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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

THE POWER OF EGO

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 31, 2012 at 12:09 am

It’s commonplace to read about the role sex plays in motivating behavior.  But the power of ego to determine history is often ignored.

Consider the role that ego played in igniting the American Civil War (1861 – 1865).

According to The Destructive War, by Charles Royster, it wasn’t the cause of “states’ rights” that led 13 Southern states to withdraw from the Union in 1960-61.

It was their demand for “respect,” which, in reality, translates into “e-g-o.”

“The respect Southerners demanded did not consist simply of the states’ sovereignty or of the equal rights of Northern and Southern citizens, including slaveholders’ right to take their chattels into Northern territory.

“It entailed, too, respect for their assertion of the moral superiority of slaveholding society over free society,” writes Royster.

It was not enough for Southerners to claim equal standing with Northerners; Northerners must acknowledge it.

But this was something that the North was less and less willing to do.  Finally, its citizens dared to elect Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Lincoln and his new Republican party damned slavery–and slaveholders–as morally evil, obsolete and ultimately doomed.

And they were determined to prevent slavery from spreading any further throughout the country.

Southerners found all of this intolerable.

The British author, Anthony Trollope, explained to his readers:

“It is no light thing to be told daily, by our fellow citizens…that you are guilty of the one damning sin that cannot be forgiven.

“All this [Southerners] could partly moderate, partly rebuke and partly bear as long as political power remained in their hands.

“But they have gradually felt that this was going, and were prepared to cut the rope and run as soon as it was gone.”

Only 10% of Southerners owned slaves.  The other 90% of the population “had no dog in this fight,” as Southerners liked to say.

Yet they so admired and aspired to be like their “gentleman betters” that they threw in their lot with them.

There were some Southerners who could see what was coming–and vainly warned their fellow citizens.

One of these was Sam Houston, the man who had won Texas independence at the 1836 battle of San Jacinto and later served as that state’s governor.

Sam Houston

On April 19, addressing a crowd in Galveston, he said:

“Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you.

“But I doubt it.

“I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states’ rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.

“But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South.”

Four years later, on April 9, 1865, Houston’s warning became history.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Huge sections of the South had been laid waste by Union troops and more than 258,000 Southerners had been killed.

The South had paid an expensive price for its fixation on ego.

Even more proved at risk a century later, when President John F. Kennedy faced off with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

In April, Kennedy had been humiliated at the Bay of Pigs when a CIA-sponsored invasion failed to overthrow the Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

So he was already on the defensive when he and Khrushchev met in Vienna.

Khrushchev pressed his advantage, threatening Kennedy with nuclear war unless the Americans abandoned their protection of West Berlin.

That August, faced with the embarrassment of East Berliners fleeing by the thousands into West Germany, the Soviet leader backed off from his threat.

In its place, he erected the infamous Berlin Wall, sealing off East and West Berlin.

Kennedy’s reaction: “That son of a bitch won’t pay any attention to words. He has to see you move.”

Then, most ominously: “If Khrushchev wants to rub my nose in the dirt, it’s all over.”

In short: Kennedy was prepared to incinerate the planet if he felt his almighty ego was about to get smacked.

Nuclear missile in silo

What has proved true for states and nations proves equally true for those leading every other type of institution.

Although most people like to believe they are guided by rationality and morality, all-too-often, what truly decides the course of events is their ego.

For pre-Civil War Southerners, it meant demanding that “Yankees” show respect for slave-owning society.  Otherwise, they would leave the Union.

For Kennedy, it meant playing a game of “chicken,” backed up with nuclear missiles, to show Khrushchev who Numero Uno really was.

It is well to keep these lessons from history in mind when making our own major decisions.

PRIVATE PROFITS AND PUBLIC NEED

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 30, 2012 at 12:24 am

At a GOP primary debate in June 2011, the subject of FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–came up.

Specifically, Mitt Romney was asked about FEMA’s budget woes–and how he would deal with them.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states,” said Romney, “that’s the right direction.  And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Mitt Romney

“Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

During that debate, the moderator, CNN’s John King, had gone on to ask if that included “disaster relief.” Romney suggested it did.

