Saturday, July 13, 2019

A new category for Mr. Ripley

Ripley's Believe It or Not.
“America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.”—Georges Clemenceau

One of the two-edged swords of old age is having lived long enough to reflect upon the good old days, with a degenerating memory that brings those good-days into question. Mark Twain said it better than me: “When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”

Thus the question of the day is this: Were those bygone days as good as old folks remember, or were such days a fantasy older people choose to fabricate? Being of the senior class, I prefer to remember a better day, regardless of accuracy. Choice is something greatly cherished in our culture but more times than not the deck from which we get to choose turns out to have shrunk without our noticing, and thus I suspect there is truth to Clemenceau’s observation: Our nation has slipped into ever-increasing moral degeneration, and the demons are flying as bats out of Hell.

As reported almost everywhere at the moment, the days of reckoning for Jeffrey Epstein, due to his surely certain sexual exploitation of teenaged girls, are now upon him. The wheels of justice grind slowly, if at all, particularly for those who enjoy the better aspect of that double-standard. While significant, the backdrop to his escapades is a culture that, in far too many cases, rewards the misdeeds of the rich and famous, as our now President has reminded us time after time. The elite pontificators and prognosticators said his election could not happen, nor could it stay the day. But it did happen and it continues to perpetuate regardless of standards that have faded into the smoke of yesteryear.

Say what you will about our current leader but recognize that he has a talent for finding a parade and leading from the rear. Walking in front would surely reveal that hidden bone spur. Sadly, he didn’t create the parade. He found it, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, remember the one above. Ripley would need to come up with a new category to fit this one into. Believe it or not, as our morals head south, the approval ratings of our President are rising.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day—2019

Hatred for the true patriots.
I’m not feeling so patriotic today. Instead I feel disconnected and ashamed of being part of what the country I fought for has become under the misadventures of a pompous, narcissistic, spoiled child-man, yet extremely dangerous president, who has stoked the embers of the worst of humanity into flames of divisiveness, viciousness, greed, anger and discontent. There will be parades (with tanks and flying planes of war—paid for by robbing Peter to pay Paul), all to honor the biggest “bone-spurred coward of them all”; songs of glory will be sung by cowards and eulogies of victory preached by those who desecrate the values they pretend to represent, for the real patriots who did fight and did die to preserve a liberty, that no longer exists, yet the spilled blood of their war-slaves enabled their scholeksterism.

They will preach but never empathize because while the true patriot spilled their blood, they sat on the side-lines and spit upon the ones who made it possible for them to wax on with phony promises that Jesus wants his flock to be wealthy. But it is they who do so by selling snake-oil to their followers who drink it eagerly. 

I’m sure there will be much celebration, cookouts, and laughter, but I will not join in. I will be alone in spirit, although together with friends. I will remember Patrick Gavid Mitchell today. He was my best friend, fellow Marine warrior and best man in my first failed marriage. He, like so many others, died from the scars of fighting an ignoble war. Yet I still live, only to witness the slow dying of a country I once loved. To me what remains is a mere shell housing too few genuine Patriots and too many pretenders.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The mouse that was forbidden from roaring.

“Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is wrong. There is no other time.”—MT

The question is thus, is our republic in danger? And if so, how did it become that way? Without knowing if it is, and how we got to a place of jeopardy, odds are we’ll continue repeating historical errors. It would be most beneficial to not make them again. However, MT wasn’t so sure we won’t. According to him, “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” Nevertheless I’ll take a shot at opening the curtains of ignorance (a dangerous endeavor) by taking my readers on a short walk through history in order to suggest answers. 

It will, however, take more than a short post to fully answer these two, and if I’ve learned nothing else from years of writing, hardly anyone reads anything other than short ones. That being the case I’ll take this in stages and the first stage concerns a satirical story—The Mouse That Roared—written post WWII by Irish American writer Leonard Wibberley. The timing of the story was critically informed subsequent to the defeat of Germany and Japan, followed by rebuilding both, with massive infusions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and then going on to become major players in the global economy. The reason for my choice, while not immediately apparent, will become clear as I continue with subsequent stages in posts to follow.

In the story, the tiny European Duchy of Grand Fenwick has built a precarious economy based on growing and selling Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. Unfortunately the entire economy is placed in harms way when an American winery makes a knockoff version, “Pinot Grand Enwick,” putting the Duchy on the verge of bankruptcy.

