Archive for March, 2015

A Ship of Fools

A Ship of Fools Pasted Graphic @ University of Houston Digital Library A Ship of Fools is adrift. The crew is filling the sails with lies, ignorance, and innuendo fueled by religiosity, ignorance, racism, resentment, mysogny, homophobia, hate speech, class discrimination, ethnicity, fear, distrust of government, disparagement of anyone and everyone not like them, and not the least, unbridled political ambition funded by billionaires. No person, no institution is safe from their depredations not even the sitting president. Fear of truth also fuels this taxonomy of disfunction, deception, and destruction. To wit: The Ship’s Crew at Work (1) A Texan Republican Representative claims wind is a “finite” resource and using it to spin power generating windmills slows the winds down causing temperatures to go up. (2) The Republican governor of Florida has prohibited state officials and employees from using the term “Global Warming”. (3) A recent poll shows 57% of Republican primary voters support Christianity as the national religion, clearly advocating, as does ISIL, religious government in a country founded on religious freedom. It should be noted that in this same demographic 66% do not believe in global warming and 49% do not believe in evolution. (4) In the US Congress 47 members, led by Republican Representative Tom Cotton, wrote to the government of Iran to warn them away from signing a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States and other countries. (5) The father of US Representative Ted Cruz is quoted in the national media as claiming that LGBT rights will lead to football teams showering with girls. (6) Rudy Giuliani contributed – “I do not believe that the president loves America.” (7) In Jackson, Mississippi police officers drew their guns on a six year old child. (8) The Kochs are offering $889 million to influence the 2016 elections. (9) In Georgia a Republican legislator is concerned that human embryos might be mixed with jellyfish cells to create “glow-in-the-dark” babies. (10) Not to be outdone, an Idaho Republican State Representative thinks gynecological examinations for pregnancy can be carried out by having women swallow tiny cameras. (11) Also in Idaho another Republican representative believes the state has no right to protect children from parents who refuse them medical treatment in favor of faith healing. (12) A Republican legislator in Montana, has proposed a bill to control women’s attire, his bill makes it unlawful for females to sport yoga pants outside their homes and restricts women from wearing apparel that’s overly tight or that shows a lot of skin. The bill also aims to stop men from showing their nipples. Individuals who ignore the guidelines of this proposed law would be subject to fines as high as $10,000 and the possibility of life in prison. (13.) A wealthy-from-birth candidate for president wants to do away with mandated minimum wage. The foregoing of course isn’t the entire crew roster and certainly not the entire story but it does illustrate where our present course is leading as we sail into the future of this society, this country. That we have been spent nearly one trillion dollars on one fighter aircraft that has yet to be cleared for use after at least 10 years of development while education, roads, water supplies, and health care languish is testimony to our values as a nation, as a people. That we have been involved in one war or another for 222 years out of the 239 years since 1776 itself speaks more about our values as a society than all of our rhetoric. War making and war machines have taken precedence over our development as a civilized people. This seems to me to be an unspeakable travesty of what we, as a nation, represent ourselves as being. Even education has been transformed from a national treasure into a target. Politicians with no experience or background in education are pushing destructive educational policies like endless meaningless testing and third grade retention for kids who aren’t learning to read on a phony political schedule, all in service to political contributors who are already profiting from privatized public education. Is it paranoid to suggest an uneducated or poorly educated public would be far easier to manipulate and control and, aside from profit, isn’t that what makes this an attractive strategy for some? What kind of world do these people envision in the aftermath of their attacks on the social contract? What kind of country will this be when people are without health care, without education, without roofs over their heads, without food, without employment at living wages? Are they imagining with some kind of satisfaction soup kitchens and bread lines? Is this the path they and their politician accomplices are planning to achieve “American Exceptionalism”? We struggle constantly with the ancient hierarchical social belief system in which some are always “better” than others by virtue of an accident of birth, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other quality with which they sort the polity. People who operate at this low level of socialization seem incapable of perceiving or admitting to the simple existence of “others” to respect others as when an elected official publicly characterizes women as a “cut of meat”. Where are we going with all of this? That is the most important question we are compelled to ask and demand answers to from everyone including ourselves personally. Our fate as a society is at stake. Our fate as a civilization is in peril sailing on as we are with a seriously