definition apply.

Healthcare protesters shouted verbal epithets at Democratic Representatives John Lewis and Andre Carson. A protester spit on Representative Emanuel Cleaver. And, ten democrats, and in some cases their families, have been threatened with violence for voting on the healthcare reform legislation.

This behavior, although (except spitting on a person) constitutional, to me is completely unacceptable and should be admonished by every levelheaded American.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Government Sponsored Gaming

Robert DeLeo, speaker of the Massachusetts House, has made an expanded gaming proposal for a limited number of slots at four racing venues as well as two resort casinos. He says, “... it is a plan that creates a new economic sector and new jobs in Massachusetts when we need them most. And we will reinvest a portion of whatever revenue we generate in economic development to create other new jobs.”

Job creation is a no-brainer! Jobs are maintained and/or created when purchases are made for goods and/or services, but in turn, one needs a job to earn the necessary income to make those purchases. The most effective way to create jobs is by creating an economic environment where one has disposable income to make purchases therefore increasing the business need to hire additional employees to produce goods or provide those services. The best way to do that is through tax incentives, as well as reduction in taxes and fees.

Obviously, just as importantly is a passionate need by our state representatives to first, rid our state of corruption and waste, and, second, to live within our means while still maintaining social programs -- entitlement reduction and/or elimination is usually the first action considered because it is an easy way out while leaving real obstacles to effective governance in place.

The incentive of lower taxes and effective state governance is also the best way -- not slots and casinos -- to attract manufacturers to come to Massachusetts and encourage those that are here to stay.

In regard to generating revenue, it is important to realize that casinos are designed to offer within their establishments products and services their customers may need in order to keep their customers in their casinos. So, in fact, casinos are in competition with non-gambling businesses in the communities within which they operate. Accordingly, it has been the experience of other states that government overestimates gambling revenues. The bottom-line is that money spent gambling will not be spent elsewhere. University of Massachusetts urban-planning professor Robert Goodman supports this contention by saying, “Newly opened casinos suck money out of the local economy, away from existing movie theaters, car dealerships, and clothing shops and sports arenas.”

And, there is the moral issue.

James Dobson, Ph.D., Commissioner of the National Gambling Impact Study (1997 – 99), says the study concludes: “gambling depicts a depth of pain and devastation that compels a change in the way betting is regarded; it preys on the desperation of the poor by peddling false hope; and, it exploits the most vulnerable. It undermines the ethic of work, sacrifice, and personal responsibility that exemplify the best qualities of American society. If you scratch beneath the veneer of gambling-induced prosperity, the pain, despair and hopelessness of problem and pathological gamblers is recognized as a stark tragedy. We must reject the fantasy that wagering is innocuous entertainment and deal earnestly with the destruction and pain that it causes to individuals, families, and society.”

Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald columnists, says Speaker DeLeo is turning a deaf ear toward what ought to concern him most: “How can you justify exploiting the misery of the public you allegedly serve?” It simply “Encourage [encourages] more people to bet, then let the state stuff its pockets with the money the losers leave behind.”

Despite the gaming industry’s claim that within their operations they address pathological gambling, nevertheless, gambling addiction and associated large-scale social issues are never fundamentally resolved.

Robert DeLeo’s proposal simply does not represent the best example of effective leadership, nor good government.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Commentary on "The Fallacy of the Misean Vision"

Robert Williams left a comment on my post "The Fallacy of the Misean Vision":

Mr. Williams says, “Rockwell joins Mises and Rothbard as one of the few people who understand the origins of money and its purpose in a free society.”

He said, “You agree with a number of Lew Rockwell's statements about freedom and liberty, but what is more important to you - freedom, or a society that does not use money? What if free men choose voluntarily to use money as a means of facilitating exchange? Should this be outlawed in order to guarantee the moneyless world you envision?”

Adding, “Humans have needs and desires. They act purposefully towards fulfilling those needs and desires. Exchange is one way humans work together to achieve their common goals. For example, a farmer who grows wheat might want some fish. That farmer could exchange some of his wheat for some of a fisherman's fish. This exchange would only take place if both the farmer and the fisherman believe that it will be to their own benefit. Both act in their own self-interest, and both benefit. But what if the farmer who wants fish can't find any fishermen who want or need any wheat? What if the fishermen didn't want wheat but did want berries. If the farmer could find someone with berries that wanted some wheat, then he could exchange the wheat for berries and then exchange the berries for fish. This example illustrates how and why money came about. People began to exchange what they had for whatever good was the most marketable to the whole of society, which they would then use to exchange for what they needed. No government was involved in the creation of money - it evolved out of free exchange between free people.”