The prime minister decides that their only course of action is to declare war on the United States and bank on a quick and total defeat (since their standing army was equipped with mere bows and arrows). The next sequence in his plan was to rebuild itself through the largesse of the United States and then become annexed, no longer singularly dependent on Pinot Grand Fenwick wine, but instead enjoying the prosperity of being a member of the U.S. The success of the intended plan depended on the “roar” of this tiny mouse, however the plan didn’t work out as expected. But this misguided part serves my purposes in setting the stage for answering the two question about the danger of our republic. And as we will see, the present day mouse has been prohibited from roaring effectively, and just like the story, the plan has gone South. 

In the posts to follow I’ll begin to wend the thread from a sad beginning to a sad end by considering how the emergence of ISIS actually began.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The new national bird?

Your choice.
“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”—Mark Twain

It’s my intention (although not always delivered) to take a daily walk through the woods that run adjacent to my house. Above the trees runs a power line, upon which sit thousands of birds, and far above flies an eagle. I’ve contemplated this image and wondered that perhaps we need to adopt a new national bird; one that more closely resembles those sitting on the power line. The freedom of the soaring eagle, while clearly more desirable, doesn’t seem to match the current tendency of so many who cluster together on a line through which runs enough power to roast them all, just a fraction of inches beneath their feet. They appear oblivious to this danger and sit there, probably content to engage in their squawking, and ignore their fellow eagle soaring so freely above their heads.

The eagle is growing increasingly more extinct but the others seem to proliferate daily. Is this a good thing? There are gains and losses to everything and I leave my readers to decide for themselves.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A formula for success (of some) and failure (for the rest of us).

“I wish to become rich, so that I can instruct the people and glorify honest poverty a little, like those kind hearted, fat, benevolent people do.”—Mark Twain

Don’t we all; harbor some hypocrisy? Mr. Twain’s tongue-in-cheek aspirations more than likely fit a number of us, particularly those who have enjoyed the privilege of possibility. Those who abide in “honest poverty” will undoubtedly take umbrage in this aloof attitude of benevolence, fat though we be. But for the moment let me perpetuate the pretense, just for the sake of satire. 

Suppose you had the opportunity of making obscene sums of money but needed to craft a plan to insure sustained results. What sort of plan would succeed? Let’s see if we can put on our thinking caps and develop a really good plan. What would the ingredients be?

The first matter of importance would be to set up a system that would insure continuing prosperity, regardless of unforeseen turns of events. And once established go further and recruit broad support to aid our cause among the very people who would be most vulnerable and necessary for our efficiency. Does that arrangement sound familiar? It should, because those ingredients constitute our American culture, at least in present form. An alternate label would be called “greed.”

OK, I can sense the hackles rising already. Nobody, me included, wants to tear down a system that results in their own betterment. UNLESS of course, it doesn’t (result in their own betterment). Like an iceberg, what appears above the surface necessarily depends on what lies beneath. We can see that part but it is what lies beneath that matters. If the bottom is about to melt, for sure the top will follow. So having now considered the metaphor, let’s get real.

Our culture is sitting on an about-to-explode powder keg, with a very long fuse that was lit 155 years ago in South Carolina and has been smoldering ever since. And the significance of that time frame? On April 12, 1861 the American Civil War began and ended four years later in the spring of 1865. When the War ended 620,000 American soldiers lay dead; more Americans than died in WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korea combined. And why was the war fought? Allegedly to free the nation of the scourge of slavery. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.”

And guess what? If you haven’t noticed, the magnitude of our discontent is now off the chart, with more than several squabbling parts. Might you notice some correspondence between what is now happening and the unresolved roots driving the tension? If not then this post will more than likely go right over your head. On the other hand, for those who wish to avoid further meltdown, consider the following.

At the beginning of the Civil War there were roughly 4 million slaves “used” primarily by 400,000 southern land holders to maximize their economic advantage. When the war ended, and congress ratified the 13th Constitutional Amendment, slavery appeared to end (at least the part above the water line). So what’s the problem? Slavery didn’t end, it just followed a different path that became legitimized due to a six word clause in the amendment, “…except as a punishment for crime.” The entire amendment reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Since that time no effort has been spared to criminalize and incarcerate black people who have then been used, just as the slave holders did before the War, as indentured servants: free labor to advance the wealth of the few by the many. While 4 million slaves at the beginning of the War sounds overwhelming, it pales by comparison to the number who have been unjustly incarcerated spanning the years since. According to The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), today there are nearly 1 million black people out of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population (43%); incarcerated at a rate of nearly six times the incarceration rate of whites. And as might be expected, the criminal “justice” system pays handsomely. Just as war benefits war profiteers, criminality, legally structured, benefits criminal profiteers. As a nation, we now spend more tax derived revenue incarcerating and using people for making obscene wealth than we do educating our youth. If there was ever a system programmed to self-destruct, it is hard to imagine one better than this.

