Thursday, April 26, 2018

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Abraham Lincoln’s famous proclamation is as true of our global human presence as it is of houses. In his case he meant the evils of slavery and the bitter and tragic American Civil War kept the ‘house’ standing, even though its ‘divisions’ remain apparent.

Enough about that. It’s merely background for the subject at hand, which is the impending disappearance of yet another species. What makes the subject relevant is that the species headed for extinction is humanity itself. Those who are presently alive on this planet, such as you and I, who will witness the early stages of our undoing, along with those who come after us.

What gives it further relevancy is the elephant in the room. We worry (and do nothing) about climate change, fret (and do nothing) about the dangers of unfettered capitalism, highlight the horrors (and do nothing) of floating islands of plastic the size of the state of Texas in our oceans and debate (while doing nothing) our concerns for social justice and wage-equity in the newspapers and on social media.

The elephant in the room is population and it comes as no surprise that we will do nothing about that either.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Gas Was Certainly Used in Syria—But By Whom?

Here we are again, with a charge chillingly close to the false claims against Saddam Hussein that destroyed Iraq and inflamed the Middle East. Bashar Assad has been accused of the recent gas attacks on civilians and the West is thirsting for ‘action.’

Britain, France and the United States are aligned to ‘punish’ Vladimir Putin, with little solid evidence other than ‘gas was used.’

Wonderful. The world has been presented with yet another opportunity to escalate its response and we all know how that has worked out in the past. Politicians are still running for cover from the Iraq story, but the damage has been done and a nation permanently destroyed.

So, here we go again, with ‘saving face’ taking priority over saving Syria. What is at stake goes far beyond the stakeholders. Russia is not good at backing down under such circumstances, as the case in Ukraine so elegantly proved.

Any one of the disparate groups fighting Assad, finding themselves on the losing side as Russia becomes involved, might well have been responsible for the attack. Certainly it does not work for Assad at the very moment he seems able to remain in ultimate control of Syria. It simply makes no sense.

Beyond that, take a look at those who are making the most noise in the West (none of whom have boots on the ground in Syria). Teresa May is hanging on to her job by a thread, Emmanuel Macron is under great pressure in France and Donald Trump needs something (almost anything) to show his strongman decision-making in America. The three of them have too many ‘other reasons’ to divert the conversation.

Essentially, they are not credible and their collective lack of credibility, history will tell us, works out very badly in the run-up to wars that should never have been fought.

Yet we don’t seem to learn from that history. The stakes are way too large for another lesson in history repeating itself.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Laws for Some of Us but Not All, Proving Again that Law Is Not Justice

Pardon me while I try to control my anger.

Bank of America paid its way out of criminal activity a week ago…and we din’t even bother to rise off our sofas in outrage. Essentially, we as a nation don’t give a damn and so the Banksters just smile their way to the next quarter’s earnings reports. Donald Trump seems to have sucked all the oxygen out of indignation.

This Reuters article (Jonathan Stempel, March 23, 2018) is just a bit over a week old today, but it slipped by almost overnight as ‘yesterday’s news.’

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) will pay a $42 million fine and admitted wrongdoing to settle claims by New York’s attorney general that it fraudulently routed clients’ stock trades to outside firms…He (NY Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman) said the bank told clients it was processing the trades in-house, even going so far as to alter trade confirmations, as part of an effort to make its electronic trading services appear safer and more sophisticated than they were.

Interesting that, in the devolution of language, fraud is now downgraded to the far more soothing and agreeable term wrongdoing—something you might accuse your child of when he is found-out skipping a class to sneak off into the woods.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Austerity: the Black Hole of National Economic Recovery

Over the past 40 years our American tax base disappeared offshore, industry followed, we made consumerism a national goal and the rich got rich while the rest of us ended up in the dumper.

Schools are a wreck, teachers, police, firefighters and mid-level workers across the board are struggling, savings are non-existent, university education is out of reach, healthcare is broken, kids can no longer expect to do better than their parents and homelessness is taking over our cities. In the meantime, military spending for a nation that hasn’t won a war in the memory of any but our oldest citizens sucks all the oxygen from our economic system.

The list goes on. The list elected Donald Trump in a moment of national pain and frustration that exposed all that pent-up discomfort that was going on outside the lives of the comfortable. 

But we’re going to fix it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

America is Not a Democracy, It’s a Republic

All this whining about America losing its democracy is entirely wrong-headed. The income-gap is high on the list, gun-control reads large and job losses connected to free-trade agreements are all major targets.

These are not targets without merit, but the cause is not a loss of democracy although they may well be democratic issues. Confusing Democracy with Republic clouds the issue and makes logical discussion difficult.

All of the above complaints are Republican issues (and by that I don’t mean the Republican Party).

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Return to Tariffs in the United States Makes Sense

Tariffs are essentially a tax on imports or exports between nations. Their goal is to protect manufacturing and that’s more than timely as America no longer manufactures what it did in the times before such free-trade agreements as NAFTA.

As a bit of a primer, consider our background in tariffs:
Alexander Hamilton (America’s first Secretary of the treasury) explained that despite an initial “increase of price” caused by regulations that control foreign competition, once a “domestic manufacture has attained to perfection… it invariably becomes cheaper.” George Washington signed the Tariff Act of 1789, making it the Republic's second ever piece of legislation. Increasing the domestic supply of manufactured goods, particularly war materials, was seen as an issue of national security. Washington and Hamilton believed that political independence was predicated upon economic independence. (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Weinstein Moment in School Shootings

Every major societal change has its defining moment, that time when dithering is no longer possible and action unstoppable.  

Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a Dream, the self-immolation of Tunisian shopkeeper Mohamed Bouazizi that began the Arab Spring, the #MeToo movement that rose out of the Harvey Weinstein revelations and now, finally, the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida are all such defining moments.

They have in common that their injustices failed to be addressed over the long term, were unsustainable in their specific areas of society and were the result of decades, sometimes centuries, of largely political inaction.