“We cannot–we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” Romney replied.

“It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

With Hurricane Sandy now wreacking havoc on the East Coast of the United States, it’s well to examine this “the private sector knows best” philosophy of government.

Hurricane Sandy, Ocean City, New Jersey

Let’s start with the first part of Romney’s argument: “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.”

Imagine dismantling FEMA–as Romney has proposed–and replacing it with 50 smaller versions–one for each state.

Some states–such as California and New York in their more prosperous pasts–would be able to erect sophisticated disaster relief agencies.

But poorer states–such as Arkansas and Mississippi–could not afford effective self-protection.  And such agencies as did exist would doubtless be so poor in resources they would be unable to redress widespread suffering.

Thus, such states would be forced to “borrow” resources from other states, or beg the Federal Government–which they despise when they’re not begging favors from it–to save their bacon.

As for the second part of Romney’s statement: “And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”

The private sector is great at turning a profit–especially when there is high demand for scarce resources.  As will undoubtedly soon be the case for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

But high profits for entrepreneurs do not necessarily translate into affordable–and available–products or services for those most in need of them.

It’s well-known that whenever a major disaster strikes, there are always those who rush to take advantage of it–and its victims.  The price of such necessities as food and water goes as high as desperate residents are able to pay.

Or as high as outraged officials at the Federal Government will allow.

There are simply a great many things that people need–especially in times of disaster–that the private sector isn’t willing to provide.  At least, not at an affordable price.

Such as life-saving medications.

It’s the shame of the nation that the pharmaceutical industry is refusing to manufacture off-patent drugs sufficient to meet the needs of patients.

The reason?  Because they can make more money selling the more expensive drugs still under patent protection.

For example, the new breast cancer drug herceptin has a patent-protected sticker price of $55,000 per patient per year.  But an off-patent drug like doxorubicin may net only a few thousand dollars if made by a generic drug company.

So the drug companies figure:  Why bother?  If people die, so what?

And tens of thousands of Americans may die because of the pharmaceutical industry’s “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

If this happens, the Federal Government–acting on Mitt Romney’s “hands-off business” strategy–will be largely responsible.

It’s understandable that profit-motivated businessmen want to fatten their pockets at all costs.  And it’s equally understandable that right-wing politicians like Mitt Romney should cater to them.

After all, wealthy businessmen eagerly stuff the pockets of such politicians with millions of dollars to gain public office.

But there’s no reason for ordinary Americans to buy into this “profits-at-any-price” philosophy.

And it’s during times of disaster–such as the one now breaking over the Eastern United States–that ordinary Americans are forced to learn that a strong and responsive Federal Government is necessary.

The November 6 election gives Americans a clear choice for their future.

They can choose a candidate who represents the richest 1%– and who has written off 47% of his fellow citizens as hopelessly  “irresponsible.”

Or they can choose a candidate who believes that government exists to serve the needs of those most in need.

In making that choice, Americans may be making the most fateful Presidential decision since 1864.  That was when their ancestors voted to return Abraham Lincoln to the White House to see through the Civil War.

FETUS FANATICS – PART THREE (OF THREE)

In Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 29, 2012 at 12:31 am

So what’s responsible for all this fetus fanaticism?

Several factors.

First, there is an energized constituency for politicians willing to wave this red flag.  Almost every major Republican Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has tapped into this voting bloc.  And each has found plenty of votes to be gotten from it.

Second, many fetus fanatics are more than a little obsessed with sex.  These are the same people who, in Victorian times, used “white meat” when ordering a chicken breast and “dark meat” when ordering a chicken thigh.

If fetuses weren’t produced by sex, a lot of these people wouldn’t care about this issue.

Third, many fetus fanatics are flat-out hypocrites.  For example: Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), an anti-abortion, “family values” doctor, had an affair with a patient and later pressured her to get an abortion.