And, in conclusion, he said, “Today, however, money is controlled by government. Few are aware of the problems this creates, but it is truly at the center of virtually all economic problems we face.”

Freedom is important to me. However, one is not free unless one is 100 % free 100 % of the time. That kind of freedom can only take place in a moneyless society, where ones freedom is not limited. In a money-based society, your freedom to do certain things is always limited by the amount of dollars and cents you possess. One of freedom’s principles is a right to unrestricted use, and one is certainly not free unless he is equal to others in society. In a money-based society, its members are restricted to full use of resources based on the money they have to purchase them, and its members are not in any way equal. In a moneyless society, one would only be restricted by the availability of resources and application of law.

Mr. Williams’s farmer-fisherman example is an example of a moneyless system. That system evolved to the money-based economic paradigm of today. In the days of the farmer-fisherman, there was never consideration for profit, or to acquire power and control, or for marketplace predominance, but only for the purpose of mutual exchange of goods and services.

Our money-based economic system of today is a result centuries of economic manipulations by J.P.Morgan, the House of Rothschild, London Bankers, and other economic policymakers of the world’s financial elite. As an example, a meeting in November of 1910 at Jekyll Island, Georgia, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, Paul M. Warburg, Benjamin Strong of J.P.Morgan, and four other bankers and economic policymakers, who at the time represented an estimated one-fourth of the world’s wealth, conceived and put into motion events that eventually became the Federal Reserve System, and they involved government in the creation of money. To this day, there continues to be secret cabals who meet to manipulate the economy in order to enhance their profit, to gain economic world dominance and to influence and control world governance.

This is at the center of virtually all the economic problems we face, not just government control; it’s a fallacy to blame government hook line and sinker. A moneyless world would not be without its problems, but it would certainly be 100 % free 100 % of the time and egalitarian. Government, medicine, education, science, research, and the arts would not be hindered and burdened with considerations of money or the profit for business, and society and business would not be contaminated with the lure for wealth.

From a farmer-fisherman world of simple exchange through the contemporary, commodity, and fiat money evolution of medium of exchange systems, they were all manipulated and tweaked for the sake of maximizing somebody’s profit, power, and control.

Now, if a satisfactory and viable system could be devised in which everything was non-profit as with the farmer-fisherman example, it would be satisfactory to me. But, what would then be the point in money for a medium of exchange.

The moneyless world I envision is an evolutionary process that may take fifty years or more to be realized. We will not get there by force, regulation or law. However, it is the only achievable, viable way to authentic freedom and is a solution to almost all of today’s problems.

Furthermore, neither government nor money can improve on the benefit of voluntary association and creativity that resource-based systems allow; it’s the only way to world peace.

Friday, March 12, 2010

An American Contemplation

Kevin McCullough wrote a column for Townhall magazine, entitled Why the Left Despises Personal Responsibility, in which he asks Americans to contemplate: “As an individual citizen, is it more American to believe that you have a personal responsibility to be personally accountable for your actions, and those of your family? Or is it more American to believe that you should wait for the giant collective to take care of you?”

I believe that I am responsible for my actions; however, other than my underage children, I am not legally responsible for the actions of my family, or for the actions of others.

But, more to the point, I have always believed that one must take care of themselves and their families first before they should help anyone else. Beyond that, we do have a responsibility to others, especially if they are disadvantaged and less fortunate then ourselves: those lacking the where-with-all to make it in America, homelessness and those living with hunger (starvation), the indigent, or those encumbered with infirmities.

That responsibility takes different forms. Some Americans have the where-with-all to give independently direct financial and personal assistance, while others may give assistance or participate in other ways. There are many organizations that do outstanding work for humanitarian causes. But, beyond that, there is a role the government must play when those efforts are insufficient: Katrina is an example

Would any American be willing to accept as it was in British-administered Bengal, India, in 1943, where people, once they left their homes for work or play, would need to navigate through the dead and dying; where the unaffected middle-class, government and professional men and women lives continued normally, and who were completely complacent with a catastrophe that affected their fellow countrymen/women. Could any American responsibly say at that point, because of homelessness, hunger, lack of adequate medical care, or for any other reason, it's their problem.