defective moral compass. A Ship of Fools  @ University of Houston Digital Library A Ship of Fools is adrift. The crew is filling the sails with lies, ignorance, and innuendo fueled by religiosity, ignorance, racism, resentment, mysogny, homophobia, hate speech, class discrimination, ethnicity, fear, distrust of government, disparagement of anyone and everyone not like them, and not the least, unbridled political ambition funded by billionaires. No person, no institution is safe from their depredations not even the sitting president. Fear of truth also fuels this taxonomy of disfunction, deception, and destruction. To wit: The Ship’s Crew at Work (1) A Texan Republican Representative claims wind is a “finite” resource and using it to spin power generating windmills slows the winds down causing temperatures to go up. (2) The Republican governor of Louisianna has prohibited state officials and employees from using the term “Global Warming”. (3) A recent poll shows 57% of Republican primary voters support Christianity as the national religion, clearly advocating, as does ISIL, religious government in a country founded on religious freedom. It should be noted that in this same demographic 66% do not believe in global warming and 49% do not believe in evolution. (4) In the US Congress 47 members, led by Republican Representative Tom Cotton, wrote to the government of Iran to warn them away from signing a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States and other countries. (5) The father of US Representative Ted Cruz is quoted in the national media as claiming that LGBT rights will lead to football teams showering with girls. (6) Rudy Giuliani contributed – “I do not believe that the president loves America.” (7) In Jackson, Mississippi police officers drew their guns on a six year old child. (8) The Kochs are offering $889 million to influence the 2016 elections. (9) In Georgia a Republican legislator is concerned that human embryos might be mixed with jellyfish cells to create “glow-in-the-dark” babies. (10) Not to be outdone, an Idaho Republican State Representative thinks gynecological examinations for pregnancy can be carried out by having women swallow tiny cameras. (11) Also in Idaho another Republican representative believes the state has no right to protect children from parents who refuse them medical treatment in favor of faith healing. (12) A Republican legislator in Montana, has proposed a bill to control women’s attire, his bill makes it unlawful for females to sport yoga pants outside their homes and restricts women from wearing apparel that’s overly tight or that shows a lot of skin. The bill also aims to stop men from showing their nipples. Individuals who ignore the guidelines of this proposed law would be subject to fines as high as $10,000 and the possibility of life in prison. (13.) A wealthy-from-birth candidate for president wants to do away with mandated minimum wage. The foregoing of course isn’t the entire crew roster and certainly not the entire story but it does illustrate where our present course is leading as we sail into the future of this society, this country. That we have been spent nearly one trillion dollars on one fighter aircraft that has yet to be cleared for use after at least 10 years of development while education, roads, water supplies, and health care languish is testimony to our values as a nation, as a people. That we have been involved in one war or another for 222 years out of the 239 years since 1776 itself speaks more about our values as a society than all of our rhetoric. War making and war machines have taken precedence over our development as a civilized people. This seems to me to be an unspeakable travesty of what we, as a nation, represent ourselves as being. Even education has been transformed from a national treasure into a target. Politicians with no experience or background in education are pushing destructive educational policies like endless meaningless testing and third grade retention for kids who aren’t learning to read on a phony political schedule, all in service to political contributors who are already profiting from privatized public education. Is it paranoid to suggest an uneducated or poorly educated public would be far easier to manipulate and control and, aside from profit, isn’t that what makes this an attractive strategy for some? What kind of world do these people envision in the aftermath of their attacks on the social contract? What kind of country will this be when people are without health care, without education, without roofs over their heads, without food, without employment at living wages? Are they imagining with some kind of satisfaction soup kitchens and bread lines? Is this the path they and their politician accomplices are planning to achieve “American Exceptionalism”? We struggle constantly with the ancient hierarchical social belief system in which some are always “better” than others by virtue of an accident of birth, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other quality with which they sort the polity. People who operate at this low level of socialization seem incapable of perceiving or admitting to the simple existence of “others” to respect others as when an elected official publicly characterizes women as a “cut of meat”. Where are we going with all of this? That is the most important question we are compelled to ask and demand answers to from everyone including ourselves personally. Our fate as a society is at stake. Our fate as a civilization is in peril sailing on as we are with a seriously defective moral compass.