People like this subscribe to a philosophy of: “Do as I say, not as I do.  And if I do it, it’s in the service of a Higher Cause and therefore entirely justified.”

Fourth, many fetus fanatics feel guilty about their own past sexual transgressions–especially if these resulted in pregnancy.  And they want to prevent others from living the same life they did.

Some of these people are well-intentioned.  Even so, they usurp unto themselves a God-like right to intrude on the most intimate decisions for others–regardless of what those people may need or want.

Fifth, many fetus fanatics embrace contradictory goals.  On one hand, most of them claim they want to “get government off the backs of the people.”  That usually means allowing corporations to pollute, sell dangerous products and treat their employees as slaves.

On the other hand, they want to insert the government into the vagina of every woman.  That means empowering State and Federal authorities to prevent women from getting an abortion–even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Sixth, many fetus fanatics simply dislike women.  They fear and resent the women’s movement, which has given women the right to enter the workforce and compete directly with men.

And what they hate most is the legal right of a woman to avoid becoming pregnant via birth control–or to abort the result of a male’s sperm if they do.  They see this as a personal rejection.  Perhaps it reminds many of them of their own failures in romance/marriage.

The Right is made up overwhelmingly of white males.  And many of these men would feel entirely at home with a Christianized version of the Taliban.  They long for a world where women meekly cater to their every demand and believe only what their male masters approve for them to believe.  The trouble for these men is they don’t speak Arabic.

Seventh, many leaders of the fetus-fanatics movement are independently wealthy.  This means that even if abortion could be outlawed for the vast majority, they could always bribe a willing doctor–here or abroad–to perform such an operation on their wife, daughter and/or mistress.  For them, there is always an escape clause.

Eighth, many fetus fanatics are not truly “pro-life.”  They totally oppose abortion under most–if not all–circumstances.   But they also fully support capital punishment, going to war for almost any reason, wholesale massacres of wildlife and despoiling of the environment, and even nuclear war.

And many of those who fanatically defend the right of a fetus to emerge from the womb just as fanatically oppose welfare for those mothers who can’t support that newborn.

Lucy, the famous cartoon character in Charles Schultz’ “Peanuts” series, once said: “I love humanity.  It’s people I can’t stand.”  With fetus fanatics, the line runs: “I love fetuses.  Everything else is expendable.”

Ninth, many fetus fanatics believe that since their religion teaches that abortion is wrong, they have a moral duty to enforce that belief on others.

This is especially true for evangelical Christians.  These are the same people who condemn Muslims–such as those in Saudi Arabia–for segregating women, forbidding them to drive and forcing them to wear head scarfs or chadors–loose, usually black robes.

But while they condemn Islamics for their general intolerance of others’ religious beliefs, they lust to impose their own upon those who belong to other churches.  Or who belong to no church at all.

Tenth, many fetus fanatics are just as opposed to birth control as they are to abortion.  Thus, when Georgia University law student Sandra Fluke asked Congress to require insurance companies to cover birth control, Rush Limbaugh branded her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

 * * * * *

It’s time to face the blunt truth: A “Conservative Victory,” as Sean Hannity put it, would impose an anti-women Taliban on America.

Thus, a woman who seeks to control her own destiny would be insane to vote for a right-wing candidate.  Just as it would have been insane for a Jewish citizen to give his vote–and his life–to Adolf Hitler.

FETUS FANATICS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Law, Politics, Social commentary on October 26, 2012 at 12:00 am

Republicans–at state and Federal levels–hate welfare for mothers too poor to support their families.

But they love fetuses.

And to make sure there’s always an ample supply of them on hand, Republicans have launched an all-out war against a woman’s right to abortion–and even birth control.

On June 13, the Michigan House of Representatives, by a 70-39 vote, approved sweeping legislation to add regulations and restrictions to abortion practices in the state.