When Mr. McCullough and others use words like “collective”, they reveal a misunderstanding of collectivism: “the principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.” Nothing that has been done or contemplated comes close to that definition.

Those of us who believe we have a necessary interdependence and interconnection with each other are not collectivist or socialist. We do not “despise personal responsibility.” We are not egalitarians who wish to divvy up everything and share it with everybody. There are those who will make sure that the welfare of a parent, brother or sister, relative or friend is maintained when they cannot do it for themselves, and there are those who will not. Actions taken as neighbors helping neighbors or providing help for others is American, but so is it American to have the freedom to do nothing, except when it comes time to pay their taxes.

Today in America, due to the crisis in our economy, emergency food centers face constant threats to their ability to continue operating. A study, Hunger in America 2010, found that 37 million people received food aid in 2009. That's a 46 percent jump from a similar survey carried out in 2006.

Today in America, according to estimates by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, about three and a half million people are homeless.

It is morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where we allow men, women, and children to starve, where we accept homelessness, and accept a condition where its citizens do not have adequate, accessible, and affordable healthcare.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A healthcare reform solution

All across America there are mom-and-pop businesses offering products, services, and employment to their towns, villages, neighborhoods, and surrounding communities. Of course, they make a profit; their mission is to make enough profit to provide for business reinvestment and to provide for their families an adequate standard of living. They contribute to the well-being of their communities. Their mission is not wealth creation.

Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames in their book, “How Capitalism Will Save Us,” say that the free-enterprise system is the best way to unleash the creativity, inventiveness, and energy of people and mobilize them to meet the wants and needs of others. That's because free-market transactions are about achieving the greatest possible mutual benefit, not only for the parties directly involved but eventually for the rest of society.”

The Forbes-Ames description precisely characterizes America’s small business community. They are exemplary of the entrepreneurial spirit, which is at the heart of free market capitalism. In Pembroke and all of America there are many examples of that free enterprise, entrepreneurial spirit.

On the other hand, not all businesses embrace that mission. Unless it contributes to their bottom-line, they do not embrace a mission that is necessarily benevolent to society beyond the employment and products their businesses provide. These corporations seek market predominance and see themselves only in the light of creating corporate and personal wealth. They think first and foremost about their shareholders and not the concerns of their customers.

These businesses define Corporate America. Unlike the mom-and-pop businesses, Corporate America is driven by greed, even rapaciousness, and is exemplified best by the health insurance industry who engages in profiteering, not profit making.

For example, WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California is raising premiums by as much as thirty-nine percent -- fifteen times the rate of inflation.

In 2008, WellPoint paid thirty-nine executives each a million dollars or more. Moreover, over a two-year period, the company spent more than twenty-seven million for executive retreats at luxury resorts.

Wendell Porter, former insurance executive for CIGNA, correctly refers to private health insurance as “Wall Street-run healthcare.”

In view of our economic problem created by an unregulated Wall Street, why would anyone support the notion that affordable health care is possible in a free market.

Dr. Marcia Angell, Harvard Medical School Senior Lecturer, says you have to ask yourself, "Why is it that we spent over twice as much per person on health care and yet don't manage to cover everyone? And the reason is that we have chosen, alone among all advanced countries, to leave health care to for-profit industries, to leave health care to businesses that then distribute health care as a market commodity according to the ability to pay and not according to medical need.”

It is naive to think that Corporate America, and in particular the health insurance industry, will behave like the mom-and-pop businesses of Main Street.

President Obama’s and congress’ proposed plans are disappointing because they are, as Dr. Angell says, a “plan [as in Romney’s healthcare in Massachusetts] that tries to keep the private insurance industry in place.” And, if oversight/regulation cut into profits, they will simply raise premiums. For the sake of bipartisanship, President Obama has given in to the republican free market endorsement and the private health insurance industry claim that it can regulate itself.

The solution is simple: America will never be able to guarantee universal, adequate, accessible, and affordable healthcare until profit considerations are taken out of the healthcare plan; it is the only achievable, viable way to authentic healthcare reform.