The Politics of Insanity

In the “Politics” Aristotle says, “ The mere establishment of a democracy is not the only or principle business of the legislator, or of those who wish to create such a state, for any state, however badly constituted, may last one, two, or three days; a far greater difficulty is the preservation of it.” Today we are confronted with the preservation of American democracy in the face of an ongoing political assault on behalf of oligarchs and assorted religious zealots. Something has gone terribly wrong in a society when elected representatives of the polity are hell-bent on destroying that polity’s social contract on behalf of sociopathic billionaires.

At the end of the film, “King of Hearts” Alan Bates’ character enrolls himself in an insane asylum to escape the madness of war. Where do we go to escape the madness this country is becoming? Whether it’s a U.S. Representative speaking about an imminent attack on US soil by the ISIS group, “Boca Raton”, or a cop in Jackson, Mississippi feeling sufficiently threatened by a 6 year old child to draw his revolver, or the Georgia legislator who introduced legislation to prohibit the mixing of human embryos with jelly fish cells to prevent creating “glow in the dark” children. We are sailing along the shores of insanity. It’s a refrain from a Pink Floyd tune,”… and everyday the paperboy brings more” that comes to mind.

There are large segments of the American population easily manipulated by shameless politicians and propaganda media outlets like Fox to enflame their emotions and anger. Roger Ailes, the Fox News President, goes so far as to say, “The truth is whatever people will believe.” According to a study done last year, 60% of the information Fox viewers receive ranges from mostly false to “pants on fire” lies which rise to the level of propaganda. Insecurity, ignorance, fear, anger, and resentment are thus driven by outright misrepresentation and lies. And this leads to, as one writer put it, a “… mis-recognition of social orders as natural ways of life, rather than political products.” How can a society function in the wake of such an onslaught? Actually, it cannot as people become angrier and ever more resentful.

Resentment is epidemic as politicians play as many segments of society off against one another as they can devise. It is important to understand that people probably wouldn’t agree to being characterized as resentful but this circumstance has historical precedence. Tocqueville, described the build-up to the French revolution as having been a period of relative affluence and “gratified expectations” followed by “a period of set-back when expectations continued to rise and were sharply disappointed.” We are seeing the same dynamics now as more and more good paying jobs are shipped overseas resulting in diminished wages even as prices for necessities inexorably rise. A trip to the grocer is a lesson in point. Young people and old are looking for work and middle class families with jobs are living on credit with foreclosure breathing down their necks.The result is fear, uncertainty, acted out as anger ready to be manipulated and focused.

To make matters worse legislatures, at the instigation of their wealthy sponsors, are moving to freeze or lower minimum wage levels as they advance so-called right-to-work laws. In New Mexico where right to work is being considered there is even mockery as a legislator had the unmitigated gall to attach an amendment to the RTW bill raising the state’s minimum wage by 50 cents per hour which, over an eight hour day, amounts to less than the cost of a gallon of milk. Such is the disregard and disdain for working class people and why they are being driven to resentment. Resentment against what or whom they aren’t always sure but, more often than not, against the wrong people. People who post nasty on Facebook against any statement in support of the poor or against the looting of the American social contract are desperately afraid that they are next and, in fact, they probably are next.

Oligarchs behind social destruction are using their money to manufacture popular anger and direct attention away from themselves as they manipulate the legislative process at all levels. Resentment of minorities, the under-class, and intellectuals is frothed into anger the energy of which is directed as we see, in the rise of demonstrations of open bigotry and misogyny across the country. Today people feel free to publicly utter vile comments as, for example, the South Carolina legislator who publicly declared women to be a “lesser cut of meat”. In Arkansas, a Republican Legislator, Don Young, told his colleagues who were debating controlling predator wolves, “I’d like to introduce them in your district. If I introduced them in your district you wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.”

Public education and educators are also under attack. Along with other Republican Governors around the country, Wisconsin’s Walker is cutting budgets for state schools, Oklahoma is eliminating advanced placement classes to replace them with bible studies, and in New Mexico and other states a meaningless and counter-productive third grade retention crusade is underway. A Virginia Congressman believes the country doesn’t need to spend money on education because Socrates “trained Plato on a rock”. It brings to mind the film, “Slumdog Millionaire”, and the crippling of children to make them better beggars. Pity the children.

Pity the country also when people on an anti-social rampage work to abolish the most civilized aspects of society – public education, public welfare, health care, safety standards, any and all things public. A jihad against all things civil. If they are successful, there will no longer be a society nor a viable democratic polity.  As one author succinctly put it, “In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.”


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