Specifically, the omnibus bill:

  • Criminalizes all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • No exceptions are made for rape victims, the health of the woman or in cases where there is a severe fetal anomaly.
  • A narrow exception is permitted when the mother’s life is at risk, as determined by a physician.
  • Requires health centers that provide abortions to have surgery rooms, even when they don’t provide surgical abortions.
  • Requires doctors to be present for medication abortions and to screen women for “coercion” before providing an abortion.
  • Creates new regulations for the disposal of fetal remains.
  • Bann “telemedicine” abortions, or the use of technology to prescribe medication for abortion services and the morning-after pill.

The Michigan State Senate has yet to rule on the measure, though it is expected to ultimately approve it.

Not only do Republicans oppose abortion, they stand foursquare against free speech when this is used to defend a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

During debate on the above-mentioned bill in June, House members Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were forbidden to speak on the House floor about this legislation.

The women were silenced based on a trumped-up charge of “lack of decorum” after Brown told her colleagues, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

On August 19, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), justified his opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant.

“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” said the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate from Missouri.

“But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Earlier, on August 8, he had said during a radio interview: “As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”

Nine days later, on August 28, the official Republican platform demanded a total ban on abortions when the party assembled to nominate Mitt Romney as its Presidential candidate in Tampa.

Specifically, the platform:

  • States that “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Calls for the passage of a Human Life Amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and thus ban all abortions.
  • Supports “the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.”
  • Opposes using public revenues to promote or perform abortion.
  • Opposes funding organizations that perform or advocate abortions.
  • States that the party will not fund or subsidize health care that includes abortion coverage.

On October 18, Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-IL) running for U.S. Senator from Illinoi against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, said that abortions should not be allowed even when the mother’s life is at risk because of advances in medicine.

“This is an issue that opponents of life throw out there to make us look unreasonable,” Walsh told reporters about the “saving-the-life-of-the-mother” exception.

“There’s no such exception as life of the mother.  And as far as health of the mother, same thing. With advances in science and technology,” he said that it’s almost impossible for a woman to need an abortion to save her life.

“Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime under any reason.”

The latest Republican to enter the abortion wars is Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer who pines to be that state’s U.S. Senator.

On October 23, he declared: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God.

“I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President, has both supported abortion rights–and demanded their repeal.

During his 2002 campaign for Governor of famously liberal Massachusetts, he promised to “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

Running for President in 2012, he had to appeal to a different–and entirely fascistic–constituency.  So he supported a “Human Life Amendment” to overturn Roe v. Wade and promised to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood.

FETUS FANATICS – PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 25, 2012 at 12:15 am

Republicans have no shortage of pet hatreds:

  • Communists
  • Liberals (by which they mean “communists”)
  • “Uppity” women
  • Gays
  • Business regulations
  • Taxes (on the rich)
  • Obama Care” (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act)
  • Banking regulations
  • Protecting the environment

But there’s one group they can’t get enough of: Fetuses.

Consider:

In 2011, the Kansas legislature, Republicans sponsored a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would:

  • Levy a sales tax on women seeking abortions, including rape victims;
  • Exempt doctors from malpractice suits if they withheld medical information to prevent an abortion;
  • Take away tax credits for abortion providers;
  • Remove tax deductions for the purchase of abortion-related insurance coverage; and
  • Require women to hear the fetal heartbeat.

In Florida, despite Governor Rick Scott’s campaign promise to focus on job creation, the 2010-2011 session of the Florida legislature passed no job-creation bills.  But it did pass five bills restricting abortion rights.

The bills:

  • Force women to undergo ultrasounds prior to having an abortion
  • Prohibit private insurance coverage of abortion care in the new state health-insurance exchange
  • Require young women to prove the medical necessity of their abortions before a judge in order to bypass parental permission
  • Establish state-sanctioned license plates that funnel money to anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” and
  • Starts the process of amending the state constitution to prohibit the government funding of abortion.

Florida Republicans filed a total of 18 anti-abortion bills during the 2010-2011 session, the third most in the country, according to the ACLU, and twice the number of anti-choice laws introduced last year in the state, according to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In Congress, Republicans are sponsoring the Child Interstate Abortion Notifcation Act, which would make it illegal for anyone but a parent to accompany a young woman across state lines to seek an abortion–even if her parents are absent or abusive.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) said:

  • “unwanted or mistimed” pregnancies are “the choice of the women”
  • who should learn “that this is a mistake.”