This post is a mere store-sample designed to whet the appetite of those who wish to see our nation continue beyond the current crisis. After the trial period of 155 years it is time to pay the piper and try a better way that will keep the iceberg floating a bit longer. To gain the most thorough grasp of this vast criminal web you need to watch 13th: The documentary. There you’ll see who, how, when and why the key players have been complicit, and it really is about the money. Once you get the full grasp, you’ll know what to do (or not). And by doing nothing the end is in sight.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Power of the Press.

“It seems to me that just in the ratio that our newspapers increase, our morals decay. The more newspapers the worse morals. Where we have one newspaper that does good, I think we have fifty that do harm. We ought to look upon the establishment of a newspaper of the average pattern in a virtuous village as a calamity.”—Mark Twain

“Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people. Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.”—Adolf Hitler wrote these words in his book Mein Kampf, and they still apply today: Control the media and you control the hearts and minds of the people. 

Fortunately today there is an antidote to pre-determined Corporate Media messages: The Internet. We must always be mindful that Corporations are owned by wealthy individuals who have vested interests to enhance their wealth at the expense of the people of our nation, and have final say on what will be delivered through their medium. Not so via the Internet although congress and their benefactors have tried, and fortunately failed “thus far,” to regulate that also through their efforts to undermine net neutrality and thus completely control message content. Nothing in this world remains static and that applies to the war to undermine net neutrality and control propaganda.

Maintaining a free, open and non-regulated Internet provides a voice of the people that won’t come via corporate media for a simple reason: greed. Corporations (with their vast army of lobbyists) and, thanks to “Citizens United” billions available for buying time and space through traditional media as well as corrupting government officials to do their bidding.

Why is this presently a big deal? Because Corporate America has already decided whom they want elected as our next president and consequently empowers communications that promotes their person of choice, and restricts coverage of candidates they have decided threaten their greed driven agenda and don’t want to advance.

If you haven’t noticed, you rarely (if ever, and then only with a speedy glancing blow-by) hear or watch news regarding the huge successes of Senator Bernie Sanders, except through the Internet/Social Media. By nearly all measures Senator Sanders is leading the pack of also-runs by drawing massive crowds who respond with enthusiasm to his clear assessment of the challenges we face, along with real solutions to level playing fields, narrow the progressively widening gap between the ultra-wealthy (the people who control message content in Corporate media) and the rest of us, move the country toward restoring the vanishing middle class and address genuine threats to the wellbeing of all people.

However, according to messages delivered through traditional channels, Senator Sanders “doesn’t have a chance,” which will surely be the case if we allow ourselves to be brainwashed by Corporate America.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Knowing and Doing

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.—Mark Twain

Doing whats right isnt the problem. It is knowing whats right.—Lyndon B. Johnson

We live in a world where we can’t say anything with certainty. However, that doesn’t stop us from attempting to persuade both ourselves and those with whom we relate, that we do, with certainty, in fact know matters. 

Doing and knowing are not the same thing, as both Mark Twain and LBJ pointed out. Ideally there would be a single, universally accepted understanding of what is always right, what is always wrong and possess the fortitude of following through with right doing. But since there can’t be a fixed, universally approved criteria of knowing right from wrong, it’s a sure thing that disagreements will arise. And why is that so? Because the very nature of right requires a counter point to have any meaning. Right and wrong are two sides of the same matter of judgement. Then, of course, is the matter that we all have our own eyeballs, with our own different life experiences and filters through which we see the world. And most important of all is what Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku nailed as the root of disagreements: “The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.” 

The person we think we are—who attempts to persuade themselves; the one who sees right apart from wrong is our ego. That vicious fabrication of our identity will always see life through vested interests, desiring to always have the last word, is linked to a lens of delusion. When viewed in this way it’s a miracle we haven’t already blown ourselves to smithereens.

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other.”
—Tao Te Ching