Grothman recently introduced Senate Bill 507, which, if passed, would formally consider single parenthood a contributing factor to child abuse.

On March 8–International Women’s Day–U.S Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) marked the occasion by asking his Twitter followers to join him in celebrating National Agriculture Day.

Blunt had sponsored an amendment that would have allowed employers to refuse health care coverage of any kind for “moral reasons.”

It was voted down in the Senate on March 1.

Many Republicans are still trying to revive the Blunt amendment.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has promised to continue the fight in the House.

Republicans spent much of 2011 challenging women’s reproductive rights.  At the state level:

  • State legislators introduced more than 1,100 anti-abortion provisions and had enacted 135 of them by year’s end.
  • Seven states either fully defunded or tried to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides basic health care, contraception, breast cancer and STD screenings to millions of low-income women each year.

At the Congressional level, Republicans

  • Used attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood funding to extort Democratic concessions during budget negotiations and threatened to shut down the government.
  • Introduced mandatory ultrasound bills.
  • Tried to narrow the definition of rape to include only “forcible rape.”  Under this change, a woman who was coerced, drugged or otherwise incapacitated by a rapist, would not be legally counted as a rape victim.
  • Republicans barred the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to help low-income women pay for abortions.

During just the first two months of 2012:

  • At the state level, Virginia Republicans introduced a bill whose original language required women to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure 24 hours before having an abortion.
  • Following widespread outrage, a modified version of the bill–requiring women to receive trans-abdominal ultrasounds, was signed into law instead.
  • With the connivance of House Republicans, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s largest breast cancer charity, tried to pull cancer-screening grants from Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics provide abortions.  Upon huge public outcry, this decision was quickly reversed.
  • The House Oversight Committee convened a hearing to deny contraceptive insurance coverage under the guise of “protecting religious liberty.”  The Democrats’ one female witness, Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student, was forbidden to speak at it.
  • Right-wing broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and Foster Friess–Rick Santorum’s chief financial backer–publicly equated birth control use to sexual promiscuity.

On July 24, House Republicans voted on a bill, centered on Washington, D.C., that would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“We will stand for a commitment to protect little babies that have no other people to protect them,” shouted its author, Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). “By the grace of God, we’re going to do that!”

The bill was defeated on a vote of 220 to 154.

SLAVERY IS GOOD, BIRTH CONTROL AND EVOLUTION ARE BAD

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2012 at 12:00 am

If you

  • hate slavery
  • favor access to birth control and
  • accept evolution and the “Big Bang” theory

then you might have second-thoughts about joining the Republican Party.

Consider the following:

ON SLAVERY:

Jon Hubbard, a Republican member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, says in a new book that slavery was “a blessing” for African-Americans.

In Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, Hubbard writes:

“The institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.”

No doubt that must now give huge comfort to all those generations of blacks who endured 300 years of bondage, usually under the most brutal conditions.

Oh, I forgot.  All those millions of former slaves are now dead.

No doubt Hubbard forgot, too, when he wrote that.

ON BIRTH CONTROL:

On August 1, Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) compared the requirement that private insurance plans provide contraception coverage to two of the most devastating attacks on American soil.

“I know in your mind, you can think of the times America was attacked,” he said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

“One is Dec. 7, that’s Pearl Harbor Day. The other is Sept. 11, and that’s the day the terrorists attacked. I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

August 1 marked the first day private insurers must include birth control coverage in their plans without charging a co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Thus, the right of even poor women to obtain affordable contraceptive coverage is now on a moral par with sneak attacks that massacred thousands of innocent men and women.

ON EVOLUTION AND THE BIG BANG THEORY:

On September 27, Congressman Paul Broun (R-Ga.) gave a speech at the 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia.

In this, he said that evolution and the big bang theory were “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.

“It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Broun, who is actually earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1971 from the Medical College of Georgia, continued:

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old.

“I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

Referring to the Bible as “the manufacturer’s handbook,” he said:

“It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society.

To add unintentional humor to the situation, Broun is a high-ranking member of the House Science Committee.

Thus, a man who

  • rejects science
  • embraces primitive-era theology as a substitute for rational thinking and
  • believes in devils and a savior as actual beings and Hell as an actual place

now commands power to shape scientific inquiry for the United States Government.

Americans quickly condemn and ridicule tyrants like Adolf Hitler and religious fanatics such as Osama bin Laden as psychopathic oddities–whose like could never appear in the United States.

In fact, American history is littered with political tyrants and religious fanatics.

It’s long past time for Americans to study that history–with its would-be tyrants like Richard Nixon, Huey Long, Joseph McCarthy, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney.

And its religious fanatics like Charles Coughlin, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Donald Wildmon.

And it’s long past time for Americans–who pride themselves on being a deeply religious people–to remember that warning from Jesus in Matthew 7:5:

“You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

A TALE OF TWO TALIBANS

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2012 at 12:00 am

Malala Yousafzai is the 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head and neck by a Pakistani Taliban gunman.

Her “crime”?  Campaigning for the right of girls and women to pursue an education in Pakistan.

Malala Yousafzai

The attack came on October 9 when a Taliban gunman forced his way into a van full of schoolgirls, asked for her by name, and opened fire.

The assault has provoked unprecedented levels of public outrage, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan—even among people who have in the past sympathized with the militants.

But the Taliban has a different outlook on it.

“For days and days, coverage of the Malala case has shown clearly that the Pakistani and international media are biased,” said a Pakistani Taliban commander in South Waziristan. “The Taliban cannot tolerate biased media.”

The commander, who called himself Jihad Yar, argued that death threats against the press are justified.  “Ninety-nine percent” of the reporters on the story, he claimed, were only using the shooting as an excuse to attack the Taliban.

Leaders of the Islamic Taliban

Yar did not apologize for the attempt to assassinate the girl, who passionately opposed the Taliban’s efforts to close girls’ schools.

“We have no regrets about what happened to Malala,” he said. “She was going to become a symbol of Western ideas, and the decision to eliminate her was correct.  If she was not important for the West’s agenda, why would a U.S. ambassador meet her?”

The Taliban has reportedly decided to suspend all its current operations and activities in Pakistan.  And it has momentarily directed field commanders and fighters to target media organizations instead of the government and security forces.

According to unnamed sources, the militants dispatched 12 suicide bombers against the news media.  They especially wanted to target the electronic media and some foreign media organizations and their workers.

The Taliban is particularly eager to target female journalists.  Said Yar:

“They were at the U.S. Embassy party with wine glasses in their hands and wearing un-Islamic dress with Americans.”

But the Pakistani Taliban have no monopoly on hatred of a free press.  The American Taliban equally shares their passion for going after “troublesome” journalists.

One of these is radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh–America’s successor to Senator “Tail Gunner” Joe McCarthy as a slander-monger.

Limbaugh is furious with Candy Crowley, the moderator of the second Presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Candy Crowley

During that debate–held on October 16–Romney accused President Obama of not calling the September 11 attack on the American consulate in Libya a “terrorist attack.”

Crowley–CNN’s chief political correspondent–immediately pointed out that Obama had, in fact, referred to it as an “act of terror” just two days later in a White House Rose Garden speech.

The effect on Romney–caught flat-footed in yet another slander on the President–was that of a man caught with his zipper open.

For the American Taliban–as personified by Limbaugh–Crowley’s daring to point out yet another Romney lie was simply too much.

“She committed  an act of journalistic terror last night,” Limbaugh said the day after the debate.

Rush Limbaugh, American Taliban leader

“If there were any journalistic standards,” said the man who regularly shuns both fairness and objectivity, “what she did last night would have been the equivalent of blowing up her career like a suicide bomber.

“But there aren’t any journalist standards anymore. And she’s going to be praised and celebrated, probably even get a raise, give her another half hour on that show she hosts.”

Nor was Limbaugh the only right-winger to be furious that Crowley had exposed Romney as a serial liar.

John Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and a Romney campaign co-chair, said Crowley was “terrible.”

“She had no business trying to be a fact-checker on the stage, because she was dead wrong,” Sununu said.

Of course, the fact that Sununu–a longtime specialist in political slander–said Crowley was wrong does not make it so.  She wasn’t wrong.

There are some differences between the Islamic and American versions of the Taliban:

  • The Islamic Taliban are followers of Muhammed.
  • The American Taliban are (nominally) followers of Jesus Christ.
  • The Islamic Taliban speak variations of Arabic.
  • The Taliban in the United States speak English.

So much for some of the differences.  Now for some of the similarities.

  • Both Talibans want to control the most private aspects of a woman’s life.
  • Both Talibans believe they have the right to hold absolute power over their fellow citizens.
  • Both Talibans believe they have a God-given right to destroy anyone who dares to disagree with them.

Above all, both Talibans–American and Islamic–fear and hate being exposed for the despots they are and support.

Harrison Salisbury, who covered the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin for the New York Times, said it best:

“The truth, I was ultimately to learn, is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

THIS IS YOUR BOSS: VOTE LIKE I SAY – PART FOUR (END)

In Business, Politics, Social commentary on October 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

David Siegel is the founder and chief executive of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned time-share company in the world.  And he’s building the biggest home in the U.S., a 90,000-square-foot Florida palace they call Versailles.

Recently he took time off to tell his 7,000 employees how to vote. And to threaten them with dismissal if his Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, loses the election.

On October 8, he sent out the following memo. To which I offer commentary where required.

SIEGEL:

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

COMMENTARY:

This adds a whole new meaning to the phrase: “If I don’t get my way, I’ll just take my football–I mean, company–and go home.”

Of course, he wouldn’t DREAM of telling his employees who to vote for–he just makes a blatant threat that if they support the re-election of Barack Obama, he will close down the company and throw them into the street.

That’s why the United States desperately needs–and deserves–an Employers Responsibility Act to legally require employers to behave responsibly toward their employees and job-seekers. Only then will “employers” and “responsibility” truly be linked.

SIEGEL:

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job?

Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not.

COMMENTARY:

That’s right–who are you going to believe: Your own experience–or what Siegel is telling you?

SIEGEL:

They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, your boss,

David Siegel

COMMENTARY:

Again: Siegel wouldn’t DREAM of telling his employees who to vote for. But, just to make sure they get the message he’s sending them, he signs off as: “Your Boss.”

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right. That kings

  • held absolute power
  • levied extortionate taxes and
  • sent countless millions of men off to war

–all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

Today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain–-and its enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of kings”-–by begging for their rights.

And Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters–-and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”-–by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Americans can choose to reject those lies–and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

The solution can be summed up in three words: Employers Responsibility Act (ERA).

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and Labor, an ERA would ensure

  • full-time
  • permanent and
  • productive employment

for millions of capable, job-seeking Americans.

And it would achieve this without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

Such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work.

Among its provisions:

The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbiddenEmployers who make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

  1. Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
  2. Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

Under an Employers Responsibility Act, CEOs who tell their employees, “Vote as I say–or else,” would find a new home from which to conduct business: A prison cell.

THIS IS YOUR BOSS: VOTE LIKE I SAY – PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Business, Politics, Social commentary on October 19, 2012 at 12:21 am

David Siegel is the founder and chief executive of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned time-share company in the world.

And he’s building the biggest home in the U.S., a 90,000-square-foot Florida palace they call Versailles.

Recently he took time off to tell his 7,000 employees how to vote. And to threaten them with dismissal if his Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, loses the election.

On October 8, he sent out the following memo. To which I offer commentary where required.

SIEGEL:

Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don’t pay enough.

We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes.

COMMENTARY:

On the contrary, the Federal income tax rate has never been lower for corporations. The United States’ corporate tax rate was at its highest, 52.8%, in 1968 and 1969.

Today it varies from 15% to 35%. And the wealthy have continued to prosper even more through the infamous “Bush tax cuts,” which cut the tax rate of the top 1% of American taxpayers by about 25%.

SIEGEL:

The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not?

Or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?

Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50% of your paycheck you’d quit and you wouldn’t work here.

I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50% of their hard work?  Well, that’s what happens to me.

Here is what most people don’t understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy.

Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth.

COMMENTARY:

In its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery? Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the fortunes of American companies, which are doing quite well, and American workers, most of whom are earning a lower hourly wage now than they did during the recession.

“The thing is, companies make plenty of money; they just don’t spend it on workers here.

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

In short: Giving even greater tax breaks to mega-corporations–the standard Republican mantra–has not persuaded them to stop “outsourcing” jobs.

Nor has it convinced them to start hiring Americans.

SIEGEL:

My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But that is not what our current Government wants you to believe.

They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve.

COMMENTARY:

“The Republicans have pulled off a major (some would say cynical) miracle,” writes Time’s Rana Foroohar.

They have convinced “the majority of Americans that the way to jump-start the economy is to slash taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of Americans.

“It’s fun-house math that can’t work. We’ll need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to get back on track.”

SIEGEL:

They don’t want you to know that the “1%”, as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country.

Thomas Jefferson, the author of our great Constitution, once said, “democracy” will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it.

However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change they want.

COMMENTARY:

“The man who builds a factory,” said President Calvin Coolidge, “builds a temple. “And the man who works there, worships there.”

Most corporate CEOs still believe this–and Siegel is clearly one of them. But there is no reason for the rest of us to embrace this self-defeating philosophy.

THIS IS YOUR BOSS: VOTE LIKE I SAY – PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Business, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

David Siegel is the founder and chief executive of Westgate Resorts, the largest privately owned time-share company in the world.

And he’s building the biggest home in the U.S., a 90,000-square-foot Florida palace he calls Versailles.

Recently he took time off to tell his 7,000 employees how to vote. And to threaten them with dismissal if his Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, loses the election.

On October 8, he sent out the following memo.  To which I offer commentary where required.

SIEGEL:

Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me – there is no “off” button for me.

When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom.

I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour.

I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I’m the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed.

Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made.

COMMENTARY:

According to The Corrupt Society, by the late and distinguished British historian Robert Payne:

“Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption.

“Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

“Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them. Nor do they try to.

“Inevitably they come to fear and distrust the poor, and, just as inevitably, their fear and distrust are translated into legislation that protects them against the poor.”

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society:

“The mere presence of the rich is corrupting.

“Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity.

“Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than 5% of the population–while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level.

“The tendency is toward greater and greater concentrations of wealth in private hands.

“Unless this accumulation is checked by law or by violent social change, about two-thirds of the national wealth will be in the hands of 5% of the population in the year 2000.”

At the same time, more than half the population would be below or near the starvation level.

“These estimates portend disaster,” warned Payne.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On November 1, 2011, Forbes magazine reported that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%.

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

SIEGEL:

Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t.

The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for.

COMMENTARY:

Mitt Romney gave this speech on May 17–the infamous “47%” rant against those who don’t comprise the privileged 1%.  Among its most memorable lines:

“All right, there are 47%…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement….

“And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Put more concisely: “I’ve got mine–so screw you, Jack.”

Of course, Romney said this when he didn’t know a camera was rolling. He wanted money from his wealthy donors–and votes from the “99%” he and his fellow one-percenters so despise.

Siegel gives this rant in public because he’s not seeking to win votes from the “lower orders.”  He just wants to tyrannize his employees.

SIEGEL:

Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep and not without wounds.

COMMENTARY:

Oh, no, pity the poor rich guy.  How many of his “friends” worked at jobs that barely paid enough for them to live from paycheck to paycheck?

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